Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thinking about Welfare States

The provision of welfare or charity by government is an issue that generates a lot of passion. When there are poor or suffering people about we should do what we can to help. On the other hand are the suffering victims of bad luck or irresponsible? We don’t want to people to become a drag on the industrious and get something they don’t deserve. Then is it ethical to be charitable using other people’s money? In other words is it right for government to provide welfare, and if so how much more or less than now?

The provision of social security is very popular across the board, with the majority of people supporting higher social security spending. Only 1 in 15 or so think the USA should spend less. On the other hand the provision of welfare by the state is unpopular. Just under half want to see less spent on it and only 1 in 5 want to see more welfare. People who give to charity or volunteer for charity work are slightly less likely to be in favor of increased government welfare spending. Conservatives are very slightly more likely to give to, and volunteer for, charity than liberals and liberals to be in favor of a government role.

Are there good reasons to favor the conservative or liberal approach? Let’s look at what the Smart Vote has to say about it. Consider the graph below. It shows the Smart Vote over time for higher, lower or unchanged spending on welfare. Unfortunately it looks quite a mess, as if the Smart Vote can’t make up its mind. For the most part the Smart Vote is for government spending on welfare to remain steady. However I looked carefully at the general drift of the Smart Vote over time and it seems that intelligent opinion moves toward less spending on welfare when economic conditions get worse and toward higher spending as economic conditions improve.

In other words intelligent opinion on welfare spending is that it should be tailored to the means of government rather than the needs of welfare recipients.

To check if the pattern is due to bias or real thinking I ran a regression. This was complicated by the Smart Vote being the mid-point option so a linear regression would be useless. Instead I compared More versus Same spending, and Same versus Less spending, separately in two logistic regressions. IQ does show an independent trend toward holding welfare spending steady, even when controlling for various demographics and traits that reflect different interests. White conservatives (and to some extent the older and wealthier) tend to lean toward a reduction in welfare spending and away from an increase in welfare spending.

The Smart Vote is decidedly against wealth or income redistribution and against the view that government has any responsibility to provide for the needs of citizens in general or for the poor in particular – even after controlling for possible sources of bias (see the regression results below.) However after controlling for bias IQ does not relate to the actual amount government spends on aiding poor children. White conservatives remain anti welfare on every question. Being wealthier or older (probably a generation thing) also predisposes people against state welfare responsibilities or spending.

In general it seems that an unbiased intelligent view is that it isn’t government’s responsibility to provide for the needs or welfare of its citizens, even if they are poor. The Smart Vote is also very clearly against the government redistributing income or wealth. It is however not necessarily for less spending on welfare by government. In fact the Smart Vote appears to be for maintenance of current levels of welfare spending with minor drifts toward more or less welfare spending as economy rises or falls.

In summary the Smart Vote doesn’t think welfare is really a state responsibility but is not opposed to some welfare spending so long as the country can afford it.

What about social security? The Smart Vote trends are very much clearer here. In the graph below the Stupid Vote is consistently for higher social security spending. The Smart Vote for less social security spending starts off extremely high. It then declines steadily, falling below the Smart Vote for Unchanged Spending in recent years. In other words, the intelligent choice was decisively for the very unpopular act of reducing social security spending (and to avoid increasing it) but for some reason that policy became steadily less wise over time. Current wisdom is to keep social security spending steady.

The regression analysis below shows that the potential interest factors do not account for the Smart Vote on Social Security – the role of intelligence remains strong.

I don’t know why the Smart Vote changed its mind on lowering social security spending. There is no change in the stupidity of increasing social security spending so presumably there are good reasons for keeping costs within bounds e.g. the long term viability of social security. Maybe the fund was under pressure but has since become sounder, making the downsides of poorer old people less justifiable? Perhaps the fund didn’t need to spend as much before the baby boomers hit retirement age so it was wise to save more, but now it has more people to spend on and less room to save?

The Smart Vote favors less retirement spending by government outside of social security. The table below however shows that the Smart Vote is marginal when controls are added, and so may be the result of bias.

Notice that the Smart Vote on welfare and social security spending has been sort of in the direction of prudent politically conservative preferences. It’s wise for the government not to get carried away by the needs of the poor and elderly, and lose sight of the country’s ability to pay for welfare and social security. It also appears stupid for government to think of a social safety net as one of its core responsibilities. Such a safety net is more of a ‘nice to have’ when the country can afford it.

