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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 10, Issue 27: July 7, 2008

  1. Announcing Ivan Eland’s U.S. Foreign-Policy Manifesto: The Empire Has No Clothes (Updated Edition)
  2. Obama and Latin America
  3. Eland Weighs in on Supreme Court’s Death Penalty Decision
  4. California’s New Cell Phone Law Won’t Work

1) Announcing Ivan Eland’s U.S. Foreign-Policy Manifesto: The Empire Has No Clothes (Updated Edition)

Although the United States is still among the freest and wealthiest countries on the planet, its projection of military power overseas has cost Americans more than they realize in both treasure and liberty, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland.

In The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed (Updated Edition), Eland explains how this empire came into existence. He then presents a systematic yet concise case that the U.S. empire undermines principles shared by Americans across the political spectrum. He concludes by proposing a foreign policy that would both protect national security and honor the vision of the republic’s founders.

In this updated edition, Eland provides additional insights that take into account new scholarship and new realities. “The fuzzy criteria that the U.S. government uses to determine whether and where American forces should intervene indicate that American foreign policy is askew,” writes Eland in the book’s introduction. “Unlike the empires of old, which limited their military interventions to certain parts of the world, the United States is trying to police the entire globe. This book offers an alternative vision of a more restrained U.S. foreign policy that is more focused, more achievable, less costly, and a lot less dangerous.”

Purchase The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed (Updated Edition), by Ivan Eland.

Read a detailed summary.

Praise for The Empire Has No Clothes:

The Empire Has No Clothes offers a powerful and persuasive critique of recent U. S. foreign policy. It deserves the thoughtful attention of conservatives and liberals alike—indeed, of all Americans disturbed by the imperial pretensions evident in Washington since the end of the Cold War.”
—Andrew J. Bacevich, Professor of International Relations, Boston University

“Ivan Eland’s new book is a scholarly, compelling and provocative study of where we are, how we got here, and the dangers inherent in the aggressive, imperialist policies we are implementing. It is impressively lucid, filled with careful research, rational analysis and highly insightful commentary, certain to satisfy concerned readers across the political spectrum.”
—Edward L. Peck, former Chief of U.S. Mission in Iraq

“In The Empire Has No Clothes, Dr. Eland shows that the concept of empire is wholly contrary to the principles of liberals and conservatives alike and makes a mockery of the Founding Fathers’ vision for a free republic.”
—Ron Paul, U.S. Congressman

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2) Obama and Latin America

In the decade and a half since NAFTA went into effect, U.S. trade with Mexico has grown 400 percent; trade between the United States and Latin America now amounts to almost $600 billion. Although President Bush has doubled foreign aid to Latin America to $1.6 billion, trade easily surpasses aid in helping people rise out of poverty. Any comments about the future of trade from presidential hopeful Barack Obama—who has talked about unilaterally “renegotiating” NAFTA—therefore come with heightened importance. In his latest syndicated column, Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Global Prosperity, examines Obama’s recent speech on Latin America.

“Obama is right to say that Latin Americans are mostly to blame for their troubles, but wrong to state that increasing foreign aid will improve the region’s economy and pre-empt the emergence of Hugo Chavez–type populists,” writes Vargas Llosa.

“Obama, numerous Democrats and some Republicans have distanced themselves from the free trade agreements pursued by both Bill Clinton and Bush. Although bureaucratic pacts [such as NAFTA] are less efficient than the unilateral elimination of trade barriers of the kind that Estonia understood in the early 1990s, they are better than outright protectionism.... Even Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy, whose idealistic-sounding policies serve as inspiration for Obama, emphasized trade almost as much as they did aid.”

“Obama and Latin America,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (7/2/08)

Purchase Lessons from the Poor, edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

Read a detailed summary.

Lessons from the Poor: Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit chronicles the successes of Third World entrepreneurs who lifted themselves up from poverty and overcame obstacles (particularly the labyrinth of government regulations) to become successful business owners.”
The Futurist

Purchase Making Poor Nations Rich, edited by Benjamin Powell.

Read a detailed summary.

“For the sake of many millions of people trapped in poverty, I wish politicians of all ideological persuasions would pay careful attention to the arguments expounded by this remarkable book.”
—Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico; Director, Yale Center for the Study of Globalization

Read a detailed summary.

Is foreign aid the solution for global poverty? Read winning essays of the 2007 Olive W. Garvey Contest on this topic.

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3) Eland Weighs in on Supreme Court’s Death Penalty Decision

As of May 2, 2008, 126 death-row inmates have been exonerated, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Highly publicized exonerations have likely contributed to falling public support for capital punishment. But the reason for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a death penalty sentence for a man convicted of brutally raping a child has little to do with the scandal of wrongful convictions. The Court’s majority decided that the failure of capital punishment to deter crime makes the death penalty “cruel and unusual punishment” and therefore a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

The founders of the republic might well have disagreed with the Court’s decision, but this isn’t to say that there aren’t other reasons to oppose capital punishment, argues Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty.

“If the government is allowed to kill criminals, no matter what heinous crimes they have committed, then the precedent can always be expanded to kill law-abiding citizens for political reasons,” Eland writes in a new op-ed. “Governments are especially prone to do this when they are fighting wars—reacting to paranoia that the enemy is everywhere. So although capital punishment may be constitutional, it is still a bad policy idea for many reasons. But the most important reason is the potential for abuse by the government.”

“Should the Government Kill Its Own Citizens?” by Ivan Eland (7/7/2008)

Also see:

“Wrongfully Convicted Man Freed,” by Wendy McElroy (8/15/06)

“The Death Penalty on Trial,” featuring Bill Kurtis and Franklin E. Zimring (1/27/05)

“The Causes of Wrongful Conviction,” by Paul Craig Roberts (The Independent Review, Spring 2003)

Purchase The Tyranny of Good Intentions: How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice, by Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence M. Stratton.

Purchase Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy, by Ivan Eland.

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4) California’s New Cell Phone Law Won’t Work

California’s new law requiring automobile drivers to use hands-free devices when talking on cell phones probably won’t reduce traffic fatalities much: numerous academic and government studies suggest that talking with a hands-free device is just as distracting as talking with a hand-held cell phone. Fortunately, the number of “deaths by cell phone” is already lower than you might think. “The California Highway Patrol counted only six phone-related traffic fatalities statewide in 2006—out of over four thousand,” writes Independent Institute Research Analyst Anthony Gregory in a new op-ed.

Unfortunately, enforcing the new law may divert law enforcement toward pursuing all cell phone violators, at the expense of pursuing genuinely reckless drivers—as some believe happened after President Bill Clinton lowered the blood alcohol limit in 2000 and drunk-diving deaths inched upward, reversing a decades-long decline. Busting lots of violators (which include those who don’t pose greater risks) may distract us from busting the more dangerous violators.

If politicians were serious about reducing traffic fatalities, they would first admit that the public enforcement of traffic laws—and the public management of roads—have been lousy. Then they would clear away the roadblocks obstructing effective private and community ownership of roads, which would bring benefits in the form of better safety, less congestion, and lower costs (as is explained in Street Smart, an award-winning book edited by former World Bank transportation economist Gabriel Roth). “With government out of the way, road rules would still be standardized to cultural norms, but the market would set particular safety policies,” Gregory continues. “Business owners would have to provide safe roads, while avoiding costly, counterproductive practices that alienate their clientele. Most important, Americans would not accept nearly as many deaths on private roads as they now assume as a fact of life on government roads.”

“That Cell Phone Ban,” by Anthony Gregory (North County Times, 7/1/08)

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

Read a detailed summary.

Praise for Street Smart:

“Toll roads historically are not particularly uncommon. Street Smart looks at this history and examines the prospect of reviving private roads as a major transportation tool. This book provides a clear-cut and comprehensive investigation of the prospect of either replacing or supplementing our present road system by private, market-based roads. It should start a serious and informed discussion of this important problem.”
—Gordon Tullock, University Professor of Law and Economics, George Mason University

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