The Power of Independent Thinking


Stay Connected
Get the latest updates straight to your inbox.

The Lighthouse®

The Lighthouse® is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
Subscribe now, or browse Back Issues.

Volume 12, Issue 13: March 29, 2010

  1. Immigration Reform and the Liberty Principle
  2. Civil Liberties under Obama
  3. Iran Sanctions Likely to Fail, Eland Argues
  4. Rethinking the U.S. Postal Monopoly
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Immigration Reform and the Liberty Principle

As the March 21st “March for America” and the immigration reform proposals of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) attest, the Great American Immigration Debate has returned. According to Independent Institute Adjunct Fellow Art Carden, a key question in this debate is whether immigration creates actionable spillover costs.

Significant economic spillover costs—what economists call negative externalities—are unlikely because “the evidence suggests that immigration benefits Americans by expanding output and lowering prices,” writes Carden on But what about opposition based on other factors, such as a dislike of immigrants and the cultural by-products they bring? According to Carden, opposition to immigration that stems from someone’s categorical dislike of immigrants creates no moral claim against immigration proponents. Complaints motivated by racism or xenophobia are not actionable.

The principle of liberty, Carden implies, is that no one may restrict the freedom of a peaceful person to use his or her honestly acquired property as he or she sees fit. This includes business owners who wish to employ immigrants. Carden ends his commentary by welcoming prospective immigrants with open arms: “Come on over! Bring your friends. Bring your families. Help us restore an America that was conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

“Coming to America,” by Art Carden (, 3/18/10)

Also see:

“Let Insurers Issue Licenses to Illegal Immigrants,” by Gabriel Roth (San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/25/07)

“The Difference Between an Illegal Immigrant and Me,” by Robert Higgs (2/20/08)

“If Mexicans and Americans Could Cross the Border Freely,” by Jacques Delacroix and Sergey Nikiforov (The Independent Review, Summer 2009)


2) Civil Liberties under Obama

During the 2008 presidential campaign Senator Barack Obama and his supporters criticized the Bush administration for trampling on civil liberties in its pursuit of suspected terrorists and others. Have safeguards improved under President Obama? Anthony Gregory, a research analyst with the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty, recently assessed the status of civil liberties under the current administration and found it lacking.

“No matter how you slice it, no matter how we try to define our terms,” writes Gregory, “Obama has so far proven himself to be a disaster for civil liberties in practically every respect, with a trajectory that I must say is more frightening than even what was experienced under Bush.”

Gregory castigates the Obama administration for several policies, including its continuation of Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program and detention policies, especially at the Bagram prison camp—the Afghanistan version of Guantánamo—and Obama’s defense of unlimited detention in a speech at the National Archives last May. Writes Gregory: “Of course, detention policy is only one of many concerns for civil libertarians, although it really does get to the crux of the totalitarianism that sits behind the mask of American security policy.”

“Civil Liberties in Obama’s America,” by Anthony Gregory (3/20/10)

Hear Anthony Gregory on Antiwar Radio hosted by Scott Horton.


3) Iran Sanctions Likely to Fail, Eland Argues

Pressuring Iran into giving up its nuclear program by imposing stiffer international trade sanctions may strengthen Obama’s reputation among foreign-policy hawks, but it is unlikely to achieve its stated goal, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland.

Consider the harsh sanctions the United Nations imposed on Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait. Even after the Gulf War was concluded, the continued sanctions did not break the will of Saddam Hussein, although they did cause substantial misery to ordinary Iraqis. Iran may be even more determined to withstand sanctions than was Saddam, given that its nuclear program—and, from its perspective, its security—would be at stake. In addition, stricter sanctions may strengthen Iran’s hardliners politically because sanctions often flame nationalistic sentiments.

“Thus, the bad news is that, even if stronger sanctions are imposed, Iran will probably get nuclear weapons eventually,” writes Eland. “The good news is that this threat is less severe than the hysteria indicates. As it did with radical and nuclear-armed Maoist China, the United States could likely deter any attack by Iran’s few warheads—provided the Iranians could eventually develop a missile with long enough range to hit the United States—through the mere presence of the massive U.S. nuclear arsenal.”

“More Sanctions Against Iran Are Not the Answer,” by Ivan Eland (3/24/10) 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) Rethinking the U.S. Postal Monopoly

Due to its legal monopoly in the delivery of first-class mail, the U.S. Postal Service has weak incentives to control costs and serve its customers well. Consequently, it is facing a $238 billion deficit over the next decade. To reduce that shortfall its governors are considering halting Saturday delivery and raising postage rates again, but those measures would only weaken the agency’s ability to compete with email and for-profit package carriers such as UPS and FedEx, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II.

“Higher rates and fewer delivery days will only serve to exacerbate these issues, but a solution is certainly available: privatize the pickup and delivery of first-class U.S. mail,” writes Shughart in his latest op-ed.

Germany offers an alternative policy approach that the United States should consider emulating: its liberalization of Deutsche Post, begun in 2000, has reduced postal rates by more than 16 percent and improved service. Similar benefits could be achieved in the United States if the U.S. Postal Service’s mail monopoly were abolished. “The experience of Deutsche Post proves that liberalizing the USPS is a proverbial win-win scenario,” concludes Shughart.

“It’s (Past) Time to Free the U.S. Mail,” by William F. Shughart II (3/16/10) Spanish Translation

Taxing Choice, edited by William F. Shughart II

“Going Postal: Regulatory Reform for the Digital Age,” by James A. Montanye (The Independent Review, Fall 2007)


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