TIME politics

Another Conflict in Ukraine: Differing Versions of History

Angela Merkel And Francois Hollande Hold Ukraine Crisis Talks With Vladimir Putin
Sasha Mordovets—Getty Images Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) attends a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and French President Francois Hollande (R) on Feb. 6, 2015 in Moscow, to discuss the conflict in Ukraine

Why it's hard to rely on historical memory

The 21st century has not started well. But we can’t be accused of forgetting how bad the last one was. Recently, even as we have witnessed both a glut of violent crises, from Syria to Ukraine, we’ve also seen a surge of public commemoration. The same month that the head of the United Nations refugee agency stated that the agency “has never had to address so much human misery in its 64-year history” also saw momentous worldwide observation of the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Still, there’s memory and then there’s memory. Just because the past is commemorated doesn’t mean it’s settled. In fact, the Auschwitz anniversary was the occasion for an inept tussle between Poland, Ukraine and Russia over who exactly liberated it the most. Between a peak of refugee distress and using Auschwitz for politics, the hope that remembering the past will improve our future is clearly embattled — literally.

Behind this brawl over the largest Nazi death camp is the grim war now raging in eastern Ukraine’s wintry fields, Europe’s — and perhaps the world’s — most dangerous hotspot since the end of the Cold War, where geopolitical strategies collide and memories clash. As to geopolitics, the stakes are high and rising. Russia denounces western encirclement; the West condemns Putin’s aggression. Hopes for growing cooperation — still alive, it seems, only yesterday — are dead. So are over 5,350 fighters and civilians. German intelligence sources have leaked an estimate for military and civilian casualties of 50,000, implying that Ukraine’s official figures are misleading. The dead, in any case, form only the tip of a swelling iceberg of the wounded, crippled and displaced. Russian planes and ships prod NATO provocatively. Some western experts, commanders and publicists demand weapons for Ukraine, which, Russia says, might lead to “catastrophe.” Mikhail Gorbachev, crucial in ending the Cold War, is now warning of a hot war between the West and Russia.

With a present that alarming, what use is there for the past?

Alas, too much. The row over Auschwitz was symptomatic: tragedies of the past have become positions in memory wars. It’s not only the Holocaust, but also World War II and the horrendous, policy-induced Soviet famine of 1932-33, which killed millions of victims in Ukraine (and beyond). The scale of these catastrophes partly explains their resonance. Globally, the Second World War brought violent death to more than 60 million people, the majority civilians. The Holocaust meant the mass murder of 6 million. In what was then Soviet Ukraine, that regime-made famine killed between 2.6 and 3.9 million victims; counting beyond Ukraine adds millions. Moreover, behind these numbers loom the long shadows of modern Europe’s totalitarian behemoths — of Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union, of violent ethnic nationalism, of Communist authoritarianism beyond Stalinism, and of Europe’s long Cold War division.

Between 1945 and 1989, the continent was split not only by walls and barbed wire, but also by different ways of remembering and forgetting its brutal and often — as eminent historian Istvàn Deák’s new Europe on Trial reminds us — shameful past. While in the current crisis Ukraine’s internal divides or cohesion are debated, its uncanny power to bundle Europe’s anxieties not only about the future but also the past stems from this larger division. In Europe’s Cold War East, it was almost entirely forbidden to openly name the crimes of Communism or mourn its victims, while the crimes of Nazism — and the victory over it — became a cornerstone of official memory. Yet the Holocaust, while not denied, was also downplayed. The victims were often posthumously deprived of the Jewish identity for which they had been murdered. Also neglected were the perpetrators’ special anti-Semitic motives and the facts of local collaboration in hunting, plundering and killing Jews.

In the West, meanwhile, at least in the later postwar decades, a tendency developed to make the Holocaust a symbol of the crimes of Nazism in general. Facing the Soviet Union as a potential adversary, it was certainly not forbidden to name the crimes of Communism, including the Soviet alliance with Nazi Germany between 1939 and 1941 and the subjugation of Eastern Europe after the war. Yet many western Europeans chose, deliberately or inadvertently, to be less interested in Communist crimes and their victims. With regard to Communist crimes, one half of Europe was not allowed to talk about them, the other was not always eager to hear about them.

When, one generation ago, the Cold War was suddenly over, Europe faced a challenge: East and West shared what is, historically speaking, a new and unusual state of mind: the conviction that a recent, deeply compromised past was crucial to who they were. But they did not see eye to eye on the meaning of that past.

Now the war in Ukraine is turning into a catalyst for accelerated paradigm shift. Insisting on understanding World War II solely as the valiant fight against Nazism to which the Soviet Union contributed decisively at horrendous cost, Putin’s regime, fond of crude propaganda, seeks to exploit its idea of a Good War as cover for its current aggression. This strategy tends to credit only Russia with Soviet achievements and to trump up even Stalin as a symbol of patriotic statesmanship, glossing over his breathtaking record of violent despotism. Unfortunately, it has popular appeal as a recent poll shows. Meanwhile, post-Maidan Ukraine and its supporters, particularly among the former Soviet satellites, emphasize the collusion between Nazism and Stalinism, the evil of Soviet imperialism, and the fact that the sacrifices of defeating Nazism were not borne by Russia alone, but also by the other nations making up the Soviet Union, prominently including Ukraine.

