Let Gary Johnson Debate Clinton and Trump

Michael D. Tanner

We are now less than a month from the first presidential debate, but several questions remain to be decided. Will Donald Trump show up? Who will be the moderator? And, perhaps most important, will there be three podiums on the stage or just two?

Given that 57 percent of voters say they feel dissatisfied with a choice between Clinton and Trump, one might think that debate organizers would be eager to include a credible third-party candidate in the mix. A former two-term governor who will likely be on the ballot in all 50 states and is running in double digits in many polls would fit that criteria. But unless something changes over the next few weeks, it seems likely that the candidate who fits that description will not be invited.

>The Commission on Presidential Debates, a completely private organization that has somehow seized control over presidential debates, has established criteria that make it very, very difficult for any third party candidate to slip in. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since the commission is headed by Frank Fahrenkopf, who was chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Mike McCurry, who was Bill Clinton’s press secretary, and is largely composed of defenders of the status quo.

It’s a question of both fairness and democracy.

The current rules say that in order to make the debate a candidate must, among other criteria, average at least 15 percent in five national polls: ABC–Washington Post; CBS–New York Times; CNN–Opinion Research Corporation; Fox News; and NBC–Wall Street Journal. That’s a pretty high bar that doesn’t accurately reflect the influence a candidate might be having on the ground from state to state. And, in practice, it’s an even higher bar than it looks. Given margins of error, and the fact that just one bad poll among the five can bring down the average, even candidates with substantial support may not meet the arbitrary cutoff. Moreover, many polls ask about third-party candidates only after asking about a binary, Clinton-versus-Trump choice. That can subtly reduce third-party support, and when every percentage point counts, that’s important.

Currently, the only third-party candidate with a chance to qualify is the Libertarian nominee, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson. Johnson currently averages 10 percent in the five designated polls, though he is running above 15 percent in a number of states, including Colorado and New Mexico. He appears to be taking votes about equally from both Clinton and Trump. And as FiveThirtyEight and other observers note, his support seems much more sustained than usual for a third-party candidate and more likely to last through Election Day. He is very likely to have an impact on who wins some closely contested states.

Moreover, some of the polls have not been updated in some weeks, so it’s possible that, given the ongoing struggles of Clinton and Trump, Johnson might have made further gains that aren’t yet reflected in the average of the polls designated by the debate commission.

One needn’t agree with Johnson on every issue to agree that he would bring an important and distinctive point of view to the conversation. He is more fiscally conservative than either Trump or Clinton but moderate on social issues, and skeptical of U.S. intervention overseas. He could be expected to challenge the other two candidates on actual issues rather than exchange insults and personal attacks. For example, Johnson would be the only candidate in the debate who unabashedly supports free trade. He has executive experience, as a Republican governor in a blue state, and is neither under FBI investigation nor consorting with white supremacists. Admittedly that’s a low bar, but shouldn’t American voters be able to hear from at least one candidate who meets it?

In one recent poll, Quinnipiac found that 62 percent of voters want Johnson included in the debates. That includes comfortable majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and independents. Among younger voters (ages 18–34), support for including Johnson in the debates was 82 percent.

Both the Johnson campaign and the super PACs supporting him have recently begun national advertising. With polls showing that some two-thirds of voters don’t know enough about him to have formed an opinion, he has an opportunity to build support toward that magic 15 percent mark. But there may not be time.

In the end, even if he makes it to the debate stage, voters may still decide not to take a chance on a third-party candidate. There is always a worry about “throwing away my vote,” and that is especially true when voters detest one or the other of the major-party candidates as much as they do this year. Johnson’s chances of victory are tiny at best. (Of course, the same might be said of Trump at this point.) But shouldn’t the decision whether to let him debate Clinton and Trump be made by the American voters rather than by self-appointed gatekeepers?

It’s a question of both fairness and democracy: Let Johnson debate.

Michael Tanner is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of Going for Broke: Deficits, Debt, and the Entitlement Crisis.

Let Gary Johnson Debate Clinton and Trump Read

Michael D. Tanner

We are now less than a month from the first presidential debate, but several questions remain to be decided. Will Donald Trump show up? Who will be the moderator? And, perhaps most important, will there be three podiums on the stage or just two?

Given that 57 percent of voters say they feel dissatisfied with a choice between Clinton and Trump, one might think that debate organizers would be eager to include a credible third-party candidate in the mix. A former two-term governor who will likely be on the ballot in all 50 states and is running in double digits in many polls would fit that criteria. But unless something changes over the next few weeks, it seems likely that the candidate who fits that description will not be invited.

>The Commission on Presidential Debates, a completely private organization that has somehow seized control over presidential debates, has established criteria that make it very, very difficult for any third party candidate to slip in. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since the commission is headed by Frank Fahrenkopf, who was chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Mike McCurry, who was Bill Clinton’s press secretary, and is largely composed of defenders of the status quo.

It’s a question of both fairness and democracy.

The current rules say that in order to make the debate a candidate must, among other criteria, average at least 15 percent in five national polls: ABC–Washington Post; CBS–New York Times; CNN–Opinion Research Corporation; Fox News; and NBC–Wall Street Journal. That’s a pretty high bar that doesn’t accurately reflect the influence a candidate might be having on the ground from state to state. And, in practice, it’s an even higher bar than it looks. Given margins of error, and the fact that just one bad poll among the five can bring down the average, even candidates with substantial support may not meet the arbitrary cutoff. Moreover, many polls ask about third-party candidates only after asking about a binary, Clinton-versus-Trump choice. That can subtly reduce third-party support, and when every percentage point counts, that’s important.

Currently, the only third-party candidate with a chance to qualify is the Libertarian nominee, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson. Johnson currently averages 10 percent in the five designated polls, though he is running above 15 percent in a number of states, including Colorado and New Mexico. He appears to be taking votes about equally from both Clinton and Trump. And as FiveThirtyEight and other observers note, his support seems much more sustained than usual for a third-party candidate and more likely to last through Election Day. He is very likely to have an impact on who wins some closely contested states.

Moreover, some of the polls have not been updated in some weeks, so it’s possible that, given the ongoing struggles of Clinton and Trump, Johnson might have made further gains that aren’t yet reflected in the average of the polls designated by the debate commission.

One needn’t agree with Johnson on every issue to agree that he would bring an important and distinctive point of view to the conversation. He is more fiscally conservative than either Trump or Clinton but moderate on social issues, and skeptical of U.S. intervention overseas. He could be expected to challenge the other two candidates on actual issues rather than exchange insults and personal attacks. For example, Johnson would be the only candidate in the debate who unabashedly supports free trade. He has executive experience, as a Republican governor in a blue state, and is neither under FBI investigation nor consorting with white supremacists. Admittedly that’s a low bar, but shouldn’t American voters be able to hear from at least one candidate who meets it?

In one recent poll, Quinnipiac found that 62 percent of voters want Johnson included in the debates. That includes comfortable majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and independents. Among younger voters (ages 18–34), support for including Johnson in the debates was 82 percent.

Both the Johnson campaign and the super PACs supporting him have recently begun national advertising. With polls showing that some two-thirds of voters don’t know enough about him to have formed an opinion, he has an opportunity to build support toward that magic 15 percent mark. But there may not be time.

In the end, even if he makes it to the debate stage, voters may still decide not to take a chance on a third-party candidate. There is always a worry about “throwing away my vote,” and that is especially true when voters detest one or the other of the major-party candidates as much as they do this year. Johnson’s chances of victory are tiny at best. (Of course, the same might be said of Trump at this point.) But shouldn’t the decision whether to let him debate Clinton and Trump be made by the American voters rather than by self-appointed gatekeepers?

It’s a question of both fairness and democracy: Let Johnson debate.

Michael Tanner is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of Going for Broke: Deficits, Debt, and the Entitlement Crisis.

‘Pre-Search’ Is Coming to U.S. Policing

Jim Harper

News that the city of Baltimore has been under surreptitious, mass-scale camera surveillance will have ramifications across the criminal justice world. When it comes to constitutional criminal procedure, privacy, and the Fourth Amendment, it’s time to get ready for the concept of “pre-search.” Like the PreCrime police unit in the 2002 movie Minority Report, which predicted who was going to conduct criminal acts, pre-search uses technology to conduct the better part of a constitutional search before law enforcement knows what it might search for.

Since January, police in Baltimore have been testing an aerial surveillance system developed for military use in Iraq. The system records visible activity across an area as wide as thirty square miles for as much as ten hours at a time. Police can use it to work backward from an event, watching the comings and goings of people and cars to develop leads about who was involved. “Google Earth with TiVo capability,” says the founder of the company that provides this system to Baltimore.

But the technology collects images of everyone and everything. From people in their backyards to anyone going from home to work, to the psychologist’s or marriage counselor’s office, to meetings with lawyers or advocacy groups, and to public protests. It’s a powerful tool for law enforcement—and for privacy invasion.

Does the Fourth Amendment protect against unreasonable searches before the fact?

In high-tech Fourth Amendment cases since 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court has stated a goal of preserving the degree of privacy people enjoyed when the Constitution was framed. Toward that end, the Court has struck down convictions based on scanning a house with a thermal imager and attaching a GPS device to a suspect’s car without a warrant.

The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. The straightforward way to administer this law is to determine when there has been a search or seizure, then to decide whether it was reasonable. With just a few exceptions the hallmark of a reasonable search or seizure is getting a warrant ahead of time.

Applying the “search” concept to persistent aerial surveillance is hard. But that’s where pre-search comes in.

In an ordinary search, you have in mind what you are looking for and you go look for it. If your dog has gone missing in the woods, for example, you take your mental snapshot of the dog and you go into the woods comparing that snapshot to what you see and hear.

Pre-search reverses the process. It takes a snapshot of everything in the woods so that any searcher can quickly and easily find what they later decide to look for.

The pre-search concept is at play in a number of policies beyond aerial surveillance and Baltimore. Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) across the country are digitally scanning the faces of drivers with the encouragement of the Department of Homeland Security under the REAL ID Act. Some DMVs compare the facial scans of applicants to other license-holders on the spot. They are searching the faces of all drivers without any suspicion of fraud. And the facial scan databases are available for further searching and sharing with other governmental entities whenever the law enforcement need is felt acutely enough.

The National Security Agency’s telephone meta-data program is an example of pre-seizure. Phone records that telecom companies used to dispose of, having kept them confidential under their privacy policies and federal regulation, are now held so that the government can search them should the need arise.

Exactly how courts will apply the pre-search concept to mass aerial surveillance remains to be seen. The Fourth Amendment doesn’t directly protect our movements in public, but it does protect our “persons” and “houses.” Mass aerial surveillance captures data about both. The Supreme Court struck down warrant-less GPS tracking in public. The practice rips away the natural concealment that time gives to most people’s public activities.

Courts may find that a pre-search of every person’s movements is a full search, even before their names and the locations of their travels are known. Or they may require warrants to examine the pre-search data.

Is “pre-search” a strange concept? In 2007, a prominent federal appeals court judge called it “untenable” to say that attaching a GPS device to a car might be a seizure under the Fourth Amendment. But doing so makes use of the car without the permission of the owner, and the Supreme Court struck down warrant-less GPS tracking on that basis in 2012.

Strange, untenable, or not, it might be time to get ready for pre-search. Because pre-search is already here.

Related video: In 2013, Reason TV’s Todd Krainin reported on Maryland’s decision to start using audio surveillance on its state-wide passenger bus fleet. Watch below and go here for more details.

Jim Harper is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

Is ‘Transparency’ in Trade Talks Just a Smoke Screen?

Daniel R. Pearson

One of the criticisms of trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is that they are negotiated in secret. Government-to-government discussions generally are conducted in private, so some confidentiality in trade talks is not surprising. The AFL-CIO, an advocate for greater transparency, asserts that “such secrecy is inconsistent with democratic principles” and has the effect of advancing “the policy preferences of political and economic elites, not the broad interest of the populace at large.”

There is no doubt that transparency in government is a desirable goal. Transparency helps to assure accountability, and at times might even lead to more efficient use of public resources.

When it comes to trade talks, though, the question is: How transparent can the negotiating process be and still have any chance of success? This question is important because some people may be using the transparency issue as a smoke screen to cover up a different motivation, which is to make sure that efforts to reform trade policy do not succeed.

How transparent can the negotiating process be and still have any chance of success?

Success in trade negotiations helps economies to grow. Both Democratic and Republican economists agree that a country lowering its tariffs will experience improved economic welfare. Consumers benefit meaningfully from tariff reductions, as do companies that utilize imported items in their production processes. (About half of U.S. imports are used by manufacturers rather than going directly to consumers.)

Other countries that export goods to the country with newly lowered barriers also receive modest benefits from the policy change, but those are smaller than the benefits accruing to the country that has liberalized its import regime.

The U.S. trade negotiating process consists of three phases. In the first phase, Congress provides negotiating authority to the president. This was done most recently in June 2015 when Congress passed the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act.

This legislation established a list of negotiating objectives that the administration should achieve in order for Congress to consider any trade agreements on an up-or-down vote without amendments. Just like other legislation, interest groups and citizens may present their views on the bill to their elected representatives. It is fair to say that this phase of the process is very open to public scrutiny and involvement.

The second phase involves actual negotiation with one or more other countries. These talks take place mostly in private, which is understandable. Negotiators likely wouldn’t be willing to discuss potentially challenging trade-offs unless confidentiality is assured.

Every country has interest groups that would prefer no changes in its current policy regime. Even if reforms help the country overall, some people will oppose parts of a deal. However, a final agreement will contain more benefits than costs for each country; otherwise, the negotiation would never conclude. Point-by-point public opposition to a potential deal while talks are ongoing could prevent a broad package from ever being put together.

U.S. negotiators receive input from private-sector and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) through advisory committees organized by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. These committees provide expertise on a wide variety of issues relevant to business, labor and the environment.

The roughly 700 members of the advisory committees undergo background checks before receiving security clearances and obtaining access to confidential information. Participation by the advisory committees keeps negotiators apprised of the practical implications of policy changes being discussed with foreign negotiators. So the actual negotiations may not be public, but they are well-informed.

The third phase is congressional consideration of the final agreement. The text of the agreement is made public relatively soon after completion of the talks. Interested parties then can review it and decide whether it meets their approval. The U.S. International Trade Commission completes an analysis to determine the likely economic effects of the agreement, which generally provides information that can support arguments by both opponents and supporters of the pact.

Eventually the White House presents Congress with legislation to implement the agreement. As with the first phase, this final phase requires Congress to pass a new law. The degree of transparency is very high from the time the text is made public. Anyone may weigh in to express an opinion, and many people do.

So two of the three steps required for the U.S. to enter into a new trade agreement are highly transparent, but the actual negotiation with other governments is mostly private.

Does this represent a reasonable compromise between a desire for openness in government and a desire to talk seriously with other nations about trade liberalization? If not, how could the negotiation be made more transparent without undermining prospects for actually achieving an agreement?

We must avoid letting transparency itself become a smoke screen for stopping progress toward trade liberalization.

Daniel Pearson a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, is former chairman of the U.S. International Trade Commission.

The One Thing No One Wants to Talk about in Philadelphia

Christopher A. Preble

Philadelphia—Here at the Democratic National Convention this week, so far I’ve heard discussions on a range of topics, from energy, to housing, to criminal justice reform. The solutions to these problems are fairly typical for the modern Democratic Party, with a kick of extra leftism thrown in for good measure. Hillary Clinton surrogates on the panels around town, for example, routinely talk about how the Democratic platform is the most progressive in the party’s history, a clear signal to Bernie Sanders supporters to cool it.

That message hasn’t exactly sunk in with the activists here. Pro-Bernie street protests crop up with some regularity. And then there are the #NeverHillary signs. That Sanders himself tried to redirect his supporters’ energies to Clinton—and was booed for it—didn’t bode well for party unity. Sanders’ gesture last night, calling for Clinton’s nomination by acclamation, may help.

I still hold out hope that we might have a serious debate over American foreign policy, which has largely been on autopilot for the past few decades.

If it doesn’t, and if Bernie supporters stay away from the polls in November, or vote for someone else, it could be that they realize that the party platform isn’t worth much these days. It could be that the Hillary vs. Bernie contest was never so much about actual policy positions, per se, but rather about Bernie’s relative outsider status, plus his unconventional style and unquestionable passion. It could be that Sanders’ supporters are most upset about Clinton’s approach to foreign policy, though my evidence for this is purely anecdotal. As I drove north on Monday morning, I heard a number of Sanders supporters, who had called into C-SPAN’s Washington Journal program, mentioning Clinton’s support for the Iraq war as a reason why they would never vote for her.

I wasn’t expecting the subject of foreign policy to come up much when I made my way into the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday, in time to hear nominating speeches for Sanders and Clinton. Foreign policy is a topic that the DNC would like to avoid.

As it happened, however, I didn’t have to wait too long. In her nominating speech for Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, the Iraq War combat veteran who has represented Hawaii’s Second District since 2013, made a point of calling attention to the “lives lost, lives ruined, [and] countries destroyed by counterproductive regime-change wars.”

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Gabbard bucked the DNC earlier this year when she resigned as Vice Chair and endorsed the Vermont senator. She has been harshly critical of Clinton’s foreign policy, and of the elite consensus in both parties that presumes the United States must fix all the world’s problems. I’ll be watching how Gabbard talks about this issue for the remainder of this election cycle.

Gabbard and a few Bernie diehards notwithstanding, however, I don’t think that Clinton and other Democratic Party leaders will highlight foreign policy in the general election. And, when they do, it will mostly be to question Donald Trump’s temperament, and play to voters’ fears about Trump’s unpredictably, as opposed to a serious debate over America’s role in the world.

That’s too bad. As Emma Ashford and I explain in this op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, neither of the two major party candidates are offering American voters a choice in foreign policy.

When asked, more than half of Americans say they don’t want the United States to take the lead in solving the world’s problems, while 57 percent believe that we should let other countries deal with their own issues. Indeed, when asked more generally about the scope of U.S. foreign policy, 41 percent of Americans think the United States does too much; only 27 percent agree with Clinton that the United States does too little.

A more restrained foreign policy would not only be more popular, but also cheaper and safer.

In the end, I suspect that Democrats will rally to their standard-bearer, just as Republicans will to theirs. Each candidate’s record high unpopularity will largely cancel out. Too many voters will simply assume that they must choose from one of the two major-party candidates, even though there are others on the ballot who espouse foreign policy views that could be broadly popular with the American people.

I still hold out hope that we might have a serious debate over American foreign policy, which has largely been on autopilot for the past few decades. Trump’s occasional sour notes, on items such as the future of the NATO alliance, and the United States’ relations with major powers such as China and Russia, rile up the foreign-policy establishment, but his views are too incoherent to constitute a serious foreign policy.

The American people are hungry for something different, but they don’t quite know what that would look like. And, because foreign policy is not a particularly salient issue, it is unlikely to be a major factor in the election. Our wars are far away, seem relatively cheap, and directly affect only the small segment of the population that actually has to fight them. But that doesn’t mean that the wars are unimportant. Far from it.

So that puts the burden on the news media going into the general election. They should press all candidates to discuss America’s global role. They should ask them what they’ve learned from America’s experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and other invisible places. And they should expect them to articulate the approach to foreign policy that they will take, if they are afforded the privilege of becoming the next occupant of the Oval Office.

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

Unraveling the Secular Stagnation Story

Steve H. Hanke

Secular stagnation is said to be present when economic growth is negligible or nonexistent over a considerable span of time. Today, secular stagnation has become a popular mantra of the chattering classes, particularly in the United States. The idea is not new, however.

Alvin Hansen, an early and prominent Keynesian economist at Harvard University, popularized the notion of secular stagnation in the 1930s. In his presidential address to the American Economic Association in 1938, he asserted that the U.S. was a mature economy that was stuck in a rut. Hansen reasoned that technological innovations had come to an end; that the great American frontier (read: natural resources) was closed; and that population growth was stagnating. So, according to Hansen, investment opportunities would be scarce, and there would be nothing ahead except secular economic stagnation. The only way out was more government spending. It would be used to boost investment via public works projects. For Hansen and the Keynesians of that era, stagnation was a symptom of market failure, and the antidote was government largesse.

Hansen’s economics were taken apart and discredited by many non-Keynesian economists. But, the scholarly death blow was dealt by George Terborgh in his 1945 classic The Bogey of Economic Maturity. In the real world, talk of stagnation in the U.S. ended abruptly with the post-World War II boom.

Today, another Harvard economist, Larry Summers, is leading what has become a secular stagnation bandwagon. And Summers isn’t just any Harvard economist. He was formerly the president of Harvard and a U.S. Treasury Secretary. Summers, like Hansen before him, argues that the government must step up to the plate and invest in infrastructure to fill the gap left by deficiencies in private investment. This, he and his fellow travelers argue, will pull the economy out of its stagnation rut.

The secular stagnation story has picked up a blue-ribbon array of establishment voices. They all preach the same gospel: the free-market system is failing (read: stagnating). Only government infrastructure investment can save the day. President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers devotes an entire chapter in its 2016 Annual Report to “The Economic Benefits of Investing in U.S. Infrastructure.” And the President’s advisers have plenty of company at the Federal Reserve. Both the Fed’s Chairwoman Janet Yellen and Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer have recently called for more government investment in infrastructure as a way out of the U.S. stagnation rut. The list of notable adherents to the secular stagnation story seems to grow with each passing day.

The adherents come from all sides of the political spectrum, including the two major candidates for the U.S. Presidency: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Clinton, for example, calls the need to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure a “national emergency” — one she proposes to solve with a mega-government infrastructure investment program. Indeed, Clinton’s plans would probably run up a bill that would exceed President Obama’s proposed $478 billion infrastructure program — a program that Congress repeatedly rejected.

And then there is Donald Trump. While short on specifics, a principle Trump call to arms centers on the renewal of America’s aging infrastructure. So, when it comes to the issue of secular stagnation and its elixir, Clinton and Trump share common ground.

Now, let’s take a careful look at the story that has captured the imagination of so many influential members of the establishment. For evidence to support Summers’ secular stagnation argument and his calls for more government investment, he points to anemic private domestic capital expenditures in the U.S. As the accompanying chart shows, net private domestic business investment (gross investment – capital consumption) is relatively weak and has been on a downward course since 2000.

image

Investment is what fuels productivity. So, with little fuel, we should expect weak productivity numbers in the U.S. Sure enough, as shown in the accompanying chart, the rate of growth in productivity is weak and has been trending downward. Indeed, the U.S. is in the grips of the longest slide in productivity growth since the late 1970s. This is alarming because productivity is a key ingredient in determining wages, prices, and economic output.

image

When we move to aggregate demand in the economy, which is measured by final sales to domestic purchasers, it is clear that the U.S. is in the midst of a growth recession. Aggregate demand, measured in nominal terms, is growing (2.93%), but it is growing at well below its trend rate of 4.75%. And that below-trend growth in nominal aggregate demand has characterized the U.S. economy for a decade. To put this weak growth into context, there has only been one other recovery from a recession since 1870 that has been as weak as the current one: the Great Depression.

image

The three pillars of the secular stagnation story — weak private investment, productivity and aggregate demand — appear to support it. But, under further scrutiny, does the secular stagnation story hold up?

To answer that question requires us to take a careful look at private investment, the fuel for productivity. During the Great Depression, private investment collapsed, causing the depression to drag on and on. Robert Higgs, a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, in a series of careful studies, was able to identify why private investment was kept underwater during the Great Depression. The source of the problem, according to Higgs, was regime uncertainty. Higgs’ diagnosis is best summarized in his own words:

Roosevelt and Congress, especially during the congressional sessions of 1933 and 1935, embraced interventionist policies on a wide front. With its bewildering, incoherent mass of new expenditures, taxes, subsidies, regulations, and direct government participation in productive activities, the New Deal created so much confusion, fear, uncertainty, and hostility among businessmen and investors that private investment and hence overall private economic activity never recovered enough to restore the high levels of production and employment enjoyed during the 1920s.

In the face of the interventionist onslaught, the U.S. economy between 1930 and 1940 failed to add anything to its capital stock: net private investment for that eleven-year period totaled minus $3.1 billion. Without ongoing capital accumulation, no economy can grow … .

The government’s own greatly enlarged economic activity did not compensate for the private shortfall. Apart from the mere insufficiency of dollars spent, the government’s spending tended, as contemporary critics aptly noted, to purchase a high proportion of sheer boondoggle.

Higgs’ evidence demonstrates that investment was depressed by New Deal initiatives because of regime uncertainty. In short, investors were afraid to commit funds to new projects because they didn’t know what President Roosevelt and the New Dealers would do next.

Moving from the Great Depression to today’s Great Recession, we find a mirror image. President Obama, like President Roosevelt, has created a great deal of regime uncertainty with his propensity to use the powers of the Presidency to generate a plethora of new regulations without congressional approval. In a long report, the New York Times of August 14th went so far as to hang the epithet of “Regulator in Chief” around Obama’s neck. What a legacy.

Once regime uncertainty enters the picture, the secular stagnation story unravels. Private investment, the cornerstone of the story, is weak not because of market failure, but because of regime uncertainty created by the government. The government is not the solution. It is the source of the problem.

Steve H. Hanke is a professor of Applied Economics at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.

How Gary Johnson Should Talk to Voters

Ilya Shapiro

My fellow Americans, like most of you, I’m not satisfied with the presidential choice the so-called major parties have given us. The Republican Party, which is supposed to represent conservatives, has nominated someone who’s not conservative in any sense of that word. The Democratic Party, which is supposed to represent liberals, has nominated someone who opposes civil liberties and essentially repudiates the successful parts of her husband’s presidency.

Look, I was once a Republican, but I don’t recognize a party that embraces crony capitalism and wants to close America off from international commerce, that runs on fear rather than freedom. I also worked with plenty of Democrats when I was governor of New Mexico—I had to: they controlled the legislature—but I don’t recognize a party that shuts down dissent and believes that economic growth is less important than government control.

The Other Options Are Terrible

The Party of Lincoln and the Party of Jefferson have become shells of their former selves. Just look at whom they’ve nominated.

Donald Trump mocks large swaths of Americans and prides in his own policy ignorance. He claims to be a politically incorrect destroyer of postmodern shibboleths, but he’s really a boor—and a bore. As a businessman myself, I can tell you he’s not even good at that: good businessmen work on trust and honor, not deception and litigation. Perhaps Trump’s biggest fraud is his claim to be the voice of the working man; my heart goes out to those who feel betrayed by both public- and private-sector elites but now pin their hopes on this charlatan.

Here’s the speech Libertarian candidate for president Gary Johnson should give to voters eagerly looking for a plausible alternative.

Hillary Clinton is no better. She stands for nothing but her own power and is willing to take any position, make any lie to achieve it. While secretary of State, she focused on helping the Clinton Foundation more than her country. Her entire campaign rests, as it did eight years ago, on perceived entitlement. Perhaps her biggest lie relates to her “damn emails”; even after the FBI director detailed her recklessness with our national security—which I’m sure is a boon to Mr. Trump’s Russian friends —she maintains she did nothing wrong.

These people are the least popular major-party nominees in modern history. The strongest argument Trump makes is that he’s not Clinton—and vice-versa. If either party had nominated any other contender, it would be winning in a landslide. Instead, we have a race to the absolute depths of hell. Come on, America, we are better than this!

But There’s Still Hope

Fortunately, there’s a way out. There are options beyond voting red team or blue team; the only wasted vote is one cast for someone you don’t believe in. After all, the only thing of consequence any one vote affects is that voter’s conscience.

During my time in office, I eliminated New Mexico’s budget deficit and reduced the bureaucracy small businesses face when they try to create jobs. I vetoed more bills than the other 49 governors combined—750 in total, a third of which were introduced by Republican legislators and only two of which were overriden. I reduced overall spending while increasing education spending by a third. It actually wasn’t that hard: I just asked first whether government needed to be involved in something in the first place, and second whether the benefit of a law outweighed its cost.

Now, I’m not saying you should vote for me simply as a matter of competence—or even basic fitness for public office (by which I don’t mean triathlons or the Seven Summits, although I’m hoping that stuff gets me the outdoorsy vote). While there seems to be a low bar for those qualities this election, I’m also not Michael Dukakis: ideas matter and the ability to implement bad policies isn’t very helpful.

Here’s what I have in mind. To be honest, America is doing pretty well: someone who we might consider poor today has a higher standard of living than the richest Rockefellers a century ago. But we can do better.

We Can Do a Lot Better

We can reduce the federal spending that crowds out private investment. We can lower tax rates that force businesses to move overseas. We can reform our health-care sector so we no longer have a system that combines the worst of capitalism with the worst of socialism—Obamacare took us in the wrong direction, but the status quo was unacceptable, too. We can improve Social Security and Medicare, so those who rely on these programs can continue to do so while we do better by younger generations. Perhaps most importantly, we can scrap the regulations that hold back everyone from Uber and Airbnb to local food trucks and raw-milk cooperatives.

We can also demilitarize our society. Police need to be able to do their jobs, and they’re more effective when they respect civil rights and treat people as fellow citizens, not enemy insurgents. That also means taking a different approach regarding our failed drug war, which has had such harmful effects on everything from race relations and gun crime to foreign policy. On my first day in the Oval Office, I will direct the attorney general to “declassify” marijuana, removing it from the list of controlled substances.

Speaking of wars, we need to rethink our role as the world’s police, which includes implementing a proactive diplomacy based on America’s interests rather than fecklessly reacting to world events. Strategy should drive budgets and operations, not the other way around. And remember that President Reagan—who’s considered to be rather hawkish—only used military force three times, while Nobel Peace Prize-winning President Obama seems to use the armed forces more than any other agency he can command with his pen and phone.

On immigration too, we need to have America’s interests and values in mind. If you brainstormed a process for how foreigners enter the country, how long they can stay, and what they can do while here, it would be hard to come up with something worse than our current hodge-podge of often contradictory rules. This immigration non-policy serves nobody’s interest—not big business or small, not the rich or the poor, not the economy or national security, and certainly not the average taxpayer—except perhaps bureaucrats and lawyers.

We Can Do a Lot Better

We can reduce the federal spending that crowds out private investment. We can lower tax rates that force businesses to move overseas. We can reform our health-care sector so we no longer have a system that combines the worst of capitalism with the worst of socialism—Obamacare took us in the wrong direction, but the status quo was unacceptable, too. We can improve Social Security and Medicare, so those who rely on these programs can continue to do so while we do better by younger generations. Perhaps most importantly, we can scrap the regulations that hold back everyone from Uber and Airbnb to local food trucks and raw-milk cooperatives.

We can also demilitarize our society. Police need to be able to do their jobs, and they’re more effective when they respect civil rights and treat people as fellow citizens, not enemy insurgents. That also means taking a different approach regarding our failed drug war, which has had such harmful effects on everything from race relations and gun crime to foreign policy. On my first day in the Oval Office, I will direct the attorney general to “declassify” marijuana, removing it from the list of controlled substances.

Speaking of wars, we need to rethink our role as the world’s police, which includes implementing a proactive diplomacy based on America’s interests rather than fecklessly reacting to world events. Strategy should drive budgets and operations, not the other way around. And remember that President Reagan—who’s considered to be rather hawkish—only used military force three times, while Nobel Peace Prize-winning President Obama seems to use the armed forces more than any other agency he can command with his pen and phone.

On immigration too, we need to have America’s interests and values in mind. If you brainstormed a process for how foreigners enter the country, how long they can stay, and what they can do while here, it would be hard to come up with something worse than our current hodge-podge of often contradictory rules. This immigration non-policy serves nobody’s interest—not big business or small, not the rich or the poor, not the economy or national security, and certainly not the average taxpayer—except perhaps bureaucrats and lawyers.

That means, yes, tolerating people who do things you may not like. You can disagree with the idea of a gay couple getting married, but if you work in the state marriage bureau, you still have to do your job. Similarly, you can boycott a Muslim wedding vendor who refuses to create a custom cake for a lesbian couple or otherwise participate in their ceremony, but the state should not shut that down.

Finally, on the most divisive issue of abortion, I’ve said many times that I’m pro-choice, but let me also emphasize that I believe in federalism and the Constitution. You may disagree with me on this or other issues, but I understand the difference between law and policy. To that end, I will appoint judges who follow our Constitution’s original public meaning—I’ve previously misspoken in talking about “original intent.”

And I should emphasize that while Bill Weld, who is an accomplished lawyer among other great qualifications, will be an integral part of my policy team, I will be picking Supreme Court justices, and they will be in the mold of Alex Kozinski and Janice Rogers Brown, not Merrick Garland (who’s never met an administrative or law-enforcement agency to which he didn’t defer).

So, whether you’re a Bernie Bro or a Never Trumper, a liberal, conservative, or moderate—or even a libertarian—if you want a president who’s honest, capable, and will protect your liberty and secure this nation’s prosperity, I ask for your vote. Together, we will make America better, stronger, freer, and more equal.

Ilya Shapiro is a senior contributor to the Federalist. He is a fellow in Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute and Editor-in-Chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review.

Baltimore Air Surveillance Should Cause Concerns

Matthew Feeney

Recent Bloomberg reporting reveals that since January, Baltimore police have been secretly testing a persistent aerial surveillance technology that its developer describes as “Google Earth with TiVo.” The technology, developed by Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS), is mounted on small manned aircraft and is made up of wide-angle cameras that allow users to surveil about 30 square miles. News of the surreptitious use of this persistent surveillance tool underlines the importance of transparency in law enforcement and the unsatisfying state of Supreme Court aerial surveillance rulings.

PSS’ technology is adapted from surveillance equipment first used in Iraq to help track down insurgents who had detonated improvised explosive devices. Surveillance cameras would be deployed in the air above a city. After an explosion the technology allowed users to zoom into the area and rewind the footage in order to find out where the suspects came from. Users could fast-forward to also see where the suspects went after the detonation.

The public should be informed if law enforcement agencies are recording their every move over long periods of time.

The technology used in Baltimore allows for the same kind of tracking. As Bloomberg’s reporting details, PSS’ cameras can help track down a shooting suspect. PSS analysts cannot identify individuals from their computer screens because one person takes up one pixel of resolution. But it’s not hard to gather information on people tracked with PSS’ technology. You can find out a lot about a person by following them to a home, office building, church, or school.

Given the capabilities of PSS’ tools readers may understandably feel uneasy knowing that Baltimore police have been testing this technology in secret for months. By 2014,  PSS had demonstrated its capabilities in a number of cities (including Baltimore). When PSS showed off its technology to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department by flying over Compton it was not only the public that was unaware of police engaging in persistent surveillance; the mayor was also left in the dark.

Baltimore police have a history of using new gadgets in secret. Last year, it was revealed that Baltimore police had used Stingray devices thousands of times since 2007. Stingrays, like PSS’ cameras, are surveillance tools. Stingrays mimic cell-towers, forcing citizens’ cellphones within range to connect with the device. This allows officers to track suspects as well as anyone else in the area whose cellphones interact with the Stingray, unbeknownst to them.

The public should be informed if law enforcement agencies are recording their every move over long periods of time. There are examples of persistent surveillance tools being used to apprehend violent criminals, but we shouldn’t forget more nefarious possibilities. Persistent surveillance allows users to track mosque congregations, protesters, abortion clinic visitors, Alcoholics Anonymous members, and gun show attendees. Without adequate oversight these surveillance tools pose a significant risk to citizens’ privacy.

Ross McNutt, the founder of PSS, has attempted to allay privacy concerns, citing the 1986 Supreme Court case California v. Ciraolo. In that case the Court ruled that police did not need a warrant to conduct a naked-eye search for marijuana in Dante Ciraolo’s backyard from an airplane at 1,000 feet.

But there are important differences between the facts in Ciraolo and the kind of secret aerial surveillance Baltimore police have been conducting.

In Ciraolo, police surveilled one property after receiving an anonymous tip and observed marijuana without the aid of sophisticated technology. Baltimore police have been testing PSS’ technology indiscriminately, not as part of one investigation. In addition, Baltimore police are relying on sophisticated surveillance technology, not naked-eye observations.

In another aerial surveillance Supreme Court case, Dow Chemical Co. v. United States (1986), the Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency did not need a warrant to inspect a 2,000 acre chemical plant from the air with a precision mapping camera. In his majority opinion Chief Justice Burger noted that the use of sophisticated surveillance tools might require a warrant, writing: “It may well be […] that surveillance of private property by using highly sophisticated surveillance equipment not generally available to the public, such as satellite technology, might be constitutionally proscribed absent a warrant.”

PSS’ technology certainly counts as “sophisticated surveillance equipment not generally available to the public.” Nonetheless, Supreme Court rulings from the 1980s continue to grant law enforcement agencies a great deal of leeway when it comes to aerial surveillance. The emergence of persistent surveillance tools and drones may one day prompt the Court to reconsider past aerial surveillance rulings. Until then it’s up to lawmakers to tackle how best to protect privacy amid new technologies.

