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

Volume 9, Issue 21: May 21, 2007

  1. New Book Examines Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government
  2. Decentralizing Iraq
  3. The Church in Latin America
  4. Living with a Nuclear Iran and North Korea? (Washington, D.C., 6/21/07)

1) New Book Examines Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government

Benjamin Franklin once said that those who would give up essential liberty for temporary safety “deserve neither liberty nor safety.” In his new book, Neither Liberty nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs illustrates the false trade-off between freedom and security by showing how the U.S. government’s economic and military interventions reduced the civil and economic liberties, prosperity, and genuine security of Americans in the 20th century.

Extending the theme of Higgs’s earlier books, Neither Liberty nor Safety stresses the role of misguided ideas in the expansion of government power at the expense of individual liberty. Higgs illuminates not only many underappreciated aspects of the Great Depression, but also the government’s manipulation of public opinion and the role that ideologies play in influencing political outcomes and economic performance.

Social scientists often neglected the role of fear-mongering and statist ideology in the growth of government. In contrast, Higgs shows that their role has been fundamental—and detrimental. As a result of their influence, although the United States was on the winning side of World War I, World War II, and the Cold War, Americans ended up with fewer liberties than they had before those wars. Constitutional doctrines that had long restrained the growth of government have been abandoned. For the past century (and probably for decades to come) the U.S. cases illustrate Thomas Jefferson’s dire dictum: “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”

“This insightful book secures Robert Higgs’s place as the major authority on the growth of government power.”
—William F. Shughart II, F.A.P. Barnard Distinguished Professor of Economics, University of Mississippi

Buy Neither Liberty nor Safety for $15.95 (softcover).

Read the detailed summary.

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2) Decentralizing Iraq

The last hope for lasting peace in Iraq requires a two-pronged approach, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland. It requires: 1) the end of the U.S. occupation, and 2) a plan to reduce the suspicions—held by Iraq’s sundry ethnic, sectarian, and tribal groups—that Iraq’s central government will not be used to favor one group or oppress another. Recognizing that Iraqis would need to determine their own specifics, Eland describes how a decentralized solution might look in his latest op-ed.

“The Sunnis could be given oil wells in the northern and southern parts of the country,” Eland writes. “Merely sharing oil revenues among the regions probably would not work because the Sunnis would be suspicious that the Kurdish and Shi’ite regional governments would eventually cut them off from such proceeds. Thus, the boundaries of the autonomous regions may not always be contiguous, because of the oil deposits and because ethnic/sectarian boundaries do not permit it.”

A loose confederation of Iraqi mini-states might bring other security benefits, also. “Turkey might be less concerned that an independent Iraqi Kurdish state might foment further unrest and desires of separation among Turkish Kurds,” Eland continues. “Increased influence of Shi’ite Iran over the Shi’a in southern Iraq, a natural by-product of the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein, might be ameliorated if there were no independent Shi’ite mini-state in the south…. The regional governments could provide security and other governmental functions.”

“Decentralizing Iraqi Governance Is the Last Hope,” by Ivan Eland (5/21/07) Spanish Translation

Ivan Eland’s Center on Peace & Liberty

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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3) The Church in Latin America

In recent decades, the Catholic Church has lost about 20 percent of its Latin American followers to a variety of evangelical groups, a development that Pope Benedict XVI denounced in his visit to Brazil earlier this month. Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa likens the rise of non-Catholic Christian “sects”—in a region the Vatican had long considered a stronghold—to both the rise of third-party political candidates in elections historically dominated by two parties, and to trade in the underground economy.

“I tend to think that the Catholic Church has failed to address the concerns of poor Latin Americans in the same way that traditional political parties and institutions have failed to make themselves relevant to millions of people,” Vargas Llosa writes in his latest column for the Washington Post Writers Group. “The switch to other religions is the equivalent of the vote for ‘outsiders’ when it comes to presidential elections or the evasion of taxes, licenses and regulations when it comes to everyday economic activities—what is known as the ‘shadow economy.’”

The Liberation Theology movement of the 1970s and 1980s challenged the Church hierarchy for control of Latin America, but its Marxist-flavored affinity for radical redistributionist politics alienated ordinary people. Thus, the Church won that battle by default, rather than by addressing people’s desires for economic and social progress.

“The evangelical groups, by contrast, were quick to address those concerns,” writes Vargas Llosa. “Unlike the Catholic bishops, they did not rant against the global economy and seek to berate the material world in the name of spiritual values. Instead, they preached about self-reliance and told their followers not to expect the government to solve all their problems. They encouraged poor communities to set up all sorts of voluntary self-help associations to provide the services that the authorities were quick to promise and slow to deliver.”

“The Challenge of the ‘Sects’” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (5/16/07) 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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4) Living with a Nuclear Iran and North Korea? (Washington, D.C., 6/21/07)

What if North Korea and Iran become nuclear states? After cheating on an earlier agreement to freeze its nuclear program, North Korea once again has agreed to suspend such activities. Yet the agreement does not require the hermit kingdom to get rid of any fissionable bomb-making material already produced. As for Iran, that country seems determined to flout international opinion and continue with its alleged nuclear program—a result of its tough neighborhood and the U.S. invasion of nearby Iraq. If negotiations to eliminate both nuclear problems fail, military options don’t promise to destroy all, or even most, of these nations’ nuclear programs.

If the United States must live with a nuclear Iran and a nuclear North Korea, what policies should it adopt? Furthermore, could the U.S. change its foreign policy to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation to even more countries?

Please join Charles Peña, Trita Parsi, Doug Bandow, and Ivan Eland as they address these and related questions at the Independent Institute’s Washington, D.C., center on Thursday, June 21, 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“Living with Nuclear Iran and North Korea?” -- Event information

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

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