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

Volume 11, Issue 7: February 16, 2009

  1. Beware the Economic Stimulus Bill
  2. U.S. Presidents: Independent Institute Fellows Weigh In
  3. This Week in The Beacon

1) Beware the Economic Stimulus Bill

President Obama is expected to sign the $787 billion economic stimulus bill tomorrow in Denver. Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs appeared on the Fox News Business Channel last Friday to voice his objections to the stimulus package. What the economy needs most, he argued, is not a fiscal stimulus, but rather a period of adjustment during which the economy can recover from the artificially induced boom of 2002 to 2007.

In addition, in a symposium on Reason.com, Higgs and other economists (Allan Meltzer, William Niskanen, and Deirdre McCloskey among them) replied to three questions about the fiscal stimulus package, including whether “doing nothing” is an option.

“For the economy in general, doing nothing is vastly preferable to doing the stimulus package, but doing nothing is not a political option; indeed, it would be political suicide,” Higgs said. “Given the dominant ideology and the political institutions that now exist, economically rational public policy is incompatible with political viability.... Having hit bottom, the politicians can only do one thing: keep digging. If Hell is down there, they’ll reach it, sooner or later.”

In an op-ed last week for Investor’s Business Daily, economist Walter E. Williams quoted favorably from Higgs’s recent piece in the Christian Science Monitor. Williams wrote, “By bringing up the idea of constitutional restraints on Washington , Dr. Higgs is whistling Dixie. Americans have long ago abandoned respect for the constitutional limits placed on the federal government. Our elected representatives represent that disrespect.”

Carlos Alberto Montaner, an advisor to the Independent Institute’s Center on Global Prosperity, noted in an op-ed last week that although several Nobel laureates have exposed some weaknesses of the Keynesian theories that underlie the economic stimulus package, the greatest economic refutation of Keynes comes not from fellow economists, but from what Montaner calls “stubbon reality.”

Writes Montaner: “For four decades, the world experimented with Keynes’ theories and the result was oversized States, punished by inflation, in which waste and a lack of efficiency grew apace with excessive public spending and bureaucracy, until the world began to return to civil society the vigor and role stolen by the governments.”

Readers who wish to learn more about the empirical case against Keynesian economic policies are advised to consult Depression, War, and Cold War, by Robert Higgs, and Out of Work: Unemployment and Government in Twentieth Century America, by Richard Vedder and Lowell Gallaway.

Robert Higgs on the Economic Stimulus Package (Fox Business, 2/9/09)

“The Reason.com Stimulus Symposium” (Reason.com, 2/11/09)

“Stimulus Can Sink Recession Into Depression,” by Walter E. Williams (Investor’s Business Daily, 2/9/09)

“Obama and the Wrong Road,” by Carlos Alberto Montaner (2/9/09)

Robert Higgs’s posts on The Beacon

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2) U.S. Presidents: Independent Institute Fellows Weigh In

Was Washington a great president? Was Lincoln? Think again. Americans have little to celebrate when it comes to their presidents—even the ones that the conventional wisdom deems excellent were overrated. Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland explains why this is so in his latest book, Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty. It comes down to one word: power.

“Throughout this book, readers will find constant reminders that the executive branch has vastly increased its power – more than what the nation’s Founders, in drafting the Constitution, ever envisioned,” writes Eland.

Last month, the Independent Institute sponsored a panel discussion on Obama, Bush, and their predecessors. Tonight at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time (5:30 p.m. Pacific), you’ll have a chance to hear Eland, along with historian Richard Shenkmen, and Representative Ron Paul on C-SPAN2’s Book TV.

The following list of scholarly articles, popular op-eds, book reviews, and debate transcripts is offered in the hope of clearing up common misperceptions about many of the nation’s chief executives.

