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

Volume 6, Issue 47: November 22, 2004

  1. Peace After Arafat?
  2. Rolling Back Drug War Crimes
  3. The Real Lesson of Thanksgiving

1) Peace After Arafat?

Yasir Arafat's death has created a power vacuum likely to make a U.S.-brokered peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians even more elusive, argues Ivan Eland in his latest op-ed.

"Any U.S.-brokered Israeli settlement reached with [new Palestinian leaders Mahmoud] Abbas and [Ahmed] Qurei would lack widespread legitimacy among Palestinians and would thus be only a paper agreement. And if turmoil or civil war among Palestinians ensues, Bush and Sharon may have nostalgia for the days when Arafat ruled," writes Eland.

"Since at this time, neither Israeli nor Palestinian behavior indicates a desire for peace, the United States should quit banging its head against the wall in an attempt to force the reluctant parties together."

The United States probably could help the cause of peace by reducing aid to the region, however, Eland argues. U.S. aid has helped to underwrite the military power that has exacerbated the underlying conflict. Ending aid would also have the benefit of pressuring the Israeli government to enact pro-market economic reforms.

"If Israel solved the Palestinian conflict and made economic reforms -- which would be encouraged by ending U.S. military and economic aid, respectively -- quantum increases in foreign investment and Israeli and Palestinian prosperity would likely result.

"The United States should not force the two recalcitrant parties to the negotiating table but could encourage peace between them by changing its own policies toward the Middle East," Eland concludes.

See "U.S. Policy Harms Prospects for Middle East Peace," by Ivan Eland (11/22/04) http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1424

To purchase THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland, see
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=54

Center on Peace & Liberty
http://www.independent.org/research/copal/

Ivan Eland's speaking engagements:

-- November 24, 9:30 a.m. (Mountain Time): Ivan Eland will be interviewed on the Charles Goyette Show on 1100 KFNX (Phoenix, AZ).

-- November 27-29, Jordan: King Abdullah II, Yarmouk University, and the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs will host "Islam and Muslims in the 21st Century," an international conference to be held in Amman, Jordan. Ivan Eland has been invited to give a lecture on U.S. foreign policy and the Islamic world.

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2) Rolling Back Drug War Crimes

If policymakers wish to reduce violent crime in America, they are better off ending, not escalating, the war on drugs, argues Anthony Gregory, research assistant at the Independent Institute, in a new op-ed. The reduction in the homicide rate would likely be substantial -- perhaps on the order of 25 to 75 percent, as is suggested by Independent Institute Research Fellow Jeffery A. Miron, author of DRUG WAR CRIMES: The Consequences of Prohibition.

"As the Drug War intensifies, the black market in drugs becomes more profitable, and those willing to risk prosecution and heavy prison time often become more willing to flout the law in other ways," writes Gregory. "Gang warfare becomes the norm, just as it did with alcohol prohibition, and innocent bystanders fall victim to the crossfire spawned by the drug laws.... Another result is that the police and law enforcement resources are diverted from combating non-drug-related crimes, giving criminals more freedom to terrorize communities."

Drug prohibition has not substantially reduced drug consumption or raised the price of illegal drugs. From 1980 to 1996, the price of cocaine, adjusted for inflation, fell by more than 75 percent.

"America's Drug War has become an expensive subsidy for violent crime; very few political reforms would do more to reduce violent crime in America than ending it, once and for all," concludes Gregory.

See "Rolling Back Drug War Crime," by Anthony Gregory (11/11/04)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1419

To purchase DRUG WAR CRIMES: The Consequences of Prohibition, by Jeffrey A. Miron
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=13

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3) The Real Lesson of Thanksgiving

The Pilgrims' bad food shortage didn't end when the American Indians taught them how to plant corn, explains Benjamin Powell in a new op-ed. "In fact, the pilgrims continued to face chronic food shortages for three years until the harvest of 1623. Bad weather or lack of farming knowledge did not cause the pilgrims' shortages. Bad economic incentives did."

Plymouth Plantation suffered shortages because of its system of communal property rights; food and supplies were distributed to inhabitants by perceived need; by edict there was no connection between reward and effort. Not until the pilgrims moved away from communal ownership, and allowed families to keep what they grew for themselves, did the shortages end, a point Governor William Bradford recognized in his 1647 history of the settlers.

"We are direct beneficiaries of the economics lesson the pilgrims learned in 1623," writes Powell. "Today we have a much better developed and well-defined set of property rights. Our economic system offers incentives for us -- in the form of prices and profits -- to coordinate our individual behavior for the mutual benefit of all; even those we may not personally know."

"It is customary in many families to 'give thanks to the hands that prepared this feast' during the Thanksgiving dinner blessing," Powell continues. "Perhaps we should also be thankful for the millions of other hands that helped get the dinner to the table: the grocer who sold us the turkey, the truck driver who delivered it to the store, and the farmer who raised it all contributed to our Thanksgiving dinner because our economic system rewards them. That's the real lesson of Thanksgiving. The economic incentives provided by private competitive markets where people are left free to make their own choices make bountiful feasts possible."

See "The Pilgrims' Real Thanksgiving Lesson," by Benjamin Powell (11/22/04) http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1423

For more on the role of property rights, see BEYOND POLITICS: Markets, Welfare and the Failure of Bureaucracy, by William C. Mitchell and Randy T. Simmons, at http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=34

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