On previous posts the Smart Vote came out on the side of liberal preferences. The Smart Vote is in fact not for global political liberalism or conservatism per se. There appears to be wisdom and stupidity on both sides of the political divide.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Freedom of Speech and Keeping Secrets

A few days ago the African National Congress – ruling party in the South African government – passed a ‘Protection of Information’ act that is patently aimed at protecting the corruption of ANC politicians from being exposed. This makes the legal watching and reporting on government behavior almost impossible. They of course say it’s necessary because important state secrets are vulnerable. No one outside the ANC thinks this is true. Indeed it’s difficult to imagine that the South African state needs to keep anything secret at all. The justification for keeping secrets is to gain an advantage over a competitor or enemy and to prevent them from gaining an advantage over you. Another reason is that you are up to something that is likely to be frowned upon. Now of course when at war a whole country stands to gain or lose an advantage or might be embarrassed, but there is no prospect of being at war and the state is a monopoly and has no competitors in South Africa. If there is no reason to fear foreigners it seems suspiciously like the state needs to keep secrets because it has reason to fear the opinion of the people themselves.

Another thing the ANC wants to do is have a media tribunal because according to them the press tends to publish a lot of lies or misinformation about politicians and then does a very bad job of retracting allegations when they prove to be false. This is probably partially true, although the ANC exaggerates the extent of it or illegitimately views an alternative interpretation to their preferred one to be false. The press has however also published a lot of embarrassing truths (or legitimate alternative understandings) about politicians. The proposed body will no doubt squash these too and they shouldn’t be allowed to.

Freedom of speech and press freedom are two fairly central principles in most democracies. However most of the population thinks that at least one viewpoint shouldn’t be allowed to be aired in public so the principle of freedom of speech generally prevails in spite of the will of the people rather than because of it. Does that mean freedom of speech or press freedom is not such a wise idea?

I ran this issue through the Smart Vote. The General Social Survey has 6 questions relating to whether various groups should be allowed to air their views in the USA. These are – racists, homosexuals, militarists, communists, anti-religionists and Muslim clerics preaching hatred of the US. For each of the first 5 about one third of the population wants to see them kept quiet and for the last more than half do. I had a look at the ratio of smart to stupid people who support allowing each of these groups to speak. As you can see from the graph below the ratio for each issue is always very high – above 150. Indeed the above 120 IQ group came close to full support on many issues whereas only a minority of the below 85 IQ group ever supported allowing any of them to speak. The graph entitled “All” refers to allowing all of the first 5 groups to speak i.e. no exceptions. [The Muslim cleric question wasn’t included because it has only been asked recently.] As you can see the Smart Vote on the more radical “All” category is especially strong – as is allowing hate speech by Muslim clerics.

Of course this may simply reflect special interests or biases that just happen to align with IQ. I ran some logistic regressions to control for a variety of groups that may have special interests. The + and – below refer to the strength of the independent relationship of the independent variable to the dependent variable i.e. the group allowed to speak.

As should be plain IQ is still very strongly related to allowing any of these groups to speak even after controlling for these other factors. Being well educated, wealthier, younger, white or liberal predisposes one to support free speech more readily. On most questions, except homosexuality, males are also more prone to support free speech. Note also that there is a trend toward greater support for free speech in recent times.

On a few question I could find the group mentioned in the GSS. You can see the table of the regression that includes the group membership (under “Interest”) below. For Homosexuals the variable was “Sexual Orientation”, for Communism it was “Opinion of Communism” and for Anti-religionists it was “Confidence in Existence of God”.

Also the racist question already included a direct interest group i.e. race. Of the four where I was able to find a group three of the groups were clearly more in favor of their interests being aired or banned (for racism and atheism). For the homosexuals they are universally in favor of being able to have their say but the numbers of cases are too low to show statistical significance. Smart blacks are in favor of allowing racists their say. Smart anti-communists and strong believers in God support allowing communists or vocal atheists to argue their points. Note that higher IQ still favors allowing free speech.

What this means is that even among people who are conservatives that think communism is the worst possible system the brighter they are the more they think communists should be allowed to speak i.e. the more they support the airing of a view they hate. Alternatively among liberals who don’t think communism is necessarily bad the more stupid are more inclined to still deny communists a voice i.e. to restrict even those they don’t necessarily regard as a threat.

The Smart Vote on allowing free speech, especially where the view might be offensive or disturbing, is particularly strong. Disallowing anyone to make the case for something they believe in or hold dear is plainly stupid – even if a majority of the population can’t see that.

Now what about state secrets? Below is a table where I list a number of relevant questions and what the Smart Vote and Stupid Vote is for that question. The Stupid Vote is simply the alternative with the lowest ratio of high IQ to low IQ opinion.

On government maintaining secrets the intelligent view is that they either probably should or probably shouldn’t. Nowhere is intelligent opinion an unequivocal yes. That is however the stupid opinion on intelligence budgets, military technology and domestic terrorism. On military operations the stupid view is to definitely not keep them secret. So in general it is probably wise for the state to avoid making secrecy the default policy. The default should rather be openness unless there is a very good reason e.g. where the element of surprise is crucial – like military operations. The Smart Vote is unsure whether the state overdoes secrecy but it is clearly dumb to think it’s unlikely.

It is the Smart Vote to allow the publication of leaked government plans e.g. for the economy.

Since it’s wise to think that when government makes mistakes the official concerned won’t be corrected there should be some means for the public to know about it and act on it themselves.

In any case it’s intelligent for citizens to keep a close watch on government (and stupid not to) and to engage in civil disobedience if necessary. It’s also intelligent to allow a lot of leeway for citizens to protest against their government and stupid to disallow it – except for physical damage. Being allowed to publish anti-government protests is part of that.

Finally although the Smart Vote is for some method of ensuring media responsibility it is not in favor of the state disallowing publication – even when the price is the violation of the privacy of politicians.

In sum, the wise allow everyone to argue their case – no matter who it offends or disturbs. There is an intelligent case to be made for some state secrets but secrecy should not be the default, it should be the exception. States may well be overdoing secrecy and it is wise to enable citizens to watch the state and protest (and even resist) if necessary. It’s wiser for the press to be free to publish leaked state plans and the doings of politicians, even if this is sometimes unfair. It would be downright stupid for a state to make everything a secret or a crime to expose its activities or misbehaving functionaries.

In terms of serving the country they are meant to govern the ANC have taken a stupid step. The only reason I can see to justify it is that they are up to something that can’t be done unless the public is kept in the dark. This must mean that they want to do things that won’t be in the interest of the public. If so then they are no longer serving the country but using the country to serve themselves. It will come to bit them eventually but how long will the country have to suffer before they wake up to the Smart Vote?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Discipline and Punishment

I’ve been reading Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature documenting the worldwide decline in all forms of predatory or disciplinary violence and I thought it would be a good time to look at the Smart Vote on a few forms of disciplinary harshness. In particular I will be looking at support for capital punishment for murder, courts passing harsher sentences and the use of spanking to discipline children. All of these issues have vociferous advocates on both sides and make for highly emotional exchanges. Nevertheless a large majority of opinion supports all of them in the USA - although, in line with Pinker’s book, support has been dropping. Support for capital punishment for murder has declined from 82% to 73%; for harsher sentences from 92% to 71%, and for spanking of children from 83% to 68%. The proportion of the population who support all three has dropped from 65% to 47% and the proportion opposing all three has risen from 7% to 20% - still less than half of those supporting all three.

Let’s start with capital punishment for the crime of murder. Arguments for capital punishment are that it is a fitting price to pay for the crime and that the harshness of the penalty makes it an effective deterrent. One econometric study reached the conclusion that each execution saves the lives of 8 potential murder victims. That is quite efficient, even if there is a high error rate in convictions, but the validity of the conclusion depends a lot on the validity of some of the model’s assumptions. Quite a lot of the deterrent value depends on the perceived probability of being caught and punished and the extent to which this probability is perceived to be constant across all groups i.e. not capricious.

Arguments against capital punishment are that it is barbaric, irreversible if in error, that it brutalizes the population and probably serves as an example that makes violence more acceptable and so could increase murder rates. Reviews of capital cases reveal fairly high rates of serious legal error – around 65% - with many reviews reaching the conclusion that a much lighter sentence was warranted and 5% actually reaching the conclusion that the person was innocent. The introduction of DNA analysis increased the latter percentage substantially. In other words more than 1 in 20 (possibly 1 in 10) people on death row did not commit the crime they were accused of.

Most of the world has abolished capital punishment and although support for its reintroduction has fallen in the last decade it is still either a majority position or close to it. In the USA capital punishment is clearly a majority preference but what is the preference of the more intelligent public? Well to be frank a large majority of intelligent people also support capital punishment for murder. The proportion with IQs above 120 who support capital punishment dropped from 74% to 62%. The Smart Vote however isn’t about what the majority of intelligent people support. It’s about the direction in which opinion changes as intelligence increases. If the problem is tough it is possible for most bright people to get the answer wrong but more of them should get it right than the dull. The Smart Vote is therefore the alternative with the highest ratio of smart to stupid support. It turns out that the Smart Vote has been consistently opposed to the death sentence for murder since 1974 and is probably becoming increasingly so. See the graph below. The ratio of smart to dull opposing capital punishment rises from 1.25 (it’s multiplied by 100 to remove decimals) to over 2 and never gets close to 1.

Of course it is possible that the reason smart are more likely to oppose the death sentence than stupid people has no direct connection to being smarter per se. It could be that they are less likely to be victims and feel less threatened or it could be that they get more education and are indoctrinated by liberal professors, etc. So to control for such possibilities I performed a logistic regression where many confounding factors were entered into the model with IQ. The results are in the table below.

As expected, conservatives are more likely than liberals to support capital punishment – so too are men rather than women. Whites are much more likely than blacks, and the rich more likely than the poor, to support it. Age has no relationship. Neither does time period have a linear relationship – because support increased first and then decreased. As hypothesized above, exposure to more education does reduce support for the death sentence but IQ nevertheless remains independently significantly and strongly associated with opposition to capital punishment after controlling for all those factors. This raises the likelihood that intelligent opposition to capital punishment is not simple bias but is based on the relative merits of the case against it.

Next we move onto the issue of increasing or reducing the harshness of sentencing in general. An overwhelming majority of people want courts to impose harsher sentences on criminals than they already do - never dropping below 71% and having been as high as 92%. Only 7-10% of people ever expressed a wish for sentences to be less harsh. What about the more intelligent public? For those with IQs above 120 (brightest 10%) support for harsher sentences ranged from a low of 58% and a high of 90% and support for lighter sentences ranged from 0-15%. Again even in very bright circles you are much more likely to hear calls for heavier sentences than lighter sentences. Also again however the Smart Vote is different. See the graph below showing the Smart Vote over time for Heavier, Lighter or Unchanged sentencing.

It turns out that the Smart Vote is for courts to keep the harshness of sentencing at current levels rather to either increase or reduce it. There is a modest shift of the Smart Vote away from lighter sentencing during the late 80s and early 90s followed by a shift toward lighter sentencing and away from heavier sentencing from then on. This shift coincides with the initial climb in crime rates to the peak in the early 90s and then the unexpected drop in murder (and overall crime) rates from then onward. In other words the Smart Vote on policy is sensitive to conditions. Never in favor of heavier sentencing, the Smart Vote nevertheless thought it a mistake to lighten sentences when crime rates were very high and increasing, but shifted noticeably toward lightening sentences when crime rates dropped.

What about the issue of bias? The usual regression results shown below indicate that whites, women, the richer, older or the more conservative are more in favor of harsher sentencing than blacks, men, the poorer, younger or more liberal. Exposure to more education makes people less inclined to support harsher punishment. The association of IQ with opposition to harsher punishment is still evident after all these controls.

Greater intelligence points away from harsher punishment of criminals even when crime rates are high and rising and moves toward lighter punishment when crime rates drop. Like the Smart Vote on capital punishment this flies in the face of prevailing opinion implying that prevailing opinion is stupid and probably wrong.

What about spanking children in order to discipline them? Virtually all adults will have been spanked at some point by their parents (if not their teachers) when they were children and will have heard the words of wisdom “Spare the rod and spoil the child”. Most think spanking is the only way children can be disciplined since they seem to lack self control in the absence of strong incentives. Even those who don’t think spanking is the only way to discipline children often concede that it is a very efficient way. It should come as no surprise therefore that a large majority of people are in favor of spanking children to discipline them. Between half and two thirds of the top 10% brightest are also in favor of spanking children.

The Smart Vote is however opposed to spanking to discipline children. Look at the graph below. The ratio of smart to stupid opposition is appreciably higher than 1 (100 to get rid of decimals) for the last 23 years. In fact the graph understates the opposition. The categories Disagree and Strongly Disagree are combined in the graph. The Smart Vote is actually for Strongly Disagree with spanking to discipline children. Alternatively the Stupid Vote is for Strongly Agree. The ratio is declining over time simply because the overall population is moving toward opposition to spanking.

Could this just be bias? The usual regression to control for confounding factors says no. The results table below shows that blacks, men and conservatives are stronger believers in spanking children. It also shows the decline in support over the years. Exposure to education strongly reduces support for spanking. Considering that almost three quarters of psychologists oppose spanking it’s not surprising that this view has filtered through higher education. Finally the association between IQ and opposition to spanking is still strong in spite of the control exercise. In short the smart thing is not to spank kids in order to discipline them. Animal trainers have shown that you don’t even need to strike animals to make them obedient or do tricks so why should it be any worse with children?


In all three cases the Smart Vote is against harsh punishment and in all three cases it flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Pinker’s book and the Smart Vote have shown that the world is slowly becoming wiser on this issue. Nonetheless most people still stupidly cling to unnecessary harsh treatment as a means of managing the behavior of others. The chances are good that the world would be a better place, and probably their lives would be better too, if they didn’t.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What is Intelligent Opinion on Military Spending?

World defense spending amounts to $1.63 trillion, or 2.6% of world GDP. Spread over the same time period as WW2 this is equivalent to 95% of the absolute cost of WW2 (using the GDP deflator to standardize value). In terms of share of GDP global military spending is about 1/6 of the level of military spending for WW2.

Every country has an army (except Costa Rica) and some countries devote an extraordinary large proportion of their resources to maintaining one. WW2 mobilized 4% of the world’s population and participants devoted 32% of their GDP to the war. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute North Korea spends about 25% of its resources on its armed forces and has 5 % of its population on active duty. The US alone accounts for 42.8% of global defense spending and with China account for 50.1% of all military spending. Other countries spend quite little. About 20% of the world’s nations spend 1% or less of their GDP on defense and about 9% spend 3% or more of their GDP on defense. So a significant fraction of the world values defense at least 3 times as much as another significant fraction. Which of the two approaches is the wiser – hawks or doves?

One way to approach this is to look at the correlation between the mean IQ of each country’s citizens and defense spending as a percentage of GDP. It turns out to be zero. Another way is to look at opinion within countries. Ideally one would like to see how opinion varies with IQ within low defense spending countries and high spending countries. If there is a trend for the brighter citizens in both groups toward high defense spending intelligent option would be for being well prepared militarily. If the trend in both groups is for the smart to support less defense spending then pacifism may be the intelligent policy. If there are different patterns in each group then there is either an optimum degree of defense spending or it may be smart for the well armed to continue their arms race and for the rest to drop their arms altogether. Unfortunately I only have data for opinions of defense spending by IQ in one country – the USA. I can however use this data to answer part of the question.

The USA is one of the high defense spending countries – at 4.7% currently it spends roughly 4 times the global median on defense as a percentage of GDP.

Lets have a look at the Smart Vote says. Recall that the Smart Vote is based on the ratio of the proportion of people with IQs greater than 120 and the proportion of people with IQs less than 80 who support a particular choice. The ratio is multiplied by 100 to get rid of the decimals. The Smart Vote is the choice with the highest ratio at any point. All the opinion and IQ data comes from the General Social Survey.

Firstly the Smart Vote is decidedly for being interested in military policy.

Secondly in 1984 the Smart Vote expected an escalation of the arms race to be moderately likely, a reduction in nuclear arms to be moderately unlikely and the elimination of atomic weapons to be very unlikely before 1994.

Thirdly in 1984 the Smart Vote expected an all out nuclear war to be highly unlikely, a conventional war to be moderately likely and repeated guerilla wars to be highly likely before 1994.

Fourthly the Smart Vote didn’t expect the US to be involved in a conventional war between 1976 and 1992.

Fifthly in 2000 the Smart Vote considers terrorist threats from US citizens to be the same or larger than 10 years ago. All these expectations proved accurate.

Nonetheless in 1984 the Smart Vote considered military service in war or peacetime to be moderately important but not at all an obligation and before 1973 was for taking part in anti-war protests.

