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

Volume 7, Issue 22: May 31, 2005

  1. How Rulers Exploit Fear
  2. Will Sperm and Egg Donors Be Liable for Child Support?
  3. U.S. Should Not Interfere with Foreign Exchange
  4. Liberty Seminars for Students -- Space Still Available

1) How Rulers Exploit Fear

When governments of old tired of spending lots of resources to beat the public into submission, they created the court priest, who promoted a theology of obedience. Modern governments, by contrast, maintain power by exaggerating crises (or crying "wolf" about non-crises) -- and clamoring for "solutions" that would give them even greater amounts of power and resources. Both responses are propaganda strategies that exploit the public's psychological insecurities for the benefit of the rulers.

"From top to bottom, the government wants us to be afraid, needs us to be afraid, invests greatly in making us afraid," writes Senior Fellow Robert Higgs, in an insightful new article, "Fear: The Foundation of Every Government's Power."

Higgs argues that fear plays a key role in helping the rulers maintain dominion over the ruled. Further, because fear is a "productive" resource for the government, like any other productive asset it is subject to the law of diminishing returns. Hence, governments (and their shills in the media and elsewhere) ceaselessly search for new fears to create and exploit -- fostering the phenomenon Higgs calls the "danger du jour" seen on television news programs.

"By keeping the population in a state of artificially heightened apprehension, the government-cum-media prepares the ground for planting specific measures of taxation, regulation, surveillance, reporting, and other invasions of the people’s wealth, privacy, and freedoms. Left alone for a while, relieved of this ceaseless bombardment of warnings, people would soon come to understand that hardly any of the announced threats has any substance and that they can manage their own affairs quite well without the security-related regimentation and tax-extortion the government seeks to justify."

If only more members of the public would dare to look behind the curtain, they would see the small mentalities to whom they had surrendered the fruits of their labor and become emboldened to reclaim their liberty.

"Were we ever to stop being afraid of the government itself and to cast off the phoney fears it has fostered, the government would shrivel and die, and the host would disappear for the tens of millions of parasites in the United States -- not to speak of the vast number of others in the rest of the world -- who now feed directly and indirectly off the public’s wealth and energies. On that glorious day, everyone who had been living at public expense would have to get an honest job, and the rest of us, recognizing government as the false god it has always been, could set about assuaging our remaining fears in more productive and morally defensible ways.

See "Fear: The Foundation of Every Government's Power," by Robert Higgs (5/17/05)
http://www.independent.org/publications/article.asp?id=1510

AGAINST LEVIATHAN: Government Power and a Free Society, by Robert Higgs
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=53

CRISIS AND LEVIATHAN: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, by Robert Higgs
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=15

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2) Will Sperm and Egg Donors Be Liable for Child Support?

An unusual case under review by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has the potential to cause a large decline in sperm donations in much of the country, argues Research Fellow Wendy McElroy in a new op-ed.

Two earlier court decisions found sperm donor Ian McKiernan liable to pay over $1500 a month in child support plus arrearages to Ivonne Ferguson -- years after the two had entered into a verbal contract (deemed by the Superior Court to be valid "on its face") releasing McKiernan from any obligation toward the offspring created by in-vitro fertilization using his sperm.

Some sperm bank representatives say that a pro-Ferguson decision would not lead to liability for their donors. Ferguson's attorney disagrees, however. "If a judge decided that a contract between mother and father was invalid because it denied children their rights, it could nullify a contract between a man and a sperm center denying children rights," writes a reporter from PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, paraphrasing the plaintiff's attorney.

If this is true, the consequences could be far-reaching, writes McElroy: "If the Pennsylvania Supreme Court finds the sperm-donor to be liable for child support, then many forms of infertility treatment in most states could become less available and more expensive. Those donors who step forward will want to be compensated for their increased legal risk."

Egg donors presumably could be held liable for child support, too.

"The courts have pitted a child's 'best interests' against the rights of biological parents to contract with each other on the terms of reproduction," writes McElroy. "They may have also opened a Pandora's box of complications involving a child's claim on a sperm donor's data and wealth."

See "Case Could Freeze Sperm Donation," by Wendy McElroy (5/25/05)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1516
SPANISH TRANSLATION:
"Una Causa Judicial Podría Congelar la Donación De Esperma"
http://www.elindependent.org/articulos/article.asp?id=1516

To purchase LIBERTY FOR WOMEN: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-First Century, ed. by Wendy McElroy, see
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=43

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3) U.S. Should Not Interfere with Foreign Exchange

According to the esteemed FINANCIAL TIMES, President Bush recently warned China's government that if it doesn't raise the value of the yuan by at least 10 percent, the U.S. Congress would likely enact new tariffs to stem the tide of inexpensive Chinese goods into the United States. Senators from both parties are criticizing Bush for not pressuring China as much as they would like.

The interest of the American public is not in coaxing China to make its products more expensive for Americans, however. It is in letting foreign-currency markets operate freely -- and in enjoying cheap imports when the value of other currencies becomes low compared to the U.S. dollar, as Ivan Eland notes in his latest op-ed.

"Although U.S. export industries are hurt by the lower yuan and yen, American consumers here at home enjoy cheaper imports from China and Japan," writes Eland, senior fellow and director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty. "Less is heard about the advantages to consumers of lower foreign currencies because consumers have far fewer lobbyists in Washington than do large export firms."

Eland argues that consumers around the world would be better off if their governments eased tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, but that if one country imposes tariffs on goods from another country -- or engages in policies that artificially lower the value of its currency to make its exports cheaper -- other governments should not respond by enacting protectionist measures. Such policies are self-defeating, Eland argues.

"The United States has enough tension with a nuclear-armed China over the Taiwan issue and dual military buildups without interjecting a trade war into the mix," writes Eland. "In fact, a healthy level of international commerce between the two countries could create a peace lobby in each nation and a greater incentive to avoid military confrontation."

See "Avoid Threatening China Over Its Currency," by Ivan Eland (5/31/05)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1515
SPANISH TRANSLATION:
"Evitemos Amenazar a China Respecto de su Moneda"
http://www.elindependent.org/articulos/article.asp?id=1515

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

To purchase PUTTING "DEFENSE" BACK IN U.S. DEFENSE POLICY, by Ivan Eland, see
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=19

"The Way Out of Iraq: Decentralizing the Iraqi Government," by Ivan Eland
http://www.independent.org/publications/policy_reports/detail.asp?type=full&id=16

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

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4) Liberty Seminars for Students -- Space Still Available

Space is still available for students wishing to enroll in the 2005 "Liberty, Economy, and Society" Summer Seminars, to be held 8:30 a.m. to noon, June 13th to 17th (Session A) and August 8th to 12th (Session B) at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California.

Led by economist Brian Gothberg, each session includes a stimulating and fun lecture on economic principles, their applications in history and current affairs, and plenty of classroom discussion to help you become more confident in communicating your social ideas and values.

In this informal but information-packed seminar, students will learn:

* How the price system creates order out of "chaos"

* About the causes and effects of the ongoing battle between competition and monopoly

* The root causes of unemployment, inflation, homelessness, environmental decline, crime, failed schools, and much more

* Solutions for making the world a better place in which to live!

For more information, visit
http://www.independent.org/students/seminars/

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