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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
Subscribe now, or browse Back Issues.

Volume 13, Issue 21: May 25, 2011

  1. Spending Cuts and Political Will
  2. Minimum Wages, Maximum Harm
  3. Melanoma and the EPA
  4. Students: Explore Liberty at an Independent Institute Summer Seminar!
  5. New Blog Posts

1) Spending Cuts and Political Will

Republican and Democratic leaders share blame for the U.S. government’s $14.3 trillion debt. Their parties are negotiating tax and spending goals that would become automatic if budget targets are not met—an idea that sounds promising, if only on the surface, according to Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty.

“But actually both parties are disingenuous, because they are proposing future targets and automatic triggers to actually avoid draconian across-the-board changes,” Eland writes in his latest op-ed.

Eland has long advocated across-the-board spending cuts as the best way to deal with America’s fiscal crisis, and he worries that Washington is less interested in solving that problem than in providing political cover to protect favored programs—such as bloated military spending and non-means-tested entitlement programs for the middle class, such as Social Security and Medicare. Politicians could easily get sidetracked by a deal that masks the underlying problems of politicized spending, not just overspending. “Such budget gimmicks of targets and triggers are no substitute for political will,” Eland continues. “To reduce the dangerous size of government, we need to regain political will and have across-the-board spending cuts now, not as a hollow threat at some future date.”

“Across-the-Board Spending Cut Proposals Go Mainstream,” by Ivan Eland (5/18/11)

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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2) Minimum Wages, Maximum Harm

Minimum wage laws harm unskilled workers, and those with the least schooling are harmed the worst. For males from 16 to 24 years old, a ten percent increase in the minimum wage reduces employment by 2.5 percent for whites, 1.2 percent for Hispanics, and 6.5 percent for African Americans, according to a recent study by the Employment Policies Institute. Indeed, the study’s authors, economists William Even and David Macpherson, examined the twenty-one states fully affected by the 2008 and 2009 federal minimum-wage hikes and concluded that many young black males were kept jobless more often by minimum-wage laws than by the recession.

In his latest column at Forbes.com, Independent Institute Research Fellow Art Carden probes the anti-economic mindset typical of those who advocate minimum-wage laws. It’s a mindset, according to Carden, that looks at the law’s intentions and not its effects—a mindset that mistakenly believes that opponents of minimum-wage laws are driven by myopic ideology and sheer meanness.

In contrast, “the economic way of thinking sees the minimum wage as exactly what it is: interference that destroys wealth, encourages wasteful rent seeking, and hurts exactly the people it is alleged to help,” Carden writes. Many economists downplay the real harm caused by the minimum wage because other bad policies cause even worse harm to the economy as a whole. Carden, however, believes this is a bad strategy that ignores the grief and suffering those laws create: because minimum-wage laws do enormous harm to poor people who would otherwise find employment, economists should be outspoken in their opposition to those policies.

Should We Care about the Minimum Wage?” by Art Carden (Forbes.com, 5/13/11)

More by Art Carden

Out of Work, by Richard Vedder and Lowell Galloway

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3) Melanoma and the EPA

With summer only a month away, news reports about skin cancer are likely to begin their seasonal climb—and with them, calls for the U.S. Environmental Protection agency to tighten regulations intended to reduce melanoma. However, policymakers and the public overestimate the EPA’s ability to slow the growing incidence of malignant melanoma. The agency itself makes this mistake in reports to Congress that put forth false estimates of “lives saved from melanoma” by EPA policies, according to atmospheric physicist and Independent Institute Research Fellow S. Fred Singer.

“EPA’s benefit-cost calculations, used to support the regulation of important chemicals, like methyl bromide (MeBr), are essentially fraudulent if they include avoidance of melanoma cases,” Singer writes in his latest article for American Thinker.

In addition to exposing the myths behind policies the EPA alleges reduce exposure to harmful ultraviolet radiation, Singer lays out practical advice for those who seek to minimize their risk to harmful levels of exposure. Melanoma, Singer argues, has little to do with ozone or Freons; it is initiated more by exposure to UV-A rays than UV-B rays. Thus, individuals should make sure to use a sunscreen that guards against both types of radiation.

“Regulation Cannot Control Malignant Melanoma,” by S. Fred Singer (American Thinker, 5/14/11)

More by S. Fred Singer

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4) Students: Explore Liberty at an Independent Institute Summer Seminar!

The Independent Institute is delighted to host two exciting programs this summer—the Challenge of Liberty Seminars! Session I is geared toward high-school students and will be held June 20 to 24 at our headquarters in Oakland, Calif. Session II, for college students, will be held August 1 to 5 at Notre Dame de Namur University, in Belmont, Calif.

Both sessions will feature veterans of past Challenge of Liberty Summer Seminars: Seminar Director Gregory Rehmke (EconomicThinking.org), James Ahiakpor (California State University, East Bay), Carl Close (The Independent Institute), Fred Foldvary (Santa Clara University), Anthony Gregory (The Independent Institute), Matthew Holian (San Jose State University), Michael Winther (Institute for Principle Studies), and José Yulo (Academy of Art University). In addition, the high-school session will include Emily Skarbek (The Independent Institute and San Jose State University), and the college session will feature noted economic historian Robert Higgs (The Independent Institute).

Each program is designed to introduce the ethical and economic principles of a free society—and to demonstrate their application to contemporary issues. Topics include natural rights and natural law, free markets and prosperity, public goods, “market failure” and “government failure,” property rights, monopoly and competition, money and banking, health care, environmental issues, and more. College students will also learn about the Austrian school of economics, law and order without statism, and the effects of war on economic and civil liberties. Students, this is a fantastic opportunity to expand your understanding of liberty and to meet like-minded people! Space is limited, so enroll today!!!

The Challenge of Liberty Summer Seminars
High-school Students: June 20-24
College Students: August 1-5

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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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