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Announcement | Video Video | Audio Audio | Transcript Transcript

What President Obama Should Learn from His Predecessors
April 7, 2009
Ivan Eland, Andrew R. Rutten

Contents:

  • Mr. David Theroux
    President, Independent Institute

    Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is David Theroux and I am president of the Independent Institute. I am delighted to welcome you to our independent policy forum this evening. Many of you have been here in the past, and as you may recall we hold events like this here in our conference center in Oakland and also in Washington on a regular basis. The Independent Policy Forum is designed to feature authors especially of what we think are important new books. The programs vary from being lectures, debates, seminars and other formats, and tonight is certainly no exception.

    This is day 77, I believe, of the Obama administration, so we are approaching the 100th, this alleged magical point of 100 days next month. The event we are here to enjoy is entitled “What President Obama Should Learn From His Predecessors.” And I am particularly delighted to have as a speaker our Senior Fellow Ivan Eland. Ivan, as you may know, is author of the new book called Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity and Liberty. Some of you may have also seen Ivan on C-SPAN. C-SPAN has a program called “Afterwards,” and he was interviewed by Congressman Ron Paul, and that program is about an hour long and is being shown repeatedly on C-SPAN. You can also go to the C-SPAN “Book TV” website and see the video on it. I highly recommend that as well as tonight’s event.

    Our other speaker is Stanford University political scientist Andrew Rutten. Andy is associated editor of our journal, which is entitled The Independent Review. It is a quarterly journal and is edited by another one of our senior fellows whose name is Robert Higgs. I might also mention that we are very pleased that at the same time C-SPAN also decided to feature Dr. Higgs on another program of theirs, called “In Depth.” They pick an author each month that they spotlight, and Dr. Higgs is the author they have picked this month. And it is a three hour interview, and you can also find that on the “Book TV” website. That is also being shown repeatedly. This is the book by Dr. Higgs which is most timely right now, called Depression, War and Cold War.

    To provide some background for those of you also who are new—and I hope that if you just joined us for the first time you had a chance to pick up a packet—the Independent Institute is a scholarly public-policy research institute. We hold events like this based on new books, and we publish many books and other publications. We also organize many events like this as well as media projects. You are welcome to visit our website which as you can see is Independent.org. You will find many, many studies, transcripts of events, videos and so forth. Our blog on the website is called The Beacon, which I also encourage you to check out, and you are all invited to receive our weekly e-mail newsletter, which is called The Lighthouse, and you can do that on our home page.

    America’s first president, George Washington, noted that “government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” The subject of our event today is the use of power by American presidents. The U.S. presidency is by far the most powerful position in the world today. Indeed the U.S. government is almost entirely the president. The Congress and the Supreme Court are virtually inconsequential compared with the Executive Branch. The presidency, after all, includes all of the departments of the federal government including Treasury, Commerce, Defense, Labor, and so forth; the IRS, CIA, NSA, NASA, the FBI, SEC, all of the U.S.’s nuclear and other weapons, spy satellites, aircraft carriers, ICBMs, hundreds of military bases worldwide; the huge tracks of federal lands, minerals, highways, and waterways.

    I mentioned the SEC, but you also have the FTC, the FDA, OSHA, the EPA—quite frankly the list is just so long it would take hours to just go through the list. I am not sure if you have ever seen attempts at people to try and draw up an organizational chart of the federal government, it really defies anybody’s ability to do that. But to be so pervasive and so powerful, the presidency is really far more than just these agencies. Although the U.S. was founded as a republic opposed to royalism and absolutism, for most Americans the imperial presidency has really become their sovereign king and father figure who stands above and beyond us as mere citizens to oversee our lives and our well-being. As such, the presidency is really a secular divinity, an earthly messiah who many believe will save them from all forms of harm by wielding government power against others, even if this means trampling on lives, liberties and property. As a result, around the presidency has really grown a cult of power and personality not unlike those that we have found with rulers of the past. The spectacle and circus of the presidential inauguration this past January for Barack Obama is really only a tiny inkling of what we see day in and day out in the media with a glorification or worship of presidential power. But stripped of such superficial pomp and vanity, what do we really have?

    Doesn’t each president after all take an oath to preserve and protect the U.S. Constitution and its limits on executive power? So how did Barack Obama, George Bush and their predecessors stack up in holding this pledge? Have they increased peace, prosperity and liberty as the subtitle of Ivan’s book is considering? Was Lord Acton correct in counseling, and the Founders correct in being mindful of: “Power corrupts and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely”?

    So I am very pleased to have Ivan with us this evening. He is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute in our Washington office. He received his masters degree in applied economics and Ph.D. in public policy from George Washington University. He earlier spent 15 years working for Congress on budget and national security issues including the House foreign affairs committee, the budget office and Government Accountability Office and has testified before the Senate foreign relationships committee, House government reform committee and Senate Judiciary Committee. His articles appeared in many newspapers and magazines and journals, and we are very pleased to be the publisher of Ivan’s book Recarving Rushmore.

    Dr. Ivan Eland
    Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute

    Thanks, David, for the nice introduction. It is a pleasure to be out in California again giving this book talk and some other book talks around the Bay Area. I will just tell you why I wrote this book on Recarving Rushmore. I was on one radio station and some irate caller called in and said how can you deface this national treasure? You are advocating defacing the monument. And I had to explain you know it is a work of art, it is an engineering feat for its time. I don’t really want to change the actual monument. It is a metaphor for just saying that maybe we ought to reconsider some of the people that we have put up there and maybe they don’t deserve to be up there. And of course when you write a book like this, you are taking on national icons, particularly Lincoln, Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt. George Washington, I think, we can probably leave up there, and maybe Thomas Jefferson if we are not talking about what he did as president, but the Declaration of Independence. If it is the great Americans fine, but then of course Ben Franklin and a bunch of other people that weren’t president should probably be up there too.

    But anyway, having looked at the literature and looked at the polls of historians, journalists and political scientists routinely rank FDR, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Lincoln, Washington as among the greatest presidents. It is pretty consistent even among left and right, although there are some variations. Reagan naturally tends to rank higher among the conservatives, and JFK ranks a little higher among the left side of the political spectrum.

    What I tried to do was cut through the biases which I believe those analysts have, and I will go over some of those briefly and will just try to focus on policies. Historians a lot of times get caught up in charisma. They like to say that they don’t, but look at how many books have been written about Teddy Roosevelt. Now there is one charismatic guy. I mean look at Reagan; Reagan is a very charismatic character. In the modern times, Clinton and even Obama today. A second bias they have is one of activism. We like to see bold dynamic action, but sometimes acting is doing whatever it is, is not a good thing for the country.

    The third bias is, if the president served during a time of crisis or war, and a lot of times the analysis doesn’t really go into, well, could this crisis or war could have been avoided? Could the president have mitigated it? Could he have, you know could he have gotten out of it? Could he have done an alternative policy? So there is sort of a correlation between the event happening and him being ranked higher in the rankings than they should be. And some of these presidents have gotten us into what I believe were unnecessary wars. In fact there are many wars that were unnecessary and could have probably been avoided and should have been avoided. So I rank the presidents based on policy, whether the policies tend to promote peace, prosperity and liberty, and also whether they tried to stick within the Framers’ original intent when they created the Constitution, and that was a limited executive.

    Now we have come far away from that and as David mentioned, the executive branch is way more powerful than I think the Founders intended it to be, and in fact it has just taken over the entire government. The government is the Executive Branch, and Congress in my view has really been diminished in power, and I will go into that a little bit later. I rank presidents based on whether they were more restrained as an executive, whether they were restrained in foreign policy, which was the original foreign policy of the U.S., and also whether they tried to limit government. Because that was the original idea of the United States when it was first founded. All of these monarchs were oppressing their people and that sort of thing, and you know Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence said that the government should protect people’s rights, not violate them, which was sort of a unique idea at the time, and so how have the presidents faired in doing all of that? And I also would say that you have to take a president at his point in time. I mean the government is not going to go away overnight and many of these presidents inherited a behemoth when they came to power, so I ranked them on the margins: did they take us back towards what the Founders had envisioned or onward toward the behemoth state?

    I tried to also be non-partisan in the book, because I think I tried to take a hard look at the policies and not what party. And I also found as I went along that party didn’t really matter as much as one would think, because presidents tend to have similar policies that served near each other in the chronology in the country. For instance, LBJ and Nixon had similar policies, I think. Carter and Reagan had similar policies to some extent. I am going to start with Hoover and FDR. Now you say well how does this relate to Obama? Well I am going to get there.

    So I would first like to talk about Hoover and FDR. Unfortunately, I think there is some relevance to today, because I think the same thing is happening as happened back then. Hopefully we won’t have a great depression, but I think what the government is doing in the economy is probably negative, but let me start with Hoover and FDR. Hoover has the reputation of being a do-nothing president, but that is sort of a fallacy, because he was actually a progressive Republican, what we call a progressive. But he actually enshrined many precedents that FDR simply expanded—and FDR did expand them greatly—but Hoover actually did much more to take us away from the limited government that the Founders had envisioned.

    It is a fallacy that Hoover didn’t want to do anything about the Depression. What would have been a mundane recession his policies helped turn it into a Great Depression. And of course FDR came along and aggravated even that. So Hoover enshrined the belief that the government should ensure people’s economic well-being. That was a unique thing. We all take it for granted now. Well everybody says, what is Obama going to do about the economy? But back in the 19th century, people said well we don’t want the government in the economy because they are going to screw it up. And so it was a negative thing, and of course FDR expanded and enshrined this belief that the government was responsible for people’s economic well-being. Now Hoover gets the moniker of a do-nothing president simply because his regulations pale in comparison and his intervention in the economy pale in comparison to FDR. For instance, Hoover had voluntary regulations.

    Well we all know what voluntary means, it means the government says we want you to do this voluntarily, and if you don’t then we are going to slap mandatory regulations on you. Well of course FDR came in and cartelized industry, which raises prices for poor people during the Depression, had mandatory regulations and financial, communication, transportation, and energy areas. Of course those were the very industries that Jimmy Carter later deregulated. Hoover had loans to banks, railroads, and homeowners. Of course FDR came along and had the bank holiday, FDIC, took us off the gold standard, etcetera. And of course started the problem that we now have of banks being cushioned so that they can’t fail. And agriculture, Hoover had loans to farmers; FDR went to full blown subsidies to farmers. You are getting the idea here. Unemployment, both Hoover and FDR thought public works—it wasn’t going to be effective because it gave people meaningless temporary jobs that weren’t really real jobs in the real economy, but of course both presidents did them anyway because they had to be perceived as doing something, and of course FDR went whole hog and created the CTC, the WPA, the PWA and the CWA. And I can’t even keep those straight myself. Hoover had loans to states to provide unemployment benefits because he didn’t believe that the federal government should give grants. Well of course FDR came in and changed the loans to grants. So you are getting the idea that Hoover set a lot of precedents and FDR came in.

    Now how does this relate to Bush and Obama? Because I think again it is a Republican to Democratic handover, and I think what is happening now, Hoover provided more credit into a market that had excessive credit in it and we have plenty of credit in the system. It is frozen now because people are afraid to lend. But they are doing the same thing now, and we are now printing money. The Fed is printing money, and this is going to cause long-term inflation. During the late 1920s, Hoover saw the demand for products was declining and prices were going down as happens in any recession, but of course instead of letting that happen—and we hear all of these excessive fears of deflation now—what Hoover did was jaw-boned business not to decrease wages and not to decrease employment. Now most economists will tell you that in a recession, one of those has to go down. You either have to, if you have less demand for your product, you are either going to have to lay some people off or if you are not going to lay people off, you have to cut everybody’s wages. But of course Hoover jaw-boned businesses to keep those two up so he didn’t let the market correct. He also pressured businessmen to increase investment.

    Now the worst thing you can do is if you have a lower demand for your product is build a new factory, right? Who would do that, right? Well that is what Hoover was doing. Now I think Bush and Obama are doing the same thing, they are not letting the market correct and go back to equilibrium and in fact they are artificially inflating the economy, and so it will have farther to fall to equilibrium which will probably aggravate the recession.

    I am not predicting a great depression, but I think the government is probably making it worse by what it is doing. It is sort of trying to fool us to make us believe that the recession isn’t going to be bad, and of course in doing that it is making it worse. There was the Smoot-Hawley protectionist tariffs during the 1930s, which of course aggravated the Great Depression, and now we see some pressure worldwide for protectionism now because when people get laid off and all of that sort of thing, they want to keep the jobs at home and put up high tariffs, which is of course the worst thing that you can do. And of course we have seen the public works that Obama has proposed, and as I mentioned Hoover and FDR didn’t really believe those would work. I mean they have dressed it up, but we are not just digging ditches and filling them back in as we actually did during the Depression to some extent. There were other projects too. But these are dressed up as high-tech initiatives and that sort of thing, but it is the same thing. It is public works.

    FDR nationalized the rubber production and petroleum distribution during World War II and of course Bush—I always get a kick out of the Republicans saying that Obama is a socialist. I had one guy in Central America say to me, he was a Republican and he said Obama is such a socialist. And I said you don’t have to worry about Obama taking us to socialism because Bush has already brought us there. And he really didn’t have anything to say because Bush nationalized AIG, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and has bought 30 percent of the banks. Socialism means just the government owning business, right? Now Obama of course is not clean either, because he has expanded the welfare state by doing the public works and he is now into managing banks and auto companies. And of course they are increasing regulation, and at the time FDR during World War II commandeered companies and told them what to produce. But of course we have two wars going on, but we are not to the point where we have such a conflagration such as World War II. These are small wars, but they are sapping the economy. So I think there are parallels, unfortunately, between what Hoover and FDR did and what Bush and Obama have done. And this is probably not going to work out very well, unfortunately.

    Now I’m moving to foreign policy, and first I want to say one thing about Bush. Bush liked to compare himself to Reagan, but the closest parallel in my mind is LBJ. He had a guns and butter policy. He spent more on domestic programs than any president since LBJ. He was not a conservative by any means, even by Republican standards or even by Democratic standards, I don’t think. He was a big spender, and it wasn’t just on defense. We had the first new entitlement program since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the Medicare drug benefit, which piled a humongous benefit on a system that is about ready to collapse. So you know we have these ideas that Bush is comparable to Reagan when he is not really comparable to Reagan at all, except maybe in the fact that Reagan increased federal spending as a proportion of GDP and so did Bush, but that is probably where the comparison ends.

    Now as far as foreign policy goes, we now have two conflicts, brush fire conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is most similar, I think, to the Spanish-American War, where we had the same thing occur. We went in smashing conventional military victory, but then we had this nagging guerilla action that we never anticipated, and that is where we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the Spanish-American War we also had executive expansion. Many people say that Teddy Roosevelt created the modern presidency with the bully pulpit and that sort of thing, but I think if you look closely, Teddy Roosevelt gets much too much credit, and I would say probably criticism, for that because McKinley, who was a very dull man during the Spanish-American War managed to grab a lot of power and start us on the road to the modern, read expansive, presidency. Of course in the Spanish-American War we also had torture as well. And they burnt villages and all sorts of different things. It was the same. These guerilla wars are very messy because you don’t know who the enemy is. And the soldiers, whatever the army, get mad because it is not a bunch of guys in defined battles with easily discernable uniforms on the other side, it is people springing, surprising people from coming right out of the population as they did in Vietnam. These wars, I think, probably do have more atrocities than conventional wars, although certainly there are atrocities in conventional wars as well.

    Now what we have now also, I think, is executive expansion. Bush had a great expansion of the executive branch, but I would like to examine Obama’s record on three major things that I think he is not completely clean on. He has the high-profile closing Guantanamo thing. Of course it is not closed yet, and there are many tough decisions about what to do about these prisoners, but when you look at some of the things, the torture, he is better than Bush on that. But Panetta in a hearing still has reserved to use extraordinary tactics under certain circumstances, which is still sort of a loophole there. We also have the domestic wire-tapping program, which has not been legalized by Congress after the Democrats in Congress yelled and screamed. Of course then they rolled over and legalized what was an illegal program, an unconstitutional program, and so that is still happening. And also the Obama administration is using the secrecy defense to defend the entire domestic wire-tapping program instead of using national security defense in certain cases for certain evidence. Now it is being used as a whole program, and just yesterday the Obama Justice Department defended its use—they said in this trial that they couldn’t disclose elements of the program simply because it would divulge sources, methods of intelligence, which is of course the same defense that Bush had for it. Now the final area is on the indefinite detention of prisoners, and I think that is still going on to some extent as well without trial. So I think what you see here is that wars tend to expand executive power. I think Obama probably has good intentions in retracting some of these civil liberties offenses, but the lust for power I think when you get in—and the fact that the other president has left you with some pretty sticky decisions to make has certainly led to the ratchet effect, where it goes up and then it comes back down but it doesn’t go back to where it was before, so you get a net increase. And I think that is where we are with Obama because I think he is quietly keeping some of Bush’s policies around, which is not surprising when you look at it historically, because that is usually what happens.

    Now Obama is also like Nixon in Vietnam, I think. He is escalating and de-escalating wars at the same time. And if you remember, Nixon had the Vietnamization, which was supposed to take the U.S. war effort and, you know, leave it in Vietnamese hands, and he was also ending the draft, and he was doing this to cut the domestic protest while at the same time he was launching secret wars in Laos and Cambodia to prevent the communists from having a sanctuary in those countries. So Obama is surging in Afghanistan at the same time he is pledging to withdraw there eventually, and he has also pledged to at least draw down troops in Iraq, which I don’t think is ever going to happen. I don’t think we are ever going to go to zero because I think they really would like to have those bases there.

    Now I think also this is sort of similar to Obama’s spending huge sums of money to stimulate the economy, but then also pledging to reduce the deficit in the long term. It is sort of a contradiction in policy, you know, saying we are eventually going to do this but we are going to do the opposite in the interim. Now I do think Obama’s goal in Afghanistan is more realistic than Bush’s, simply because he says he wants to eliminate it as a safe haven for terrorists, whereas Bush was into full blown democratization and nation-building, which is a fantasy in both Iraq and Afghanistan and always was. But I think again Obama seems to be doing nation-building in a different way, so we will see what happens. If he eventually withdraws and he goes with his more modest goal or whether it is just rhetorical, now I don’t want to say.

