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Friedman’s bottom lines were many, articulated in books, articles, Newsweek columns, a 1980 PBS series called Free to Choose and more. Freedom is society’s watchword, he maintains, and economic freedom is the gateway to political freedom and general prosperity. Competition between economic freedom and equality in outcomes is zero sum, and the former must win. Preceding Reagan’s inaugural address by nine years, Friedman wrote in Newsweek in 1972 that “government is the problem, not the solution.” Taxes are bad, ditto for regulations, and both should always be reduced. Budget deficits are never an excuse to raise taxes. Unions interfere with economic freedom. Global free trade, governed by clear rules, is the boss, even when partners manipulate their own markets. Though monopolies are bad, government intervention is a cure worse than the disease—so free markets should prevail. An influential proposition in his September 1970 op-ed in the New York Times Magazine asserted that the only legitimate purpose of for-profit corporations is return on equity to shareholders. Obligations to workers, customers, communities, the environment? Just say no. Just stay within the boundaries of law, he cautioned.

In 1979, Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain and Deng Xiaoping in China each assumed power with the Hayek-Friedman doctrine as a key influence. In 1981, Ronald Reagan joined them, declaring in his inaugural address that “in the current crisis, government is not the solution, government is the problem.” A new era—political, cultural and economic—had dawned in America and around the world and Stuart Butler had arrived just in time.

Camping with the Heritage Foundation

In 1973, a rising generation of conservative thinkers and activists formed the Heritage Foundation, intended as a “think and do” tank, a conservative force to counter the influence of the imposing Brookings Institution, the think tank of the liberal establishment. Unlike conservative fellow travelers at the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institution, Heritage founders wanted their experts and writers of reports, books and white papers to get in the face of members of Congress, offering free and timely advice, anytime, anywhere. They rejected only talking with conservative media, preferring relationships with anyone and everyone.

“Heritage was a bridge between the academic and the policy-making communities,” Butler remembers. “It was set up to combine the research functions of a Brookings with the activist approach of a [Ralph] Nader-type group.”

As a young, politically-oriented PhD, Butler fit Heritage’s profile well. And Heritage fit his. As an IRS 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, Heritage responded to requests for consultations without endorsing legislation or candidates. Their experts circulated accessible research on key issues rapidly to get analyses to mostly Republican members of Congress before votes, not after. In the 1970s, this was unprecedented help for congressional conservatives who noticed Heritage, as did the media and a significant part of the public. Though heavily funded in its early years by deep pockets such as Joseph Coors, Richard Scaife and other wealthy conservatives, Heritage rapidly developed a sizable paying membership base.

In 1980, shortly before Reagan’s inauguration, Heritage produced a 1,100 page “Mandate for Leadership” blueprint for the incoming administration, with 2,000 actionable recommendations to help them to hit the ground running in disassembling the New Deal state. Butler was a contributor, and when the project was repeated for the start of Reagan’s second term in 1985, he was lead author. He made a name fashioning and refashioning ideas for ambitious conservatives. In the early 1980s, he developed a U.S. version of the “urban enterprise zone” concept that offered tax advantages to corporations locating in distressed inner cities, an idea he borrowed from England and sold to policy entrepreneurs including Rep. Jack Kemp (R-NY).

Later in the decade Butler advanced “privatization” of government services including public housing, education and transportation. Many government services should be privatized, he argued, to save money and improve quality. In his 1985 book, Privatizing Federal Spending: A Strategy to Eliminate the Deficit, he wrote: “I see privatization as a very powerful device to change the rules of the game. It allows us to accept that society has an obligation to provide certain services, but gets you out of the trap of saying that they must be provided by government.” During the Reagan administration, Butler made the National Journal’s list of the 150 non-government officials with the greatest influence on decisions in Washington.

The health insurance conundrum

When Butler arrived in the U.S. in 1979 as a permanent resident, he remembers being shocked to learn that he had to sign up for health insurance. In England, access to health care had been a right since 1947 thanks to its National Health Service—no premiums, cost sharing, enrollment, narrow networks or the like that bedevil American consumers. This experience made an impression. “I went to the Blue Cross office in D.C. to sign up,” he remembers. “They asked, ‘who’s your employer?’ I said: ‘What’s that got to do with anything? This is odd.’”

Joe Antos of the American Enterprise Institute sees the U.K. connection as important to the evolution of Butler’s thinking: “Though he was no big fan of the NHS and had lived under it, he could ask questions that average smart Americans wouldn’t think of.”

In 1982, Butler became director of Heritage’s Domestic Policy Studies, a job spanning multiple policy domains. For the first time, health policy was his responsibility, and he managed a team that included health specialists such as Ed Haislmaier, who had strong analytical skills, and Bob Moffit with wide connections.

In the second half of the 1980s, U.S. health policy involving universal health insurance went from sleepy to hyperactive. In 1987, activists led by Boston physicians Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein started Physicians for a National Health Program that reinvigorated activism for a Canadian-style “single payer” health system. In Congress, the Pepper Commission chaired by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) proposed national reform built on a mandate for most employers to provide health insurance for their workers. This approach gained traction with passage in 1988 of a universal health care law in Massachusetts, signed by Democratic Governor (and presidential candidate) Michael Dukakis, that included an aggressive employer mandate, a law never implemented and repealed by 1996.

