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Volume 12, Issue 11: March 15, 2010

  1. Civil Liberties and the Census
  2. Lessons of the Toyota Recall
  3. Military Tribunals Should End with Guantánamo’s Closing, Eland Argues
  4. The Case Against Daylight Saving Time
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Civil Liberties and the Census

In 2002 and 2003, the U.S. Census Bureau provided information it had gathered about Arab-Americans to the Department of Homeland Security. Although Title 13 requires the Bureau to keep survey responses “strictly confidential,” the USA PATRIOT Act, which President Obama renewed, provides exceptions. Public worries about the misuse of census data may help explain the size and scope of the Bureau’s $350 million advertisement campaign for the 2010 Census.

“Widespread non-compliance, especially among those most likely to be discriminated against by a majority, may not be rooted strictly in the ‘ignorance’ the ads are designed to overcome,” writes Mary L. G. Theroux, senior vice president of the Independent Institute. “History—including very recent history—shows that the information provided to the Census can be used against you.”

Former Senate majority leader Trent Lott urged people to ignore any census questions they feel violates their privacy, but acting on this advice may come with at a hefty price: adults who refuse or willfully neglect to complete a census questionnaire may be fined $100 to $5,000.

“Census Data Not So Confidential After All,” by Mary L. G. Theroux (Providence Journal, 3/8/10) Spanish Translation


2) Lessons of the Toyota Recall

Last November, Toyota initiated the recall of 3.8 million vehicles. Kelley Blue Book, the automobile rating company, lowered its valuation of recalled Toyotas twice in one week. In contrast, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration failed to reopen its closed investigation of defective Toyotas.

Senator Jay Rockefeller has lobbied Toyota to build a factory in his state, and Representative Darrel Issa still serves on the board of his automobile alarm company, a supplier to Toyota. Despite such obvious conflicts of interests, both lawmakers are investigating the recall.

The lesson? “Private companies’ incentives are to fix problems when they’re discovered—or undermine the brand and suffer financially,” writes Emily C. Schaeffer, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation. “Private organizations, such as Kelley or Consumers Union, have similar incentives, since they profit by providing unbiased product evaluations.... Government’s incentives—beyond doing the right thing, which most government employees want to do—are often at odds with this mission.”

“In Cases Like Toyota, Free Market Works Better than Government,” by Emily C. Schaeffer (San Jose Mercury News, 3/8/10) Spanish Translation


3) Military Tribunals Should End with Guantánamo’s Closing, Eland Argues

Will closing the Guantánamo Bay detention camp put an end to the controversial use of unconstitutional and discredited means of detaining and trying suspected terrorists? Probably not. In exchange for his cooperation in shutting down the facility, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is reportedly negotiating with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to retain military tribunals and unlimited detainment for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other suspected terrorists.

Military tribunals are both unconstitutional and unnecessary, argues Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty, in his latest op-ed. The 6th Amendment requires jury trials for all criminal offenses and makes no exceptions for cases of national security. Thus the use of military tribunals to try suspected German spies and saboteurs during World War II was no more constitutional than their use today. Furthermore, civilian trials have resulted in hundreds more convictions for terrorist acts than have military tribunals, whose few convictions have often been overturned.

Eland concludes by condemning the prospective political compromise: “So if a deal is cut with Sen. Graham to close Guantánamo in exchange for tossing the alleged 9/11 attackers’ case back into military tribunals, the Constitution again will have been trampled under foot and the positive symbolism of closing Gitmo will have been offset by the use of kangaroo military commissions, which have been justly reviled around the world.”

“On Guantánamo, Symbolism Trumps Substance,” by Ivan Eland (3/11/10) Spanish Translation

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

Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, by Ivan Eland

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


4) The Case Against Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time (DST) has been vastly oversold as an energy-conservation measure, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II.

After Sydney, Australia, extended DST for the 2000 Summer Olympics, energy consumption didn’t fall, it rose slightly. A more recent study on Indiana, which operated under three different time regimes before 2006, found similar results. Moreover, changing clocks and watches twice a year is not free. Shughart’s back-of-the-envelope calculation puts the cost at a whopping $1.7 billion.

“There are no real benefits and some very real costs related to DST,” writes Shughart. “Congress should repeal the tyranny of government time and leave our clocks alone.”

“Let’s Turn Off Daylight Saving Time,” by William F. Shughart II (BusinessWeek, 3/4/10)

Taxing Choice: The Predatory Politics of Fiscal Discrimination, edited by William F. Shughart II


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