The Lighthouse® is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
Subscribe now, or browse Back Issues.
Volume 7, Issue 30: July 25, 2005
- Re-Thinking Green
- White House Bets on Nuclear India
- Bad Research Leads to Bad Laws
- Che Guevara, Killing Machine -- Alvaro Vargas Llosa's Article Now Online
Environmental quality has been a major public concern since the first Earth Day in 1970, yet the maze of environmental laws and regulations enacted since then has fostered huge government bureaucracies better known for waste and failure than for innovation and success, according to the contributors of a new Independent Institute book on environment policy, RE-THINKING GREEN: Alternatives to Environmental Bureaucracy, edited by Robert Higgs (Senior Fellow, The Independent Institute) and Carl P. Close (Academic Affairs Director, The Independent Institute).
"Environmental policy in the United States is not entirely without success stories, but for the most part it has been unexpectedly costly, corrosive to America's liberal political and legal traditions, and not very effective in enhancing environmental quality," write Higgs and Close in the book's introduction. "These failures are rooted in the bureaucratic, top-down approach that has characterized environmental policy."
RE-THINKING GREEN examines some of today's most hotly debated environmental issues, including oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, population growth, global warming, endangered species, land use, coastal waters, air quality, urban planning, transportation, sustainable development, and regulation by litigation. The book's twenty-two economists, political scientists, and philosophers show how environmental quality can be enhanced more effectively by relying less on government agencies that are increasingly politicized, bureaucratized and unaccountable and more on environmental entrepreneurship and the strict enforcement of private-property rights.
Among the book's many findings are the following:
* By 1990, 25 years of regulations enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had cost the U.S. economy an estimated 22% of the manufacturing output that otherwise would have been produced.
* Unlike in the United States, where the Endangered Species Act has failed abysmally, in parts of Africa wildlife is managed successfully by allowing local populations to benefit economically from it.
* Property-rights approaches to conservation have helped the sensitive shorelines of South Carolina's coastal barrier islands and elsewhere.
* Proposals to improve urban environments by increasing living density often backfire. So-called "smart growth" policies typically increase traffic congestion, air pollution, and housing prices.
* Entrenched businesses often support proposed regulations for reasons of competitive strategy, i.e., they have often turned "green" when they have come to believe that they would profit more under the new regulations than would their rivals.
RE-THINKING GREEN will challenge readers with new paradigms for resolving environmental problems, stimulate discussion on how best to "humanize" environmental policy, and inspire policymakers to seek effective alternatives to environmental bureaucracy.
Advance praise for RE-THINKING GREEN:
"This superb book provides provocative, fresh insights into the debate over appropriate public policy regarding the environment."
-- Gary D. Libecap, Professor of Economics and Law, University of Arizona
"A complete guide to environmental policy. This book provides a history of erroneous environmental thinking, a devastating critique of current policies and a menu for improvement."
-- Paul H. Rubin, Professor of Economics and Law, Emory University
For a detailed summary of RE-THINKING GREEN: Alternatives to Environmental Bureaucracy, ed. by Robert Higgs and Carl P. Close, see
To purchase RE-THINKING GREEN: Alternatives to Environmental Bureaucracy, see http://www.independent.org/store/book.asp?id=58
The Bush administration is taking steps to help India acquire nuclear technology that could be used for civilian and military purposes. But this move -- apparently aimed at containing an emerging China -- is ill advised and may backfire, according to Ivan Eland, senior fellow and director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty.
In his latest op-ed, Eland explains that in return for U.S. nuclear technology, "India pledged to continue its self-imposed moratorium on atomic testing, open its civilian atomic program (but not its nuclear arms) to international inspection, and refrain from exporting nuclear technology or materials to aspiring nuclear states." But these concessions are meager, given that India has already given up nuclear testing and has moved to secure its nuclear material, Eland argues.
"Although both China and India are rising as great powers, the administration is betting that India will be friendly to the United States because it is a democracy and that China will be a threat because it is not," writes Eland. "That may be a bad bet."
Despite recent claims to the contrary, democracies are not always friendly to each other, Eland argues, noting that during the Cold War democratic India aligned with the Soviet Union while the United States supported India's archrival, the authoritarian Pakistan. Were the United States to increase its support for India, anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan could worsen, leading to the political rise of pro-jihadist forces. "The bottom line is that arming a rising powerwhether democratic or notis dangerous."
Concludes Eland: "To implement its new policy toward India, the administration will need to convince Congress to change a law that prevents exporting sensitive nuclear technology to countries that don't allow full monitoring of all nuclear facilities. The Congress should block the arming of India."
"Rolling the Dice on India," by Ivan Eland (7/25/05)
"Arrojando los Dados sobre la India"
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 (Ivan Eland, director)
According to a report published in the JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (JAMA), the results of nearly one-third of the major studies -- published between 1990 and 2003 in the NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, LANCET, and JAMA itself -- have not held up to post-publication scrutiny. The bad news gets worse: "Allegations of misconduct by U.S. researchers reached record highs last year as the Department of Health and Human Services received 274 complaints -- 50 percent high than 2003 and the most since 1989 when the federal government established a program to deal with scientific misconduct," according to the Associated Press.
These findings are distressing not only because they represent wasted tax dollars but also because government policy is often guided by government-funded research, as Wendy McElroy explains in a new op-ed.
"If a relatively 'hard' science (like medicine) has such difficulty with accuracy, then the results offered by the so-called 'soft' sciences (like sociology) should be approached with a high degree of skepticism," McElroy writes. "This is especially necessary since public policy and laws are often formed by such studies."
McElroy argues that research in the social sciences produces less reliable results than in the hard sciences because the data -- which deal with human actions -- typically require more interpretation. Furthermore, social-science research is more vulnerable to misconduct because in addition to the presence of financial reasons for misconduct (e.g., faking data to obtain more research funding), researchers' political biases may also distort a study's findings.
The government agency in charge of double-checking the veracity of federally funded research has been overwhelmed, prompting some critics to call for a radical reduction of federal research spending.
"I believe the cycle of studies leading to laws leading to studies should be broken not because I am against solid research but because I am for it," writes McElroy. "Bring skepticism and common sense to all data you hear; withhold your tax dollars."
See "Bad Research Leads to Bad Law," by Wendy McElroy (7/18/05)
"Las Malas Investigaciones Llevan a una Mala Ley"
For information on the political economy of scientific research, see chapters 8 to 10 in THE ACADEMY IN CRISIS: The Political Economy of Higher Education, ed. by John W. Sommers. To purchase this book, see
To purchase LIBERTY FOR WOMEN: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-First Century, ed. by Wendy McElroy, see
THE LIGHTHOUSE is pleased to announce that Alvaro Vargas Llosa's hard-hitting exposé, "The Killing Machine: Che Guevara from Communist Firebrand to Capitalist Brand," originally published in THE NEW REPUBLIC, is now available on the Independent Institute website in English and in Spanish.
"The Killing Machine: Che Guevara, from Communist Firebrand to Capitalist Brand," by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (NEW REPUBLIC, 7/11/05)
"La Máquina de Matar: El Che Guevara, de Agitador Comunista a Marca Capitalista"
LIBERTY FOR LATIN AMERICA: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa
Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Director)