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Volume 8, Issue 14: April 3, 2006

  1. How to Reform Immigration Laws
  2. The Two-Party Empire
  3. Natural Gas Impasse
  4. Family Courts vs. the First Amendment?

1) How to Reform Immigration Laws

Recent bills to reform U.S. immigration laws, especially the controversial bill the House of Representatives passed last December, fail to recognize the enormous positive contributions of undocumented workers to America's economy. Even the more progressive McCain-Kennedy immigration bill that the Senate Judiciary Committee passed last week -- which would permit about 400,000 new guest workers each year and provide a path leading to permanent residency after six years -- falls short, according to Benjamin Powell, director of the Independent Institute's Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation.

"Why allow only 400,000 guest workers per year?" asks Powell in his latest op-ed. "Since they are good for the economy, shouldn't we welcome as many as employers are willing to hire?"

Powell also argues that proposed guest-worker programs should "keep administrative burdens on employers to a minimum and must allow workers the flexibility to easily change jobs in our constantly evolving economy."

See "How To Reform Immigration Laws," by Benjamin Powell (3/30/06)
"Cómo reformar las leyes inmigratorias"

Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation (Benjamin Powell, director)

More on immigration:


2) The Two-Party Empire

The failure of the Democratic Party to offer a bold alternative to the Bush administration's defense and foreign policies underscores the inadequacies of America's two-party system, according to Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty.

"The 'winner take all' nature of the political system provides powerful disincentives for two stodgy, fairly broad political parties to break up into smaller, more competitive parties that would actually stand for something," writes Eland in his latest op-ed. "In contrast, a parliamentary more competitive."

Eland argues that the U.S. political system has been further weakened since World War II, with Congress ceding its power to massive, unresponsive executive-branch bureaucracies, especially in foreign policy and decisions to go to war.

"Moreover, although the American people retain the theoretical ability to vote their representatives out of power," Eland continues, "they rarely do because incumbent advantages are now so great and gerrymandered geographic boundaries create friendly districts for incumbent members."

See "Wanted: A Freer Market in U.S. Politics," by Ivan Eland (4/3/06)
"Se busca: Un Mercado más libre en la política estadounidense"

THE WAY OUT OF IRAQ: Decentralizing the Iraqi Government, by Ivan Eland

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

Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, director)


3) Natural Gas Impasse

The United States imports about 16 percent of the natural gas it consumes, mostly from Canada. Canadian supplies are expected to diminish greatly within the decade, thereby increasing the profit potential of Latin American natural gas. But little of Latin America's natural gas has reached the U.S. market because of bad policy, according to Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director of the Independent Institute's Center on Global Prosperity.

Such policies have created "a missed opportunity to both boost the economies of the Andean countries and further diversify U.S. energy sources, as well as to enhance hemispheric relations, making Latin America relevant," writes Vargas Llosa in his latest op-ed.

Argentina's natural gas supplies, for example, can't be sold profitably due to price controls imposed by that country's leaders. Venezuela's supplies to the U.S. are mostly tied up by Hugo Chavez, whose $20 billion plan for gas development is too risky to attract private investors. And Bolivia's supplies probably won't be adequately developed because many foreign investors are too leery of that country's new leader, Evo Morales.

"Seldom have the conditions been better for Andean countries to exponentially increase their exports of a valuable product to the U.S. market and become relevant for reasons other than white powder," Vargas Llosa continues. "Andeans just haven't noticed them."

See "Nothing but Gas," by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (3/29/06)
"Puro gas"


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) Family Courts vs. the First Amendment?

Like America's two-party political system, America's courts often produce "winner take all" outcomes often at odds with their alleged ultimate goal -- in this case, justice. That, at least, is the conclusion of Massachusetts high-school physics teacher and father Kevin Thompson, who has been barred by a judge from distributing his new book about his bitter child-custody battle.

"For years, critics have claimed that family court ignores constitutional rights," writes Independent Institute Research Fellow Wendy McElroy, in an op-ed about how Thompson's custody case "may be placing court procedures on a collision course with the First Amendment."

Several other recent cases have pitted the Constitution against the family courts, and the Constitution seems to be losing, McElroy explains: "For example, last week the Judicial Standards Commission dismissed a complaint against a North Carolina family court judge. The judged was accused of ignoring a defendant's right to counsel when he insisted that a hearing proceed even though the defense attorney was absent."

See "Court Order May Violate First Amendment," by Wendy McElroy (3/29/06)
"Una orden judicial podría violar la Primera Enmienda a la Constitución de los EE.UU."

LIBERTY FOR WOMEN: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-first Century, ed. by Wendy McElroy


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless