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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 17, Issue 41: October 13, 2015

  1. Immigration Myths Debunked, Pro-Market Solutions Offered in New Book
  2. School-Shooting Remedies: True and False
  3. Obama’s Foreign Policy Worsens Conflicts with Russia, China
  4. Want Sustainable Energy? Go Nuclear
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts



1) Immigration Myths Debunked, Pro-Market Solutions Offered in New Book

More than 600 million adults—14 percent of the world’s adult population—want to permanently move to another country, and an estimated one billion would seek temporary work abroad if they were allowed. These people, along with non-immigrants in both the “sending” and “receiving” countries, deserve a hearing consistent with the best studies of immigration that social science has to offer. While that vast literature has mainly been relegated to academic journals, a new book now makes its findings accessible to the general public: The Economics of Immigration: Market-Based Approaches, Social Science, and Public Policy, edited by Independent Institute Senior Fellow Benjamin Powell.

Combining rigor and readability, The Economics of Immigration will appeal to a wide audience. General readers who absorb its lessons will become better informed than nine out of ten people on the most debated aspects of immigration: wages, employment, economic growth, government budgets, cultural and civic assimilation, and work visas. Policymakers and pundits will be struck by the book’s fresh proposals that can bridge the political divide. And scholars will appreciate the book’s non-partisan assessments of numerous studies, all in one volume.

“It is my sincere hope that this volume can help bring some reasonable dispassionate discourse to a policy debate that is so often emotionally charged and devoid of decent scientific evidence,” Benjamin Powell writes. “Potential immigrants, our countrymen, and our descendants deserve as much.”

The Economics of Immigration: Market-Based Approaches, Social Science, and Public Policy, edited by Benjamin Powell

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2) School-Shooting Remedies: True and False

It’s no mystery why school shootings—which have taken nine innocent lives at Umpqua Community College, 13 at Columbine High, 26 at Sandy Hook Elementary, and 32 at Virginia Tech—shake us to our core. Understandably, each massacre has kicked off another round in the national debate about violence, mental health, and gun policy. Unfortunately, too often the leading proposed reforms arise from wishful thinking instead of hard-headed realism, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Sheldon Richman.

Leading the pack of proposals based on wishful thinking—“pie-in-the-sky utopianism,” Richman calls it in his op-ed for the Courier-Post—is President Obama’s push for “universal” background checks. But background checks can’t prevent miscreants bent on obtaining firearms in a nation with at least 300 million guns. Moreover, nearly all of the recent shooters passed a background check, whereas others acquired guns from people who owned them legally, Richman notes. Despite these facts, the gun-control utopians continue to deride one measure that could make a world of difference: enable people to fight back—and even discourage mass shootings from taking place—by dropping restrictions that forbid innocent adults from carrying concealed firearms for self-defense.

“While the realists’ proposal to allow well-intentioned people to carry concealed handguns to class, church, theater, and workplace would hardly prevent or limit all mass shootings, it undoubtedly would help,” Richman writes. “Utopians object that an armed defender might accidentally shoot an innocent person. That’s obviously true, but that possibility has to be contrasted with the certainty of what will happen when the person bent on mass murder is the only one with a gun. Utopia is not an option.”

Anti-Gun Measures Don’t Work, by Sheldon Richman (Courier-Post, 10/8/15)

Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and “Enemies of the State,” by Stephen P. Halbrook

The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms, by Stephen P. Halbrook

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3) Obama’s Foreign Policy Worsens Conflicts with Russia, China

As noted in last week’s issue of The Lighthouse, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland has warned that the Obama administration’s foreign policies are bringing the United States into greater conflict with Russia and China. It’s entirely conceivable, Eland argues in two columns for the Huffington Post, that the Obama strategies will end up dragging the United States into war. First, let’s examine an emerging conflict between the United States and Russia.

Syria is quickly becoming a leading point of contention between Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin. Each believes his country’s interests with respect to Syria differ from the other’s: Putin wants to defeat ISIS (and other radical Islamist groups that could radicalize Russia’s Muslims) and shore up the Assad regime, whereas Obama wants to defeat ISIS and see Assad taken down. But as Eland explains, there is another, less-recognized factor that could prolong and deepen their conflict: Both Putin and Obama underestimate the limitations of relying on air power without “boots on the ground”—especially those of indigenous forces with intimate knowledge of the terrain and its people. If Obama better understood this reality, as well as the history of counterinsurgency campaigns (a subject to which Eland has devoted an entire book), the U.S. Commander in Chief would recognize that only Kurdish forces and the remnants of the Syrian army can defeat ISIS and other radical Islamist groups in Syria. Obama would also recognize that Syria is of no strategic value to the United States and would withdraw all U.S. military power from that hornet’s nest.

U.S.-China relations could also suffer, especially with respect to the military aspects of Obama’s “pivot to Asia.” Because China has territorial disputes with U.S. allies around the East and South China Seas, Washington’s strengthening of military ties in the region could drag the United States into war with Beijing, Eland argues. The potential for wars with China and Russia underscore the need for a return to foreign policies advocated by America’s Founders. Writes Eland: “George Washington wisely warned against the United States becoming involved in ‘permanent alliances,’ and Thomas Jefferson astutely cautioned against the country being bogged down by ‘entangling alliances.’ Obama is taking the opposite course by strengthening alliances that have become both permanent and entangling.”

Let’s Not Get Into It with China, by Ivan Eland (The Huffington Post, 9/21/15)

Russia versus the United States in Syria, by Ivan Eland (The Huffington Post, 10/5/15)

Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty (Updated Edition), by Ivan Eland

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4) Want Sustainable Energy? Go Nuclear

Solar and wind energy have long been the power sources of choice for the environmental movement. But are solar and wind really as carbon-free, inexhaustible, and low cost as their advocates claim? Independent Institute Research Fellow S. Fred Singer answers in the negative and makes the case for an alternative that some environmentalists, much to the chagrin of the “green” orthodoxy, are now beginning to advocate: nuclear power.

Nuclear energy, Singer argues, is practically inexhaustible (low-grade Uranium-235 is plentiful), more reliable than wind and solar (which require cooperative weather conditions), relatively safe (when made by Western-style reactors), efficient (e.g., Integral Fast Reactors can eliminate all waste), and more cost-effective than many imagine (and would be even cheaper if reactors were approved and built with fewer costly delays). Unfortunately, lobbyists for the solar and wind industries and an ingrained anti-nuke sentiment continue to thwart greater reliance on nuclear power.

Independent Institute Research Director and Senior Fellow William F. Shughart offers additional insights about the political landscape. “Coal-producing states are considering options to block implementation of [President Obama’s plan for more subsidies for wind and solar power], but even if some states do, the EPA will step in to impose its own emission-reduction rules on them—unless Congress acts. Any such congressional action should put used nuclear fuel recycling in its rightful place on the U.S. energy landscape. The positive environmental impact would not just be in the next decade but continue far into the future.”

For Sustainable Energy, Choose Nuclear, by S. Fred Singer (American Thinker, 9/30/15)

The ‘Clean Power Plan’ Still Blocks Expansion of Nuke-Generated Electricity, by William F. Shughart II (The Hill, 9/3/15)

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

Actuary Hands Gift to Pension Reformers
Lawrence J. McQuillan (10/8/15)

Smith on Jones
Gary Galles (10/8/15)

The Gender Wage Gap–A Myth that (Still) Just Won’t Die
Abigail Hall (10/8/15)

FDA Driving Drug Prices into Stratosphere
John R. Graham (10/7/15)

Safe, Legal, and Rare, Part 3: Rare
Mary Theroux (10/6/15)

Health Jobs Dominate Terrible Jobs Report
John R. Graham (10/6/15)

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

The EPA: Armed and Dangerous
Craig Eyermann (10/12/15)

National Debts vs National Revenues
Craig Eyermann (10/8/15)

Duncan Departs, but Federal Education Waste Lives On
K. Lloyd Billingsley (10/7/15)

Government Predatory Lending
K. Lloyd Billingsley (10/6/15)

You can find the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language website here and blog here.

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6) Selected News Alerts

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