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

Volume 10, Issue 33: August 18, 2008

  1. Gala for Liberty
  2. War in Georgia
  3. Obama’s $1,000 Rebate
  4. Wilson’s Right-Hand Man
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Gala for Liberty

Independent Institute Reception and Dinner to Honor Desmond Tutu, William K. Bowes, Jr., and Andy Garcia (San Francisco, 9/16/08)

On September 16, 2008, the Independent Institute will honor Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Academy Award–nominated actor, director, and producer Andy Garcia, and philanthropist and pioneering venture capitalist William K. Bowes, Jr. for their exceptional contributions to the causes of liberty, entrepreneurship, innovation, and peace at the “Gala for Liberty” in San Francisco, Calif.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a world-renowned Nobel Peace Prize laureate who, as Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, brought a peaceful settlement to the end of Apartheid. He will be honored for his work throughout the world on behalf of democracy, freedom, human rights, and peace.

Andy Garcia is an Academy Award-nominated, Havana-born actor, director, and producer, whose 38 films include The Lost City (2005), For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story (2000), The Godfather: Part III (1990), When a Man Loves a Woman (1994), Ocean’s Eleven (2001), and The Untouchables (1987). Mr. Garcia has been a leader in overcoming the plight of the Cuban people under communism. He will be honored for championing civil and economic liberties in Latin America through his work.

William K. Bowes, Jr., a venture capitalist in the Bay Area for nearly 50 years, founded U.S. Venture Partners as a pioneer in venture capital. Mr. Bowes was also the founding shareholder of Amgen and was its first Chairman and Treasurer. He will be honored for his work in business entrepreneurship and science and utilizing market-based innovations to greatly enhance the welfare of people in the U.S. and worldwide.

September 16 is only four weeks away! Reserve your tickets early!!

More about the Gala for Liberty

Alexis de Tocqueville Award

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2) War in Georgia

Independent Institute Research Fellows J. Victor Marshall, Alvaro Vargas Llosa, and Ivan Eland each wrote op-eds this week examining the war in Georgia. U.S. political leaders as diverse as Dick Cheney and Democratic hawk Richard Holbrook, John McCain and Barack Obama have condemned Russia. As Marshall notes, the U.S. sent arms and advisors to Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili after his 2004 election on a “reclaiming South Ossetia” platform. President George Washington, writes Marshall, “would be appalled at the specter of U.S. leaders urging this country to confront a major world power over a tiny enclave few Americans have ever heard of, while already overextended fighting two wars and sliding into a recession.”

Vargas Llosa emphasizes the resurgence of Russian nationalism. Russia’s invasion of Georgia “has little to do with protecting South Ossetians, who a few years ago were vying for independence from both Georgia and Russia,” he writes. “And it has little to do with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s obvious miscalculation in responding to South Ossetia’s latest provocation by trying to assert military control of that region.... It would also be a gross mistake to think that the casus belli can be traced to Western actions such as the recognition of Kosovo’s independence to the detriment of Russia’s Serbian allies or NATO’S push for an anti-missile system in Central Europe. Those moves, however imprudent given the psychology of Moscow’s leaders, did not precede the emergence of post-Soviet nationalism in Russia.”

Eland argues that the U.S. should be wary of strongly backing Georgia. “In short, U.S. friend Georgia is hardly on the unambiguous right side of this dispute, was recklessly aggressive (in part because of U.S. military aid and friendship), and is not strategic to the United States. As bad as this crisis is, it could have been worse if Georgia had already been admitted to NATO. This crisis should be a wake-up call that admitting Georgia, Ukraine, or other non-strategic nations in the Russian sphere of influence into NATO could needlessly make Russia even more hostile and start a new, dangerous, and unnecessary Cold War.”

“Georgia on My Mind,” by J. Victor Marshall (8/13/08)

“Putin the Terrible,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (8/13/08)

“Crisis in the Caucuses,” by Ivan Eland (8/15/08)

“The Seeds of Another Cold War?” by Anthony Gregory (8/12/08)

Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, Director)

Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Director)

The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed (Updated Edition), by Ivan Eland

Lessons from the Poor: The Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

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3) Obama’s $1,000 Rebate

To ease the pain of high gas prices, presidential hopeful Barack Obama proposes granting consumers an “emergency” $1,000 tax rebate—financed by a “windfall profits” tax on oil companies. Unfortunately, neither of these legs will support lower gas prices, according to Independent Institute Adjunct Fellow Art Carden.

“When taken at face value, Obama’s plan to offer $1,000 tax rebate is not necessarily objectionable, but it will only increase our demand for gas,” writes Carden in a new op-ed. “And of course, it will increase gas prices.”

“Curiously, Obama proposes fixing high gas prices by making it more expensive to supply gasoline,” Carden continues. “He proposes taxing oil producers, who are precisely the people you don’t want to tax if your end goal is to lower gas prices. On net, Obama’s plan will subsidize gas consumption by taxing gas production.... All other things equal, it is a recipe for higher gas prices and greater ‘pain at the pump.’”

“Obama’s $1000 Rebate Plan Won’t Work,” by Art Carden

More on energy policy

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4) Wilson’s Right-Hand Man

Americans typically know much about their current president but little about his closest advisors and mentors. Edward M. House (1858-1938), who largely sidestepped the limelight in the years he served as President Woodrow Wilson’s confidant, was one such advisor. (Time magazine featured House on its cover but only after Wilson left office.) Fortunately, Godfrey Hodgson’s recent biography of House (Woodrow Wilson’s Right Hand) sheds light on a man who “arguably had a greater impact on the past century than all but a handful of others,” writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs in his latest essay.

“Colonel” House, as one grateful politician nicknamed him, was a smooth political operator who, in the late 1800s, helped get four governors elected in his native Texas, explains Higgs. After he took up residence in New York City in 1902, he traveled in loftier circles, dining with Henry James, Edith Wharton, Rudyard Kipling, and other luminaries. In 1911, he helped promote New Jersey Gov. Woodrow Wilson as the Democratic Party’s next presidential candidate. Wilson returned the favor by offering House a cabinet position in his administration, but House declined, preferring instead to influence policy less formally. And influence he did. He pushed for the Federal Reserve Act and advised Wilson about Mexico during its violent revolution. But House’s role in shaping Wilson’s policy in war-torn Europe was even larger.

Although Wilson won reelection on the campaign slogan, “He kept us out of war,” shortly after starting his second term he asked Congress for a declaration of war. “We may properly attribute a substantial share of the credit (or blame) for this action to House’s subtle and persistent efforts to move the president toward it during the preceding two years,” Higgs writes. House wrote in his diary that he encouraged Wilson to view himself as “the great liberal leader of the world.” Higgs continues: “In Wilson, a man whose grotesquely swollen conception of his own importance had few equals, House’s teachings had encountered a highly receptive pupil.”

“Who Was Edward M. House?” by Robert Higgs (8/13/08)

Depression, War, and Cold War: Studies in Political Economy, by Robert Higgs

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

The Independent Review, edited by Robert Higgs

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5) This Week in The Beacon

The Beacon—the blog of the Independent Institute—invites your comments. Here is what Beacon bloggers posted this past week:

“Lenders Have Not Stopped Lending,” by Robert Higgs

“Guardian Angels for Oakland,” by David Theroux

“Why Are Interest Rates So Low?” by Robert Higgs

“Incentives Matter: Blood Money,” by Art Carden

“Michael Phelps Said No to Ritalin,” by David Beito

“The Seeds of Another Cold War?” by Anthony Gregory

“Must the Government Combat Americans’ Addiction to Foreign Bananas?” by Robert Higgs

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