John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty, by C. Bradley Thompson

Reviewed by K. R. Constantine Gutzman (The Independent Review, Summer 2000)

The Constitutional Thought of Thomas Jefferson, by David N. Mayer

Reviewed by James W. Ely, Jr. (The Independent Review, Summer 1996)

“The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions: Guideposts of Limited Government,” by William J. Watkins, Jr. (The Independent Review, Winter 1999)

Reclaiming the American Revolution: The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and Their Legacy, by William J. Watkins, Jr.

The Sacred Fire of Liberty: James Madison and the Founding of the Federal Republic, by Lance Banning

Reviewed by Herman Belz (The Independent Review, Winter 1997)

American Compact: James Madison and the Problem of Founding, by Gary Rosen

Reviewed by Hans Eicholz (The Independent Review, Summer 2001)

James Madison and the Future of Limited Government, edited by John Samples

Reviewed by Thomas E. Borcherding (The Independent Review, Fall 2003)

“Martin Van Buren: The Greatest American President,” by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel (The Independent Review, Fall 1999)

“The Political Economy of John Taylor of Caroline,” by Joseph Stromberg (The Independent Review, June 2008)

“The Great Centralizer: Abraham Lincoln and the War between the States,” by Thomas J. DiLorenzo (The Independent Review, Fall 1998)

“The Real Abraham Lincoln: A Debate, featuring Harry V. Jaffa and Thomas J. DiLorenzo.” An Independent Policy Forum transcript (5/7/02). Also see related links following transcript.

“Why Grover Cleveland Vetoed the Texas Seed Bill,” by Robert Higgs (7/1/03)

“How Teddy Roosevelt Fathered the ‘Bush Doctrine,’” by William Marina and David T. Beito (12/9/04)

The Life of Herbert Hoover, vol. 3, Master of Emergencies, 1917-1918, by George H. Nash, Reviewed by Ronald Schaffer (The Independent Review, Winter 1998)

“The Mythology of Roosevelt and the New Deal,” by Robert Higgs (The Freeman, 9/98)

“Truman’s Attempt to Seize the Steel Industry,” by Robert Higgs (The Freeman, 3/04)

Pay Any Price: Lyndon Johnson and the Wars for Vietnam, by Lloyd C. Gardner

Reviewed by Ted Galen Carpenter (The Independent Review, Fall 1997)

Nixon’s Economy: Booms, Busts, Dollars, and Votes, by Allen J. Matusow Reviewed by Steven Horwitz (The Independent Review, Spring 1999)

“Ronald Reagan and the Rise of Large Deficits: What Really Happened in 1981,” by Timothy J. Muris (The Independent Review, Winter 2000)

“What Really Happened in 1981,” by Alan Reynolds and Paul Craig Roberts (The Independent Review, Fall 2000)

Dismantling the Welfare State? Reagan, Thatcher, and the Politics of Retrenchment, by Paul Pierson, Reviewed by William Niskanen (The Independent Review, Winter 1998)

For the President’s Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush, by Christopher Andrew Reviewed by Craig T. Cobane (The Independent Review, Winter 1997)

“A New Democrat? The Economic Performance of the Clinton Presidency,” by John W. Burns and Andrew J. Taylor (The Independent Review, Winter 2001)

Casualty of War: The Bush Administration’s Assault on a Free Press, by David Dadge, Reviewed by Bruce Ramsey (The Independent Review, Winter 2005)

The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush’s Military-Industrial Complex, by Helen Caldicott

Reviewed by Ivan Eland (The Independent Review, Fall 2003)

“Franklin D. Roosevelt and George W. Bush: Some Unsettling Similarities,” by Robert Higgs (1/23/05)

“Is George W. Bush the Worst President in U.S. History?,” by Ivan Eland (9/15/08)

“The Oval Office Liars’ Club,” by Robert Higgs (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/24/02)

“No More ‘Great Presidents,’” by Robert Higgs (The Free Market, 3/97)

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3) This Week in The Beacon

Here are the past week’s offerings from The Beacon, the web log of the Independent Institute:

Please leave your comments on the blog website.

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