Volume 13, Issue 2: January 11, 2011
- EPAs New Rules Would Hamper Economic Recovery
- Fixing the U.S. Legal System
- A Radical Solution for Ending the War in Afghanistan
- The Tragic Life of Carlos Andres Perez
- Cut Your 2010 Taxes Now!Plus, New Blog Posts
The Obama administration has delayed the imposition of new restrictions for smog and emissions from industrial boilers. Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency is still pursuing a host of new regulations that will hobble economic growth and worsen unemployment. Many of these regulations target the oil and natural gas sectoran important driver of jobs as well as the source of 85 percent of the U.S. energy supply, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II.
For example, the EPA plans to impose new regulations for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted by power plants and industrial usersregs that will help push up electricity rates across the United States. In addition, new air quality standards that require coal-powered plants to be retrofitted are projected to cost $70 billion over the next decade. Shughart outlines the impact of these and six other proposed or forthcoming regulations in his new op-ed, Congress Should Rein in the EPA.
The dreams of federal bureaucrats and their environmental-activist supporters notwithstanding, windmills and other green sources of power are unlikely to replace fossil fuels anytime soon, Shughart writes. In the meantime, when the U.S. economy is anemic and nearly 10 percent of the labor force is unemployed, EPA has done (and can do) much harm. The new Congress should rein it in.
Congress Should Rein in EPA, by William F. Shughart II (Clarion Ledger, 1/9/11)
Rethinking Green: Alternatives to Environmental Bureaucracy, edited by Robert Higgs and Carl Close
Is the U.S. legal system broken? If so, how should it be fixed? On December 9, 2010, the Independent Institute hosted a forum at its headquarters in Oakland, Calif., to address these questions. The events keynote speaker, economist and Research Fellow Edward J. López (editor, The Pursuit of Justice) argued that the system is indeed broken and that bad incentives are largely to blame for a broad range of problems, including wrongful convictions, overpriced legal services, politicized judicial decisions, eminent domain abuses, and wealth redistribution that favors the legal profession. Overhauling the incentives embedded in the legal systemthe inducements that shape the decisions of judges, juries, attorneys, law enforcement, and othersoffers the best hope for securing justice for all, Lopez concluded.
The second speaker, law professor David Friedman (Santa Clara University), credited Lópezs book for taking the first steps toward a systematic explanation of how the pursuit of self-interest shapes legal outcomes. Friedman then offered ideas for improving the legal system. Wrongful convictions could be reduced, he suggested, if indigent felony defendants were given state-funded vouchers to hire private attorneys, rather than having them rely on public defenders, who may be less capable or compromised by government employment. Moreover, lawmaking itself could be improved, Friedman argued, if people were free to choose directly which set of laws would govern themas occurs to some extent when litigants opt for private arbitration or when businesses select a state in which to incorporate.
The final speaker, Chief Justice Alex Kozinski (Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals), also lauded The Pursuit of Justice for its pioneering contributions, but he focused on what he called his quibbles with the book. Kozinski was much less worried about eminent domain than was López. A worse problem, he argued, occurs when governments fail to pay a property owner any compensation for having in effect taken private land via regulation, such as by passing a statute that prohibits construction on the owners beachfront property or wetland. Kozinskis contrarian remarks foreshadowed a lively audience Q&A session devoted to topics as diverse as lawyer licensing, paid informants, capital punishment, jury nullification, constitutional interpretation, and the scope of private-property rights.
Video, Audio and Transcript: Is the U.S. Legal System Broken? Overcoming Government Legal Failure, featuring Edward J. López, David Friedman, and Judge Alex Kozinski (12/9/10)
The Pursuit of Justice: Law and Economics of Legal Institutions, edited by Edward J. López
Pakistans unwillingness to destroy Taliban sanctuaries in its territory has become increasingly apparent to the U.S. militaryhence the recent expansion of U.S. Special Operations ground raids into that country. The basic problem is one of divergent interests: Pakistans leadership views the Afghan Taliban as the best hope for heading a friendly government on its western border, whereas the U.S. leadership wants to ensure that al-Qaedaand by extension its former host, the Talibandoes not gain another toehold in the region.
The best solution to the problem may be the oldest in the book: divide and conquer by offering a positive incentivemuch as the U.S. military did in Iraq when it paid Sunni militias to turn against Iraqi insurgents. By hammering a wedge between al-Qaeda, on the one hand, and the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan on the other, the United States could neutralize Osama Bin Ladens terrorist network, according to Ivan Eland, senior fellow at the Independent Institute and director of its Center on Peace & Liberty. In return for giving the Taliban and Pakistan partial or full control of an Afghanistan devoid of U.S. troops, the United States would demand the capture and delivery of the al-Qaeda leadership. Such an offer would likely be too good for Pakistan and the Taliban to refuse, and it would help advance what should be the leading U.S. national-security objective.
The U.S. might as well attempt this deal while it still has some leverage, Eland writes. Eventually, the U.S. will have to withdraw from Afghanistan and thus allow the Taliban some role in the Afghan government, but later will probably not get any concessions in return.
Video: Ivan Eland on Russia, Wikileaks, and the START Treaty (Al Jazeera Inside Story, 12/2/10)
Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, by Ivan Eland
The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland
Christmas saw the passing of the man who could have been the savior of Venezuela: Carlos Andres Perez. The first time Perez was president of Venezuela, in the 1970s, he fought off Castro-inspired guerrillas while managing to uphold the rule of law. But although Perez valued civil liberties, he discounted the importance of economic liberties and pursued policies that concentrated the countrys wealth in the hands of the state.
By the time Perez returned to power in 1989, the countrys economy and democratic institutions had severely deteriorated. The state he helped feed had turned on him. He was impeached and exiled. Then Hugo Chavez came to power, and the deterioration of Venezuela accelerated.
Perez saw what was coming more clearly than most and never stopped denouncing it, writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa, who met the exiled Perez in the early 2000s. The battle-hardened soldier had become sadly wise about his countrys fate and that of the few countries in which populist authoritarianism was still a dominant force.
Lessons from the Poor: The Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa
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
IRA Contributions Eligible for 2010 Tax Savings Through January 2011
The season of giving has been extended for U.S. seniors age 70 1⁄2 years or older who make charitable gifts from their Individual Retirement Accounts through January 2011. A provision signed into law on December 17, 2010, makes charitable gifts of up to $100,000paid this month from an IRAeligible to be declared as a 2010 gift.
Take advantage of this opportunity for tax savings, and help further the work of the Independent Institute. For more information, please see here and contact Development Director JuliAnna Jelinek at 510-632-1366.
New Blog Posts
From The Beacon:
- Tea Party Rhetoric and the Arizona Shooting, by Randall Holcombe (1/10/11)
- Why Not Gun Control for the Government? by Anthony Gregory (1/10/11)
- The Daily Show Skewers San Franciscos Ban of Happy Meals, by David Theroux (1/5/11)
- Limited Government? Keep an Eye on Florida, by Randall Holcombe (1/5/11)
- Fat Cats, Big Dogs, and Campaign Finance Reform, by Mary Theroux (1/4/11)
From MyGovCost Blog:
- International PressTV speaks with Dr. Emily Skarbek on how US policy affects unemployment, by Allison Gibbs (1/10/11)
- 17 Shocking Statistics About the U.S. National Debt, by David Theroux (1/9/11)
- Judge Andrew Napolitano on Debt and Private Pensions, by Emily Skarbek (1/5/11)
- U.S. National Debt Hits New Record High of $14 Trillion, by David Theroux (1/4/11)
- Your Paycheck in 2011, by Craig Eyermann (1/4/11)