“We are living in dangerous times,” said Niall Ferguson, Hoover senior fellow and Harvard history professor, in his talk “The Next War of the World” at the Hoover Institution Fall 2006 Retreat.
Ferguson, who first spoke on his book War of the World (Penguin Press, 2006) at the Fall 2005 Retreat, returned this year to continue discussing that book’s ideas. In addition to the three threats he outlined in 2005 as the principal reasons for twentieth-century violence--ethnic disintegration, economic volatility, and the decline of empires-- he added a fourth, Eastern resurgence. Noting that these threats have resurfaced, he said that the world is now in a similar place to where it was in the lead-up to World War I.
Shelby Steele, Hoover research fellow, spoke on “Why the Enemy Fights and Why We Hold Back.” He believes that the end of white supremacy has challenged those who were freed as a result. Finding freedom a burden and an overwhelming responsibility, conditions he calls bad faith, they commit violent acts as a way to compensate. White guilt, he believes, is why Americans do not respond to such attacks. He concluded by warning that “we do not know how to fight this enemy; we are too civilized to defend ourselves.”
Discussions of international issues included remarks on North Korea nuclear weapons program by former secretary of defense William Perry, now a Hoover senior fellow and a professor at Stanford University. Perry recommended that the best course of action is diplomacy, but diplomacy backed with force. A. Michael Spence, Hoover senior fellow and former dean of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, spoke on “India’s and China’s Economic Influence in the Decades to Come,” saying that he foresees the two countries as continuing to grow and, in turn, have tremendous impact on the world economy.
“The Benefits of Growth and the Future of Democracy in Latin America” was the subject of remarks by former president of Peru Alejandro Toledo. Toledo, the first indigenous Peruvian to be democratically elected, served as president of the Republic of Peru from 2001 to 2006. In his remarks, Toledo warned that Latin America is losing patience and that social policies directed at extreme poverty must be developed.
John Yoo, professor of law at the University of California at Berkley, in his discussion of “Presidential Power in Time of Crisis,” noted a correlation between presidents who are seen as great and those who were most aggressive in assuming their rights under the Constitution.
Benjamin Wittes, Washington Post columnist, and Richard Epstein, Hoover senior fellow and University of Chicago law professor, addressed judicial and legal issues in their talks. In Wittes’s remarks, based on his recent book Confirmation Wars: Preserving Independent Courts in Angry Times (Hoover Studies and Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), he acknowledged that ideological politics have been part of the judicial nomination process since the time of George Washington but believes it is getting worse. There is a twofold threat to today’s nomination process: legislators ask nominees questions that they cannot answer and pressure would-be judges to conform to the wills of legislators who cannot agree on what qualifications they should demand of nominees.
Epstein's talk discussed the real dangers of the abuse of power that is inherent in the prosecutions of corporation under the aggressive memo prepared in January 2003 by Larry Thompson, the then deputy attorney general, which indicated a tough policy that treated corporations like individual persons. But Epstein warned that the analogy does not hold. The great threat from government is not conviction, but simple prosecution where collateral consequences can put a firm out of business by causing a suspension of its licenses, even if it prevails in the criminal case. Faced with that threat, firms will capitulate to conditions that are far removed from the original offense and cede to prosecutors the power to decide whether to keep or fire their own CEOs, which has already happened in a number of cases. “It seems too much to ask for self-restraint by prosecutors,” Epstein said, “so that the only remedy looks to be a sharp truncation in the scope of corporate criminal liability that makes the government's threat so deadly.”
The retreat concluded with a panel discussion of the upcoming elections titled “November 2006 and Beyond: Some Implications of the Mid-Term Elections.” The panel included David Brady, Hoover deputy director and senior fellow; Morris Fiorina, Hoover senior fellow; and former California governor Pete Wilson, a Hoover distinguished visiting fellow.
“If Republicans went back to nominating candidates like Pete Wilson they would win,” said Fiorina. Fiorina also discussed California Proposition 187, a 1994 ballot initiative designed to deny illegal immigrants services that voters passed but that was overturned by a federal court. Although some see this measure as rallying Latino voters who have influenced elections since and undermined the Republican Party, Fiorina suggested that this was not as important as the stature of the candidates whom Republicans have nominated.
Brady outlined a survey that he, Fiorina, and Douglas Rivers, a Stanford political science professor, conducted on the upcoming elections. Nationally, Brady said the Democrats will probably regain the House and Republicans will hold the Senate. He doesn’t believe that 2006 will be for Democrats what 1994 was for the Republicans.
In his remarks, Wilson added that “California is not a hopelessly blue state” and agreed that this is not another 1994. Although Republicans may lose seats in the House, Wilson said, the Senate will be 50-50 with Vice President Dick Cheney “chained to the desk.”
In addition to the plenary speakers, Hoover fellows conducted conversations on a variety of topics, including Stephen Haber, Hoover senior fellow, on “How Mexico Avoided Turning Left: The 2006 Presidential Election and Its Implications for the Future of Mexico’s Politics and Economy”; Peter Henry, a Stanford University professor and former Hoover national fellow, on “A Quick Tour of the World Economy”; Kenneth Jowitt, Hoover senior fellow, on “Some Important Countries”; Eugene Volokh, University of California at Los Angeles professor, on “In Defense of the Slippery Slope”; Sidney Drell, Hoover senior fellow, and George P. Shultz, Hoover distinguished fellow, on “A Report on the Recent Hoover Conference: ‘Implications of the Reykjavik Summit on Its 20th Anniversary’”; Victor Davis Hanson, Hoover senior fellow, on “Illegal Immigration: The Crisis Deepens”; Michael McFaul, Hoover senior fellow, on “Stopping Iran from Getting the Bomb”; John Taylor, Hoover senior fellow, on “Exchange Rate Diplomacy: China, Japan, and the United States”; Michael Boskin, Hoover senior fellow, on “Beyond the Headlines and Political Hyperbole: What’s Really Going On in the American Economy”; Dinesh D’Souza, Hoover research fellow, on “Islamic Fundamentalism, Christian Fundamentalism: Is Religion the Problem?”; Eric Hanushek, Hoover senior fellow, on “Can Californians Schools Be Fixed?”; and Kiron Skinner, Hoover research fellow, on “Turning Points in Ending the Cold War.”
The retreat opened with remarks by Richard D. Lamm, former governor of Colorado, at a dinner on October 29. In his remarks, titled “The Ten Commandments ofCommunity,” he asked “what is the social glue that holds America together?” In his view the glue includes not taking community for granted, great leaders and citizens, freedom, similarities among residents, social order, a planned future, identity, social infrastructure, and civic-minded participation from residents. He concluded his list with a challenge to members of the audience: What did they think should be included?
David Brooks, columnist at the New York Times, political commentator, and author, discussed the November 7 election, about a week away when he spoke on October 30.
Brooks addressed the state of conservativism and the Republican Party in the United States, saying he believes their best hopes lie in organizations such as the Hoover Institution. Centers such as Hoover--not the offices of politicians in Washington--are the places, he said, where solid ideas are developed and where issues such as the influence of Muslim culture, free trade, human capital, and entitlements are fully and honestly explored.