There's a natural human impulse to help people who need a hand. In the political world, that often translates to an impulse to have government help people who need a hand. Who wants to argue with that?But experience tells us that it's not always easy to help. Individuals' good intentions go awry. Government programs sometimes produce unintended consequences that make things worse for the intended beneficiaries.
While researching for a recent book, I was surprised how many times the idea of power balancing came up as a solution to a variety of problems. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was. Balancing is an important, perhaps the most important, component of governmental design as laid out in the Constitution. Balancing is a prominent grand strategy in international relations. And balancing is a productive way to think about the role of government in domestic affairs. Each begins with the notion that power is central, concentration of power corrupts, and balance is the corrective.
The Constitution specifies three co-equal branches of government: the legislature, the executive, and an independent judiciary. In making his argument for this republican governmental design, Madison said, "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition." There is a "necessary partition of power" with checks and balances. Efficiency was not a primary concern of the constitutional framers. The threat to be countered was a concentration of power in the hands of one body.
In international relations, balance of power defines the objective of a prominent grand strategy apparent throughout time. The threat to be countered was one state gaining a preponderance of power and exerting its dominance over others. To counter any state's primacy, other states could aggregate their power and balance against the hegemon.
Athens always entered in alliance with the weaker side to tip the scales against an ambitious competitor. Britain has historically adopted a balancing strategy toward continental powers and followed David Hume's recommendation to "support the weaker side in every conflict." England balanced with Germany against Napoleonic France but balanced with France against Germany in the two World Wars. The United States entered into both World Wars late to tip the scales. But post-Cold War the U.S. has been exerting preponderance rather than balancing power, thus becoming the hegemon to balance against.
A third application of balancing caught my attention during the recent campaign: the role of government in balancing between the competing interests of corporations and the interests of the people. Clearly there are cases of too much and too little government intervention. The command economy in communist countries, and socialism, where the means of production are owned by the government, provide examples of too much power in the hands of government for most Americans. And the laissez faire governments at the advent of the industrial revolution that created unimagined wealth, unprecedented concentration of wealth, and deplorable working conditions, provide examples of too little for those in the weaker position.
Government put its thumb on the scales during the Progressive Era when it became clear that monopolies represented too much power concentrated in big business and a distortion of market forces by limiting competition. The public was ill served. Government weighed in to restore balance by breaking up the monopolies and preventing new ones.
The Gilded Age was dominated by a few individuals -- e.g., John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt -- who were called captains of industry by their admirers and robber barons by their detractors. They undeniably drove industrialization and modernization of the country and built vast monopolies through predatory business practices.
The dominant company, among other tactics, set prices below market level to drive competitors into bankruptcy. Defeated companies were then bought at depressed prices and put under a single board of directors -- a trust -- to camouflage the monopoly. Once monopoly was achieved through predatory practices, the lack of competition allowed the survivor to charge customers and pay workers whatever it liked. Monopoly represented a lack of competition and failure of the free market.
The deficiencies of laissez faire became too much to bear. Life-threatening working conditions and poverty wages in the steel industry energized laborers to aggregate their individual power through labor unions to balance against the power of giant businesses. Government consistently took sides with business in labor disputes. The government-hating Anarchist movement grew in size and intensity. The same conditions in Europe led some countries to abandon democracy and capitalism to adopt communism or fascism.
The Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890) provided the statutory tool to counter monopolistic forces, but it found little application until public pressure forced government action.
Presidents of the Progressive Era took different approaches to restore competition to the market. Republican McKinley was aided in his election by the wealthiest industrialists. He was originally of the mind that government's role was to maintain high tariffs to advantage American products over cheap imports. Otherwise, hands off. Late in his administration, he concluded that lower tariffs and free trade was a more beneficial course of action. He established a commission to examine monopolistic business practices. Too little, too late, he was overcome by history, assassinated by an Anarchist.
McKinley's vice president, Teddy Roosevelt, assumed the presidency and brought vigor to the serious work of regulating interstate commerce. Roosevelt favored regulation, believing that the role of government was to be the great arbiter between the various economic interests in the country -- to level the playing field. Roosevelt groomed William Howard Taft to be his successor. Industrialists like John D. Rockefeller favored laissez faire, hands off, government and backed Taft to ensure their interests in the 1908 election. But once in office, Taft shifted emphasis from regulation to trust busting, bringing Roosevelt out of retirement to run again.
The election of 1912 offered clear alternatives.
- Republican Taft responded to considerable public pressure and turned to trust busting against the industrialists who had backed him.
