Could Legalizing All Drugs Solve America’s Opioid Epidemic?

Jeffrey Miron

Drug policy in the U.S. is at a crossroads. On one hand, at
least 22 states have decriminalized recreational marijuana, eight
of which have gone a step further by legalizing it altogether. At
least 29 states permit medical marijuana for qualifying patients.
Several additional states look poised to consider legalization,
decriminalization, or medicalization in 2018. At the federal level,
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has
introduced a bill
to end the national prohibition of marijuana.
U.S. policy toward marijuana, at least, is on a path toward
liberalization — if not outright legalization.

On the other hand, the opioid epidemic creates pressure in the
other direction. Many proposals for taming the epidemic involve
further constraining access (for example, Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines
restricting
prescriptions or state laws limiting access to painkillers). In
addition, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions seems intent on
reversing marijuana liberalizations, calling marijuana “only
slightly less awful
” than heroin.

Given this tension over drug policy, it is useful to note some
of the positive outcomes of drug liberalizations around the
world.

Portugal is a prime example: It
decriminalized
all drugs in 2001 amid a heroin addiction crisis
and soaring numbers of drug-related AIDS deaths. Possessing small
amounts of illicit substances is now treated as a public health
problem. Instead of facing jail time, drug users who are caught
must meet with medical experts, social workers, and psychologists
who assess their situation and often direct them toward treatment
or other rehabilitative services.

Around the world, liberal
drug policies have had great success in reducing the harms from
drug addiction, such as HIV and overdoses. Faced with a raging
opioid crisis, the U.S. would be wise to model its own drug policy
after countries that have undergone similar experiences.

The results of this policy have been astonishing. Drug use has
declined across
all age groups
. Overdose deaths have plummeted to just

three per million
adults, the second lowest rate in the
European Union. For comparison, the drug overdose death rate in the
U.S. is a staggering 185 per
million
adults. Portugal’s drug-related
HIV infections
have fallen by 94% since 2001. And the number of

people arrested
for criminal drug offenses has declined by over
60%, which has allowed Portugal to channel money once spent on
arresting and imprisoning addicts toward more effective treatment
programs.

As described by one
Portuguese counselor
who works directly with recovering
addicts, “It’s cheaper to treat people than to incarcerate them. …
If I come across someone who wants my help, I’m in a much better
position to provide it than a judge would ever be.” Unsurprisingly,
this humane approach to drug treatment has garnered
widespread support
among Portuguese citizens.

Similarly, the Czech Republic has removed penalties for limited
personal use of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD, and other
substances. The nation’s lenient polices encourage users to seek
treatment; largely as a result, annual overdose deaths are on par
with Portugal at about five per
million
adults — much lower than the EU average.

Perhaps most radically, Uruguay fully legalized marijuana in
2013 and has decriminalized cocaine and heroin. While it is too
early to determine its long-term effects, the new policy has helped
Uruguay focus law enforcement resources on drug smuggling. The
country’s government even operates a program that sells cannabis
for just $1 per gram, making it difficult for black markets to
thrive.

Domestically, recent marijuana legalizations in Colorado,
Washington state, Oregon, and Alaska have yielded positive
outcomes. Numerous
studies show
little to no rise
in marijuana use following legalization,
coupled with possible declines in cocaine and heroin use. Moreover,
legalizations appear to have had no impact on violent
crime
and traffic
accidents
, consistent with medical
research
showing little association between marijuana and
impaired cognition or driving ability.

Critics of drug liberalization often warn that further
decriminalizing drugs in America will worsen the opioid epidemic.
Citing “gateway” effects, many commentators (such
as Sessions
) advocate reducing opioid addiction via greater law
enforcement and heavier penalties against all substance possession
and use. But this reasoning ignores that opioids are already highly
restricted, and that previous attempts to control them more tightly
have been counterproductive.

Around the world, liberal drug policies have had great success
in reducing the harms from drug addiction, such as HIV and
overdoses. Faced with a raging opioid crisis, the U.S. would be
wise to model its own drug policy after countries that have
undergone similar experiences.

Jeffrey Miron is the director of economic studies at the Cato Institute and the director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Economics at Harvard University.

The Case Against “The Case for Colonialism”

Sahar Khan

The Third World Quarterly (TWQ), a reputable academic
journal in international studies, is currently under fire by
academics including Ducks. In its latest issue, it
published an article titled “The Case for Colonialism” by Dr. Bruce
Gilley of Portland State University. In this article, Gilley calls
for a return of colonialism, citing the benefits of a
“colonial governance” agenda over the “good
governance” agenda, which would involve overtaking state
bureaucracies, recolonizing some areas, and creating new colonies
“from scratch.” He argues that this new colonialism
will be: 1) beneficial because it will be chosen by “the
colonized,” and hence, will be legitimate; 2) attractive to
Western conservatives because they are financially low-risk, and to
liberals, because they will be just; and 3) effective because they
will be designed like charter cities, which have proven to be
efficient and effective at governance.

At first glance, the article seems like a bad joke. Can someone,
a scholar no less, actually make a case for colonialism? And
advocate for its return? Also, considering that the TWQ is jointly
involved in creating an award named after Edward Said, the founder
of postcolonial studies, it is especially surprising that the
journal would publish a poor quality article on the subject of
colonialism. The response has been swift. Though there are some
apologists, social media has exploded with criticism against the
author and the journal, even sparking a petition calling for the article’s
retraction
. Within a day, the petition gathered over 1500
signatures, with more signing on.

Academia has a duty to
inform with integrity, honesty, and evidence. If scholars and
journals alike are not held to this standard, it provides an
opening for falsehoods and misinformation to take hold, shape
perceptions, and dictate policies.

The problem is not that the article is offensive (which it is).
The problem is that it is empirically and historically inaccurate,
misuses existing postcolonial scholarship, and largely ignores
interdisciplinary approaches to the study of colonial legacies.
There are at least five blatant examples of this. First, in the introduction, Gilley cites
Berney Sèbe’s article that
analyzes imperial figures in Zambian, Nigerian, and Congolese
history, and advocates for replacing the “good
governance” agenda with a “colonial agenda.”
Sèbe’s research is essentially
about the role of colonial history in the creation of
Zambia’s, Nigeria’s, and the Congo’s state
narratives where the state is still grappling with the scars of its
colonial past. Sèbe notes that the rebirth of colonial leaders
as heroes uncovers the profound effect of colonialism on the
state’s nation-building narratives. He further concludes that
these narratives are moving from the post-colonialism calls of
political emancipation toward “a post-racial form of
cosmopolitan nation-building,” which attempts to combine
anti-colonial sentiments with the modern conceptions of nationhood
within African countries that are complex and multi-layered. Gilley
conveniently ignores the latter part of Sèbe’s research, and instead, only
focuses on this resurgence of colonial heroes as evidence of the
failure of anti-colonial rhetoric. Handpicking arguments that fit
into your own theory is bad methodology—and as a professor,
Gilley should know better.

