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 6, Issue 43: October 25, 2004

  1. Is the Draft an Imminent Threat?
  2. Minimum Wage, Maximum Folly
  3. Paying for the Iraq War
  4. Independent Institute on the Airwaves

1) Is the Draft an Imminent Threat?

Will military conscription return after the November election? Both Pres. Bush and Sen. Kerry have said they would not reinstate it, but presidents have been known to change their minds. A more significant constraint is that the draft would be highly unpopular, thus weakening support for military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, the nation's military leaders have often stated publicly that the United States is better off with an all-volunteer military.

Liberal Democrats in favor of military conscription, however, have argued for it on grounds of social fairness. But even this argument is weaker than it seems, argues Ivan Eland, senior fellow and director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty:

"According to the rhetoric of liberal Democrats who advocate conscription, a volunteer military effectively requires socially disadvantaged groups to die disproportionately for their country," Eland writes in a recent op-ed.

"The liberals correctly argue that poor minorities join the military in greater numbers because they have less economic opportunity in the civilian economy. Although African-Americans are somewhat over represented in the enlisted ranks of the Army and Marines (Hispanics are actually underrepresented), they are less represented in ground combat units of those services. The reality is that many African-Americans choose to join military supply and logistics units, rather than combat units, to better acquire specific skills that are more easily transferable to the private sector."

However, Eland cautions the public against relying on policymakers to see the folly of conscription, despite its very low societal benefits and very high societal costs: "After the election, the public should remain vigilant of any attempts to bring back this white elephant from a bygone era," Eland concludes.

See "A Draft or Merely Hot Air?" by Ivan Eland (10/18/04)

Also see:

"The Ill-Wind of the Draft," by Ivan Eland (4/27/04)

"War and Leviathan in Twentieth-Century America Conscription as the Keystone," by Robert Higgs

To purchase THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES, by Ivan Eland, see

Center on Peace & Liberty

Ivan Eland on Tour:

October 25: 6:30-8:30pm (ET), Book signing at Labyrinth Books, 536 West 112th Street, New York City, 212-865-1588

October 28: 4:00-5:00pm (PT), Interview on "All-American Talk Radio with Peter B. Collins." Available on regular radio stations, Sirius satellite radio, and the Internet at

October 28: 6:30-8:30pm (PT), Policy Forum at the Independent Institute, 100 Swan Way, Oakland, Calif., 510-632-1366. For information about this event, see


2) Minimum Wage, Maximum Folly

Although Pres. George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry have said that they favor an increase in the minimum wage (their disagreement seems to be only over the size and immediacy of an increase), ninety percent of economists polled by the AMERICAN ECONOMIC REVIEW agreed that "minimum wage laws increase unemployment among low-skilled workers," writes Ben Powell, director of the Independent Institute's Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation, in a new op-ed for SAN FRANCISCO BUSINESS TIMES.

Sen. Kerry favors a hike of more than 35 percent by 2007, followed by annual increases that keep pace with inflation. Pres. Bush favors a "reasonable" increase over "an extended period of time," according to a campaign spokesman quoted in the WASHINGTON POST. But how reasonable is it to increase the unemployment of low-skilled workers?

"If most economists were called on to define 'reasonable,' it should mean nothing short of 'zero increase and repeal of the existing requirement,'" writes Powell.

"Schwarzenegger, a former economics major, had the good sense to veto a California bill that would have increased the minimum wage. Hopefully our presidential candidates and the voters of Nevada and Florida [where the minimum wage has become an election issue] will learn the same lessons Schwarzenegger learned in econ 101 so long ago."

See "Minimum Wage Laws Still Create Unemployment," by Benjamin Powell (SAN FRANCISCO BUSINESS TIMES, 10/22/04)

For more on unemployment, see OUT OF WORK: Unemployment and Government in Twentieth-Century America, by Lowell E. Gallaway and Richard K. Vedder

To purchase OUT OF WORK, see


3) Paying for the Iraq War

Would you have voluntarily paid for the costs of the Iraq war knowing what you know now? The probability is high that you would not have, according to Robert Higgs, senior fellow at the Independent Institute, in his most recent op-ed, "Bush's Iraq War: An Offer You Would Have Refused."

Suppose each household had to pay an equal share of the total Iraq war costs to date, say, $200 billion, as well as risk the injury or death of a household member -- roughly in proportion to the risk of injury or death of the U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq. How many citizens, asks Higgs, would have been willing to accept this contract?

"My guess is almost none," writes Higgs. "Even if I'm far from guessing correctly, however, I find it inconceivable that enough citizens even to approach forming a majority would have entered voluntarily into this contract."

Not that this is the manner in which policymakers make such policies. "[Our rulers] have calculated their own expected political gains and losses, and they have taken into account the gains and losses that will be reaped -- often in cold cash -- by the coalition of special-interest groups that supports them in holding onto power. The rest of us can resign ourselves to bearing the full costs, to our bank accounts as well as to our lives, limbs, and liberties, while our rulers feed us noble-sounding lies and promise us an outcome so lovely and implausible that only God could bring it to pass," Higgs concludes.

See "Bush's Iraq War: An Offer You Would Have Refused," by Robert Higgs (10/25/04)

Also see "Benefits and Costs of the U.S. Government's War Making," by Robert Higgs (10/7/04)
Spanish translation:

To purchase AGAINST LEVIATHAN: Government Power and a Free Society, by Robert Higgs, see

For further articles and studies, please see


4) Independent Institute on the Airwaves

Tune in to KION 1410 (Salinas, CA) on October 26 from 8:35-8:50 am (PT) to hear Independent Institute Research Fellow Arthur Foulkes discuss vaccine shortages with host Mark Carbonaro.

October 28: 4:00-5:00 pm (PT): Ivan Eland to be interviewed on "All-American Talk Radio with Peter B. Collins." Available on regular radio stations, Sirius satellite radio, and the Internet at


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless