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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 9, Issue 46: November 12, 2007

  1. Privatize the U.S. Postal Service
  2. The Man Who Bombed Hiroshima
  3. Mexican Land Reform’s Contribution to Mass Migration to the U.S.
  4. Why Are Politicians Always Trying to Scare Us? (Oakland, Calif., 12/6/07)

1) Privatize the U.S. Postal Service

Last year’s postal reform bill fell far short of taking the steps necessary to modernize the U.S. Postal Service, which, despite its monopoly on the delivery of First Class mail and its exclusive access to customer-owned mail boxes, is having a harder time competing against e-mail and other alternatives than was predicted just a few years ago. Though the agency rakes in $60 billion a year, more than 60 percent of U.S. post offices operate at a loss. What do these losses portend? According to the Government Accountability Office, either postal customers will be asked to pay dramatically higher rates, or taxpayers will be asked to fund a costly bailout of the agency.

The best solution, argues consulting economist James A. Montanye in a new op-ed based on his recent article in The Independent Review, is to do what the European Union and other countries have done: take the anachronistic public postal system closer toward a private system. Unfortunately, Congress is unlikely to take the step and allow FedEx, UPS, and other private companies into the picture for one simple reason: they fear postal workers will vote them out of office. The U.S. Postal Service, writes Montanye, “employs 30 percent of the nonmilitary federal workforce; pays wages and benefits 30 percent above competitive levels.” Today’s lawmakers aren’t about to shake that hornet’s nest if they can push the problem into the laps of tomorrow’s lawmakers.

“The Postal Service is an artifact from a time when Congress sought practical means for binding the nation together,” continues Montanye. “Broadcasting, telephony, the Internet, and large-scale package delivery firms now obviate the need for a quasi-governmental postal authority operating under statutory monopoly protection. Congress must be encouraged to abjure postal monopolies, and to privatize the Postal Service.”

It’s Time for Congress to Go Postal,” by James A. Montanye (Salem Statesman Journal, 11/9/07) Spanish Translation

“Going Postal: Regulatory Reform for the Digital Age,” by James A. Montanye (The Independent Review, Fall 2007)

More from The Independent Review

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2) The Man Who Bombed Hiroshima

In the Oscar-winning 2004 documentary movie “The Fog of War,” Robert McNamara opines that he and Curtis LeMay, by planning the fire bombings of Japan during World War II, were “behaving as war criminals.” If McNamara and LeMay were war criminals, was Paul Tibbets, the U.S. Air Force pilot of the Enola Gay who dropped the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, also a war criminal? In his latest article, Independent Institute Research Analyst Anthony Gregory raises this question and related “uncomfortable questions” about moral responsibility during wartime.

Although Tibbets passed away November 1, “it remains crucial for us to consider the implications of what he did,” writes Gregory. “It is important to our sense of individual responsibility in a world where, especially in times of war, people think mainly in terms of the collective. It is this fallacy in moral reasoning that leads otherwise decent people to commit unspeakable barbarities against their fellow man.”

Tibbets’s supporters often argue that dropping atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified because it spared a million lives. The U.S. military brass, however, did not share this view unanimously, Gregory notes. “The 1946 Strategic Bomb Survey determined it had been unnecessary to the winning of the war,” he writes. “We know Japan, demoralized from having dozens of cities obliterated in fire bombings, was extending peace feelers. ‘The Japanese were ready to surrender,’ said Dwight Eisenhower, who as a general during that war believed the atom bomb was ‘completely unnecessary.’ Admiral William D. Leahy, General Douglas MacArthur, and many other high officials at the time agreed.”

“The Man Who Bombed Hiroshima,” by Anthony Gregory (11/8/07) Spanish Translation

More by Anthony Gregory

“Just War? Moral Soliders?”, by Laurie Calhoun (The Independent Review, Winter 2000)

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3) Mexican Land Reform’s Contribution to Mass Migration to the U.S.

The roots of the recent wave of immigrants from Mexico to the United States lie partly in the failure of the Mexican Revolution to live up to its promise to return land to the country’s dispossessed peasants, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa, who gained key insights about Mexico from a recent meeting with Emiliano Zapata—the grandson and namesake of the mestizo hero of the revolution.

Zapata lives in poverty under a tin roof in the town where his grandfather was born, and like the rest of Mexico’s rural poor, he and his family saw no benefits from the collectivization of land carried out long ago in his grandfather’s name. The ejido system of land reform, as it’s called, was intended to benefit peasant villages, but it degenerated into a scheme of patronage and corruption that enriched land commissars, who would “inflate the price of public works in their villages and towns, splitting the excess money with [the local political bosses],” Zapata told Vargas Llosa.

“In the 1990s, when trade policies became more liberal, Mexico’s rural population found itself caught up in an extremely inefficient system that was undercapitalized, making it very difficult for Mexican peasants to compete with the outside world,” writes Vargas Llosa. When villagers were finally allowed to sell their plots of land, many moved to Mexico’s cities, but they found little hope and began to emigrate en masse to the United States. “The current Mexican government’s best efforts notwithstanding, it will take decades for Mexico to undo the legacy of what became a crooked revolution,” Vargas Llosa concludes.

“The Other Zapatista,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (11/7/07) Spanish Translation

Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

El Independent—the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language website and blog, updated daily!

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4) Why Are Politicians Always Trying to Scare Us? (Oakland, Calif., 12/6/07)

From ancient times to the present, politicians, bureaucrats, and interest groups have gained resources and control over the public by playing to people’s fears of various “crises” and by offering “solutions” that often only make problems worse. This tactic has been facilitated by the widespread belief that gaining economic, military, and personal security requires sacrificing liberty. In contrast, Benjamin Franklin once said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Please join us as Robert Higgs (author, Neither Liberty nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government) shows how fear mongering by politicians and their allies erodes people’s willingness and ability to govern themselves. Dr. Higgs will also expose the false trade-off between freedom and security by showing how the U.S. government’s economic and military interventions in the 20th and 21st centuries have reduced Americans’ civil and economic liberties, prosperity, and genuine security.

SPEAKER:

Robert Higgs, Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute, is the author of numerous books at the intersection of politics and economics, including Neither Liberty nor Safety; Depression, War and Cold War; and Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government. He is also the editor of several other books and the scholarly quarterly, The Independent Review: A Journal of Political Economy.

More about Robert Higgs

WHEN:
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Reception and book signing: 6:30 p.m.
Program: 7:00 p.m.

WHERE:
The Independent Institute Conference Center
100 Swan Way
Oakland, CA 94621-1428
Map and directions                        

TICKETS:                        

Admission: $15 per person ($10 for Institute Members). Special offer: $27 includes admission and one copy of Neither Liberty nor Safety ($22 for members). Reserve tickets by calling (510) 632-1366 or ordering online.                        

More information and ticket reservations

Praise for Neither Liberty nor Safety, by Robert Higgs:            

“Higgs’s thesis is as persuasive as it is chilling: an increasing and unthinking reliance on government has made us look to politicians and bureaucrats to solve all our problems. It was only a matter of time until those politicians and bureaucrats realized that new threats, and more visceral fears, would make those ‘problems’ seem even larger. Neither Liberty nor Safety is required reading for anyone interested in the history of government or in the future of America.”
—Michael C. Munger, Professor of Political Science, Duke University

Neither Liberty nor Safety is an important addition to Robert Higgs’s systematic analysis of the political uses of fear-mongering. The cancerous growth of the modern ‘guardian’ state—uncontrolled by a ‘higher power’—is our generation’s legacy: future generations will have to control it, submit to it, or escape from it.”
—Thomas S. Szasz, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, SUNY Health Science Center, Syracuse

More about Neither Liberty nor Safety

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