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

Volume 9, Issue 22: May 29, 2007

  1. Illegal Immigrants’ Forgotten Virtues
  2. Can Bloomberg’s Proposal Reduce NYC Traffic Congestion?
  3. Will Pakistan Follow the Shah’s Iran?
  4. Seminars Teach Students the Economics, Heritage, and Challenge of Liberty: June 18-22, August 6-10

1) Illegal Immigrants’ Forgotten Virtues

Rosita—a fortysomething Washington, D.C., resident from Bolivia—endured rape, robbery, and a very risky surgery during her odyssey to enter the United States. Yet despite her hard-working, risk-taking, “rugged individualist” ethic, which would have been widely praised during America’s frontier era, many today would view her—and the estimated 12 million other illegal aliens in the United States—not as a hero to be welcomed, but as a criminal to be deported, explains Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa in an insightful and impassioned column defending immigration.

Anti-immigration views held by conservatives are especially troubling, according to Vargas Llosa, because conservatives have always favored immigration: “From Edmund Burke, the Anglo-Irish philosopher and politician considered the father of conservative thinking, to Ronald Reagan, who had no qualms with the word ‘amnesty’ when millions of immigrants were legalized under his watch in 1986, conservatives have understood that spontaneous social interactions and institutions are what make nations healthy, prosperous and peaceful,” Vargas Llosa writes. “It is those social customs—and not bureaucracies detached from reality—that make the law. For conservatives, a real legislator is someone who pays close attention to social norms and tries to adapt to them.”

In addition, many of the economic worries about immigrants are unfounded, argues Vargas Llosa, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Global Prosperity: “In a country with an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent, who can seriously maintain that immigrants take jobs away from the natives?” he continues. “In a country where many of the states with the highest number of immigrants, such as New York and Florida, have unemployment rates below the national average, who can seriously accuse immigrants of displacing Americans? In a country where half a million immigrants come in illegally every year because the million that come in legally are not enough to match the high demand for foreign workers on the part of American businesses, who can seriously maintain that the immigration debate is mostly a debate between law-abiding Americans and law-breaking aliens?”

“Rosita’s Crime,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (5/23/07) Spanish Translation

Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s Center on Global Prosperity

Be sure to check out Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s books:

Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression

The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty

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2) Can Bloomberg’s Proposal Reduce NYC Traffic Congestion?

Last month, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a novel way to reduce traffic congestion. He wants to charge motor vehicle drivers a fee during peak hours in parts of Manhattan. This method—called “congestion pricing” by economists and transportation experts—has met with success in parts of London and Stockholm, where overall traffic has fallen 15 to 20 percent during peak hours.

Unfortunately, the fees that Bloomberg proposes—$8 for each car and $21 for commercial vehicles—are “too low to make a serious dent in New York traffic,” writes Independent Institute Research Fellow Gabriel Roth, in an op-ed that appeared last week in the New York Times. “Such changes would hardly be noticeable, especially to commuters from outside the [congestion pricing] zone,” he adds.

Roth argues that Bloomberg’s proposed fee looks more like a tax designed to penalize commuters from outside the target zone than congestion pricing designed to improve the flow of traffic. “This impression is strengthened by the fact that those who travel only within the zone—presumably those living in Midtown and Lower Manhattan—would be charged half the price,” he continues.

In addition to changing the amount and structure of the proposed fees, Roth recommends earmarking the revenue collected from the fees for road improvements, not environmental and subway projects. “If Mayor Bloomberg is really serious about his proposal,” Roth concludes, “he needs to explain where road pricing will help reduce the amount of time commuters waste each day in traffic; assure those for whom the proposed charges would create hardship that alternatives will exist; develop a more sophisticated pricing system that recognizes that traffic patterns vary by place and time, and identify highway facilities that could be improved when payments by users exceed costs.”

“The Road Best Not Taken,” by Gabriel Roth (The New York Times, 5/20/07) Spanish Translation

Street Smart: Competition, Entrepreneurship, and the Future of Roads, edited by Gabriel Roth

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3) Will Pakistan Follow the Shah’s Iran?

Will U.S. support for the autocratic regime of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf lead to an Islamist backlash?

In his latest op-ed, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland examines the possibility that a U.S. foreign policy intended to foster stability in the Islamic world’s only nuclear-armed state might result in radical anti-U.S. Islamists getting their hands on nuclear weapons. The situation in Pakistan, Eland suggests, is eerily reminiscent of Iran in the late 1970s, when U.S. support for the dictatorial Shah produced an Islamist backlash that brought radical anti-U.S. imam Ayatollah Khomeini to power—except that the consequences are far more serious in Pakistan, because its rulers would have nuclear weapons.

“The United States fears that the only alternative to Musharraf in a nuclear-armed Pakistan is the Islamic militants; but this outcome is actually more likely if the unpopular United States continues to zealously back Musharraf,” writes Eland. No longer a popular leader, Musharraf “has faced mass protests across Pakistan for his increased despotism and his suspension of the country’s chief justice [Ifikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, who may pose an obstacle to Musharraf’s reelection by parliament].”

The United States could reduce Islamic militancy in Pakistan, according to Eland, by pulling its troops out of neighboring Afghanistan and pressing Musharraf to open his country’s elections to non-Islamist parties and allow their exiled leaders to return. Eland also recommends that the United States “threaten to cut off aid to Pakistan unless Musharraf and his intelligence services make a genuine attempt to capture or kill [Osama] bin Ladin.” Musharraf’s brittle truce with militants in the tribal regions of western Pakistan (where many believe bin Ladin has found refuge) “has allowed al Qaeda and the militant Taliban to recover and step up attacks from these safe havens,” Eland writes.

“Pakistan Is Going Down the Road of the Shah’s Iran,” by Ivan Eland (5/29/07) Spanish Translation

Ivan Eland’s Center on Peace & Liberty

The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland

“The Way Out of Iraq: Decentralizing the Iraqi Government,” by Ivan Eland

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4) Seminars Teach Students the Economics, Heritage, and Challenge of Liberty: June 18-22, August 6-10

What are natural rights? What is the rule of law? What is a free market? What caused the Great Depression? How can we best improve our schools, health care, environment, and transportation?

Few students have the opportunity to explore the basic ethical and economic principles of open markets and free societies—principles essential not only for understanding an ideal social order, but also for understanding, appreciating, and preparing them for the world they will soon enter.

To help high-school and college-age students better understand these topics, the Independent Institute sponsors annual student seminars on The Challenge of Liberty. Two sessions will be held on June 18-22 and on August 6-10, at the Independent Institute Conference Center in Oakland, Calif.

From the five-day series of lectures, readings, film and multimedia presentations, and small-group discussions, students learn what economics is, how it affects their lives, and how it can help them achieve better lives for themselves, their communities, and the world at large.

Guest speakers will include José Yulo on the history of liberty, James Ahiakpor on economic development, Fred Foldvary on greenhouse gas markets, and Carl Close on inflation.

Session 1: June 18-22
Session 2: August 6-10
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tuition: $195. Scholarships are available but limited.

Location:
The Independent Institute
100 Swan Way
Oakland, CA 94621

More information

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