The recent news about persistent surveillance should concern all Americans, not just Baltimore residents. New technologies can undoubtedly play a valuable role in protecting citizens from crime and aiding investigations. But absent appropriate regulations or a major new Supreme Court ruling, law enforcement agencies will continue to engage in secret and indiscriminate surveillance.

Matthew Feeney is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute.

41 Straight Years of Trade Deficits yet America Still Stands Strong

Daniel J. Ikenson

Today the New York Times ran an op-ed by Clyde Prestowitz, one of the last generation’s most vocal trade policy Cassandras, who argues that the Trans-Pacific Partnership has no security or economic value to the United States, and would only exacerbate our trade deficits with the countries involved. Despite how things turned out, the same guy who warned in the early 1990s that Americans had best ingratiate themselves to their imminent Japanese overlords by learning to say “I surrender” in their native tongue doesn’t appear the slightest bit abashed about peddling more American defeatism to a new generation.

Most of what Prestowitz has to say in his op-ed is anachronistic or plain wrong, but let’s focus on his characterization of the U.S. trade deficit as a symptom of economic decline. There has been no shortage of hand-wringing about the U.S. trade deficit over the years. Since the 1980s, scolds have been warning about the unsustainability of running trade deficits and the perils that would follow. Today, the heirs of that perspective consider trade balance or a trade surplus to be the objective of trade policy — and trade deficits proof that the United States is losing at trade.

This misguided belief that the trade account is a scoreboard measuring the success or failure of trade policy explains much of the public’s skepticism about trade and trade agreements, lends plausibility to Trumptastic claims that the United States is routinely outsmarted by shrewder foreign trade negotiators, and provides cover for the same, recycled protectionist arguments that have persisted without merit for centuries.

If the trade deficit reduces economic activity and destroys jobs, why are there positive relationships between these variables?

But what has long been absent is a single convincing, factual argument that the U.S. trade deficit is a problem in need of a solution. Sure, many articles jump to that conclusion, relying upon or perpetuating misunderstanding about what exactly is measured by the trade account and the signals it sends to policymakers, but never one that is coherent from premise to conclusion, explaining cogently and with empirical support why the U.S. trade deficit is a problem, or why achieving trade balance or a surplus should be the aim of policy. Why hasn’t such a case been made?

Rather than a reflection of weakness or stupidity or profligacy or foreign malfeasance, the annual trade deficit is a sign of U.S. economic hegemony — a global endorsement of the relative strength of the U.S. economy and its direction. The United States has run annual trade deficits for 41 straight years. (Yet we’re still alive — even thriving!) The trade account turned to deficit in 1975, just four years after President Nixon upended the gold standard and caused the world’s investors to seek out safe havens. Because of its relative stability and the relatively low-risk associated with U.S. economic policies, the dollar quickly became the world’s predominant reserve currency. Demand for dollar-denominated assets grew swiftly, and with that inflow of investment came greater U.S. demand, for both domestic and imported goods and services.

During those 41 straight years of trade deficits, the size of the U.S. economy tripled in real terms, real manufacturing value added quadrupled, and the number of jobs in the economy almost doubled, outpacing growth in the civilian workforce. Perhaps these trends would have been more favorable had the United States run 41 straight years of trade surpluses, but that is highly doubtful, for the reasons below.

The scolds tell us that the trade deficit reflects economic “leakage.” When Americans purchase more goods and services from foreigners than foreigners purchase from Americans — the argument goes — U.S. factories, farmers, and service providers are deprived of potential sales, suppressing domestic output and employment. But that argument relies on the assumption that the dollars sent to foreigners to purchase imports do not make their way back into the U.S. economy — an assumption that is wrong. It may be true that when Americans — acting in their own self interest to maximize the value of their dollars — purchase from foreigners the things that could be purchased from domestic producers, there is some degree of temporary leakage. But remember that much of what Americans purchase from foreigners is not produced in the United States and about half the value of all U.S. imports consists of intermediate goods — the purchases of U.S. producers, who rely on those inputs to manufacture their own output. Moreover, when Americans choose to purchase the import over the domestic product, they are consciously maximizing their own value. If they get imports for lower prices, they have more resources to spend elsewhere in the economy, or to save (which becomes pooled with other savings and lent to entrepreneurs and business owners). Given these facts alone, it’s pretty hard to make the case that imports constitute leakage.

But here’s the most important part. In all cases, the dollars that go abroad to purchase foreign goods and services (imports) and foreign assets (outward investment) are matched almost perfectly by dollars coming back to the United States to purchase U.S. goods and services (exports) and U.S. assets (inward investment). Any trade deficit (net outflow of dollars) is matched by an investment surplus (net inflow of dollars). That investment inflow undergirds U.S. investment, production, and job creation.

It turns out that any temporary “leakage” associated with the trade deficit is replenished by the capital surplus. That capital investment takes the form of foreign purchases of U.S. equities and direct investment in property, plant, and equipment. It also includes purchases of corporate and government debt, the latter of which also undergirds U.S. economic activity, but demonstrably less efficiently than investment in the private sector.

This inward investment produces real wealth and other benefits for American businesses, workers, and consumers. When dollars leave the economy to purchase imports and come back as foreign equity investment in U.S. businesses or foreign direct investment in factories, research centers, hotels, and shopping malls, the U.S. economy enjoys benefits that would never have accrued had those dollars been prevented from going abroad in the first place.

This process helps explain the absence of an inverse relationship between the trade deficit and jobs and between the trade deficit and domestic output, and should be enough to refute the economic leakage argument. If the trade deficit reduces economic activity and destroys jobs, why are there positive relationships between these variables?

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If the trade deficit reduces economic activity and destroys jobs, why are there positive relationships between these variables? In fact, a reasonable case can be made that the trade deficit is actually GOOD for the United States because the combination of the contraction of less efficient domestic production resulting from that temporary leakage and the expansion of economic activity associated with the inflow of FDI yields net increases in U.S. value-added (and produces other benefits). In other words, the foreign investors that establish or expand operations in the United States tend to be cream-of-the-crop foreign companies that have succeeded in their own markets and have gone global, disseminating industry best practices and new ideas, and they perform better than the U.S. private-sector average.

