James A. Dorn
This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s opening to the outside world in 1978. Following the disastrous Cultural Revolution and Mao Zedong’s death in 1976, economic development, not class struggle, became the primary aim of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Deng Xiaoping allowed experimentation with market-based alternatives to central planning, and for a while it appeared that economic liberalization would help create a free market in ideas with greater debate on political as well as economic issues. That hope is rapidly disappearing with the rising power of China’s president for life, Xi Jinping.
A new “little red” book, Thirty Chapters about Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, compiled by the Publicity Department of the CCP’s Central Committee, presents the politically correct view on Chinese-style socialism. The book is being widely distributed within China, but there is little room for serious debate. As the China Daily notes, the book “explains that Xi Jinping Thought is the guiding thought that the Party and the country must follow in the long run.”
Xi Jinping Thought is a 14-point manifesto to ensure CCP “leadership over all forms of work.” It promises “continuation of ‘comprehensive deepening of reforms’ ”; propagates the long-held myth that under “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” the “people” are “the masters of the country”; asserts that China should be governed by “the rule of law”; reinforces the post-Maoist idea that “the primary goal of development” is to improve “people’s livelihood and well-being”; and advocates creating “a peaceful international environment.”
In March 2018, the National People’s Congress, by a vote of 2,958 to 2 (with 3 abstentions), added “Xi Jinping Thought” to the Preamble of the PRC’s Constitution, alongside “Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, and Deng Xiaoping Theory.” At the same time, the NPC amended Article 1 by adding: “The defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics is the leadership of the Communist Party of China.”
China’s institutional infrastructure is weaker than it might appear at first glance.
If President Xi actually allowed the common people to be “masters of the country,” adopted a genuine rule of law to limit the power of government and safeguard persons and property — including freedom of thought — then he would truly transform China. Yet his actions and growing power do not instill much confidence that the Middle Kingdom will couple economic freedom with limited government and protect basic human rights. Indeed, since Xi took over as paramount leader, economic reform has stalled or even regressed, and suppression of human rights has worsened.
Liu Xiaobo’s dream for “a future free China” looks dim. As a signatory to Charter 08, he was imprisoned and not allowed to receive the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize in person, and his wife, Liu Xia, was put under house arrest for eight years. The empty seat at the Nobel ceremony was a stark reminder that although China is the largest trading nation in the world, it ranks near the bottom in terms of a free market for ideas.
Without open debate and competition in a free market for ideas, the probability of big errors increases dramatically. China learned that lesson under Mao’s central planning and control. That is why Article 45 of the PRC’s 1978 Constitution guaranteed individuals “the right to speak out freely, air their views fully, hold great debates and write big-character posters.”
Those “four big rights” were ended in 1980, and no longer appear in the Constitution. They ended because the CCP has a monopoly of power and to maintain that power the ruling elite must not let liberalization in the market for goods and services spillover to the market for ideas. All individual rights in China are suppressed by the power of the state, as represented by the vanguard of the CCP.
Today, the PRC Constitution declares: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration” (Article 35). It also states that “freedom of the person of citizens … is inviolable” (Article 37). Yet the reality is much different.
The CCP’s Constitution continues to hold that “the highest ideal and ultimate goal of the Party” is “the realization of communism.” In truth, the Party’s monopoly on power is maintained through the suppression of a free market in ideas. Any criticism of the CCP is dealt with swiftly with no effective due process and no independent judiciary. In a country without a just rule of law and the free flow of information, there is little trust in government and much fear with regard to one’s security. Those cracks in the institutional infrastructure will put a drag on China’s future development and cause untold misery.James A. Dorn is a senior fellow and China specialist at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.
A. Trevor Thrall and Jordan Cohen
A recent video showing the Cameroonian military executing two women and two children by gunshot to the head shocked many Americans, most of whom are certainly unaware that since 2002 the United States has trained nearly 6,400 soldiers, sold Cameroon $6 million worth of American weapons, and provided its military with $234 million in security aid.
Making matters worse is the fact that this sort of behavior is nothing new in Cameroon. In 2017, Amnesty International revealed that the Cameroonian military tortured prisoners in over 20 sites, and recorded 101 cases of incommunicado detention and torture between 2013 and 2017. Chillingly, the report also notes that many of these actions took place at the same military base used by U.S. personnel for drone surveillance and training missions. During the U.S. fortification of this site — known as Salak — Amnesty International found that suspects were subjected to water torture, beaten with electric cables and suspended with ropes, among other horrors.
American counterterrorism policy should never allow the ends to justify such means. Though unintentional, American counterterrorism policy in Cameroon has done just that. Even after learning of the crimes documented in the Amnesty report, the United States continued to provide training and funding for the Cameroonian military, enabling the ongoing torture and the execution of innocent people.
Washington needs to take steps to ensure that it does not enable the torture and oppression of Cameroonians in the name of American national security.
The rationale for American aid and assistance to Cameroon since 2001 has never been in question. Nigerian-based Boko Haram — a group briefly affiliated with the Islamic State — is indeed a violent group. It is responsible not only for the famous kidnapping of over 276 schoolgirls in 2014 but also for tens of thousands of deaths in Nigeria (and many in Cameroon, as people fled across the border from Nigeria to escape) since 2009. Beyond this, Cameroon is Central Africa’s second-biggest economy after Nigeria and is a development hub with regard to paved roads and sea ports, both of which play a large role in the region’s future. Though Boko Haram does not pose a direct threat to American national security (it has never attacked the United States), it certainly remains a destabilizing force in Africa today. As such, making efforts to help local partners confront and manage Boko Haram is a reasonable policy.
Unfortunately, the very states like Nigeria and Cameroon that suffer from violent insurgencies and terrorism are also extremely unreliable partners. Cameroon ranks among the world’s 25 most fragile states, rife with corruption and political instability. As noted, the government has a track record of human rights abuses and makes extensive use of the military and police to oppress political opponents. Putting money and weapons in the hands of such governments is a recipe for disaster.
Thus, even though American “advise and assist” efforts were designed to enable Cameroonian forces to better fight terrorist groups, the United States has effectively strengthened a military that now uses its newfound abilities against civilians, spawning further human rights abuses and raising the risk of state failure.
Nor is this just a problem in Cameroon. American intervention and assistance in Somalia, Ethiopia and Nigeria, just to name a few, risk similar unintended outcomes, or perhaps even worse. Academic research has shown that, over the past four decades, foreign military training increases the likelihood of a military-led coup d’état because of the way it strengthens military organizations relative to civilian ones within a state.
And despite all of the American money and aid, it also looks like there is a real chance that U.S. counterterrorism efforts could backfire in Africa. A recent report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace found that the American military presence in Africa has not only created backlash against local governments but spawned increased resentment of the United States. U.S. Africa Command’s own force posture statement recognizes that “abusive security forces” can make local populations “prime targets” for exploitation.
Given how small the threat of African-based terrorism is to the United States today, it makes little sense to take actions that may wind up increasing the threat in the future. Though there are no easy answers to the question of how to combat terrorism, especially in places like Cameroon, Washington needs to take steps to ensure that it does not enable the torture and oppression of Cameroonians in the name of American national security.A. Trevor Thrall is an associate professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Jordan Cohen is a Ph.D. student in political science at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government.
The push for federal subsidies for child care is gaining momentum. Ivanka Trump has urged Congress to pass a tax deduction for child-care expenses. During the 2016 presidential campaign, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders proposed new federal preschool and child-care programs. And recently, one commentator even advocated opening federally subsidized care centers nationwide.
The concern is understandable. According to 2016 data compiled by Child Care Aware, the average annual cost of full-time center-based infant care varies dramatically nationwide, from $5,178 in Mississippi to $23,089 in the District of Columbia. That amounts to 27.2 percent of median single-parent family income in Mississippi and fully 89.1 percent in D.C. Such high burdens not only have a crippling financial impact on poorer families but can make it uneconomic to work and pay for child care at the same time.
Yet none of the proposed solutions to costly care would make it cheaper. They would simply transfer the high costs to taxpayers. A better starting point would surely be to ask: Why is child care so expensive? One important answer, it turns out, is state-level regulation. Staff-child ratio rules and worker-qualification requirements, in particular, increase prices and reduce availability, particularly in poor areas. These are things state legislators can do something about.
Suppose a staff-child ratio is made more stringent, meaning that fewer children can be cared for per staff member, and qualification requirements for directors of infant centers are increased. These could theoretically improve care by heightening the quantity and quality of interactions with children. The regulations may even convince wary parents that their child would be well cared for, increasing demand for formal, center-based care.
But both regulations raise the cost of serving a given number of children. These increased costs reduce supply, increasing prices and encouraging parents to use less-costly alternatives. Child-care centers could try to compensate by paying staff lower wages, but this may mean the industry attracts lower-quality workers. They might also try to hire cheaper, lower-quality support staff. Both could actually lower quality, rather than increase it.
Empirical research analyzing differences across states shows that the net effects of these requirements are costly and that relaxing them would have beneficial effects without significantly compromising quality. Mercatus Center economists Diana Thomas and Devon Gorry, for example, estimate that loosening ratios by just one child across all age groups would result in prices falling by 9 percent or more. That’s over $2,000 per year for a family using full-time infant-center care in D.C. Requiring lead teachers to have high-school diplomas likewise raises prices by between 25 percent and 46 percent.
The rules the states impose raise costs. That’s hard on poorer people and particularly single mothers.
It’s a matter of supply and demand, as research by economists Joseph Hotz and Mo Xiao shows. They find that tightening the staff-child ratio by one child reduces the number of child-care centers in an average area by 10 percent with no apparent impact on quality. Increasing the average required years of education for center directors by one year has modest positive effects on quality, but likewise reduces the number of centers by between 3.2 percent and 3.8 percent.