In spite of being against the use of conscription, and pro the exemption of conscientious objectors, the Smart Vote concludes that an all volunteer military hasn’t worked out well - somewhere between “Worse” to “Only Fairly Well”. The Smart Vote on Confidence in the Military over time confirms this. One can see in the graph below that the Smart Vote has been for “Hardly Any” confidence in the military up until the early 90s and since then somewhere between “Only Some” and “Hardly Any” confidence. The Stupid Vote (the lowest ratio of smart to dull opinion) has consistently been for “Great Deal” of confidence in the military. On the other hand the Smart and Stupid Votes have been converging a little over the last generation. In a related question the Smart Vote was for not being proud of America’s military record.

What about the question we started with – military spending? The graph below shows the Smart Vote on more, unchanged or less defense spending over the years and compares this to actual defense spending trends. The defense spending figures come from US budget history. I converted defense spending to an index by dividing the percentage of GDP spent of defense by 5% and multiplying by 100 to get rid of the decimals.

You can see that the Smart Vote has been consistently for less defense spending and that until the mid 1990s the Stupid Vote has been for increased defense spending. How much less spending? A question on how much less or more military spending people prefer was asked in the 1990 and 1996 and revealed that the Smart Vote is for much less military spending rather than just moderately less.

The Smart Vote ratios might reflect interests that just happen to coincide with IQ, in which case the above wouldn’t be intelligent opinion so much as a bias. I checked that possibility with a multiple regression. More versus Less Military spending was the dependent variable and IQ, political ideology, age, sex, race, date, income and education the independent variables. The table below shows the strongly significant independent relationships and their direction.

As expected ideology has a very strong effect on preferred military spending. Conservatives want to spend more and liberals less. Also preferring to spend more on the military, again as expected, are older people, whites and the wealthy. An unexpected finding was that women do too. There is a trend toward favoring ever less military spending over the years. Time, race and gender effects are very weak.

The important thing for the Smart Vote is that the relationship between higher IQ and favoring less military spending is still plain even after controlling for all these interest variables (that do in fact influence opinion). So the Smart Vote on this issue is less likely to be an artifact of bias and more likely to be a function of real insight and wisdom. Note that higher education leans toward less military spending independently of IQ and income. I interpret that to mean that not only does higher individual intelligence predispose one to want to reduce investment in the military but so does exposure to the intelligence and learning of others.

Intelligent opinion within the US has been accurate in its expectations of global military developments but nevertheless had little confidence or pride in the military, and believes that America should reduce its investment in military capacity substantially.

Given these consistently dove like preferences one could reasonably ask whether the Smart Vote is for outright abolition of the military, like Costa Rica. One way to guess at this is to regress the variations in Smart and Dumb Votes onto the variations of actual military spending over time. I did this after smoothing the saw tooth pattern in the Smart and Dumb Vote graphs above.

The correlations were -0.695 for the Dumb Vote ratio and 0.724 for the Smart Vote ratio.

The regression equations were
-0.848*Spending Index +143.85 = Dumb Vote ratio, and
0.824*Spending Index + 99.4 = Smart Vote ratio.

The Dumb Vote ratio is expected to exceed the Smart Vote ratio i.e. spending more will become as intelligent an option as spending less, when the spending index drops below 26.6. This is equivalent to spending 1.33% of GDP on defense. So the answer is no, zero defense spending isn’t the intelligent option for the US – there is an optimum at 1.33%. This amount of spending will still exceed the defense spending of China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan put together so the US will hardly be seriously threatened even if it did reduce its spending to less than 1/3 of what it is now i.e. from 4.7% to 1.33% of GDP - $500 billion less.

An important question is why the Smart Vote is for less military spending in the US. The attitude of the US to international organizations has some relevance. A preference for less military spending tends to go along with a preference for the US staying in the UN and playing an active role in international affairs; a belief that the UN has too little power and that international organizations do not take too much power from the American government; and that the US should not follow its own interests if this were to lead to conflicts with other countries. Preferring less military spending also goes with believing that the UN should intervene if human rights are seriously violated. The Smart Vote is decidedly for all those views. That points toward the desirability of the US shifting away from isolationism, or American exceptionalism, which require bigger military defenses, and toward greater diplomatic and cooperative ventures, which would require a level of arms more in line with international practice.

Intelligent opinion in America thinks the US should try to be less offensive and more cooperative in international relations.