Policy Roundup: February 2022

Key policy takeaways from Didi Kuo on U.S. electoral reforms; Keith Humphreys on the opioid epidemic; Oriana Skylar Mastro on China-North Korea relations; and Michael McFaul and Francis Fukuyama on the Ukraine-Russia crisis.

American Democracy

How America's Electoral System Benefits Authoritarianism, and How We Can Fix it
Didi Kuo, Associate Director for Research and Senior Research Scholar
Webinar, 2/02/22

  • Historically, two-party systems were thought to be advantageous to democracy, but recent trends seen in the American two-party system show how it can be exploited to allow extremist factions to have outsized control of the political landscape.
  • Because the United States draws very large congressional districts based on residence, the distribution of seats does not always reflect an accurate representation of votes for the major party. The result is a countermajoritarian system. Accounting for proportionality would help address these discrepancies of representation.
  • Implementing electoral reforms at the state level can help provide useful, workable templates for eventual reforms at the federal level.
  • The United States has a very decentralized campaign finance regime which allows non-party groups to have a lot of say in shaping candidates and campaigns. Examples from other democracies show that stronger campaign financing laws allow parties to exert much more control over their own politics, which in turn leads to more moderation in political outcomes.



Sanction Russia Now!
Francis Fukuyama, Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at FSI
American Purpose, 2/22/22 

  • After a slow, weeks-long build-up of forces, Russian troops on February 21 invaded Ukraine after Moscow recognized the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
  • The free world must apply maximal sanctions to Russia now. There can be no talk of a “limited” incursion that would merit a proportionate response.
  • Sanctions must be applied massively to the whole Soviet elite, not just specific industries or sectors.
  • Americans must stand firm in support for Ukraine and remain firmly committed to support Ukraine and other countries that want to create and cherish democratic institutions.
  • Unless maximal sanctions and resistance are applied now, the rest of Ukraine and the whole of Eastern Europe could become Moscow’s next target.


Congressional Hearing: Defending U.S. Allies and Interests Against Russian Aggression in Eastern Europe
Michael McFaul, FSI Director
House Comittee on Oversight and Reform-Subcommittee on National Security, 2/16/22

  • If Putin is willing to negotiate, President Biden should propose a grand bargain for enhancing European security and call it “Helsinki 2.0.”
  • A sweeping policy agreement like this is needed to move Europe and the West beyond defensive patchwork fixes and instead pivot to bold, aggressive initiatives to make the continent safer.
  • Start with steps toward revamping transparency, which will allow each country in the agreement to keep tabs on the other’s activities and better predict each other’s actions and commit all signatories to more frequent monitoring of troop deployments, weapons deployments, and military exercises.
  • Moscow and Washington could further bolster transparency by rejoining, amending, and modernizing previously effective agreements, such as the Open Skies Treaty and CFE.
  • The Biden Administration could also propose some limits on missile defenses in Europe, including negotiating to reduce the overall number of missiles, nuclear weapons and amount of conventional weaponry on the continent.
  • Western diplomats must insist again that Putin obtain permission before placing troops in other countries.


North Korea

North Korea is Becoming an Asset for China
Oriana Skylar Mastro, FSI Center Fellow
Foreign Affairs, 2/3/22

  • The Biden administration needs to develop a stronger North Korea strategy that deters further provocations, reassures South Korea, and demonstrates Washington’s continued resolve and credibility to Beijing.
  • Washington must support South Korea’s efforts to advance its offensive capabilities, such as the development of nuclear-powered submarines. South Korea, meanwhile, must scale up its combined exercises with the United States.
  • The United States should also use the renewed tensions on the Korean Peninsula to encourage closer Japanese–South Korean cooperation. By demonstrating greater coordination, the three countries would also make it harder for China or North Korea to fracture Washington’s East Asia alliances, regardless of the contingency.
  • The United States, South Korea and Japan must prepare for simultaneous provocations in East Asia by holding more trilateral defense minister meetings, more thoroughly review various contingency scenarios, and discuss how to enhance their combined capabilities.


The Opioid Epidemic

Stanford-Lancet Report Calls for Sweeping Reforms to Mitigate Opioid Crisis
Keith Humphreys, Stanford Health Policy Associate
Stanford Medicine, 2/2/22

  • Eliminate the marketing of controlled substances to prescribers and curtail pharmaceutical companies’ marketing of these drugs to consumers. Stop allowing the industry to claim tax deductions on the tens of billions it spends on marketing medications.
  • After approval of a drug by the FDA, make the government responsible for continued follow-up research on safety and for educating physicians about risk reduction. These responsibilities are currently taken on by industry.
  • Medical education about managing addiction — and about the risks of prescribing addictive medication — should be required before any health professional is granted a license to prescribe controlled substances.
  • End incarceration for illicit possession of opioids or drug-use equipment intended for personal use, including for pregnant women. Incarceration of people who have opioid addictions raises the risk that they will die of overdoses.

Receive updates on our policy outreach and engagement straight to your inbox.