There’s an irony here: A generation after the Cold War ended, with new confrontation looming, Europe’s foundational memories have received a violent jolt from the East pushing them toward convergence. Putin’s blunt armed aggression is likely to permanently tilt important segments of public opinion in western Europe not only against his regime, but also against its version of history.

This is not a simple happy end, for two reasons. First, it is tempting to confuse Putin and Russia and forget that the latter is a part of Europe too. In the long run, Europe cannot consolidate a shared memory by making Russia its abhorred foil. Secondly, no memory is flawless, and that also goes for the one favored by Ukraine and its supporters. In Ukraine, World War II nationalism, a proudly authoritarian and violent movement with strong anti-Semitic features that engaged in ethnic cleansing, is now officially presented as nothing but a noble national liberation effort. Yet there is no principal difference between whitewashing its leader, Stepan Bandera, into a mere “patriot” in “hard times” and doing the same for Stalin. Indeed, in the name of national unity and to make use of those volunteer fighters who are extreme nationalists and even Neo-Nazis, the Ukrainian government and media are now often turning a blind eye to the far right. Supporters of Ukraine do it no favor by abetting this bias. The present is an intensifying tragedy with a growing potential for catastrophic escalation, also beyond Ukraine. Putin is mobilizing manipulated memories as a weapon. Tacitly condoning a tit-for-tat response in the West offers us nothing except another way to raise the stakes. In a shooting war, memory may not strike us as the most important factor. Yet memory wars will only make finding peace harder.

Tarik Cyril Amar, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Columbia University, has lived and worked for five years in Ukraine. He holds degrees in History and International History from Oxford University, the London School of Economics and Political Science, and Princeton University. His book The Paradox of Ukrainian Lviv: A Borderland City between Nazis, Stalinists, and Nationalists will be published this fall by Cornell University Press. He comments regularly on the crisis in Ukraine.

TIME Opinion

Why the Founding Fathers Wouldn’t Have Been Anti-Vaxxers

Signing of the Declaration of Independence
Hulton Archive / Getty Images Postcard of 'The Signing of the Declaration of Independence', painted by John Trumbull

Look to the 18th-century philosophers who created the modern world

Are you a vaccination skeptic? Or are you skeptical of the vaccination skeptics? Your answer will most likely depend less on science and more on political ideology. The science jury is in when it comes to vaccinations, as it is for climate change and evolution. Vaccinations work, climate change is real and evolution happened. But, though skepticism in all three cases tends to be the product of politics, to doubt science is to run up against the very heart of America’s political framework.

The founding principles of America were the product of 18th century Enlightenment thinkers who were inspired by 17th century scientists such as Galileo and Newton. (This is an argument I make in my new book, The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom.) The experimental methods and analytical reasoning of science that these Enlightenment thinkers consciously applied to solve social, political and economic problems created the modern world of liberal democracies, civil rights and civil liberties, equal justice under the law, free minds and free markets, and prosperity the likes of which no human society in history has ever enjoyed.

The founding fathers of the United States often referred to the “American experiment” and to democracy as an “experiment” because democratic elections are analogous to scientific experiments: every couple of years you carefully alter the variables with an election and observe the results. If you want different results, change the variables. Part of the reason that democracies systematically replaced autocracies was because of the scientific appeal of empowering individuals with a methodology to solve problems instead of an ideology to obey.

Many of the Founding Fathers were, in fact, scientists who deliberately adapted the method of data gathering, hypothesis testing and theory formation to the construction of a nation. They understood that no one knows how to govern a nation in all it’s complexities, and so they constructed a system that would allow constant tinkering to adjust for unforeseen circumstances. Instead of thinking about government as a place where power is up for the taking, they saw it as a social technology for solving problems. Their conception of democracy was not dissimilar to their vision of science, as Thomas Jefferson articulated it in 1804: “No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth.”

Consider the principles underlying the Declaration of Independence. We usually think of this great document as a statement of political philosophy, but it was, in fact, a type of scientific argument. Consider this sentence, one of the most famous in all political philosophy: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….” In Thomas Jefferson’s first draft he penned “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable.” Why did he change it? He didn’t. Benjamin Franklin did. Here is what happened, as described by Walter Isaacson in his biography Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, in a passage that reveals the scientific foundation of one of the greatest political tracts ever published:

The idea of “self-evident” truths was one that drew less on John Locke, who was Jefferson’s favored philosopher, than on the scientific determinism espoused by Isaac Newton and on the analytic empiricism of Franklin’s close friend David Hume. In what became known as “Hume’s fork,” the great Scottish philosopher, along with Leibniz and others, had developed a theory that distinguished between synthetic truths that describe matters of fact (such as “London is bigger than Philadelphia”) and analytic truths that are self-evident by virtue of reason and definition (“The angles of a triangle equal 180 degrees”; “All bachelors are unmarried.”) By using the word “sacred,” Jefferson had asserted, intentionally or not, that the principle in question—the equality of men and their endowment by their creator with inalienable rights—was an assertion of religion. Franklin’s edit turned it instead into an assertion of rationality.