- Roosevelt ran under the Progressive Party that formed around him after he lost the Republican primary competition to Taft. Roosevelt believed monopolies were inevitable but needed to be regulated.
- Eugene Debs ran as a Socialist. He thought obsolete Adam Smith's reverence for competition. He thought government should take over the inevitable monopolies and run them in the public interest.
- Wilson was the Democratic Party's candidate. His views on monopolies were evolving. He initially opposed TR's regulation and Taft's trust busting favoring instead reforming tariffs and banking to stimulate competition. Wilson later leaned toward TR's regulation.
The Republican vote was divided between Taft and Roosevelt giving Wilson the White House. When in office, Wilson carried out a policy blend of trust-busting and regulation and signed the Clayton Act (1914) strengthening anti-trust law.
But what does all of this have to do with today?
The belief -- perhaps the reality -- that some financial institutions were "too big to fail" led to a government (taxpayer) bail out and to calls for greater regulation to prevent a repeat. The same solutions of the Progressive Era apply -- break up the too big and strengthen regulation over the rest. By analogy to the breakup of monopolies, the financial institutions could be broken up into pieces that could succeed or fail without threatening the national and international economy -- an extreme measure. And regulation -- because the free market works best when investors are fully informed and markets are free of fraud and corruption -- would be designed to prevent free market failures. Those options received little attention, and instead, the government response was tepid, and the too-big-to-fail financial institutions continue unabated.
The two parties disagree on the road ahead.
The Republican Party believes that government has achieved too much power in the form of regulatory authority like that of the Environmental Protection Agency, Securities and Exchange Commission, and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Trickle-down, supply-side economics and corporate libertarianism are part of this line of reason.
The Democratic Party believes that corporate interests have achieved too much power and balance must be restored in favor of the middle class. The shrinking middle class, obstacles to entering the middle class, and growing wealth disparity may have rejuvenated the old progressive movement, but it is unlikely to achieve a degree of dominance unless and until the public demands it.
There is no permanent balance. Significant changes in the economy -- like the change from agricultural to industrial economy, industrial to information economy, manufacturing to service economy -- unbalance the system. We have yet to find a new balance, a new equilibrium, a new level playing field that presents equal opportunity for all. The contest can be expected to continue in the next administration without resolution.
It was a few weeks before the election. Clinton was flying back from an overnight trip to Peru, talking -- without any great enthusiasm -- about the topic that would begin to obsess the American political world as soon as the presidential ballots had been counted: Will Hillary run in 2016?
In the past few years, you’d be hard-pressed to find a star that has risen higher or faster in the political prediction business than New York Times blogger Nate Silver.This is for good reason. As On The Media notes, “In 2008, his blog FiveThirtyEight correctly predicted the outcome of the presidential race in 49 out of 50 states. (In that same election, he was also right about all 35 senate races.)”Not too shabby. But one wonders if his reputation might be about to take a hit if Romney actually pulls off a victory.
On Sunday, two swing-state newspapers endorsed Mitt Romney for president in the 2012 election, with one explicitly citing last week's debate as part of its rationale for supporting him.
"On Wednesday night, Nevadans watched Mr. Romney trounce the president," wrote the editors of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, applauding Romney's "pro-growth tax and regulatory" and calling President Barack Obama "openly hostile to free-market capitalism." The paper echoed a recent Romney campaign attack ad, citing Obama's "you didn't build that" comments. Many other news outlets have criticized Romney for taking the line out of context.
The Omaha World-Herald, meanwhile, accused Obama of engaging in "class warfare" and of "lack[ing] the management skill necessary to run government."
Both papers have reliably conservative editorial pages, and both endorsed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008, to little effect. Obama won Nevada in 2008, and was awarded Omaha's one electoral vote. Nevertheless, polls show a tightening 2012 presidential contest in which some otherwise minor political developments could play a more significant role.
While Nebraska is rarely included in the list of key swing states in the presidential election -- the overall state vote has been reliably Republican for decades -- the unusual way in which the state calculates its electoral votes makes it a viable play for Obama.
Nebraska allocates its electoral votes based on congressional district, not based on the raw statewide vote. In 2008, Obama picked up one electoral vote from Nebraska's 2nd congressional district, which includes Omaha, a city that is considerably more liberal than the rest of the state. The Obama campaign has begun advertising in Omaha, likely a sign that it is attempting to pick up that electoral vote once again.
