In 2001 President Bush established a bipartisan commission to study and report recommendations for restoring fiscal soundness to the current Social Security program. All three of the commission's models for reforming the system included the creation of individually controlled retirement accounts—a process commonly referred to as "privatizing Social Security." Some critics of the proposals argue that Social Security is not in as much trouble as the president's commission would have us believe and that major reform is unnecessary. Other critics say that creating private accounts will compound Social Security's problems rather than solve them. Who's right, the president's commission or its critics?
Almost everyone agrees on the importance of keeping our air and water pollution-free. But how much are we willing to pay and for what measure of protection? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been criticized for setting clean air standards without regard for the costs of meeting those standards. Critics of this approach argue that failing to weigh costs and benefits could threaten economic growth, which has its own implications for public health. How should the EPA set its standards? Can cost-benefit analysis lead to standards that are both efficient and effective?
Are peacekeeping missions undertaken by the United Nations a good idea? Is there a difference between peacekeeping and peacemaking? What sort of conflicts should the UN become involved in and which should it avoid? What are the alternatives to UN peacekeeping missions? Why have the number of UN missions increased so dramatically since the beginning of the 1990s?
Following World War II, Japan reinvented itself both politically, as it adopted the institutions of democratic government, and economically, as it became a dominant producer and exporter of consumer goods. These reforms were so successful that, ten years ago, experts were predicting that Japan would overtake the United States as an economic superpower. Instead, Japan experienced a decade of recession and economic stagnation that continues still. What happened? Is this a sign of serious structural problems in Japan's political and economic institutions? In other words, is it time for Japan to reinvent itself once again? If so, how should the United States alter its relationship with a new Japan?
Is the ballot initiative good or bad for American democracy? Today citizens in twenty-four states have the right to petition their fellow citizens in the law. Initiatives that are approved by voters become law, bypassing the normal legislative process. What are the benefits of this sort of direct democracy? And what are the dangers?
More than 140 years after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, his theory of evolution is still generating controversy. Although Darwinism is championed by the majority of the scientific community, some have claimed that Darwin's theory is bad science and have put forward their own, even more controversial theories. What should we make of these arguments? Is one such theory, known as Intelligent Design, merely creationism by another name, or is it a legitimate scientific alternative to Darwinism?
Is democracy—that is, free elections—to be desired at all times for all nations? Or are nations more successful when they establish the rule of law, property rights, and other constitutional liberties first? For the United States, this is no longer an academic question. America is deeply involved in nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq. Should the establishment of democracy in these countries be the first priority for the United States, or is securing public order and the rule of law more important?
How has the status of women in America improved over the past forty years of feminism? As past problems have been solved, have new ones been created? What are the most important issues for the women's movement today? For that matter, just how much do women agree on what it even means to be a feminist?
What is the future of Taiwan? Deteriorating Taiwan-China relations could be the first foreign policy crisis for the next American President. What is the history of the Taiwan-China situation? Is Taiwan an independent state? If so, why does the United States not recognize Taiwan's sovereignty? How should the U.S. respond if tensions between Taiwan and China increase?
In 2001, President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act, a bipartisan effort to mandate national education standards and increase federal funding of education. At the time, critics on both sides of the political spectrum were troubled by the expansion of federal power over education that the act represented and by the education standards the act mandated. Now, nearly half a decade later, has No Child Left Behind been a success? If not, how should it be reformed? Peter Robinson speaks with John E. Chubb and Martin Carnoy.
This week on Uncommon Knowledge, a conversation with author and historian Amity Shlaes on her new book, Great Society: A New History.
In his first term, President George W. Bush has had difficulty getting his nominees to the federal courts of appeal confirmed by the Senate. The Democrats have taken the almost unprecedented step of threatening filibusters to prevent floor votes on certain nominees. Has the judicial appointments process become the latest victim of bitter partisan politics? Or has the judiciary brought this state of affairs on itself by advancing a doctrine of judicial supremacy, leaving the executive and legislative branches no choice but to resort to political litmus tests for nominees? What does this situation bode for the next Supreme Court nomination? And what, if anything, should be done to reform the process?
The terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks took advantage of vulnerabilities in a critical part of America's infrastructure—our air transportation system. Experts have pointed to similar vulnerabilities in our nation's food supply, our ports, and our chemical and nuclear facilities. Congress and the Bush administration responded to the threat of other such attacks by creating the Department of Homeland Security. But has the government done enough? What more should we be doing to defend against potentially devastating domestic terrorist attacks? And just how much can we do without infringing on our freedom and way of life? Peter Robinson speaks with Frances Edwards and Stephen Flynn.
Many experts believe that it is almost inevitable that terrorists will soon have the ability to detonate a nuclear weapon in the heart of a major American city. How can we stop them? What are the specific threats that we face and how should we respond to them? Do we face a greater danger from nuclear weapons that may have been stolen from the former Soviet Union or from the clandestine efforts of rogue nuclear scientists? And if the threat has increased since 9/11, why hasn't the United States done more to contain it? Peter Robinson speaks with Graham Allison and Scott Sagan.
Did life on earth unfold by chance or by design? According to the natural sciences and Darwin's theory of evolution, it was by chance. According to the Judeo-Christian tradition, it was by divine design. On this crucial question, science and religion appear to be irreconcilable. But are they? Does Darwinism encourage atheism? Must Christians be anti-Darwin?
What the next President decides to do with the federal budget will impact the lives of each and every one of us. For example, what should the next President do with the current budget surplus—pay down the national debt, set aside money to strengthen Social Security, or cut taxes? Milton Friedman answers these questions as well as addressing how the next President should approach the issues of education, health care, and the future of Social Security.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has a budget of about $3 billion and more than 16,000 employees working to identify and protect the United States from foreign threats. Yet the CIA failed to prevent the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. How come? Should the CIA have been able to foresee and prevent this sort of attack? Now that the cold war is over, is it time to abolish the CIA or reform it to respond to the new threat of terrorism? If reform is the answer, should the CIA put more emphasis on high technology or on placing agents in the field?
In 2000, Vicente Fox became the first opposition candidate ever to win the Mexican presidency. His election was preceded by a decade and a half of economic and political reforms in Mexico. How significant are these changes? What are the prospects for resolving some of Mexico's enduring problems, including political corruption, entrenched poverty and a state-controlled economy? What challenges will Fox have to overcome to bring Mexico into a new era of prosperity and freedom?
In 1992, Bill Clinton received 43 percent of the national vote, but he received 83 percent of the vote from film and television writers, directors, and producers. Is Hollywood as liberal as these data suggest? If so, why? Does Hollywood have a cohesive liberal agenda that affects the films and television programs we watch?
The controversy sparked by the Sept. 15, 2009, publication of the Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, otherwise known as the Goldstone Report, may appear to exclusively concern the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. . . .