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Volume 10, Issue 35: September 2, 2008

  1. True Patriotism at the Beijing Olympics
  2. Politicians Seek to Exploit Unwarranted Fears of Foreign Oil
  3. Does Paraguay Have a Prayer?
  4. Desmond Tutu, Andy Garcia, & William K. Bowes, Jr. to Be Honored at “A Gala for Liberty”
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) True Patriotism at the Beijing Olympics

Becky Hammon, Liang Chow, and Kobe Bryant gave spectators of the Beijing Olympics something to remember besides athletic achievement. According to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa, all three individuals exemplified the original meaning of the modern Olympic games—not collectivist nationalism, but universal fraternity. Vargas explains why in “True Patriotism,” his latest column for the Washington Post Writers Group.

At a time when some critics see the United States as increasingly nationalistic, NBA star and U.S. Olympic basketball player Kobe Bryant gave European journalists interviews in Italian (which he learned growing up in Italy) and Spanish (which he learned from an L.A. Lakers teammate). An even more dramatic example of a universal, non-nationalistic ideal came from former the current U.S. women’s gymnastics coach Liang Chow. This former Beijing resident helped Shawn Johnson win a gold medal on the balance beam and thereby taught the collectivist government in Beijing about the power of the individual. Vargas Llosa characterizes this lesson as “more powerful than the protestors’ attempts at demonstrating against repression in Tibet during the games.”

And then there was the personal drama in women’s basketball: Becky Hammon, who plays pro basketball for the San Antonio Silver Spurs but could not make the U.S. Olympic team, endured criticism from the U.S. women’s coach for competing on the side of Russia. “A traitor?” asks Vargas Llosa. “No, an heir to America’s grandest tradition: the right to the pursuit of happiness.”

“Despite the best intentions of the Baron de Coubertin, the French aristocrat credited with reviving the Olympic Games in the 19th century, the international competition has as much to do with collectivist nationalism as it does with universal fraternity,” continues Vargas Llosa. “Any individual act, however small, that tears down a nationalist barrier during the Olympics should be applauded as restoring the games’ true meaning.”

“True Patriots,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (8/27/08) Spanish Translation

Purchase Lessons from the Poor: The Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

Purchase 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)

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2) Politicians Seek to Exploit Unwarranted Fears of Foreign Oil

The United States gets about two-thirds of the oil it consumes from foreign producers.

This worries many Americans, and politicians know an opportunity when they see one. Consistent with the political tradition of turning fear into votes, both Barack Obama and John McCain propose breaking the U.S. “addiction” to foreign oil. In his latest op-ed, Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty, argues that dependence on foreign oil is nothing to fear.

Eland argues that although oil is a “strategic” commodity in the narrow sense that military vehicles run on oil derivatives, the United States could ably fight a regional war by relying on domestic supplies alone: the U.S. produces about 1.8 billion barrels of oil barrels annually, almost 13 times the amount used by the U.S. military for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars at their height. A war that shut down oil distribution from the Middle East (the source of one-fifth of U.S. oil imports) would raise oil prices, but the U.S. economy is resilient enough to withstand such a supply shock. (Consider Germany: oil prices there rose 211 percent from late 1998 to late 2000, but economic growth continued at a respectable rate.)

“Of course, a war anywhere in the world will cause the price of oil to go up,” writes Eland. “But about 80 percent of U.S. semiconductor imports come from East Asia, yet the media doesn’t constantly run hysterical stories on price spikes in semiconductors or on the horrible U.S. dependence on East Asian semiconductors. And the politicians don’t talk about using the U.S. military to safeguard such supplies from East Asia.”

“U.S. Dependence on Foreign Oil: Why We Shouldn’t Be Alarmed,” by Ivan Eland (9/1/08)

“Do We Need to Go to War for Oil?” by David R. Henderson (9/1/07)

The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed (Updated Edition), by Ivan Eland

Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, Director)

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3) Does Paraguay Have a Prayer?

Paraguay’s new president, former bishop Fernando Lugo, faces a dilemma expressed in the old saying, “It is not the same to preach as it is to give out wheat.” As an admitted supporter of Liberation Theology, Lugo has preached a lot about the virtues of economic redistributionism, but whether he will boldly implement this philosophy is another story. Already he has faced one moral challenge to his claim to uphold “social justice”: Women’s Affairs Secretary Gloria Rubin boycotted Lugo’s inauguration because he had invited Nicaraguan President Daniel Orgeta, who is accused of raping his stepdaughter.

“For the past 2,000 years, the Church has practiced caregiving, and President Lugo might believe that his task as president is to turn the government into a major charitable organization,” writes Carlos Alberto Montaner, advisor to the Independent Institute’s Center on Global Prosperity. “This would bring about two contradictory consequences: the applause of a majority and the ruination of the whole.”

Almost nothing Lugo learned in seminary or in the clergy will help him govern adequately, according to Montaner: “It is a humbling task, full of frustrations and—no matter what one does—it inevitably will generate a large number of detractors and lead to melancholy.” One thing he learned in his former profession, however, will almost certainly be useful, according to Montaner: his capacity to forgive his enemies. “There’s usually a lot of them.”

“Paraguay: The Bishop and The President, Face to Face,” by Carlos Alberto Montaner (8/28/08) Spanish Translation

Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Director)

Purchase Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

Purchase Lessons from the Poor: The Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

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4) Desmond Tutu, Andy Garcia, & William K. Bowes, Jr. to Be Honored at “A Gala for Liberty”

As Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, world-renowned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu brought a peaceful settlement to the end of Apartheid in South Africa. On September 16, Archbishop Tutu will be in San Francisco, Calif., to receive the Alexis de Tocqueville Award for his work throughout the world in championing democracy, freedom, human rights, and peace. Actor and director Andy Garcia and entrepreneur William K. Bowes, Jr. will also be honored with Tocqueville Awards at the event, “A Gala for Liberty,” to be held at the St. Regis Hotel and sponsored by the Independent Institute.

Presenting the award to Archbishop Tutu will be George B. N. Ayittey, Distinguished Economist in Residence at American University and President of the Free Africa Foundation. Additional speakers include Stanford University economist Michael J. Boskin, and Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

The Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus, former First Lady of Egypt Jehan Al Sadat, Czech President Vaclav Klaus, and Goldman Sachs International Vice Chairman Brian Griffiths are supporting the Institute’s gala as Honorary Co-Chairs.

Named after the author of Democracy in America, an insightful account of American society in the early 19th century, the Alexis de Tocqueville Award is presented by the Independent Institute to outstanding individuals in recognition of their dedication and contributions which advance our knowledge and practice of the principles of individual liberty as the foundation of free, prosperous, and humane societies. Previous recipients include former Chairman of Motorola, Robert W. Galvin (2004); philanthropist and international mutual fund pioneer Sir John Marks Templeton (1998); historian Robert A. Conquest (1992); management author Tom Peters (1990); and Nobel Prize laureate in Economics James M. Buchanan (1987).

More information about “A Gala for Liberty” (San Francisco, Calif., 9/16/08)

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5) This Week in The Beacon

The Beacon—the blog of the Independent Institute—is always open for reader comments. Here is what Beacon bloggers posted this past week:

David Beito looks at the Palin pick.

Anthony Gregory lambastes the Democratic Convention.

Peter Klein reprises the Onion’s ode to antitrust.

David Beito asks, “Why did the cops stop covering up their guns?”

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