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

Volume 15, Issue 17: April 23, 2013

  1. Responding to Terrorism in the Wake of Boston
  2. Earth Day and Its Discontents?
  3. Tax Proposals Reveal Golden State Greed
  4. Summer Seminars on Economics and Liberty
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts

The Independent Review: Subscribe or renew today and get a free copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Crisis and Levithan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, by Robert Higgs.


1) Responding to Terrorism in the Wake of Boston

The capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Watertown, Mass., last Friday brought a swift conclusion to a dramatic episode in the nation’s history. But many questions remain unanswered. Investigators may soon solve the most important factual mysteries—such as the Boston bombers’ motives and whether accomplices were involved in the plot—but questions about how policymakers and the public should respond to future terrorist attacks may be debated in the court of public opinion for years to come. Last week two Independent Institute scholars—Research Fellow Anthony Gregory and Senior Fellow Charles Peña—weighed in on some of these questions.

Whatever the investigation reveals, there is no escaping the fact that homemade bombs are easy to make, explains Peña in an op-ed for the Daily Caller. Therefore, no matter how much personnel and funding the federal government devotes to a new interagency group for countering improvised explosive devices, law enforcement will never be able to prevent and protect against every bomb plot. The public should adapt to this reality by becoming mentally prepared for terrorist attacks, and policymakers should make appropriate plans for attack recovery and mitigation. “Put another way, we need to be resilient in the face of tragedy and be able to bounce back—just as Boston is now doing,” Peña writes.

To what lengths should law enforcement go in pursuing suspected terrorists? Was the lockdown of Watertown, Cambridge, Belmont, and Boston excessive? What is the threshold for martial law? These questions should remain at the forefront of public discussion because basic liberties can easily be crushed by the law-enforcement juggernaut, notes Anthony Gregory, the author of a new book on the writ of habeas corpus. “All it took was a couple people with a couple bombs made from pressure cookers, and they managed to provide the kind of full-scale lockdown you’d expect in response to a genuine invasion by a fully armed and manned military force,” Gregory writes in The Beacon. “Monday [April 15] showed us how fragile life and social tranquility are. Today [April 19] shows us how fragile liberty is.”

Boston and the Future of IEDs in America, by Charles Peña (The Daily Caller, 4/19/13)

What Is the Threshold for Martial Law?, by Anthony Gregory (The Beacon, 4/19/13)

The Power of Habeas Corpus in America: From the King’s Prerogative to the War on Terror, by Anthony Gregory

New Video! Anthony Gregory on “Waco, Twenty Years Later—What Statism Is All About” (4/17/13)

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2) Earth Day and Its Discontents?

The theme of this Lighthouse entry on Earth Day is: environmental debate. Although various controversies regarding environmental policy usually display similarities, it’s often the subtle differences in those disputes that are particularly interesting. That’s the conclusion we draw from two pieces published recently, one by astrophysicist S. Fred Singer and one by economist Robert H. Nelson.

Singer, who focuses on climate change, notes that very little has changed regarding the controversy—the journal Science, for example, still refuses to publish important challenges to its editorial stance regarding the severity of anthropogenic global warming. What has changed, according to Singer, is only the amount of evidence that undermines the case that human activity is the leading cause. “The jury is still out on that particular debate,” Singer writes, “but increasingly the evidence points to the Sun—and to changes in solar activity.... It would be well to settle the crucial question of the cause before undertaking costly projects to mitigate climate change.”

Nelson, who focuses on the controversy over natural gas development and hydraulic fracturing (also known as “fracking”), notes fascinating fissures: splits within the environment movement and splits among Democratic politicians, long considered reliable allies of the environmentalists. A key reason for the divisions, Nelson explains, is that fracking offers environmental benefits that appear to exceed its costs. A split within the Sierra Club is illustrative. Carl Pope, a former president of the organization, seemed to have made his peace with natural gas and therefore felt comfortable secretly accepting donations from Chesapeake Energy Corp., a natural gas developer—a recent discovery that scandalized many environmentalists. Current Sierra Club President Allison Chin opposes natural gas and fracking. In part this position stems from an opposition to any form of fossil fuel, according to Nelson, a stance rooted less in environmental science than in environmental religion. “The environmental movement’s opposition to fossil fuels of any kind,” he writes, “has become an article of religious faith, not to be questioned.”

Climate Change Conversation Aborted, by S. Fred Singer (American Thinker, 4/19/13)

The Fractured Left, by Robert H. Nelson (The Weekly Standard, 4/29/13)

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

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

Re-Thinking Green: Alternatives to Environmental Bureaucracy, edited by Robert Higgs and Carl P. Close

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3) Tax Proposals Reveal Golden State Greed

California was once known as a bountiful land of opportunity, but if that label still has validity it may apply most of all to the tax man: Residents of the Golden State are among the most heavily taxed in the nation. The state sales tax ranges from 7.5 percent to 10 percent, thanks in part to Proposition 30, a measure that voters approved last November that Sacramento estimated will yield $6 billion in annual revenue. In addition, effective July 1 consumers will see a 9 percent hike in the gasoline tax, bringing the tax bill to 39.5 cents per gallon. Worst of all, the legislature is considering a host of bills that would raise taxes even higher. Independent Institute Communications Counsel Lloyd Billingsley, who posts frequently at MyGovCost.org, discusses Californians’ potential tax burden in a new op-ed for the Los Angeles Times.

“Onerous regulations, false promises of fiscal responsibility, and the relentless quest for more revenue have become hallmarks of California government,” writes Billingsley. If tax hikers have their way, he explains, Golden State residents will pay $6 more to register their cars, at least 5 cents for every shopping bag (some jurisdictions already charge 10 cents), a penny an ounce beverage tax, $75 more to record legal documents, a 5 cent tax on firearm ammo, a $10 per person tax at adult entertainment clubs, and more.

“The authors of these proposed measures are unable to predict with any certainty how much revenue they would bring in if they became law,” Billingsley writes. “But the proposals make it clear that the hundreds of millions of dollars that California already spends on affordable-housing, mental health and other government programs will never be enough. The politicians will always want more.”

Soaking California Taxpayers, Again, by Lloyd Billingsley (The Los Angeles Times, 4/17/13)

MyGovCost.org—Home of the Government Cost Calculator

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4) Summer Seminars on Economics and Liberty

College and high-school students, get ready! The Independent Institute is gearing up for its Challenge of Liberty Summer Seminars. Topics include: free-market economics, ethics and the origins of Western civilization, free trade and globalization, public choice, money and banking, the boom and bust cycle, Austrian economic theory, ideology, the welfare state, the New Deal, regulation, monopoly and competition, immigration, market dynamics versus totalitarian lawlessness, Adam Smith, and the history of economic thought.

The seminars will be held at three locations:

  • June 17-21: Colorado Springs, Colo.
  • July 15-19: Berkeley, Calif.
  • July 22-26: Oakland, Calif. (High School Students Only)

Our outstanding faculty roster includes: José Yulo (Academy of Arts University, San Francisco), Alexandre Padilla (Metropolitan State College of Denver), John Cochran (Metropolitan State College of Denver), Paul Prentice (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs), Robert Higgs (The Independent Institute), Ivan Pongracic (Hillsdale College), Anthony Gregory (The Independent Institute), Benjamin Powell (Texas Tech University), James Ahiakpor (California State University, East Bay), Fred Foldvary (Santa Clara University), Greg Rehmke (Economic Thinking), Mike Winther (Institute for Principle Studies), and Mary Theroux (The Independent Institute). The lineup and topics at each seminar vary—please see our website details.

A limited number of scholarships are available, so be sure to apply early!

The Challenge of Liberty 2013 Summer Seminars for Students

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

Bouncing Checks Fallout of Foreclosure Crisis
K. Lloyd Billingsley (4/22/13)

An Academic Controversy with Real World Consequences
Craig Eyermann (4/22/13)

Comparing the Big Budget Proposals
Craig Eyermann (4/20/13)

Deficit Reduction and the Coming Inflation?
Carl Close (4/18/13)

Why Feds Can Not Duck Quack Research
K. Lloyd Billingsley (4/17/13)

Congress Blocks Postal Reform
K. Lloyd Billingsley (4/16/13)

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

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6) Selected News Alerts

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