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Volume 11, Issue 49: December 7, 2009

  1. The Afghanistan Quagmire
  2. Prohibition’s Legacy
  3. Remembering Pearl Harbor
  4. Spain’s “Green Energy” Subsidies Waste Resources
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) The Afghanistan Quagmire

President Obama’s decision to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan was the topic of two Independent Institute op-eds this past week. Senior Fellow Ivan Eland discussed the proposal by Congressman David Obey (D-Wis.), an opponent of troop escalation, to enact a “temporary” income surtax to fund the war as a way to add transparency to the war’s costs, which he estimated would amount to $900 billion over the next decade—about the same price tag as the House’s health care bill.

Although a direct tax such as that proposed by the congressman would be a more honest approach to funding the war than most alternative methods, Eland says that a better idea would be to withdraw U.S. troops altogether. “If the politicians got downright courageous, they would cancel the Afghan escalation and further government meddling in health care, end both the unnecessary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq rapidly, and deregulate health care markets so that an efficient national market was created,” he writes. “Now there’s an intelligent plan that has absolutely no chance of passing!”

Senior Fellow Robert Higgs, in an op-ed published in the San Francisco Examiner, lambasted President Obama’s troop-escalation speech. The rationale that sending U.S. troops to Afghanistan would protect Americans from al-Qaida terrorist attacks is a weak argument because a foreign power cannot control the Afghan people and because al-Qaida has members in many other countries. “A clear-thinking president would steer clear of trying to accomplish the impossible,” writes Higgs. “The war in Afghanistan is not winnable in any meaningful sense. It’s a pure waste, suffered at a time when the American people have a multitude of more urgent needs. To curtail their losses, the Americans should get out of Afghanistan immediately.”

“Troop Surge in Afghanistan a Losing Investment,” by Robert Higgs (San Francisco Examiner, 12/4/09)

“Pay for the War, or Just Call It Off?” by Ivan Eland (12/2/09)

The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland

Depression, War, and Cold War: Challenging the Myths of Conflict and Prosperity, by Robert Higgs

Opposing the Crusader State: Alternatives to Global Interventionism, edited by Robert Higgs and Carl P. Close


2) Prohibition’s Legacy

December 5 marked the 76th anniversary of the 21st Amendment, the document that ended a failed social experiment: prohibition. As Independent Institute Research Analyst Anthony Gregory observes in his latest op-ed, prohibition wreaked havoc on American institutions, with increases in bloody gang violence, a near doubling of the federal prison population, and massive government corruption. On the one hand, it’s hard to imagine Americans ever again putting up with the loss of liberties and the social pathologies created by prohibition. On the other hand, many Americans are content with current drug-prohibition laws, despite the loss of liberties and the massive violence, enforcement costs, and corruption they entail.

“Today’s drug war is much worse than alcohol prohibition was,” writes Gregory. “We have half a million people in prison, an overwhelmed judicial system, militarized enforcement, assaults on civil liberties, a foreign policy distorted by drug-war goals and, according to many economists, about twice as many homicides as we would expect if drugs were legal.”

According to Gregory, the puritanical mindset that foisted alcohol and drug prohibitions on society is driving lawmakers to impose ever more draconian interventions into our personal lives, including legislation penalizing transfats and other allegedly unhealthy foods. “Alcohol prohibition is over, thank goodness,” writes Gregory. “But the heavy-handedness of the progressives’ greatest social experiment continues today under the banner of other crusades—with the same predictable results.”

“Enduring Legacy of Prohibition,” by Anthony Gregory (Herald News, 12/3/09) Spanish Translation


3) Remembering Pearl Harbor

December 7th marks the anniversary of the Japanese military attack on Pearl Harbor, “a date that will live in infamy,” as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt put it. The official story is that Japanese warships, en route to the Hawaiian Islands, retained radio silence, while Japanese decoy radio signals were sent to deceive the U.S. military into believing that the ships were still berthed in Japan. But neither of these claims is true, according to Independent Institute Media Fellow Robert B. Stinnett.

U.S. military intelligence was not fooled by the decoy signals, and the Japanese warships broke radio silence. Former commander of the Pacific Fleet radio intelligence center, Commander Joseph J. Rochefort, recounted these revelations in an oral history conducted by the U.S. Naval Institute. Stinnett himself has published an eight-point action plan, written in 1940 by Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum, spelling out how U.S. policy could best provoke a Japanese military attack:

“It is not believed that in the present state of political opinion the United States Government is capable of declaring war against Japan without more ado,” wrote McCollum. “If by these means Japan could be led to commit an overt act of war, so much the better.”

“The Pearl Harbor Deception,” by Robert B. Stinnett (12/2/02)

“Pentagon Still Scapegoats Pearl Harbor Fall Guys,” Robert B. Stinnett (Providence Journal, 12/7/01)

“December 7, 1941: A Setup from the Beginning,” by Robert B. Stinnett (Honolulu Advertiser, December 7, 2000)

“Do Freedom of Information Act Files Prove FDR Had Foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor? An Interview with Robert B. Stinnett,” by Douglas Cirignano

Robert B. Stinnett’s address to the Independent Policy Forum, “Pearl Harbor: Official Lies in an American War Tragedy?”

“The Oval Office Liars’ Club,” by Robert Higgs (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/24/02)


4) Spain’s “Green Energy” Subsidies Waste Resources

Spain is the largest producer of alternative energy on a per capita basis, thanks to government protectionism, mandates and subsidies. Although “green energy” policies are supposed to conserve more resources, the country is learning the hard way that this isn’t necessarily so. A recent study found that each “green job” was costing Spanish taxpayers 540,000 to 1 million euros and entailed 2.2 jobs lost or not created because of the misallocation of capital created by Spain’s alternative energy policies, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

“In recent years, many countries, including the United States, have touted the Spanish model as an inspiration,” writes Vargas Llosa. “They really need to look again.”

Spain’s massive intervention in its energy markets is also economically unsustainable: the government has had to reduce 30 percent of its subsidies to solar energy producers; subsidies to wind farms have resulted in wasteful expansion of capacity in that sector. Vargas Llosa continues: “There was indeed something Quixotic about the 300 percent growth experienced by Spain’s solar energy sector since 2005 and in the fact that about 500 companies got involved in wind farming, attracted by the siren song of captive markets and government largesse (now these companies are shedding jobs too). Reality was bound to set in sooner or later.”

“Taking the Wind Out of Energy,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (12/2/09) Spanish Translation

Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

Lessons from the Poor: The Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa


5) This Week in The Beacon

Visit the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language blog, El Independent. Below are the past week’s offerings from our English-language blog, The Beacon.


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless