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

Volume 9, Issue 25: June 18, 2007

  1. Rethinking Nuclear Nonproliferation Policy
  2. Nuclear Iran and North Korea
  3. Economic Growth under Dictatorship
  4. The Birth of Father’s Day

1) Rethinking Nuclear Nonproliferation Policy

The international nuclear nonproliferation system is not necessarily the most effective arrangement imaginable for curtailing the spread of nuclear weapons. In fact, significant holes exist, as the 2003 uncovering of Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan’s illicit nuclear supply network illustrates. In addition, although 188 countries are signatories to the Nonproliferation Treaty, no more than a few dozen have signed other agreements related to preventing the spread of nuclear weapon technology. Even within the U.S. government, nuclear defense efforts are fragmented. Both the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, for example, engage in similar efforts to develop nuclear detection technology.

In the new report “Nuclear Nonproliferation in the Post-9/11 World,” Independent Institute Senior Fellow Charles V. Peña provides a valuable overview of U.S. and international nuclear nonproliferation efforts and evaluates their strengths and weaknesses. An important theme of Peña’s report is that current nonproliferation efforts rely ultimately on military threats, which themselves can have negative unintended consequences for security.

“The only way out of this potentially endless loop is to rethink nonproliferation—not to rethink how to be better at nonproliferation efforts, but the nonproliferation paradigm itself,” writes Peña. “But doing so means asking questions that the nonproliferation community may find uncomfortable, because the answers are likely to fall outside the conventional wisdom of nonproliferation.”

“Nuclear Nonproliferation in the Post-9/11 World,” by Charles V. Peña (6/11/07) 

“Living with a Nuclear Iran and North Korea?” A panel discussion featuring Charles V. Peña, Ivan Eland, Trita Parsi, and Doug Bandow (Washington, D.C., 6/21/07)

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2) Nuclear Iran and North Korea

Ivan Eland offers his perspective on U.S. nonproliferation policy—especially with respect to Iran and North Korea—in his latest op-ed. After reporting on rumored disagreements within the White House (Cheney allegedly supports a U.S. air strike against Iran, possibly in the spring of 2008, while Rice, who reportedly winning the internal debate, does not), Eland discusses President Bush’s stance on North Korea, and argues that adopting a different stance for Iran (giving it an ultimatum, followed by military action) would merely delay the inevitability of a nuclear-armed Iran and would also be counterproductive by rallying support for the domestically unpopular “dinosaur” regime.

The United States, Eland continues, should pursue a policy of deterrence as it did successfully with the Soviet Union and Maoist China. He also recommends that the U.S. attempt—if it is still possible—to negotiate an agreement with Iran and North Korea to, in his words, “get them to give up their nuclear weapons in exchange for a full normalization of relations, to integrate them into the world economy by the lifting of economic sanctions, and to guarantee that the United States will not attack them.”

“In addition,” Eland continues, “the United States could offer these two nuclear powers limited assistance in safeguarding their nuclear weapons against theft and tips on keeping control of them in order to avoid an accidental or unauthorized launch.”

“Accept Reality: Iran and North Korea Will Not Be Denied Nuclear Weapons,” by Ivan Eland (6/18/07) Spanish Translation

“Living with a Nuclear Iran and North Korea?” A panel discussion featuring Charles V. Peña, Ivan Eland, Trita Parsi, and Doug Bandow (Washington, D.C., 6/21/07)

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) Economic Growth under Dictatorship

Over the past 15 years, economies ruled by dictators have grown two and a half times as fast as the economies of democratic countries, according to a much-discussed article posted on American.com, an online “magazine of ideas,” as it calls itself. If this claim is true, should people living in the grip of despotism therefore ditch their aspirations for political freedom? Not according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa. Rapid economic growth under dictatorship, he argues in his latest syndicated column, does not provide an economic justification of dictatorship. In addition, reports of fast growth under dictatorship typically paint a distorted picture of the underlying realities.

“Any political system, free or unfree, that removes some obstacles to entrepreneurship, investment and trade, and makes a credible commitment to safeguard property rights to a certain extent will trigger a virtuous economic cycle,” Vargas Llosa writes. However, removing anti-growth obstacles can at most create a short-term economic growth spurt; long-term growth requires strong pro-growth institutions—such as secure property rights, incentives to save and invest, and a culture of entrepreneurship—not edicts issued from on high.

“First, history indicates that the combination of political, civil and economic freedom is a better guarantee of ever-increasing prosperity than a capitalist dictatorship,” Vargas Llosa continues. “Second, there are sufficient examples—Portugal or the Baltic countries—of underdeveloped countries that have generated stable and reliable environments through political freedom to invalidate the notion that a country should be kept in political and civil infancy until it reaches economic maturity.”

“Are Dictatorships More Successful Than Democracies?” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (6/13/07) 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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4) The Birth of Father’s Day

President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day a national holiday in 1913, but Father’s Day had to wait until several decades for federal recognition: President Lyndon Johnson signed a Father’s Day proclamation in 1966; President Richard Nixon made it permanent in 1972. Why the decades-long gap?

We may never know the full reasons for the disparity, but two plausible theories have been offered, explains Independent Institute Research Fellow Wendy McElroy in a new op-ed examining the origins of Father’s Day. According to one view, members of the House of Representative didn’t want to give a nod to their own sex out of concern that doing so would make them look self-serving. Another theory holds that the delay was due to a widely held view that the role of fathers was much less important than that of mothers. While these theories aren’t mutually exclusive and don’t exhaust all the possibilities, they do suggest that domestic politics had something to do with the federal recognition gap—keeping in mind the two senses of the word “domestic.”

“America should be richly applauded for pioneering a day on which families recognize fathers,” writes McElroy. “And, if Father’s Day took longer to receive the public acknowledgement it deserved, perhaps this can be a reminder of how easy it is, even for those with good intentions, to overlook the importance of fatherhood.”

“The Birth of Father’s Day,” by Wendy McElroy (6/17/07) Spanish Translation

Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-first Century, edited by Wendy McElroy

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