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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 9, Issue 39: September 24, 2007

  1. The Independent Review—Fall 2007 Issue Now Available
  2. American Realism and Engaging Syria
  3. “Civilizing Women”: Flawed Book Defends Mutilation and Relativism
  4. The Rise of Hugo Chavez

1) The Independent Review—Fall 2007 Issue Now Available

We are pleased to announce the publication of the Fall 2007 issue of The Independent Review: A Journal of Political Economy. Edited by Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs, this 160-page issue of our peer-reviewed quarterly addresses a broad range of issues in political thought, economic history, and public policy. Here are some of the questions examined in our latest issue:

* Why have virtually all scholars across the spectrum gotten Alexis de Tocqueville wrong? Download article.

* If neither U.S. entry into World War II nor a growing money supply ended the Great Depression, what did?

* Why have local governments exercised greater and greater control over ostensibly private urban real estate?

* How did western advisors contribute to the failure of reformers in Serbia to privatize state-owned enterprises effectively?

* How have post-Katrina government policies and redevelopment initiatives hampered the recovery of much of the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast? Download article.

* Why did the Postal Reform Act of 2006 do so little to genuinely reform the U.S. Postal Service? Download article.

* How well is Germany’s “social-market” economy working?

* What are the root causes of the continual scandals in U.S. defense contracting?

Books reviewed:

* Reviving the Invisible Hand: The Case for Classical Liberalism in the Twenty-first Century, by Deepak Lal. Read review.

* On Classical Economics, by Thomas Sowell. Read review.

* Celebrating Irving Fisher: The Legacy of a Great Economist, edited by Robert W. Dimand and John Geanakoplos. Read review.

Contributors:

Daniel Choi, Frank G. Steindl, Edwin S. Mills, Milic Milovanovic, Emily Chamlee-Wright, James A. Montanye, Antony P. Mueller, Suri Ratnapala, James C. W. Ahiakpor, Robert Formaini, and Robert Higgs

Table of Contents

Purchase this issue.

Subscribe.

Recommend The Independent Review to your library!

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2) American Realism and Engaging Syria

U.S. foreign policy should seek to engage Syria diplomatically, rather than shun it, because doing so could advance important strategic interests that Washington shares with Damascus, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Leon T. Hadar.

One interest shared by both governments is in thwarting Sunni radicalism, Hadar explains in an op-ed published last week on TheGlobalist.com, a website whose tag-line is “dedicated to global understanding.” The Syrian government brutally fought a Sunni fundamentalist revolt from 1976 to 1982, but the threat to Ba’athist rule could return if Assad’s regime, under economic duress from U.S. sanctions, moves closer to Shiite Iran and thereby radicalizes Syria’s Sunni majority.

A U.S.-Syria rapprochement could even foster stability elsewhere in the strife-worn Middle East, according to Hadar. “Ending Syria’s political and economic isolation could create conditions for the resumption of negotiations between Israel and Syria, as well as between Israelis and Palestinians, that could eventually lead to peace and security for Israel,” Hadar writes. “What has been surprising is the failure of Washington to comprehend that reality, instead taking steps that made it more likely that Syria would work with Iran to secure its interests in the region while at the same time helping to strengthen the Syrian Islamist opposition force that want to oust the Ba’athists from power.”

“American Realism and Engaging Syria,” by Leon T. Hadar (The Globalist, 9/18/07) Spanish Translation (forthcoming)

Also see:

“A Diplomatic Road to Damascus: The Benefits of U.S. Engagement with Syria,” by Leon T. Hadar

Center on Peace & Liberty

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3) “Civilizing Women”: Flawed Book Defends Mutilation and Relativism

Sometimes a book reveals more about the state of scholarship regarding its subject matter than its author intended. University of Toronto anthropologist Janice Boddy’s Civilizing Women attempts to explain the relationship between the British occupation in Sudan (circa 1920 to 1946) and one of that society’s most perplexing (certainly to Westerners) practices: female genital circumcision (FGC), the surgical removal of parts of the female genitalia for non-medical purposes.

Boddy should be applauded for her meticulous archival and field research, but, ultimately, she should be taken to task for her “blurring of political advocacy with anthropological research,” according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Wendy McElroy, editor of Liberty for Women. Boddy makes unsupported claims about the British campaign to discourage the practice (or, more accurately, practices, since FGC can take several forms that vary in their invasiveness). Moreover, McElroy argues, Boddy defends FGC, downplaying its coercive element and even claiming it is medically benign, despite the extreme pain, shock and death that it can cause.

Despite her profound opposition to FGC, McElroy concludes her review by noting her own disagreement with the eventual British ban of the practice in Sudan. Presumably, Boddy does too, if for different reasons. For McElroy, one problem that opponents of FGC must reckon with is that the ban created a backlash of support for the practice. “Indeed, outlawing the procedure acted to enshrine it within the culture as a symbol of resisting British authority,” writes McElroy.

“Review of Civilizing Women: British Crusades in Colonial Sudan,” by Wendy McElroy (9/24/07) Spanish Translation (forthcoming)

Also see:

“The Condition of Women in Developing and Developed Countries,” by Michelle Fram Cohen (The Independent Review, Fall 2006)

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

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4) The Rise of Hugo Chavez

How is it that a coup leader who tried to topple a democratically elected government is now on the verge of becoming, through a constitutional amendment, Venezuela’s president-for-life?

The rise of Hugo Chavez is perplexing but not unique. Latin America’s “populist strongmen keep appearing with astonishing frequency,” explains Alvaro Vargas Llosa. But one thing about Venezuela’s political culture is especially notable: Before the 1960s, Venezuela had a relatively free economy, with a low marginal tax rate (12%), an autonomous central bank, a small public sector, and a fiscally responsible government.

What went wrong? Venezuelan scholar Hugo Faria blames much of it on democracy, which came to the country in 1958 and enabled the political elite to pander to people’s instincts for dependency rather than hard work. Vargas Llosa adds another factor to the mix: growing nationalism, including economic nationalism, among the era’s political elites. By the time Hugo Chavez came around a decade ago, the people had forgotten the rising prosperity and republican institutions of a bygone era. “It was not liberal democracy as such but leaders acting under its mantle that made Chavez the man who is seeking ‘indefinite’ re-election today,” writes Vargas Llosa. “What a sad story.”

“The Rise of Hugo Chavez,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (9/21/07) Spanish Translation

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)

Visit our Spanish-language website.

Visit our Spanish-language blog.

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