Testing the Value of the Postwar International Order

Testing the Value of the Postwar International Order. RAND Corporation.   Michael J. Mazarr, Ashley L. Rhoades. January 8, 2018.

 Since 1945, the United States has pursued its interests through the creation and maintenance of international economic institutions, global organizations including the United Nations and G-7, bilateral and regional security organizations including alliances, and liberal political norms that collectively are often referred to as the “international order.” In recent years, rising powers have begun to challenge aspects of this order. The purpose of this report is very specific: to evaluate the order’s value — to assess its role in promoting U.S. goals and interests, and to measure its possible economic benefits in a number of specific areas. To answer the question of the order’s value, we first had to define the components of the order that we proposed to evaluate for possible value to U.S. interests. We then reviewed broad assessments of the order, as well as detailed empirical work on its specific components. The resulting analysis produced five major findings: the postwar order offers significant value to U.S. interests and objectives; specifically in quantifiable and return-on-investment terms, the order contributes to outcomes with measurable value and appears to have a strongly positive cost-benefit calculus; the postwar order represents a leading U.S. competitive advantage; if the United States wants to continue to lead globally, some form of order is vital; and a functioning multilateral order will be essential to deal with emerging security and economic issues. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 124 pages, 1.09 MB].

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Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life

Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life. RAND Corporation.   Jennifer Kavanagh, Michael D. Rich. January 16, 2018.

 Over the past two decades, national political and civil discourse in the United States has been characterized by “Truth Decay,” defined as a set of four interrelated trends: an increasing disagreement about facts and analytical interpretations of facts and data; a blurring of the line between opinion and fact; an increase in the relative volume, and resulting influence, of opinion and personal experience over fact; and lowered trust in formerly respected sources of factual information. These trends have many causes, but this report focuses on four: characteristics of human cognitive processing, such as cognitive bias; changes in the information system, including social media and the 24-hour news cycle; competing demands on the education system that diminish time spent on media literacy and critical thinking; and polarization, both political and demographic. The most damaging consequences of Truth Decay include the erosion of civil discourse, political paralysis, alienation and disengagement of individuals from political and civic institutions, and uncertainty over national policy.

This report explores the causes and consequences of Truth Decay and how they are interrelated, and examines past eras of U.S. history to identify evidence of Truth Decay’s four trends and observe similarities with and differences from the current period. It also outlines a research agenda, a strategy for investigating the causes of Truth Decay and determining what can be done to address its causes and consequences. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 324 pages, 2.6 MB].

Identifying Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Human Services: A Conceptual Framework and Literature Review

Identifying Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Human Services: A Conceptual Framework and Literature Review. Urban Institute. Marla McDaniel et al. November 28, 2017

 When there is evidence of racial and ethnic differences at any point in the service delivery spectrum—for example, in access to and take-up of human services, in the nature and quality of services received, or in the outcomes of services—it can be challenging to interpret what those differences mean. In particular, it can be challenging to understand whether and to what extent those differences represent disparities. Disparities mean that one group is systematically faring worse than another for reasons that are not due to the group’s needs, eligibility, or preferences.

 This report helps the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) build the base of knowledge necessary to reliably identify and interpret racial and ethnic differences in relation to ACF’s human services programs. Better understanding these differences and being able to distinguish when those differences indicate disparities can help improve ACF’s program delivery. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 126 pages, 2.52 MB].

Whither America: A Strategy for Repairing America’s Political Culture

Whither America: A Strategy for Repairing America’s Political Culture.  Atlantic Council.  John Raidt. December 11, 2017 

 The United States faces threats from outside its borders, but also from within. While domestic issues including healthcare, immigration, and tax reform occupy the media, a more sinister threat exists underfoot. The political system that once created a strong, prosperous, and united nation now sows division. Many of the country’s public institutions, most notably Congress, seem increasingly inept and dangerously dysfunctional. Permanent campaign mode is distracting the country’s institutions from their responsibilities, alienating the public from civic processes, and leaving the country vulnerable to foreign interference.

In this Atlantic Council Strategy Paper, John Raidt diagnoses the myriad problems from the inside, having worked in the corridors of power on Capitol Hill and the executive branch. He highlights how difficult it is to reform the political system. His analogy—a system of gears grinding to crush the spirit of democracy—is a fitting visual for the complex interactions that benefit those at the center of power even while public regard for US institutions decline. Raidt indicts both Republicans and Democrats for failing to govern effectively and fairly. Dissecting the issues with personal anecdotes of government’s dysfunction gathered during his extensive career, Raidt’s paper provides decision makers with concrete proposals to rejuvenate our political system. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 92 pages, 2.97 MB].

Re-Engineering Politicians: How Activist Groups Choose Our Candidates—Long Before We Vote

Re-Engineering Politicians: How Activist Groups Choose Our Candidates—Long Before We Vote. Brookings Institution. Jonathan Rauch and Raymond J. La Raja.  December  7, 2017

Political analysts sometimes refer to the process by which candidacies emerge and test their viability as the “invisible primary”: activities like candidate recruitment, training, networking, grassroots cultivation, and more. The practice has changed drastically in recent years, with far-reaching effects. This paper examines these alterations and their effects on American democracy, especially focusing on the role of independent groups in shaping the primary battlefield. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[HTML format, various paging].

Worldwide, People Divided on Whether Life Today Is Better Than in the Past

Worldwide, People Divided on Whether Life Today Is Better Than in the Past. Pew Research Center. Jacob Poushter. December 5, 2017.

Fifty years ago, the world was a very different place. The United States and its allies were locked in a Cold War with the Soviet Union, personal computers and mobile phones were the stuff of science fiction, and much of the world’s population had yet to experience substantial improvements in life expectancy and material well-being.

How far do people around the globe think they and others like them have come, compared with 50 years ago? Pew Research Center put that question to nearly 43,000 people in 38 countries around the globe this past spring. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 15 pages, 574.29 KB].

The Future of Truth and Misinformation Online

The Future of Truth and Misinformation Online. Pew Research Internet Project. Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie. October 19, 2017

Experts are evenly split on whether the coming decade will see a reduction in false and misleading narratives online. Those forecasting improvement place their hopes in technological fixes and in societal solutions. Others think the dark side of human nature is aided more than stifled by technology. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 92 pages, 892.12 KB].