Crucially, the negative consequence occur almost entirely in poorer areas, and they disproportionately impact single mothers, who are particularly sensitive to child-care costs in terms of deciding whether to work. Costly center-based care also appears to drive parents toward home-based day care or using unlicensed relatives, alternatives that, in the absence of regulation, may result in much lower quality care.
To increase accessibility and reduce the price of formal child-care, then, we need state legislatures and regulators to liberalize these regulations. This should not be considered crazy. Many European countries have no statutory limits on staffing, with no ill effects. Parents demand a safe environment from their providers. It should be up to them to decide what price-quality bundle they want and for providers to be able to operate efficiently to deliver that.
Federal subsidies, in contrast, amount to just disguising the high costs through the generosity of others. They may not even improve access if the program is badly designed. Of course, families would see lower out-of-pocket payments, but others’ tax bills would rise to pay for this. And attempts to subsidize “free” care often bring huge unintended consequences. In the United Kingdom, for example, the number of child-care centers is falling as they struggle to maintain profitability given low subsidy rates.
Deregulation of child care is a preferable means of both reducing the cost of care and increasing its availability. It would not put taxpayers on the hook for a single dollar. Rather than introducing a whole new federal entitlement, let’s unpick the state-level interventions that drive up the costs of care in the first place.Ryan Bourne occupies the R. Evan Scharf Chair for the Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute.
Last week, a transportation consultant named Bruce Schaller published a report claiming that ride-hailing was increasing traffic congestion. Since then, we’ve been inundated with wild claims Uber and Lyft were increasing traffic by 180 percent, and these claims are used to support arguments that cities should tax companies like Uber and Lyft and use the revenues to compensate transit agencies for the riders lost to ridesharing.
Inaccurate Congestion Claims
Yet, the congestion claims are completely inaccurate. Schaller concluded that, because well under half of ride-hailing trips would otherwise have used private automobiles, ride-hailing put “2.8 new vehicle miles on the road for each mile of personal driving removed.” He went on to say that this is “an overall 180 percent increase in driving on city streets,” but that would be true only if ride-hailing removed 100 percent of private driving from the streets.
The report also said that ride-hailing added “5.7 billion miles of driving annually in the Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC metro areas.” That sounds like a lot, but Federal Highway Administration data show that it is only about 1 percent of driving in those metro areas. Since, by Schaller’s estimation, about a third of ride-sharing travel displaced private auto travel, ride-hailing added a net of just two-thirds of a percent of driving in those metro areas.
The reality is that the ride-hailing industry is threatening the transit industry, and transit advocates are demonizing Uber and Lyft in order to protect their $50 billion in annual subsidies.
Nor does even that two-thirds of a percent necessarily add to congestion. A disproportionate share of ride-hailing takes place during off-peak hours, so only a small portion of that two-thirds of a percent actually contributed to rush-hour congestion.
Public Transit Is Not a Cure-All
Aside from being arithmetically challenged, Schaller is an unabashed opponent of auto driving. “Cities need less driving, not more,” he says, claiming that cities that allow too much auto driving will be “drained of the density and diversity which are indispensable to their economic and social well-being.” The reality is that low-density cities that emphasize driving, such as Dallas and Houston, tend to be more affordable and more socially and economically diverse than high-density cities that emphasize transit such as New York and San Francisco.
To promote transit and limit driving, Schaller advocates imposing fees on Uber and Lyft of as much as $50 per hour. Cities that are already charging such fees (though less than $50 an hour) are using them to compensate transit agencies that have lost riders to ridesharing, a policy Schaller would applaud but one that makes as much sense as taxing pocket calculators to save the slide rule industry.
Only transit, says the report, can “make possible dense urban centers with lively, walkable downtowns; a rich selection of jobs, restaurants, entertainment and other activities; diversity of population; and intensive and inventive face-to-face interactions that make cities fertile grounds for business and artistic innovation.” Has New York City resident Schaller ever been to Silicon Valley? It doesn’t have a dense urban center and it’s transit system carries less than 5 percent of commuters to work and only about 1 percent of local passenger travel. Yet it is one of the most creative and innovative places on earth.
The reality is that the ride-hailing industry is threatening the transit industry, and transit advocates are demonizing Uber and Lyft in order to protect their $50 billion in annual subsidies. Schaller’s report estimates that ride-hailing grew by 710 million trips in 2017, the same year that transit ridership declined by 255 million trips. If just 36 percent of ride-hailing trips would otherwise have taken transit-a number Schaller’s report would seem to support-then ride-hailing is responsible for 100 percent of the decline in transit.
The truth is that transit was obsolete before Uber and Lyft were invented. Nearly 96 percent of American workers have cars and most of the 4 percent who do not don’t take transit to work. Outside of New York City, transit plays a minor role in urban transport, and outside of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, and San Francisco, its role shrinks to insignificance. Given a choice between automobiles and transit, Americans have overwhelmingly chosen the former. Given a choice between ride-hailing and transit, policymakers should also side with the mode that is faster, more convenient, and least subsidized.Randal O’Toole is a Cato Institute Senior Fellow working on urban growth, public land, and transportation issues.