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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 15, Issue 30: July 23, 2013

  1. Vanishing Liberties in the Age of Terrorism
  2. Ben Powell Explains Inflation and Gold on Stossel
  3. U.S. Leaders Praise Democracy but Support It Selectively
  4. China Is Open Minded on Climate Debate
  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) Vanishing Liberties in the Age of Terrorism

It’s no mystery that federal spending expanded rapidly and civil liberties retreated after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Such an outcome was entirely predictable—indeed Independent Senior Fellow Robert Higgs predicted as much. His prediction was uncannily accurate because the post-9/11 outcome has the same root causes as other post-crisis episodes in U.S. history, Higgs told a packed room last Thursday at the Independent Institute event, “Civil Liberties and Security in the Age of Terrorism.” Unfortunately, Americans are likely to lose many of their liberties forever unless they urge government leaders to restore them immediately, using the strongest language and deeds that the law permits.

In researching the growth of government, Higgs explained that he made several discoveries that were absent from previous accounts. One is that ideology plays a critical role: During times of crisis, people often lose their confidence in the ability of free institutions to solve problems, and their attitudes help increase the growth rate of government after the crisis subsides.

Independent Institute Research Fellow Anthony Gregory, Higgs’s co-panelist, reported an analogous experience while researching his new book on habeas corpus. The common understanding of habeas corpus—that the legal device is and always has been a reliable protector of civil liberties—is an oversimplification that is sometimes wildly inaccurate. In antebellum America, for example, habeas corpus was sometimes used to support slavery. Advocates of freedom therefore should temper any optimism about recent Supreme Court decisions that restrict federal powers of detention in the War on Terrorism. In the long run, what matters most in securing liberty isn’t recent court rulings—it’s ideology. People’s ideologies are what shape the actions of the judiciary, the executive branch, and the legislature. This is a key reason why Americans must be eternally vigilant about safeguarding their liberties, Gregory concluded.

The event, which was moderated by Independent Institute Senior Vice President Mary L. G. Theroux, was livestreamed over the Internet; a video recording is now available on the Independent Institute’s website.

Video: Civil Liberties and Security in the Age of Terrorism, featuring Robert Higgs, Anthony Gregory, and Mary L. G. Theroux (7/18/13)

The War on Terror Is a War on American Freedom, by Anthony Gregory (The Daily Caller, 7/17/13)

The Power of Habeas Corpus in America: From the King’s Prerogative to the War on Terror, by Anthony Gregroy

Where’s the Outrage?, by Robert Higgs (The Beacon, 7/16/13)

Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, 25th Anniversary Edition, by Robert Higgs

Snowden Is Not the Story, by Mary L. G. Theroux (The Huffington Post, 6/28/13)

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2) Ben Powell Explains Inflation and Gold on Stossel

By all accounts FreedomFest 2013 was an amazing event. In conjunction with the conference—the world’s largest gathering devoted to liberty—TV personality John Stossel interviewed some of the country’s most exciting advocates of freedom. Independent Institute Senior Fellow Benjamin Powell, for example, explained to a national television audience why inflation is something you should be worried about now, notwithstanding the Pollyannaish reassurances of most pundits and politicians.

Inflation is a hidden tax that threatens the savings that people rely on for financial security. And by eroding the purchasing power of savings—the source of private investment and job creation—inflation also undermines economic growth. That most pundits are not worried about the current rate of retail price inflation is irrelevant, Powell explains. What matters far more is that the Federal Reserve has added considerably to the balance sheets of the banking system.

The only reason this hasn’t translated into rapidly rising retail prices is that the Fed is paying banks interest on their reserves. Once they stop doing so, we can expect prices to begin to soar soon afterward. The classical gold standard tamed the fiscal behavior of government. But people’s failure to understand this critical point allowed governments to abandon it and usher in an age of inflation. Rome’s emperors assaulted their currency and brought an end to their empire. Will the same fate await the United States?

Ben Powell Speaks on Inflation on Stossel Show at FreedomFest (7/18/13)

Ben Powell Speaks on the Gold Standard on Stossel Show at FreedomFest (7/18/13)

Making Poor Nations Rich: Entrepreneurship and the Process of Economic Development, by Benjamin W. Powell

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3) U.S. Leaders Praise Democracy but Support It Selectively

The bipartisan U.S. foreign policy establishment prides itself on its pro-democracy rhetoric. In practice, however, policymakers in both Republican and Democratic administrations have often favored anti-democratic governments when doing so served a supposedly “strategic” U.S. interest, such as trying to comfort a reliable ally. Case in point: the Obama administration’s reaction to Egypt’s recent military coup deposing the country’s duly elected president, Mohamed Morsi.

“If the United States truly supported democracy in Egypt, one would have expected a vigorous U.S. denunciation of a military coup against a government selected by fair election,” Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland writes in his latest op-ed. Instead, Washington has urged Morsi’s party—the Muslim Brotherhood—to reenter the political process and challenge its opponents at the ballot box, even though the Islamists already had, as Eland writes, “received three-fourths of the vote in what had been a legitimate election.” But going quietly would set a dangerous precedent: it would legitimize the anti-democratic military coup.

Although Morsi was not a perfect democrat by American standards, he showed his readiness to compromise with political foes by inviting them to join a new coalition government and by announcing that he would speed up the timetable for new parliamentary elections. Moreover, rejecting Morsi and in effect favoring the military coup could discourage other Islamist groups from participating in the democratic process, Eland argues. “A better overall policy would have been to match U.S. impartial rhetoric with truly neutral behind-the-scenes behavior,” he continues. “But after decades of profligate unnecessary U.S. meddling in the affairs of other nations, everyone in Egypt (and everywhere else) expected superpower intervention in some way; unfortunately, they have not been disappointed.”

The United States Should Quit Meddling in Egypt, by Ivan Eland (7/17/13)

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

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4) China Is Open Minded on Climate Debate

An eagerness to debate controversial issues is a hallmark of Anglo-American political culture. But there are important exceptions to this generalization. For example, neither the National Academy of Sciences nor the Royal Society has permitted discussion of the work of the leading scientific group opposed to the climate alarmism, the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), not to be confused with its antipode, the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But one power not known for open debate has begun to entertain challenges to the global-warming orthodoxy: China. The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) translated and published NIPCC papers in May and presented some of the findings at a workshop in Beijing in June. Astrophysicist and Independent Institute Research Fellow S. Fred Singer examines this development in his latest piece for American Thinker.

China has famously resisted recommendations that it sign on to reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. Beijing’s resistance to climate orthodoxy has been firm but is not dogmatic: In September it is scheduled to host a symposium slanted in favor the IPCC’s stance. In anticipation of this meeting, Singer offers a list of eight questions that the event’s organizers would do well to ask.

Most of these questions relate to the failure of climate models to account for observed temperatures. Why, for example, has no significant warming been observed in the past 15 years? Why has Antarctica been cooling? And why was warming significant from 1910 to 1940, given the comparatively low level of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emission? Beijing should pay close attention to the answers of such questions lest it hastily adopt energy policies that bring its impressive economic growth to a screeching halt. “The Chinese Academy of Sciences has taken an important step in trying to answer questions essential for a rational climate policy,” Singer writes. “The world will watch their pioneering efforts with great interest.”

China Questions Climate Consensus, by S. Fred Singer (American Thinker, 7/11/2013)

Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate, by S. Fred Singer

Video: Hot Talk and Cold Science of Global Warming, featuring S. Fred Singer (7/14/11)

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

Not Good Government
K. Lloyd Billingsley (7/22/13)

“Fix It”
Craig Eyermann (7/19/13)

Willful Waste and Destruction at the Economic Development Administration
K. Lloyd Billingsley (7/17/13)

Stimulus vs Spending Cuts – UK Edition
Craig Eyermann (7/17/13)

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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