    I don’t want to be totally negative, so I think there have been some positive aspects of Obama’s plan, but I don’t think that he has gone far enough in some of these things. Now just in the paper today, he is launching the biggest restructuring of defense spending and the Defense Department in decades, and if he at least is proposing this stuff—now of course we have many vested interests who will try to knock it down. While he is not drastically cutting defense spending, which I think ought to be done, he is trying to cut cold-war weapons and excessive weapons that are overkill for going against conventional foes, such as the army’s future combat system, which is a bunch of robotic tanks and stuff; F-22, which was built originally to fight Soviet fighters that never were built; the Navy destroyer and cruiser program; and he is also cutting combat brigade teams from 48 to 45. He is increasing counter-insurgency systems. Special operations increased 5 percent. Reaper and predator drones—more money for that, more money for the coastal war ships.

    And I think you know, of course, he needs to cut defense. I think he needs to cut missile defense more than he did, but he is at least trying to make the Defense Department able to fight wars that we are actually fighting, instead of theoretical wars that we will never fight. But of course that is not cutting defense, and I think one of the problems that you have when you have a Democrat in power is that there are two: they don’t challenge the Pentagon enough because they are always hit with this “wimpy on defense” label that they have got to shake. The Republicans always try to label them with that. So lots of times Democratic presidents in the national security area do foolish things because of thinking that the Republicans are going to criticize them. Of course LBJ knew we were going to lose Vietnam before he ever went in there, and there is evidence to show that, but he did it anyway because he was afraid that the Republican right wing would criticize him even though he completely trounced Goldwater in the 1964 election and then proceeded to escalate the war after that. So Democratic presidents do have that tendency.

    Now I also think that President Obama has recognized something that Bush couldn’t process, and that is public opinion in Islamic countries does matter and it is important. The Republicans were dismissive of just saying, you know, we are America, what do we care what these people think? Well, of course, if you are tying to drain the swamp of hatred that leaves the radical Islamists to be radical Islamist terrorists, it helps to be better liked around the world. So Obama’s visit to Turkey and having Muslims in his family helps a lot in the Muslim world. However, I think Obama has failed to realize and that we can’t process this in America, that the real problem is non-Muslim forces on Muslim land. This is the problem in Iraq, Afghanistan, when the Soviets were in Afghanistan and Chechnya, and Palestine. This is a problem, and so as long as we are occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, we are going to have a problem with terrorism, blowback terrorism. And Obama, as I mentioned, has pledged to withdraw from Afghanistan, but I think he has got to get out of there sooner rather than later, and he has also got to leverage the total withdrawal in Iraq to frankly decentralize the country.

    And that is what my second new book coming out this month is on; I guess I will hold it up. It is coming out in a couple of weeks. And I will just say a brief word about that and then sit down. Tom Ricks recently wrote a book. He is the senior defense correspondent from the Washington Post; he is very well respected. He went to Iraq and he interviewed U.S. military people mainly. He should probably have interviewed Iraqis, but we never seem to do that. But in his book, most of these military people said the worst is to come in Iraq, and I believe that because I think this is a fractured society. My book goes into how ethno-sectarian conflict subsides and then comes back up years, decades and even centuries later, so we are not done in Iraq yet. I think David Petreaus and General Odeon, in the short term they were able to get Bush out of it and say that things were improving, but in the long term they probably made things worse because we were training the Shia army that is running Iraq, and the Kurdish military, which sort of helps them out in the government, but we weren’t training the Sunnis and arming them. Well now of course we are doing that. So if you are going to have a civil war, now you are going to train all three sides in the civil war instead of just two.

    In the book I go into countries with fractured history. Almost always these things recur, and the big issues in Iraq are oil prices going down, that is their major export. You have Kirkuk, which is an oil-producing region that both the Sunni Arabs and Sunni Kurds are fighting over. Sunnis are supposed to be allowed under this program into the Shia armed forces, but of course the Shia really don’t want to do that because they don’t trust the Sunnis, and the Shia government really doesn’t want to do that. We also have massive influx of refugees that have to be put somewhere, and of course the tendency of the international community is to try to repatriate them into their former homes and neighborhoods, which usually results in more ethnic cleansing in past cases. We also have a lot of prisoners being let out of jail by the Iraqi government.

    So in my book I advocate decentralizing Iraq even more than it currently is. Iraq consists right now of a bunch of city-states, and I am afraid that the people that are against decentralization don’t recognize this reality already, and so I think we need to work towards recognizing that reality. And the Iraqis have to work this out themselves because in addition to the three main ethno-sectarian groups there are also tribal issues, and there are also other small minorities that no one ever talks about, the Turkmen, etcetera. Now I actually advocate a loose confederation with a weak central government so that they don’t fight over it, because if you have a strong central government, the different groups are going to fight. And so what you need to do is have locally provided security by the already existing militias.

    No one has ever explained to me how we are going to have a peaceful Iraq when we have all of these people with guns and they are in different groups, and they don’t like each other, and they are waiting until the U.S. leaves. But the U.S. press seems to think Iraq is a closed deal. It’s done. But I don’t think it is. Any sort of partition or loose confederation doesn’t have to be perfect. The research that I did went and looked at a bunch of past partitions, some of which had very bad names but probably ended up saving people because they divided more in groups. The problem is often where the line is drawn. You don’t want to leave large minorities on the other side. Small minorities are fine. So I advocate in this book a confederation. And it doesn’t have to be just a confederation of three areas, it can be more if groups want to live together in a cosmopolitan area such as some cities, that is fine. They can work this out themselves. So I will end it there and you know maybe take your questions later if David allows me to.

    Mr. David Theroux
    President, Independent Institute

    The Ivan Eland book that is coming out next month is called Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, and the relationship of that to his Recarving Rushmore is that the growth of the centralized power in Washington through the presidency is exactly what he is also critiquing as far as Iraq is concerned. The federal model, or the confederacy model that the original republic was set up as, is really closer to what he is talking about as an approach that we should use here and elsewhere for other people. So thank you, Ivan.

    There is, of course, a great deal this book covers. It covers 40 presidents, and there are all sorts of areas that we can discuss in the Q and A, and I am sure that they will be brought up by our next speaker, whose name is, as you know, Andrew Rutten. Andrew is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, as I mentioned, in Stanford University. He is associate editor of our journal, The Independent Review. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Washington University, and he has been a visiting fellow at the Center of Political Economy at Washington University. He’s been a national fellow with the Hoover Institution. He has been assistant professor of government at Cornell University, fellow at Liberty Fund, at the School of Law at Columbia University. He has been associate editor of The Journal of Social Science History and visiting lecturer in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University. He has contributed to many scholarly journals and many books. We are very pleased to have Andy Rutten.

    Dr. Andrew R. Rutten
    Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Stanford University; Associate Editor

    Thank you. I am decidedly low tech, so I brought some slides—can you all see that? Okay, so the title that I gave to this section is, “Is good government good politics?” And I think that one of the questions that we want to ask, stepping back a little bit from Ivan’s book, is that we want to ask, in a democracy, are politicians going to be able to succeed by promoting policies that lead to good government?

    I have a caveat here that I always like to give at events like this, and this is from a little book about George Washington Plunkitt, who worked in Tammany Hall, called Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics. How many of you have read that book? I want to say more about this, but after you have read Ivan’s book, I would urge you to look the Plunkitt book. You might want to look at it even before you read some P. J. O’Rourke, who I know David thinks very highly of and I do too. Plunkitt, who was a politician, said, “There is only one way to hold a district: you must study human nature and act accordingly.” Then he went on and said, “You can’t study human nature in books. Books is a hindrance more than anything else. If you have been to college so much the worse for you.” And I want to point out that Ivan’s book actually proves that this is not true.

    I can say this because I am not David and I am not Ivan, but this really is a remarkable book. I think that better than any book that I have seen, it effectively debunks the easy sentimentalism that both Ivan and David talked about with which we regard our presidents. And this is the kind of book that even if every word in this book is wrong—including “and” and “the”—it is a book that is very much worth reading. And that is because Ivan raises very critical and important issues, and he deals with them in a very effective and readable fashion. And this is a very shocking book. How many of you have had a chance to look at it?

    I would point out one of the most shocking things in here is that Jimmy Carter turns out to be a hero. I was surprised. He is rated even above Bill Clinton. And Clinton is rated above Reagan—and for good reason. I do really want to say that, and I am very serious about this, I think this is a very important book, and I would urge you all to read it. And it is the kind of book that you could sit down and read in an evening. I think that would be a mistake. I think it is the kind of book that you want to dip into, and because there are very subtle points that Ivan is making, and they are the kind of points that only come out if you look over a long period of time and wrap your mind around them. And after you have read Ivan’s book I would suggest you read Plunkitt’s book, which is online so it is tempting. But read Ivan’s book first.

    Okay, having said that, I wanted to dissent a little bit from what David and Ivan have said about the imperial presidency. David said that the presidency really is the federal government and I, being a Congress guy, I want to suggest that that is not the case. I want to suggest that it is much better to talk about imperial government, not an imperial presidency. Ivan himself throughout the book makes the point that presidents are part of the political system and that often the things that they do are a response to what is happening elsewhere in the political system. And what I want to do in a little bit is show you some evidence that I think shows that the reason that Clinton did such a better job than George Bush and that Bush did a better job when he was Governor of Texas than he did when he was President of the United States has to do with the constellation of political power around him. Okay? So next slide.