Countries around the world are celebrating new oil and natural gas discoveries that hold the promise of greater prosperity for their citizens.Argentina has just announced a find described by YPF CEO Miguel Galuccio as a “mother rock,” a shale formation that elevates the country to having the third largest shale energy potential behind the United States and China.The new discovery of a 3.3 billion barrel oil deposit off Norway’s coast cements that nation’s claim to being Europe’s second largest oil producer.
During the Jan. 3 broadcast of ABC’s “World News Tonight” Diane Sawyer introduced a heartbreaking segment from the Iowa caucus, featuring a distraught voter being consoled by Mitt Romney. “Save the small families of America,” she begged through tears, as Mr. Romney hugged her and promised he would.
The world has a new favorite sport, and it's not soccer or one of the Olympic games. It's the ancient game of kicking the can down the road, and it's gaining popularity all over the globe.
We see it in economies that run up debts that the future will have to pay. And most tragically, we see it in the ongoing refusal to deal with massive social and environmental problems that are ticking away like a planetary time bomb.
The most heinous crime of the generation of adults currently running the world isn't the trashing of our collective life support systems and the economies on which they depend, but the immoral practice of repeatedly kicking the can down the road so that it will be future generations who have to clean up the messes and pay back the debts.
We see this "kicking the can" behavior in every area of modern life. We don't want to solve any problems NOW.
Let's not deal with the climate disruption and instability which is already causing ever-greater destruction in many locations around the world. Let's not face the environmental and financial debts that will take years and years to repay -- if they can be repaid at all. Let's not address the spending down or contamination of the legacy we inherited -- soil, seeds, food systems, fossil fuel resources, water systems, wild nature, our fellow animal species, the oceans -- and certainly let's not give much thought or money to its healing, regeneration or repair.
And certainly let's not adequately finance our children's education systems to give today's young people the knowledge they will need to have a fighting chance of fixing the messes we leave them.
And speaking of children, we certainly don't want to discuss the massive overpopulation that in one lifetime has grown way beyond the planet's support capacity, threatening our children and grandchildren with living through the kind of pandemics, massive die-offs and degradation of human life we haven't seen since the Black Death in the 14th century.
No, we certainly don't want to think about any of this. What a downer!
Instead, let's party on til the music stops, celebrating and emulating the 1 percent who can grab a huge percentage of the world's goods while they last.
And while all of this occurs, our leaders, would-be leaders and most of the adult citizens on our planet keep kicking the can down the road, hoping that all of the problems we've created won't really hit the fan while we're alive or will magically be solved by some new technology before we have to endure any consequences of our actions -- or inaction.
Is this any way to run a planet?
But what the heck. Let the kids look out for themselves.
Speaking to the Republican Party Convention, Mitt Romney said, "A free world is a more peaceful world." He provided no explanation. In fact, there is a lot of evidence to support his assertion.
Where there is scant freedom, there is also abundant violence and rampant governmental corruption. Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, consistently trail in the global rankings of freedom by Freedom House, of perceived corruption by Transparency International, and in the Global Peace Index published by the Vision of Humanity organization.
Mr. Romney has failed to provide how he will promote greater freedom across the world, while Condoleezza Rice, speaking to the Convention in Tampa, ridiculed the Obama Administration for failing to provide leadership. In fact, President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton have taken a courageous stand in supporting civil society campaigners in very difficult, autocratic countries, to the anger of the host governments.
Indeed, there was no mention in prominent speeches at the Republican Convention of the Arab Spring -- a seminal event that inspired public protests in dozens of countries. Tens of thousands of Tunisians and Egyptians started it, overcoming their fears of vicious state security forces, to denounce their illegitimate governments. Their courage has given anti-corruption, pro-democracy campaigns unprecedented momentum in many parts of the world.
Supporting this momentum is vital. When it comes to backing civil society's ability to speak truth to power, the Obama administration has displayed vital leadership. The president set the tone and the strategy early in his administration when on a visit to Moscow in July 2009, he attended a high-profile meeting of civil society leaders.
Typical of the leadership, for example, was a meeting with international civil society groups that Secretary Clinton had in Krakow, Poland in mid-2010, where she stressed, "For the United States supporting civil society groups is a critical part of our work to advance democracy." And, on the same overseas trip a few days later in Yerevan, Armenia, she told another group of civil society activists that, "Democracy requires not just elections, but open dialogue, a free exchange of ideas, government transparency and accountability, and above all, an empowered citizenry, who constantly work together to make their country fairer, juster, healthier and freer."
The rising energy behind many civil society campaigns for justice and personal freedom owe an enormous amount to the efforts of rising numbers of activists, investigative journalists, public prosecutors and swelling ranks of academics in dozens of countries. They have been raising public awareness of corruption, building networks to pool research and ideas, and exploiting the full potential of social media, to encourage protest and reform. U.S. support for those leading campaigns for democracy and against corruption is important.
Too often we fail to fully recognize the courage of those on the front lines. In 2000, as the Vice Chairman of Transparency International, the global anti-corruption non-governmental organization, I had the honor to present our annual integrity award to investigative reporter Lasantha Wickrematunge of Sri Lanka. On Jan. 8, 2009, he was gunned down when driving to work. He was 52. His last article, penned the day before his death, was titled, "And Then They Came For Me."
Lasantha had consistently investigated and reported on government corruption. His friend, J.C. Weilamuna, who has faced kidnapping, death threats and office bombings, heads Transparency International, Sir Lanka. He knows the dangers, yet he and his team of colleagues persevere convinced that their efforts will secure rising public support and contribute to both freedom and peace in his country.
I believe that in a rising number of countries today we are at a tipping point where bribe-takers and bribe-payers have ever fewer places to hide, where the prospects of sustainable reforms to curb corruption are improving significantly, and where the skeptics can now be sent packing. Yes, huge challenges remain and none are greater than sustaining civil society movements in many countries, from Russia to Egypt, where democracy and personal freedom are under serious threat; and in countries such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Venezuela, where activists are under daily threat.
The Obama administration has understood how important it is for the U.S. to support civil society, despite risks to government relationships. At stake is the prospect -- now more real in many countries than ever before -- of reducing barriers to freedom and creating less violent societies. Mr. Romney was right to connect freedom and peace; now he needs to show that he will follow the Obama example, if elected, and boldly support civil society led movements for freedom and against corruption.
So who's got the worst job on Mitt Romney's campaign team? My pick: the head of his national security brain trust, former World Bank chief Robert Zoellick, followed by Romney's lead foreign policy speechwriter (whoever that is).
Why? Because crafting a critique of Barrack Obama's foreign policy and explaining to Americans how Romney will have a better one (more effective, more appealing to them) resembles a Mission Impossible.
Romney's domestic policy folks have it easier. They can make a case that could get some traction. Romney has already, a la Ronald Reagan, been asking voters whether they are better off now than four years ago. This query could strike a chord. Unemployment remains high (8.3 percent). The economic recovery has been anemic. Polls reveal persistent pessimism about job prospects and the economic outlook more generally.
Sure, the president can point to the mess George W. Bush handed him, but after having governed for almost a full term, he can't do too much of that with sounding like a whiner. Yes, the Democrats will attack the Republicans' favor-the-rich tax cuts, plans for a voucher system for Medicare, etc., but Obama's team knows that the economy is the one issue on which he's vulnerable.
Foreign policy is a different story. How will Romney's team make the case that the president has been a failure on that front? Voters pay attention when the country is at war. But Obama has fulfilled his pledge to end the war in Iraq, and his plan to withdraw American combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 is already underway.
These two wars have cost over a trillion dollars to date: close to $807 billion for Iraq and nearly $562 billion for Afghanistan -- and the bills keep mounting, even for Iraq because of post-war commitments. The final tally taking into account follow-on costs, such as interest payments and the care of maimed veterans, could approach $4 trillion by 2020. And of course there's the human cost: approximately 2,107 American soldiers have died in operations in and around Afghanistan; for Iraq, the number is more than twice that: approximately 4,486. Americans soured on the Iraq war toward the end of Bush's second term and most want out of Afghanistan. So a "cut-and-run" critique on Afghanistan by Romney won't wash. Worse, it would imply that he thinks we should keep fighting a war most people think is unwinnable. It will also make it even harder for him to sell himself a fiscal conservative -- already a tough sell.
Romney has hammered Obama for abandoning Israel. In his speech to the Republican convention he accused him of throwing Israel "under the bus." But what's the evidence for that? Has Obama truly twisted Israel's arm, forcing it to dismantle a single West Bank settlement, or even to stop constructing new ones? No. Has he cut economic or military aid? No again. He hasn't done what Israeli hawks, but not Israelis as a majority, want, which is to attack Iran's nuclear installations. But most Americans aren't eager for him to do that: they know bombing Iran would initiate a chain on unpredictable events, none of which would be positive. Obama's tough sanctions strategy hasn't stopped Tehran's nuclear program, but look for concrete ideas about on Romney would (really) do differently. You won't find them.
