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Think tanks wrap-up II

Feb. 19, 2003 at 7:00 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- The UPI think tank wrap-up is a daily digest covering opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events and position statements released by various think tanks. This is the second of two wrap-ups for February 19.


The Acton Institute

(The Acton Institute works to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles. Its goal is to help build prosperity and progress on a foundation of religious liberty, economic freedom, and personal moral responsibility.)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Breathing life (and funds) into civil society

By Phillip W. De Vous, Public Policy Manager

It has become almost a cliché to state the simple fact that decades of massive welfare state spending on social programs has had the effect, unintended or not, of suffocating civil society solutions in meeting the needs of the poor. Throughout these many decades, ever increasing levels of government spending redistributed funds from local communities to unaccountable federal programs administered by distant people.

The costs of this redistributive social welfare scheme have imposed an enormous welfare state premium on civil society's efforts to minister to the poor and the needy. The interests of the poor, and with them the service of the common good, demand that this system be reformed.

Perhaps some help is on the way. Late last week, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee voted to create new tax incentives for charitable donations, reinvigorating the best portion of President Bush's faith-based initiative. The measure would allow non-itemizing taxpayers to write off a portion of their charitable contributions and permit charitable gifts to be tax free from Individual Retirement Accounts. This measure has the potential to free up billions of dollars for charitable institutions. If that prediction seems overly exuberant, recall that Americans gave over $1 billion to charities in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

In a statement, Bush offered: "The committee action brings us one step closer to creating incentives for Americans to donate more to charities, many of which are facing tough financial times."

He is exactly right. More importantly, the implications underlying this shift in tax and social policy offers new hope in creating, funding, and building effective civil society alternatives to failed welfare state programs.

For decades welfare state politicians have treated as enshrined dogma the moral assertion that the state is the only legitimate provider of assistance for the poor and needy. Moreover, they have argued that private charities are sometimes unaccountable and discriminatory in whom they choose to serve.

Anyone who has had any experience at all in dealing with government bureaucracies finds the first criticism -- of unaccountability -- laughable. And the concern that private charities "discriminate" in providing service is outrageous to the point of exasperation. With their evangelical mission to care for "the least of the brethren," faith-based groups are usually the only groups willing and able to reach the most needy in our communities. Deliberately confusing discretion with discrimination is a subtle form of demagoguery, attempting to change the subject from serving the poor to political posturing.

Welfare state politicos are reluctant to incentivize voluntary funding solutions emanating from civil society because they are interested in using the tragedy of poverty in our midst to score political points in the name of "compassion." Significant political constituencies and special interests have grown up in the weed patch watered by welfare state dollars.

The strategic "compassion" employed by such politicians and their clients seems more calculated to preserve essential constituencies in their political machines, rather than concentrating on innovative solutions to meeting the needs of actual persons.

Furthermore, many of these allegedly "morally neutral" social welfare programs embody an aggressively secularist worldview -- a worldview hostile to those moral norms central to combating material and spiritual poverty. This is important, because the character of poverty in America is in many ways different from poverty in developing nations.

The poor in the United States often suffer from more than just a lack of material resources. Rather, many of them suffer from a lack of spiritual, moral, familial, and personal resources necessary to fully participate in the life of the community. The horrific effects of those things often leading to poverty -- such as drug addiction; physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; broken families; and mental illness, to name only a few, require more than a generic, "morally neutral" program to meet their needs.

They need ties that bind to the local community, education, and local mentors willing to undertake the sacrifice that love for another entails. This is not "blaming the victim" as some would allege, but a simple realization that the condition of poverty encompasses more than simply a lack of material goods.

The policies and the politics of the welfare state have the effect of reducing people in need to mere clients of one-size fits all programs. Incentivizing charitable giving, via tax deductions for non-itemizers and from IRAs, will increase the number, type, and quality of services available for those in need, leading to greater choice for individuals.

It is also sound policy, offering an important first step in creating a balance of economic power that favors civil society solutions over impersonal and unaccountable programs in caring for the poor.

(Phillip W. De Vous is the public policy manager of the Acton Institute.)


The Competitive Enterprise Institute

(CEI is a conservative, free-market think tank that supports principles of free enterprise and limited government, and actively engages in public policy debate.)

WASHINGTON -- C:\Spin -- Life Plus 70: The Congressional prerogative to lock up copyrighted materials from the public domain

By Daren Bakst

In 1998, Congress enacted the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, extending copyright protection from life plus 50 years, to life plus 70 years.

Did the extension violate the First Amendment by restricting free speech? Secondly, did Congress exceed its power under the Patent and Copyright Clause by extending the terms of copyrights, and, particularly, the terms of already existing copyrights?

