Flotsam and Jetsam

Peter Berkowitz makes mincemeat of an E.J. Dionne column. “Dionne continues to insist, contrary to the evidence, that the Tea Party is a small and inconsequential movement. He leaves unchallenged my main claim that many highly educated Americans misunderstand the Tea Party’s central commitment to limited government because the political science and history departments at the distinguished colleges and universities that credential them are failing to teach the principles of American constitutional government (I do not dispute Dionne’s assurance that he was well trained by his college teachers). And while insisting on the importance of a thoughtful conservatism, he seems to be unaware of its existence.” Ouch.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

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Obama Killed His Own Iran Deal

Failure was a feature.

President Trump announced America’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal, triggering a paroxysm of fury among liberals, Never Trumpers, and the keepers of conventional foreign-policy wisdom. Yet it wasn’t the 45th president who set the stage for the deal’s collapse. Blame for that belongs to his predecessor.

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Blankenship Down?

Princes with a Thousand Enemies.

What is Trumpism? Is it a set of policies, an attitudinal predisposition, or a mix of both? Can Trump’s domestic policy preferences, many of which depart from the traditional conservative predilections toward small governments and free markets, be separated from his churlish affectation? These questions have bedeviled political observers now for almost three years. If, however, we could spin some Trumpism in a centrifuge tube and isolate the strands of policy from the boorish artifice in which they are packaged, you would likely see a lot of artifice and a surprisingly modest amount of policy.

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Trump and America’s Centripetal Foreign Policy

A return to the familiar

Donald Trump’s remarkable announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Iran deal is an indication that the centripetal force of America’s consensus foreign policy dating back to 1980 is pulling Trump inexorably toward its center. That is not the place Trump wanted to be when he ran his campaign. He certainly seemed to want to pursue a far more isolationist path, which is exactly the path that the post-war foreign policy of the United States rejected. But here we are, and here are the elements of Trump’s foreign policy that demonstrate continuity with the past consensus:

  • Sanctions against Russia for its behavior in Ukraine
  • Permitting arms sales to Ukraine
  • Some level of friendship toward Israel
  • Hostility toward Cuba’s totalitarian regime
  • Fighting Islamist terrorism—on the ground in Syria, in Iraq, and in Afghanistan
  • Finding points of commonality with Arab regimes that are not explicitly anti-American
  • Viewing Iran as a serious antagonist

With some exceptions (like the elder Bush’s administration in relation to Israel), every element on this list (if in some cases you substitute the Soviet Union for Russia pre-1991 and Libya for Islamist terror) was to some degree at play in American foreign policy from 1981 until 2008. Such has been the powerful logical flow of American foreign policy since the election of Ronald Reagan. This consensus ebbed and flowed depending on the circumstance, of course, and the parallels are not perfect. What Trump has done, and I don’t think strategically or with any grand design, is to place far greater stock in both the unilateralist and the realpolitik aspects of American foreign policy than his predecessors in the Reagan and post-Reagan era. He views enduring alliances more as constraints than grand benefits, which is perhaps the primary way in which he differs from the consensus. But his attacks on those alliances have basically ceased, which is itself a striking change from candidate Trump’s approach.

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Real Anti-Semitism on Campus

Education and literacy.

At Ithaca College, of six “bias-related incidents” reported in 2017-18, three were “cases of aggravated harassment involving swastikas.” One Jewish student there reported that a mezuzah “was knocked off of his door and damaged.” At Western Washington University’s library, seven Jewish Studies books were defaced with anti-Semitic slurs or destroyed, and someone drew a swastika on “a poster outside a faculty member’s office.” The University of Miami is investigating multiple anti-Semitic incidents, including one in which someone drew a “large swastika” on a whiteboard hanging on a Jewish student’s door. At Knox College, a professor of African Studies tweeted, among other things, that Jews are “pulling the strings for profit.” A faculty member involved in discussing the incident “found an anti-Semitic image had been slid under her office door.”

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How to Radically Reduce Medical Costs

Radical transparency.

The state of Colorado is considering a new law, the Comprehensive Health Care Billing Transparency Act, which has the potential to profoundly affect the cost of medical care. As former senator (and physician) Tom Coburn explained in the Wall Street Journal:

If passed, the legislation would mandate that hospitals and other facilities disclose the base fees they charge for specific services “before applying any discounts, rebates, or other charge adjustment mechanisms.” Every bill sent to a patient would need to include an itemized list, which would allow patients to see if a service had been marked up. By making such information available upfront, the legislation would reintroduce competition to Colorado’s opaque health-care markets.

Once hospitals, surgical centers, etc., are forced to disclose their prices, free-market competition will ensure that those prices tend to converge towards the low end. Some opponents call this a race to the bottom. But, in fact, it’s a race to the market clearing price. In a free market, no one is going to provide a service at a below cost price, and no one is going to pay more than the lowest offered price. This will force hospitals that currently have little incentive to be more efficient to cut costs and meet the competition’s prices.

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