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

Volume 6, Issue 7: February 16, 2004

  1. John Stossel Transcript Now Online
  2. Iraq Policy Uncovered
  3. Presidents' Day: A Dissenting Opinion
  4. Independent Scholarship Fund: Accepting Applications for East Bay Students

1) John Stossel Transcript Now Online

Television journalist John Stossel (ABC's "20/20," "John Stossel Specials") shared his insights about consumer protection, government failure, reckless lawsuits, and media bias in his January 30th address at the Independent Policy Forum, "Confessions of a Media Maverick: Exposing Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists."

Stossel began by recounting his evolution from an Emmy-award-winning consumer-affairs reporter to America's best-known skeptic of government regulation. What seems strange to him in hindsight, he explained, is not that he came to have more confidence in the market's protection of consumers than in consumer protection laws, but that this development took as long as it did.

"The more I watched the market work, the more puzzled I was that it seemed to protect us even in areas where I wouldn't intuitively think the market would," he said.

Stossel then contrasted the operation of legal and illegal drugs, explaining how the illegal drug problem illustrates government failure while the legal drug market illustrates the relative success of the marketplace -- success that would be even greater in the absence of regulations that delay the introduction of life-saving drugs, he explained.

Stossel then proposed that the FDA be changed from a regulatory agency to an information agency that would test drugs voluntarily submitted by pharmaceutical firms, thereby allowing consumers to opt for life-saving drugs that hadn't cleared the FDA testing process. Fostering a two-track system for pharmaceuticals (company-tested and FDA-tested) would give drug manufacturers information more quickly on how to improve their products.

"I’d go further and say that you really don’t need the government to even be the information agency, because as we should have learned from the fall of the Soviet Union, government agencies don’t do things well. And if you simply eliminated the FDA, the private groups that government has crowded out would step in and do the job better, quicker, cheaper. . . . It’s a fatal conceit to predict how the market will work, but maybe Underwriters Laboratories would do it or Consumer Reports. But I bet they’d do it better than the government.

"And in any case, isn’t leaving us a choice what America’s supposed to be about? Patrick Henry didn’t say, 'Give me absolute safety or give me death.' It’s supposed to be about freedom."

Stossel also recounted several common "lies, myths, and stupidities" from a recent, widely watched "Give Me a Break" segment on "20/20" (including an entertaining interview on tax policy with Rev. Al Sharpton). Finally, he discussed his travails with the "consumer-activists" who once had embraced him and now disdain him -- mistakenly, he argued -- for "selling out" to big business.

"But why am I a friend of industry? Industry doesn’t like free markets either. Industry half the time tries to game the system to screw their competitors. They want to partner with government to hurt their competitors. They’re not necessarily friends of free markets. And also, I’m no longer a consumer advocate if I’m reporting on government? Doesn’t government screw consumers, too? You bet."

For the transcript of John Stossel's talk, see "Confessions of Media Maverick: Exposing Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists," (1/30/04)

Listen to Stossel's talk in RealAudio.

Back to Top


2) Iraq Policy Uncovered

President George W. Bush's recent televised appearance on "Meet the Press" exposed several flaws in the decision to depose Saddam Hussein, argues Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty, in his latest op-ed.

Bush told reporter Tim Russert that the September 11th terrorist attacks caused him to "reanalyze every threat," but according to former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, the administration decided to wage war long before 9/11. Bush also emphasized the threat that an Iraq armed with WMDs would pose, but it now appears that the (pre-war) UN weapons inspections were successful. Finally, Saddam Hussein did not support terrorist groups that "focus their attacks on U.S. targets," so the threat of his arming anti-U.S. terrorist groups was unfounded, according to Eland.

"Now, in a seemingly coordinated tack to justify invading non-nuclear Iraq instead of a much more dangerous North Korea," writes Eland, "President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and sympathetic voices in the media . . . are arguing that negotiations with Hussein -- unlike those with North Korea -- had unsuccessfully run their course. But Hussein never admitted reconstituting banned weapons (probably because he never did) and allowed the international weapons inspectors to return to Iraq. In contrast, North Korea has bragged about violating an agreement with the United States to freeze the North Korean weapons program, withdrew from its obligations under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and kicked international weapons inspectors out."

"Unlike the clever [Super Bowl halftime] plot by Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake to generate nationwide gossip, which succeeded brilliantly, President Bush’s backpedaling and scheming to justify an unnecessary war and quagmire will be unlikely to stop tongues from wagging during and after this election year."

See "U.S. Iraq Policy Uncovered," by Ivan Eland (2/11/04)

Center on Peace & Liberty

War on Terrorism

OnPower.org -- Terrorist War

PUTTING "DEFENSE" BACK INTO U.S. DEFENSE POLICY: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World, by Ivan Eland

Back to Top


3) Presidents' Day: A Dissenting Opinion

Every U.S. president gets some doses of criticism while in office. A few have even suffered mass unpopularity for several years after their term expired. But for the most part, the public and the punditry hail the office of the presidency as a cornerstone of American political culture -- the institution that gives the American experiment in self-government badly needed "direction," thereby making it "work."

True, no American president is on par with the worst of history's butchers and kleptocrats. But should this be the standard for measuring presidential character? Maintaining a proper perspective about American government should not mean overlooking the habitual lying, stealing from the public purse, circumvention of the constitutional division of powers, and other anti-social mischief characteristic of U.S. presidents -- although this is the implication of the federal holiday called Presidents' Day.

Readers of THE LIGHTHOUSE have read much in the past two years about moral failings of Abraham Lincoln, perhaps the most lionized of American presidents. Honest Abe's arrest or intimidation of "seditious" newspaper editors alone should be enough to earn him low marks, but America's collective amnesia is severe.

However, a major failure of another very popular president -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt's signing of Executive Order 9066 -- which authorized the round-up of 120,000 innocent Japanese-Americans and their relocation to "protective" internment camps -- has been receiving great attention of late. With a little luck, the result could mean that on February 19th of each year -- the anniversary of FDR's interment order -- the nation will publicly recognize that all has not been right with the institution of the presidency. Surely, that would add a measure of balance in a country seemingly enamored with the celebrity of its presidents.

See:

"The Oval Office Liars' Club," by Robert Higgs (SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, 11/24/02)

"No More 'Great Presidents,'" by Robert Higgs (THE FREE MARKET, March 1997)

Also see:

The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush's Military-Industrial Complex, by Helen Caldicott Reviewed by Ivan Eland (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Fall 2003)

Vicious Cycle: Presidential Decision Making in the American Political Economy, by Constantine J. Spiliotes Reviewed by Andrew J. Taylor (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Summer 2003)

Reassessing the Presidency: The Rise of the Executive State and the Decline of Freedom, ed. by John V. Denson Reviewed by Herman Belz (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Spring 2003)

A New Democrat? The Economic Performance of the Clinton Presidency by John W. Burns and Andrew J. Taylor (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 2001)

For the President's Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush
by Christopher Andrew
Reviewed by Craig T. Cobane (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 1997)

Dismantling the Welfare State? Reagan, Thatcher, and the Politics of Retrenchment, by Paul Pierson
Reviewed by William Niskanen (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 1998)

Ronald Reagan and the Rise of Large Deficits: What Really Happened in 1981
by Timothy J. Muris (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 2000)

Nixon's Economy: Booms, Busts, Dollars, and Votes, by Allen J. Matusow
Reviewed by Steven Horwitz (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Spring 1999)

Pay Any Price: Lyndon Johnson and the Wars for Vietnam, by Lloyd C. Gardner
Reviewed by Ted Galen Carpenter (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Fall 1997)

The Mythology of Roosevelt and the New Deal by Robert Higgs (THE FREEMAN, Summer 1998)

The Life of Herbert Hoover, vol. 3, Master of Emergencies, 1917-1918, by George H. Nash
Reviewed by Ronald Schaffer (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 1998)

The Great Centralizer: Abraham Lincoln and the War between the States
By Thomas J. DiLorenzo (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Fall 1998)

The Real Abraham Lincoln: A Debate, featuring Harry V. Jaffa and Thomas J. DiLorenzo. An Independent Policy Forum transcript (5/7/02). Also see related links following transcript.

The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
Reviewed by Richard M. Gamble (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Spring 2003)

Martin Van Buren: The Greatest American President
By Jeffrey Rogers Hummel (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Fall 1999)

American Compact: James Madison and the Problem of Founding, by Gary Rosen
Reviewed by Hans Eicholz (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Summer 2001)

The Sacred Fire of Liberty: James Madison and the Founding of the Federal Republic, by Lance Banning
Reviewed by Herman Belz (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 1997)

James Madison and the Future of Limited Government, edited by John Samples
Reviewed by James E. Bond (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Fall 2003)

The Constitutional Thought of Thomas Jefferson, by David N. Mayer
Reviewed by James W. Ely, Jr. (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Summer 1996)

John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty, by C. Bradley Thompson
Reviewed by K. R. Constantine Gutzman (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Summer 2000)

Back to Top


4) Independent Scholarship Fund: Accepting Applications for East Bay Students

President George W. Bush's recent televised appearance on "Meet the Press" exposed several flaws in the decision to depose Saddam Hussein, argues Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty, in his latest op-ed.

Bush told reporter Tim Russert that the September 11th terrorist attacks caused him to "reanalyze every threat," but according to former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, the administration decided to wage war long before 9/11. Bush also emphasized the threat that an Iraq armed with WMDs would pose, but it now appears that the (pre-war) UN weapons inspections were successful. Finally, Saddam Hussein did not support terrorist groups that "focus their attacks on U.S. targets," so the threat of his arming anti-U.S. terrorist groups was unfounded, according to Eland.

"Now, in a seemingly coordinated tack to justify invading non-nuclear Iraq instead of a much more dangerous North Korea," writes Eland, "President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and sympathetic voices in the media . . . are arguing that negotiations with Hussein -- unlike those with North Korea -- had unsuccessfully run their course. But Hussein never admitted reconstituting banned weapons (probably because he never did) and allowed the international weapons inspectors to return to Iraq. In contrast, North Korea has bragged about violating an agreement with the United States to freeze the North Korean weapons program, withdrew from its obligations under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and kicked international weapons inspectors out."

"Unlike the clever [Super Bowl halftime] plot by Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake to generate nationwide gossip, which succeeded brilliantly, President Bush’s backpedaling and scheming to justify an unnecessary war and quagmire will be unlikely to stop tongues from wagging during and after this election year."

See "U.S. Iraq Policy Uncovered," by Ivan Eland (2/11/04)

Center on Peace & Liberty

War on Terrorism

OnPower.org -- Terrorist War

PUTTING "DEFENSE" BACK INTO U.S. DEFENSE POLICY: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World, by Ivan Eland

Back to Top




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