Sticking with science paid off. Where people embraced the Enlightenment worldview that morals and values must be grounded in reason and science, it was no longer acceptable to merely assert that your beliefs, morals and ways of life are better than others. After the Enlightenment it was necessary to provide reasons for your beliefs and values, and those reasons had better be grounded in rational arguments and empirical evidence or else they could be ignored or rejected.

By contrast, countries that quash free inquiry, distrust reason and practice pseudoscience, such as Revolutionary France, Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Maoist China and, more recently, fundamentalist Islamist states, have historically tended to stagnate, regress and often collapse. Theists and post-modernist critics of science and reason often label the disastrous Soviet and Nazi utopias as “scientific,” but their science was a thin patina covering a deep layer of counter-Enlightenment, pastoral, paradisiacal fantasies of racial ideology grounded in ethnicity and geography.

This idea of equal rights for individuals is the product of the Enlightenment, as is the principle of free speech and the use of reason in an open dialogue that forces us to consider the merit of what the other person is saying. And if the other person makes sense, their superior ideas gradually chip away at our prejudices. Reason alone may not get us there. We need legislation and laws to enforce civil rights. But these institutions are premised on law being grounded in reason, and the legislation being backed by rational arguments. Without that, there is no long-term sustainability to moral progress, as it is just a matter of might makes right. To make morals stick you have to change people’s thinking. And more than any other it is the Classical Liberal worldview grounded in reason and science that is bringing about moral progress—even when politics get in the way.

Michael Shermer is the Publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, the host of the Skeptics Distinguished Science Lecture Series at Caltech, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. His latest book is The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom (Henry Holt, 2015).

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

This Bill Could Help Veterans With Mental Health

Military uniform jacket
Getty Images

22 veterans commit suicide each day

Marine Clay Hunt received a hero’s welcome when he returned home to Texas after serving as a sniper in Afghanistan and Iraq. Struggling with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, the Purple Heart-winner became a widely-recognized advocate for veterans. In 2011, two years after leaving the Marines, the 28-year-old became one of the 8,000 veterans who commit suicide every year.

Earlier this week, four years after Hunt’s suicide, the United States Senate unanimously passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, and President Barack Obama will likely sign it into law. Among other things, the new law would create a comprehensive outreach program to address veterans’ mental health and provide financial incentives to psychiatric doctors who work with veterans.

Read more: Why Can’t the Army Win the War on Suicide?

“While we are a little bittersweet, because it is too late for our son Clay, we are thankful knowing that this bill will save many lives,” said Clay Hunt’s mother, Susan Selke, in a statement.

The recently passed bill provides a good starting point to help an at-risk population, but it’s a small step forward in addressing a longtime problem that has only been growing in severity, experts say. Veteran suicide claims the lives of 22 veterans each day. At around 30 suicides per 100,000 veterans, the suicide rate is more than double the rate for the general population.

The reasons for the high suicide rates are not entirely clear, but researchers say that military life exposes soldiers to a series of risk factors that place them at a heightened suicide risk, even though someone in the military is usually healthier physically than someone in the general population.

“Going into the military isn’t going to increase your risk of suicide,” says Martha Bruce, professor of sociology in psychiatry at Cornell University. “It’s the experiences either during [service], or in the transition, or after.”

First and foremost, combat exposes soldiers to traumatic life and death situations, and depression and PTSD may result. Others soldiers return with brain injuries. All of these ailments have been linked to increased risk of suicide.

Read more: Killed in Action, Far From the Battlefield

Experts point out that even those who return from service mentally healthy and without injury issue face a tough life transition when they return home. Many cannot find immediate employment and struggle to adapt to the culture of civilian life more broadly. Only 72% of veterans of the last decade’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were employed in 2013, according to government statistics. Struggling to adjust, some turn to alcohol, which is another risk factor for suicide. One in four veterans exposed to heavy combat binge drinks at least once a week, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Shaped by the what Bruce calls the “self-reliant culture” of the military, veterans may be reluctant to seek help even when they recognize that they have a problem. “Culture plays a big role when it comes to not necessarily who gets distressed, but what people do in response to that,” says Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “The culture in the military and, certainly with veterans, is a very stoic one traditionally.”

An Air Force anti-suicide program initiated more than a decade ago aimed to tackle the cultural issue by making service members feel comfortable reporting their conditions, Moutier says. And that’s a big part of what the recently passed Clay Hunt Act seeks to do. Peer support counselors will work with veterans in local communities to make addressing mental health issue feel more culturally acceptable.

Read more: Dangerous Cases: Crime and Treatment

“You have to go to where people are, both in physical location as well as in their mindset,” Moutier says.

Suicide researchers say the bill is a step in the right direction, but they also acknowledge that the complexity of the issue makes it difficult to know what the legislation’s long-term effect will be.

“There isn’t a panacea that’s going to reverse the trend,” says Mark Kaplan, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Suicide is one of the most complex public health problems out there.”

TIME faith

Why Obama Was Only Half Right to Call Out Christianity Over Jim Crow

Obamas Attend National Prayer Breakfast
Pool / Getty Images President Barack Obama speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 5, 2015 in Washington, DC.

