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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
Subscribe now, or browse Back Issues.

Volume 7, Issue 49: December 5, 2005

  1. Universal Preschool Shows Little Promise
  2. Bolivia's Elections
  3. Botswana: Africa's Economic Dynamo
  4. TSA's Treat for Holiday Travelers

1) Universal Preschool Shows Little Promise

Government-funded universal preschool may become the most talked-about state-level proposal for the rest of the decade. Following the implementation of universal preschool in Georgia and Oklahoma, Florida, Arizona, and other states are moving toward its adoption. Most significantly, activists in California are pushing for a universal preschool proposition on the Golden State's June 2006 ballot.

Universal preschool has emotional appeal for many, but there's little evidence to support its efficacy, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Wendy McElroy. The most comprehensive study of Head Start found that any cognitive, social, or emotional gains by children in that federal preschool program vanished by the beginning of second grade.

But a lack of efficacy does not necessarily imply that universal preschool would be benign. One critic has offered "evidence that children who are 'institutionalized' at an early age develop a lessened ability to relate with peers, emotional problems like depression, and score lower on standardized tests," writes McElroy in a recent op-ed.

"If universal preschool is voluntary, then it may merely create another massive and ultra-expensive bureaucracy that accomplishes little. If it is compulsory, then universal preschool will extend the government's usurpation of parenthood so that all 3- and 4-year-olds are under state supervision," concludes McElroy.

See "Will Universal Preschool Give All Kids a Head Start?" by Wendy McElroy (11/30/05)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1625
SPANISH TRANSLATION:
"¿El Preescolar Universal les Dará a los Niños una Ventaja?"
http://www.elindependent.org/articulos/article.asp?id=1625

LIBERTY FOR WOMEN: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-first Century, ed. by Wendy McElroy
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=43

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2) Bolivia's Elections

Even if Evo Morales fails to win in Bolivia's presidential election later this month, the former coca grower whose ability to rally violent protestors has already toppled two presidents, will still gain much power, according to Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director of the Independent Institute's Center on Global Prosperity.

"Morales represents a particularly toxic mix of nationalism and populism that has re-emerged in South America in the last few years," writes Vargas Llosa in a recent op-ed for TECH CENTRAL STATION. "His government has potential 'spill-over' effects in the countries that border Bolivia, including Peru, where Ollanta Humala, another nationalist populist, is rising fast in the polls."

Morales and his MAS (Movement to Socialism) party have hampered Bolivia's economy, reducing foreign investment to one tenth of its 2003 level. If the policies of his platform are implemented, Bolivia will likely see its natural gas industry crippled (just as the country's tin mining industry was crippled by nationalization in 1952) and its agriculture left in tatters (just as land reform in the 1953 had destroyed agriculture).

Morales blames Bolivia's economic stagnation on capitalist policies of the United States, but this is a case of mistaken identity. U.S. policies have contributed to the country's malaise -- but precisely because the policies were socialistic, according to Vargas Llosa. Massive U.S. subsidies, amounting to as much as 30 percent of the Bolivian government's budget, encouraged the country's leaders to nationalize its industries.

"In the last few years, Morales, not the most radical among the radicals, has held his country by the throat, squeezing it every time it gulped for air, as when it tried to export gas to the U.S. through Chilean ports," writes Vargas Llosa. "Inevitably, the reaction to this populist leader in the more modern parts of the country has fueled the separatist cause of south-eastern regions like Santa Cruz. The result is a powder keg of a country that Bolivia has become."

See "Bolivia's Nightmare," by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (12/1/05)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1626
"La Pesadilla de Bolivia"
http://www.elindependent.org/articulos/article.asp?id=1626

To pre-order THE CHE GUEVARA MYTH AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERTY, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (January 2006), see
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=61

LIBERTY FOR LATIN AMERICA: How to Undo Five-Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=55

Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director)
http://www.independent.org/research/cogp/

Spanish-language Blog:
El Independent: El Blog del Centro Para la Prosperidad Global de The Independent Institute
http://independent.typepad.com/

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3) Botswana: Africa's Economic Dynamo

Although much of Africa is in chaos -- to paraphrase Ghana-born economist George B. N. Ayittey's excellent book on the widespread political turbulence in that continent -- one African country deserves recognition and praise for its remarkable economic growth: Botswana, which has averaged nearly 7 percent annual GDP growth since 1965. What's its secret?

"Its recipe for success has been fairly simple: a fiscally conservative policy of low taxes and little government spending," write economist Scott A. Beaulier, an adjunct fellow of the Independent Institute's Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation, who conducted field research in that country in 2004. "Botswana's corporate tax rate -- 15 percent -- is the lowest among all sub-Saharan African countries. And its highest marginal tax rate on income is 25 percent."

Here's another startling fact. When a tax revenue shortfall developed last year, the country's leaders cut government spending a whopping 18 percent. If word were to get out about how the country has progressed economically in recent decades -- resulting in one of the most Western-like capital cities in Africa, replete with buzzing BMWs, shopping malls stocked with designer jeans, and Harry Potter books -- Botswana's policies could become the greatest export to the developing world, according to Beaulier.

A few countries may be doing just that: "Like Botswana, Mauritius, Madagascar, and Mozambique are also more stable and better places to do business than the media makes them out to be. Unfortunately, getting Americans to believe this message is an uphill battle," writes Beaulier. "In a fundamental sense, this is the new African tragedy -- a tragedy that is not the result of HIV/AIDS, civil wars, or a major famine, but, rather, of American ignorance."

See "Lessons From Botswana: Africa’s Economic Dynamo," by Scott A. Beaulier (12/5/05)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1628

“The New Path for Africa: Establishing Free-Market Societies," featuring George B. N. Ayittey
http://www.independent.org/events/transcript.asp?eventID=41

"Globalization Rocks, but African Leaders Fail to Understand It," by Franklin Cudjoe (11/7/05)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1613

Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation (Benjamin Powell, director)
http://www.independent.org/research/coei/

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4) TSA's Treat for Holiday Travelers

If you're hoping for a non-eventful airline flight this holiday season, the Transportation Security Agency may have a surprise for you. No, the surprise won't be wrapped in fine paper and ribbons. If you're like Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty, the hapless subject of a recent TSA special security screening, you just might get more "TLC" during a TSA agent's pat-down than you thought was legal in your state.

As Eland explains in his latest op-ed, although an "SSSS" rating on a boarding pass, which signals a TSA special screening, probably won't stop a genuine security threat, it may help improve the job security of TSA officials. For in the make-believe world of nationalized airline transportation security, the appearance of "doing something" to thwart terrorism far outweighs the implementation of realistic policies for improving security.

Writes Eland: "All of this has reinforced my original skepticism that most of these security measures are make-believe -- merely governmental efforts to show the public that 'something' is being done about terrorism. Airline hijackings and bombings have always been very rare and, even after 9/11, the average air traveler has a miniscule chance of ever being involved in such an incident. But unfortunately, this holiday season, the governmental Grinch gives us the gift that keeps on giving: airport pseudo-security."

"TSA Treats for Holiday Travelers," by Ivan Eland (12/5/05)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1629
SPANISH TRANSLATION:
"Los Regalos de la TSA para los Viajeros en estas Fiestas Navideñas" http://www.elindependent.org/articulos/article.asp?id=1629

To purchase THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland, see
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=54

To purchase PUTTING "DEFENSE" BACK IN U.S. DEFENSE POLICY, by Ivan Eland, see
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=19

Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, director)
http://www.independent.org/research/copal/

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