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Volume 8, Issue 2: January 9, 2006

  1. Bush's Imperial Presidency Based on Constitutional Quicksand, Eland Argues
  2. Environmental Bureaucracy Run Amuck?
  3. The Fragility of Democracy in Latin America
  4. Immigration Wars: Open or Closed Borders for America?

1) Bush's Imperial Presidency Based on Constitutional Quicksand, Eland Argues

Should the U.S. Supreme Court act to expand the power of the presidency or to restrain it? Members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee should ask Supreme Court nominees this question during any administration, but it is especially important that they ask it during the reign of a presidency that has adopted a host of unconstitutional policies, as the Bush administration has in the post-9/11 era, according to Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty.

"President Bush has justified unconstitutional acts in the 'war on terror' by expanding the power of the commander-in-chief beyond the founders' intentions," writes Eland, in his latest op-ed. "He has used that power to justify torture, the surveillance of Americans without a warrant, and the effective suspension of habeas corpus by indefinite detention of 'enemy combatants' -- including some Americans -- without trial or access to lawyer. Yet the founders intended only that the president command forces on the battlefield because it was difficult for the many members of the legislative branch to do so."

Because Congress is also blameworthy for this unconstitutional trend -- for example, by ceding its war powers to the executive branch -- it is crucial that the judicial branch serve as a check on unconstitutional executive power, Eland argues.

"The imperial presidency -- especially its expanded war powers -- rests on constitutional quicksand," Eland concludes.

See "An Imperial Presidency Based on Constitutional Quicksand," by Ivan Eland (1/8/06)
"Una Presidencia Imperial Basada en una Arena Movediza Constitucional"

To purchase THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland, see

To purchase PUTTING "DEFENSE" BACK IN U.S. DEFENSE POLICY, by Ivan Eland, see

Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, director)


2) Environmental Bureaucracy Run Amuck?

A representative of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told a congressional committee last September that it would implement 42 reforms in response to public criticism of the high cost of environmental regulatory compliance. The criticisms were not frivolous: EPA compliance costs have significantly slowed economic productivity and wage growth for most of the past three decades. Unfortunately, the EPA's proposal is an insufficient response to the more than 700 suggestions offered by the public for reducing environmental costs.

"Lawmakers should require the EPA to explain, case by case, why it rejected the vast majority of reforms suggested by the public," write Independent Institute Research Fellow Craig Marxsen and Academic Affairs Director Carl P. Close in an op-ed last month for

"Making the agency more transparent would help make it more accountable, as well as facilitate needed reform. Similarly, state lawmakers should make state-level environmental agencies more transparent," Marxsen and Close continue.

"More importantly, Congress should reduce the EPA's discretionary authority. It empowered the agency at a time when predictions of imminent economic meltdown from resource depletion and deadly pollution faced little skepticism. Those predictions haven't panned out except in one respect: They fertilized a federal bureaucracy that has imposed huge economic costs -- costs that have disproportionately dampened the growth of productivity, and thus workers' earnings.

See "Are Workers Earning Less Than They Used To?" by Craig Marxsen and Carl P. Close (, 12/14/05)
"¿Están los Trabajadores Ganando Menos que Antes?"

For more on environmental regulation, see RE-THINKING GREEN: Alternatives to Environmental Bureaucracy, ed. by Robert Higgs and Carl P. Close


3) The Fragility of Democracy in Latin America

Despite the civility of Latin America's recent elections, democracy in that region is very fragile and unstable, explains Carlos Sabino, adjunct fellow of the Independent Institute's Center on Global Prosperity.

For the spirit of democracy to survive and thrive in the region, he argues, a free press, a shared commitment to democratic give and take, and greater respect for one's political adversaries and for the rule of law must also take hold. Unfortunately, these institutions are still weak in much of Latin America, according to Sabino.

"The entire region is now under the constant pressure of groups, leaders and parties that, in effect, use democratic freedoms unscrupulously to impose their points of view on all citizens," Sabino writes. "The temptation of corruption and, above all, the impossibility of creating wealth through nationalistic and socialistic policies will make it difficult for these new authoritarian regimes to consolidate their power in Latin America. But the conclusion for now is unfortunately negative: our citizens seem to be intent on retaking the paths of the economic policies and forms of leadership that have led them to so much misery in the past."

See "The Fragility of Democracy," by Carlos Sabino (1/3/06)
"La Fragilidad de la Democracia"

Also see "No Left Turn," by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (NEW YORK TIMES, 12/27/05)
"No Girar a la Izquierda"

LIBERTY FOR LATIN AMERICA: How to Undo Five-Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director)

Spanish-language Blog:
El Independent: El Blog del Centro Para la Prosperidad Global de The Independent Institute


4) Immigration Wars: Open or Closed Borders for America?
-- Transcript Now Available

The heated national debate over immigration has serious consequences for both Americans and foreigners: Will the shortage of agricultural workers drive up the prices of farm products? What changes in U.S. immigration policy would most help lower prices, improve productivity, and increase real wages? Which changes would make matters worse?

These are some of the questions that journalist Peter Laufer and economist Benjamin Powell discussed at the Sept. 21 Independent Policy Forum, "Immigration Wars: Open or Closed Borders for America?" A transcript of this event is now available at

Laufer, a former NBC television news correspondent and talk-radio host, began by reading two excerpts from his new book, WETBACK NATION: The Case for Opening the Mexican-American Border. The first selection explored the role of borders, broadly construed, in everyday life. The second discussed the frustrations of Americans who live in areas where illegal aliens frequently cross the U.S.-Mexican border and who are dissatisfied with current policies and their enforcement.

As Laufer noted, these frustrations led President Bush to propose increasing the number of work visas, but the Bush plan also ties them to one employer and limits their duration to three years, renewable only once. Laufer criticized this proposal, arguing that it leaves too much discretion to employers and doesn't encourage immigrant employees to "buy into" the American system because it allows them to work in the United States for six years at most.

Benjamin Powell, who directs the Independent Institute's Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation, then discussed the economics of immigration. He noted, for example, that immigrants to the United States tend to pay their own way over the course of their lifetime, rather than on net being subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.

He also argued that policies that consistently enforced private-property rights and freedom of association would reduce most of the complaints about undocumented immigrants. First, American property owners near the Mexican border would no longer be troubled by trespassing and littering; immigrants would use normal transportation channels. Second, employers and others would be able to hire or invite to visit whomever they wanted.

"In the end, I honestly think the only humane, moral and efficient solution is one that involves the free passages of all people of all races and all places of origin in any quantity so long as they are free from demonstrated criminal intent or terrorist activity," Powell concluded.

See "Immigration Wars: Open or Closed Borders for America?" featuring Peter Laufer and Benjamin Powell (9/21/05)

More on immigration:

Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation (Benjamin Powell, director)


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