The Most Dangerous World Ever?

Dire warnings about our uniquely dangerous world are ubiquitous. But do we actually live in a uniquely dangerous world? And, if we do not, why do we believe that we do?  In the new issue of Cato Policy Report, Cato scholar Christopher Preble puts today’s threats in perspective, and argues, “Tragic, even horrifying, stories of human suffering do not portend that we are living in a more dangerous world. In most respects, we are living longer, better lives.” Also in this issue, Cato chairman Robert A. Levy looks at the expansion of executive powers under President Obama.

Newly Expanded Center for the Study of Science

The Cato Institute is pleased to announce the expansion of its Center for the Study of Science. Founded in 2012, the Center for the Study of Science was created to provide market-based ideas that could transition policy regarding energy consumption, environmental standards, and other science-related issues away from government planners. The Center for the Study of Science will seek to provide a credible source for media and members of the public who want a fresh perspective on scientific claims made by government and other research organizations. Research areas will include energy use and taxation; use of government subsidies; global warming; and overall environmental regulation.

Opening the Skies: Put Free Trade in Airline Services on the Transatlantic Trade Agenda

The EU and the United States began negotiations for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in 2013, with the primary goals of reducing impediments to cross-border trade and investment and achieving greater economic integration between the two areas. Curiously, there has been a near absence of discussion in the TTIP negotiations of freeing trade and investment in commercial airline services. 

In a new study, transportation policy expert Kenneth J. Button argues that the objections to liberalization lack genuine merit, offers insights into how U.S. airline passengers and businesses would benefit from opening the domestic air market to competition, and urges the U.S. and EU governments to put free trade in commercial air services on the TTIP negotiating agenda.

Read the new study…

What Does Responsible Counterterrorism Policy Look Like?

Terrorism is a hazard to human life, and it should be dealt with in a manner similar to that applied to other hazards—albeit with an appreciation for the fact that terrorism often evokes extraordinary fear and anxiety. The anniversary of the September 11th tragedies gives us the perfect opportunity to reflect on how our nation has approached terrorism from a policy perspective.

In a newly released study, Cato’s John Mueller  and the University of Newcastle’s Mark G. Stewart join together to assess U.S. spending on domestic counterterrorism since September 11, 2001, concluding there has been very little proven benefit.

In Responsible Counterterrorism Policy, Mueller and Stewart apply conventional methods of risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The study’s authors look at four issues central to risk analysis for terrorism — the cost per saved life, acceptable risk, cost–benefit analysis, and risk communication — and assess the degree to which risk analysis has been coherently applied to counterterrorism efforts by the U.S. government.

Mueller and Stewart found that DHS’ risk assessment process is deeply flawed and often absent from discussions of spending priorities. In order for the post-9/11 increase in domestic homeland security expenditures to be deemed cost-effective, these added measures would have to have deterred, disrupted, or protected against more than one otherwise successful car-bomb attack in a crowded area every single day.

Homeland Security bureaucrats generally do not thoroughly evaluate counterterrorism expenditures, and recent studies suggest DHS spent hundreds of billions of dollars without knowing what it was doing. Key to this systemic waste is a tendency to inflate the threat Americans face from terrorism, which leads to policies that are exceptionally risk averse. In addition, decision-makers appear to be overly fearful about negative reactions to any relaxations of security measures and also about the consequences of failing to overreact.

Public officials are supposed to responsibly spend funds. The burden is on DHS to explain why spending more than $1 trillion with very little proven benefit is not a reckless waste of resources. Americans concerned about their safety and though of their loved ones deserve answers that will only emerge once policymakers begin thoroughly assessing domestic security expenditures.

Read the full study….

LIVE NOW: Cato Scholars Live-Tweet the President’s Address

Right this minute, President Obama is live on TV (and the web) talking about ISIS. 

Join catoinstitute scholars Christopher PrebleJustin LoganDavid BoazEmma Ashford, and Gene Healy live on Twitter RIGHT NOW as they respond to the President’s address 

Follow the conversation and tweet your questions using the hashtag #CatoWHspeech. To get the latest news from our foreign policy team, follow @CatoFP.

Instagram Contest: Why is the Constitution Important to You?

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This year, the Cato Institute is celebrating Constitution Day (September 17th) with a “flat Stanley-style” Instagram contest. Show us how you use your Pocket Constitution and why the Constitution is important to you and you could win.

Think you and your Pocket Constitution have what it takes to win? Here’s how to enter:

  1. Follow @catoinstitute on Instagram
  2. Upload a photo on Instagram of your Cato Pocket Constitution in an interesting or creative setting (or just how you use it most).
  3. In the caption, fill in the blank explaining why YOU need your pocket constitution.
  4. Make sure to include the hashtag #CatoConstitution.

Feel free to enter as many times as possible and be sure to tell your friends about your entry. Popular posts are more likely to win!

We will announce a winner bright and early on Constitution Day. That gives you just 14 days to come up with the perfect reason why the Constitution matters to you and why you carry around a Pocket Constitution.

Need your own copy of the Pocket Constitution? You can buy a copy from the Cato Store. We offer bulk discounts and even have Spanish and Arabic versions. 

Cops on Camera: What IS Legal And What SHOULD Be?

The topic of police abuse and what can be done about it has been in the news a lot lately. This 2010 video from the Cato Institute explores the surprisingly controversial topic of filming on-duty police officers. 

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No one disputes the idea that police misconduct is wrong, but reasonable people do disagree about the scope of the problem and how it ought to be addressed.

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Cato’s National Police Misconduct Reporting Project gathers reports of credible allegations of police misconduct so policymakers (and others) can make informed assessments of the nature and circumstances of police misconduct, and consider proposals that can minimize wrongdoing.

Our objective is to identify policies that consistently uphold high standards of ethics, honesty, and professionalism from police officers and critique the policies that do not.

Cameras play an important role in that. Several high-profile cases of police brutality have been exposed by citizens who recorded police actions with cell phones. Yet some state wiretapping laws, written before the age of ubiquitous recording devices, prohibit recording these events and then further criminalize the publication of the recordings on the Internet.

So, is filming police against the law—and, more importantly, should it be?

That’s the topic of a 2010  event hosted by the Cato Institute: Recording the Police: Is Citizen Journalism against the Law?

Does the First Amendment protect citizen journalism, or do police agents have a right to privacy while performing public duties? Watch the video and decide for yourself. 

Interested in learning more about police abuse or the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project? Follow @NPMRP on Twitter and like the page on Facebook.