Topic: General

New at Cato Unbound: Clark Ervin Replies to John Mueller on Terrorism

In today’s installment of Cato Unbound, Clark Kent Ervin, former Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security and author of Open Target: Where America is Vulnerable to Attack, strongly disagrees with John Mueller’s provocative lead essay, “Some Reflections on What, if Anything, “Are We Safer” Might Mean,” in this month’s issue devoted to “9/11 Five Years After: Reassessing Homeland Security and the Terrorist Threat.”

Borrow and Spend, Spend and Elect

As chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY) is charged with helping House Republicans get elected and re-elected. In this difficult year for Republicans he’s facing a tough race at home in the Buffalo area. According to the Wall Street Journal (paid reg. required), he’s using today’s standard Republican formula: promise to cut taxes and spend, spend, spend:

Mr. Reynolds, with about $3 million in campaign contributions, has run ads on local television for more than a month, earlier than in past campaigns. The first emphasized his support for low taxes and few business regulations, ending, “Tom Reynolds – Fighting to save New York jobs.” Another had two retired military officers hailing his role in saving the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station from shutdown. The third featured a mother holding her toddler while recalling the congressman’s help in forcing Blue Cross/Blue Shield to cover surgeries for the child’s cleft palate. “Tom Reynolds has a big heart,” she says into the camera.


I’m anything but an expert on British politics, but if the head of the Conservatives is making noises like this, we’ve got a serious image problem abroad:

“I and my party are instinctive friends of America and passionate supporters of the Atlantic alliance,” [Conservatives chief David Cameron] said, warning against the “intellectual and moral surrender” of anti-Americanism. But he added that being an uncritical ally was dangerous for Britain: “I fear that if we continue at present we may combine the maximum of exposure with the minimum of real influence over decisions.”

Risking a rift with the Republicans and his own traditionalists, he attacked the “unrealistic and simplistic” neoconservative philosophy of Mr Bush’s closest colleagues and advisers, calling it “a view which sees only light and darkness in the world – and which believes that one can be turned to the other as quickly as flicking a switch”.

Health Care Quality: Sharpening the Differences

Ezra Klein wants patients to receive the highest quality health care possible.  So do I.  Klein thinks that patients are “easily fooled” when it comes to health care quality.  So do I.  Klein thinks “panels of experts should watch over health care decisions.”  So do I. 

Klein thinks that politicians should empanel and watch over those experts.  I think that multiple panels should compete to provide patients with the best information, which patients could take or leave.

I worry that if politicians lead the pursuit of quality, the pursuit of quality will become infected by politics.  Klein kind of agrees.

Klein proposes to get around that sticky wicket by prohibiting Americans from contributing to politicians they like.  I think it’s an odd health care agenda whose success requires shredding the First Amendment.

Klein thinks patients are ignorant about quality, and thinks politicians should insulate patients from the costs of their medical decisions.  I think insulation from costs breeds ignorance about quality.

An elderly woman presents with abdominal pain from ingesting a spider.  Klein’s prescription: one bird and one cat, to be administered orally.  Cannon’s prescription: induce vomiting.

David Brooks’ Newest Conservatism

At various times, David Brooks has called his political philosophy “neoconservatism,” “compassionate conservatism,” “national greatness conservatism,” “big government conservatism” and, now, “progressive conservatism.” By any name, however, it has one common denominator: big, expensive, and intrusive government. In Sunday’s New York Times, Brooks puts forward a plan for “human capital investment,” calling for:

  • Giving every child born in America $1,000 at birth to put in a savings account;
  • Spending more money on preschool;
  • Further extension of the Earned Income Tax Credit;
  • More government reorganization of our educational system; and
  • An increase in the child tax credit.

Actually, there is a term for this type of program—it’s called liberalism.


Goldwater on Goldwater on HBO

Next Monday, September 18, HBO will broadcast a new documentary, “Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater.” The film was made by Barry Goldwater’s granddaughter, CC Goldwater. The Los Angeles Times calls it “an unabashedly admiring — though not wide-eyed — attempt to reclaim her grandfather’s legacy, and to reconcile the man she adored — the avid gadgeteer, ham-radio operator, aviator, and truly talented photographer of American Indians — with the controversial political figure, often heralded as the father of the American conservative movement.”

There are three kinds of people these days who like to call themselves “Goldwater Republicans”:

* libertarians, who tend to ignore the social conservatism of the senator’s 1964 presidential campaign, focusing on his rugged-individualist opposition to the federal leviathan and his later opposition to the religious right;

* liberals, who would perhaps have been Rockefeller Republicans in 1964, when they denounced Goldwater as literally insane; and

* limited-government conservatives, who still believe in the ideals of Goldwater’s book The Conscience of a Conservative and regret the big-government conservatism that now dominates the Republican party.

My guess is that “Goldwater on Goldwater” is going to appeal more to the first two groups than to the actual Goldwaterites. It interviews people from across the political spectrum, but George Will appears to be the only Goldwaterite interviewed, while it also features Hillary Rodham Clinton, Teddy Kennedy, Ben Bradlee, Walter Cronkite, Al Franken, and James Carville. Interviews with the daughter who had an abortion and the gay grandson also indicate a strong emphasis on the later Goldwater.

Either way, spending 90 minutes with Barry Goldwater has got to be a welcome respite from the world of George W. Bush.

New England Journal of Medicine Reviews Crisis of Abundance

Arnold Relman reviews the Cato Institute’s latest health policy book, Crisis of Abundance by adjunct scholar Arnold Kling, in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Relman is a former editor of the NEJM and an advocate of socialized medicine. Nonetheless, he compares Kling favorably to other economists who write about health care:

[Kling] has done a much better job than most of his colleagues. His book is clear, concise, and eminently readable; he writes in straightforward English prose, not economic jargon; he is modest, posing questions more often than he answers them; and he considers alternatives to most of the policy options he discusses.

Many readers will know that I am a longstanding critic of the economic approach to health care policy, but I liked this little book and can recommend it highly…

I was attracted by a certain freshness and directness in much of Kling’s argument, and I found myself agreeing with many of his observations…

[Kling] intends only to “raise the level of understanding of the realities, issues, and tradeoffs pertaining to health care policy.” I think he succeeds pretty well at that, so I warmly recommend his book to general readers who want to understand what economics has to say about health care.

NEJM subscribers can click to the full review from here. We expect to be able to link to the full review soon from and

Crisis of Abundance is available for purchase here.