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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 13, Issue 49: December 6, 2011

  1. Beyond Politics—Now Available as eBook
  2. War and Peace: A Libertarian Litmus Test
  3. Detention Law Would Violate U.S. Constitution
  4. Remembering the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Fiasco
  5. New Blog Posts

1) Beyond Politics—Now Available as eBook

Great news! We are delighted to announce that Beyond Politics: The Roots of Government Failure, by Randy T. Simmons, is now available as an ebook from Amazon (Kindle) and Apple (iTunes). And to whet your appetite for this fascinating book, we’ve just posted a short video interview with the author (link below).

Simmons’s treatise is filled with insights about why government doesn’t deliver on its promises. The book first lays down a solid foundation on the conceptual issues involved in understanding government failure, and then plunges into numerous case studies in areas ranging from education to the environment to social welfare to tax policy to unemployment and much more. “Beyond Politics is a major contribution to informed comment,” writes Gordon Tullock, one of the founding fathers of Public Choice, the subdiscipline that studies government and politics by using economic reasoning and analysis. “The book is so well written and the subject is so important and exciting that a great many people will find it very entertaining even if they do learn while reading it. We can welcome the book as a major step forward in understanding the dynamics of government and markets, and how both affect us all.”

Here is praise for Beyond Politics from the most prominent co-developer of Public Choice, Nobel laureate James M. Buchanan: “We have needed an answer to the question often asked: ‘Can you refer me to a single book that will explain in simple language what Public Choice is all about?’ Beyond Politics . . . meets this need superbly. The authors have assembled the required understanding of both economics and politics that allows them to get straight to the important elements involved.”

Beyond Politics, Kindle version

Beyond Politics, iTunes version

Beyond Politics, paperback version

Video: The Roots of Government Failure—An Interview with Randy T. Simmons (12/2/11)

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2) War and Peace: A Libertarian Litmus Test

The U.S. government invariably tramples on the people’s rights during wartime and leaves the people with fewer liberties after peace returns. This iron law of war and government is so well established, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs, that anyone who supports an aggressive warfare state essentially forfeits his claim to be a supporter of liberty. At best, such a person demonstrates profound ignorance about the nature of the state and the requirements of liberty.

“My claim is that those who give a free hand to the government in its foreign and defense policymaking will ultimately discover that they have handed their rulers the key that opens all doors, including doors that might otherwise obstruct the government’s invasion of our most cherished rights to life, liberty, and property,” Higgs writes in the Fall 2011 issue of The Independent Review. “The war-making key is, so to speak, any government’s master key because when critical trade-offs must be made, war will override all other concerns, and as an ancient maxim aptly warns us, inter armas silent leges [‘in the midst of arms, the laws are silent’]. Anyone who has looked into the U.S. Supreme Court’s history, for example, knows that during wartime the justices have placed themselves on the casualty list by effectively rolling over and playing dead.”

Hawkish “libertarians” fail the litmus test of a true libertarian, Higgs suggests, because they err in thinking that government officials have the desire and ability to make the protection of the lives and liberties of ordinary citizens their top priority, as opposed to promoting the interests of the state first and foremost. “In every war with a decisive outcome, the people on both sides lose, the government on the losing side loses, and the government on the winning side wins,” Higgs continues. “In light of these realities, what sort of libertarian wants to support the warfare state?”

Are Questions of War and Peace Merely One Issue among Many for Libertarians?, by Robert Higgs (The Independent Review, Fall 2011)

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

The Independent Review’s Special Internet Offer: Sign up on-line for a paid subscription of $28.95 and receive the next six issues for the price of four. A savings of 33% compared to the newsstand price. Available to new subscribers only, not renewals.

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3) Detention Law Would Violate U.S. Constitution

The U.S. Constitution provides for public trials by jury, except in cases of impeachment. No exception is made for accused terrorists. Yet two administrations since September 11, 2001, have made an exception: suspected al-Qaeda operatives—including personnel delivered to U.S. custody by opportunistic foreign groups with strong incentives to sell out their (non-terrorist) political rivals. Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have led the Senate Armed Services Committee to pass a provision in the 2012 defense authorization bill that would codify military detentions for al-Qaeda suspects. The provision, however, would violate the Constitution’s requirement for public trials—just as military tribunals during World War II for German soldiers caught trying to enter the United States were unconstitutional—according to Ivan Eland, senior fellow at the Independent Institute and director of Center on Peace & Liberty.

“The framers of the Constitution did not overlook special national security needs; they simply made the rights of the accused paramount,” Eland writes in his latest op-ed. “After all, even those accused of heinous crimes might be innocent. The framers were not merely protecting the rights of criminals or terrorists, but those of every citizen.”

Eland notes that the new provision would give the executive branch wide authority to determine who would be subject to military detention and allows the executive to choose civilian custody for al-Qaeda suspects if the president determines that this would promote national security. The provision also makes it easier to transfer detained terrorists from Guantanamo to foreign countries—where, presumably, restrictions on torture are more lax.

Moderation in Following the Constitution Is No Virtue, by Ivan Eland (11/30/11)

Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, by Ivan Eland

Civil Society or Dictatorship?, Anthony Gregory (The Beacon, 12/3/11)

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4) Remembering the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Fiasco

Passed in 1930, the Smoot-Hawley tariff was not the steepest tariff increase in U.S. history nor did it help cause the Great Depression, but it did make Americans worse off by greatly reducing imports and, especially, exports—this latter by provoking Canada and Great Britain to enact their own tariffs in retaliation. Douglas A. Irwin’s analysis of facts such as these helps make Peddling Protectionism: Smoot-Hawley and the Great Depression (2011) the best book ever written on the subject, according to economist Donald J. Bourdreaux, who reviews Irwin’s book in the Fall 2011 issue of The Independent Review.

The Great Depression cut U.S. exports, but Smoot-Hawley also cut them by a considerable amount, according to Irwin, an outcome the tariff’s boosters neither desired nor anticipated. Together, the depression and the tariff cut the volume of U.S. exports in half from 1929 to 1932.

“Some good eventually did sprout from Smoot-Hawley, however,” Boudreaux writes. “Most important, it long gave protectionism a bad name . . . . Also, Congress’s tiresome fifteen-month-long experience in crafting in minute detail the specifics of a massive new tariff schedule and in rolling so many political logs meant that nearly everyone (including many in Congress) came to see its direct tariff setting as a mockery of the ideals of democracy, so Smoot-Hawley remains to this day the last tariff schedule Congress ever set directly.”

Donald J. Boudreaux’s review of Peddling Protectionism: Smoot-Hawley and the Great Depression, by Douglas A. Irwin (The Independent Review, Fall 2011)

The Independent Review’s Special Internet Offer: Sign up on-line for a paid subscription of $28.95 and receive the next six issues for the price of four. A savings of 33% compared to the newsstand price. Available to new subscribers only, not renewals.

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

The Independent Institute’s Spanish-language blog has surpassed 3 million page views! You can find it here.

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