The Lighthouse® is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
Subscribe now, or browse Back Issues.
Volume 15, Issue 34: August 20, 2013
- White House Hypocrisy Is No Secret
- Whats Right and Whats Wrong with Habeas Corpus
- No Child Left Behind: End, Dont Mend
- New Bill Poses Threat to California Taxpayers
- New Blog Posts
- 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.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden kicked off an international debate about the scope of the U.S. governments intelligence surveillance programs when he leaked classified documents to the Guardian newspaper in June. He also revealed a glaring inconsistency: Presidential candidate Barack Obama had promised to make the executive branch more transparent, but he and his administration have instead made it more secretive than evereven to the point of stepping up prosecutions against whistleblowers who have provided the public with credible evidence of government wrongdoing.
For anyone who cherishes civil liberties, the significance of the Snowden Affair is hard to overestimate. And yet despite its importance, this episode is only one data point in a pattern of White House hypocrisy, according to Independent Institute Senior Vice President Mary L. G. Theroux. The same administration that calls for Moscow to release the leaker into U.S. custody has also spied on AP and Fox News journalists, held Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning in solitary confinement for three years, and sentenced former CIA officer John Kiriakou to 30 months in prison for disclosing on national television the illegal waterboarding of suspected al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah. Such betrayals of the public trust demand immediate rectification.
Writes Theroux: Given President Obamas track record on keeping promisesand the incredibly high stakes of governments capturing and indefinitely storing virtually every communication, transaction, and activity of every Americanwe ought to demand proof over promises: an end of all drone programs, closing the NSA, dismantling the Bluffdale facility storing all Americans data, the revocation of the PATRIOT Act, the release and exoneration of whistleblowers, an end to government by executive order, and the return to the strictest adherence to the Constitution and all ten amendments of the Bill of Rights.
Obama: Fool Me Thrice, Shame on Whom?, by Mary L. G. Theroux (The Huffington Post, 8/14/13)
Video: Civil Liberties and Security in the Age of Terrorism, featuring Robert Higgs, Anthony Gregory, and Mary L. G. Theroux (7/18/13)
Habeas corpus is held in highest esteem in Anglo-American thought. Most Americansif they think about it at allbelieve it is responsible for keeping the United States free from the tyranny of unjust detection. In reality, from the standpoint of liberty the legacy of habeas corpus is mixed. Before the Civil War, for example, habeas corpus was used both free slaves and to capture them. This is just one of the many surprises that Independent Institute Research Fellow Anthony Gregory discovered while writing his new book on the subject, The Power of Habeas Corpus in America.
The great writs usage to seize blacks in northern states with personal liberty laws, and return them to bondage, is a most shameful and neglected episode in U.S. legal history, Gregory writes in an op-ed at Mises.org. Heres another little-known aspect of that history: habeas corpus has played a key role in the struggle between the federal government and the states. In colonial America, habeas corpus was treated as a decentralized powerAmericans romanticized its history and ignored the centralizing role it had played in England. When the U.S. Constitution was created, the Suspension Clause granted the central government a new power: the authority to override habeas corpus during rebellions or invasions. This didnt prevent state courts from using habeas to challenge the lawfulness of detention by federal officials. The states possessed and wielded this power against the federal government until 1871, when the U.S. Supreme Court stripped the states of it in Tarbles Case.
The Supreme Courts mixed legacy regarding habeas corpus continues to the modern era: although it ruled in 2008 that inmates at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp possess habeas-corpus rights, many are still held captive even though the Bush and Obama administrations deemed them innocent or unworthy of imprisonment. Perhaps the ambiguous record of the most revered legal institution in the English-speaking world will surprise many readers, Gregory writes, but it shouldnt surprise those of us who understand the true nature of state power.
