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

Volume 8, Issue 45: November 6, 2006

  1. Latin America Divided on U.S. Elections
  2. The President's Precedents
  3. How Government Destroys Moral Character
  4. Government and Science

1) Latin America Divided on U.S. Elections

How would Latin Americans vote in the November 7 elections? The answer depends largely on which country, because many countries see their interests differently, Alvaro Vargas Llosa explains in his latest op-ed for the Washington Post Writers Group.

Trade and immigration are two key issues for Latin America. Colombia and Peru await ratification of their free-trade treaties with the United States and view ratification as less likely if the Democrats win. Brazil and Argentina, on the other hand, believe those treaties threaten their power within Mercosur, the South American common market, and hence favor the Democrats. Regarding immigration to the United States, many countries see it as a useful escape valve that relieves social pressures at home, and they appreciate the tens of billions of dollars that immigrants to the U.S. send to their families back home. Leaders of Mexico and El Salvador favor Democrats on immigration reform, but they favor Republicans on broader ideological issues.

Other issues add further complications. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez wants a Republican defeat, but he needs Bush to be assertive enough so that he, Chavez, can waive the anti-U.S. banner and thereby maintain legitimacy. Other Latin Americans believe that a Democratic Congress would rein in the orgy of Republican spending that they believe has increased interest rates in global financial markets.

Concludes Vargas Llosa: "To sum it all up, those hypothetical Latin American voters in the U.S. elections are so split or so full of contradictions that the outcome of their vote is a toss-up."

"How Would Latin Americans Vote on Nov. 7?" by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (11/1/06)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1845
"¿Cómo 'votarían' los latinoamericanos el 7 de noviembre?"
http://www.elindependent.org/articulos/article.asp?id=1845

LIBERTY FOR LATIN AMERICA: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=55

Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director)
http://www.independent.org/research/cogp/

El Independent: El Blog del Centro Para la Prosperidad Global de The Independent Institute
http://independent.typepad.com

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2) The President's Precedents

President Bush and Vice President Cheney have indicated that the administration will continue its Iraq policy "full steam ahead," regardless of the composition of Congress or the results of public-opinion polls. Presumably this also holds true for the White House's approach to fighting terrorists both abroad and at home.

"Of course, such words are only a continuation of the administration's chutzpah on the expansion of power," writes Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty, in his latest op-ed. "This lack of shame in authorizing bad and or unconstitutional government behavior is rooted in an imperial presidency, which will linger long after the current occupant is gone."

Just as the Roman Republic was destroyed from within by its imperial overstretch, so the American republic seems to be following suit. "The next president, whether Democratic or Republican, will inherit a dangerous precedent: the executive branch trampling on the Constitution and the checks and balances therein," Eland continues. "The next president could easily use the precedent to further expand presidential powers.... In the United States, 'home of the free and the brave,' we somehow believe a similar usurpation of the republic could never occur. Yet it is already underway."

See "Disregarding Democracy," by Ivan Eland (11/6/06)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1847
"Desdeñando la democracia"
http://www.elindependent.org/articulos/article.asp?id=1847

THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=54

"The Way Out of Iraq: Decentralizing the Iraqi Government," by Ivan Eland
http://www.independent.org/store/policy_reports/detail.asp?id=16

"El surgimiento de una dictadura estadounidense"
http://www.elindependent.org/articulos/article.asp?id=1837

Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, Director)
http://www.independent.org/research/copal/

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3) How Government Destroys Moral Character

HOW GOVERNMENT DESTROYS MORAL CHARACTER

Taken in by the idea that if government offers them a benefit, they are justified in taking it, many people rationalize and help perpetuate legal plunder, i.e., coercive government taxation, Robert Higgs argues in his latest op-ed, published in the SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER.

For example, a farmer rationalizes taking government-subsidized crop insurance, and, if his crop falls short, accepts the resulting insurance benefits and disaster aid. That little bit adds up: Since 2000, the rationalizations of American farmers have amounted to $24 billion of crop-insurance and disaster-aid programs. Tulare County farmer Charles Fisher justified taking a share of the taxpayer-funded loot by saying, "Whether it's right or wrong, if they are offering it, you're foolish to turn it down."

"In that single sentence," writes Higgs, "Fisher has encapsulated the rotten core of the welfare state and concisely expressed how it destroys moral character.... The farmers, of course, are not uniquely culpable. They are morally the same as countless others, albeit more politically successful than most others. The moral rot is pervasive: It defiles business operators, doctors, lawyers, clergy, students, retirees, and numerous others along with farmers."

See "How Government Destroys Moral Character," by Robert Higgs (SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER, 11/6/06)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1838

"Cómo el gobierno destruye el carácter moral"
http://www.elindependent.org/articulos/article.asp?id=1838

AGAINST LEVIATHAN: Government Power and a Free Society, by Robert Higgs
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=53

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4) Government and Science

Although private industry in the United States spends $8 billion to $10 billion a year on basic scientific research, total federal spending on basic research is about $35 billion a year. The dominance of government funding is troubling, according to economists William N. Butos and Thomas J. McQuade, who present their case in “Government and Science: A Dangerous Liaison?” (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, fall 2006).

Here's the problem, according to Butos and McQuade: Whereas both civic-minded (or prestige-seeking) private donors and profit-seeking businesses have incentives to tie their funding to the scientific results they generate, legislatures have incentives to tie funding to voter and constituent perceptions. The indirectness in this political dynamic has four potentially corrosive effects: incentive effects, "Big Player" effects, problems of boom and bust, and problems of bureaucracy.

Here's how each operates to undermine scientific integrity:

1. Incentive effects refer to the incentives scientists (and their sponsoring institutions, typically universities) have to pursue projects in ways that appeal to the funding agencies -- typically ways that strengthen the paradigms, models, and ways of thinking that currently characterize particular disciplines.

2. "Big Player" effects refer to the fact that the magnitude of government funding can distort the allocation of research, exposing science to a self-reinforcing, path-dependent process analogous to bubbles in financial markets. For example, although lung cancers are the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States, the federally funded National Cancer Institute spends on average $577 million per year on breast cancer, compared to $286 million per year on lung cancer. Even adjusting for nonsmokers, federal research funding per capita for breast cancer would still significantly exceed the figure for lung cancer.

3. Government funding leads to bursts of heavy funding in some areas, cutbacks or neglect in others as political winds change direction. Temporarily unconstrained funding fosters unstable growth in particular areas of research compared to private funding. Drastic cutbacks in particular programs, which have been the rule, disrupt scientists' careers.

4. The bureaucratic imperative produces budget-driven, risk-averse, politically popular research, which comes at the expense of outcome-driven, innovative research that may result in a larger scientific payoff.

“We are only too aware that the topic of government funding of science is a large and complex one and, to make things more difficult, one more likely to be discussed in normative rather than positive terms” write Butos and McQuade. "Our objective in this article and in future work is to provide a positive analysis of the effects of government funding on science and to illustrate the predicted effects empirically."

“Government and Science: A Dangerous Liaison?” by William N. Butos and Thomas J. McQuade (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, fall 2006)
http://www.independent.org/publications/tir/article.asp?issueID=47&articleID=598

Subscribe to THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW
http://www.independent.org/store/tir/subscriptions.asp

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