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Volume 7, Issue 8: February 21, 2005

  1. Decoding the New Defense Budget
  2. Saber Rattling against Syria
  3. Reducing Legal Incentives to Lie
  4. 2005 Garvey Fellowship Contest
  5. Presidents Day: A Heterodox Bibliography

1) Decoding the New Defense Budget

Like a renaissance painting encoded with hidden messages, the new U.S. defense budget is a masterpiece of deception that tricks the eye into "seeing" what isn't there, while artfully obscuring what is plainly visible only to the patient few who have bothered to deconstruct its symbolism and history.

On the one hand, the Bush administration claims that its 2006 defense budget -- reportedly totaling $419 billion in discretionary budget authority -- constitutes a 41-percent increase over 2001. On the other hand, the tables presented in the budget document show an increase in outlays of nearly 47 percent. Even stranger, a Pentagon memo leaked to the press claims that billions of dollars will be cut from defense spending.

"Conspiracy theorists might easily conclude that the government deliberately tries to make a clear understanding impossible," writes Robert Higgs, Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, in his latest op-ed. "More charitably, we might conclude that the government simply does not know how to keep a clean set of books."

A full accounting of U.S. defense and other military spending, Higgs explains, must include not only Defense Department spending, but also the hundreds of billions of dollars that other agencies spend annually on defense-related programs, such as the Energy Department's spending on nuclear warheads, the State Department's foreign-military financing, Veterans Affairs' benefits to former military personnel, Homeland Security's spending on the Coast Guard's defense-related activities, and so on.

"Applying my rule of thumb," writes Higgs, "I estimate that the government's total military-related outlays in fiscal year 2006 will be in the neighborhood of $840 billion -- or, approximately a third of the total budget, as opposed to the 16 percent that one calculates by comparing the Pentagon's $419 billion request to the administration's total request, $2.57 trillion."

Although decoding the defense budget is tricky, the fundamental reason for its ambiguities is hardly mysterious. Pentagon planners, key congressional staffers, and officers of the Office of Management and Budget by negotiation "decide in advance who will pretend to seek what, and how much each interested party will actually get in the end," writes Higgs.

"In sum, the administration's budget for fiscal year 2006, along with the shenanigans that strategically placed representatives of the military-industrial-congressional complex invariably play, insures that the gravy train of military spending will continue to speed along the track."

See "Bush's New Defense Budget," by Robert Higgs (2/14/05)

For information about ARM, POLITICS, AND THE ECONOMY: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, ed. by Robert Higgs, see

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


2) Saber Rattling against Syria

Like the Bush administration's recent saber rattling toward Iran, its removal of the U.S. ambassador to Syria -- partly in response to the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri -- is myopic, argues Ivan Eland, Senior Fellow and Director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty.

"Despite some Syrian help in curbing the flow from Syria into Iraq of anti-U.S. guerillas and funding for them from Syria into Iraq, the United States has decided to treat the autocratic regime in Damascus as harshly as it has treated other 'rogue' states, such as Iran and Iraq," writes Eland in his latest op-ed.

"If odious regimes such as Syria are never rewarded for anything positive, they have no incentive to behave better," writes Eland. "This does not mean holding them in a tight embrace or condoning their abysmal human rights practices. It does mean treating them with a wary pragmatism and not assuming all they do is evil."

Concludes Eland: "A little more sugar and a little less vinegar toward 'rogue states' might give these countries an incentive for better behavior."

See "Saber Rattling Against Syria," by Ivan Eland (2/21/05)

To purchase THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland, see

To purchase PUTTING "DEFENSE" BACK IN U.S. DEFENSE POLICY, by Ivan Eland, see

"The Way Out of Iraq: Decentralizing the Iraqi Government," by Ivan Eland

Center on Peace & Liberty


3) Reducing Legal Incentives to Lie

A spate of recent news reports of false accusations in matters of divorce, child custody, and sexual abuse suggest that public policy has contributed to such injustices by creating perverse incentives to bear false witness, according to Wendy McElroy, Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and editor of LIBERTY FOR WOMEN: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-first Century.

"The simplest solution [for the problem of false accusations] is to remove from the legal system incentives to lie," writes McElroy in a recent op-ed.

"Often both the incentive and the lie are clear-cut. For example, consider paternity claims that are proven false. Such claims almost never result in legal sanctions against a mother who has knowingly lied. Indeed, she may continue to be rewarded with child support after the falsehood is revealed. This is because many states require 'named' fathers to pay child support even when DNA tests prove they have no biological relationship to the children."

McElroy notes that this policy is changing. In California, for example, a new law allows men to stop paying child support if they can prove they are not biological fathers.

McElroy proposes two other reforms that would reduce false accusations by eliminating incentives to lie. One proposal is to "require criminal charges, like sexual abuse, to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal court before they can proceed to the far looser standards of evidence (and honesty) within civil courts. This would remove the financial incentive of a civil court award."