    The Eternal Question:

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?

    I just want to start real quickly with what I consider to be the eternal question of politics. My Latin is terrible. Is there anybody here who speaks Latin? The translation is, who will guard the guardians? It is from a satirical Roman poet Juvenile. And the argument is very simple, right? It is the story that we usually tell about why we need government—because human nature is such that people want to do bad things to other people. And in order to keep them from doing those bad things, we need to come together and organize a government, but the problem is that government is made up of the very people who are out doing those bad things to each other, right? You know until the millennium comes, when the messiah is going to reign, we are stuck with this problem that we have to rely on ordinary human beings to make up our government, and the classical solution to this—okay, next slide—was the good government requires good governors.

    The Modern Solution: If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them!

    In contriving any system of government and fixing the several checks and controls of the constitution, every man ought to be supposed a knave and to have no other end, in all his actions, than private interest. By this interest we must govern him and, by means of it, make him nothwithstanding his insatiable avarice and ambition, cooperate to public good. Without this, say they, we shall in vain boast of the advantages of any constitution and shall find in the end that we have no security for our liberties or possessions except the good will of our rulers; that is, we shall have no security at all.

    —David Hume, Of the Independence of Parliament (1742)

    And if you read sort of the classical political theory that is the Greeks and Romans and even actually parts of Machiavelli, there is a lot of emphasis on finding good governors. The modern solution, on the other hand, is a trick, and that is that if you can’t beat them, join them. That is, what we should do is try to harness human nature through the process of institutional design. That is we are going to create a set of institutions that are going to allow even people who are not good to behave well. And my favorite quote about this comes from the philosopher David Hume. A little essay called On the Independence of Parliament. And he says contriving any system of government and fixing the several checks and controls of the constitution, every man ought to be supposed a knave and to have no other end in all of his actions than private interest. Then Hume goes on and says we should assume that people, that human nature is corrupt, a very Protestant view. And then he says, by this interest we must govern him and by means of it make him, notwithstanding his insatiable avarice and ambition, cooperate to public good. Without this we shall even in boast of the advantages of any constitution and find in the end that we have no security for our liberties or possessions except the good will of our rulers. That is we shall have no security at all. And so the next slide.

    The American Version

    Human appetites, passions, prejudices, and self-love will never be conquered by benevolence and knowledge alone, introduced by human means. The numbers of men in all ages have preferred ease, slumber, and good cheer to liberty, when they have been in competition. We must not then depend alone upon the love of liberty in the soul of man for its preservation. Some political institutions must be prepared, to assist this love against its enemies. Without these, the struggle will ever end only in a change of imposters.

    —John Adams to Samuel Adams (1780)

    There is an American version of this, which we all learned in high school right? And that is the version of checks and balances. The notion that we have a system of separated powers, that is, three branches that are specialized. But that what makes America great is that we have managed to figure out a way to preserve that system, and the way that we do that is by giving each branch a little bit of control over the other branches. And here is this beautiful letter from John Adams to Samuel Adams which is on Samuel Adams has written to John Adams and he said I think in the new republic we need to have education, and his cousin writes back and says education isn’t going to work, and he says it won’t work because human appetites, passions, prejudices, and self love will never be conquered by benevolence and knowledge alone introduced by human means. He goes on and says when the messiah comes this will happen, but that is not relevant here because we are not talking about government by the messiah.

    Notice he, like Hume, says that we have to take people as they are. And then he says the numbers of men of all ages have preferred ease, slumber and good cheer to liberty when they have been in competition. This is John Adams, President of the United States. We must not then depend alone upon love of liberty and the soul of man for its preservation. Some political institutions must be prepared to assist this love against enemies. Without these the struggle will ever end only in a change of imposters.

    This book [Recarving Rushmore] is a catalogue of imposters. There is actually a very interesting puzzle, which Ivan talks about early in the book, and that is that the early presidents are filled with people who write things like this and then perform very badly. I think Ivan picks on James Madison. Probably not enough to my way of thinking, but I think it is a real puzzle and it comes to something that I am going to want to talk about in a bit. But so the modern version that is the American version, in order for it to work, we have to have a robust and active Congress, right? Because that is going to be the main check against the president. And as we have heard today, one of the stories that people tell is that we now have an imperial presidency, where the president has taken all of the power, that he has usurped power. But I want to suggest that this is true as an observation, the president is doing a lot of things that the Founders certainly didn’t anticipate that he was going to do.

    But I think a big part of the reason that he is doing that is because Congress is going along with this. And that a lot of the blame has to lie with Congress. And I want to point out that Dwight Lee, an economist, once said that he loved me because I’m the only pessimist who could make him feel good, who could “cheer him up” is what I think he said. I want to point out that my story is much more pessimistic than the imperial presidency story. Because in the imperial presidency story you just needed the right president. I think that the problem is that we need to have the right president and the right Congress, and that is a lot more people to elect. Okay, so my next slide.

    The Eternal Question, 2.0:

    What’s the Constitution among friends?

    This is a quote from George Washington Plunkitt, who said what is the constitution among friends? And I have called this the eternal question 2.0. And Plunkitt’s point was that if everybody is on good terms, then checks and balances aren’t going to work. So this suggests that the question that we have to ask is, how can we preserve a robust system of checks and balances? And I want to point out that Ivan himself, when he was talking about the Obama administration’s desire to kill these weapons systems, he said that there are a lot of vested interests that would support this. I would just point out that those vested interests have access to power through Congress. So I don’t think, I mean in the way that academics love to do, I am turning this into a little street fight. It is an academic street fight, of course, so it is completely nerdy. But I want to point out that what I am saying is not inconsistent with Ivan’s story. And so I don’t again, you need to read the book, okay? Because it shows you why this question is so important right. Next slide.

    BARACK OBAMA: UNITER OR DIVIDER?

    Whoever can help you reach your goal, that’s who you work with . . . There are no permanent friends, no permanent enemies.

    —Chicago activist, on Obama’s political style

    I just want to say a little bit about Barack Obama’s political style. There was a nice series of articles in the Chicago Tribune, not a paper that is friendly to Obama, and they interviewed a woman that had worked with him. And she said that the lesson she had learned from him is that whoever can help you reach your goal, that is who you work with. There are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, okay? That sounds like non-partisanship right there. That is a very nice definition, that you are not going to draw distinctions on ideological grounds. You are going to work with whoever you have to. And the second is a long quote from a guy named Saul Alinsky. The kids in this room won’t remember, but he was a very, very influential political activist in the 1960s. He wrote a book called Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals.

    Compromise is a key and beautiful word . . . A free and open society is an on-going conflict, interrupted periodically by compromises—which then become the start for the continuation of conflict, compromise, and on ad infinitum. Control of power is based on compromise in our Congress and among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. A society devoid of compromise is totalitarian. If I had to define a free and open society in one word, that word would be “compromise.”

    —Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realist Radicals (1971)

    Obama worked in Chicago in an organization that was modeled along Alinsky lines; Secretary Clinton wrote her senior thesis at Wellesley on Alinsky. So he is a very influential guy, and the book is beautiful book to read. Go to Borders and sit down there and read, because it gets pretty boring pretty quickly. But he starts off—he says compromise is a key and beautiful word. He then says a free and open society is in ongoing conflict interrupted frequently by compromises, which then become the start for continuation of conflict, compromise. I would actually say a better term than a “free and open society” is a democratic society, because a “free and open society” may be where these compromises are going against freedom.

    And he says, “control of power is based on compromises in our Congress and among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.” I hope you guys were listening to that. It’s not just the president. He says a society devoid of compromises is totalitarian. If I had to define a democratic society in one word that word would be compromise. So Obama’s political style is that of somebody who is willing to reach out across the aisle, find people to work with, do what he has to, to get stuff done. Alinsky, in a part of this that I left out, he says look, you know if you take a principled stand for 100 percent when you could get 30 percent, you are not helping anybody except your own moral conscience. Next slide.

    GEORGE BUSH: UNITED OR DIVIDER?

    I’m a uniter, not a divider. I refuse to play that politics of putting people into groups and pitting one group against another.

    —George W. Bush (1999)

    What happened?

    Okay, so how many of you remember this when George Bush said during the 1999 campaign? “I’m a uniter not a divider. I refuse to play that politics of putting people into groups and pitting one group against another.” Does that sound like a description of the Bush administration in practice? No? Okay, well what happened? Now a cynic might say that only an idiot would believe something a politician said during a political campaign. I am a cynic. I would say that. Next slide.

    “It’s the politics, stupid!”

    Governor Bush HAD to be a Uniter

    1995

    1997

    1999

    Texas House of Representatives

    58% D

    55% D

    52% D

    Texas Senate

    55% D

    55% R

    52% R

    But what I would argue is that it is the politics that did it. Okay, I don’t know if you can see the next slide but the top slide shows the makeup of the Texas legislature when George Bush was governor. And the title is “Governor Bush had to be a uniter”—that is, he had to work with Democrats and as you can see the bolded big things—and that is the House and the Senate—show you that he always had Democrats that he had to work with.

