Introduction: Understanding Liberal Democracy in the Present Day
Liberal democracy, as found primarily in modern western cultures, is a political form of government operating under elected representatives whose primary purpose is the exercise of the general will of its citizens while providing security, stability, and liberties to those whom it represents. In countries like the United States, the citizens have an equal right to vote regardless of race, gender, religion, title, or education level. All men and women are considered equal at the voting polls, whether they’re an informed voter regarding the issues at stake or not, and their voice is symbolized through the representatives they elect. These elected officials and the branches they uphold are obligated to protect the citizens on multiple levels, both in the domestic and the international arena, assuring their continued freedoms of open speech, religion, thought, health, and property through enacted legislation. Specifically, liberal democracies are required to provide citizens of the country –and, for clarification purposes, this includes legal residents, authorized visitors, and naturalized citizens, as well– protection of their natural rights and they are envisioned, although not always successful, to provide an environment that allows and encourages citizens to pursue enrichment, growth, and personal happiness.
Acts of terrorism –which I define, for the purposes of this essay, as acts of violence upon innocents and/or civilians with the intent of generating fear, physical or emotional harm, or inappropriate reactive force– occur globally and in countries of varying political structure, many scholars have pointed out correlations between “free societies” and terrorist violence. While many believe largely-organized terrorist groups are more likely to originate in “closed political systems,” such as those found in the monotheistic authoritarian states of the middle east, it cannot be denied that domestic terrorism is found in even the most democratic states of the west. While changes in reporting, classifying, and tracking acts of terrorism have made it substantially difficult to accurately report the rate of increase of both domestic and international terrorism, Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century author, Cynthia Combs, notes the escalation of terrorist activities in the United States at the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first century as both an indicator of American “blindness to the impact of globalization” as well as an insight into the weaknesses of our internal legislation and counter-terrorism efforts.
For most civilians, the variances and iterations of terrorism are hard to define, and, as a result, are not questioned when lumped together with anti-terrorism legislation directed at international threats, such as ISIS or al-Qaeda, even though the methodology required to reduce or eliminate domestic terrorism may not, in fact, be the same as those directed at larger, global threats outside of our democratic environment. For example, Donald J. Trump, the current president of the United States, passed an executive order in January 2017 to temporarily suspend immigration from several “predominantly Muslim countries,” believing this act (along with a strengthening of our military forces through increased budget for arms, resources, and vehicles) to be an essential step to eliminating the “very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas. This order, extremely controversial in nature, was defended by the president as a necessary step toward the protection of our liberal democracy and the citizens of the country from terrorist attack, even though it had little relevancy to the majority of documented cases of domestic and international terrorism on the United States soil in the previous twenty years. But why does the threat of international terrorism exist in the first place? And why, in a country founded on the principles of equality and the preservation of human rights, are counter-terrorism orders founded on loosely veiled discriminatory philosophies not only surfacing in modern legislation, but even present in the thought process of elected officials in the first place? While the United States certainly needs to enact and enforce certain minimum standards of anti-terrorism legislation for the protection of U.S. citizens from unprovoked acts of indiscriminant or radicalist-ideological violence, it will take a substantial internal review of our own structure, philosophies of thought, and handling of personal welfare before we can truly combat domestic and international terrorism.
In this essay, I will argue that legislative reform concerning citizen-welfare and overall well-being will have the greatest impact on reducing the aggrandizement of domestic terrorism, specifically events like the Pulse Nightclub Shooting in Orlando, Florida in 2016 and the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, while also lessening the impact of international terrorist strategists, the recruitment of U.S.-born or naturalized jihadists to terrorists sects, and the westernization of Middle Eastern cultures as a result of expanding commercialism supported by government treaties and lobbyists for prominent U.S.-based businesses. While acts of terrorism can never fully be eliminated from any government based on the erratic nature of radicalist or irrational ideological thought, the very foundations of liberal democracies allows it to repair, redefine, and rebuild its structure to better serve its population which, in turn, will limit terrorist organizations or individuals seeking to commit terrorist acts to not only find less footing among our people, but less motivation to act in the first place. This paper will examine the necessary corrections needed in the current U.S. climate of liberal democracy and what steps can be taken following (or, ideally, during) the current Trump presidency to help liberal democracy better serve its citizens and global neighbors.
Understanding the Faults of Our Current Government Structure
Fault One: Our Educational System
While the U.S. Constitution and our current legislation protects us, in theory, from harms inflected upon one another or ourselves, as well as shields our rights to free speech and religious practice, both enriching to the emotional stability of a nation, it does minimal to actively promote the welfare and well-being of its citizens beyond a “basic needs” sense. In John Locke’s Two Treatises, he argues that the power of government is limited to the public good and that any encroachment of the government or government officials on public good requires correction or redirection from the people. While scholars have argued over the interpretation of “public good” for centuries, I argue that Locke intended for government to not only protect the welfare of its people, but also actively promote their continued advancement. This belief was evidently shared by the original writers of the Declaration of Independence, most notably Thomas Jefferson, who believed so deeply in the empowering nature of education that he proposed the establishment of free, public schools to enable every child the ability to improve his “morals and faculties,” while better understanding his duties and rights as a citizen of his country and the world. Jefferson believed deeply in the cultivation of the citizens, recognizing that a government unchecked would ultimately fall prey to human corruptibility:
In every government on earth is some trace of human weakness, some germ of corruption and degeneracy, which cunning will discover, and wickedness insensibly open, cultivate, and improve. Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe their minds must be improved to a certain degree.
In the last fifty years, the United States has shifted its attention away from the type of education Jefferson and his constituents advocated –mainly, a liberal arts education with focus on critical thought, philosophical ideals, and the ardent study of alternative perspectives– in exchange for a dedicated focus on math, sciences, and “more pragmatic” studies. While these studies have led to undoubtable technological advancements, they’ve also led to the narrowing of the ideas, a lessening of critical thought, and a reduced interest in supporting creativity and open-mindedness. While public education is provided free-of-charge to U.S. citizens between kindergarten through twelfth grade, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002, introduced standards-based reform techniques that many educators argued forced them to teach children testing and memorization skills versus promoting an environment for true learning. Even though Congress repealed the No Child Left Behind Act and replaced it with the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, the legislation still places continued emphasis on standardized testing as the main method for school performance accountability, though lessening the punishments on school districts who perform poorly as well as allowing state legislation to implement reform at this discretion versus insisting on federal influence. The foundational education of the future generation of leaders centers not around broadening their minds or the deep development of their creativity, but rather on the preparation for standardized testing every year between third grade and eighth grade, with a final test in high school determining their propensity for success in a college or university. Parents wanting their children to have more exposure to the arts, foreign languages, or humanities outside of the Common have to pursue private educational routes, further perpetuating the widely-held claim that studying the liberal arts is a “luxury” of the rich and not a right of the people.
At the post-secondary level, the current structure of our liberal democracy fails its citizens in multiple ways. Unlike k-12 education, secondary institutions, even state-operated, are not tuition-free. While there are aid programs often found at the state and federal level, such as the Federal Pell Grant (need-based) and state-specific academic awards (such as Florida’s Bright Futures program), many higher-education seeking students are forced to utilize government student loans, private student loans, or cash payments in order to advance their academic studies. Given the financial investment most students make, even with the application of federal and state aid, students are encouraged to pursue educational paths that will justify their expense, reinforcing the “pragmatic” argument taught to them in their initial education that the STEM-courses (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) will be most fruitful. Instead of pursuing education as an opportunity to better oneself and be a better global citizen, as the founders of the country intended, the United States is currently encouraging students to dig a hole and make sure they learn the practical skills necessary to get them back out of it by the time they graduate. The study of religion, art, anthropology, and history are considered squandering of the minimal aid offered, and ill-preparation for the skill-hungry global workforce they’ve been told is waiting for them on the other end of the diploma.
Fault Two: Military Recruitment, Training, and Response
For those hesitant or uninformed about government assistance for education, another option is often presented as a means of acquiring skills, titles, and even free education: military service. Most public high schools across the country have military recruiters with permanent offices or, at minimum, designated and recurring visitations, with the sole purpose of building up the volunteer military. While it’s likely not uncommon for young adults to enlist due to patriotism, especially if there’s family history of service, it’s probably not the main reason most high school seniors are signed up by military recruiters. Given limited resources are available for post-secondary education, many youth can see military service as an opportunity to overcome financial obstacles, escape neighborhoods of poverty or limited career potential, and maybe even pursue altruistic means at the government’s direction. Already lacking in a humanities-centric education from their k-12 public education, these young adults are enlisted into a regimented training program designed to mold combat-ready soldiers and promote the ideology that American is the best, with any country of opposing views stereotyped into enemy classification: a recipe for prejudice at every level. And, with a current president advocating a massive budget increase to military preparedness and proselytizing of the evils of those abhorrent of Western ideals, it’s only a matter of time before a repeat of the “boots on the ground” strategy used by George W. Bush to physically combat international terrorism while reinforcing close-mindedness and Islamophobia at home.
For many of the youth enlisted shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the “education” they received in the military constituted their perception of the outside world: Islamophobia was written into their psyche, and a bloodlust, a need for revenge, began central to their purpose. Without fundamental understanding of terrorism, eastern cultures, and how the outside world operates, many soldiers lost the capacity to think critically for themselves, which, for some, resulted in catastrophic consequences. In his article, “The Making of an American Soldier,” Jorge Mariscal provides an example of the consequences of the “lack of options” for low-and-middle class youth:
Take the tragic example of Sgt. Paul Cortez, who graduated in 2000 from Central High School in the working-class town of Barstow, California, joined the Army, and was sent to Iraq. On March 12, 2006, he participated in the gang rape of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the murder of her and her entire family … On February 21, 2007, Cortez pled guilty to the rape and four counts of felony murder. He was convicted a few days later, sentenced to life in prison, and a lifetime in his own personal hell.
Mariscal goes on to compare America’s lack of opportunities to its youth as the crushing of its future:
Like a large mammal insensitive to its offspring’s needs and whereabouts, America is rolling over on the aspirations of its children and crushing them in the process.
As a liberal democracy, government should perpetuate the advancement of our society as a whole, and not just those with the resources to finance it. While certainly the case of Sgt. Paul Cortez does not represent the experiences of all enlisted in the military, it further demonstrates the need for all citizens to have access to education, counseling, and opportunities for the sustainability of the structure as a whole.
Fault Three: Healthcare
With the Affordable Care Act enacted by Congress and signed into law on March 23, 2010, millions of American citizens gained access to healthcare who were previously denied or couldn’t afford coverage. Even critics of the ACA, which includes current president Donald J. Trump and several elected Republicans working to repeal and replace the law, recognize that upwards of 16 million Americans have received care as a result of the aptly nicknamed Obamacare. One of the greatest successes of the ACA is the expansion of mental health and substance abuse coverage, the largest in nearly a generation, building on the protections originating from the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. As a direct result of the ACA, most health plans are now required to cover preventive services, such as depression screening and assessments for behavior/cognitive issues in children, at no costs. This not only helps the civilian population and those struggling with mental illness or addiction, it also provides a much needed service to the veterans and military personnel suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and other ailments following their service.
In a study conducted by the Pentagon in 2008 and published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009, it was determined that nearly one in five soldiers returning from war suffered from some form of PTSD or major depression. Given the frequency of the diagnosis and the debilitating effects of both illnesses, the availability of mental health care is crucial to the restoration and revival of a large population of retiring and active military, comprising over 7% of the current U.S. population. While this provision of healthcare is essential in caring for the well-being of the U.S. population, it also serves another important purpose: potentially stopping acts of domestic terrorism before they happen.
Between 2001 and 2014, there were nineteen instances of domestic terrorism in the United States. Of those cases, only two –the September 11 attacks and the Boston Marathon bombing– were concretely linked to terrorist efforts outside of the United States. The other cases, such as the Fort Hood shooting (2009), the Fort Stewart Army Base (2011), and the Sikh Temple shootings were linked back to former or active members of the military with suspected mental health issues dominant factors in their motivation. Even the El Al shooting by Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, who initially tried to give credit to an extremist group, was determined by investigators to more likely have been driven to his actions by his failing business, his troubled marriage, and being left alone on his birthday after his wife and children traveled back to Egypt to visit family.
While there is no guarantee these cases could have been prevented, the availability of mental health services and preventative care visits could have allowed them to seek the resources they needed to work through their problems. Several studies suggest that cognitive behavioral therapy is effective in improving “social skills, means-ends problem solving, critical reasoning, moral reasoning, cognitive style, self-control, impulse management, and self-efficacy” in youth and adults, all of which could limit or reduce tendency toward violent crime. Instituting the ACA in 2010 was a tremendous step forward by the liberal democracy to raise the vertical rights of U.S. citizens, and it’s maintenance –and revisions, if need-be to assuage all members of political office– should be enforced as a continued remedy to our failures in the past at sustaining the health and overall well-being of our population.
Enacting Change: Saving Liberal Democracy from Itself:
In order to preserve the values of liberal democracy, we must do what we do best: question authority, peacefully protest, and insist on change when our rights are not being addressed. The very strength of democracy is its ability to address failures, take corrective action, and move forward. Emulating other liberal democracies models for civilian well-being, such as our Canadian neighbors to the north of our Finnish neighbors to the East, we should put a renewed emphasis on the development of our people into greater, more enlightened members of the global community. While many consider the fragmentation and lack of social homogeny within the United States to be an invitation to terrorism, I argue that it is the nature of our differences and the ability to take account of them that enables us to constantly revisit our foundations to determine when corrections are needed. Our diversity binds us and keeps us strong.
In order to reduce the recurrences of domestic terrorism, specifically those instances not related to organized radicalist-groups outside of the United States, we need to improve the quality of life and available resources for our citizens. The more safe, secure, educated, and supported our citizens feel, the less likely they are to be seduced by ideology, radicalist brotherhood, or other false “shelters” from a government not meeting their needs. Investments made specifically to healthcare, such as the enhancements and modifications to the ACA, will enable and encourage more people to address physical and mental health concerns before they pose an issue debilitating to their way of life. Instead of allowing an untreated health concern to lead someone to disability and potentially resentment, affordable medical treatment can allow for rehabilitation and, ideally, return to normal or an advanced way of life.
Through modification of our military recruitment, we’ll limit the possibility of emotionally, physically, or academically unprepared citizens entering into warfare, as well as limit the access of militarized weapons into the hands of people barely out of childhood. With revisions to military preparation, current gun laws should also be revised, with the implementation of mental health screenings and psychological analysis made a component of all gun-license issuance. With nationalized healthcare providing free mental health screenings, there should be minimal push-back from citizens from an economic standpoint. In his Two Treatises, John Locke emphasized that a child or someone incapable of conducting rational thought, which could include severe mental illness, should not be in full-charge of their liberties, and I feel the implementation of this test would reinforce the Lockeian principle without inhibiting on the rights of citizens.
Finally, in order for all of these changes to be solidified and ensure that the future generations raised in our liberal democracy maintain and enhance upon our developments, the availability of free and less-expensive tuition options should be rolled out with availability to the masses. Following in-line with the presidential campaign ideals of Democratic Senator of Vermont, Bernie Sanders, I believe community colleges should offer free tuition for all incoming students regardless of income and in light of previous academic aptitude, with the provision that tuition remains free for the duration of their Associate’s as long as they maintain a 2.0 or above. High academic achievement, which I’ll define as a 3.0 or above, would allow them to progress to state universities for their Bachelor’s degree with free tuition, as well, and with a contingency that at least 15 hours of academic pursuits be dedicated to the arts or humanities (beyond the scope of General Education) of the student’s choice if they choose a major outside of the liberal arts. This would not inhibit their ability to take the required courses of their field of choice, and there will be no academic penalty associated with poor grades in these classes, but potential scholarship awards for higher learning (graduate school and above) for high academic achievement. For the financial protection and security of higher learning institutions and to ensure healthy competition between them, graduate and post-graduate tuition will not be free, but individual states may award scholarships, grants, and additional financial aid at their discretion based on academic performance standards and potential work-study initiatives through government internships or job placement tracks with the individual colleges and universities. In this proposal, the private sector may still offer vocational, trade, and non-arts based courses at their discretion, and citizens may opt to pursue this form of education in lieu of the government-funded programs at their own expense; to maintain the liberties envisioned by our founding fathers, citizens must always have the right to not pursue these choices, as well, even if it is in their best benefit to do so.
All three of these changes –improved healthcare availability and coverage, educated and supported military, and availability of affordable education– are all linked in multiple studies to higher reported quality of life, lower instances of violence or violent crimes, and higher political stability. Countries such as Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, and Norway all outrank the United States for “quality of life” per John Gerzema and David Reibstein’s analysis of eighty countries with similar government structures to the United States. The biggest difference, especially among those ranking above the U.S., was found in the areas of public education, public health, and political stability. It’s also no coincidence that all five of these countries have lower reported violent crime rates compared to the United States, as well as lower acts of international terrorism on their soil. By taking better care of our citizens, we stand a better chance of lowering overall violent crime rates, improving our diplomatic and international relations by raising future leaders with a broader perspective of the world and human rights, and improving the general health and well-being of our citizens, thus producing a stronger and better equipped army should military action be necessitated.
While I have no doubt in the viability of my argument and the logic presented, the greatest challenge to these necessary improvements is the current political climate we face. We, as a society, and currently reaping the repercussions of these grave faults –lack of available healthcare, over-armed and under-prepared military, and an entire generation who’s been raised to devalue the opinions and perspectives of others in light of their own. The current president and his supporters feel that the United States needs to be an aggressive force in combating terrorism, failing to realize that the current methodologies at play may, in fact, contribute to the growth of these radicalist organizations through our ostracizing and poor treatment of refugees and illegal aliens seeking safety, employment, or protection in our orders. By treating others like they’re the enemy, we’re encouraging them to find solace or safety in the hands of their oppressors. Strengthening our military armaments and tools, as President Trump has recently proposed, without first taking corrective action to ensure they’re mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared for the challenges of war and the exposure to different cultures is a recipe for disaster, and not for a win in the war on terror.
The United States has a chance to not only amend liberal democracy to better serve its citizens, but to improve upon it in such a way that it influences countries around the world to model our behavior. We’ve been a leader in the past and we have the voracity and energy to do so again, but it will take the citizens –the people who had shed their freedoms in exchange for the protections and obligations government affords them– to exercise their constitutional rights and question the current direction of our leader. We can fix this mess and improve international relations, lessening both domestic and international terror, by staying true to our ideals –we just have to be brave enough to do it before it’s too late.
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 While each country represents various iterations of a liberal democracy, most of the European Union, North America, Australia, South Africa, and a handful of Asian countries fall under this political structure.
 With the exception of a few states operating under a lifelong denial of voting privileges due to previous felony conviction (Roth 2016). It’s estimated that over six million Americans (as of 2016) are denied the right to vote due to felony convictions, upwards of 2.5% of the eligible voting population, due to prison population growth (Uggen, Larson, & Shannon 2016).
 In this case, I specifically mean a structure in which race, gender, age, religion, or other superficial categorical definition cannot be used to repress the pursuit of education, wealth, personal well-being or other vertical rights.
 Ignatieff 2006; Combs 2012; Jebb 2003, and others.
 Keefer & Loayza 2008.
 Combs 2012.
 Friedman 2017.
 Shear and Cooper 2017; Trump 2017.
 Bergen 2016. Human rights activists around the world condemned this executive order, labeling it as “sanctioned religious persecution dressed up to look like an effort to make the United States safer” (Shear and Cooper, 2017). Many critics were also quick to point out that the seven countries included in the restrictions were not home to any major acts of terrorism on the United States, whereas countries directly attributed to attacks were not included in the executive order.
 While it’s certainly not the only cause of terrorism and likely not even the primary instigator, many scholars cite the encroachment of Western culture, specifically the Americanization –materialism, deviation from tradition, and lessening value of religion– of Middle Eastern society, to be a prevailing motivator for many terrorist movements (Combs 2012; Richards 2012).
 Given president Donald J. Trump’s polarizing stance regarding immigration reform, healthcare, the treatment of mental illness, and other policies relating to the preservation of natural rights, most of this paper’s proposals would not be able to be enacted until the end of his term.
