We look back at America during the last two decades of the twentieth century. Each decade was dominated by a two-term President and marked by long economic booms. Do these parallels suggest that 1990s were merely a continuation of the 1980s? Or does each decade have a unique place in American history?
It's been more than 25 years since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. For most of that time, the number of executions in this country climbed steadily higher. In the past several years, however, the death penalty has come under increasing criticism. Executions have fallen nationwide from a high of 98 in 1998 to 66 in 2001. Two states, Illinois and Maryland, declared moratoria on the death penalty over concerns that the death penalty could not be administered fairly. Is the death penalty immoral in and of itself? If not, is it unconstitutional? What is required to ensure that the death penalty is administered with fairness, justice, and accuracy?
Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, Congress passed and President Bush signed the USA Patriot Act—legislation intended to thwart the threat of domestic terrorism. Critics were quick to denounce USA Patriot as a dangerous expansion of government power at the expense of our civil liberties. Are the critics right? Or can we win the war on terrorism without sacrificing our civil liberties here at home? And what has the American experience in earlier crises, such as the Civil War and the two world wars, taught us about balancing national security and personal freedom?
It has been more than fifteen years since the People's Liberation Army crushed the prodemocracy rallies in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, killing hundreds of students and workers and wounding thousands more. Since then, although stifling political dissent, China has continued to liberalize its economy and is rapidly becoming an economic superpower. Will the explosion of new wealth in China lead to new pressures for democratic reform? And just what is the legacy of Tiananmen? Peter Robinson speaks with William McGurn and Orville Schell.
Over the last quarter century, Latin America appears to have made remarkable political and economic progress—an undeniable shift towards democratic government and free market economics. Yet during the last five years, several Latin American countries have experienced one political and economic crisis after another. Why? Have democratic and free market reforms failed Latin America? Or are enduring problems of governmental structure still to blame? Peter Robinson speaks with Stephen Haber and Alvaro Vargas Llosa.
In making Social Security reform a top priority of his second term, President George W. Bush has emphasized two points: first, that, without changes, our Social Security system will be bankrupt by 2042 and, second, that a key element of reform must be creating private accounts to allow workers to invest a portion of their payroll taxes in stocks and bonds. Is the president right on both counts? Peter Robinson speaks with John Cogan and Alan Auerbach.
The First Amendment of the Constitution declares in part that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." What did this amendment mean to the founders who wrote it? Did they intend to establish an inviolate "wall of separation between church and state"? Or was their intent instead to merely preserve religious freedom and prevent the establishment of a national religion?
It is estimated that currently there are between 7 and 10 million illegal immigrants in this country. Meanwhile the Border Patrol has grown from a staff of 2,000 and a $100 million budget 30 years ago to 11,000 men and women and a $9 billion budget today. Clearly, our attempts to control illegal immigration have not been working. But what should we do instead? President Bush has proposed a new immigration plan that would turn illegal immigrants already here into legal temporary workers. Is his plan an acknowledgment that our economy needs cheap immigrant labor and that we simply can't control our borders any longer? Or is his plan the entirely wrong way to address the immigration problem?
From the Monroe Doctrine through the Truman Doctrine, from containment to détente, the principles behind America’s boldest foreign policy initiatives were straightforward and easy to understand. These simple principles told the rest of world what to expect from the United States and what we expected from the rest of the world. What were the principles behind American foreign policy in the 1990s? Did President Clinton apply those principles rigorously or haphazardly? How can President Bush do better?
There are often said to be two competing schools for interpreting the meaning of the Constitution. On one side are those who believe that the meaning of the Constitution must evolve over time as society itself changes. On the other side are those who insist that the original intent of the framers of the Constitution—what they wrote and what their intent was in writing it—is all that matters. Robert Bork is firmly in the latter school. We asked him to explicate his understanding of the U.S. Constitution, using recent Supreme Court decisions as case studies.
Fifty years ago, critic Lionel Trilling declared that "in the United States at this time, liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition." Today, however, even most Democrats avoid calling themselves liberal. What happened to the liberal tradition in the second half of the twentieth century? What does liberalism stand for at the beginning of the twenty-first century? Can liberals reclaim their once-dominant position in American politics, or is their ideology history?
On December 12, 2000, the Supreme Court of the United States brought an end to thirty-six days of dramatic vote recounts and legal challenges in the state of Florida. The decision let stand the initial results of Florida's election, which gave the state's electoral votes, and thus the Presidency, to George W. Bush. What was the legal justification for the Supreme Court's decision? Should the Court have intervened in the first place? And what precedent did the Court create for future elections?
In 2002, the Bush administration published a new National Security Strategy, which argued that, in the twenty-first century, it was necessary for the United States not merely to defend itself but to use military force to prevent threats such as terrorist attacks and weapons of mass destruction. Is preventive force just? Is it effective? And what can the biggest example of this doctrine in action, the war in Iraq, tell us about the future of preventive force? Peter Robinson speaks with Victor Davis Hanson, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Stephen Stedman.
From the 1950s through the 1980s, Japan experienced dramatic economic growth as it transformed itself from a defeated militaristic empire into a democratic, high-technology powerhouse. The Japanese economy became so dynamic that, by the late 1980s, some American experts were arguing that Japan would overtake the United States as the world's dominant economic power. And then the Japanese economy collapsed. And for nearly fifteen years, the economic malaise has continued. Why? What does Japan need to do to snap out of its doldrums? And what are the risks and benefits to American interests of a reinvigorated Japan?
Behavioral scientists have begun to argue that the findings of evolutionary science should have legal, political, and moral consequences. If behaviors such as procreation, aggression, or homosexuality are determined more by our biology than by our free will, then it is foolish, these scientists argue, to ignore that evidence. Does evolutionary science have any place in public policy? How useful is the knowledge of our biological evolution in determining the values of our legal, social, and political system?
Do enemy combatants in the war on terror have any legal rights? The United States now holds more than 650 persons captured during the war on terrorism at our naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba. The government is holding them indefinitely, without charging them and without offering them access to American courts or legal counsel. Is this legal? Do federal courts have jurisdiction in this matter, or do these detainees exist completely outside of the American legal system?
In March 2002, President Bush signed into law the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, better known as the McCain-Feingold Bill. The law bans political contributions known as "soft money"—that is, money from corporations, unions, and other organizations given to political parties for "party-building activities," thereby skirting campaign contribution limits. The Supreme Court has now taken up McCain-Feingold and will determine whether all or parts of the act will be upheld or overturned. Are soft money bans legal? Or do such campaign finance restrictions infringe on freedom of speech? Just how should the Court decide?
The breadth and depth of Hoover Institution scholarship is reflected in the many events put on by the Hoover Institution on a broad variety of topics and issues.
In 1986, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met in Reykjavik, Iceland, to discuss nuclear arms control. The American and Russian leaders negotiated boldly, pushing each other far past the limits of previous arms control agreements. Reagan and Gorbachev were soon close to an agreement to eliminate all nuclear weapons. The stopping point: Gorbachev insisted that America's Strategic Defensive Initiative, or "Star Wars" be scrapped. Reagan refused, and no agreements were reached. What is the legacy of the Reykjavik Summit? Was it a failure, a historic opportunity squandered? Or was it the beginning of the end of the Cold War?
Recent opinion polls that show that the American public overwhelming wants the United States to avoid taking sides in the conflict in the Middle East. Yet members of Congress have been nearly unanimous in their support of Israel in its actions against the Palestinians. Just why is our government so steadfastly supportive of Israel? Does this support further our legitimate strategic interests in the Middle East? Or is it the result of domestic special interest politics?