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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 13, Issue 14: April 5, 2011

  1. Libya and the Imperial U.S. Presidency
  2. Immigration Limbo: An April Fool’s Day Joke?
  3. Obama’s Visit to Latin America
  4. S. Fred Singer: Frugal Scientist in the Belly of the Beast
  5. New Blog Posts

1) Libya and the Imperial U.S. Presidency

President Obama bowed to U.S. allies—and abdicated his leadership on behalf of the American people—when he ordered airstrikes against the Gadhafi regime, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland argues in his latest op-ed. “A true leader would have resisted such inane pressure,” Eland writes. Moreover, Obama’s actions took the United States to war (even though the President calls it something other than war) without obtaining congressional approval—an unconstitutional act that Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has called “an impeachable offense.”

On matters of armed conflict, the republic’s founders—including James Madison and Alexander Hamilton—expressly sought to subordinate the Commander-in-Chief to the will of Congress. In the Federalist 69, Hamilton contrasted the limited war-fighting powers of the U.S. president (who could legitimately command and direct the nation’s military) with the broad war-making powers of British kings (who could declare war and also raise the soldiers and sailors necessary to wage war). Eland writes: “James Wilson, the founder most responsible for the text of the Constitution, noted that the provision requiring the Congress to declare war ‘will not hurry us into war; it is calculated to guard against it. It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress.’”

Obama is guilty of repeating a long pattern of White House usurpation of congressional authority, not of starting the trend. That dubious distinction, at least as it relates to major conflicts, belongs to Harry Truman, who committed U.S. troops to the Korean War in 1950 without obtaining a congressional declaration of war. To oppose the trend of the imperial, war-making presidency, Eland calls for more members of Congress follow Kucinich’s lead by threatening to impeach presidents who lead the nation into war without obtaining the requisite congressional declaration.

“High Costs May Not Be the Worst Aspects of the Attack on Libya,” by Ivan Eland (3/30/11)

“Charles Peña Critiques Obama’s War in Libya on Fox Business Channel,” by David Theroux (The Beacon, 3/29/11)

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

The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition, by Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr.

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2) Immigration Limbo: An April Fool’s Day Joke?

On April 1 the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began to accept petitions for H-1B Visas for the 2012 fiscal year. Although most applicants must vie for one of 65,000 slots, 20,000 others may obtain the U.S. work permit because they possess a master’s degree from a U.S. school or can secure a job at a college or a non-profit or government research organization. In his latest column at Forbes.org, Independent Institute Adjunct Fellow Art Carden argues in favor of loosening the requirements for H-1B Visas and for allowing immigrants of all colors, creeds, and credentials to work in the United States.

“First, there is an ethical argument for it,” Carden writes. “Restricting immigration restricts the right of people to cooperate on terms they find agreeable. Second, there’s a narrow economic argument for it. Immigrants tend to have skills that are complements to rather than substitutes for natives’ skills. They create new opportunities for trade and innovation. In short, they provide us with more opportunities to cooperate with others to mutual advantage, and we get richer in the process.”

Overall, immigrant labor does not depress the wages of native workers, although the earnings of some U.S.-born workers may suffer slightly due to competition from immigrants. (High-school dropouts have 4.8 percent lower wages than they would have if immigrants did not participate in the U.S. workforce, according to data that Carden cites.) “I take this not as a signal that we need more restrictions on immigrants,” Carden continues. “Rather, people need to stay in school.”

“Tear This Wall Down,” by Art Carden (Forbes.com, 3/31/11)

More on immigration

More by Art Carden

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3) Obama’s Visit to Latin America

Latin Americans are wrong to bemoan President Obama’s trip last month to their vast but often overlooked region. True, the visit brought no new major policy initiatives, but one might argue that no news is good news. Latin America has managed to grow much more prosperous in the past decade—poverty, for example, has fallen to one third of previous levels—despite Uncle Sam’s lack of engagement with the region.

Thank globalization for the progress. Trade with China has become big business for the economies of Brazil and Chile, and U.S. exports to Latin America have grown faster than its exports to any other region in the world.

Chile in particular has developed rapidly—both economically and politically. “It also has a president, Sebastian Pinera, who is a good interpreter of current trends in Latin America and a good judge of the players’ instincts,” writes Alvaro Vargas Llosa, senior fellow at the Independent Institute’s Center on Global Prosperity. “His insistence that the U.S. ratify the free-trade agreements with Colombia and Panama ought not to fall on deaf ears.”

Latin America—No Drama, Obama,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (3/30/11) Spanish Translation

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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4) S. Fred Singer: Frugal Scientist in the Belly of the Beast

What’s it like for a frugal research scientist to work in the federal bureaucracy? In his latest piece for American Thinker, atmospheric physicist S. Fred Singer, author of the Independent Institute book Hot Talk, Cold Science, reminisces about working in five different positions under both Republic and Democratic administrations—including his attempts to cut agency budgets.

Appointed the first Director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service in 1962, Singer left this position after two years for academia, pleased to have cut his agency’s bloated budget by half. “I didn’t realize at the time that this would come back to bite me,” he writes. “The bureaucracy never forgets or forgives.” After a few years of university teaching, Singer returned to government, directing research on water quality with the Department of Interior, pushing for cost-benefit studies at the new Environmental Protection Agency, and trying to privatize programs while working at the National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere—assignments that were interspersed with academic appointments.

Some of Singer’s views—including his opposition to the International Space Station and to a manned moon base—likely prevented him from getting jobs at NASA. And his skepticism about man-made global warming may have kept Singer out of the running for an appointment supervising climate research for the Commerce Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But Singer seems philosophical about the inevitable frustrations that come from working for the federal government: “We need lots of mid-level managers who are not afraid to put their jobs on the line,” he writes. “The bureaucracy is steeped in a culture of automatic annual increases—and new programs.... Remember that ‘pulling pigs out of the trough causes a lot of squealing.’”

“Adventures in Federal Budget Cutting,” by S. Fred Singer (American Thinker, 4/1/11)

Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate, by S. Fred Singer

More by S. Fred Singer

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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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