This paper presents a comparison of the performance of insourcing companies to the U.S. private sector average over 10 years and across 20 different metrics (including value added, capital expenditures, R&D expenditures, compensation, employee benefits, returns on assets, intermediate goods purchases, exports, and taxes paid) and found that insourcing companies performed better than the U.S. private-sector average on 17 of those 20 metrics, thereby raising average U.S. economic performance.

Another oft-repeated fallacy is that the accumulated trade deficit is a debt that our children and grandchildren will have to repay our foreign creditors. Let’s consider that. The U.S. trade deficit is financed by inflows of foreign capital used to purchase U.S. assets. Most of the assets purchased are equities and physical assets (direct investment). Some of the assets are corporate debt and government debt.

As of the end of 2014, Americans held a total of $24.6 trillion of foreign assets. Foreigners held a total of $31.6 trillion of U.S. assets. Of that $31.6 trillion foreign asset portfolio, treasury bills and bonds accounted for about $6 trillion — just under 20 percent of the total. It is only this portion — government debt owned by foreigners — that the American public (of this and future generations) is on the hook to pay back. Corporate debt has to be repaid, but only by the shareholders and employees of the companies issuing the debt — not by you or me or our children, generally. Equity purchases don’t have to be paid back at all — they’re not loans! When European, Japanese, Korean, Chinese or any foreign investors purchase U.S. companies or make “greenfield” investments to build new production or research facilities or hotels or shopping centers, there is no debt to be repaid.

How are our children and grandchildren on the hook to pay back accumulated trade deficits when most of those deficits are not loans, but equity? Selling equity or property or even entire U.S. companies to foreigners does not constitute debt and it is not akin to subsidizing our consumption by draining down our assets, as some suggest. It’s not a reverse mortgage.

The only portion of the trade deficit that the American public will have to pay back is that which finances the U.S. government debt, which accounts for about one-fifth the value of all foreign investment and is not a failing of trade or investment policy, but a consequence of excessive government spending. It’s worth noting that those who wish to respond to the trade deficit with restrictions on trade tend also to be the same people who advocate for more government spending, which is the real problem.

So, with that on the table, is it too much to ask those who believe the trade deficit is a problem to finally offer a compelling, fact-driven argument? We’ve been waiting over 40 years.

Daniel J. Ikenson is the director of Cato Institute’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies.

The Cold War’s Lesson for Immigration Policy

David Bier

Last week, Donald Trump made headlines when he detailed his latest immigration proposal: an “ideological test” for immigrants. But while he was right to look to the Cold War for insights on today’s ideological struggle, his focus on the exclusion of communists misses the point. Instead, he would have done better to focus on a more effective pillar of the Cold War: accepting vast numbers of refugees from areas controlled by our enemies.

Communists were first added to the list of “subversives” who are ineligible to enter the United States in 1952. The idea was to prevent the entry of communist spies and head off any potential revolution here. But it was essentially a dud. In the 40 years of the Cold War that followed, an average of just 32 people each year — mostly socialist intellectuals — received the subversive label and were barred. Almost all were in the early 1950s. From 1961 to 1991, just seven subversives were denied entry annually.

Meanwhile, the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s annual reports provide nearly 300 examples of “subversives” who were identified after they entered — Cedric Belfrage, editor of a communist publication called the National Guardian in 1956; Otto Verber, a Soviet espionage agent, in 1960; and Chen Kung Cheng, a suspected intelligence agent for China, in1964, to name just a few.

If the Cold War’s “ideological test” wasn’t terribly effective, why didn’t US anti-communists propose a temporary ban on all immigration from communist-controlled areas (like Trump has done with Muslim countries)? Instead, they accepted 2.6 million refugees, mostly from communist countries.

The broad reason was that the United States saw the benefit of accepting the enemies of our enemies, even if there was a small risk communists could exploit their generosity.

But while he was right to look to the Cold War for insights on today’s ideological struggle, his focus on the exclusion of communists misses the point.

This benefit resulted in part in spreading our ideological message. President Ronald Reagan liked a story about an American sailor on a carrier in the South China Sea who encountered a little boat crammed with refugees. When the refugees saw him on the deck, they shouted, “Hello freedom man!” The President never felt the need to explain that the sailors rescued them. That’s just what Americans do, and that’s why, to those refugees, America meant freedom.

This process is already underway among the Syrian refugees in the United States. Radwan, a Syrian refugee in Ohio, sounded a lot like Reagan’s refugee, explaining: “I came here, to the freedom country.” “I didn’t know anything about Memphis,” Mahmoud Al Hazaz, who escaped Syria to the city, said earlier this year. “The people have been excellent. Their treatment of us has been very good. I’m not just saying this for your sake. When I talk to my family they ask, ‘How is the treatment of Americans,’ and I say ‘it’s wonderful.’”

The flip side of spreading our message in the Cold War was combating theirs. President Reagan always kept the Soviet Union’s refugee quota high to demonstrate that the United States was open to those capable of escaping. When he was negotiating with the Soviet Union over nuclear arms, he held up the entire deal to secure emigration rights for refugees. Refugees embarrassed the Soviet Union, demonstrating the superiority of the US system.

Syrian refugees are doing America’s work on this front as well. “I want to keep painting the image to all of my family and friends about the goodness of the American people,” Marwan Batman told the Indy Star. “I wish other refugees would be able to come and experience the same things we have experienced … to find the same happiness we have found here.”

But refugees turned out to be more than mere tools of propaganda. They were also intelligence assets. “Sometimes we were asking them for the names and numbers of friends and colleagues, family members,” wrote Burton Gerber, a former senior American intelligence officer, of the Cold War strategy. “Then we would use the refugee to … [get] a secure message across to the target to come over here and be interviewed and then possibly recruited.”

Many defectors, including KGB agents, soldiers, generals and scientists, joined the American side of the Cold War and directly provided material aid to us. The same is happening in Syria. As former CIA intelligence officer and current Cato Institute analyst Patrick Eddington explained last year, Syrian refugees are “the single best source of information on life inside ISIS-controlled territory.”

The strategy is probably unnerving the Islamic State’s propagandists, who have taken to regularly denouncing refugees as “apostates” and “traitors” to their caliphate in their publications.

Donald Trump is right that we should look to the Cold War for lessons on immigration. But he inflates the importance of excluding communist sympathizers. Far more important to America’s strategy was our emphasis on accepting those who turned against the “Evil Empire.” That is what we have the most to learn from.