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

Volume 15, Issue 18: April 30, 2013

  1. Guardian Against Tyranny: The Writ of Habeas Corpus
  2. Does Obamacare Threaten Your Job or Wages?
  3. Terrorist Bombers and the Drone War
  4. Trade, Immigration, and the Division of Labor
  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) Guardian Against Tyranny: The Writ of Habeas Corpus

To live under tyranny is to live in fear—especially the fear of being arrested and jailed at the whims of the rulers. This is why America’s Founders regarded the right not to be detained arbitrarily as a cornerstone of liberty, and why they cherished the legal device they believed had secured that right: the writ of habeas corpus. If we are to live as a free people and avoid the clutches of oppression, it is imperative that we learn the history of this Anglo-American right—a task made immensely easier with the publication of the landmark new book, The Power of Habeas Corpus in America: From the King’s Prerogative to the War on Terror, by Independent Institute Research Fellow Anthony Gregory.

Habeas corpus is often thought to have originated as an individual right against unjust detention. But Gregory shows that the truth is more complex—and far more dramatic—than the mistaken notion that habeas corpus as we know it arrived fully formed from the brows of the barons who forced King John to sign Magna Carta. The Great Writ, as scholars have called it, began as a court’s and a king’s prerogative to challenge the detainment of a particular person (hence the Latin meaning of habeas corpus: “have the body”). It evolved into a pillar of individual liberty over the course of centuries of power struggles.

The Power of Habeas Corpus in America tells the story of those struggles, offering insights on numerous pivot points of American history: how the American colonists’ overestimated the extent of the legal protections enjoyed by English citizens; why the Anti-Federalists criticized the U.S. Constitution’s Suspension Clause; how state writs of habeas corpus were used both to support slavery and to challenge it; how Lincoln planned to escape prosecution for suspending habeas corpus during the Civil War; how the states lost their authority to use habeas against federal detention; how the Great Writ freed many immigrants who’d been detained under the Chinese Exclusion Act; how the Supreme Court rationalized the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II; why federal habeas review in the late 20th century expanded and contracted; and how the round-up of immigrants in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks underscores the importance and limitations of habeas protections. (The book devotes five of its eight appendices to dissecting Supreme Court decisions regarding the detention of suspected terrorists during the Bush and Obama administrations.)

Although Americans celebrate habeas corpus as a safeguard against tyrannical imprisonment, it has been an imperfect remedy. What would make it fully reliable? For habeas to live up to this ideal, Gregory argues, ultimately there is only one solution: legal thinkers—and the public—must champion an ethos that elevates the principle of individual liberty above government power. Readers who absorb Gregory’s nuanced and erudite book will be well equipped to articulate the value of a legal right that unfortunately remains vulnerable to the machinations of the state—and will be better able to defend liberty, too.

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

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

Video: Anthony Gregory on Rand Paul’s Senate Filibuster (3/8/13)

Anthony Gregory on Scott Horton’s Radio Show (4/19/13)

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2) Does Obamacare Threaten Your Job or Wages?

The Affordable Care Act will yield big benefits for some and big disadvantages for others. Those who qualify for expanded Medicaid will get something for nothing. And those who qualify to obtain insurance from an exchange may do particularly well. But many workers will bear the brunt of the employer mandate. For example, workers in Massachusetts, whose healthcare system helped shape the Affordable Care Act, have seen their increased coverage offset by a fall in cash wages. By the time Obamacare is fully implemented, businesses across the country will have several options for dealing with the costs of the employer mandate that, from the employee’s standpoint, are undesirable, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow John C. Goodman.

Some businesses will be able to avoid the employer mandate by staying small, employing no more than 49 workers. Others will move workers to part-time status or outsource more labor to non-employee contractors. Some employers have already begun to adopt these strategies, although the IRS has ways to limit the degree to which some businesses can use them. Another strategy is for employers to drop coverage for their workers and pay the $2,000 per employee fine, but many firms won’t go down this route because they would lose out on the tax deductions they would receive from providing health insurance for their high-income employees.

Perhaps the most attractive strategy, Goodman argues, will be for businesses to offer coverage to their employees and charge the maximum allowable premium—up to 9.5 percent of the employee’s wages. If the employee rejects the offer, the employer will escape the insurance costs and the fine. If the employee takes the offer, he or she may need to shell out a lot more money to cover the full cost of any dependents, since the employer isn’t required to cover them; moreover the employee and the dependents will not be entitled to a subsidy in the exchange. “To add insult to injury, the employee’s contribution will be made with after-tax dollars,” Goodman writes.

Why Obamacare May Cost You Your Job, by John C. Goodman (Townhall, 4/20/13)

Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, by John C. Goodman

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3) Terrorist Bombers and the Drone War

Media coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing has crowded out other worthy news stories—including the catastrophe of the 185 Nigerians shot to death by the Islamist rebel group Boko Haram. The news saturation has also helped the Boston bombers achieve one of their apparent goals—massive publicity, which has contributed to the disruption of everyday life. And additional repercussions may follow. “Such excess publicity often leads to copycat terrorists, who seek the limelight, and shows more dangerous, organized terror groups that American society is vulnerable to disruption,” writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland.

Just as the media has overreacted, so too did the government overreact by shutting down Boston and environs, according to Eland, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty. “One wonders how many people died in the Boston area because they felt discouraged from going outside to treat what turned out to be life threatening medical problems of natural causes,” Eland writes. If the number exceeds the death count from the bombing and subsequent shooting, would this make the evening news?

News reports say that the Tsarnaev brothers were retaliating against the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If so, the targeted drone strikes in those and other countries could not have helped. The New York Times reported days before the Boston Marathon that the first targeted casualty in the U.S. drone war was Nek Muhammad, a member of the Pakistan Taliban who was killed in June 2004 at the urging of Pakistani officials—a campaign that fell outside the bounds authorized by Congress after 9/11. “One of the biggest mistakes President Obama has made so far is not only failing to investigate the Bush administration’s illegal and unconstitutional behavior, but actually continuing, and in some cases, expanding its policies,” Eland continues. One wonders what must happen for the illegality and unconstitutionality of the drone war to become enduring news stories.

Government Response to Terrorism Needs to Be Dialed Down, by Ivan Eland (4/27/13)

Targeted Killings in the Drone War—Illegal and Unconstitutional, by Ivan Eland (4/18/13)

No War for Oil: US Dependency and the Middle East, by Ivan Eland

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4) Trade, Immigration, and the Division of Labor

Medical doctor and statistician Hans Rosling recently gave another fascinating talk for TED, the public forum that offers intellectual stimulation from many of the world’s best and brightest. His topic: the washing machine and its contribution to education. By freeing human labor from frequent drudgery, Rosling explains, the ordinary washing machine gave homemakers more time to cultivate their minds and those of their children. The same can be said for trade and immigration, Independent Institute Research Fellow Art Carden explains in Forbes.

Just as the use of labor-saving devices enables us to direct our attention to other pursuits, so free trade enhances our economic well being. This is a key implication of a concept articulated by Adam Smith: other things equal, the larger the division of labor, the greater the productivity of labor. “When we have more trade and a finer division of labor, we are able to produce more output of all kinds: more goods, more services, more leisure,” Carden writes.

The same general benefits accrue when labor is free to move across borders. “The opportunity to trade with immigrants generates higher incomes for the immigrants themselves,” Carden continues, “but it also gives those who trade with them the opportunity to do other things with their saved time.” Carden offers himself as an example: By hiring an immigrant to mow his lawn, he has more time to prepare articles and lectures on economics. “As many economists have pointed out, trade [including the hiring of immigrants] is basically just another technology.”

Hans Rosling and the Magic Washing Machine: A Lesson, by Art Carden (Forbes, 4/24/13)

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

Federal Fisker Failure, Continued
K. Lloyd Billingsley (4/29/13)

Feds Spend Money for Nothing
K. Lloyd Billingsley (4/25/13)

Will FDA Keep Apples Away?
K. Lloyd Billingsley (4/24/13)

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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