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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 11, Issue 50: December 14, 2009

  1. Climate-gate Reveals Inconvenient Truths
  2. How the U.S. Could Leave Afghanistan
  3. Supreme Court to Decide Potentially Far-Reaching Patent Case
  4. Spain’s Lost Opportunity Could Become a Headache
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Climate-gate Reveals Inconvenient Truths

The climate research email scandal has exposed a conspiracy among some scientists to spread alarmist views on climate change and to squelch the voices of opposing scientists. Independent Institute President David J. Theroux writes: “With the revelations from what is now being called ‘Climate-gate,’ many people are beginning to see a grand scam in which data were deliberately distorted; peer review was gamed by manipulating and stacking the process; critics were smeared, black-balled, de-funded and even fired; opposing papers were kept from publication; and politically savvy scientists worked in concert with journalists, politicians, bureaucrats and interest groups to deceive both opinion leaders and the public to further their agenda.”

At another level, Climate-gate also reveals that climate change is as much a religious issue as a scientific one, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert H. Nelson, author of the forthcoming book The Holy Wars: Economic Religion vs. Environmental Religion in Contemporary America.

The scandal displays the classic elements of a religious crusade. “There are climate dogmas, climate heretics, warnings of climate apocalypse, climate prohibitions and other features long associated with religion,” writes Nelson. “Leading scientists in the climate debate react to criticism as though they are being attacked by the forces of darkness. Anything, therefore, is permitted in defense of the good.”

“Why Science Is Not Final Arbiter of Truth,” by David J. Theroux (Investor’s Business Daily, 12/9/09) Spanish Translation

“Have a Little Faith,” by Robert H. Nelson (Forbes.com, 12/7/09) Spanish Translation

The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion vs. Environmental Religion in Contemporary America, by Robert H. Nelson

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2) How the U.S. Could Leave Afghanistan

Counterinsurgency campaigns in foreign countries usually fail because the top decision-makers seldom understand the culture in which the insurgents operate. According to Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty, the few exceptions in the twentieth century—U.S. military operations against rebels in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, the British in Malaya in the 1950s, and the U.S. recently in Iraq—have one thing in common: the insurgencies became divided.

President Obama can use the tactic of division to his advantage, Eland argues. To do so requires recognizing that Afghanistan’s political institutions differ from what Americans would expect. For example, factions in Afghanistan that are loyal to the United States will likely cooperate only for as long as the U.S. continues to buy their alligance. The opposite is also true: elements of the Taliban could be paid off to switch sides. Buying off and dividing the Taliban would allow the United States to create some semblance of political stability—if only temporarily.

“President Obama then needs to rapidly take advantage of any lessening of violence, while using the cover of the temporary troop surge to rapidly withdraw from Afghanistan,” writes Eland. “Simply put, we need to pay off some of our opponents and head for the door.”

“More ‘Corruption’ Is Needed in Afghanistan,” by Ivan Eland (12/9/09) Spanish Translation

The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland

Depression, War, and Cold War: Challenging the Myths of Conflict and Prosperity, by Robert Higgs

Opposing the Crusader State: Alternatives to Global Interventionism, edited by Robert Higgs and Carl P. Close

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3) Supreme Court to Decide Potentially Far-Reaching Patent Case

A case before the U.S. Supreme Court could result in sweeping changes regarding the protection of intellectual property. The wrong outcome in the case, Bilski and Warsaw v. Kappos, would discourage innovation and impede economic growth, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II.

The one-size-fits-all protection afforded patent holders—usually 20 years after a patent application was filed—should be ended, Shughart argues. The U.S. Congress and the courts should grant patents of different lengths, depending on the expected commercial vitality of the creative work. Under Shughart’s proposal, patents for computer software, for example, would have a much shorter life than patents for a pharmaceutical product.

“Incentives matter,” writes Shughart. “Although there may be a passionate few who don't require payment for contributing to the common pool of knowledge, technological advancement will be much more rapid if an explicit economic payoff is available.”

“In a Wikipedia Age, Should All Ideas Be Free?” by William F. Shughart II (Christian Science Monitor, 12/8/09)

Patent Failure: How Judges, Bureaucrats, and Lawyers Put Innovators at Risk by James Bessen and Michael J. Meurer. Reviewed by Julio Cole (The Independent Review, Spring 2009)

Taxing Choice: The Predatory Politics of Fiscal Discrimination, edited by William F. Shughart II

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4) Spain’s Lost Opportunity Could Become a Headache

Ceuta—a Spanish city on the North African side of the Strait of Gibraltar—is a fascinating example of how the policies of the European Union can hinder people’s efforts to realize their full potential. The city is ethnically and religiously diverse, reflecting its rich history, but today it is perhaps best known for its military barracks and immigration containment, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

Ceuta lost its free-port status after Spain joined the European Union in 1986. Trade restrictions are now overbearing, prompting many Ceutans to make ends meet by dealing illegal drugs. Madrid could press the EU to eliminate the trade restrictions, but its Socialist government wishes to avoid offending Morocco, which has claimed Ceuta since the 1950s. Unless economic liberalization comes to Ceuta, however, growing resentments could stoke cultural and religious strife. Although Ceuta’s Muslims—40 percent of the population—have not been radicalized, that could change if legitimate economic opportunities remain elusive.

“Ceutans are screaming for a chance to prosper and for as little politicking as possible,” Vargas Llosa writes in his latest column. “Madrid and Brussels should take notice.”

“Ceuta’s Scream,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (12/9/09) 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

Lessons from the Poor: The Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

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5) This Week in The Beacon

Visit the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language blog, El Independent. Below are the past week’s offerings from our English-language blog, The Beacon.

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