At the National Prayer Breakfast, the President discussed the history of crimes committed in the name of religion

Conflicts that happened about a thousand years ago don’t often make news, but on Thursday President Obama brought the Crusades back into the spotlight. Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., the President spoke of the need to reconcile the good that religion can do with the crimes committed in its name. “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” he said. “In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

Opponents quickly jumped on the remarks as offensive to Christians, arguing that the Crusades happened so long ago that they’re not worth mentioning. But, even so, the history behind the relationship between slavery, Jim Crow and religion is one that certainly illustrates Obama’s point. And, while the President’s opponents seem to have largely ignored that part of the sentence in their responses to the Prayer Breakfast, that more recent past offers parallels for today — especially because the President only told half of the story.

It’s no slander to say that slavery and Jim Crow were often justified “in the name of Christ,” since that’s true. It wasn’t even very long ago that such justifications received legislative attention. Though slavery itself may, to some, fall with the Inquisition into the too-long-ago-to-matter category, faith-inspired reasons for racism persisted long into the 20th century.

Take, for example, Theodore Bilbo. The powerful Southern politician was named by TIME as 1946’s “Villain of the Year.” Though he had been in the public eye for decades, the magazine noted, “not until 1946 did the U.S. really savor the fulsome putrescence of Bilbo‘s bigotry.”

Bilbo had been Governor of Mississippi and a Senator for the state, as well as the frequent protagonist of smaller dramas, having been tried over the years on charges that ranged from contempt of court to bribery. He had been trained as a Southern Baptist minister, though not ordained, and was also a Ku Klux Klansman. He never made any secret of his feelings against both Jews and African Americans — he was so well-known for his racism that in 1945 the Broadway play Strange Fruit, which was about race relations, used a negative quote from Bilbo as part of an advertisement — but it was in 1946 that he published a screed he titled Separation or Mongrelization, Take Your Choice.

The book’s central argument was that he didn’t actually hate any race, but rather that he believed they should be kept entirely separate, an idea that he supported with spurious historical examples of race-mixing causing various civilizations from ancient history to collapse. The reason seemed obvious to him: “The fact that God did ordain the division of the people of the earth into separate races as a part of the Divine plan is sufficient for our purpose,” he wrote. In a chapter called “False Concepts of the Christian Religion,” he continued the point, arguing that God had placed the races in different parts of the Earth in order to keep them separate, and citing scriptural passages — “a bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord…” — to support the importance of that separation. And, though he claims that he bears no ill will toward the other races, he makes clear that he knows that separate does not mean equal.

Bilbo was not alone in his belief that religion mandated racism. And remember, this is 1946, not Medieval times or even the antebellum era. If chronological closeness is the barrier for comparison, then certainly the President is justified in drawing a connection between such deeds justified in the name of Christianity back then and deeds justified in the name of Islam or any other religion today.

But it’s also interesting to note that that particular chapter of Bilbo’s book was addressed specifically to those who believed the exact opposite — a group that was growing in strength.

Even though Obama’s argument about Jim Crow holds true, it’s also true that Christianity (and other religions, though less so due to demographics) was used as an argument against Jim Crow too. And, as time progressed, that side began to prevail.

In fact, a mere two years after the publication of Bilbo’s book, the Federal Council of Churches officially denounced segregation, stating that Jim Crow was “a violation of the gospel of love and human brotherhood.” Though many Southern churches did not desegregate after that declaration, Christian conferences and councils over the next decades made equality their focus. In 1957, for example, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church told its ministers that “it is unthinkable that a Christian should join himself to Klan or Council whose purpose is to gain its point by intimidation, reprisal and violence, or that he should lift no voice of protest against those who appeal to prejudice and spread fear.”

As the Civil Rights movement continued, Christianity — especially via dedicated organizations like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference — was one of the driving factors in protest against discrimination. It’s no coincide that Martin Luther King, Jr., was a minister.

So Jim Crow was both a perfect example (and a recent one) of the religious rationalization that Obama mentioned Thursday and an example of the way religion can help the world. Which, in the end, although he didn’t actually get into the details of the complicated relationship between civil rights and Christianity, makes it an even better historical illustration of his point: that faith has often been used to justify evil, so it’s all the more important to make sure it’s used to do good instead. As the President put it, the reality is that “the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths [operates] alongside those who seek to hijack religion for their own murderous ends.”

History shows that to be true — even without reaching back to the Crusades for proof.

Read next: Dalai Lama: ‘Muslim Practitioners Must Extend Love Towards Entire Creation of Allah’

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TIME Australia

Australian Prime Minister Faces Challenge to Leadership

Prime Minister Tony Abbott Addresses The National Press Club
Stefan Postles—Getty Images Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks at the National Press Club in Canberra on Feb. 2, 2015

Next week's leadership ballot seeks to potentially oust Abbott

(CANBERRA) — Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Friday that he and his deputy will urge the ruling party to reject calls to hold a leadership ballot next week that could potentially oust them.

Lawmaker Luke Simpkins said in an email to colleagues that he will move a motion at a ruling Liberal Party meeting on Tuesday calling for Abbott to declare that his job and that of his deputy Julie Bishop are open to a ballot of 102 government lawmakers.