    President Bush HAD to be a Divider

    1993

    1995

    1997

    1999

    2001

    2003

    2005

    2007

    2009

    U.S. House

    59% R

    53%D

    52% D

    51% D

    50% R

    51% R

    53% R

    54% D

    59% R

    U.S. Senate

    56% R

    56% D

    55% D

    54% D

    52% R

    52%R

    55%R

    51% D

    59% R

    (President Clinton HAD to be a Uniter)

    The bottom slide says President Bush had to be a divider because for most of his time in office he had a Republican House and Senate. The bottom line says President Clinton had to be a uniter because for much of his time in office he faced Republicans. In other words divided government explains a lot of what is going on. And that the solution, it is the politics. Under our system of government in order to get things done presidents need to go to Congress and members of Congress have to get the president to sign bills. Okay? I think a very nice example of this is the fact that you know President Bush very seldom exercised the veto power. In fact, never. Now is this because he was the imperial president and he could crack the whip and Congress did only as he wanted? Well, that is a plausible story. It is possible.

    Another possibility is that he knew that he needed Congress in the future and so he wasn’t going to make them mad. He knew that they were his Congress. I think the truth is a little bit of both. If President Bush, because it was a Republican Congress, said I am going to veto this, they didn’t bother passing it. And if the leaders of the House and Senate came to him and said we really want this passed, and if you don’t pass it you’re going to have trouble on other things you want, he went along. Now I think a lot of the very egregious things that are mentioned in this book are things that were done because Congress was more than willing to give the president a blank check. So this suggests that for the Obama Administration, the House and the Senate both are controlled by 59 percent by Democrats. That swamps the majorities that either Bush or Clinton had.

    The real lesson I think is that if you want to be the kind of president who doesn’t do extreme and foolish things that the wings of your party want you to do, you need to have divided government. And so I think that the Obama Administration, to the extent that there is a lesson that they have learned from the previous administrations, is that when you control the House and the Senate you can do a lot more. And from our perspective from people who want limited government, people who want good government, this is a problem. And this suggests that the Obama Administration is going to be not a happy administration for people who want limited government. I’m going to suggest that it’s even worse. So next slide.

    This is a slide from a quote from James Madison from the 1790s on war and good government.

    War and Good Government

    Of all the enemies of public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.

    War is the parent of armies; prom these proceed debts and taxes. And armies, debts and taxes are known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.

    In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out of offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.

    The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and morals engendered by both.

    No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

    —James Madison (1795)

    I think you could substitute “emergency” for “warfare” in there and that would still remain true. President Obama has large majorities, and they’re popular majorities. And he has a lot of public sentiment on his side because we are in an emergency. I think this is a formula for a perfect storm. And I think that this will completely mitigate just as George Bush went from being a uniter to a divider. I don’t know anybody who thinks that George Bush was clever enough to run strategically and behave well in Texas so that he could become president. Nobody believes that he was that clever. I think it’s rooted in the politics.

    I think there is a real danger here. And you can see this here, right? So I guess my suggestion would be that when you read this book and you read “president,” you might want to say “regime” or “president and Congress.” You might have noticed how many of the presidents who behaved badly during war are presidents who have Congress on their side. One who didn’t, one president who actually understood this was Abraham Lincoln. When he got to Washington, D.C., after being elected, he started his own political party because he understood that Republicans in Congress were in a unique situation. Southerners who were mostly Democrats had all left Congress.

    So Congress was now artificially inflated. Republican control of Congress was artificially exaggerated. And Lincoln thought like most people, the war wasn’t going to last very long. And he knew that when he ran for president, southerners would be voting again. And he wanted to establish a political identity separate from the members of Congress who he thought were probably going to do crazy things. I think this is very consistent with what’s in Ivan’s book. I don’t want you to go away thinking, well, he was saying read the book, but the real message was read Plunkett of Tammany Hall. That’s not the real message.

    I do want to say; so the last slide.

    Of course I inhaled . . .

    that was the point.

    There is one way in which President Obama is different. He did say, of course, “I inhaled, that was the point.” So he’s now talking about revising the war on drugs, which I actually happen to think is the most destructive war that we’ve waged in the past since Vietnam. The human cost there is just huge, both domestically and in other countries. But it is also true that the war on drugs is so deeply embedded into the fiscal system of Congress that it’s going to be very, very hard to undo. And my bet is that the president’s initiatives against the war on drugs—I don’t know if any of you have been following this, but members of Congress are speaking up very vociferously about this. And my prediction is that they will continue to do that and across party lines. Some of the biggest advocates of the war on drugs are Democrats. So I think I will stop there. But thank you all.

    Questions and Answers

    Mr. David Theroux
    President, Independent Institute

    Thank you very much, Andy. You can see why he is associate editor of our journal. We have time for questions. And as I mentioned before there is an enormous amount that hasn’t even been brought up yet.

    Male Voice

    Thirty-eight years ago when I was on the faculty of the American University in Washington, I used to teach a course on the systems approach to use mathematical tools to analyze power. In those days the president had over 90 percent of the power, compared to other branches of the federal government, the real power in any mathematical mechanism you can analyze for control. So I support your analysis that the presidency is darned important, and the other ten percent is important as well, but it’s still the presidency.

    There is another issue that’s been lost once the Tenth Amendment fell and then the Ninth Amendment. We’ve had a restructuring, especially since the Civil War, of the relationship between the states—the United States of America and the United State of America, which is what we’ve become. It’s still the United States—we just didn’t cross out the “s” and turn it into the United State, although it would save them a lot of printing costs. Isn’t that the original check and balance that was designed to work, not the presidency necessarily versus the two houses at the federal level, but rather the state versus the federal level? I would love to hear a comment on that.

    Dr. Ivan Eland
    Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute

    Yeah, I think you’re right. I think the Founders intended the states to be very powerful in the system. And of course the spending—which is not the only indicator, but it’s a thumbnail indicator—the spending of all the states together used to exceed federal spending by a lot, but now it’s just the opposite. You have, what, 13 percent state spending, and now we’re over 26 percent of GDP on federal spending.

    Yeah, so the states have been diminished. And that’s just one indicator of how the states have been diminished. So I think that was one thing that the Founders wanted. And of course the federal government—it’s very clear that the Founders thought that Congress ought to be the dominant branch. Article One listed all these enumerated powers. But I think if you read the Constitution, certainly the states—and, of course, Congress represents the states at the federal level. And originally, until the early 1900s, the states selected their senators. So now, of course, they’re done by direct election. And, of course, every state gets two senators. And it was really unclear before the Civil War whether it was a federation or a confederation, because they didn’t really label it as such. And that’s what the Civil War was about essentially. In addition, slavery was a manifestation of that. But it was certainly states versus what type of a system do we have.

    Mr. David Theroux
    President, Independent Institute

    Is it possible for Andy to comment?

    Dr. Andrew R. Rutten
    Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Stanford University; Associate Editor

    Sure, one thing I would add to that is that what protected the system of Federalism in the pre–Civil War period—. Let me back up. One of the things that Ivan’s book really raises, I think beautifully, is the fact that you have all of these guys, like Monroe and Madison, who write beautifully about the need to have limited government. And then once they’re in office? Right, so he actually fudges; it’s terrible of me to say this, but he cheats. And he says, I’m going to rate Madison a little bit higher because he did such a great job in working on the Constitution. Well, this is about being president. But the point is that, and that was the purpose of my title: is good government good politics?

    And I think from early on we see that. That it is clear that limited government is not necessarily politically successful. And what I was going to say is that advocates of Federalism in the early period, this is not entirely true, but for much of the pre–Civil War period those guys were slaveholders. Part of the reason that the popularity of Federalism went away is that once slavery was no longer and issue, and particularly as Ivan points out, once northern politicians decided they really didn’t have the stomach to pursue complete racial equality in the south and let the south impose a system of apartheid, southerners and other people didn’t care a lot about Federalism. And they saw the Federal Government as a way to get stuff.

    And they had been trying to do this throughout the early part of the 19th century, but they had been blocked. There were all kinds of bills to get money for internal improvements and things like that. These bills were blocked, and they were often blocked by southerners. After the Civil War the southerner’s interest in protecting the federal system went away. So I think this story is more complicated. It’s not just that this wicked federal government was imposed on it. It’s like the old cartoon from Pogo: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Parliament of Whores by P. J. O’Rourke should be the third book on your list.

    Female Voice

    Neither of you said anything tonight about the third branch of government, the judiciary. Maybe that’s another evening, but maybe both of you could comment on whether you think the third branch has been derelict in its duties or has overextended itself?

    Dr. Ivan Eland
    Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute

    Well, I think it has overextended itself, and the Supreme Court rarely stands up for what the Founders would have wanted it to rule in favor of the original intent of the Constitution. They’ve read so many things into the Constitution. One of the problems with our system of government is the Founders in my view made it too hard to amend the Constitution. So what you do is people just kind of amend it on the fly with legislation, with Supreme Court rulings a lot of the time, and they don’t go through the formal amendment process, it’s been fairly rare. And so the Supreme Court has acted to expand government.

    An example of that was the court packing under FDR. I mean he threatened the court with their existence so to speak or at least their existence as they knew it. And of course they rolled over. They were ruling—in fact in one labor case before that they ruled one way and on a similar case after he did this they ruled the opposite way. And of course after that it was off to the races. So I think the Supreme Court hasn’t been very effective in defending the Constitution over the course of U.S. history.

    Dr. Andrew R. Rutten
    Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Stanford University; Associate Editor

    It turns out that story that Ivan just told you, while it’s very popular, it’s not quite right. There’s a beautiful little book that I reviewed for The Independent Review, where the guy points out that the vote in that labor case was actually taken six weeks before the court-packing plan was announced. So there were a variety of reasons why the Court rolled over. That said, Ivan is absolutely right about this. The Court has rolled over. The most shameless example of this is actually the last of the Japanese internment cases, which nobody ever reads. Where they had locked the Japanese up, put them in these camps in eastern California and eastern Washington, and this woman named Mitsuka Endo sued and she said she had a constitutional right to be let go free because there had been no attempt to prove that she was actually dangerous to the United States.

    And the Court said you should go free, but not because you have a constitutional right to do this. You should go free because it turns out that Congress and the president never authorized the army to lock up the Japanese, and they didn’t know this was being done. And there are concurrences in this. And they say this is the most shameless case we’ve ever decided. Of course, Congress knew what was going on, of course they authorized it. But this is a perfect example. And of course, the Court was dominated by Roosevelt appointees. What were they going to do, say the president has trampled on the civil rights of these people? So no, I think Ivan is actually very right. But I think that’s because the courts are dependent. Again I would argue that’s what you would expect in a system where, especially when Congress and the president are united. They have stood up in situations where there was division. When Truman nationalized the steel mills and Congress didn’t go with it, the Court said you can’t do that.

    Male Voice

    Since both of you gentlemen have degrees in economics, are we really talking about an issue of so-called moral hazard as a legislature and as a legislator? In other words, you have moral hazard to take on certain decisions, and you shift that. And those areas that are ones in which you have turf to protect, you are going to be more likely to take a stand. And so you have this “tragedy of the commons” dilemma in a legislature, and you have a competition over what that would be. And the same with the presidency. In other words you have this government commons and the incentives that are created within that. Would that be part of what you’re talking about?

    Dr. Andrew R. Rutten
    Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Stanford University; Associate Editor

    Oh yeah, I think this is, that’s what I said is good government, good politics. And I think that we often forget that politics has its own logic, particularly electoral politics.

    Male Voice

    Mr. Eland, I wonder if you would give us some idea of how you rank the presidents and then justify let’s say, the first ten.

    Dr. Ivan Eland
    Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute

    Well my top ten are very obscure characters indeed. John Tyler is first. Grover Cleveland is second. Martin Van Buren is third. Rutherford B. Hayes is fourth. Chester Arthur is fifth. Jeez, I can’t remember who I rank sixth.

    Dr. Andrew R. Rutten
    Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Stanford University; Associate Editor

    Harding.

    Dr. Ivan Eland
    Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute

    Harding, yeah. Harding, who everyone thinks is the worst president, I think he’s much better. Even he said he was a bad president. But I think he wasn’t, he didn’t do himself justice. George Washington, I think, was seventh. Carter was eighth. Eisenhower was ninth. And Calvin Coolidge was tenth, I think. So I think I got all ten of them there.

    And the reason I ranked them that way is because they really embodied, no matter what era they were in, trying to limit government, limit foreign involvement overseas, and at least trying to move us back to what the Founders wanted to create, rather than moving us the other way. And, of course, none of them were perfect. You won’t find a perfect president among them. But I think they were for a limited government, a limited restrained executive, and they were more peaceful presidents than the other ones.

    Mr. David Theroux
    President, Independent Institute

    One thing I should mention is that the way Ivan approached the book was not to say, okay, this president is doing this amount of bad things, and this president is doing this amount of bad things because the government is bigger, hence the previous one is better. Because it makes it difficult between the 19th to the 20th century. Instead what he did is the idea was that a president comes into office, there’s X policies that exist, Y things happen. Does he increase peace, prosperity and liberty, or does he decrease it?

    Dr. Ivan Eland
    Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute

    Right, and an economist would say you’re looking at the marginal fact of each president.

    Mr. David Theroux
    President, Independent Institute

    Right, so could you pick like two or three of the top ten and just explain, for example maybe Tyler and—

    Male Voice

    Carter.

    Dr. Ivan Eland
    Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute

    Well I think particularly conservatives ought to like Jimmy Carter better than they do, because I think if Nixon was the last liberal president—which I do believe he was policy-wise, and very similar to LBJ—Carter started going back the other way, and he deregulated four industries: communications, financial, transportation, and I’m forgetting the last one. I mentioned it in my talk. Anyway, and also he did one very important thing: he appointed Paul Volker as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. And Paul Volker instituted tight monetary policies and was basically responsible, I think, for the Reagan prosperity. I think Ronald Reagan had very little to do with it, because Ronald Reagan did much what George Bush did and the Republican Party always does, and that is they enact fake tax cuts. If you don’t cut spending your tax cut is fake, because you either have to raise taxes, as Reagan did later, or you have to borrow a bunch of money and run big deficits, which Ronald Reagan did later, or you have to print money.

    And so Paul Volker ran this tight monetary policy. And that was good. And also Greenspan imitated him for a while, which was responsible for the Clinton prosperity, because I think Clinton had probably less to do with that than the monetary policy. But, of course, Greenspan, after the dot-com bust, he reversed the policy, started increasing the money supply, and of course all that money then went into real estate and we had the real estate bubble, which has now burst. So you see this chain of events.

    Now Carter also was one of the presidents who did not get involved in any overseas conflicts at all. His only overseas adventure was trying to rescue the hostages from Iran, which was a failure. But he gave back the Panama Canal to the Panamanians, reversing that colonial episode. And I think compared to Reagan, who has this reputation of being a small-government person, he actually raised federal spending as a proportion of GDP. Carter and Clinton were the presidents to actually reduce that. Now of course there were other factors in there. The economy was going well during that, but the economy was going well during Reagan as well.

    I think sometimes things are not what they appear. Eisenhower was the best at reducing spending as a proportion of GDP for the Republicans. But he held it level. Carter and Clinton both bested on that one. I think Carter has a lot to be said for him. He started going back the other way from the overregulation. And in fact I think his deregulation was more significant then Reagan’s. Reagan did get credit for continuing some of that, but he sort of attenuated his deregulation. And of course Reagan had the Iran-Contra affair, which I think was worse than Watergate because it really cut to the heart of the Constitution. And this is where I disagree a little bit with Andrew, because I think Congress has a lot of powers in the Constitution, but the two big ones are declaring war and making decisions on federal spending. And of course what Ronald Reagan did was secretly go behind Congress’s back and rip that page out of the Constitution.

    But Reagan was sort of, to some extent, a continuation of what Carter had already started with deregulation and that sort of thing. So I ranked Jimmy Carter the best of the modern presidents, with Eisenhower close behind.

    Male Voice

    What about Tyler and Cleveland?

    Dr. Ivan Eland
    Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute

    Well John Tyler, he was a Whig and the Whigs were the big government party, which was the precursor to the Republican Party, which was the big-government party. In the 19th century the Democrats were the small-government party. But strangely John Tyler, the only reason he became a Whig, and many Whigs became Whigs for this reason, was to oppose Andrew Jackson because they thought he had become a tyrant and had excessive power. And so he wasn’t really a Whig, he was more of a Democrat. And he was vetoing improvement projects, which we would call pork projects today. He settled the largest Indian war in U.S. history, the second Seminole War, by letting the Indians remain on the reservation instead of kicking them off the land that the federal government had promised them, which seems like he shouldn’t get that much credit for doing that, but constantly the Indians were kicked off land that they had been promised. And he settled the war. He also kept us out of a couple other skirmishes.

    And so I think oftentimes presidents are not given credit for staying out of war. Like who remembers that Ulysses S. Grant and Grover Cleveland, who’s another favorite president of mine, declined to get into a war with Spain over Cuba? Of course, William McKinley came along and did the opposite. So I rank McKinley fairly low, because if two other presidents could have avoided this, he probably could have too. So I think Tyler ranks very highly because he was for a limited government, and he was so much for limited government that he was almost impeached by his own party. And they didn’t ask him back for another re-nomination for the presidency. So he really stuck up for his principles. And so many of the presidents I rank highly didn’t serve two terms.

    Dr. Andrew R. Rutten
    Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Stanford University; Associate Editor

    Well I was just going to say that one of the really nice things about this book is the way it’s written. The way I read it when I first got it was I looked at the list, and I said how could that be? And then I would flip to these guys and read, because there are very nice little narratives for each president. Your reaction has to be, what is Carter doing up there? Right? And the way it’s written, I mean it’s much nicer to have Ivan here where you can ask him. Maybe you could call him out.

    Female Voice

    You’ve discussed the three branches of government, but it seems to me in this last election, especially, there was a fourth branch, which was the media. And I wondered if you would comment.

    Dr. Ivan Eland
    Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute

    Well, most of our modern presidents have been at least fairly good at the media. Some spectacular, like John F. Kennedy, Reagan, and Clinton to a large extent have been successful media personalities. And even George Bush, he couldn’t put two sentences together and fumbled his words. But the modern president can manipulate the media. And of course the media went completely along with the fiasco in Iraq, no one said anything. And of course it was obvious to many people in Washington that this was going to be a disaster, but no one really wanted to speak up. And of course the media didn’t want to be portrayed as unpatriotic. So the manipulation of the media is very pronounced nowadays, and I think you have 24/7 news coverage, so things are really go at a fast pace.

    But of course if the president is telegenic and he can get his message across, he can do a lot. The bully pulpit that McKinley actually started, not Teddy Roosevelt, where he went around the country, because in the 19th century it was taboo for presidents to address the public. Now we think that’s kind of strange now that they would address the public on ceremonial occasions, but William McKinley went out and actually said hey, wow, I can go over Congress’s head if I go around the country and sell my policies, and then that will put pressure on the representatives and senators to vote my way. Well of course Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson had started doing this, and now we’re up to the modern thing where the president just gets primetime coverage or has a State of the Union and he doesn’t even have to travel around really. He does because he likes the great photo ops.

    So it helps the presidency and expands the power because it’s difficult for the media to focus on 535 members of Congress. But they’ll tell you what the president’s dog’s name is or what he’s having for breakfast, and some of this stuff you’re just going like, well who cares? But people really do care because the president’s a celebrity, and we don’t have a king so he also serves the Head of State role as well. So certainly I think the media has added to executive power. One other factor I think, when the president kicks the New York Times correspondent off his presidential plane for writing a bad story—access is everything in Washington. If you get kicked off the president’s plane because you get too far away from his policies, of course you don’t have anything to write and your career goes down the tubes. And so the president has access to so much information that Congress doesn’t have. And Congress struggles to try to get this information and so does the media. And if they’re in good with the executive they can do so. So I think the president’s control of the media has actually enhanced executive power compared to Congress.

    Dr. Andrew R. Rutten
    Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Stanford University; Associate Editor

    Amen.

    Male Voice

    Most chief executives have a very substantial agenda they really believe strongly, and you’ve illustrated that they have enormous power to put that agenda forth. And I’m hearing that more selflessness might be needed in these chief executives, but how do you motivate a chief executive when he really believes in his agenda and thinks he has hidden gems that are going to benefit mankind for generations? How do you motivate a chief executive like that to engage in selflessness?

    Dr. Ivan Eland
    Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute

    Well first of all, I think selfless behavior is especially dangerous because a lot of it is sort of twisted logic. And I think the Founders were very smart in that they knew that people behave like they behave, I mean whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican, when you get into office, and certainly Jefferson is the prime example of this. He was for limited government, restrained executive, and then of course when he got in he started wielding, he was one of the few strong executives of the 19th century because Congress was dominant in the 19th century. And so I think you have to have a government with checks and balances. And I think this is where Andrew and I differ a little bit because of those two powers, the war and the budget.

    I mean the two Bush’s got Congressional resolutions, which is not a declaration, for both Iraq wars. But they did it, they specified, well we could take the country to war, we’re just doing this as a courtesy. They both said that. And so that’s where we’re at in the war power. The budget was unified. Up until Polk we had no unified budget. In other words, now we all take for granted that the president presents his budget. And I agree with Andrew: Congress is still there and Congress had some effect on Clinton, but Clinton was already reducing the deficit before the Republican Congress came along. But the Republicans helped in that. So divided government is probably best. But we all take for granted that the president submits this budget and then Congress whittles around at the edges because it’s a massive document that’s put together by all these huge agencies. And each congressman or senator has a few staff members and then they have some committee staffs, but the amount of people that Congress has is miniature compared to the executive branch.

    So you have this unified executive budget, which Polk created, and then it went away. Taft tried to bring it back and he couldn’t, and then Harding, who actually other than that I rate him as a highly good president. But what happened before was the Congress and each committee, like the Agriculture Committee, would negotiate over the budget, and the president really didn’t have that much power involved in it. But now that we have a unified budget, it’s kind of the president submits the budget. And that’s what his priorities are. All the rhetoric aside, it’s very difficult for Congress to do anything much with that. They just kind of factor in the margins. One or two issues they’ll debate, but the rest usually sails through so they make marginal changes.

    So I think that, and it’s very important, that Congress’s authority over the budget has been eroded over time. And that’s its largest remaining power I think in the system. And unfortunately when the Congress is of the same party, as we had during Bush and as we now have during Obama with a different party in power, you don’t really have anybody saying to the president, oh well, I don’t think your little gems are all that shiny. So you do need push back from other people. And I think the system has been damaged to some extent in that. And I think that system worked to restrain government in the early years of the republic and probably up into the 20th century, but I think after that the system was weakened. So I don’t think there’s much restraint anymore.

    Mr. David Theroux
    President, Independent Institute

    One thing I might just add and then I’ll get to Bill’s question. One thing I think to keep in mind is the Founders were almost without exception motivated by a certain worldview, which was called natural law. And the natural law view is inspired, in many respects, by the Golden Rule. And getting back to some of Andy’s quotes he was pointing out, is that the view that this l’etat et moi, that I am the state, I can make up my own rules, is to say I defy the natural law, I defy this objective standard of morality. And so I do think that the key is that if a critical mass of the public were to say yes, there are certain standards of behavior of morality that we insist people to adhere to and we will not accept that in government, that’s when things will change. Bill?

    Mr. William F. Marina
    Research Fellow at The Independent Institute and Professor Emeritus

    Yes, I agree essentially with both of you. But I am a little curious, Ivan, if you could tell me why you rank Washington so highly. And along the lines of what Professor Rutten said, it seems to me there’s something here involved more than the presidency even before there is a presidency. If we go to the American Revolution, the first thing, virtually, the Americans do when the revolution is essentially under duress in New England, is launch an offensive attack against Canada. Benedict Arnold, General Montgomery, we get defeated in that. But suppose we had won early on? We would have then been faced with the first American occupation of a foreign power by this protestant confederation, as the Canadians viewed it. Then, before the Revolution is even over in the so called duress of 1781 in the south, where Washington finally frees up his quartermaster general, his most brilliant general, General Green to go south and win, he sends Lafayette north to persuade the militia, whom Washington dislikes intensely, to launch an attack on Canada.

    And Ethan Allen calls his bluff and says, sure we’ll go, we just want three things. Double pay, double ration, and plunder. And Lafayette says, I can’t authorize that. So you already see these imperial centralizing tendencies before there is a United States under the Constitution. And then once he’s in power, Washington in 1792 gives $726,000 to support the Creoles in Haiti against the revolution there. Of course, counting his wife’s slaves, he’s the biggest slaveholder in the American colonies, and that’s a lot of money. I would like to see it compared to today’s money. But clearly he is not a non-interventionist. He’s a unilateral interventionist. And that’s all done before he, what Professor Cohen says, murders the militia system by the time of the Whiskey Rebellion. So how can you rate him so highly?

    Dr. Ivan Eland
    Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute

    Well, first of all I would like to say—

    Mr. David Theroux
    President, Independent Institute

    Bill, by the way, likes the book.

    Dr. Andrew R. Rutten
    Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Stanford University; Associate Editor

    Gee, I would hate to see a book he hated.

    Mr. William F. Marina
    Research Fellow at The Independent Institute and Professor Emeritus

    Yes, I did.

    Dr. Ivan Eland
    Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute

    First of all I specifically didn’t rank Madison, Jefferson and Washington on what they did before the system was designed. I rated them only as presidents. Madison and Jefferson would be rated much higher as Americans, I think, than as presidents. George Washington might get a lower rating. But my two main reasons are that Washington is regarded by some people who really like Jefferson as a Federalist. And I think he was a Federalist towards the end of his second term. Well, probably in his second term. But I think you have to give George Washington a couple of credits. First of all, he was so admired that he won two unanimous Electoral College ballots for president. And he could have been a lot more powerful than he was. And he didn’t go along with all of Alexander Hamilton’s executive branch fantasies. And he certainly wasn’t a king, he wasn’t a dictator, and he did have Republican tendencies I think.

    And this is going to seem like I’m being flip, but I’m actually serious about this. George Washington, his greatest achievement was leaving office. Think about it. He could have stayed, and that was a tremendous thing, because in Europe that’s what the problem was. Monarchs, or you have a person like Napoleon who’s not a monarch but becomes a dictator takes over. And that two-term limit, that tradition was so strong, that it lasted until Roosevelt broke it prior to World War II.

    Mr. David Theroux
    President, Independent Institute

    It was only a tradition. It was not in the Constitution.

    Dr. Ivan Eland
    Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute

    Right, and after that the tradition was still so great that they passed a Constitutional Amendment that says you can’t do that anymore. You can have two terms. So I think that was a very important precedent. And many presidents were tempted to go away from that precedent, and they didn’t because Washington was revered. And so I think you have to give credit. And remember that the United States was a republic that had never been tried in a large area. And there had been other republics throughout world history, but this was sort of a unique experiment, and it could have failed. And I think Washington at least should be given some credit for kicking it off. And I think the Whiskey Rebellion, he acted improperly in that. And he also had other improper—I rank him I think seventh is what I gave him. So I don’t think he should be in the top three presidents or the top four, which would I suppose, actually remove him from Mount Rushmore, so we might as well just remove them all. But anyway I rank him seventh. And I think some of that is because he did have republican tendencies and he did kind of get the system kicked off.

    Mr. William F. Marina
    Research Fellow at The Independent Institute and Professor Emeritus

    They were still a Monarch Party until 1833 in the United States—-.

    Male Voice

    Could I ask you to just indicate who the worst presidents were?

    Dr. Ivan Eland
    Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute

    I had better read this off the book here so I don’t get it wrong.