Second, Gilley praises Sèbe’s “cosmopolitan
nation-building” as an “explicit rejection of the
parochial myth of self-governing capacity that drove most
postcolonial countries into the ground” (p.8). Gilley has not
only misused Sèbe’s term but clearly has also
misunderstood it. Sèbe’s use of “cosmopolitan”
is descriptive. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary,
cosmopolitan means “having worldwide rather than limited or
provincial scope.” It does not, as Gilley concludes, reject
the “myth” around postcolonial states governing
capacity. There is ample historical evidence on how almost all
postcolonial states inherited bureaucracies that they could not
immediately manage. The lack of management was not because they did
not know how to govern but was due to a myriad of factors that
involved dealing with scarce resources, an influx of refugees,
internal ideological divisions, and external threats to territory,
as examined by Ayesha Jalal and Bertrand Badie. Gilley’s characterization
of Sèbe’s “cosmopolitan
nation-building,” therefore, is misleading and blatantly
ignores postcolonial scholarship.

Third, Gilley labels decolonization as “sudden,”
which again, is empirically inaccurate. For example, the
decolonization of the Indian sub-continent that resulted in the
independence of Pakistan and India in 1947 can be dated to the
1840s, when calls for independence from the British began.
Likewise, the Indonesian independence movement from the Dutch began
in 1908—and is called the “Year of National
Awakening”—resulting in independence in 1945.
Similarly, Algerian calls for independence from French rule date
back to World War I. After a bloody war of independence, Algeria
was decolonized in 1962. Morocco was also colonized by France and
Spain and gained independence in 1956. There are, therefore,
numerous examples of states that struggled for independence for
decades. This may be news to Gilley but decades of emancipatory
struggles is not “sudden.”

Fourth, Gilley describes anti-colonial literature’s
emphasis on the harmful effects of colonization as biased,
inadequate, and not thorough enough. However, he ignores how
disproportionate the benefits of colonialism were toward colonized
populations. It is true that during their colonial rule, the
British, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch built railways,
expanded education systems, improved healthcare, created systems of
taxation, and outlined basic governance infrastructure. And so
Gilley states that a colonial governance agenda “resurrects
the universalism of the liberal peace and with it a
sharedstandard of what a well-governed country looks
like” (p. 8). He uses Alexander De Juan and Jan Henryk Pierskalla’s
article
to make this point against anti-colonial critiques. De
Juan and Pierskalla’s article, however, does not advance a
pro-colonial agenda. Instead, it is a literature review showcasing
four areas for growth within interdisciplinary postcolonial
scholarship that include internal dynamics of colonial rule,
disaggregating variables and units of analyses, and investigating
contexts that shaped the consequences of colonial rule.
Furthermore, advancements under colonial rule were not for
everyone; not only did these measures favor elites and
pro-colonizer groups but also created divisions along ethnic,
religious, and linguistic lines within indigenous populations that
continue to exist today. The colonial method of governance,
therefore, was to oppress, violate, and divide resources and
populations—and is thoroughly documented and researched
within political science, sociology, anthropology, and history. For
example, the British exploited differences between the
Hindu and Muslim communities in the sub-continent, creating deep
resentments and divisions that persist today due to the 1947
Partition. Similarly, differences between the Hutus and Tutsis that
led to the Rwandan genocidewere created and exploited by Belgian
colonizers. Historians and anthropologists alike have argued that
these differences were economic, not ethnic. In fact, Hutus and
Tutsis are indistinguishable. Since the genocide, Rwanda
has become a “beacon of hope,” and exemplifies
how reconciliation can eliminate differences
imposed by colonialism.

And fifth, Gilley attributes the abolition of slave-trading to
colonialism, which in addition to being ridiculous, is factually
incorrect. The Portuguese began slavery in the 1500s as they
explored West Africa while the British brought the first
installment of African slaves to Virginia in 1619. Colonizers,
therefore, created the slave trade. Systematic decolonization and
subsequent wars of independence eventually ended the slave
trade.

Academia has a duty to inform with integrity, honesty, and
evidence. If scholars and journals alike are not held to this
standard, it provides an opening for falsehoods and misinformation
to take hold, shape perceptions, and dictate policies. We are
living in a critical political climate, especially in the United
States, where President Trump’s apparent sympathy for radical
right-wing groups
is troubling. This kind of scholarship is
dangerous not just because it legitimizes the whitewashing of
academic literature but also stands to undermine U.S. foreign
policy as it taints important scholarship on concepts related to
neocolonialism. Aside from being wrong on the facts, articles like
these merely perpetuate dubious justifications for U.S. military
interventionism and long-term nation-building projects in distant
lands with populations that resent foreign occupation. We should
expect more from scholarly journals.

Sahar Khan a
visiting research fellow in the Cato Institute’s Defense and
Foreign Policy Department.

Why Retailers Should Increase Water Prices after Hurricanes

Ryan Bourne

What do landlords, foreign holiday resorts, Uber, and bottled
water retailers in Houston have in common?

In recent years, all have been criticised for charging
“excessive” or “extortionate” prices for
their products. Landlords are accused of greedy profiteering in
London.

Thousands signed petitions in 2014 criticising airlines and
holiday companies for charging much more during school holidays
— an issue eventually discussed in parliament.

Uber was panned for its surge pricing following the 2016 New
York terror attack. And the selling of water at higher-than-normal
prices following Hurricane Harvey in Texas was met with
outrage.

The price mechanism plays
an important role in both coordinating activity and allocating
resources efficiently.

The assumption of the upset in each case seems to be that firms
decide their prices in the absence of any consideration of broader
market conditions, purely on the basis of exploiting consumers and
greedily fattening their profits.

The reality is quite different. In competitive markets, price
tags are simply messengers of relative scarcity, or the
interactions of supply and demand.

Rent levels are high in London because the supply of new
properties is very unresponsive to demand, which rises through
population and income growth.