The Republican Party's most prominent foreign policy hands, notably Senator John McCain, have excoriated the president for not helping the anti-Assad resistance in Syria. They favor establishing a no-flight zone, creating sanctuaries and providing arms. Here again, there's no proof that the president's popularity has been reduced because he hasn't taken these actions. Most Americans are leery that any one of them could place the country on a slippery slope. While they're appalled by the savagery of Assad's assault -- estimates of the number of people killed, mostly civilians, run as high as 20,000 -- they're not eager to become enmeshed in another conflict and are unsure about the political program of what is a heterogeneous Syrian opposition. On Syria, the president's caution mirrors that of most Americans.
Then there's the "leading-from-behind" charge. It featured in former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's speech to the convention and dates back to Obama's response to the Libyan uprising. There, Obama navigated opposing currents in his administration, avoiding the level of intervention that some advisers favored while heeding the warnings of others that he risked getting sucked into what might prove a protracted war. Obama took the lead in establishing the UN-authorized no-flight zone, but then quickly handed off to America's NATO partners. It took months for Qadhafi to fall, but fall he did. Has Obama's handling of the Libyan war upset the public? Hardly.
What about Romney's claim that Obama has allowed Russia, which he calls America's "number one geopolitical foe" (whatever that means), to run riot? There are three problems with this accusation. First, not even the Republican Party's foreign policy luminaries (Henry Kissinger, or even Rice, herself a Russia expert), let alone most voters, believe Russia poses the biggest threat to the country; that's because it's an absurd proposition. Second, Romney/Ryan won't be able to show voters any instances in which Russia has trampled on vital American interests. Third, when it comes to foreign policy challenges, Russia ranks low most people's list.
Has Obama been ineffective against terrorism? Well, there's been no 9/11-style attack. Osama bin Laden is dead. Obama's drone strikes against terrorist redoubts in Afghanistan and Pakistan (and elsewhere) have exceeded Bush's by a factor of five.
Would Romney be tougher on China? How exactly, at what cost, and at what risk? Would he boost defense spending big time (he thinks Obama hasn't spent enough) to bulk up against Beijing? If yes, how would he then reduce overall spending without slashing social programs further?
There's another thing: most voters just aren't focused on foreign policy. The Republicans know this. The New York Times presented a word-by-word analysis of speeches given at the Republican convention (what offense did the person who got that assignment commit?). Those relating to foreign policy accounted for the smallest proportion by far.
My point is not that Obama's foreign policy has been flawless, or even a particular compelling (I don't think it has been, but that's a subject for another piece). It's that Romney's people don't have a lot to work with to present a sensible, substantive alternative. Part of the reason, though neither those who back Romney nor those who support Obama will admit it, is that Obama's foreign policy hasn't been all that different from George W. Bush's.
Be prepared to reflect on our past as a country and where we are today. Then ask the question “Is America the greatest country in the world?”
College shopping is about to get a whole lot easier -- well, for potential students at some schools.
On Tuesday, the Obama administration will reveal its new "shopping sheet," a guide of university costs and graduation rates designed to make college information more transparent for students and their families. But compliance is voluntary, raising the question of whether the most expensive and least productive universities will participate.
"If it were mandatory, this would be huge for students," said Kate Tromble, legislative director for the Education Trust, a Washington-based nonpartisan education advocacy group. "In the voluntary realm, it will be incumbent on schools to step up and do the right thing. It hinges on how many schools sign up."
While U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan conceded on a Monday call with reporters that "there are clearly no sanctions" associated with the measures, he said he thinks "the overwhelming majority, if not all universities will do the right thing."
The tool, created by the U.S. Education Department and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is designed to help aspiring college students compare financial aid offerings and college costs between different schools. The shopping sheet would include, for each student, total costs of enrollment broken down into tuition, housing, books and transportation; grants and scholarships broken down by type; the school's overall graduation, loan default, and median borrowing rates, in addition to loan options.
Currently, universities send students wildly different financial aid letters that use different terms to describe the same things. "That makes trying to figure out how much college actually costs extremely difficult, and it makes comparisons ... almost impossible," Duncan said. "This is frankly not rocket science, it's what I call a triumph of common sense."
"We've heard from many student loan borrowers who say that they don't simply understand what they sign up for," said Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Duncan and Cordray noted that an April executive order makes filling out the shopping list compulsory for all universities serving students with military benefits -- but only for for those students.
