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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 13, Issue 4: January 25, 2011

  1. Bounty Hunters to the Rescue
  2. Russia’s Proposals Could Enhance U.S. Security
  3. America’s Culture of Busybodies
  4. Haiti’s Drama Continues
  5. New Blog Posts

1) Bounty Hunters to the Rescue

Americans often view bail bondsmen and bounty hunters as the dogs of the criminal justice system—thanks, most recently, to Duane “Dog” Chapman, the brash bail-enforcement agent who stars in a reality-TV show for the A&E cable network. Chapman’s antics aside, these financial entrepreneurs and their associates are unsung heroes whose risk-taking, ingenuity, persistence, and civility promote the interests of society at large, as well as serve their clients. In short, the record shows that they merit society’s respect, not its derision, according to Independent Institute Research Director Alex Tabarrok, who recently made the rounds with award-winning bail bondsman Dennis Sew of Baltimore, Maryland.

Commercial bail is permitted in every state in the union except Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, and Wisconsin. (The only other country with a similar system is the Philippines.) Jurisdictions that prohibit it may wish to rethink their policies after they investigate the effectiveness of legal bounty hunters—whose work doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime. “Bail bondsmen and bounty hunters get their charges to show up for trial, and they recapture them quickly when they do flee,” Tabarrok writes in The Wilson Quarterly.

How effective are they? “Nationally, the failure-to-appear rate for defendants released on commercial bail is 28 percent lower than the rate for defendants released on their own recognizance, and 18 percent lower than the rate for those released on government bond,” Tabarrok continues. “Defendants sought by bounty hunters are 50 percent less likely to be on the loose after one year than other bail jumpers.” It would be criminal to disregard those impressive percentages.

“The Bounty Hunter’s Pursuit of Justice,” by Alex Tabarrok (The Wilson Quarterly, Winter 2011)

“Bring on the Bounty Hunters,” by Alex Tabarrok (1/15/99)

“The Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Privateers,” by Alex Tabarrok (The Independent Review, Spring 2007)

Changing the Guard: Private Prisons and the Control of Crime, edited by Alex Tabarrok

To Serve and Protect: Privatization and Community in Criminal Justice, by Bruce L. Benson

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2) Russia’s Proposals Could Enhance U.S. Security

Scrapping plans for a U.S.-funded missile defense system in Europe is unlikely, given the realities of domestic politics in the United States. The next best thing to ending such a boondoggle would be for the United States and Russia to jointly operate such a system, as Moscow has proposed, according to Ivan Eland, a senior fellow at the Independent Institute and director of the Center on Peace & Liberty. The Russians have also proposed other arms-control deals worth considering, Eland explains in his latest op-ed.

For example, Russia could eliminate its tactical nuclear bombs, missile warheads, artillery shells, and anti-aircraft weapons in exchange for the removal of U.S. weapons in Europe. Or the two countries could agree to a ceiling that lowers the number of all nuclear weapons (not just long-range strategic nukes), thereby balancing the Russian lead in tactical nuclear weapons with the U.S. lead in (non-deployed) longer-range nuclear weapons. Also, Moscow proposes bringing other nuclear powers to the negotiation table—countries whose arsenals would grow in relative terms as the numbers of U.S. and Russian warheads were reduced. Finally, the Russians propose keeping space from becoming weaponized. Banning the bomb in space would serve U.S. interests because the United States is the leader in using space for commercial and military non-weapon uses (navigation, communication, surveillance, and early warning satellites), Eland explains.

“In short, to further its own interests, the United States should conscientiously examine, and perhaps accept, Russia’s proposals for future arms controls,” Eland concludes.

“Russian Arms Control Proposals Worth Considering,” by Ivan Eland (1/19/11)

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

Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, by Ivan Eland

Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, by Ivan Eland

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3) America’s Culture of Busybodies

A European visitor to the United States may be struck by the limitations on personal freedom so pervasive in the “land of the free”—freedoms taken for granted in much of the rest of the world. Why do so many Americans favor the use of coercive sanctions to restrict the personal choices of other Americans? For clues, look to American history, explains Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs in his incisive article, “Puritanism, Paternalism, and Power.”

The Puritans, who imposed a theocracy in early Massachusetts, exerted an immense and lasting influence on American society. The kindred spirits that followed gave us the Temperance Movement, the Social Purity Movement, the Social Hygiene Movement, the Comstock Act, the Mann Act, the Eighteenth Amendment, and the War on Drugs—not to mention a plethora of restrictions now pondered and imposed at the local level.

“Notwithstanding forms and temporal fluctuations, the penchant for acting as self-righteous busybodies has animated the bourgeoisie of this country ever since Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock in 1620,” Higgs writes. “Because this proclivity provides an irresistible opportunity for politicians to promote their own interests at public expense, one must expect that we Americans are doomed to an endless procession of costly, futile, and destructive crusades.”

“Puritanism, Paternalism, and Power,” by Robert Higgs (Whiskey and Gunpowder, 1/10/11)

Against Leviathan: Government Power and a Free Society, by Robert Higgs

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

The Challenge of Liberty: Classical Liberalism Today, edited by Robert Higgs and Carl Close

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4) Haiti’s Drama Continues

The return of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier to the country he ruled 25 years ago has opened up a new and potentially disastrous chapter for an island still recovering from an earthquake that claimed 300,000 lives and a cholera epidemic that has killed anther 4,000.

“The brutal kleptocracy that the Duvaliers imposed on Haiti is one of the reasons that republic, whose founders defeated Napoleon well before the Duke of Wellington and which used to be prosperous, is the hemisphere’s perpetual sick man,” Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa writes in his latest op-ed.

That Haitian President Rene Preval opened up the door for a possible return to rule by the former dictator is both tragic and ironic. “Now, finding himself the target of accusations of corruption and abuse of power, in the midst of a veritable inferno following last year’s catastrophe, [Preval] has decided to bring into a country the symbol of everything that was wrong in the 20th century, dashing hopes that Haitians will find peace and stability,” Vargas Llosa continues. “Something tells me, especially if Duvalier seeks a return to power, that we have yet to see the worst.”

“Baby Doc’s Return,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (1/19/11) 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: Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

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