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Volume 16, Issue 14: April 8, 2014

  1. Put the Nanny State on a Diet
  2. Secretary Kerry’s Climate Crusade
  3. Learning from Putin’s Inner Logic
  4. Seminar Application Deadline Extended to April 14
  5. Last Call for an Evening With Ron Paul: “Liberty Defined: The Future of Freedom” (Hayward, April 9)
  6. New Blog Posts
  7. Selected News Alerts

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1) Put the Nanny State on a Diet

It’s no secret that Americans’ waistlines have grown in recent decades. But it may come as news to many that a federal committee tasked with making healthy food recommendations has also grown in unseemly ways. According to Independent Institute Research Fellow E. C. Pasour Jr., the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee no longer merely vets the latest information on nutritional science. Instead, it has become a platform for ivory tower researchers that puts the tastes of “urbane know-it-alls in Washington” above consumer choice and a practical knowledge of food production. At the top of its new agenda: a desire to make Americans’ food choices reflect “environmental sustainability”—as if this concept were straightforward and noncontroversial.

The issue is important, Pasour notes, because the dietary committee has more sway than its “advisory” designation may suggest: its recommendations shape everything from military cafeteria choices to federal school lunch programs to food stamps. To help move us in the right direction, Pasour urges the committee to focus on “its mandate of providing nutritional and dietary information and guidelines for the general public.” He also calls for making the committee’s guidelines reflect the realities of food costs, regional food preferences, and input from actual food growers and producers. The public would also benefit from making the committee’s proceedings open to the public and fully viewable online.

“Elimination of the committee is probably asking too much of an administration that adds new federal bureaus and entitlements, even in a recession,” Pasour writes. “But a future administration might consider putting the committee on a starvation diet.”

Dietary Committee’s Unpalatable Agenda, by E. C. Pasour Jr. (Fresno Bee, 4/1/14)

Plowshares & Pork Barrels: The Political Economy of Agriculture, by Ernest C. Pasour Jr. and Randal R. Rucker


2) Secretary Kerry’s Climate Crusade

In a speech in Indonesia on 16 February, Secretary of State John Kerry likened climate skeptics to a flat-earth society and claimed that they stand against the views of 97 percent of the scientific community. In a recent piece for American Thinker, atmospheric physicist and Independent Institute Research Fellow S. Fred Singer takes issue with the claim.

News about Secretary Kerry’s remarks spread quickly not only because of his sensationalistic choice of words, but also because they were mostly unopposed. Why? Because the popular press seldom conveys the nuances of the many scientific studies that touch upon the issue of man-made global warming. Just about everyone has heard of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—the UN body that shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. Far fewer have heard of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), but this group has reported on “thousands of peer-reviewed studies that contradict the alarmist global-warming narrative,” Singer writes. Need another sign that the “97 percent consensus” claim is a myth? “A survey of more than 1,800 members of the American Meteorological Society showed that less than half believe humans are the primary cause of any recent warming,” Singer writes.

The challenge to the “97 percent” narrative is an inconvenient truth for John Kerry. Like Al Gore before him, Secretary Kerry is a man on a mission—a crusade to win international acclaim and a Nobel Peace Prize. He knows he’s unlikely to win the coveted medal for bringing peace to any troubled corner of the Middle East. Hence his new activism on climate change. If he can help broker an international agreement on CO2 reduction in Paris next year, he may find himself in a tuxedo soon afterward, shaking hands with the King of Sweden.

The Kerry Climate Capers, by S. Fred Singer (American Thinker, 2/26/14)

Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate, by S. Fred Singer


3) Learning from Putin’s Inner Logic

Love him or hate him, Vladimir Putin is pursuing a strategy for Russia whose inner logic is as undeniable as a basic syllogism. If only the United States were to try to advance its own interests in a way that made sense as clearly. Then perhaps the American public might begin to have confidence in the wisdom of its foreign-policy leaders. (The assumption here is that comprehensibility is a necessary though not sufficient condition of rationality.)

The first premise of Putin’s syllogism seems to go like this: “If Russia faces a growing threat from the west, the threat can be reduced by creating a larger buffer zone.” Moreover, the Russian president has no difficulty in affirming this premise. Here’s Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland: “The collapse of Russia’s Warsaw Pact buffer zone was exacerbated by expansion of a hostile military bloc—NATO—through inducting those former Warsaw Pact nations into that swelling alliance. That expansion has continued right up to Russia’s borders. Even prior to the current crisis in Crimea, U.S. fighters were patrolling the border between Russia and NATO-member Baltic states.”

As for the United States, it’s helpful to think back to the time of the Cold War. When George Kennan originally conceived of a “containment strategy” against the Soviet Union, he did not advocate that the United States should box in its adversary in every corner of the globe. Rather, he held that containment should focus on areas of strategic interest to the United States. Had U.S. policymakers followed his version of containment, the country would have been spared costly wars in Vietnam and Korea. Kennan’s ideas are worth considering today, Eland suggests. At a minimum, they will help us think more logically about a national strategy that’s right for the American people.

Russia Has a National Strategy that Matches the Times—Why Doesn’t the U.S.?, by Ivan Eland (The Huffington Post, 3/26/14)

Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, by Ivan Eland

No War for Oil: U.S. Dependency and the Middle East, by Ivan Eland


4) Seminar Application Deadline Extended to April 14

The Independent Institute is delighted to announce that the application deadline for the Challenge of Liberty Student Seminars has been extended. We are now taking applications through Monday, April 14.

Informative, inspiring, and fun, these five-day seminars teach high-school and college students about liberty by conveying key principles derived from economics, political philosophy, and history.

  • Denver, CO: June 16-20
  • Berkeley, CA: July 7-11
  • Oakland, CA: July 14-18
Please visit our Seminar page for everything you need to know about speakers, curriculum, and enrollment.

And while you’re there, please check out our videos of lectures from our past seminars on topics as diverse as ethics and liberty, the Austrian school of economics, money and banking, socialism, environmental regulation, government failure, immigration, globalization, crises and government growth, and the Great Recession.


5) Last Call for an Evening With Ron Paul: “Liberty Defined: The Future of Freedom” (Hayward, April 9)

This Wednesday, former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul will speak at California State University, East Bay. The topic: A candid look at America’s increasingly dysfunctional political system. Tickets are required in advance.

More information


6) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

Government Motors Protection Racket
K. Lloyd Billingsley (4/7/14)

Rolling Over Taxpayers
Craig Eyermann (4/4/14)

Boondoggles Bloat Government
K. Lloyd Billingsley (4/2/14)

U.S. Embassy Solicits Fiberglass Camel
Craig Eyermann (4/1/14)

You can find the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language website here and blog here.


7) Selected News Alerts


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless