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

Volume 13, Issue 27: July 5, 2011

  1. Spending Cuts, Not a Flat Tax, Are Needed to Restore the Economy
  2. Obama’s Nixon Strategy
  3. Drug War Casualties
  4. College Students: Explore Liberty at Our Summer Seminar!
  5. New Blog Posts

1) Spending Cuts, Not a Flat Tax, Are Needed to Restore the Economy

The current federal tax code is 9 million words long and its compliance costs alone likely exceed $350 billion a year. Replacing it with a single tax bracket of, say, 17 percent would produce huge economic benefits by freeing up the tremendous resources currently devoted to lobbying for tax favors, recording keeping and reporting, and staying abreast of the frequent changes in tax rules and tax forms. But shifting to a flat tax would not suffice to make the U.S. economy healthy and globally competitive, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow William F. Shughart II.

One reason that a flat tax would not restore and maintain the health of the U.S. economy is that to win political approval it would need to generate the same amount of revenue as the current tax code. But a “revenue neutral” tax reform would still leave us with annual budget deficits in excess of $1 trillion and a growing debt burden for future generations of taxpayers.

“Restoring America’s global competitiveness requires balancing the public budget, not by raising taxes, but by cutting spending: reducing the size of government,” Shughart writes in an op-ed published in the Sacramento Bee and elsewhere. “It also requires reducing the job-killing regulatory burden on the private sector—the thousands of pages of rules and regulations that bind the hands and increase the costs of business—and maintaining a sound and stable currency.”

Flat Taxes Won’t Restore Our Global Competitiveness, by William F. Shughart II (Sacramento Bee, 6/30/11)

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

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2) Obama’s Nixon Strategy

President Richard Nixon postponed reaching a peace settlement with North Vietnam until 1973. The reason seems purely political: to delay the fall of South Vietnam until after the 1972 U.S. presidential election. Fast-forward nearly forty years. President Obama says the United States has largely achieved its goals in Afghanistan. He has confirmed his plan to withdraw 33,000 U.S. troops by September 2012 but will keep 70,000 troops stationed there until after his reelection bid. Is history repeating itself? Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland wonders.

Obama has touted the success of his “counterinsurgency” strategy in Afghanistan--despite a scarcity of the kind of local political victories that guerilla-warfare experts such as William R. Polk say are necessary to defeat an insurgency, according to Eland. The Taliban needs merely to lay low until enough U.S. troops have been withdrawn that it can launch a military campaign devoted to fighting the inadequate Afghan government. Obama sees the writing on the wall and knows that removing all U.S. troops from harm’s way before the 2012 election would lead to a Taliban resurgence that would throw Afghanistan into a bloody chaos and likely diminish his prospects for reelection.

“Richard Nixon faced the same dilemma presiding over the lost Vietnam War,” Eland writes in his latest op-ed. “Again, American lives will be needlessly lost so that a slick politician can look his best at election time.”

Like Nixon, Obama Will Waste Lives to Get Reelected, by Ivan Eland (6/28/11)

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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3) Drug War Casualties

Not to obsess over Richard Nixon, but it was forty years ago that the thirty-seventh President of the United States declared a war on illicit drugs. Since then, drug potency has increased, incarceration rates have risen, and street violence has jumped. Police agencies have also become more aggressive, undertaking 70,000 to 80,000 “no-knock raids” per year. The drug war merits serious reconsideration, Independent Institute Research Fellow Art Carden argues in his latest op-ed at Forbes.com.

It’s bad enough that the feds spend $15.6 billion per year to enforce drug prohibition. State and local governments spend $25.7 billion annually on the drug war. Law enforcement strategies often seem predicated on the belief that the drug problem would go away if only the government could simply convict enough top drug dealers. In reality, however, there seems to be no practical limit to the number of aspiring kingpins ready to assume the throne.

“Some world leaders have owned up to [the folly of drug prohibition] and said that the global war on drugs has been an amazing and horrifying mistake,” Carden writes. “It’s past time we recognize that. Drugs are bad, m’kay? I get that. But the drug war is worse.”

The Drug War: What Is It Good For?, by Art Carden (Forbes.com, 6/23/11)

More by Art Carden

Drug War Crimes: The Consequences of Drug Prohibition, by Jeffrey Miron

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4) College Students: Explore Liberty at Our Summer Seminar!

From June 20-24 about thirty high-school students and homeschooled teens attended the Independent Institute’s Challenge of Liberty Summer Seminar. With so many bright and inquisitive students, some instructors considered it our best student seminar ever! Now we are gearing up for our session for college students. This event will be held August 1 to 5 at Notre Dame de Namur University, in Belmont, Calif.

The program is designed to introduce college students to the ethical and economic principles of a free society. Topics include the philosophy of freedom, understanding core economic principles, property rights, wealth creation, monopolies, inflation, the business cycle, the future of freedom, and more. The material assumes no prior background in economics, history, or political theory. Students well versed in those subjects, however, can expect to benefit from seeing the principles of a free society illuminated with fascinating historical and contemporary examples--and from participating in stimulating discussions with the seminar faculty and with other students, at a picturesque college campus on the San Francisco Peninsula.

Speakers for the August session will include 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), Robert Higgs (The Independent Institute), Matthew Holian (San Jose State University), Michael Winther (Institute for Principle Studies), and José Yulo (Academy of Art University). College 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
Session II: 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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