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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 13, Issue 26: June 28, 2011

  1. War Powers Act Doesn’t Apply to Obama’s Libyan War, Eland Argues
  2. Book Champions Market-Based Law and Justice
  3. Merchants of Pseudo-Science and Libel
  4. Price Controls Worsen Disasters
  5. New Blog Posts

1) War Powers Act Doesn’t Apply to Obama’s Libyan War, Eland Argues

House Speaker John Boehner is wrong about Libya and the War Powers Resolution, according to Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty. Although President Obama was foolish for initiating a military campaign against Libya, the War Powers Resolution doesn’t apply to this example of military adventurism. Obama’s war is illegal for other reasons.

Passed in 1973, the War Powers Resolution requires a president to withdraw U.S. troops within 60 days (or 90 days, if the president as Commander-in-Chief has certified that troop safety is at risk) after sending troops into battle. However, Section 3, part c, of the resolution spells out the conditions under which the resolution applies, and none of them apply in the case of Libya, according to Eland. Barring a congressional declaration of war or specific statutory authorization, the War Powers Resolution would apply only if Libya had attacked the United States or U.S. territory or possessions and thereby caused a national emergency.

Since those conditions are absent, the Republican opponents of Obama’s Libyan engagement have made a strategic mistake by emphasizing the Resolution. Republicans who seek to use the Resolution to rein in Obama “cannot, or choose not, to read the plain meaning of the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution,” Eland writes. “In conclusion, the Republicans should revamp and strengthen their legal objection to Obama’s war in Libya and vote to cut off funding for the adventure.”

Republicans Bungle War-Powers Pushback, by Ivan Eland (6/22/11)

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) Book Champions Market-Based Law and Justice

The provision of justice and security has long been linked in most people’s minds to the state. But are the state’s monopolies on lawmaking and law enforcement really necessary? Those who say “yes” typically assume that any alternative arrangement for law and order would favor the rich at the expense of the poor—or would unleash a war of all against all. Not all scholars agree, however. Independent Institute Senior Fellow Bruce L. Benson challenges the conventional wisdom in his 1990 book, The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State, a treatise that has just been reissued by the Independent Institute.

The Enterprise of Law represents a dazzling integration of historical and economic analysis. Non-state institutions have fought crime, resolved disputes, and administered justice more effectively than has the state, Benson argues, because in the absence of government obstacles they have had stronger incentives to provide those services. Skeptics would rightly wonder whether non-state institutions have in fact provided justice--properly construed--as opposed to mere law and order. Benson anticipates this challenge. He notes that private property and restitution for injured parties were characteristics shared by the customary legal traditions of the Kapauku Paupuans of Western New Guinea; the Anglo-Saxons before the Norman conquest; medieval Iceland and Ireland; the Law Merchant (a private institution that governed international trade since medieval times); and the western frontier of the United States during the 1800s.

Benson concludes with a look at the promises, pitfalls, and prospects of privatization today (or rather tomorrow, since vested interests would surely defeat political efforts to implement full privatization in the near-term). He notes, for example, that privatization must be designed and implemented in ways that would prevent special interests from winning undue “sweetheart” deals as a result of privatization. He also makes the case that a fully privatized system of law and justice would be strongly biased toward individual liberty and private property. Strong incentives, he argues, would make it likely that such a system would feature full restitution for injured parties; a variety of insurance-like arrangements and “treaties” between competing protection organizations; private courts and judges that would be rewarded for their impartiality and clarity; the use of social ostracism and economic boycotts to help incentivize convicted lawbreakers to pay their debts; and prisons that would treat inmates well in order to enhance prisoner productivity and hasten the rate of debt repayment. “Many questions might remain, of course,” Benson writes, “even for those who find the arguments for privatization to be compelling.”

Purchase The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State, by Bruce L. Benson.

Read a detailed book summary.

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3) Merchants of Pseudo-Science and Libel

Science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway have attacked the credibility of several scientists, as suggested in the subtitle of their book, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. Independent Institute Research Fellow S. Fred Singer, one of the attacked, returns the favor in a new article that appeared in American Thinker.

Singer first disputes the scientific literacy of Oreskes and Conway. Their book, according to Singer, states erroneously that a pH coefficient of 6.0 denotes neutrality; that the element beryllium is a “heavy metal” (though its atomic weight is only 9); that the stratosphere is cooling because carbon dioxide is “trapped” in the troposphere; that climate models can predict local weather phenomena such as forest fires and floods; and that oxygen-15 (with a half life is only 122 seconds) is what poses a cancer risk for tobacco smokers.

Their work as historians is also flawed, Singer argues. There is no evidence that they took the trouble to interview noted scientists Robert Jastrow, William Nierenberg, or Frederick Seitz, opting instead of second- and third-hand accounts of their work. (Unfortunately, it is too late to interview them now; all three have passed away.) Also, Oreskes and Conway attribute to Singer the idea of a “cap-and-trade” emissions policy, though they never asked him if he made this claim (he didn’t). Instead of employing the traditional tools of professional historians—primary documents including, where possible, interviews—Oreskes and Conway are quick to speculate about the political motives of their subjects. Writes Singer: “It seems [Oreskes] has figured out what motives the four senior physicists she libels in her book; it is ‘anti-communism.’ Really!”

Science and Smear Merchants, by S. Fred Singer (American Thinker, 6/21/11)

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

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4) Price Controls Worsen Disasters

In a recent contribution for Forbes.com, Independent Institute Research Fellow Art Carden argues that laws against “price gouging” in the wake of tornadoes and other natural disasters are bad policies. Higher prices, he explains, go hand-in-hand with disasters because they reduce supplies and create problems for suppliers. Addressing the underlying problem by legislating lower prices, however, is counterproductive.

Far better, Carden explains, is to let prices increase. “Freely moving prices make sure resources are allocated to their highest-valued uses, and rising prices send people a very important signal: resources have gotten scarcer and need to be conserved.”

By preventing prices from rising during a natural disaster, we send the wrong signals to consumers and to suppliers: we tell them, in effect, that today’s circumstances are no worse than yesterday’s, that they needn’t change their spending habits or business priorities. “Price-gouging laws,” Carden continues, “compound the already-onerous burden on people who are affected by natural disasters by creating shortages.”

Price Gouging Laws Hurt Storm Victims, Art Carden (Forbes.com, 6/17/11)

More by Art Carden

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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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