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Volume 13, Issue 6: February 8, 2011

  1. Government Policies Hamper Private-Sector Job Growth
  2. Mideast Turmoil Refutes Myth of ‘Justice vs. Stability’
  3. Obama and the Puritan Legacy
  4. Why Nuclear Power Lost Its Glow
  5. New Blog Posts

1) Government Policies Hamper Private-Sector Job Growth

Job growth is anemic. At its current pace, it will take six years for the number of jobs in the United States to return to its November 2007 peak, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs, whose book Depression, War, and Cold War was designated “Outstanding Academic Book” by the American Library Association.

“The government’s biggest challenge today is to restore lost confidence,” Higgs writes in a recent op-ed for Investor’s Business Daily. Unfortunately, legislation enacted over the past two years in the name of improving economic security has hampered private investment and hiring by creating a climate of uncertainty.

One category in which job numbers barely changed from November 2007 to December 2010 is government employment. The declining ratio of private-sector jobs to public-sector ones is important because, Higgs writes, “private-sector workers produce economic wealth, while public-sector workers primarily deplete society’s wealth. Indeed, public-sector workers in many cases hinder genuine economic recovery by concocting and enforcing unnecessary, even senseless regulations, collecting excessive taxes, fees, and fines, and demanding mountains of wasteful paperwork to prove compliance with government edicts.”

“Uncertainty Continues to Depress Jobs,” by Robert Higgs (Investor’s Business Daily, 1/25/11) Spanish Translation

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

Audio: Robert Higgs Discusses the Austrian School of Economics on BBC Radio 4.


2) Mideast Turmoil Refutes Myth of ‘Justice vs. Stability’

The political turmoil that has erupted across the Arab world—in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, and Algeria—refutes the myth that stability could be purchased at the expense of justice. Sadly, U.S. foreign policy helped underwrite many of the wrongs that Mideast autocrats, now playing defense, inflicted on their subjects.

Fortunately, the upheavals also reveal a promising alternative to the status quo, according to Alvaro Vargas Llosa, senior fellow at the Independent Institute’s Center on Global Prosperity.

In his latest column for the Washington Post Writers Group, Vargas Llosa writes: “Americans and Europeans who really believed that the only choice in the Arab world was between lascivious sheiks and murderous generals on the one hand, and medieval weirdos on the other, have suddenly discovered that there are thousands—no, millions—of men and women who do not look all that different from Westerners and speak the civic and political language of their own democracies.”

“Neither Justice Nor Stability,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (2/1/11) Spanish Translation

Lessons from the Poor: 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


3) Obama and the Puritan Legacy

President Obama saturated his State of the Union speech with allusions to sin, sacrifice, and salvation—a rhetorical legacy the Puritans bequeathed to generations of American political speechwriters. The United States is still a “city upon a hill,” but the mission it is supposed to serve is now secular, rather than divine.

Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert H. Nelson, author of the book The New Holy Wars, explains:

“This idea of a model for the world was secularized after the American Revolution to become a national model of progress, liberty, and democracy. Each new president is required to repeat this message on suitable occasions, if in ways suited to the specific economic and other circumstances of that president.”

“Sin, Sacrifice, and the State of the Union,” by Robert H. Nelson (Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, PBS, 1/26/11)

The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion vs. Environmental Religion in Contemporary America, by Robert H. Nelson

“Ecological Science as a Creation Story,” by Robert H. Nelson (The Independent Review, Spring 2010)


4) Why Nuclear Power Lost Its Glow

Nuclear power in the United States may soon undergo a revival. The White House has pledged to triple the amount of federal loan guarantees for the construction of new reactors; and the Department of Energy has said that if big reactors are too costly to build, it would support building smaller, cheaper ones designed to serve local communities and businesses. This prospect raises the question: Why did nuclear power languish for three decades?

The answer may have little to do with standard explanations, such as the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979 and concerns about waste disposal. According to sociologist William Beaver (Robert Morris University), the seeds of the industry’s demise were planted in the 1950s, when federal policymakers jumpstarted commercial nuclear power with lavish subsidies. By 1960, federal subsidies to the industry totaled about $7 billion in today’s dollars.

The government scramble, Beaver argues, bypassed the development of economical nuclear power, which required time to mature and become a routine industrial process. Had the federal role been more limited, General Electric, Westinghouse, and other manufacturers would have developed commercial reactors, but at a much slower pace. Beaver writes: “Perhaps the country asked too much from the technology—a resurgence of national vitality during the Cold War, along with the enhanced prosperity that inexpensive energy helps to achieve.”

“The Failed Promise of Nuclear Power,” by William Beaver (The Independent Review, Winter 2011)

“The Demise of Yucca Mountain,” by William Beaver (The Independent Review, Summer 2010)

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:


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