The Habeas Corpus Myth, by Anthony Gregory (Mises.org, 8/14/13)
The Power of Habeas Corpus in America: From the Kings Prerogative to the War on Terror, by Anthony Gregory
George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act in 2002, but the legislations roots go back to President Johnsons War on Poverty, when the federal government created programs targeting problems that had previously been left for state and local governments to handle. The program has many critics who deride it as one-size-fits-all approach to educational standards. The inability of most states to live up to those standards has prompted the Obama administration to grant waivers to 39 states that sought exemption from the program, lest they face penalties for falling short. This failure should prompt lawmakers to scrap rather than reauthorize the program.
NCLB has failed and may be hindering the state-level, parent-driven innovations that create real educational opportunities for all students, writes Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger in the Daily Caller.
Alger argues that NCLB has done nothing significant to improve school performance: average math and reading scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress are about what they were 40 years agoas are high-school graduation rates. Moreover, this non-progress is expensive: it cost more than $235 million in 2011 alone. This money would be better spent if it were returned to the statesand perhaps spent on parental choice programs, Alger suggests. Washington needs to stop tinkering with old federal education laws and recognize that getting out of the way and allowing taxpayer dollars to fund what works for each student is the best way to improve education throughout the United States, Alger concludes.
Dont Fix No Child Left Behind, End It, by Vicki E. Alger (The Daily Caller, 7/24/13)
Can Teachers Own Their Own Schools? New Strategies for Educational Excellence, by Richard K. Vedder
California has been called the Land of Sunshine and Opportunity. Thats accurateif you dont mind redefining your terms. A new bill now before the state Assembly Appropriations Committee, for example, would cast a dark glow over taxpayers and property owners while providing new opportunities for local politicians and politically connected developers. The legislationSB 1enables any city or county in California to create a Sustainable Community Investment Authority with the power to build projects consistent with the states climate change law, AB 32. As Independent Institute Senior Fellow Lawrence J. McQuillan notes, there are several reasons why its passage would be bad news for Californiansand much worse than the redevelopment agencies that were shut down throughout the state last year.
One problem is that SB 1 threatens property rights by allowing an expansive definition of blight for the purposes of eminent domain. Rather than allowing local jurisdictions to make such a determinationwhich is bad enoughSB 1 defines blight legislatively. For example, lawmakers in Sacramento could declare that an area suffers from blight if it fails to meet arbitrary standards for water consumption, energy consumption, traffic congestion, or affordable housing. The newly created Authorities would then have the power to issue bonds to raise funds for green redevelopment projectsbonds not subject to voter approvaland also to raise local sales taxes. Read McQuillans exposé for more details.
Californians know from experience that government redevelopment leads to massive private property abuses and loss of tax revenue for public services, McQuillan writes. SB 1 is redevelopment on steroids and merits defeat... If the bill makes it to Gov. Jerry Brown, who understands the serious problems with government redevelopment authorizes, he should swiftly veto it.
Why Senator Steinbergs SB-1 Deserves Defeator a Veto, by Lawrence J. McQuillan (Flash Report, 8/13/13)
From The Beacon:
How Much Do You Want to Pay for Medical Care?
John C. Goodman (8/19/13)
Life, Liberty, and the Threat of Abortion Ambivalence
Sam Staley (8/19/13)
The End of Cristina's Reign
Alvaro Vargas Llosa (8/14/13)
Medical Economics and Medical Ethics
John C. Goodman (8/14/13)
Is Macroeconomics Really Economics?
Robert Higgs (8/14/13)
Our Systems Complexity Is Both Its Weakness and Its Strength
Robert Higgs (8/13/13)
From MyGovCost News & Blog:
How Government Abuse Generates Waste and Absurdity
K. Lloyd Billingsley (8/19/13)
U.S. National Debt Really over $70 Trillion?
Craig Eyermann (8/18/13)
USPS Still a Loser
K. Lloyd Billingsley (8/14/13)
The Sequester Furloughs Fizzle
Craig Eyermann (8/14/13)
You can find the Independent Institutes Spanish-language website here and blog here.
Global Crossings Author Alvaro Vargas Llosa interviewed on the New American Dream