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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
Subscribe now, or browse Back Issues.

Volume 15, Issue 26: June 25, 2013

  1. 10 Things You Need to Know from The Independent Review
  2. Down the Syrian Slippery Slope
  3. Event on Civil Liberties, Security, and Terrorism
  4. The Tabarrok Curve and U.S. Innovation
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts

The Independent Review: Subscribe or renew today and get a free copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Crisis and Levithan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, by Robert Higgs.


1) 10 Things You Need to Know from The Independent Review

Our summer edition of The Independent Review is the inaugural issue for the new co-editors—Christopher J. Coyne, Michael C. Munger, and Robert M. Whaples (who also serves as Managing Editor). Senior Fellow Robert Higgs has become Editor at Large and continues his popular “Eterceras...” column in every issue.

To whet your appetite for the summer issue, here are ten questions based on its contents, along with links to selected articles and reviews:

1. How does the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority decision in support of Obamacare’s individual mandate provision give Congress a powerful new tool for social regulation? Read the article.

2. What are the broader lessons of the federal government’s failed quest to develop the breeder nuclear reactor?

3. How did Earth Day create extra profits and influence for various business and activist groups?

4. Why has the European Union had such trouble with the euro?

5. What can new research about banks in nineteenth-century India contribute to current debates about fractional-reserve banking versus 100-percent-reserve banking?

6. How has the reemergence of regional oligarchs in contemporary China created problems for Beijing?

7. Why has a leading proponent of school choice reversed her position?

8. How did the social reformers of the Progressive era contribute to the institutional racism of Jim Crow? Read the article.

9. How did a mayor of fin-de-siècle Vienna become a model for populists, fascists, and socialists? Read the article.

10. Why have pundits and policymakers conflated recent government bloat with genuine economic growth? Read Robert Higgs’s “Etceteras...” piece.

Subscribe to The Independent Review. Respond to this subscription offer and receive a free copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, by Robert Higgs!

Order single copies of this issue or other back issues.

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2) Down the Syrian Slippery Slope

At the G-8 Summit in Northern Ireland, Russia was pressured by the other seven nations to help push Bashar al-Assad, Russia’s Syrian ally, to abdicate. But as Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland argues in his latest commentary, there are compelling reasons why it might be better if Assad remains in power.

There is no doubt that Assad is a ruthless dictator, but the alternatives would likely be far worse. The rebels have clear Islamist tendencies. Eland observes: “The most effective fighters on the Syrian rebel side are affiliated with al Qaeda, and Islamists lead other anti-government militias.” And although the governments of the United States, France, and Britain contend that Assad has used chemical weapons on a small scale, Eland warns: “Things could be much worse if Islamist rebels got a hold of them in any post-Assad chaos or sectarian civil war. So anyone wanting such weapons kept under control should best pull for Assad to win.”

Eland also points out that the American media has portrayed the rebels “as democrats in waiting” and Assad as evil. Yet, “the rebels have been guilty of human rights abuses, and may very well be not very democratic at all.”

Until recently, President Obama has been reluctant to escalate American involvement in a faraway country’s civil war. But now he has agreed to send small arms to Syrian rebels that Eland says will likely find their way into the hands of Islamist groups, as they have in the past. “And when an attempt to even the odds in the civil war likely fails, inevitably pressure will build for direct U.S. involvement with a Libyan-style ‘no fly zone’ or worse.” Eland concludes that “any foreign nation desiring stability, tamped down sectarian violence, and control over chemical weapons should favor Assad over the Islamist-dominant rebels.”

Down the Slippery Slope in Syria, by Ivan Eland (6/19/13)

No War for Oil: U.S. Policy and the Middle East, by Ivan Eland

NSA Snooping on Americans Is Unconstitutional and Outrageous, by Ivan Eland (6/11/12)

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3) Event on Civil Liberties, Security, and Terrorism

Could the eye-opening reports of the federal government sweeping up phone and electronic communications along with the reaction to the Boston Bombings be setting into motion a chain of events of ominous significance? Why should Americans care that the FBI is using drones over U.S. soil? What should Americans be most concerned about: violations of civil liberties or security in an age of terrorism? Or is there no tradeoff?

You are cordially invited to join with us for a special evening on Thursday, July 18, in association with our Challenge of Liberty Summer Seminars, as we discuss Civil Liberties and Security in an Age of Terrorism. This timely discussion will feature Robert Higgs, Anthony Gregory, and Mary L. G. Theroux as moderator.

Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at The Independent Institute, Editor at Large of The Independent Review, and author of Crisis and Leviathan; Delusions of Power; and Neither Liberty nor Safety. Anthony Gregory is Research Fellow and Director of Student Programs at The Independent Institute, and author of The Power of Habeas Corpus in America. Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President at The Independent Institute, columnist for the Huffington Post, and Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Alameda County Salvation Army.

Civil Liberties and Security in an Age of Terrorism, Thursday July 18 6:30-9:00pm, Oakland CA

Crisis and Leviathan, by Robert Higgs

Delusions of Power, by Robert Higgs

Neither Liberty nor Safety, by Robert Higgs

The Power of Habeas Corpus in America, by Anthony Gregory

The Stalinization of Amerika, by Mary Theroux (The Beacon, 6/17/13)

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4) The Tabarrok Curve and U.S. Innovation

Similar to “the Laffer Curve,” last year Independent Institute Research Director Alexander Tabarrok drew a curve on a virtual napkin to argue that, beyond a certain optimal point, greater patent protection for intellectual property results in less innovation, not more. Tabarrok thinks the U.S. is beyond the optimal point, and so does Matt Ridley of the Wall Street Journal.

In his column, Ridley invokes “The Tabarrok Curve” to highlight last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling against the patenting of genes on the grounds that they are discoveries, not inventions (though the court “did allow that edited copies of the DNA of a breast cancer gene should be seen as invented diagnostic tools”). Ridley notes that Tabarrok “thinks that decision and other recent rulings are nudging patent law back in the right direction after a protectionist drift in the 1980s and ‘90s.”

Patent protectionism occurs when patents are used defensively to deter rival innovators and thus to discourage innovation. Perhaps the worst example of this is the patent “troll”: a company that buys up little-used patents, not to develop the patented products, but to prosecute and extract money from rivals.

Ridley cites Tabarrok’s 2011 ebook Launching the Innovation Renaissance when offering policy recommendations. In most cases, Ridley argues, patents should be weakened and shortened to increase total innovation.

A Welcome Turn Away From Patents, by Matt Ridley (Wall Street Journal, 6/21/13)

The Tabarrok Curve: Why the Patent System Is Not Fit For Purpose, by Tim Worstall (Forbes, 6/24/13)

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

The IRS and Horrible Government
K. Lloyd Billingsley (6/24/13)

Regulating Americans Into the Poorhouse
Craig Eyermann (6/23/13)

$70 Million More Reasons to Hate the IRS
Craig Eyermann (6/20/13)

This Is Our House! Government Unions Own the Capitol
K. Lloyd Billingsley (6/19/13)

Crony Capitalism Is Alive and Well
Cherylyn LeBon (6/18/13)

You can find the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language website here and blog here.

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6) Selected News Alerts

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