The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute. Subscribe
now, or browse Back Issues
Volume 8, Issue 48: November 27, 2006
- War Weariness
- The False Hope of Economic Sanctions
- Should Men Sit at the Back of the Airplane?
- Vargas Llosa on Milton Friedman
1) War Weariness
Although wars vary in motivation and outcome, they all share certain characteristics, as the wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq illustrate: "In each case, the war moved through four stages: I, upper-echelon plotting; II, outbreak and early combat; III, sustained combat and strategic stalemate; and IV, cessation of combat and workable resolution," explains Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs in his latest op-ed.
Stage III always drags on for years, and it's at this stage that the public develops war weariness and begins to question the wisdom of having gone to war. Yet despite having second thoughts, the public is unable to get the government to disengage quickly: "Once the government goes to war," writes Higgs, "the public is simply stuck with it, because the public will not actually rebel against the government, and nothing short of rebellion can ensure an affirmative government response to the public's wishes."
Even electoral changes are unlikely to change the policy quickly, because the newly empowered politicians are as insulated from the pains of war as are the newly weakened ones. Writes Higgs: "So, in the wake of the recent elections, in which one faction of the War Party has displaced the other in control of Congress, we have scant grounds for expecting a great change of course in the conduct of the Iraq war. The Democrats have announced grand plans to fleece and bully the public in the greater service of the leading special-interest groups that helped to elect them, and the Republicans, eminently pleased to serve as the loyal not-so-opposed opposition, look forward to bipartisan cooperation in logrolling those splendid 1,500-page statutes in which every species of outrage and robbery is declared to be the law of the land. The war will certainly continue, at least for another two years and perhaps for another five or ten. And why not? Only the people at large -- those beyond the precincts of the ruling figures and their major supporters -- stand to lose, and who really gives a damn about them?"
"War Weariness," Robert Higgs (11/26/06)
DEPRESSION, WAR, AND COLD WAR, by Robert Higgs
Please join us in Oakland, California, on Wednesday, December 6, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. for "Liberty and Leviathan: The 2006 Thomas S. Szasz Awards and an Evening with Robert Higgs."
2) The False Hope of Economic Sanctions
Economic sanctions rarely do much good, but from the standpoint of encouraging pro-freedom reforms, they often do much harm. Saddam Hussein's Iraq, apartheid-era South Africa, and Manuel Noriega's Panama are cases in point. Not only are the regimes that sanctions are meant to target able to redirect much of the resulting privations to weaker members of society, they also benefit from a "rally round the flag" effect that comes from blaming citizens' economic hardships on the government that has imposed the sanctions, according to Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty.
"Fidel Castro, despite the disastrous consequence of his centralization of the Cuban economy, has been able to blame poverty and economic stagnation on the coercive economic measures imposed by his powerful northern neighbor," writes Eland in his latest op-ed. "In other words, the Cuban people likely would have thrown out Castro long ago if the United States hadn't declared him 'enemy number one.'"
Nevertheless, economic sanctions are still proposed as a way to affect positive change -- or at least for their symbolic value. A case in point is Belarus, whose government has kept close ties to the Putin regime in neighboring Russia and has followed Russia in resisting the expansion of NATO in the region. Imposing sanctions even for their symbolic value might simply ensure that Belarus ruler Alexander Lukashenko, an authoritarian by any measure, will be the "Slavic Castro" for decades to come. What economic sanctions really symbolize is that their advocates understand little about sanctions' likely consequences.
"Economic Coercion Is Not an Effective Foreign Policy Tool," by Ivan Eland (11/27/06)
"La coerción económica no es un instrumento eficaz de política exterior"
THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland
"The Way Out of Iraq: Decentralizing the Iraqi Government," by Ivan Eland
Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, Director)
3) Should Men Sit at the Back of the Airplane?
Boris Johnson, a member of the British parliament, received a surprising request from his British Airways flight attendant. Following company policy, she asked Johnson to move elsewhere because minors sat in the seats adjoining his.
"She retreated when he explained that the adjacent children were his own progeny," writes Independent Institute Research Fellow Wendy McElroy in her latest op-ed. "Johnson memorialized the experience in an article entitled 'Come off it, folks: how many paedophiles can there be?'"
The segregation of men from children, the open policy of Air New Zealand and Qantas as well British Airways, "seems rooted in little more than a dangerous tendency to paint men per se as predators," writes McElroy. To see the unfairness of it all, McElroy asks readers to consider the justified outrage that would result if seating policy were set on the basis of another irrelevant trait, race: "If an airline restricted the seating of blacks because the 2004 Bureau of Justice data states 'blacks [are] disproportionately represented among homicide victims and offenders,' there would be a backlash of rage. It would make no difference that the parent or loved one of a white passenger had requested the 'safety' measure."
Concludes McElroy: "Seating men as though they were sexual predators is a vicious and discriminatory practice that has no basis in fact or logic. Indeed, if the illogic of the policy were consistently spun out, it would mean 'women and children only' flights and the restricted seating of men at theaters or concerts."
"Segregating Children From Men," by Wendy McElroy (11/21/06)
"Come off it, folks: how many paedophiles can there be?," by Boris Johnson (THE TELEGRAPH, 9/11/06)
LIBERTY FOR WOMEN: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-first Century, ed. by Wendy McElroy
4) Vargas Llosa on Milton Friedman
In his latest column for the Washington Post Writers Group, Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director of the Independent Institute's Center on Global Prosperity, discusses Friedman's reception in Latin America and Great Britain.
"When I was growing up, Milton Friedman was widely reviled in most of South America. He was seen as Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochets accomplice. In Britain, where I also spent part of my adolescent years, he was seen by leftists as an intellectual mentor of Margaret Thatchers effort to crush the little guy under the mastodon of big business. I started reading him, therefore, as novitiates might read erotic literature in a convent: with an irresistible sense of the forbidden."
Vargas Llosa then goes on to explain why many critics of Friedman were quick to misunderstand him. "As for Friedmans supposed espousal of big business to the detriment of the little guy, the truth was exactly the opposite," Vargas Llosa continues. "He understood that businesses prefer for governments to bend the rules in their favor rather than compete, and he wanted the little guy -- that is, the consumer, and not the legislator and his cronies in big business -- to determine success and failure in the marketplace. The expression 'free to choose' said it all: It was about expanding choice for the little guy. In those countries where Friedmans ideas triumphed, workers became shareowners, tenants in housing projects became proprietors, kids without college degrees became entrepreneurs and many a corporate giant came tumbling down, unable to withstand the daily choices of the common folk empowered by the separation between state and business."
"Milton Friedman," by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (11/22/06)
"The Legacy of Milton Friedman," by Alexander Tabarrok (11/18/06)
"Milton Friedman (1912-2006)," by David J. Theroux (11/18/06)
LIBERTY FOR LATIN AMERICA: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa
THE CHE GUEVARA MYTH, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa
Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director)
El Independent: El Blog del Centro Para la Prosperidad Global de The Independent Institute