Foreign holidays are more expensive in school holidays because
demand explodes.

Uber pricing surges after terrorist atrocities because
there’s a huge unforeseen spike in those wanting vehicles to
depart the area, and a reluctance to use public transport.

And bottled water prices rise before and after hurricanes as
demand rises (people stock up in case of losing water supplies),
and supply falls (due to the increased costs and difficulty of
delivery).

Price then is the market’s messenger. It conveys important
information about the relative scarcity of a product, which leads
to adjustments in the quantity demanded or the quantity supplied.
And it actually leads to some changes in behaviour that can be
beneficial given the economic reality.

When prices are high because of restricted supply, such as
bottled water in the aftermath of hurricanes or rental property in
London, the price tag encourages a reduction in the quantity
demanded.

The high price deters people from stockpiling bottled water, for
example, making it likelier more consumers can obtain the product
in stores. A high rental price in London likewise leads to people
renting smaller apartments or commuting from further away,
allocating the scarce properties within the city more efficiently
to those who place the highest value on being closer to the city
centre.

When prices are high because of increased demand, such as Uber
surging following terror attacks, or foreign vacations during
school holidays, the higher price likewise helps increase the
quantity supplied. It encourages Uber drivers to come onto the road
to service the increased needs of passengers, or airlines and
hotels to ensure more rooms are available.

The longer term effect is perhaps even more important. If prices
really are “too high”, and companies are able to make
large profits as a result, then new firms or entrepreneurs are
encouraged to enter and serve the market. This increases overall
supply and brings prices back down.

Arguably, Uber itself has done this, acting as a substitute for
the taxi market, as has Airbnb in expanding the supply of rentable
accommodation. As the hurricane pressures subside, a high market
price will encourage lots of businesses who supply bottled water
from further afield to bring their goods to this lucrative
market.

The price mechanism plays an important role in both coordinating
activity and allocating resources efficiently, which is why it can
be so damaging to call for price controls that muffle these
signals.

From rent controls, to bans on surge pricing, or laws that
prohibit price gouging, restraining prices from increasing is akin
to capturing the messenger and forcing him to tell a comforting lie
(as my former colleague Kristian Niemietz has explained).

This comforting lie signals to people “this product is
readily available”, encouraging consumers to load up on it,
and severely restraining firms’ ability to make profits, thus
discouraging innovative new supply.

The truth is, there are only two ways scarce goods or services
can be allocated: either through the price system, allowing markets
to clear, or through restrictions such as rationing or queuing.
Difficult situations — including emergencies such as
hurricanes or terror attacks, and decades of overly-restrictive
planning laws — have limited positive outcomes.

But while we would all prefer goods to be cheap and abundant all
the time, willing prices lower through legislation, price controls
or consumer campaigns merely compounds the relative scarcity by
discouraging new supply and encouraging over-use.

If we really want cheap goods, the only way forward is to remove
restrictions on new entry as far as possible and to allow markets
to operate.

Ryan Bourne
occupies the R Evan Scharf Chair in the Public Understanding of
Economics at the Cato Institute in Washington DC.

America May Push Iran into Becoming the next Nuclear Crisis

Ted Galen Carpenter

It’s no secret that the Trump administration is busily
building a case to have the United States
repudiate the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran. Even when the
president grudgingly conceded that Tehran was complying with the
explicit terms of the accord, he groused that Iranian leaders were
violating “ the spirit ” of the document. A cynic
could easily have pointed out that a key reason why nations spell
out the binding aspects of an agreement through written
provisions—rather than relying on vague oral comments and
handshakes—is that only the written clauses constitute true
obligations. Disagreements about the “spirit” or
intentions could be endless. The preponderance of evidence
indicates that Iran has, in fact, abided by its legal obligations under the
agreement.

Unfortunately, administration officials and a vocal flock of
hawks in the United States seem determined to sabotage the accord.
The latest salvo was the speech that U.S. ambassador to the United
Nations Nikki Haley delivered to the ultra-hawkish American
Enterprise Institute on September 5. That address contained a
multitude of distortions , all of which seemed
designed to build a foundation for the administration to repudiate
the agreement. Indeed, if Haley’s comments are taken
seriously, a drive appears underway to go beyond that step and make
the case for war against Iran.

An increasingly popular line of argument among proponents of a
militant policy toward Tehran is that North Korea’s behavior
is a harbinger of what the United States will face regarding Iran
if Washington does not harden its approach. During an appearance on
the Fox News program “Tucker Carlson Tonight” in
mid-July, prolific neoconservative author retired Col. Ralph Peters
warned that if the United States did not confront Iran now, then it
would in a few years encounter the same kind of nuclear crisis with
that country as the current nightmare with North Korea. Since
Peters previously had recommended U.S. military action against Pyongyang, there was
little doubt about what type of confrontation he had in mind.

Trying to isolate Iran
has been—and will continue to be—an exercise in
futility.

Peters is hardly alone in making that argument. Hawks openly excoriate the Clinton administration for
concluding the 1994 nuclear agreement with North Korea.
Clinton’s naïve decision, they argue, enabled Pyongyang to
flout the so-called restraints on its nuclear program, and we now
face a much worse situation when that program is far advanced. They
emphasize that U.S. leaders must not make the same error by adhering to a similar, fatally
flawed, agreement with Iran. The clerical regime in Tehran is
carefully watching how Washington deals with North Korea’s
defiant entry into the global nuclear-weapons club. If Pyongyang
causes the United States to back down, the reasoning goes , Iran will actively pursue the
same ambition, regardless of any agreement to the contrary.

To bolster their case, critics of the agreement cite various
experts who see a smoking gun in the form of evidence that Iran and
North Korea already cooperate closely on both nuclear matters and
missile technology. John Bolton, a former ambassador to the UN, has
even asserted that if North Korea retains its nuclear-weapons
arsenal, along with developing reliable ballistic missiles, Tehran
could have the same capabilities “the next day” simply
by “writing a check” to Kim Jong-un.

Using North Korea’s behavior as an excuse to trash the
nuclear agreement with Iran is at best a dangerously simplistic
reaction. Although hawks typically insist that their goal is to
replace the current version with a better, stronger one that more
effectively reins in Tehran’s supposed nuclear ambitions, at
least some hardliners clearly want U.S. military action against
Iran. That course would be extraordinarily reckless. Shredding the
agreement even without the follow up of preemptive strikes would
needlessly escalate tensions throughout the Middle East.

