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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 13, Issue 13: March 29, 2011

  1. Pressure to Invade Libya May Grow
  2. Opportunism Fuels Europe’s Panic over Nuclear Power
  3. Airport Screening Prompts Continued Health and Privacy Concerns
  4. The False Promise of Business Subsidies
  5. New Blog Posts

1) Pressure to Invade Libya May Grow

Allied airstrikes alone might not bring down Moammar Gadhafi. High-level Libyan officials seem prepared to dig in their heels—rather than turn on their leader—perhaps comforted by a well-founded belief that their military could take shelter in the nation’s urban areas, where large civilian casualties by coalition bombs would conflict with the rationale behind the United Nations resolution authorizing a no-fly zone.

An unsuccessful no-fly zone, coupled with ineffective economic sanctions and unaided by boots on the ground, could mean that Gadhafi would stay in power for years to come—just as Saddam Hussein survived similar challenges for more than a decade after the first Gulf War. That prospect could add to pressure for a coalition ground invasion of Libya staffed partly by U.S. troops. This is one reason why President Obama would have been wise to resist calls from U.S. foreign-policy elites, and their backers, to intervene in Libya, according to Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty.

“Obama, analytical and seemingly a reluctant warrior by nature, has utterly capitulated to such interests,” Eland writes in his latest op-ed. “This outcome gives little hope that future presidents will be able to reverse the tide, run a more restrained and sensible foreign policy, and lead the world by example instead of extreme measures.”

In a separate op-ed, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Charles V. Pena also argues against U.S. intervention in Libya. Although Gadhafi is bad for Libyans, “he doesn’t pose a threat to the United States—which should be the one and only criterion for using U.S. military force,” Pena writes. “America would be wise to remember the so-called Pottery Barn rule that former Secretary of State (and before that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) Colin Powell warned about prior to invading Iraq: ‘You break it, you own it.’”

“Buy Two Wars, Get Another for Half Price,” by Ivan Eland (3/23/11)

“The Libya Folly,” by Charles V. Pena (3/28/11)

Watch Charles Pena respond to President Obama’s remarks on Libya, FreedomWatch, Fox Business, Monday, 3/28/11, at 8 PM ET

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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2) Opportunism Fuels Europe’s Panic over Nuclear Power

Radiation leaks at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have put Europeans in a panic, reports Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa. Germany and Spain are speaking of shutting down some or all of their nations’ nuclear power plants, rather than, say, re-inspecting power-plant cooling systems. And the European media have encouraged the public to consume iodine as a precaution against radiation poisoning, despite the two vast oceans and sprawling North American continent that eastern-blowing wind from Japan would need to cross in order to reach Europe.

European Union energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger could have done a better job assuring people that the EU’s 143 reactors do not possess measurable public health risks. Given his involvement in party politics, Oettinger had stronger incentives to fuel the campaign of fear than educate an ignorant populace, Vargas Llosa suggests in his latest op-ed.

“It would be a tragic mistake for Europe to reverse the encouraging trend of recent years toward the revival of nuclear energy for civilian use,” Vargas Llosa writes. “Only Russia’s autocrats and Middle Eastern tyrants, on whom European energy has an unhealthy reliance, would stand to gain.”

“Nuclear Hysteria,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (3/23/11) Spanish Translation

“The Failed Promise of Nuclear Power,” by William Beaver (The Independent Review, Winter 2011)

Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of 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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3) Airport Screening Prompts Continued Health and Privacy Concerns

The Transportation Security Administration hopes to quell privacy concerns about invasive airport screening procedures. At the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in January, TSA Administrator John Pistole announced that his agency would expand the use of new, privacy-protecting software for body scanners that would generate only the “generic outline” of a scanned passenger.

Unfortunately, the agency has not adequately addressed concerns about the health risks associated with body scanners, concerns raised by Columbia University radiation biophysicist David Brenner and other scientists, according to Independent Institute Research Analyst Cassandra Moore. “Despite the caveats and without providing the public with an account of its own research, the TSA insists that its technologies are safe,” Moore writes.

Air passengers who elect for an enhanced pat down instead of a scanner take a different sort of risk. Independent Institute Senior Vice President Mary L. G. Theroux submitted to a pat down while protesting the intrusion, but her travel companion was told to turn off his cell-phone camera during the incident, despite a different policy stated on the TSA website. “I have subsequently been bombarded with emails detailing experiences ranging from petty humiliations to horrifying,” writes Theroux, “including an inordinate number of women reporting overly intrusive groping of their breasts and pubic areas.”

“The TSA Invades Our Liberties,” by Cassandra Moore (StatesmanJournal.com, 3/18/11)

“Revolutionary Calls for Freedom—Where Are They in America?” by Mary L. G. Theroux (StatesmanJournal.com, 3/14/11)

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4) The False Promise of Business Subsidies

Beware of politicos bearing gifts. President Obama visited some of the leading players in Silicon Valley to promote his “competitiveness agenda” and to flaunt federal subsidies for research and development. Independent Institute Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II argues that federal subsidies for R&D are a bad deal for taxpayers.

“While public ‘investments’ in technological innovation sound like a good idea,” Shughart writes, “the danger is that the funds will be directed toward politically popular projects rather than those with the highest economic value.” Shughart relates the story of federal subsidies to railroads during and after the U.S. Civil War. Some believed the subsidies were necessary to build a transcontinental railway link, but the success of Great Northern—which connected St. Paul to Seattle, without taking a dime in federal assistance—proved otherwise.

Unfortunately, that lesson is ignored by every administration, especially in the case of fashionable R&D. Shughart continues: “Remember Jimmy Carter's quest for a new synthetic fuel or Bill Clinton's dream of getting Detroit to produce a car that would go 100 miles on a gallon of gas? Untold federal treasure was wasted chasing those wills of the wisp.”

“Silicon Valley, Beware of Feds Bearing R&D Gifts,” by William F. Shughart II (San Jose Mercury News, 3/16/11)

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

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

The Independent Institute’s Spanish-language blog is available here.

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