The Obama administration has focused on college affordability and completion, amping up the rhetoric of college attendance as a middle-class issue as Obama's re-election campaign intensifies. In Obama's State of the Union address this year, he proposed a $1 billion Race to the Top competition to reward colleges for controlling costs; a First in the World competition to spur innovation among colleges in boosting student degree-completion; and, more controversially, tying campus-based aid to measures such as graduation rates. (Obama has been unable to secure congressional funding for Race to the Top and only received $39 million for First in the World.) In a speech shortly afterward the State of the Union speech at the University of Michigan, Obama elaborated on those plans, including several transparency measures, such as the shopping sheet.
But its efficacy, Tromble said, will depend on which schools sign on. (Only an act of Congress could make compliance mandatory.)
Queries to a sprinkling of universities yielded mixed responses. "We appreciate the goals of this initiative, though our position is that no single formulaic system can provide an accurate reflection of what individual institutions offer students," said Martin Mbugua, a spokesman for Princeton University. "Much of the information about Princeton that would be in the scorecard has been publicly available in various ways over the years."
New York City's Columbia University is uncommitted. "We look forward to receiving further guidance from the Department of Education and the Obama Administration," Mercy Goodnow Smith, Columbia's financial aid director, said in an email. "We do not have enough information to respond regarding Columbia's commitment at this time. However, we are dedicated to timely and transparent consumer information for all students and families."
The State University of New York, though, a large public university system, is heralding the Obama administration's stab at making colleges more up front about their costs.
A bipartisan bill introduced by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) in May would require all universities to adapt universal financial aid letters similar to the shopping sheet and add further details in categories such as default rates. “The White House introduction of a shopping sheet, also known as a universal financial aid award letter, is a step in the right direction," Franken said in a statement to The Huffington Post. "But unless a universal financial aid award form is made mandatory, colleges will still be able to use whatever form they want, and families won’t be able to compare apples to apples when evaluating financial aid offers. The legislation I introduced in May would solve that problem.”
Duncan didn't say whether he would pursue such legislation. "We'll see where that goes," he said, regarding the voluntary letters. "There's tremendous interest in this. We'll move as far as we can on a voluntary basis and see where we'll net out."
The following article is based on excerpts from the book The Measure of a Nation: How to Regain America's Competitive Edge and Boost Our Global Standing.
A key goal in Measure of a Nation is to compare the United States to other wealthy countries, with the idea being to identify which countries are performing the best in each area of interest: health, safety, democracy, education and equality. In each of those areas, the countries that are performing the best are examined to determine which best practices might be applied here in America. In order to do this analysis, we selected the subset of countries that are both wealthy (nominal GDP per capita over $20,000) and have a population greater than 10 million (upper third of national populations, no city-state countries) as a comparison group. This comparison group consists of 14 countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Portugal, The Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
- Level of organized conflict
- Armed services personnel
- Weapons imports
- Military expenditure
- Number of conflicts fought
- Jailed population
- Deaths from conflict (internal)
- Potential for terrorist acts
- Level of violent crime
- Political instability
- Military capability/sophistication
- Disrespect for human rights
- Number of homicides
- UN Peacekeeping funding
- Number of heavy weapons
- Number of displaced people
- Neighboring country relations
- Weapons exports
- Deaths from conflict (external)
- Violent demonstrations
- Access to weapons
- Perceived criminality in society
- Security officers and police
Equally instructive is the index's breakdown of states within the United States. According to the GPI, the most peaceful states are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Utah and Minnesota, while the least peaceful are Louisiana, Tennessee, Nevada, Florida and Arizona. These state-level rankings correlate closely with economic opportunities, education and health and are independent of the party in power in the separate statehouses and state legislatures. Incarceration and homicide rates in the most peaceful American states are roughly one-fifth the rates of the most dangerous states and are close to the rates found in the European competition.
It is ironic that Japan, one of the aggressors of World War II, has enjoyed under US protection an era of relatively minimal internal and external violence that has enabled it to reduce its military expenditures and to institute policies and laws that make it a safer place to live than the United States.
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Note: Data for the GPI were extracted from Vision of Humanity, Global Peace Index:
The U.S. military taught its future leaders that a "total war" against the world's 1.4 billion Muslims would be necessary to protect America from Islamic terrorists, according to documents obtained by Danger Room. Among the options considered for that conflict: using the lessons of "Hiroshima" to wipe out whole cities at once, targeting the "civilian population wherever necessary."
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