 It wasn’t until the 1930s, in the height of the Great Depression, before the government implemented a national welfare system to ensure the basic needs of the starving population were met (Stern and Axinn 2011).
 Locke 2008.
 Jefferson, 1954.
 Jefferson 1954.
 While the great “space race” on the late 1950s and 60s is often attributed to the redirection of American attention to the STEM courses (science, technology, engineering, and math), a notable reemergence has been cited even in the most recent public officials. In fact, Florida Governor Rick Scott pushes to defund several majors falling under the “liberal arts” jurisdiction, citing that Americans can only survive in the global market through cutting down on “expensive luxuries” like philosophy and art history (Zakaria 2015).
 Levine 2008.
 Peterson 2003.
 The Common Core State Standards Initiative, created in 2009 by the National Governors Association, is a set of standards that defines what k-12 students should know in the fields of mathematics, reading, writing, speaking and listening, language, and media and technology. It has faced extensive criticism for its confusing testing structure, Draconian instructions, and complete disregard for other areas of intelligence or academic propensity (Peterson 2003; Jimenez 2016).
 The average student graduating in 2016 now has $37,172 in student loan debt, with the average MBA student borrowing $42,000 to finance the degree and the average Master of Arts student borrowing $58,539 to cover their graduate studies (Center for Microeconomic Data 2016)
 Its no wonder materialism, a desperate pursuit for wealth and objects, has become a decreasing trend among millennials: they can’t afford additional debts after graduation.
 While most recruiters find it very offensive to call the practice “poverty drafting,” many recruiters find greatest success in low-income school districts (Mariscal 2007).
 Richardson 2012.
 Mariscal 2007.
 Mariscal 2007.
 Obama 2013.
 Jacobson 2017. Coincidentally, when the GOP and current President Donald J. Trump attempted to repeal and replace “Obamacare” within the first ninety days in office, many of his supporters were unaware that the ACA, which several were insured through, and Obamacare were, in fact, the same thing.
 Jacobson 2017; HHS 2017.
 HHS 2017.
 Huljich 2010.
 As of the latest census from the Defense Manpower Data Center of the Department of Defense, we currently have close to 1.5 million people serving in the U.S. military (throughout all branches), with approximately 22 million military veterans as of 2014, per the Department of Veterans Affairs (Guo 2014).
 Chronologically: the September 11 attacks (2001), the Anthrax attacks (2001), El Al Counter Shooting (2002), Beltway Sniper Attacks (2002), Knoxville Church Shooting (2008), Pittsburgh Police Officers Killed (2009), Tiller Abortion Clinic (2009), Holocaust Museum Shooting (2009), Fort Hood Shooting (2009), Plane Crash into Austin IRS Building (2010), Fort Stewart Army Base (2011), Sikh Temple Shooting (2012), St. John’s Parish Police Ambush (2012), Boston Marathon Bombing (2013), LAX Shooting (2013), Overland Park Jewish Community Center (2014), Isla Vista Shooting (2014), Las Vegas Shooting (2014), Blooming Grove Attack (2014). This does not account for non-terrorist labeled acts of aggression or homicide (Jones and Bower 2016).
 CNN 2003.
 Lipsey 2009; Landenberger & Lipsey 2005; Milkman & Wanberg 2007.
 Crenshaw 2005.
 Locke 2008. While this seems the least consequential of my reforms, it would likely receive the most push back, with large portions of the population declaring it a violation of their right to bear arms. In this case, I argue that the right is still intact, only an additional screening is necessary to ensure they can actually bear them.
 While it’s certainly hard to fathom, a right to ignorance –as long as it doesn’t encroach on the safety, security, and well-being of others– is something no government can deny its people.
 Gerzema and Reibstein 2016.
 Gerzema and Reibstein 2016.
 Gerzema and Reibstein 2016.
 Institute for Economics & Peace 2015. Respectively, the violent crime rate is hard to quantify due to variances in populations, but here is the yearly rate of homicides per 100,000 inhabitants per country mentioned:
United States 3.9%, Australia 1%, Canada 1.5%, Denmark 1%, Norway 0.6%, Sweden 0.9%.
 Huysmans 2004; Richards 2012.