Abbott said he and Bishop, the foreign minister, would urge the meeting to reject the motion. He said that Australians had voted out the chaotic and divided center-left Labor Party government in 2013 because it had changed its prime minister twice in four years.

“They are perfectly entitled to call for this, but the next point to make is that they are asking the party room to vote out the people that the electorate voted in in September 2013,” Abbott told reporters.

“We are not the Labor Party and we are not going to repeat the chaos and the instability of the Labor years,” he added.

If the motion is passed, it is not yet clear whether any lawmaker will be nominated to run against Abbott or his foreign minister.

Halfway through his first three-year term as prime minister, Abbott had been under increasing pressure over poor showings in opinion polls.

Public dislike of Abbott is blamed in part for conservative governments suffering big election losses in Victoria state in November and Queensland state in January.

He has also been widely criticized for making Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip, an Australian knight on Australia’s national day last month.

Simpkins said in an email to party colleagues the knighthood for Prince Philip was “the final proof of a disconnection with the people.”

“I think we must bring this to a head and test the support of the leadership in the party room,” he wrote.

Bishop and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull have been touted as potential replacements for Abbott.

While both have made public statements of support for Abbott, they can now sound out supporters from within government ranks now that the ballot is officially on the meeting agenda.

Other government lawmakers spoke out in support of Abbott. Andrew Nikolic told colleagues in an email that the challenge was the “ill-disciplined and self-interested behaviors that the Australian people explicitly rejected in 2013.”

“Your actions are disappointing and divisive,” Nikolic told Simpkins in an email copied to other Liberal lawmakers. “You do not have my support for this.”

Government lawmaker Dennis Jensen, who like Simpkins is from Western Australia state, on Tuesday became the first to publicly state he had lost confidence in Abbott.

Colleague Sharman Stone said earlier Friday that the growing leadership crisis needed to be resolved next week when parliament sits for the first time this year.

“If Tony gets through this, we’ve got to get behind Tony,” she said.

“If someone else does, that’s our leader and we get behind that person, and we diminish the prospect of having Labor back in because that would be totally catastrophic,” she said.

TIME politics

Libertarianism Is on the Verge of a Political Breakout

Sen. Rand Paul Vaccine
Bill Clark—CQ-Roll Call,Inc./Getty Images Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during the news conference to unveil the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act (FAIR Act), legislation to "protect the rights of property owners and restore the Fifth Amendment's role in civil forfeiture proceedings" on Jan. 27, 2015.

David Boaz is executive vice president of the Cato Institute and author of 'The Libertarian Mind.'

The spotlight on Rand Paul may help more Americans fully embrace their libertarian ideals

Rand Paul’s leadership in the Senate – on the budget, regulation, privacy, criminal justice, and foreign policy – and his likely presidential campaign are generating new attention for libertarian ideas.

“Libertarianism is hot,” headlined the Washington Post in 2013. From an almost-forgotten part of American political culture, libertarianism has grown into a respected and much-discussed political faction and a compelling set of ideas that challenge the conventional wisdom. Tens of millions of Americans are fiscally conservative, socially tolerant, and skeptical of American military intervention.

The growth of the libertarian movement is a product of two factors: the spread of libertarian ideas and sentiments, and the expansion of government during the Bush and Obama administrations, particularly the civil liberties abuses after 9/11 and the bailouts and out-of-control spending after the financial crisis. As one journalist noted in 2009, “The Obama administration brought with it ambitions of a resurgence of FDR and LBJ’s active-state liberalism. And with it, Obama has revived the enduring American challenge to the state.”

That libertarian revival manifested itself in several ways. Sales of books like Atlas Shrugged and The Road to Serfdom soared. “Tea party” rallies against taxes, debt, bailouts, and Obamacare drew a million or more people to hundreds of protests. “Crony capitalism” became a target for people across the political spectrum. Marijuana legalization and marriage equality made rapid progress. More people than ever told Gallup in 2013 that the federal government has too much power.

In studies that David Kirby and I have published at the Cato Institute on “the libertarian vote,” we have found that only 2 to 4 percent of Americans say that they’re libertarian when asked. But 15 to 20 percent – 30 to 40 million Americans – hold libertarian views on a range of questions. The latest Gallup Governance Survey finds 24 percent of respondents falling into the libertarian quadrant, matching the number of conservatives and liberals and up from 17 percent in 2004 and 23 percent in 2008. And when asked in a Zogby poll if they would define themselves as “fiscally conservative and socially liberal, also known as libertarian,” fully 44 percent of respondents – 100 million Americans – accept the label. Those voters are not locked into either party, and politicians trying to attract the elusive “swing vote” should take a look at those who lean libertarian.

In two presidential campaigns, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) attracted hundreds of thousands of followers to his combination of antiwar, anti-spending, and sound-money (“End the Fed”) ideas, and showed them that these views were “libertarian.” Two national student organizations Students for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty now take libertarian ideas to thousands of college campuses in the United States and well beyond.

Now his son, Rand Paul (R-KY), is generating headlines about the GOP’s libertarian wing and questions about libertarian ideas.

MORE Shhhh, Rand Paul: A Guide for Politicians on How Not to Talk to Women

In the past week alone Paul has joined Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to introduce legislation designed to limit the use of mandatory minimum sentencing laws, introduced along with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) a bill to encourage companies to “repatriate” overseas cash, proposed to audit the Federal Reserve, and found himself in the crosshairs when he questioned the need for compulsory vaccination laws.

Libertarianism, a belief in what Adam Smith called “the obvious and simple system of natural liberty,” is the core philosophy of America. The first colonists fled aristocratic Europe to find religious liberty, individualism, and economic opportunity. They declared their belief in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. American history has been a struggle between liberty and power, between those who wanted to defend and extend the liberties guaranteed in the Constitution and those who wanted to make the United States more like the countries our ancestors left, with powerful and paternalistic government. Throughout our history, libertarian sentiments have been rekindled when the federal government has grown beyond what Americans will tolerate—such as the past few years.

Today, libertarians support policies based on these same principles – lower taxes, less regulation, protection of civil liberties, personal freedom, and a foreign policy based on a strong national defense and avoidance of foreign wars. In recent years libertarians have led the way in supporting marijuana legalization, gay marriage, gun rights, school choice, and restrictions on NSA surveillance of Americans, and in opposing policies ranging from Obamacare and Wall Street bailouts to the Iraq war.

Whether or not Rand Paul wins the presidency, one result of his campaign will be to help those tens of millions of libertarian-leaning Americans to discover that their political attitudes have a name, which will make for a stronger and more influential political faction.

In my book The Libertarian Mind I argue that the simple, timeless principles of the American Revolution—individual liberty, limited government, and free markets—are even more important in this world of instant communication, global markets, and unprecedented access to information than Jefferson or Madison could have imagined. Libertarianism is the framework for a future of freedom, growth, and progress, and it may be on the verge of a political breakout.

Read next: Watch 5 Elevator Pitches from 2016 GOP Contenders

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Congress of Vienna that Influence Us Today

The Congress of Vienna statesmen left a legacy of solid accomplishments, many of which still influence us today

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

Two hundred years ago, European rulers were in the midst of what may well have been the most extravagant celebration in history—the “Congress of Vienna.” After more than two decades of war against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, it was time for the victorious allied sovereigns, their ministers and generals to kick back and enjoy themselves.

The previous May, they had issued an open invitation to all interested parties to send representatives to Vienna, capital of the Austrian Empire, to participate in the reconstruction of Europe. Their intent was to secure the assent of the rest of Europe to their own decisions, but the plan backfired when they failed to reach agreement among themselves before the other guests to the party began arriving.

Hundreds of representatives and their entourages showed up, swelling the population of the walled city along the Danube by more than a third. The Austrian Emperor and his foreign minister, Prince Metternich, played the hosts, and despite the perilous state of imperial finances, they spared no expense in lavishness. The Russian Tsar and the Kings of Prussia, Denmark, Bavaria and Wurttemberg all resided as special guests in the Hofburg Palace in the heart of Vienna. 170 new imperial carriages were built just for the occasion, while thousands of sumptuous new uniforms were manufactured to clothe an expanded imperial staff. Every night, hundreds of guests ate at the Emperor’s expense. There were nightly dinners and soirées, frequent masked balls, and a series of spectacular special events, such as a costumed medieval joust in the Spanish Riding School and a giant sleigh ride to the Palace of Schönbrunn on the outskirts of the city. These festivities didn’t continue just for days—they went on for months and months.

Beneath all the frivolity, the Congress statesmen left a legacy of solid accomplishments, many of which still influence us today:

1. The Congress of Vienna promoted principles of peace.

First and foremost, the Congress statesmen desired a territorial settlement that would preserve the peace. Since they saw the greatest threat to Europe as coming from France, they surrounded her with a series of buffer states: Belgium was united with the Netherlands to the northeast; the Italian state of Piedmont was given control of Genoa to the south; and Prussia was awarded the Rhineland to the west. All the states of Europe were invited to sign the Vienna “Final Act,” making it the cornerstone of public law in Europe. No war between any of the great powers occurred for the next 40 years, until the Crimean War, and no major war on the scale of the Napoleonic Wars took place until the outbreak of World War I a century later.

2. The Congress participants provided an example of compromise rather than war.

To achieve this spectacular success, the diplomats at Vienna chose the path of negotiation over confrontation. It was the first time that heads of state and their chief ministers had personally attended such a peace conference, and they set the tone by reaching a series of astute compromises rather than coming to blows, even over the issues where they most disagreed, such as the reconstruction of Central Europe.

3. The Congress settlement helped Europeans to enjoy their greatest economic progress in history.

After centuries of almost continuous warfare, Europeans at last enjoyed an extended period of peace. This coincided with the Industrial Revolution and its momentous strides in manufacturing, transportation and communications. Stability on the continent of Europe also meant that European states—for better or for worse—exported their rivalries overseas and created new colonial empires in Africa and Asia.