These questions recently were posed to the Supreme Court in Eldred v. Ashcroft. Despite the parade of professors filing on behalf of Eldred, the Court, in a 7-2 opinion, answered the preceding questions with a resounding "no."

According to the Court, a copyright extension enacted by Congress is not something that must be weighed against First Amendment protection; the Copyright Clause and the First Amendment are compatible with each other. In other words, (though the Court did not explicitly say this) the Copyright Clause is a carved-out constitutional exception to the First Amendment -- there is no conflict between the two that must be balanced.

Another way to explain this is to view property rights, including intellectual property rights, as a natural boundary of the first amendment; no one can claim a free speech right to give a speech in someone else's living room, for example, or to snatch some else's book out of their hands. A "Cass Sunsteinesque" view of the first amendment, not as a subset of individual rights, but as a guarantor of public access to speech, misses this point.

The next major question that Eldred addresses is whether Congress exceeded its power under the Patent and Copyright Clause to "promote the Progress of Science and the useful Arts, by securing for limited times" exclusive rights. Eldred argued that an extension for existing works does not create an incentive to create new works and is therefore improper.

But the Copyright Clause is not merely about incentives for the creation of work -- it also is about incentives for the dissemination of works. There is at least a rational argument that can be made that potential creators of works will have more incentive if they know that future extensions will apply to their work, as well as to future work.

The rationale to extend copyrights might be weak. But the Court emphasized that deference must be given to Congress. As the Court says, "We are not at liberty to second-guess congressional determinations and policy judgments of this order, however debatable or arguably unwise they may be."

This deference may be the most interesting and possibly disturbing element of the case. The Court does not seem likely to qualify the terms in the Copyright Clause. It does not matter to what degree an extension would promote art and science, as long as it rationally can be argued that it does promote art and science in some small way.

"Limited time" seems to mean anything short of perpetual. If an extension were made that was 250 years, there is nothing in the opinion that would lead one to conclude that it would be held unconstitutional. Realistically though, the Court would hold that such an extension goes too far; however, extensions come little by little. Eldred makes the argument that Congress could evade the "limited" terms requirement by creating frequent extensions.

Copyright extensions will keep coming for existing and future works, unless, and if, those seeking to ensure that copyrighted works enter the public domain politically organize and make the argument why their interests, and the public's interests, are so compelling that extensions should be halted.

The "battle" will be won or loss in the political realm. Simply arguing to Congress that an extension violates the intent of the Patent and Copyright Clause will not be enough. Given political realities, it will take compelling public policy arguments and/or political muscle to restrain Congressional power under the Patent and Copyright Clause. One thing is for sure-- after Eldred, this battle will not be won in the courts.

(Daren Bakst is a freelance writer and former policy counsel at the National Legal Center for the Public Interest.)


The Center for Strategic and International Studies

WASHINGTON -- Disarming Iraq: CSIS analyst outlines potential complications for future inspections

Anthony Cordesman, CSIS Burke Chair in Strategy, released the following statement regarding the complexities and difficulties in effectively and immediately disarming Iraq.

Cordesman argues that disarming Iraq may be impossible. The choice facing U.S. leaders will probably be, "between war without a U.N. resolution and containment plus semi-disarmament that is not immediate, unconditional and active."

The United States and the United Nations face a daunting set of challenges in disarming Iraq that will affect any new U.S.-U.K. draft resolution presented to the Security Council and any follow-on U.N. effort to secure the "immediate, unconditional and active" cooperation required from Iraq.

The most immediate test the United Nations and Iraq face is the mix of issues relating to Iraq's Al Samoud II and Al Fatah missiles. Hans Blix has said that these are "proscribed." This means that Iraq must destroy the missiles, missile production facilities, and the imported engines, which involves a massive Iraqi investment. Even if Iraq does comply with the physical destruction of the missiles and equipment, the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, UNMOVIC, must follow-up with a whole new paper chase to track down Iraq's design records, past test results, design intent, etc.

Iraq's proposal so far is to retain the missiles on the grounds that they are "legal," and to conduct tests to show the missiles comply with the 150 km limit. Even if such tests could be agreed upon tests in technical terms, they would delay any real UNMOVIC action on Iraq's most 'smoking gun' well into the summer.

The issue also involves far more than whether Iraq is violating the 150 km limit on these missiles:

-- Iraq badly needs to improve its missile warhead design. The key problems are reentry and the weaponization of chemical and biological agents in a form where the warhead disseminates them at the most lethal altitude without destroying them. This kind of testing can be conducted clandestinely with a short-range booster if it has sufficient lift.

