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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 13, Issue 24: June 14, 2011

  1. The Vital Alliance of Truth, Liberty, and Prosperity
  2. Obama Ratchets Up Aggressive War Policies
  3. Leaving Iraq and Afghanistan
  4. Cracking Down on Flawed Immigration Assumptions
  5. New Blog Posts

1) The Vital Alliance of Truth, Liberty, and Prosperity

The search for truth reinforces the quest for liberty. The two pursuits are allies and complements: undermine one and you thereby hinder the other. The spread of falsehoods in economic theory, for example, has intellectual ripple effects that tend to promote government policies that reduce economic liberty and prosperity.

In his recent address to top graduate students at Francisco Marroquín University in Guatemala, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs illuminated the sources of falsehoods in the economics profession and the resulting negative consequences for liberty and prosperity. Reductions of economic liberty, he also explained, undermine the communication of truth--specifically, the economic truths that a free-market price system would convey routinely and continually, the truths that would enable individuals to better plan their lives and to better coordinate their economic plans with each other and thereby promote economic and social progress.

“Taxes, subsidies, and other government intrusions in the market process in effect falsify the price ‘signals’ that guide market participants in their decisions about how much to buy, how much to sell, how to produce, where to produce, and exactly when to take various actions,” Higgs writes. “Too few of us understand...that the free market itself is a grand generator of truth, and that, in general, government intrusion of any kind operates to substitute falsehood for this truth, with devastating consequences for the genuine flourishing of social and economic life.”

Garbage In, Garbage Out: Truth, Freedom, and Falsehood in Economic Analysis and Policy Making, by Robert Higgs (Big Government, 5/14/11)

Video: Robert Higgs’s Speech to Honor Graduates at Francisco Marroquín University (5/6/11)

Video: Robert Higgs Receives Honorary Degree from Francisco Marroquín University (5/6/11)

Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, by Robert Higgs

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

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2) Obama Ratchets Up Aggressive War Policies

President Obama’s foreign policy is more aggressive than that of George W. Bush during the final years of his presidency, according to Independent Institute Research Editor Anthony Gregory. Obama has followed the path of Bush’s troop drawdown in Iraq, but he has escalated the war in Afghanistan, upped the violence in Pakistan, bombed Yemen and Somalia, and started a new war against Libya--thereby making matters worse than a hypothetical third term of Bush would have been--Gregory argues in a new op-ed based on his recent study, What Price War? Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Costs of Conflict.

“Obama has not just stayed the course, he has stepped on the gas,” Gregory writes. One result has been an increase of U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan. In 2008--Bush’s last full year in office--155 U.S. troops were killed. In 2009, 317 American armed-service personnel died in Afghanistan and in 2010, 499 died. In addition, more contractors and Afghan civilians have died during Obama’s campaign compared to comparable intervals during most of the Bush presidency.

Obama has also been a disaster on civil liberties, Gregory argues. “On the civil liberties and human rights fronts, he has invoked the Espionage Act more than all earlier presidents combined, persecuted whistleblowers, covered up torturers, and abused habeas corpus and the Fourth Amendment as much as Bush,” Gregory writes. “And surely bin Laden could have been found without these monstrous policies.”

Worse Than a Third Bush Term?, by Anthony Gregory (6/7/11)

Video: Anthony Gregory on the Costs of Conflict (6/6/11)

What Price War? Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Costs of Conflict, by Anthony Gregory (Independent Institute Policy Report, 6/1/11)

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3) Leaving Iraq and Afghanistan

How might President Obama extricate the United States from the costly and bloody quagmires of Afghanistan and Iraq? He must do four things, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland argues in a recent op-ed.

First, Obama must resist pressure from departing Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has argued for a more attenuated U.S. troop reduction--reportedly a cut of between 3,000 and 5,000 troops. Second, he must withdraw all U.S. troops before the end of 2014, the deadline agreed upon by NATO and the Afghan government. Third, he must lessen the U.S. military footprint in other Muslim countries in order to weaken the motives of anti-U.S. insurgents and terrorists. Fourth, he must not let a return of civil strife and intergroup violence delay a full pull out or a return of U.S. troops.

“Afghanistan and Iraq may very well descend into more severe internecine conflict after the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces, but America can no longer afford the blood and treasure required to fight pointless wars in perpetuity,” Eland writes.

Accelerate Withdrawals from Afghanistan and Iraq, by Ivan Eland (6/8/11)

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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4) Cracking Down on Flawed Immigration Assumptions

Alabama governor Robert Bentley last week signed into law what many consider to be the nation’s strictest state policies against illegal immigrants. In his latest column at Forbes.com, Independent Institute Research Fellow and former Alabaman Art Carden argues that the new law is “unnecessary at best and almost certainly counterproductive.”

Some supporters of the new law claim its enforcement will reduce unemployment for U.S. citizens because undocumented workers take away jobs they might otherwise have. But this assumption is flawed, Carden argues. First, jobs per se are not a rational goal of economic policy; after all, jobs could be promoted simply by banning labor-saving machinery--but we would have a lower standard of living as a result. Moreover, immigrants, whether documented or undocumented, tend to raise everyone’s standard of living because their employment creates more opportunities for workers to specialize within the division of labor: more workers means higher productivity means greater prosperity.

If Alabama’s new law is strictly enforced, according to Carden, it will likely have very undesirable consequences, just as have the war on terror and the war on drugs. “I expect that a war on illegal immigrants will involve moral compromises we should not be prepared to make,” he writes. “Governments might be able to ‘solve’ the immigration ‘problem,’ but only at enormous costs in terms of time, talent, treasure, and liberty.”

Immigration Crackdowns Are Unnecessary and Invasive, by Art Carden (Forbes.com, 6/9/11)

More on immigration policy

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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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