The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute. Subscribe
now, or browse Back Issues
Volume 9, Issue 2: January 8, 2007
- New Book Hails Choice in Electric Power
- U.S. Democrats May Benefit from Iraq Troop Surge
- Judges Book Fans Flames of Culture War
- Bolivia's Morales Provokes Turmoil
1) New Book Hails Choice in Electric Power
In the mid-1990s, California, Pennsylvania, Texas, and smaller states in the Northeast, encouraged by the Energy Policy Act of 1992, opened up their electricity sectors to competition. The results varied widely: Pennsylvania's restructuring was viewed as successful, whereas California's electricity crisis of 2000-2001 resulted in utility company bankruptcies and brought the restructuring movement to a halt, leaving electricity markets at the retail level half deregulated and half regulated.
In ELECTRIC CHOICES: Deregulation and the Future of Electric Power, edited by Andrew N. Kleit, fifteen economists and energy experts examine the successes and failures of the electricity restructurings of the 1990s. Well-designed restructurings, they argue, enable consumers to choose from among competing electricity suppliers, and improve service and reduce consumer prices. (By the late 1990s, restructuring had reduced long-run costs by at least $7 billion, which helped keep retail electricity prices down in areas with excess capacity and a competitive market.) The book's contributors also explain the pitfalls of inadequate reform efforts, including flawed restructuring that led to California's crisis. ELECTRIC CHOICE also includes a critique of the government recommendations made in the aftermath of the $6 billion blackout of August 14, 2003, which left more than 50 million customers in the northeastern United States and Canada without electricity.
Opening electricity generation to competition has sparked a revolution in the electricity industry, but for the benefits to be fully realized, restructuring must proceed with greater attention paid to incentives, consumer preferences, and system-wide flexibility. Pat Wood III, former Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, writes in the foreword to the book, "The superb and very timely analysis and recommendations in ELECTRIC CHOICES will help us finish the revolution." Competing that task would ensure a bright future for electric power and its users.
To purchase ELECTRIC CHOICES: Deregulation and the Future of Electric Power, edited by Andrew N. Kleit, see
For a detailed summary of ELECTRIC CHOICES, see
2) U.S. Democrats May Benefit from Iraq Troop Surge
Increasing U.S. troop levels in Iraq by 20,000 soldiers, a measure many observers expect President George W. Bush to announce later this week, won't quell sectarian and anti-U.S. violence but instead may increase it -- as well as increase the likelihood that Republicans will lose the White House in 2008 -- according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland, director of the Center on Peace & Liberty.
"By 2008 the failed Iraq policy will make the hawkish [Republican Senator John] McCain radioactive as a candidate for president," writes Eland in his latest weekly op-ed. "Even Republicans who were skeptical of Bush's war policies, such as Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), probably will not be able to win the presidency.... Thus, Bush's new strategy will likely strengthen Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress in 2008."
Eland speculates that although President Bush may propose an increase of troops in Iraq so that he may later withdraw most U.S. troops and claim he had done everything possible to help stabilize Iraq, a more likely reason the president would increase troop levels is his own psychology: Bush would view a quick withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq as an admission that the U.S. occupation of Iraq was fundamentally flawed and an admission that his presidency was a failure. But whatever the underlying motive behind President Bush's expected plan for a U.S. troop surge in Iraq, Eland concludes, the outcome will translate into electoral victories for the Democratic Party and losses for Republicans.
"Say Good-bye to a Future Republican Presidency," by Ivan Eland (1/7/07)
"Dígale adiós a una futura presidencia republicana"
THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland
Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, Director)
3) Judges Book Fans Flames of Culture War
Judges, according to the American Bar Association's Model Code of Judicial Conduct, are not supposed to allow family, social, political, or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment. Nor are they to lend the prestige of judicial office to advance their or others' private interests. Should judges therefore be prohibited from writing books on controversial social or political issues? Should they be allowed to comment on political matters in their judicial opinions?
In her latest column for FoxNews.com, Independent Institute Research Fellow Wendy McElroy examines this question and similar ones sparked by criticism of Missouri Circuit Court Judge Robert Dierker, author of THE TYRANNY OF TOLERANCE: A Sitting Judge Breaks the Code of Silence to Expose the Liberal Judicial Assault. According to McElroy, Judge Dierker should be free to speak his mind outside of the courtroom, but his judicial decisions -- his rulings on specific court cases -- should be free of social and political commentary.
"I agree with Dierker that feminism has devastated the legal system but, even with such agreement, I am acutely uncomfortable with this purely political statement within a legal document," McElroy writes. "It is wrong for liberal judges to use the bench to pontificate; it is equally wrong for conservatives."
"Judge’s Book Fans Flames of Culture War," by Wendy McElroy (1/3/07)
"El libro de un juez avienta las llamas de la Guerra de la Cultura"
LIBERTY FOR WOMEN: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century, ed. by Wendy McElroy
JUDGE AND JURY: American Tort Law on Trial, by Eric A. Helland and Alexander Tabarrok
4) Bolivia's Morales Provokes Turmoil
President Evo Morales of Bolivia insists that his country's Constituent Assembly requires only a simple majority -- not the two-thirds majority specified in its election laws. Such aggressiveness has become expected from Morales: he has also tried to impose restrictions on private education and weakened property rights with the Agrarian Reform Law -- a law that authorizes government land grabs in the "collective interest" -- without requiring the payment of compensation to landowners.
No wonder, then, that many regional governments in Bolivia are seeking greater autonomy. Unfortunately, Morales has threatened to send troops to the hinterlands to quell the autonomy movement. Meanwhile, some signs suggest that this would split the military into pro- and anti-Morales factions. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has said he'd come to Morales's aid, sending troops to support his fellow Bolivarian revolutionary if requested. A showdown could develop over the next several weeks, according to Independent Institute Adjunct Fellow Carlos Sabino.
"The nations in our region still do not understand that governments like Chavez's and Evo Morales's are a real threat to peace in Latin America as a whole," writes Sabino. "The fact that Morales won by a temporary popular majority does not mean that all his actions -- some of which are openly destabilizing -- should be accepted or that his ambitions of imposing his outdated political model on all neighboring countries should be tolerated. Let us hope those nations will soon see the light, before violence erupts in the heart of our continent."
"What's at Stake in Bolivia," by Carlos Sabino (1/8/07)
"Lo que se está jugando en Bolivia"
LIBERTY FOR LATIN AMERICA: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa
THE CHE GUEVARA MYTH, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa
Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director)
El Independent: El Blog del Centro Para la Prosperidad Global de The Independent Institute