The other is to "stop applying anti-SLAPP laws to proven cases of false accusations. Anti-SLAPP laws were passed to prevent large corporations from maliciously suing and, thus, silencing, private citizens and grassroots activists. It prohibits such lawsuits."

See "Removing Legal Incentives to Lie," by Wendy McElroy (1/26/05)


4) 2005 Garvey Fellowship Contest

Top Essays to Win $2,500 (college students) and $10,000 (college faculty)

The Independent Institute is accepting essays for the 2005 Olive W. Garvey Fellowship Program, an international essay contest founded in 1974 by Olive W. Garvey, a businesswoman and philanthropist who created the contest to give younger scholars an incentive to research the meaning and significance of economic and personal liberty.

A panel of judges will determine the three best essays pertaining to the quotation by Nobel laureate economist F. A. Hayek: "The great aim of the struggle for liberty has been equality before the law.”

The contest has two divisions.

I. Student Division (including undergraduate and graduate students, no older than 35 years of age)

First Prize: $2,500
Second Prize: $1,500
Third prize: $1,000

II. Faculty Division (untenured college faculty no older than 35 years of age)

First Prize: $10,000
Second Prize: $5,000
Third Prize: $1,500

The deadline is May 1, 2005.

For complete details about the contest, including eligibility requirements, a bibliography, and examples of past winning essays, please see


5) Presidents Day: A Heterodox Bibliography

The role of the president in the U.S. government has undergone significant changes since the country's founding. Unfortunately, popular perceptions have not always kept abreast of scholars' growing insights about the presidency -- or about individual presidents themselves.

The following list of scholarly articles, popular op-eds, book reviews, and debate transcripts is offered in the hope of clearing up common misperceptions about many of the nation's chief executives.

"The Oval Office Liars' Club," by Robert Higgs (SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, 11/24/02)

"No More 'Great Presidents,'" by Robert Higgs (THE FREE MARKET, March 1997)

John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty, by C. Bradley Thompson
Reviewed by K. R. Constantine Gutzman (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Summer 2000)

The Constitutional Thought of Thomas Jefferson, by David N. Mayer
Reviewed by James W. Ely, Jr. (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Summer 1996)

The Sacred Fire of Liberty: James Madison and the Founding of the Federal Republic, by Lance Banning
Reviewed by Herman Belz (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 1997)

American Compact: James Madison and the Problem of Founding, by Gary Rosen
Reviewed by Hans Eicholz (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Summer 2001)

James Madison and the Future of Limited Government, edited by John Samples
Reviewed by Thomas E. Borcherding (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Fall 2003)

Martin Van Buren: The Greatest American President
By Jeffrey Rogers Hummel (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Fall 1999)

The Great Centralizer: Abraham Lincoln and the War between the States
By Thomas J. DiLorenzo (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Fall 1998)

The Real Abraham Lincoln: A Debate, featuring Harry V. Jaffa and Thomas J. DiLorenzo. An Independent Policy Forum transcript (5/7/02). Also see related links following transcript.

How Teddy Roosevelt Fathered the “Bush Doctrine,” by William Marina and David T. Beito (12/9/04)

The Life of Herbert Hoover, vol. 3, Master of Emergencies, 1917-1918, by George H. Nash
Reviewed by Ronald Schaffer (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 1998)

The Mythology of Roosevelt and the New Deal
by Robert Higgs (THE FREEMAN, Summer 1998)

Truman's Attempt to Seize the Steel Industry, by Robert Higgs (THE FREEMAN, March 2004)

Pay Any Price: Lyndon Johnson and the Wars for Vietnam, by Lloyd C. Gardner
Reviewed by Ted Galen Carpenter (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Fall 1997)

Nixon's Economy: Booms, Busts, Dollars, and Votes, by Allen J. Matusow
Reviewed by Steven Horwitz (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Spring 1999)

Ronald Reagan and the Rise of Large Deficits: What Really Happened in 1981
by Timothy J. Muris (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 2000)

What Really Happened in 1981
by Alan Reynolds and Paul Craig Roberts (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Fall 2000)

Dismantling the Welfare State? Reagan, Thatcher, and the Politics of Retrenchment, by Paul Pierson
Reviewed by William Niskanen (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 1998)

For the President's Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush, by Christopher Andrew
Reviewed by Craig T. Cobane (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 1997)

A New Democrat? The Economic Performance of the Clinton Presidency
by John W. Burns and Andrew J. Taylor (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 2001)

Casualty of War: The Bush Administration's Assault on a Free Press, by David Dadge
Reviewed by Bruce Ramsey (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 2005)

The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush's Military-Industrial Complex, by Helen Caldicott
Reviewed by Ivan Eland (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Fall 2003)

Franklin D. Roosevelt and George W. Bush: Some Unsettling Similarities January 23, 2005Robert Higgs (1/23/05)


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