4. Almost no part of Europe was left untouched.

All across Europe, the Congress statesmen negotiated agreements and drew lines that continue to affect European borders today. They gave Salzburg to Austria, added Geneva to Switzerland, and Genoa to Piedmont. They inserted the new Swiss Constitution into the Vienna Final Act, and guaranteed the Swiss Confederation’s future neutrality. They secured the rebirth of an independent Netherlands, which Napoleon had incorporated into France. During the Congress of Vienna, the Prince of Orange announced he was assuming royal powers. It was during the Congress of Vienna, too, that Norwegians declared their independence. They objected to allied plans to end their dynastic union with Denmark and unite them with Sweden. In the end, Norwegians were forced to submit, but the constitution they drafted in 1814 remains the framework for their government to this day.

5. The Congress established the principle of the free navigation of European rivers.

The allied powers established the principle of freedom of navigation on major European waterways, and established the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine, arguably the oldest working international commission still in existence.

6. The Congress set an example of liberal humanitarianism by working towards religious toleration and abolition of the slave trade.

The Congress statesmen opposed religious intolerance and included specific measures in the Vienna Final Act to protect the rights of German Jews. They also held lengthy discussions on ending the slave trade. A general declaration against the slave trade was issued and the groundwork for its future abolition was laid.

7. The Congress ended vexatious disputes over diplomatic precedence.

The question of diplomatic precedence had been a source of much bickering in the past. A special committee was formed at the Vienna Congress to resolve these problems once and for all, and it did so by devising commonly accepted rules still in use 200 years later.

8. The Congress had a profound cultural impact, from the foods we eat to the music we enjoy.

Ludwig van Beethoven conducted a performance of his Seventh Symphony at the Congress, as well as a new cantata he composed especially for the occasion. The waltz, a dance of whirling couples that required far greater touching by partners, was already fashionable in Vienna and became an international sensation during the Congress. The delegates at Vienna also vied with one another to serve the best cuisine. Talleyrand brought his best chef to entice his visitors with rich sauces and scrumptious deserts. Wiener Kongresstorte, a cake filled with walnut cream, is still served in Viennese cafés.

9. Without the Congress of Vienna, there would have been no Waterloo.

This June, the world will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of Waterloo, but this battle might never have taken place had it not been for the Congress of Vienna. Napoleon escaped from Elba and landed in France in March 1815, while allied leaders were still assembled in Vienna. As soon as they heard the startling news, they met and instantly resolved to band together to unseat their former adversary.

10. The Congress of Vienna led to the later “Congress System,” which in turn influenced the formation of the League of Nations and United Nations.

Last but not least, the Congress of Vienna suggested a new model of global governance. After the return of Napoleon and the Battle of Waterloo, the same ministers who had summoned the Congress of Vienna gathered in Paris to negotiate a new peace treaty with France. They also signed a separate alliance between themselves in which they pledged to hold periodic unions, known to historians as the “Congress System.” The simple idea was for the great powers to meet to discuss outstanding issues, to reach a consensus, and then to impose their collective will on the rest of Europe. The system did not last long because Britain, as a constitutional monarchy, could not agree with the more absolutist states on the systematic repression of all revolutions as a matter of principle.

A century later, when British policy-makers were designing the organizational structure of the new League of Nations, they looked back on this audacious experiment in international cooperation and specifically called for periodical meetings of the great powers. These became the “Council” of the new League and held most of its power—a partial resurrection of the Congress System of old. When the League of Nations was replaced by the United Nations in 1945, its Council was renamed as the Security Council. Thus, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council today are the very real heirs of the Congress System—that group of great powers that summoned all of Europe to Vienna 200 years ago. This is, no doubt, their greatest legacy of all.

Mark Jarrett is the author of “The Congress of Vienna and its Legacy” (London: I.B. Tauris, 2014) and will be a speaker at the forthcoming conference at the European Institute of Columbia University this February 5 and 6, “The Congress of Vienna, 1814-1815: Making Peace after Global War.”

TIME Infectious Disease

Democrats and Republicans Mostly Agree About Vaccines, Research Shows

Unlike guns, pot and global warming, vaccine views are not political

Despite the scientific consensus that vaccines are responsible for wiping out a wide variety of infectious diseases in the U.S., the current measles outbreak has politicians on the left and right weighing in on whether parents should be able to choose whether or not they vaccinate their children. Given the recent statements from a number of possible 2016 election contenders, you would think that vaccines are a widely divisive political issue. But according to data, they’re not.

In 2014, Dan Kahan, the Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law and professor of psychology at Yale Law School, surveyed 2,316 U.S. adults in order to assess public perceptions and attitudes about vaccines. He wanted to know whether the often repeated idea that the public is increasingly fearful of vaccines was true, and whether political parties were really split over vaccines’ risks and benefits. He found the answer was largely no.

Kahan’s data on vaccine-risk perception shows vaccines are one of the most agreed-upon topics regardless of political leaning. Compared with gun ownership, legalizing marijuana and global warming, vaccines are viewed as a generally low-risk by Americans across the political spectrum. And despite the stereotype that upper-class liberals are more likely to scorn vaccines, Kahan’s data, seen in the graph below, shows that people have slightly more negative assessments of vaccines as they become more conservative and identify more with the Republican Party. But the disparities are still really not that notable.