    Mr. David Theroux
    President, Independent Institute

    But one thing I should mention Ivan did is that each president has his own chapter and there are specs on that particular president, his party, and other background information. And also what he did is he ranks them on these three criteria, and you find a numerical score and then you tabulate that. And people of good will will have differences about these things. It’s really a very powerful way to get people to think about moral principle, which is what we’re talking about. Go ahead.

    Dr. Ivan Eland
    Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute

    Okay, I’m going to read 30 to 40, Richard Nixon, FDR, Lyndon Johnson, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, George W. Bush, James Polk, William McKinley, Harry S. Truman, and Woodrow Wilson. And some people have actually taken me to task saying, well George W. Bush should be the worst. And I say, well you know, we often look at history through current policy eyes. That’s why Woodrow Wilson and Harry Truman have been rehabilitated. But I think James Polk, William McKinley, Harry S. Truman and Woodrow Wilson, what they have in common is they all started wars, which had bigger ramifications than the war in Iraq, as bad as the war in Iraq is. And so there are certainly negative implications for that. But I think those other four presidents started wars that have had much greater implications for the country.

    Male Voice

    Thank you. I understand why you would want to apply the same three criteria throughout history. However, in 220 years there have been a lot of changes in the world, and I’m just going to take two of them, restraint and foreign policy. I haven’t read your book so I may not do justice to the way you use that, but we are in an interdependent, interconnected world, so how can we afford to be not restrained but not intervening at this time in the world? That’s my question. But the other one is less government. 220 years ago there were not corporations. We had budgets bigger than some states in the world, so how do you deal with that? In other words, taking into account the evolution of the world, does it make some of this criteria possibly a little bit biased as you go forward, and more ideological than practical?

    Dr. Ivan Eland
    Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute

    Well in many ways the world is more interdependent in communication and transportation. But in the security area I would argue there’s probably less interdependence. Nuclear weapons have cut cross-border aggression; it’s been declining in the last few decades. Most of the wars that we have now are civil wars and internal wars, which really don’t threaten U.S. security. The Founders realized this, and our modern presidents don’t seem to figure this out. We have a tremendously good security situation here. The reason freedom came about in Britain is because they didn’t need big armies. They had a big navy, they had the best navy in the world, but navies don’t oppress people, armies do. They’re an island and they had that mote. And it wasn’t always effective because the Normans invaded in 1066, etcetera. But for the most part it was effective.

    We have huge motes. There is no nation that’s ever been able to cross those except the United States itself during World War II, and we never really launched the amphibious invasion against Japan, but we were poised to. We island hopped all the way over, and it’s very difficult to do. And there’s no power now that can do it. And we have weak and friendly neighbors. And now what the Founders didn’t have in their time is we have the most robust nuclear arsenal on the planet. We got all these alliances at exactly the time we didn’t need them. There is no country that’s going to conventionally attack us because we’ll incinerate them. We need the Coast Guard and these nuclear weapons. These submarines that go under the sea are the most powerful weapons ever devised by man in the Navy. I’ve been on them and the Navy will tell you that. They have eight times the kill power of all the ordnance in World War II.

    Now I think we ought to reduce nuclear weapons, but nuclear weapons have made cross-border aggression diminished. And I’m not a proponent of nuclear weapons. The second thing is, nationalism has become so great that you run into the problems that we’ve had in Afghanistan and Iraq. And you’re assuming that a lot of these interventions work. Since 1900 the U.S. has tried 17 campaigns to bring democracy to countries. Two are still outstanding, Iraq and Afghanistan. Four were successful, they were all First World European countries, and the other 11 have failed. So this idea that interventions are going to be successful is another thing. So number one, I think the world is not necessarily more interdependent security-wise, and number two, these interventions are not successful. Now the other argument that you’re making is that society has become so complex that we need a big government to manage it all. But I say the bigger the society is, the more the government will do the wrong thing.

    So perhaps we can debate that, but that’s my view, because if things are so complex that the government is like—if you take the extreme, the Soviet Union, they didn’t manage their complex society very well at all. And so freedom I think is better than that sort of thing. And people making their own decisions and their own interests many times to the extent that we can do that is better in a complex society because the government just can’t keep up with it.

    Mr. David Theroux
    President, Independent Institute

    Well one thing I should mention is that one of the big influences on people like Jefferson, as far as understanding economics, was written work by an economist whose name was Destutt de Tracy, and who was a free-market economist and a critic of central planning. And it wasn’t just the view that this natural law idea was an ethical view, but that it had practical reality. It was of something that really was ingrained in reality, and you can’t defy it without paying consequences. And the 20th century of course, as some of you may know, economists like Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek and others showed essentially that socialism inherently fails because it’s confronted with an economic calculation problem. And that’s why socialist societies do so poorly. So what Ivan is referring to is sort of this, almost like a vanity, that people believe that they can somehow control people’s lives.

    One thing I was going to point out: This is Ivan’s book on the question that you asked, The Empire Has No Clothes. And I would highly recommend it. The other thing I was going to show you was a book that Carl Close, who’s sitting here, is the co-editor of, called Opposing the Crusader State, which is a look at especially the contemporary view of interventionism based on the approach that Woodrow Wilson sort of enshrined. He wasn’t the first person, McKinley and others, but it sort of became an enshrined view. And one great thing about this book also is there’s a whole section of the book on the failure of nation building.

    Male Voice

    One of the things that allows us to do the nation building is the existence of the Federal Reserve or National Bank. Jackson was, I think, one of the good guys, or at least one of the thing he did is he got rid of the central bank back in his time, but Wilson brought it back. Can you comment on the effect of having a cartel of bankers get together and get in cahoots with the federal government, as to how that increases the power of the government and makes us the interventionists that we are sometimes?

    Mr. David Theroux
    President, Independent Institute

    Well that relates to your rating of Martin Van Buren right?

    Dr. Ivan Eland
    Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute

    Right. I rate Martin Van Buren highly because he had, and I think Jeff Hummel who’s a fellow at our institute would agree with this, he thinks Martin Van Buren is the greatest president of all time. I rate him down slightly. I rank him third because his Indian policies were pretty bad, but that’s a different subject. But he had this free-market banking system, which lasted up until the creation of the Federal Reserve. And the Federal Reserve, I think, really has caused a lot of inflation. And you are absolutely right, the government is in cahoots with the bankers. And I think you see it even goes beyond the Federal Reserve, and you see a lot of subsidies towards banking. And we’re seeing this now because banks are regarded as the circulatory system of the economy and they’re so important that no bank can fail.

    And the big banks are even more immune because they know that they’re too big to fail, they’re the biggest entities in a “vital” industry, with quotes around the vital. So I think bankers do have a special place in our society. And unfortunately I think we’re victims of that right now because they won’t let some banks fail that made bad decisions. If you don’t do a lot of that you’re going to have another banking crisis. This crisis didn’t stem from under regulation, I think that it stemmed from the downside risk—risk to banks has been ameliorated by the government programs, FDIC and the cozy relationship between the government and the bankers. Yes?

    Mr. David Theroux
    President, Independent Institute

    We have time for one more quick question. Right there.

    Male Voice

    Yes, you have not mentioned the fourth power in the state, which is a bureaucracy. How much does a bureaucracy influence the way we’re going?

    Mr. David Theroux
    President, Independent Institute

    Well, that came out in your discussion with Ron Paul on the interview on “Afterward,” where the two of you were talking about there have been fewer bills passed since 1993 and yet you have the Federal Register and all this other stuff.

    Dr. Ivan Eland
    Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute

    Yes well he pointed out that that might be a bad thing because the bureaucracy is sort of on autopilot and doesn’t get the congressional input from the people and the oversight. It certainly doesn’t get the oversight that is needed. But I think we’re not quite to the point of Japan, where the bureaucracy actually runs the country. But I think that your point that is a valid one is this massive executive branch and that you’ve got the president up here and he only knows so much. And he’s got his people at the top of every department, a few people that are on his team. But how much do they really know what’s going on with these massive departments? I mean certainly Gates at the Defense Department is a classic example of a guy who I think is probably trying to do the right thing now, or at least move towards that.

    But he’s got this massive five service bureaucracies and a bunch of other agencies, and it’s this huge complex and even if he has the best of intentions he can’t get the beast to move in the way he wants it or only do so very slowly. And this is not just in the Defense Department but all over the government. And so I think you’re absolutely right, and that’s the danger that the people—you know, this idea that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people is the biggest fraudulent statement that anybody ever made, I think. It may have been more true certainly in Lincoln’s time, but I think Lincoln did a certain amount to make it not true actually. But it certainly isn’t true anymore. I mean if you have to ever deal with a federal bureaucracy on anything you realize that this is your government that’s doing this to you right. So I think certainly the bureaucracy is a big problem.

    Mr. David Theroux
    President, Independent Institute

    I want to thank our two speakers, Ivan and Andy.

    And I want to especially thank Ivan, this was a huge project. And in the audience I want to point out Anthony Gregory, who is the policy analyst at the Independent Institute who worked with Ivan, but this is Ivan’s book and we’re very proud of it.

    Dr. Ivan Eland
    Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Peace and Liberty, Independent Institute

    But Anthony deserves a lot of credit.

    Mr. David Theroux
    President, Independent Institute

    Yeah, Anthony did an enormous amount of research for it.

    So I hope that you will pick up a copy, I’m sure Ivan would be happy to autograph it. And thank you for coming and making our evening so successful. We look forward to seeing you next time. Good night.



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