Volume 11, Issue 49: December 7, 2009
- The Afghanistan Quagmire
- Prohibitions Legacy
- Remembering Pearl Harbor
- Spains Green Energy Subsidies Waste Resources
- This Week in The Beacon
1) The Afghanistan Quagmire
President Obamas decision to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan was the topic of two Independent Institute op-eds this past week. Senior Fellow Ivan Eland discussed the proposal by Congressman David Obey (D-Wis.), an opponent of troop escalation, to enact a temporary income surtax to fund the war as a way to add transparency to the wars costs, which he estimated would amount to $900 billion over the next decadeabout the same price tag as the Houses health care bill.
Although a direct tax such as that proposed by the congressman would be a more honest approach to funding the war than most alternative methods, Eland says that a better idea would be to withdraw U.S. troops altogether. If the politicians got downright courageous, they would cancel the Afghan escalation and further government meddling in health care, end both the unnecessary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq rapidly, and deregulate health care markets so that an efficient national market was created, he writes. Now theres an intelligent plan that has absolutely no chance of passing!
Senior Fellow Robert Higgs, in an op-ed published in the San Francisco Examiner, lambasted President Obamas troop-escalation speech. The rationale that sending U.S. troops to Afghanistan would protect Americans from al-Qaida terrorist attacks is a weak argument because a foreign power cannot control the Afghan people and because al-Qaida has members in many other countries. A clear-thinking president would steer clear of trying to accomplish the impossible, writes Higgs. The war in Afghanistan is not winnable in any meaningful sense. Its a pure waste, suffered at a time when the American people have a multitude of more urgent needs. To curtail their losses, the Americans should get out of Afghanistan immediately.
Troop Surge in Afghanistan a Losing Investment, by Robert Higgs (San Francisco Examiner, 12/4/09)
Pay for the War, or Just Call It Off? by Ivan Eland (12/2/09)
The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland
Opposing the Crusader State: Alternatives to Global Interventionism, edited by Robert Higgs and Carl P. Close
2) Prohibitions Legacy
December 5 marked the 76th anniversary of the 21st Amendment, the document that ended a failed social experiment: prohibition. As Independent Institute Research Analyst Anthony Gregory observes in his latest op-ed, prohibition wreaked havoc on American institutions, with increases in bloody gang violence, a near doubling of the federal prison population, and massive government corruption. On the one hand, its hard to imagine Americans ever again putting up with the loss of liberties and the social pathologies created by prohibition. On the other hand, many Americans are content with current drug-prohibition laws, despite the loss of liberties and the massive violence, enforcement costs, and corruption they entail.
Todays drug war is much worse than alcohol prohibition was, writes Gregory. We have half a million people in prison, an overwhelmed judicial system, militarized enforcement, assaults on civil liberties, a foreign policy distorted by drug-war goals and, according to many economists, about twice as many homicides as we would expect if drugs were legal.
According to Gregory, the puritanical mindset that foisted alcohol and drug prohibitions on society is driving lawmakers to impose ever more draconian interventions into our personal lives, including legislation penalizing transfats and other allegedly unhealthy foods. Alcohol prohibition is over, thank goodness, writes Gregory. But the heavy-handedness of the progressives greatest social experiment continues today under the banner of other crusadeswith the same predictable results.
3) Remembering Pearl Harbor
December 7th marks the anniversary of the Japanese military attack on Pearl Harbor, a date that will live in infamy, as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt put it. The official story is that Japanese warships, en route to the Hawaiian Islands, retained radio silence, while Japanese decoy radio signals were sent to deceive the U.S. military into believing that the ships were still berthed in Japan. But neither of these claims is true, according to Independent Institute Media Fellow Robert B. Stinnett.
U.S. military intelligence was not fooled by the decoy signals, and the Japanese warships broke radio silence. Former commander of the Pacific Fleet radio intelligence center, Commander Joseph J. Rochefort, recounted these revelations in an oral history conducted by the U.S. Naval Institute. Stinnett himself has published an eight-point action plan, written in 1940 by Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum, spelling out how U.S. policy could best provoke a Japanese military attack:
It is not believed that in the present state of political opinion the United States Government is capable of declaring war against Japan without more ado, wrote McCollum. If by these means Japan could be led to commit an overt act of war, so much the better.
The Pearl Harbor Deception, by Robert B. Stinnett (12/2/02)
Pentagon Still Scapegoats Pearl Harbor Fall Guys, Robert B. Stinnett (Providence Journal, 12/7/01)
December 7, 1941: A Setup from the Beginning, by Robert B. Stinnett (Honolulu Advertiser, December 7, 2000)
The Oval Office Liars Club, by Robert Higgs (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/24/02)
4) Spains Green Energy Subsidies Waste Resources
Spain is the largest producer of alternative energy on a per capita basis, thanks to government protectionism, mandates and subsidies. Although green energy policies are supposed to conserve more resources, the country is learning the hard way that this isnt necessarily so. A recent study found that each green job was costing Spanish taxpayers 540,000 to 1 million euros and entailed 2.2 jobs lost or not created because of the misallocation of capital created by Spains alternative energy policies, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa.
In recent years, many countries, including the United States, have touted the Spanish model as an inspiration, writes Vargas Llosa. They really need to look again.
Spains massive intervention in its energy markets is also economically unsustainable: the government has had to reduce 30 percent of its subsidies to solar energy producers; subsidies to wind farms have resulted in wasteful expansion of capacity in that sector. Vargas Llosa continues: There was indeed something Quixotic about the 300 percent growth experienced by Spains solar energy sector since 2005 and in the fact that about 500 companies got involved in wind farming, attracted by the siren song of captive markets and government largesse (now these companies are shedding jobs too). Reality was bound to set in sooner or later.
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
Lessons from the Poor: The Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa
5) This Week in The Beacon
- ClimateGames, by Mary Theroux (12/4/09)
- New Paper: Human Rights and Economic Liberalization, by Art Carden (12/4/09)
- My Naivete, by Peter Klein (12/3/09)
- Robert Higgs on Bernanke and the Federal Reserve on Fox News Freedom Watch, by David Theroux (12/3/09)
- Obamas LBJ Moment, by Anthony Gregory (12/2/09)
- Former Tesla Executive Questions Green Corporate Welfare, by David Theroux (12/2/09)
- What Is Obama Thinking? by Robert Higgs (12/1/09)
- If Obamas Speech Writers Wanted to Quote Eisenhower..., by David Beito (12/1/09)
- Do We Take Miracles of Capitalism for Granted? by Randall Holcombe (12/1/09)
- Fred Singer on the BBC on Climategate and the Science Regarding Global Warming, by David Theroux (12/1/09)