Dan KahanGraph from ‘s paper “Vaccine Risk Perceptions and Ad Hoc Risk Communication: An Empirical Assessment.”

Ultimately, Kahan’s No. 1 finding was this: “There is deep and widespread public consensus, even among groups strongly divided on other issues such as climate change and evolution, that childhood vaccinations make an essential contribution to public health.”

Overall, the people who distrust vaccines and do not vaccinate their children are largely random individuals. Kahan writes:

There was a modest minority of respondents who held a negative orientation toward vaccines. These respondents, however, could not be characterized as belonging to any recognizable subgroup identified by demographic characteristics, religiosity, science comprehension, or political or cultural outlooks. Indeed, groups bitterly divided over other science issues, including climate change and human evolution, all saw vaccine risks as low and vaccine benefits as high. Even within those groups, in other words, individuals hostile to childhood vaccinations are outliers.

With over 100 cases in 14 states, however, those outliers can’t be ignored.

TIME politics

Shhhh, Rand Paul: A Guide for Politicians on How Not to Talk to Women

Calm down, let me finish.

Most politicians know by now that making a major gaffe against women can lead to mocking on the feminist blogosphere and alienation of crucial female voters. That’s why the GOP even made a bunch of candidates sit through sensitivity training sessions on how to run against women. But these days, it’s hard to know exactly what might irritate women, so what’s a guy to do?

No, no, shhhh, calm down, gentlemen, no need to get upset: here’s a handy cheat-sheet of 5 things male politicians should never say to women.

1) “Sshhh”: When Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky repeatedly shushed CNBC’s Closing Bell co-anchor Kelly Evans, it came off as obnoxious and condescending. Especially when he paired it with “calm down” and “let me finish” before mansplaining that “your premise and your question is [sic] mistaken.” Women too often feel shut out of public debate, so literally trying to quiet a woman tends to grate.

2) “Attractive”: Here’s a good rule: Only compliment a woman’s appearance if she’s in your family (as in “mom, you look pretty”) or you’re romantically involved. Otherwise, hold your tongue in public, even if you think you’re being nice. When President Obama called Kamala Harris the “best-looking attorney general in the country” it came off as awkward, and when former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin called now-Sen. Joni Ernst “as good looking as Taylor Swift,” it made him look like a little weird.

3) “Ugly as sin”: If calling a woman politician attractive can come off as smarmy, calling her unattractive makes you look like a jerk. Republican New Hampshire lawmaker Steve Vaillancourt called U.S. Rep. Ann McLane Kuster “ugly as sin” in comparison to her opponent, Marilinda Garcia, whom he called “not so attractive as to be intimidating, but truly attractive.” And when Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York revealed that male colleagues had called her “porky” and “chubby,” it sparked a near-witch hunt to find the offenders in Congress.

4) Her first name: Using a female candidate’s first name instead of her title in a formal political context can come off as belittling. Just look at when Republican Thom Tillis debated then-Democratic Senator Kay Hagan for her North Carolina Senate seat. He repeatedly called her “Kay,” instead of “Senator,” causing one state reporter to say he “stopped just short of calling her ‘little lady.'”

5) Anything about being “likeable”: Obama’s lame quip that Hillary Clinton was “likeable enough” was another big gaffe from their 2008 face-off. (2016 Republicans, are you taking notes on this?) If you want people to like you, don’t talk about whether they’re likeable.

The bottom line: Treat women like other adult professionals, and you’ll be OK.

TIME Education

Shrinking the Education Gap Would Boost the Economy, Study Says

Students applaud as U.S. President Obama arrives to deliver the commencement address at the Worcester Technical High School graduation ceremony in Worcester
Kevin Lamarque —Reuters Students applaud as U.S. President Barack Obama arrives to deliver the commencement address at the Worcester Technical High School graduation ceremony in Worcester, Massachusetts June 11, 2014

A modest improvement in the lowest test scores could see GDP rise by $2.5 trillion by 2050

Narrowing the education gap between America’s poor and wealthy school children could accelerate the economy and significantly increase government revenues, according to a new study.

An improvement in the educational performance of the average student will result in “stronger, more broadly shared economic growth, which in turn raises national income and increases government revenue, providing the means by which to invest in improving our economic future,” says the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

The study is based on findings from a 2012 assessment given by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Data showed the U.S. education system performed poorly when compared against the world’s 34 developed nations, ranking below average in mathematics and just average in reading and science.

The Washington Center took America’s test score of 978, and in their most modest scenario boosted the achievement scores of the country’s bottom 75% testers so that the national score reached the worldwide developed nation average of 995 (or roughly equal with France).

This would raise the U.S. GDP by 1.7% by 2050, they found, which, taking inflation into account, would amount to a $2.5 trillion rise or an average of $72 billion extra per year.

The country would also make over $900 billion extra in total federal, local and state revenue.

If the U.S. were able to match Canada’s educational achievement score of 1044, the potential gain would be significantly higher. The study estimates that GDP would grow by 6.7%, equivalent to $10 trillion or about $285 billion per year.

This latter scenario would mean a revenue boost of $3.6 trillion.

The Washington Center said their findings suggest that governmental investments into education would pay for itself in the form of economic growth for many years to come.

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