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

Volume 9, Issue 24: June 11, 2007

  1. Kevorkian and Physician-Assisted Suicide
  2. Iraqi Refugee Crisis
  3. Self-government versus the State
  4. Living with a Nuclear Iran and North Korea? (Washington, D.C., 6/21/07)

1) Kevorkian and Physician-Assisted Suicide

While convalescing from traumatic complications following his recent surgery, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa took comfort in three things: his loving wife, some good literature, and the idea of death: “I remember thinking what a powerful psychological effect the legalization of euthanasia would have on suffering patients if they knew that, ultimately, putting a stop to it all with minimal suffering and professional help was an option,” Vargas Llosa writes in his latest column.

Just a few countries—and, in the United States, only the state of Oregon—legally permit physician-assisted suicide. Two traditions account for this situation, explains Vargas Llosa, a secular one, derived from Hippocrates, and a religious one, which includes, but is not limited to, the Judeo-Christian tradition. The latter tradition is contradictory on the root issues pertaining to this delicate topic, according to Vargas Llosa, because it emphasizes both the sanctity of life and a spirit that outlives the body.

The recent paroling of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who served eight years in a Michigan prison for assisting with the suicide of terminally ill patients, is a fitting occasion for us to rethink the laws and taboos against helping people to end their extreme and prolonged suffering with dignity, Vargas Llosa continues. “[Kevorkian’s] reappearance in society reminds us that his uncomfortable cause continues to be just,” he writes. “The quicker the law moves in the direction of justice on this profoundly moral issue, the sooner we will prevent future Kevorkians—both the celebrity types and those who perform clandestine euthanasia in so many countries today.”

“Jack Kevorkian Is Back,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (6/11/07) Spanish Translation

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

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

The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty

Spanish Website and Spanish Blog

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2) Iraqi Refugee Crisis

The United States has taken in 535 Iraqi refugees. European countries, including some who opposed the U.S.-led war, have admitted about 18,000. Many, many more have fled to neighboring countries or have been displaced within Iraq. The deficit of Iraqis accepted into the United State is all the more unbalanced because the proximate cause of the refugee crisis is the botched U.S. occupation of Iraq, argues Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty.

“Alas, however, the United States, the melting pot of immigrants, has a surprisingly poor record of opening its borders to wartime refugees,” writes Eland in his latest op-ed. “The United States left far too many of its friends to a grim fate after the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. In addition, prior to and during World War II, the United States had a disgraceful record of taking in Jews being openly and viciously persecuted by Adolf Hitler. The United States could have saved many innocent lives if the puny number of Jewish refugees taken in had been significantly hiked. This abysmal record was one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s greatest failings.”

The United States should accept its responsibility to help Iraqi refugees by welcoming them into this country, Eland continues: “Many of these people helped the United States in Iraq and could be in grave danger once U.S. forces are reduced or withdrawn.”

“A Responsibility to Help Iraqi Refugees,” by Ivan Eland (6/11/07) 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) Self-government versus the State

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” wrote James Madison. “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” From this basic insight, Madison then went on to help forge a Constitution whose “checks and balances” would, he believed, effectively curb potential abuses of government power.

In his latest paper, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs examines some of the key assumptions that underlie Madison’s analysis. Unlike Madison, philosopher John Locke, and the late economist Mancur Olson, however, Higgs is skeptical that a limited government, protective of individual liberty, is sustainable.

Higgs’s argument, however, never lapses into the utopian assertion that a stateless society would be without problems. Rather, he argues, a stateless society—or, to put it in positive terms, a society of self-government—would have fewer problems than a society under a state. There are two basic reasons behind his argument. “[F]irst, the most vicious people in society will tend to gain control of the state,” Higgs writes, “and, second, by virtue of this control over the state’s powerful engines of death and destruction, they will wreak vastly more harm than they ever could have caused outside the state.”

“My arguments in support of self-government, as opposed to society under a state, may have little point, of course: if people do not choose the state, but as I think, simply have it imposed on them, then it makes no practical difference that the state is unnecessary to solve anay particular kind of problem and that life without the state would be superior,” Higgs continues. “Here, however, I have tried only to show how we may think more clearly about the choice between a society under the state and a society composed of self-governing individuals. Assuming that we really had such a choice,” he concludes, “the better option seems to me fairly obvious.”

“If Men Were Angles: The Basic Analytics of the State versus Self-government,” by Robert Higgs (7/11/07)

Neither Liberty nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government, by Robert Higgs

Anarchy and the Law: The Political Economy of Choice, edited by Edward P. Stringham

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4) Living with a Nuclear Iran and North Korea? (Washington, D.C., 6/21/07)

Immediately after the end of the Cold War, the world breathed a sigh of relief, hopeful that the threat of nuclear war was behind us. That optimism, however, gave way to worries that nuclear weapons might fall into the hands of “rogue states” or terrorist groups, especially after 9/11.

These worries were proven justified with the 2003 revelation that an international network, run by Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan, had been clandestinely supplying enrichment equipment and nuclear know-how to Iran, North Korea, Libya and perhaps others. Although Libya has since agreed to discontinue its program, North Korea and Iran are widely believed to be pursuing nuclear weapons programs that may result in a military confrontation with the United States or its allies.

How can the risk of a nuclear Iran and North Korea best be reduced? What policies should be adopted to deal with nuclear weapons proliferation?

To shed light on these timely issues, we are hosting the Independent Policy Forum, “Living with a Nuclear Iran and North Korea?” featuring Ivan Eland, Charles Peña, Trita Parsi, and Doug Bandow, on Thursday, June 21, at the Independent Institute’s Washington, D.C., conference center. The event will also feature our new Policy Report, “Nuclear Nonproliferation in the Post-9/11 World,” by Senior Fellow Charles Peña.

More information about this event

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