-- Missiles do not have ranges. They have range-payloads. A bigger missile not only can be used to test advanced warheads, but seemingly small changes in range payload can greatly increase the amount of chemical or biological agent carried in a given warhead. Many of Iraq's potential targets are well within 150 km. These include Kuwaiti ports and rear areas, U.S. support and supply elements, any cities or Iraqi units that defect, etc.

-- Clustered boosters: The engines can be grouped together in groups of three to five (strap-on boosters) to go much longer ranges with much larger payloads.

-- Stretched missiles for longer range: Proven missiles are easy to scale up simply by making the same system bigger, allowing rapid break out to much longer range missiles.

-- Solid fuel follow-ons: The al Fatah provides proof of principle in solid fuels. Solid fuel rockets are easier to cluster, strength, and piggyback, and do not need fuel trucks, long set ups, etc. This makes them much easier to conceal.

The compliance list from the International Atomic Energy Agency is equally complex and, frankly, Al Baradei has sharply understated the unresolved issues. Either U.S. intelligence is totally wrong or the nuclear issues the IAEA has raised add up to an ongoing design and research program centered around centrifuges that will be difficult, if not impossible, to track down without almost total Iraqi cooperation. The issue is not simply balancing machines, high-melting explosives (or HMX), uranium imports, aluminum tubes, and magnets -- it is confirming or denying the existence of an entire covert program.

Once again, the physical elements of disarmament must be followed by a paper chase that clearly can extend into private homes. Iraq has probably mastered ways to keep shifting locations in near real time. Furthermore, the aluminum tube issue raises the problem that Iraq may have adopted a whole new approach to creating convincing cover stories by actually having alternative military program, or dual use activities, to explain its actions.

The whole issue of "immediate, unconditional and active" compliance in terms of Iraq's current war fighting capabilities must also be addressed. It is unclear that Iraq can deal with the 12 to 25 missing Scuds missiles that the U.N. Special Commission, or UNSCOM, has estimated still exist: (Powell said "low dozens" and some inspectors put the total at 80).

The same is true of Iraq's unmanned aerial vehicles (or UAVs), tons of missing precursors and chemical weapons, similar amounts of biological weapons, and large numbers of short range rocket and artillery delivery systems. So far, Blix has said that Iraq has not provided a single useful item of information relating to the basic questions UNSCOM asked about these systems between 1991 and 1999, much less the questions Blix has said since he began to try to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441.

The Iraqi ambassador said at the U.N. debate on Feb. 14 that Iraq wanted the United Nations to go to new methods of validating Iraq's destruction of chemical and biological weapons and agents like soil testing to verify their destruction. This involves tons of complex materials and hundreds to thousands of different types of rounds. It is extremely unlikely that such methods can be valid in terms of any accuracy, and a debate taking months could again arise over how to do this followed by months of effort.

Moreover, the UNMOVIC disarmament mission will now have to be extended to all of the suspect combat units that may have been given dispersed chemical and biological, or CB, weapons, including weapons extremely sensitive elements of the regime like the SSO and special Republican Guards. This particular aspect of changes in the UNMOVIC mission has not even been hinted at, but will be critical.

At best, all of these efforts will confront the United States with slowly having to give away the crown jewels of its most sensitive intelligence and collection methods, or find itself trying to push UNMOVIC and IAEA by making charges that its opponents will claim are political, vague, and untrue.

Finally, no one has begun to address the issue of how one truly "disarms" a state with hundreds of experts, a proven R&D base, and massive dual use facilities that can be converted within weeks or months. It simply is not clear that disarmament is possible, and Iraq is still talking about sanctions being lifted within a short period of time.

There also is a serious risk in pseudo-disarmament. Pushing Iraq into covert break out programs based on dual use facilities tends to push it towards high-lethality covert and asymmetric options. The end result could be to make it more dependent on options like smallpox, dry storable anthrax, untested area delivery systems like UAVS, and covert or proxy delivery. It could be to raise the risk threshold rather than lower it.

The end result is that any compromise in the United Nations based on "immediate, unconditional and active" cooperation goes against everything Iraq has done to date, may be technically impossible within a one to twp month period, and confronts opponents of the war with the fact that they would effectively be licensing the United States and Britain to go to war -- something few are likely to be willing to agree to.

The unfortunate fact is that "immediate, unconditional and active" Iraqi compliance is probably not a meaningful option, and that even a year of effort might leave many critical issues hanging. As a result, the choice probably is not between disarmament and war, but between war without a U.N. resolution and containment plus semi-disarmament that is not "immediate, unconditional and active.

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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