Admittedly, there is a risk that Iran could venture down the
same path as North Korea toward the goal of a nuclear-weapons
capability. But hawks learn the wrong lesson from Pyongyang’s
behavior. Given the way Washington has treated such nonnuclear adversaries as Serbia, Iraq and
Libya, North Korea’s desire for a nuclear deterrent is hardly
irrational. Belligerent rhetoric coming from influential
figures such as John McCain, Tom Cotton and Lindsey Graham (and
their neoconservative allies) heightens the Kim regime’s paranoia.
To a considerable extent, the United States has brought this
problem on itself. Explicitly repudiating the goal of forcible
regime change toward countries that are on bad terms with
Washington might help reduce the incentive of those governments to
develop nuclear arsenals.

Finally, even if the United States continues its misguided,
sterile policy of isolating North Korea, much less embracing the
perilous option of resorting to war, the adverse consequences of
adopting the same tactics toward Iran would be much worse. North
Korea is an obnoxious little state, but it has little significance
beyond its immediate neighborhood. In terms of being an economic
power, Pyongyang is a joke, and its political or diplomatic appeal
scarcely reaches that level.

Matters are quite different with Iran. Like it or not, that
country is a major diplomatic, military and economic player
throughout the Middle East—and even into Central and
Southwest Asia. As the principal representative of Islam’s Shia
branch, Tehran exercises considerable influence in such countries
as Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen. Trying to isolate Iran
has been—and will continue to be—an exercise in
futility. And launching a military attack on that country would
trigger another disastrous war in the Middle East. The course with
which the Trump administration seems to be flirting should be
avoided at all costs. The president must not listen to the siren
call of reckless hawks who have been wrong about so many different
issues.

Ted Galen
Carpenter
, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a
contributing editor at the National Interest, is the author of ten
books, the contributing editor of ten books and the author of more
than 650 articles on international affairs.

Conservatives Should Want to Preserve the Iran Nuclear Deal

John Glaser

Following the Obama administration’s signing of the 2015 Iran
nuclear deal, which significantly rolled back Iran’s nuclear
program and imposed rigorous limitations on it for the foreseeable
future, Congress passed legislation requiring the president to
certify every 90 days that Iran is complying with its obligations
under the agreement.

President Trump has done this twice so far. But he has given
strong indications that he will refuse to do it a third time. With
the next 90-day deadline approaching on October 15, the survival of
the Iran deal hangs in the balance.

The problem with Trump’s stated intention to refuse to certify
Iranian compliance is that Iran is, in fact, fully complying. The
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear
watchdog, has affirmed eight separate times in detailed reports
that Iran is abiding by the deal. America’s European allies, the
Russians, the Chinese — all agree Iran has not committed any
violations.

The reason is simple: it
staves off an Iranian nuclear breakout capability for at least the
next couple of decades, and probably indefinitely.

Even Trump’s top Cabinet officials, including Defense Secretary
James Mattis, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, and
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have encouraged the president to
certify Iranian compliance with the deal and thereby avoid its
unraveling.

And for good reason. Conservatives especially should insist
that, so long as Iran doesn’t cheat, the United States must not
deliberately scuttle the agreement. The reason is simple: it staves
off an Iranian nuclear breakout capability for at least the next
couple of decades, and probably indefinitely.

Recall that the nuclear deal required Iran to give up 98 percent
of its stockpile of enriched uranium, dismantle two-thirds of its
operating centrifuges, and convert a number of its major enrichment
facilities into peaceful research centers, among other
concessions.

Iran also submitted to a long list of specific restrictions that
will phase out over the next 10-25 years. Opponents of the deal
have seized upon these time-limited restrictions as proof that the
deal isn’t good enough. But they forget that Iran also agreed to
ratify the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty, which provides for expanded IAEA access and monitoring
indefinitely into the future.

What used to be one of the world’s most opaque and worrisome
nuclear programs is now the world’s most transparent. The IAEA now
conducts frequent, sometimes daily, inspections at almost 30
different sites in Iran. Some sites are subject to 24-hour video
surveillance. Indeed, the IAEA has
conducted more “snap inspections
” in Iran — about two per
month — than in any other country in the world.

According to Georgetown University professor and
nonproliferation expert Ariane Tabatabai, the Iran deal
represents
“the most intrusive inspections regime ever
voluntarily agreed to by any party.” The head of the IAEA agrees,

saying
earlier this month in a speech that “Iran is subject to
the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime.”

Deliberately abrogating the arrangement would throw all of this
away. Plus, it would undermine the moderates in Tehran, who just
won reelection by wide margins, and bolster the hardliners who want
to antagonize America with provocative actions and blustery
rhetoric.

If Iran truly poses the threat most conservatives say it does,
it’s far better for Iran to be constrained by the nuclear deal than
unburdened from its obligations due to the Trump administration’s
decision to blow it up.

For what it’s worth, much of the Israeli military and national
security community
agrees
. Carmi Gillon, former director of Israeli’s Shin Bet,
wrote back in July that the nuclear deal “has
been a clear success” and that, “while the majority of my
colleagues in the Israeli military and intelligence communities
supported the deal once it was reached, many of those who had major
reservations now acknowledge that it has had a positive impact on
Israel’s security and must be fully maintained by the United States
and the other signatory nations.”

If Trump refuses to certify Iranian compliance next month, he
will put the survival of the nuclear deal at risk and massively
increase the chances that Iran’s nuclear program goes back into the
shadows and is once again purposed to obtain a nuclear weapon. That
is a dangerous and needless risk that no conservative should want
to take.

Ronald Reagan understood the value of pursuing robust arms
control agreements with America’s enemies. In a speech at the United Nations in 1984, he called
for engaged diplomacy with the Soviet Union, even then a far
greater threat to U.S. security than Iran is now, “to reduce the
vast stockpiles of armaments in the world, especially nuclear arms;
and to establish a working relationship between our two countries
marked by a greater understanding.”

Reagan always insisted on negotiating from a position of
strength. And he did so with the Soviets. Iran’s military
capabilities pale in comparison to Moscow’s, the only other great
power in the world at the time. America is still the world’s
greatest superpower. The Iranian nuclear program is neutered under
this deal. We should keep it that way.

John Glaser is
director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute.

Boeing Takes Trade Law Abuse to a Whole New Level

Daniel J. Ikenson

Deep within the bowels of the U.S. Commerce Department’s
mammoth headquarters in Washington, D.C., in a cloistered parcel of
nondescript offices, toil a couple dozen analysts, accountants, and
lawyers, who consider themselves the last line of defense for U.S.
industries facing the “ravages of unfair trade.” In
case there was any doubt about their commitment to mission, these
guardian angels recently changed their agency’s name from the
relatively innocuous “Import Administration” to the
baton-wielding “Enforcement and Compliance.” With its flimsy
allegations of unfair trade on the part of Canadian aircraft
manufacturer Bombardier, the Boeing Company hopes to exploit
Enforcement and Compliance’s singularity of purpose to
protect its monopolist’s perch.

The antidumping law is purported to exist to protect American
companies and their workers from the effects of foreign competitors
selling their products in the United States at “unfairly
low” prices. Why competition—encouraged as it is in all
forms of domestic commerce—suddenly becomes a scourge when
foreigners are offering the lower prices is a question without a
coherent answer. Under the law, “relief” in the form of
antidumping duties is available if the domestic industry can
demonstrate that it is materially injured or threatened with
material injury by reason of those unfairly low-priced imports.

Contrary to the myth that antidumping is about leveling the
playing field and protecting U.S. companies and workers from
predatory foreign firms, the law has become a commercial weapon
used by U.S. companies against other U.S. companies. Antidumping
has become a convenient channel through which domestic firms can
saddle their competition (both foreign and domestic) with higher
costs and their customers with fewer alternative sources, while
giving themselves room to raise their own prices, reap higher
profits, and—in the case of Boeing—reinforce their
market power.

In a year that has featured a record number of U.S. trade remedy
case initiations (43 antidumping cases and 20 countervailing duty
cases through September 5), Boeing’s dumping complaint
against Bombardier is far and away the most audacious. It takes
misappropriation of the antidumping law to a whole new level.

Boeing—never one to abstain from taxpayer
largesse—claims that it is threatened with material injury
because of sales of 109-seat aircraft by Bombardier to Delta
Airlines, which have not happened and will not happen until
mid-2018 at the earliest. Moreover, the aircraft in question are of
a class that Boeing not only doesn’t produce, but is technically
incapable of producing for several years because all of its
production capacity is committed to a backlog of orders for its
larger aircraft. In fact, Boeing voluntarily withdrew from this
market in 2006 in order to shift its focus to producing larger
aircraft—the 126-seat 737-700 and the 138-seat 737 MAX
7—which has been keeping Boeing in the black.

Delta (and other carriers) requires aircraft of different sizes
and seating capacities so that it can serve both high demand and
low demand routes cost-efficiently. Boeing’s larger planes are not
economically viable substitutes for Delta because using them risks
flying with empty seats, which means higher costs per seat, lower
returns for shareholders, and increased ticket prices.

By filing these cases, Boeing is effectively asking the
government to misappropriate the antidumping law by finding that it
is threatened with material injury by reason of sales that have
never taken place, of a product that Boeing stopped producing more
than a decade ago, all because Boeing might decide someday that it
wants to reenter that market. Otherwise, Boeing is simply asking
the government to enhance its monopoly power by forcing the
airlines to buy aircraft that are uneconomical to fly. Neither
explanation helps Boeing’s image.

The next most explosive
issue threatening U.S.-Canada trade relations.

Dumping is defined as the sale of a product in a foreign market
at a lower price than the price obtained by the same producer in
his home market. Dumping is measured by comparing a foreign
producer’s U.S. and home market prices over a specific period of
time. For each comparison (sometimes there are thousands or tens of
thousands of sales, other times just a few), the difference between
the net U.S. price and the net home market price is considered the
unit margin of dumping. A positive dumping margin results when the
U.S. price is lower than the home market price and a negative
dumping margin results when the U.S. price exceeds the home market
price. The antidumping duty ultimately imposed is, in theory, equal
to the weighted average dumping margin calculated for all U.S.
sales expressed as a percentage of U.S. sales value.

But that straightforward-sounding exercise of comparing prices
and calculating dumping margins is rife with subjective
interference and methodological sleights of hand. The administering
agency maintains considerable discretion when it comes to
determining the existence of dumping, and estimating its magnitude.
Which sales should be included in calculating average prices? What
product models should be collapsed together and treated as a single
product for purposes of calculating average prices? What expenses
should be subtracted from gross prices before net prices are
compared between markets? What constitutes the date of sale? How
should company-wide costs be allocated to the subject
merchandise?

When the purpose of the antidumping law’s administering
agency is to “safeguard and enhance the competitive strength
of U.S. industries against unfair trade through the enforcement of
U.S. antidumping duty (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) trade
laws,” one cannot be faulted for raising questions about
objectivity. But when fulfilling that mission requires (1)
“conduct[ing] AD/CVD investigations and administrative
reviews to determine if imports are being sold at less than fair
value or benefitting from unfair subsidization” and, AT THE
SAME TIME (2) “counseling U.S. industries on how to petition
the U.S. government to seek relief from injurious and unfairly
traded imports,” it is no longer in dispute that the process
lacks objectivity.

That conclusion is supported by the hundreds of U.S. court
rulings that have found the Commerce Department (Enforcement and
Compliance) acting illegally or otherwise beyond it authority.
Citing findings from an older Cato study, in the 18-month period
between January 2004 and June 2005, the U.S. Court of International
Trade (CIT) remanded 19 cases to the Commerce Department with
instructions to revisit its decisions or recalculate figures. In 14
of those 19 cases, the resulting dumping margins were lower after
the remand instructions were followed, suggesting a higher
incidence of exercising discretion to the detriment of the
importing interests.

If the Commerce Department finds dumping in the Boeing case, the
lawyers representing Bombardier, Canada, Delta Airlines, and the
other carriers would likely appeal the case to the CIT, which will
have a field day identifying administrative abuses. For starters,
there are no U.S. sales to assess. Bombardier and Delta entered
into a purchase agreement last year, with no fixed dates of sale.
Historically, the Commerce Department has rejected purchase
agreement date as the date of sale because in many cases—as
would be expected in this case as it involves sales of big ticket
items—the terms of sale (quantity, price, product
modifications, delivery terms, after-sale services) can change
significantly after the purchase agreement date. Offering a set
price for a delivery in 2 or 3 years of a product that costs tens
of millions of dollars to produce, occasions mid-production design
changes, and contains components whose costs fluctuate with
commodity prices is a highly risky proposition. Accordingly,
Bombardier (and Boeing, for that matter) doesn’t do it.
Bombardier doesn’t register sales in its accounting records
until the aircraft is delivered and an invoice is cut.

