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

Volume 14, Issue 20: May 15, 2012

  1. The Case for Freedom of Immigration
  2. Federal Lands Policy Wastes Resources
  3. Underwear Plot Reveals Folly of U.S. Policy
  4. Pentagon Aviation Plan a Study in Denial and Deception
  5. New Blog Posts

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1) The Case for Freedom of Immigration

Although at odds with many in the Republican Party, Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s recent call to let young illegal immigrants stay in the United States legally harks backs to an earlier time, when Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush tried to surpass each other in their proposals to liberalize federal immigration restrictions. In contrast, not only do many in the GOP today support stiffer enforcement of immigration laws, so do many Democrats. Consider the White House: “As of September, President Obama had deported over one million illegal aliens and was well on schedule to achieve more deportations in one term that George W. Bush did in two,” writes Independent Institute Research Editor Anthony Gregory in his latest column at the Huffington Post.

Obama’s deportations are indicative of a larger trend toward tougher border enforcement. Other measures include the surveillance drones that now patrol much of the U.S.-Mexico border, an 850-mile-long fence, and tighter restrictions sought by the states, especially Arizona and Alabama. Some activists have even proposed the mass deportation of all illegal residents—“a purge of totalitarian proportions,” in Gregory’s words. Yet despite the harsher political climate for illegal immigrants, net immigration has fallen in recent years mostly because a weak U.S. economy has made it less attractive to sneak into the United States. And this fact sheds light on the economic case for immigration liberalization.

Immigrants who seek to work in the United States should be allowed to do so because they help to produce more goods and services and contribute to a rising average standard of living. But in order to reap those benefits, we must create a climate—especially a political climate—that welcomes all immigrants who wish to earn a living by offering their labor services in a free market. In other words, for immigration liberalization to be realized and sustained, it should be accompanied by domestic cultural change. “Rubio’s plan might be a small step toward sanity,” Gregory writes. “But not until the word ‘amnesty’ loses its taboo—not until we at least return to the terms of debate between those social radicals Reagan and Bush Sr.—will we really be on our way to a humane, just policy.”

Let Them All Stay—Amnesty, Now, by Anthony Gregory (Huffington Post, 5/10/12)

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2) Federal Lands Policy Wastes Resources

The U.S. federal government is wasting valuable resources by locking up millions of acres of “public” land that would otherwise be used to the benefit of all Americans. Federal policy amounts to a form of colonialism vis-à-vis the states, and the feds have weak incentives to manage natural resources in ways that benefit the people. So argues Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert H. Nelson, author of The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion vs. Environmental Religion in Contemporary America, in a new op-ed published in the Arizona Republic.

“It is time to end the outdated federal land policies, which are draining our country’s wealth, tying up valuable resources in red tape and bureaucracy, and harming the environment,” Nelson writes.

Few Americans—especially those not residing in the western states—realize the scope of federal ownership: the feds own most of the total land of Nevada, Utah, Idaho; 45 percent of the land in California and Arizona; and significant portions of other western states. These lands are overseen by two federal agencies: the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, and they would be better managed at the state level or by private landowners. Nelson offers a proposal to dispose of most federal lands, a transition that could be accomplished in perhaps ten years. “Lands that have real commercial value,” Nelson writes, “can produce a double benefit: revenue from leases and land sales, and additional revenue from the jobs, minerals, oil, gas, lumber, and other commodities the freed-up lands would produce.”

Wasteful U.S. Public-Land Policy Must Change, by Robert H. Nelson (Arizona Republic, 5/5/12)

The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion vs. Environmental Religion in Contemporary America, by Robert H. Nelson

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3) Underwear Plot Reveals Folly of U.S. Policy

Last week, the Associated Press disclosed an attempted terrorist attack against American targets—a plot allegedly planned by al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a group based in Yemen. How should U.S. officials deal with terrorist attacks emanating from that country? The proper course is for the United States to deescalate its military campaign in Yemen, because doing so would weaken the motives for AQAP to attack the United States, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland.

Like the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban, AQAP did not target U.S. assets until the United States started to conduct military campaigns in those countries. Thus, it stands to reason that reducing the U.S. military presence in those countries would remove a key motive of those terrorist groups to plot against American targets, rather than simply plot against the governments of those countries, Eland argues in his latest op-ed.

Moreover, the U.S. military campaign in Yemen is unconstitutional. The White House “is stretching the limits of the [post-9/11 congressional] resolution by attacking AQAP, the Pakistani Taliban, and the al-Shabab military group in Somalia—none of which had anything to do with 9/11 or even existed then,” Eland writes. “If the United States feels that there is too much water under the bridge with AQAP, it needs to go back to Congress and ask for approval to strike there.... At minimum, if force must be used, it should create the lightest footprint possible and not create more anti-U.S. terrorists than it kills.”

What’s Behind the Second Underwear Bombing Attempt?, by Ivan Eland (5/9/12)

No War for Oil: U.S. Dependency and the Middle East, by Ivan Eland

Barron’s review of No War for Oil (scroll to bottom and click on page 2)

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4) Pentagon Aviation Plan a Study in Denial and Deception

America’s combat aviation inventory and capabilities are aging, shrinking, and getting more expensive. However, the Defense Department’s latest aviation purchasing blueprint doesn’t acknowledge these realities, and the Pentagon brass are likely to continue to mischaracterize these issues when they testify before Congress in the months leading up to the November election, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Winslow T. Wheeler.

The blueprint—formally known as the Annual Aviation Inventory and Funding Plan, Fiscal Years FY 2013–2042—is a 30-year plan that is perhaps slightly more reliable than the infamous Five Year Plans prepared by the Soviet ministry of central economic planning. It is rife with exaggerations, vagueness, and evasions, Wheeler explains. For example, it places unmanned drones in the same category as various manned aircraft, thereby masking the production of drones. But this creates only a small distortion compared to the report’s many other irregularities about military aircraft, Wheeler suggests.

“Despite these and other gigantic flaws in the aviation plan, the noise of screams for more money by spending advocates is exceeded only by the echoes of even louder snoring rattling through the halls of Congress,” Wheeler writes. “There is one more passage in this Aviation Plan that merits comment. On the cover, it notes: ‘Preparation of this study/report cost the Department of Defense a total of approximately $1,047,752 in Fiscal Years 2011-2012.’ Priceless.”

The Pentagon’s Million-Dollar Aviation Plan, by Winslow Wheeler (Time, 5/1/12)

More by Winslow T. Wheeler

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

You can find the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language blog here.

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