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

Volume 15, Issue 29: July 16, 2013

  1. Weighing the Senate’s Immigration Bill
  2. Will Librarians Censor Obamcare’s Critics?
  3. Leave Afghanistan Now, Eland Urges
  4. Regulations Didn’t Cause California’s Energy Efficiency
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. 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) Weighing the Senate’s Immigration Bill

The Schumer-Rubio immigration bill, passed last month in the Senate by a vote of 68-32, isn’t perfect, but its virtues far outweigh its flaws. The House of Representatives is unlikely to pass anything better. House Republicans should therefore vote in favor of the legislation before the window of opportunity slams shut, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa, author of the new book, Global Crossings: Immigration, Civilization and America. Passing the bill would bring greater flexibility to the nation’s immigration laws. “The current measure will better respond to the needs of the economy, rather than the whims of bureaucrats and politicians,” Vargas Llosa writes in an op-ed for Investor’s Business Daily.

Drawing on his new book, Vargas Llosa’s op-ed debunks several economic and cultural myths put forth by immigration-reform opponents. The notion that the U.S.-Mexico border should be made more secure, he argues, ignores the fact that immigration levels have fallen dramatically since the economic recession struck a few years back. “The number of undocumented Mexicans declined by almost 1 million between 2007 and 2011,” he writes. “Zero or negative net immigration means either that the border is as secure as it will ever get in a democracy, or that immigration is so much more sensitive to the economy than to enhanced security that further efforts to secure the border are senseless.”

Vargas Llosa also takes issue with the notion that immigrants “steal jobs” from natives. “Before 2008, undocumented foreigners made up 10% of Arizona’s 3-million-plus workforce,” he continues. “But unemployment was a mere 4%. In other words, they were filling a vacuum, not pushing natives aside.” Concerns that recent immigrants don’t assimilate into American culture are also misguided, he argues. Contrary to a common misperception, “they are overwhelmingly religious, highly entrepreneurial, and largely family-oriented, with approximately half of all immigrants living with a spouse and child.”

Positive Aspects of Immigration Bill Outweigh Its Flaws, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (Investor’s Business Daily, 7/12/13)

Global Crossings: Immigration, Civilization, and America, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

Scholar Alvaro Vargas Llosa Says Immigration Fears Are Unfounded (Interview on WFPL-FM, 7/13/13)

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2) Will Librarians Censor Obamcare’s Critics?

An odd thing happened in Chicago last month, at the nation’s leading conference for librarians—odd, that is, if you assume that such a gathering would be free of political partisanship. After two days of panel discussions that included attacks against the National Rifle Association and organizations opposed to climate alarmism, the American Library Association (ALA) announced its intention “to partner with the White House to tout the benefits of Obamacare,” Independent Institute Marketing and Communications Director Lindsay M. Boyd writes in an op-ed published in the Washington Times.

The announcement came soon after the National Football League and Major League Baseball gave the Obama Administration a lukewarm reception in response to its request for assistance in publicizing the new healthcare law. The news is particularly worrisome, according to Boyd, because some ALA attendees “brainstormed about how library computers could be rigged to censor or possibly omit information”—information, for example, put forth by gun-rights groups and climate realists.

Writes Boyd: “If librarians are advocates [of Obamacare], what assurance do we have that they won’t block access to information—such as another ‘despicable’ study from the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, or my own institution—critical of the health care act?”

The Nation’s Librarians Are All In to Support Obamacare, by Lindsay M. Boyd (The Washington Times, 7/11/13)

Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, by John C. Goodman

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3) Leave Afghanistan Now, Eland Urges

Irked by Hamid Karzai—the Afghan leader has insisted that U.S. troops be tried by Afghan courts when they’re accused of wrongdoing—the White House has threated to accelerate a military withdrawal before the scheduled December 2014 target. Obama should carry out his threat immediately and completely, leaving no residual troops behind, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland. Such a withdrawal, he adds, in America’s interest.

The outcomes in Afghanistan (and Iraq), “although still pending, look grim and not worth the extra loss of American or indigenous life,” Eland writes in his latest op-ed. Unfortunately, the U.S. policymakers seem inclined to try to follow the disastrous precedent set during the Vietnam war—the precedent of postponing a military withdrawal, despite facing bleak prospects for victory.

“In my new book, The Failure of Counterinsurgency: Why Hearts and Minds Are Seldom Won (with a publication date at the end of July 2013), I detail other episodes of great powers continuing wars that they should have admitted were lost,” Eland writes. “The right answer in [Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam] was an early and rapid withdrawal, leaving no residual forces that implied American responsibility for the future of these countries. As petty as the fight with Hamid Karzai seems, let’s hope President Obama takes advantage of it to leave Afghanistan immediately and completely.”

Accelerate a Complete Withdrawal from Afghanistan, by Ivan Eland

The Failure of Counterinsurgency: Why Hearts and Minds Are Seldom Won, by Ivan Eland

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

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4) Regulations Didn’t Cause California’s Energy Efficiency

Surprising though it may seem, California has acquired a reputation for energy efficiency. And that reputation has merit: For 40 years, energy consumption per capita in the Golden State has been falling relative to that of other states. Pundits and politicians often credit this trend to the Golden State’s strict regulations. But a new study published by the National Bureau for Economic Research (NBER) explains that California’s relative energy efficiency is overwhelmingly the by-product of geography and demographic change, not strict regulations.

Writing in Forbes, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Lawrence J. McQuillan suggests that the implication of this finding is that the stricter efficiency standards to be implemented next January will buy much less bang for the buck than their proponents seem to believe. Moreover, other states should avoid making the erroneous assumption that by following California’s regulatory lead, they will enjoy comparable gains in energy efficiency. Copying the energy edicts issued from Sacramento will hamper economic growth and reap little in the way of lower energy consumption.

Most of California’s gains in relative efficiency—61 percent of the improvement—stem from changes in household size, according to the NBER study: Because the average number of people living in the same house in California has not fallen as much as it has fallen nationwide, more Californians are sharing appliances and living space than the residents of other states. Another 20 percent of the efficiency gains have to do with climate and income: People in other states have been spending a growing share their rising incomes on heating and air conditioning compared to those who enjoy the Golden State’s milder climate. And 15 percent of California’s relative efficiency gains came from significant population shifts into the South and Southwest, where houses and air conditioning bills are larger than where the new settlers used to live. These three facts, McQuillan explains, show that California’s relative gains in energy efficiency have almost nothing to do with energy regulations. “Policy makers and the public have a right to be skeptical of tighter, more complicated, and more burdensome regulations,” McQuillan concludes.

Don’t Thank Stringent Regulations for California’s Reduced Electricity Use, by Lawrence J. McQuillan (Forbes, 7/10/13)

Electric Choices: Deregulation and the Future of Electric Power, edited by Andrew N. Kleit

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

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

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6) News Alerts

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