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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 10, Issue 37: September 15, 2008

  1. Desmond Tutu’s Advice for the Next President
  2. The Worst Presidents?
  3. In Defense of Freedom of Expression
  4. Hurricanes under Socialism
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Desmond Tutu’s Advice for the Next President

Archbishop Desmond Tutu helped abolish apartheid in South Africa and chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He will be in San Francisco on Tuesday, Sept. 16, to receive the Independent Institute’s Alexis de Tocqueville award. In an op-ed published last Friday in the San Francisco Chronicle, Tutu suggested that the next president of the United States restore the country’s stature in the world by emulating the example of racial healing in post-apartheid South Africa.

“America’s strained relationships in the global community are due largely to the fear and siege mentality that set in after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, causing many in Washington on both sides of the aisle to reject certain civil liberties considered core American values,” writes Tutu. “If the next U.S. president cares for global reconciliation, then he will stand up for these values and reject those policies that have weakened or undermined individual liberty. In this regard, I suggest that your new president would be surprised at the reaction of the world if he were to say to the world, ‘We made big mistakes over Iraq.’ And while he is at it, shut down Guantanamo Bay. And just as in South Africa a decade ago, it never hurts to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ With honesty, humility and international forgiveness, the United States can and should remain a beacon for liberty for the world long into the future.”

In addition to Desmond Tutu, actor/director Andy Garcia, and entrepreneur William K. Bowes, Jr. will also be honored for their contributions to liberty. The awards will be presented by Free Africa Foundation President George B. N. Ayittey, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors Michael Boskin, and Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

“Tutu's Advice for the Next President,” by Desmond M. Tutu (9/12/08)

More information about “A Gala for Liberty” (San Francisco, Calif., 9/16/08)

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2) The Worst Presidents?

According to recent public opinion polls, only one third or fewer of those surveyed approve of President Bush’s overall job performance. More startlingly, about one quarter consider George W. Bush to be the worst president in U.S. history. If these respondents took the time to look closer at other U.S. presidents, however, they might well rank them even lower than they rank Bush, as Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland suggests in his latest op-ed.

Eland offers a litany of costly mistakes, bad precedents, and unconstitutional abuses by previous U.S. presidents. James Polk, for example, lied to get Congress to declare a war to grab land from Mexico. William McKinley permanently expanded the president’s power at the expense of Founder’s vision of the balance of power between the three branches of the federal government, and he also turned the anti-colonial United States into a colonizer in the Philippines and in other lands formerly occupied by Spain. Woodrow Wilson plunged the country into World War I and helped set in motion a chain of causation that would lead to World War II. In addition, writes Eland, “Wilson’s violations of civil liberties during World War I were the worst in U.S. history and make Bush’s look fairly mild.” Harry Truman enshrined Wilsonian interventionism, permanently burying the traditional U.S. foreign policy of military restraint. Eland also takes Truman to task for intentionally bombing civilians in World War II and the Korean war, unconstitutionally fighting the Korean War without a formal declaration, laying the groundwork for the first large permanent peacetime army in U.S. history, and more.

“Make no mistake,” Eland concludes. “George W. Bush has been a horrible president and is one of the worst in U.S. history. But of the 42 men who have served as president, these four men—Polk, McKinley, Wilson, and Truman—were probably worse.”

“Is George W. Bush the Worst President in U.S. History?” by Ivan Eland (9/13/08)

Also see, “To Make War, Presidents Lie,” by Robert Higgs (10/1/2002)

“No More ‘Great Presidents,’” by Robert Higgs (The Free Market, 5/1/97)

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

Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, Director)

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3) In Defense of Freedom of Expression

Although Gibson Square, a British publishing house, has agreed to publish Sherry Jones’s novel about the life of Mohammed—The Jewel of Medina—advocates of freedom of expression should be alarmed that the book’s original publisher, Random House, dropped it before it went to print, citing concerns about violent reprisals from Islamic militants. Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa examines Random House’s decision in his latest column for the Washington Post Writers Group.

“The problem is not whether Random House was entitled to its decision, but what the decision to go against its own desire to publish the book tells us about the fear that fanaticism has instilled in Western countries through systemic acts of intolerance,” writes Vargas Llosa. “If a business decision is made under extreme fear—directly or indirectly caused by force from a third person rather than the government—freedom of expression also suffers.”

It should go without saying that Jones’s—and her publisher’s—right to freedom of expression should be recognized whether the content of her book has merit or is pure trash. Similarly, the author’s and publisher’s motives should have no bearing on the right to write and publish the work free of physical intimidation. “I am not interested in the reasons why Gibson Square has decided to publish the book—whether opportunism, greed, love of scandal, a dislike of the prophet, or a belief in the merits of the novel,” continues Vargas Llosa. “But the fact that someone, somewhere, is willing to run the risk of not letting the threat of violence inhibit free expression is tremendously comforting.”

“The Jewel of Medina,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (9/11/08) Spanish Translation

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

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

Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Director)

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4) Hurricanes under Socialism

According to Fidel Castro, Hurricane Gustav slammed into Cuba with the force of a nuclear explosion. Castro exaggerates, but it’s true that Gustav was tremendously destructive: it toppled more than 100,000 homes and left half a million people homeless and without drinking water, food, or medicine. Perhaps this shouldn’t be too surprising: Cubans still feel the lingering effects of Hurricane Flora—even though that one hit 44 years ago. Does Cuba’s location necessarily condemn it to long-term devastation from hurricanes?

Hardly. Carlo Alberto Montaner, advisor to the Independent Institute’s Center on Global Prosperity, explains: “At least three hurricanes were worse than Gustav (those in 1926, 1932 and 1944), but in all three cases the scars left by those colossal storms disappeared in less than six months. Why? Because there was a dense civilian society, endowed with a thick commercial fabric, and every person knew what his immediate needs were and how to deal with them.”

In contrast, the Cuban economy under Castro’s socialism lacks sufficient inventory of mattresses, pillows, toilet seats, furniture, household appliances, doors, windows, roof tiles, materials for ceilings and walls, and other replacement parts. Similarly, the Castro government’s monopoly in the provision of supplies “generates a chain of arbitrariness, corruption, and inefficiency that often translates into a creeping paralysis of the recovery process.” Cuba’s “economic planners” cannot plan nearly as effectively as the big-box retailers so common—and so commonly derided—in capitalistic countries.

“Socialism and ‘Acts of God,’” by Carlos Alberto Montaner (9/12/08) Spanish Translation

Also see, “The Long Road Back: Signal Noise in the Post-Katrina Context,” by Emily Chamlee-Wright (The Independent Review, Fall 2007)

Center on Global Prosperity

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5) This Week in The Beacon

Here is the latest from The Beacon—the weblog of the Independent Institute:

As always, The Beacon is open for your comments.

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