Nevertheless, Enforcement and Compliance appears to be going
forward with a dumping analysis based on sales made between April
1, 2016 and March 31, 2017. An objective observer would conclude
that since there were no sales of subject merchandise in the United
States during that period, there was obviously no dumping during
that period. But Enforcement and Compliance appears to be planning
to treat the purchase agreement date as the date of sale, and the
preliminary terms established there—price, quantity,
etc.—as the actual sales terms.

To complicate matters further, there are no production costs
recorded on Bombardier’s books during the period of
investigation for any of the aircraft in the Delta purchase
agreement. Many of the aircraft won’t be produced for several
years, so it will be years before the costs are accurately recorded
in the company’s books. Enforcement and Compliance
hasn’t provided any guidance as to how Bombardier should
attempt to conform with its reporting requirements, but seems to be
suggesting that it will consider the costs incurred during the
one-year period of investigation to produce those airplanes on the
purchase agreement that have been produced.

Of course, as Boeing’s lawyers and the cost accountants at
Enforcement and Compliance know full well, unit production costs of
high-fixed-cost products and other products that benefit from
learning curve effects, are always higher-than-average in the early
production phases, and decrease as output rises. The unit costs
that Bombardier would report for the first few of the 75 aircraft
on the purchase agreement would be much higher than the average
unit cost of the 75th. Boeing’s CEO, in a statement to
shareholders, even boasted about unit cost reductions of 30 percent
on the 80th Boeing 787 produced and 40 percent on the 240th.

In order to account for these learning curve effects and to
avoid skewing profit reporting and projections, companies are
permitted, under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, to
adjust these costs by incurring them at stages that match them more
realistically to revenues. Indeed, Boeing spreads it costs out
across the life of its aircraft programs so as not to mislead
investors or potential investors. Yet, Boeing seems to be okay with
Enforcement and Compliance’s decision to disallow this
approach so that it can generate high dumping margins for
Bombardier.

Production costs, of course, are relevant to antidumping
determinations because if there are no sales in the home market
made in the ordinary course of trade, the U.S. price is compared to
a cost-based estimate of what the price should be in the home
market. When a company reports higher costs, it is more likely that
its home market sales will be made at prices below the cost of
production and eliminated for being outside the ordinary course of
trade. As a result, that higher cost, increased by an estimate of
what the profit should be, acts as the benchmark to which the U.S.
price is compared when calculating the dumping margin.

Keep your eye on developments in this case, the preliminary
results of which are due from Commerce in the next couple of weeks.
It provides an excellent example of how subjectively and
capriciously the antidumping law is administered and it could be
the next most explosive issue threatening U.S.-Canada trade
relations.

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

Dems Are Stampeding to Support ‘Health Care from Hell’

Michael D. Tanner

With Republican efforts to repeal and replace ObamaCare all but
dead, Democrats appear to be ready to double down on plans for a
government takeover of the American health-care system. This week,
Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced legislation calling for “Medicare
for All,”
a single-payer system that would put government
firmly in charge. His proposal was backed by 17 senators —
one-third of the Democratic caucus — including New
York’s Kirsten Gillibrand.

Bernie’s plan is long on promises, with benefits far more
generous than current Medicare, including dental and vision care.
In fact, the benefits would be more generous than almost any
national health-care system anywhere, including Canada. And it
would all be “free.” No deductibles, copayments or
out-of-pocket costs. What’s not to love?

Well, before buying this particular unicorn, there are a few
things we should keep in mind.

Free health care is anything but free. BernieCare has not yet
been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, but independent
analysts suggest it will cost at least $1.4 trillion per year. That
would be equal to 36 percent of our current federal budget.

Prepare to wait six
months to see your doctor.

To pay for all this, Sanders would impose a 7.5 percent hike in
payroll taxes (bringing the total tax to nearly 23 percent), a 4
percent income-tax increase on all Americans and additional tax
hikes on corporations and “the rich.”

In fairness, BernieCare would replace some existing programs and
Americans would save on what they currently spend on private health
care. But even if BernieCare doesn’t end up costing more than
estimated — when was the last time that a government program
didn’t? — most Americans will be worse off.

Nor should we forget the impact of these tax hikes on job
creation and economic growth. We’ve just barely dug our way
out of the recession. That hardly seems like an opportune time to
sock the economy with a nearly 43 percent tax hike.

Government-run means government-controlled. Under BernieCare,
Uncle Sam would set prices for nearly all health-care services.
That includes telling doctors how much they can charge, setting
budgets for hospitals — which would limit spending on new and
advanced medical technology — and negotiating
prescription-drug prices.

Sanders expects price controls to reduce health-care spending by
at least $6 trillion over the next 10 years. But history has taught
us that price controls inevitably lead to shortages.

Medicare and other government programs already under-reimburse
providers, in some cases paying doctors less than the cost of
treating a patient.

As a result, more and more physicians have been dropping out of
the program. Roughly a quarter of primary-care doctors say
they’re not accepting new Medicare patients.

Slashing reimbursements further will only exacerbate this
problem. Yet making health care “free” to the patient
will drive up the demand for care. Increased demand and diminished
supply? Prepare to wait six months to see your doctor.

And don’t think you can opt out. Sanders’ plan would
ban private insurance, either employer-sponsored or individual. If
you don’t like what the government gives you .?.?. too
bad.

Medicare isn’t the best model for health care.
There’s no doubt it’s popular. Seniors love it. But
part of that popularity stems from the fact that Medicare provides
benefits it can’t afford. The program already faces close to
$50 trillion in future unfunded liabilities. Expanding it seems
akin to adding more passengers to the Titanic.

And going broke is hardly Medicare’s only flaw. A study in
the Journal of the American Medical Association found that for 16
of 40 standard indicators, Medicare patients received recommended
care less than two-thirds of the time. Other studies have shown
that Medicare patients receive a lower quality of care than do
similar patients with private insurance.

A study in the Journal of Health Services Research found that
“Medicare coverage at age 65 for the previously uninsured is
not linked to improvements in overall health status.”
Similarly, a study by Amy Finkelstein and Robin McKnight for the
National Bureau of Economic Research found that Medicare has had
little effect on mortality rates among the elderly.

If we’re going to spend $1.4 trillion per year for a new
health-care program, shouldn’t we actually get better health
care?

BernieCare isn’t going to pass anytime soon. Still,
it’s notable that nearly every rumored candidate for the
Democratic 2020 presidential nomination has signed on to this bill.
With the party’s left-wing activist fringe increasingly
driving the debate, support for government-run health care is
rapidly becoming a litmus test for the party.

That means we could soon be faced with a test of whether
American voters are so fed up with Republican dithering and
incompetence that they’re willing to put Washington in charge
of their health care.

Michael
Tanner
is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

The ABA Is Committed to Due Process, Unless You’re a Gun Owner

Trevor Burrus and Matthew Larosiere

It’s common for lawmakers to go after guns when
there’s a “crisis.” The governor of the U.S.
Virgin Islands ordered the National Guard to
seize guns before Hurricane Irma hit, and the mayor of New Orleans
did something similar before Katrina. More broadly, lawmakers often
go after guns in smaller crises, such as domestic violence
situations or when there are concerns that a potentially dangerous
person might misuse a gun. While that might seem like a good policy
in theory, it should concern anyone who cares about due process and
protecting constitutional rights. That’s why it was troubling
when, at the 2017 American Bar Association annual meeting, the ABA
House of Delegates formally adopted resolution 118B, which urges
state governments to put in place “GVRO”s (Gun Violence
Restraining Orders). GVROs enable law enforcement to search for and
seize a person’s lawfully possessed arms on the theory that they
may pose a danger to themselves or others.

The ABA, whose primary purpose is to set academic standards for
law schools and propose codes of ethics for lawyers, has never been
too fond of the Second Amendment. As early as 1965, the ABA
favored restrictive gun control. What is surprising about this
resolution, though, is the lack of attention paid to the due
process rights of gun owners. In its resolution, the ABA explicitly
endorses issuing GVROs ex parte, meaning the
constitutional rights of the accused could be stripped without the
opportunity to defend himself in court.

It is no surprise that
the ABA doesn’t care about a robust Second Amendment, but their
continually aggressive stance against gun rights is becoming
impossible to reconcile with their supposed commitment to
protecting constitutional rights.

The ABA has often fancied itself a bulwark of due process,
fervently defending the rights of unpopular
groups
including enemy combatants, illegal immigrants, and war
criminals. Resolution 118B, though, barely pays lip service to the
due process rights of gun owners. Clearly, whatever commitment the
ABA has to due process is second to political expediency, raising
serious questions as to the Association’s commitment to the
Constitution.

Ex parte proceedings always pose constitutional
concerns, as they deal with the rights of a person who is not
before the court. The classic situation is a domestic violence
restraining order, which is what most GVROs are based on. Those are
more justifiable as ex parte proceedings because they
involve a balancing of the rights of the accused and potential
victim, and they specifically focus on the protecting an
identifiable person. Those orders are issued in certain terms and
do not require a physical invasion into the life of the
accused.

The GVROs urged by the ABA, however, are orders to search for
and seize the arms of the person it is issued against. But most
states lack any reliable way of knowing who does and does not own
guns, and thus someone could suddenly find his home torn apart by
police in search of weapons that may not even exist. That person
may not even know about the circumstances leading to the order.

The ABA believes that a GVRO would be brought at the behest of
“law enforcement, family, or
other community members.”
An unaccountable civilian,
therefore, could report their neighbor, who, for whatever reason,
is a little creepy. If a GVRO is issued, police might then show up
at the neighbor’s house and confiscate his guns. That creates an
unacceptable potential for abuse, and increases the already
substantial threat of constitutional violations.

The ABA provides three historical examples where they contend a
GVRO would have prevented harm. Each example is fatally flawed. In
each, the GVRO would have either needed to be broad enough to strip
gun rights from third-parties, or impinge on still more fundamental
rights.

The ABA cites the case of Elliot Rodger, for example, who killed
six in Isla Vista, California. By shifting focus from
“firearms” to “access to firearms,” the
ABA’s report treats the rights of third parties as subject to
limitation if they are too close to someone subject to a GVRO.
Rodger lived with others, therefore preventing his “access to
firearms,” as the ABA seeks, would have required removing all
arms accessible to Rodger.

Next, the ABA recounts the spree killing of Jared Loughner, who
killed six and wounded 13 in a Tucson parking lot in 2011. The ABA
laments that Loughner’s parents could not take further action
to restrict his access to guns. The tragic irony is that
Loughner’s firearm had actually been seized—by his
parents. He simply gained access to another, as a motivated person
can do through a variety of means.

Most problematically, the ABA recounts the case of Dylann Roof,
who shot and killed nine at a Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
In support of the notion that a GVRO would have averted that
tragedy, the ABA recounts that Roof was “known to have made
violent, racist statements.” Does the ABA support disarming
people based on speech? This would be a shocking position to take
for an organization that historically has fought for free speech
and due process.

It is no surprise that the ABA doesn’t care about a robust
Second Amendment, but their continually aggressive stance against
gun rights is becoming impossible to reconcile with their supposed
commitment to protecting constitutional rights. In any event, the
ABA should consider sticking to regulating law school class sizes
rather than setting unconstitutional and unnecessary policy ideals
for the states.

Trevor
Burrus
is a Research Fellow in the Cato Institute’s Center for
Constitutional Studies. Matthew Larosiere is a legal associate in
the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies.

‘Super Schools’ Aren’t Going to Happen in the Public Sector

Neal McCluskey

Americans tuning in to watch Big Brother on CBS, or maybe
Masterchef on Fox, or their favorite shows on ABC or NBC, were
probably a bit surprised on Friday to find something called

XQ Super School Live
airing instead. And what was this
colorful, high energy, star-studded spectacle about?

Nothing less than transforming the American high school.

Project
XQ
is aimed at funding ideas to transform American high schools
into dynamic, innovative places where students become “learners for
life,” “original thinkers for an uncertain world,” and “masters of
all fundamental literacies,” among other things.

Fortunately, we know what
fuels innovation: freedom, which when it comes to providing goods
and services we call the “free market.”

The problem—aside from likely irking lots of people hoping
to catch their favorite show—was that the “how” of widescale
transformation was essentially absent, other than the occasional
note that it must be a public schooling thing, whether it was
admonishing viewers to get active with their school boards, or when
the voiceover of a dance number asked, “What if the community and
its public high schools strengthened each other in learning
together?”

Asking how to make education dynamic and innovative is the right
question. But public schooling? That’s the wrong answer.

It is, of course, understandable that people would focus on
transforming public schools. They are what the vast majority of
kids attend, and education for many people is synonymous with them.
But government—and public schools absolutely are
“government schools”
—has never been good at dynamic,
sustained, flexible innovation. By its very nature, it is rules
bound, not to mention dominated by
special interests
that naturally never want to be swept away by
change. It is inherently unsuited to the job.

Fortunately, we know what fuels innovation: freedom, which when
it comes to providing goods and services we call the “free market.”
As former Cato Center for Educational Freedom Director
Andrew Coulson
explains in his documentary series School
Inc.
—a far more edifying use of your viewing time than XQ
Super School Live—bringing innovation to the masses requires
freedom for people to constantly try new things, and to be rewarded
by the uncompromising standard of people willingly paying for them.
That reward is called “profit,” and the people who use the goods or
services are called “customers.” And what does that profit,
sometimes very large, do besides reward the people who often take
very big risks on cutting-edge ideas? It signals to others that
they ought to do the same thing, which expands the supply, lowers
the price, and takes innovation to affordable scale.

An outstanding example of this are smartphones, those
supercomputers we all carry that take our calls, handle our email,
play our music, empower our kids to watch seemingly endless
Minecraft videos and play My Little Pony games, etc. The company
most responsible for bringing these marvels to scale was Apple,
maker of the iPhone. And herein lies the irony of the public
school-centric XQ Super School.

One of the big backers of the XQ effort is Laurene Powell Jobs,
the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs. But Steve Jobs actually
spoke quite forcefully about attaching money to kids
and letting them
choose among schools
, including private institutions, as the
key to transforming education. As he explained back in 1995:

I believe very strongly that if the country gave each parent a
voucher for forty-four hundred dollars that they could only spend
at any accredited school several things would happen. Number one
schools would start marketing themselves like crazy to get
students. Secondly, I think you’d see a lot of new schools
starting…You could have twenty-five year old students out of
college, very idealistic, full of energy instead of starting a
Silicon Valley company, they’d start a school. I believe that they
would do far better than any of our public schools would. The third
thing you’d see is I believe, is the quality of schools again, just
in a competitive marketplace, start to rise.

It is tremendous to see others catching up to what school choice
advocates have lamented for years: Education is largely stuck in
neutral while the world perpetually changes (largely for the
better
).

But the root problem is not the absence of super schools. It is
education removed from a super system: the free market.

Neal
McCluskey
is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway
Confidential blog.

The Longer U.S. Waits to Negotiate with North Korea, the Less Leverage It Has

Eric Gomez

North Korea’s sixth nuclear test prompted
a flurry of early analysis and speculation about whether or not the
hermit kingdom successfully developed a thermonuclear weapon. Some media outlets
referred to the test as a “game changer.”

Such a label is more hype than truth, but the sixth nuclear test
does show that time is not on the United States’ side;
assuming U.S. leadership wants to negotiate.

The longer Washington waits to begin talks, the more advanced
Pyongyang’s arsenal will become and the larger its leverage
grows. The growing power of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal
should worry American policymakers and analysts to a degree, but
concern over the sixth nuclear test should be placed in a broader,
and more worrying, perspective.

A North Korean thermonuclear weapon is not a true “game
changer” because it does not change the nature of the United
States’ problem. Thermonuclear weapons have higher explosive yields
than nuclear or fission weapons, but both types can
cause incredible levels of devastation. The political purpose of
North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is to deter U.S.
military action by threatening unacceptably high costs on the
United States. These costs can be inflicted by either a
thermonuclear or nuclear weapon, and while North Korea has only
miniaturized its fission weapons recently it
has possessed this kind of weapon since 2006.

Negotiations may not
result in a big U.S. political victory, but the current
action/reaction cycle, with no negotiation, is doing little to slow
North Korea’s technical development.

North Korea’s Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile
(ICBM)
was more of a “game changer” than a
thermonuclear weapon because the ICBM gives Pyongyang the ability
to hold the U.S. homeland at risk. The ability to hit U.S. cities
with nuclear weapons significantly increases the effectiveness of North
Korea’s nuclear deterrent
vis-à-vis the United
States. North Korea’s newly-tested thermonuclear weapon can
inflict significantly more damage to U.S. cities than other nuclear
weapons it has tested, but the precise degree of damage is far less
important than the ability of the weapons to reach the United
States.

Joining “the H-bomb club” is the latest in
a string of technical accomplishments in North
Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs that
complicate Washington’s ability to negotiate with Pyongyang.
The longer the United States holds off on negotiations, the more
technical hurdles North Korea will overcome. This in turn makes it
more difficult for the United States to negotiate for limited aims, such as a freeze on
new kinds of missile technology or nuclear weapons development,
while strengthening North Korea’s hand in negotiations on
more weighty issues like a peace treaty or denuclearization.

As more and more technical milestones are reached, the more
difficult it will be for the United States to slow down North
Korea’s program and the harder it will be for the United States to
get what it wants in negotiations with Pyongyang in the future.
Tightening U.S. and international sanctions against North Korea may
slow down their progress in designing, building, and testing new
capabilities, but the North Koreans have a lot of practice dodging sanctions.
Moreover, many of their latest technological accomplishments seem to be
homemade
, which further reduces the ability of sanctions to
stop their progress.

The Trump administration has not signaled any willingness to
open negotiations with North Korea, and the tendency of the
administration to ratchet up pressure in response to North Korean
missile tests suggests that more sanctions and military posturing
are likely in response to a sixth nuclear weapons test.

Negotiating with North Korea may be diplomatically challenging
and politically unappealing, but the United States needs to
seriously consider opening talks sooner rather
than later. The current U.S. strategy of “maximum pressure” has failed to curb
North Korea’s missile testing and did not prevent the sixth
nuclear test from taking place. The war of words between the United States and
North Korea will likely escalate until another missile is inevitably
tested, leading to another round of sanctions and heated rhetoric.
Rinse and repeat until Pyongyang has survivable solid-fuel ICBMs
with miniaturized thermonuclear warheads.

Negotiations may not result in a big U.S. political victory, but
the current action/reaction cycle, with no negotiation, is doing
little to slow North Korea’s technical development. The
longer Washington waits to talk, the worse the situation will
become.

Eric Gomez is a
policy analyst for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato
Institute.