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The Lighthouse


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

Volume 9, Issue 20: May 14, 2007

  1. Is France Ready for Sarkozy?
  2. U.S.-European Missile Defense Erodes Security, Peña argues
  3. Mission Accomplished—For Iran
  4. Robert Higgs on Peer Review and Scientific Consensus

1) Is France Ready for Sarkozy?

Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s president-elect, will have his work cut out for him after he takes office on Wednesday.

To reverse France’s economic, political, and social decline, the new leader must convince the public not merely that greater priority be given to fighting urban crime and suburban rioting—a campaign promise attractive to many voters in the election that gave him a solid 53 percent of the vote. He must also persuade them that France must drastically reform a cradle-to-grave welfare state that has that robbed young people in particular of economic opportunities that offer a brighter future—a pledge supported by a smaller group of voters—according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

“What that second group doesn’t yet know is that in today’s France, structural change is the condition for law and order,” writes Vargas Llosa in his latest column for the Washington Post Writers Group. “What has caused the moral decline conservative voters so fear is precisely the suffocating system that, with the exception of a few corporate success stories at the top, keeps most French working too little and complaining too much.”

If the past failures of Jacques Chirac and Dominique de Villepin are indicative of the prospect for reform today, the odds are against Sarkozy, Vargas Llosa argues. But the transformative potential of Sarkozy’s energy and worldliness should not be discounted. “So much depends on the leader’s capacity to transform the prevailing mentality,” Vargas Llosa continues, “and on whether the initial results generate a critical mass of support for additional reform.”

“Is France Ready for Sarkozy?” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (5/9/07) Spanish Translation

Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s Center on Global Prosperity

Be sure to check out Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s books:

The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty

Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression

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2) U.S.-European Missile Defense Erodes Security, Peña argues

In our April 30 issue of The Lighthouse, we noted Ivan Eland’s warning that the U.S. construction of anti-ballistic missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic runs the risk of inaugurating a new arms race between the United States and Russia. Independent Institute Senior Fellow Charles Peña examines this possibility in more detail in his latest op-ed.

One step toward a new arms race, Peña explains, would be Russia’s withdrawal from the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty—a treaty that has helped establish unprecedented security and stability on the continent by reducing “conventional military equipment to ensure a military balance of conventional forces between East and West from the Atlantic to the Urals,” Peña writes. Russian President Vladimir Putin said recently that he may do exactly that.

Building a workable, affordable ballistic missile defense system designed to protect the U.S. homeland may make sense, Peña argues, but an expansive global missile defense to support a strategy of empire would be “downright dangerous.” In addition, he writes, “It is not the responsibility of the United States to protect friends and allies, especially when many of them are wealthy enough to pay for their own missile defense if they think it’s important for their own security. And a missile system to defend against rogue states that do not directly threaten the United States is certainly not worth unnecessarily antagonizing the Russian bear and jeopardizing European security.”

“Missile Defense Erodes Security,” by Charles Peña (5/9/07) Spanish Translation

See Winning the Un-War: A New Strategy for the War on Terrorism, by Charles Peña.

Stay tuned for information about our forthcoming event on nuclear proliferation— “Living with a Nuclear Iran and North Korea?”—featuring Charles Peña, Doug Bandow, and Trita Parsi (Washington, DC, 6/21/07).

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3) Mission Accomplished—For Iran

Like President Bush’s ill-fated “Mission Accomplished” speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003, Vice President Cheney’s speech last Friday from the deck of the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier—where he issued a thinly veiled warning to Iran to refrain from interfering in the Persian Gulf—also invites skepticism, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland argues in his latest op-ed.

“The stark reality is that sooner or later, Cheney’s empty threats aside, the United States will be compelled to withdraw from Iraq, and Iran will likely gain influence in the region and probably eventually obtain nuclear weapons,” writes Eland. “A fitting banner for Cheney’s aircraft carrier speech would have been, ‘Mission Accomplished—For Iran.’”

Eland also argues that although Cheney’s address coincides with the beginning of U.S. negotiations with Iran over developments in Iraq, the vice president’s implied threats risk provoking Tehran to increase its efforts to gain influence in neighboring Iraq—and to attempt to close the oil-carrying sea lanes of the Strait of Hormuz.

“Mission Accomplished—For Iran,” by Ivan Eland (5/14/07) Spanish Translation

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

“The Way Out of Iraq: Decentralizing the Iraqi Government,” by Ivan Eland

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4) Robert Higgs on Peer Review and Scientific Consensus

As public-policy debates turn increasingly on technical issues, pundits from across the political spectrum are quick to invoke the support of scientific experts. Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs—whose credentials include having served as a peer reviewer for more than 30 professional journals and a reviewer of research proposals for the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and much more—puts “peer reviewed” scholarship and the increasingly invoked “scientific consensus” in badly needed perspective in his latest essay.

“It does not work as outsiders seem to think,” Higgs writes. “Peer review, on which lay people place great weight, varies from being an important control, where the editors and the referees are competent and responsible, to being a complete farce, where they are not. As a rule, not surprisingly, the process operates somewhere in the middle, being more than a joke but less than the nearly flawless system of Olympian scrutiny that outsiders imagine it to be. Any journal editor who desires, for whatever reason, to reject a submission can easily do so by choosing referees he knows full well will knock it down; likewise, he can easily obtain favorable referee reports.”

Similarly, a support by “scientific consensus” is no guarantee that a claim is true, he explains.

“Researchers who employ unorthodox methods or theoretical frameworks have great difficulty under modern conditions in getting their findings published in the ‘best’ journals or, at times, in any scientific journal,” Higgs continues. “Scientific innovators or creative eccentrics always strike the great mass of practitioners as nut cases—until their findings become impossible to deny, which often occurs only after one generation’s professional ring-masters have died off. Science is an odd undertaking: everybody strives to make the next breakthrough, yet when someone does, he is often greeted as if he were carrying the ebola virus. Too many people have too much invested in the reigning ideas; for those people an acknowledgment of their own idea’s bankruptcy is tantamount to an admission that they have wasted their lives.”

“Peer Review, Publication in Top Journals, Scientific Consensus, and So Forth,” by Robert Higgs (5/7/07) Spanish Translation

Subscribe to The Independent Review: A Journal of Political Economy, edited by Robert Higgs

Also see:

“New Ideas in Science,” by Thomas Gold (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 3:2, 1989)

“What Happened to Scientific Method,” by Kary Mullis. Chapter 11 from Dancing Naked in the Mind Field. 1998.

“States of Fear: Science or Politics?” A DVD featuring Michael Crichton, with Bruce Ames, Sallie Baliunas, William Gray, and George Taylor

“Government and Science: A Dangerous Liaison?” by William N. Butos and Thomas J. McQuade (The Independent Review, Fall 2006)

The Academy in Crisis: The Political Economy of Higher Education, edited by John W. Sommer

Faulty Towers: Tenure and the Structure of Higher Education, by Ryan C. Amacher and Roger E. Meiners

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