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The Specter Haunting Russia

by Robert Conquestvia Hoover Digest
Sunday, April 30, 2000

Hoover fellow Robert Conquest explains why Russia’s past, present, and future remain dangerously intertwined. “The collapse of communism has left a heritage of ruin.”

Further Reflections on a Ravaged Century

by Karl Zinsmeister, Robert Conquestvia Hoover Digest
Sunday, April 30, 2000

As one of the world’s foremost historians of Soviet communism, Hoover fellow Robert Conquest knows all about the dangers of government centralization. After the publication of his latest book, Reflections on a Ravaged Century, he sat down with Karl Zinsmeister to discuss the dangerous impulse toward centralization, which, Conquest reminds us, is still alive and well.

Do-gooders and Double Standards

by John Podhoretzvia Policy Review
Saturday, April 1, 2000

John Podhoretz on The paradox of American Democracy: Elites, Special Interests, and the Betrayal of Public Trust. by John B. Judis

From Yeltsin to Putin

by David Winstonvia Policy Review
Saturday, April 1, 2000

Milestones on an unfinished jouney

Richard Rorty, Liberal Absolutist

by Damon Linkervia Policy Review
Saturday, April 1, 2000

Damon Linker on Philosophy and Social Hope by Richard Rorty

The Coming Ascent of Congress

by John J. Pitney, Jr.via Policy Review
Saturday, April 1, 2000

And the diminishing power of the presidency

Analysis and Commentary

Global Perils in Perspective

by Robert Conquestvia Hoover Daily Report
Monday, March 6, 2000

Revolution, in the extreme twentieth-century sense of the seizure of power by a fanatical ideological group, has largely faded.

A Strategic Flip-Flop in the Caribbean

by William Ratliffvia Analysis
Wednesday, March 1, 2000

For almost three decades the U.S. embargo of Cuba was part of America's cold war strategy against the Soviet bloc. It should have been lifted after that ‘‘war’’ ended since Castro ceased to threaten the United States and its neighbors and adopted the standard rules of international behavior. But inertia, a powerful Cuban American lobby, and misguided politicians set new demands: democracy, improved human rights, and economic reform. When Castro demurred we tightened the sanctions in 1992 and again in 1996 with the Helms-Burton Law. The United States has never committed the resources necessary to overthrow Castro, however, and the pressures we have applied have utterly failed to advance the three objectives. Worse yet, in the post–cold war world the policy and political outlook that sustain it have become a strategic liability. They promote conflict, both within Cuba—where a crisis might draw in the U.S. military—and abroad, as occurred in 1999–2000 after the arrival in Florida of the rafter boy, Elián González. They allow pressure groups to stand in the way of the policy-making process of the U.S. government. For example, the lobby manipulated wishy-washy politicians in 1998–1999 and got the president to turn down a widely supported proposal for a bipartisan commission to conduct the first comprehensive evaluation of the policy in four decades. Finally, the imperialistic Helms-Burton Law alienates allies worldwide and will poison relations between the United States and Cuba for decades to come. Castro will benefit no matter what we do, but on balance he gains more if we maintain the sanctions because they provide a scapegoat for his own repression and economic failures even as they enable him to maintain his cherished global image as the ‘‘scourge of U.S. imperialism.’’ Castro can wage a worldwide campaign against the embargo to bolster his image knowing Washington is too inflexible to change it. Indeed, whenever Washington has lightened up, Castro has tightened up and effectively prevented further improvement. Lifting sanctions need not mean establishing friendly relations with Castro—which he would reject in any event—or supporting his efforts to get international aid without meeting standard requirements. The ultimate responsibility for maintaining this antiquated and potentially dangerous policy falls on politicians who either do not understand the need for, or for political reasons are afraid to support, a new policy to benefit both Americans and Cubans in the post–cold war world.

Political Instability as a Source of Growth

by Bruce Bueno de Mesquitavia Analysis
Wednesday, March 1, 2000

The U.S. government emphasizes the importance of stable political leadership as a necessary condition for economic growth. Contrary to this view, I show that high leadership turnover is strongly associated with high economic growth both in autocracy and in democracy. The effect of "unstable" leadership is stronger in democracies than autocracies because democratic political systems have institutions that promote competition over policy ideas rather than over the distribution of private benefits to cronies. Two institutions are shown to be particularly important in promoting such public goods as a fair legal system, transparent decision making and accounting, a strong national defense, and a healthy, growth-oriented infrastructure. These two institutions are a large selectorate (the set of people with a say in choosing leaders) and a large winning coalition (the set of people whose support keeps the incumbent in office).

Political leaders are eager to stay in office and, contrary to the neoclassical economic model, are not benign agents of the people in whose name they lead. Because autocrats depend on small groups of supporters, they emphasize the use of private benefits to their cronies as the means to gain political loyalty and stay in office. This means that they generally have little incentive to pay attention to the overall quality of their public policies.

Democrats, in contrast, require the support of a large coalition to stay in power. Because private rewards have to be spread thinly to many people, democrats find it easier to compete for office by providing public goods that benefit everyone rather than private benefits for a few cronies. This means that, in democracies, political competition is over policy ideas. Two effects follow from the fact that democratic leaders must build large coalitions: Democratic leaders provide better policies to improve their chances of surviving in office, and because competition is over policy ideas, they are more easily turned out of office in favor of a political challenger than are autocrats. Thus, autocrats have longer terms in office and produce less-efficient economic growth. The U.S. government emphasis on stable leadership as a necessary condition for growth is mistaken and can lead to global economic contraction rather than expansion.

Necessary Impeachments, Necessary Acquittals

by Tod Lindbergvia Policy Review
Tuesday, February 1, 2000

Damning facts, dubious laws, and the separation of powers

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The Working Group on the Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict examines how knowledge of past military operations can influence contemporary public policy decisions concerning current conflicts.