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

Volume 6, Issue 40: October 1, 2007

  1. New Book Extols a Noninterventionist Foreign Policy
  2. To Reduce Congestion, Build More Roads and Charge a Variable Price
  3. Paraguay’s Illusion
  4. Wild and Crazy U.S. Farm Policy
  5. Spanish Translations Pass 1,000 Mark!

1) New Book Extols a Noninterventionist Foreign Policy

For more than a century U.S. foreign policy—whether conducted by Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives—has been based on the assumption that Americans’ interests are served best by intervening abroad to secure open markets for U.S. exports, fight potential enemies far from American shores, or engage in democratic nation building. Before the twentieth century, however, a foreign policy of nonintervention was widely considered more desirable, and Washington’s and Jefferson’s advice that the republic avoid foreign entanglements was largely heeded.

Opposing the Crusader State: Alternatives to Global Interventionism, edited by Robert Higgs and Carl P. Close (Senior Fellow and Academic Affairs Director, respectively, of the Independent Institute), examines the history of American noninterventionism and its relevance in today’s world. Arguing that interventionism is not an appropriate “default setting” for U.S. foreign policy, the book’s contributors clarify widespread misunderstandings about noninterventionism, question the wisdom of nation building, debate the validity of democratic-peace theory, and make the case for pursuing a peace strategy based on private-property rights and free trade.

“Readers will come away from this book with a richer understanding of the noninterventionist movements in U.S. history,” write Higgs and Close in the book’s introduction. “Most important, perhaps, they will have a firmer understanding of why many classical liberals embrace the strengthening of commercial ties between all countries as a means of avoiding war.”

Buy Opposing the Crusader State ($15.95)

Book highlights and synopsis

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2) To Reduce Congestion, Build More Roads and Charge a Variable Price

Excessive road congestion could be reduced dramatically by instituting road pricing and by using the revenues to increase road capacity, explains Independent Institute Gabriel Roth in a new op-ed for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“This has been happening since 1995 on parts of the express lanes of California’s State Route 91, on which charges vary from $1.20 to $9.50,” writes Roth. “Market pricing has been criticized for favoring the wealthy, but pricing helps everyone. California’s SR 91 express lanes are used and favored by all income groups, as they allow rich and poor alike to keep urgent deadlines, such as getting to work on time or picking up a child from a day care center.”

For best results, the expansion of road capacity must accompany congestion pricing, according to Roth. Unfortunately, some government officials and environmental activists wish to use congestion pricing merely to restrain the demand for road use and fail to advocate increases in the supply of roads for automobile traffic. “London’s Mayor Ken Livingstone, for example, introduced ‘congestion pricing’ in London in 2003, but surplus revenues are being spent on mass transit,” states Roth.

“Reduce Traffic Congestion, but Keep Out Government,” by Gabriel Roth (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/24/07) Spanish Translation

Also see:                        

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

“Recovering from Smart Growth,” a conference organized by the American Dream Coalition, will examine additional innovative ideas on transportation improvement, urban planning, and related topics. Nov. 10-12, 2007; San Jose, Calif.

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3) Paraguay’s Illusion

Hugo Chavez may have another ally in Latin America after next April’s elections in Paraguay: Fernando Lugo. A veteran of the liberation theology movement in the Catholic Church, Lugo is gaining popularity among voters who believe corruption and complacency among Paraguay’s political elites are responsible for the country’s continued economic and social stagnation.

“Paraguay’s tragedy is that their diagnosis is right—and their remedy a recipe for disaster,” writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa, who visited the beleaguered country recently to film a television documentary on authoritarianism in Latin America.

“Paraguayans see Lugo as something of a redeemer, a spiritual figure capable of towering above the discredited institutions to set things right,” Vargas Llosa writes. “His supporters fail to see that populist policies—based on concentrating power in the president’s hands, placing companies under government control, weakening commercial ties with the outside world—are responsible for their condition in the first place. For instance, many Paraguayans blame the free-trade policies of the South American common market for their poverty when, in fact, that regional arrangement is a monument to bureaucratic obstacles limiting the free flow of people, good and services.”

“Paraguay’s Illusion,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (9/26/07) Spanish Translation

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)

Visit our Spanish-language website.

Visit our Spanish-language blog.

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4) Wild and Crazy U.S. Farm Policy

“With the 2007 farm bill temporarily stalled in the Senate, this is a good time to reconsider America’s schizophrenic agriculture programs and how they often work at cross-purposes,” write Ernest Pasour and Randal Rucker, authors of Plowshares and Pork Barrels, in a new op-ed.

For starters, it’s not always clear whether government programs are intended to increase or decrease prices. Government-subsidized crop insurance results in lower prices, but export subsidies push prices up. Government crop payments drive up land prices and raise the cost of entry into farming, yet government subsidized farm credit encourages more production and lower crop and livestock prices.

“You don’t have to be agricultural economists to realize that none of this makes sense,” conclude Pasour and Rucker. “It’s time for a new approach.”

“Schizophrenic U.S. Farm Policy,” by Ernest C. Pasour Jr. and Randal R. Rucker (10/1/07) Spanish Translation (pending)

For the most in-depth examination of U.S. farm policy, see:

Plowshares and Pork Barrels: The Political Economy of Agriculture, by Ernest C. Pasour Jr. and Randal R. Rucker

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5) Spanish Translations Pass 1,000 Mark!

Thanks to the prodigious efforts of Independent Institute Research Analyst and translator Gabriel Gasave, the Independent Institute has reached another milestone: It now has more than 1,000 op-eds, policy briefings, speeches, and other documents on its Spanish-language website, http://www.Elindependent.org and 5,000 items on its Spanish-language blog, located at http://independent.typepad.com/.

Although most of the work of the Independent Institute has focused on public policy in the United States, we have long recognized the value of making our work accessible to readers in other countries. Fortunately, we are not alone in our assessment. Through our research fellows’ travels throughout the Spanish-speaking world—and also via e-mail and web states—we are happy to see the growing influence of our Spanish-language blog. We only regret that we cannot translate our work into other languages.

Of course, thanks also go out to those Lighthouse readers who have helped the Independent Institute deliver is message across the globe. Your continued support will help the Lighthouse shine light far beyond U.S. shores!

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