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Guinea declares end to latest Ebola outbreak

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“I commend the affected communities, the government and people of Guinea, health workers, partners and everyone else whose dedicated efforts made it possible to contain this Ebola outbreak,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“Based on the lessons learned from the 2014–16 outbreak and through rapid, coordinated response efforts, community engagement, effective public health measures and the equitable use of vaccines, Guinea managed to control the outbreak and prevent its spread beyond its borders.” The U.N. said it will continue to provide post-illness care.

The CDC welcomed the news in a statement.

“I commend the government and first responders in Guinea for ending the country’s Ebola outbreak,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. “Our heartfelt sympathies are with the people who lost loved ones to this disease. CDC remains committed to supporting survivor programs and helping strengthen global preparedness and response capacities that can prevent or extinguish future Ebola outbreaks.”

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Hard-line judiciary head wins Iran presidency amid low turnout

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In initial results, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei won 3.3 million votes and moderate Abdolnasser Hemmati got 2.4 million, said Jamal Orf, the head of Iran’s Interior Ministry election headquarters. The race’s fourth candidate, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, had around 1 million votes, Orf said.

Hemmati offered his congratulations on Instagram to Raisi early Saturday.

“I hope your administration provides causes for pride for the Islamic Republic of Iran, improves the economy and life with comfort and welfare for the great nation of Iran,” he wrote.

On Twitter, Rezaei praised Khamenei and the Iranian people for taking part in the vote.

“God willing, the decisive election of my esteemed brother, Ayatollah Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, promises the establishment of a strong and popular government to solve the country’s problems,” Rezaei wrote.

The quick concessions, while not unusual in Iran’s previous elections, signaled what semiofficial news agencies inside Iran had been hinting at for hours: That the carefully controlled vote had been a blowout win for Raisi amid the boycott calls.

As night fell Friday, turnout appeared far lower than in Iran’s last presidential election in 2017. At one polling place inside a mosque in central Tehran, a Shiite cleric played soccer with a young boy as most of its workers napped in a courtyard. At another, officials watched videos on their mobile phones as state television blared beside them, offering only tight shots of locations around the country — as opposed to the long, snaking lines of past elections.

Balloting came to a close at 2.a.m. Saturday, after the government extended voting to accommodate what it called “crowding” at several polling places nationwide. Paper ballots, stuffed into large plastic boxes, were to be counted by hand through the night, and authorities said they expected to have initial results and turnout figures Saturday morning at the earliest.

“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders, and the lower participation in Western democracies. After a day of amplifying officials’ attempts to get out the vote, state TV broadcast scenes of jam-packed voting booths in several provinces overnight, seeking to portray a last-minute rush to the polls.

But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

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Apathy greets Iran presidential vote dominated by hard-liner

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“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders and the lower participation in Western democracies. But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord. Former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also blocked from running, said on social media he’d boycott the vote.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

Khamenei cast the first vote from Tehran, urging the public to “go ahead, choose and vote.”

Raisi, wearing a black turban that identifies him in Shiite tradition as a direct descendant of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, voted from a mosque in southern Tehran. The cleric acknowledged in comments afterward that some may be “so upset that they don’t want to vote.”

“I beg everyone, the lovely youths, and all Iranian men and women speaking in any accent or language from any region and with any political views, to go and vote and cast their ballots,” Raisi said.

But few appeared to heed the call. There are more than 59 million eligible voters in Iran, a nation of over 80 million people. However, the state-linked Iranian Student Polling Agency has estimated a turnout will be just 44%, which would be the lowest since the revolution. Officials gave no turnout figures Friday, though results could come Saturday.

Fears about a low turnout have some warning Iran may be turning away from being an Islamic Republic — a government with elected civilian leadership overseen by a supreme leader from its Shiite clergy — to a country more tightly governed by its supreme leader, who already has final say on all matters of state and oversees its defense and atomic program.

“This is not acceptable,” said former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who sought to change the theocracy from the inside during eight years in office. “How would this conform to being a republic or Islamic?”

For his part, Khamenei warned of “foreign plots” seeking to depress turnout in a speech Wednesday. A flyer handed out on the streets of Tehran by hard-liners echoed that and bore the image of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020. A polling station was set up by Soleimani’s grave on Friday.

Some voters appeared to echo that call.

“We cannot leave our destiny in the hands of foreigners and let them decide for us and create conditions that will be absolutely harmful for us,” said Tehran voter Shahla Pazouki.

Also hurting a moderate like Hemmati is the public anger aimed at Rouhani over the collapse of the deal, despite ongoing talks in Vienna to revive it. Iran’s already-ailing economy has suffered since, with double-digit inflation and mass unemployment.

“It is useless,” said Ali Hosseini, a 36-year-old unemployed resident in southern Tehran, about voting. “Anyone who wins the election after some time says he cannot solve problem of the economy because of intervention by influential people. He then forgets his promises and we poor people again remain disappointed.”

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