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

Volume 11, Issue 27: July 6, 2009

  1. Remembering Frederick Douglass
  2. Solving the Deadly Organ Shortage
  3. The Honduran Crisis
  4. The Coming Chaos in Iraq
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Remembering Frederick Douglass

On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass told a group at the University of Rochester that Independence Day revealed, more than any other day, the gross injustice and cruelty of slavery. A former slave, Douglass denounced the hypocrisy of celebrating independence for white men but refusing to grant independence to black slaves. He also grasped the deeper implications of independence. “Personal independence is a virtue,” he later wrote, “but there can be no independence without a large share of self-dependence, and this virtue cannot be bestowed” by government. Those words are as relevant in our day as they were in Douglass’s, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Jonathan Bean, editor of the new book, Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader.

“Douglass understood the centrality of self-reliance to the American character,” writes Bean for National Review Online. “Even after our recent orgy of bailouts, and even as the culture of entitlement grips our country ever more tightly, Americans hunger for the assurance that we can do it for ourselves without a nanny state running our lives.”

In Race and Liberty in America, Bean has assembled dozens of historic speeches, letters, editorials, court decisions, and other documents showing how the principles of individualism promoted racial equality under the law. The book includes several contributions by Frederick Douglass, including his “Fourth of July Oration” (1852), “The Mission of the War” (1863), “God Almighty Made But One Race” (1888), “Slavery by Another Name” (1888), and “Self-Made Men” (1893). “Douglass demanded secure property rights and opportunity, for these formed the bases of political and economic freedom,” Bean writes.

“The Party of Lincoln, and of Douglass: Rediscovering Frederick Douglass in the Age of Obama,” by Jonathan Bean (National Review Online, 7/4/09)

Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader, edited by Jonathan Bean

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2) Solving the Deadly Organ Shortage

Apple CEO Steve Jobs cleverly registered for a liver transplant in more than one of the 58 geographic territories for organ transplants, but that’s not a viable option for most of the 100,000 patients waiting for a transplant. According to Independent Institute Research Director Alexander Tabarrok, the United States is the grips of an organ shortage that could be greatly reduced with one simple reform: give potential donors an incentive to donate their organs.

Incentives do not necessarily need to be cash payments. “Why not waive the driver’s license fee for people willing to sign organ donor cards?” writes Tabarrok. “Shouldn’t we thank people who are willing to be organ donors?”

Another approach is to reward potential organ donors with preferential treatment in the event that they themselves need an organ. The United Network for Organ Sharing, the organization that runs the organ distribution system in the United States, does this for those who have already donated an organ. There are signs of hope. “Groups such as the American Society of Transplant Surgeons and the National Kidney Foundation are finally considering ways to ethically compensate organ donors,” Tabarrok continues. “We shouldn’t abandon a donor-based system, but we can greatly enhance giving by including creative incentives. Lives are in the balance.”

“How to Get a Liver When You Need One,” by Alexander Tabarrok (Forbes.com, 6/30/09)

Entrepreneurial Economics: Bright Ideas from the Dismal Science, edited by Alexander Tabarrok

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3) The Honduran Crisis

The crisis in Honduras is, in a word, complicated. Although deposed President Manuel Zelaya bears the brunt of the blame for his ouster, the military actions against him were ill advised and play into the hands of Zelaya’s anti-democratic allies in the region, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

Zelaya acted unconstitutionally by taking steps to seek reelection, and he followed that misdeed with an even more brazen one: breaking into the location of the impounded election ballots in an effort to distribute them. Yet the response from the Organization of American States has been to ignore Zelaya’s dictatorial conduct, just as it ignored similar violations by Chavez in Venezuela, Morales in Bolivia, Correa in Ecuador, and Ortega in Nicaragua. Supporters of the military action may come to regret Zelaya’s propaganda victory in a conflict that bodes poorly for the rule of law.

As the Honduras imbroglio illustrates, the trick for Latin America is to avoid the extremes of the left and the right. Vargas Llosa concludes: “Honduras’ crisis should bring to people’s attention this truth about Latin America today: The gravest threat to liberty comes from elected populists who are seeking to subject the institutions of the law to their megalomaniac whims. Given that scenario, the hemisphere’s response to Honduras’ crisis has undermined those who are trying to prevent populism from taking the region back to the times when it was forced to choose between left-wing revolution and military dictatorships.”

“Honduras—Zelaya’s Coup,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (7/1/09) Spanish Translation

“The Winner in Honduras: Chávez,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (New York Times, 6/30/09)

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

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

The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

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4) The Coming Chaos in Iraq

Unless Iraq is held together by force after a long and bloody civil war, it will likely break apart into warring city-states. This prediction is as valid as ever, according to Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty. Despite a recent overall reduction of violence in Iraq, several signs indicate that the country is “broken beyond repair,” Eland argues in his latest op-ed.

For starters, Iraq’s parliament is dysfunctional. Among other deficiencies, it has not passed the laws needed to revive the country’s war-damaged oil industry. Nor has the government moved forward with employing former Baathist civil servants or paying off the former Sunni insurgents who are now helping U.S. forces fight al Qaeda in Iraq. Nor can the country’s weak armed forces defeat insurgents without help from the U.S. military. Moreover, tensions and violence between Kurds and Sunni Arabs have in fact increased.

The only way to avert a train wreck of epic proportions, according to Eland, is for Iraqi leaders to hold a national conclave as the U.S. troops are withdrawn. “That conclave would let the Iraqis attempt to divide the country peacefully and agree on boundaries that would be honored by all,” writes Eland. “A central government could be retained, but it would have to be weak so that the various factions would not fight over control of it. Decentralization is Iraq’s only hope to avoid a massive civil war.”

“Iraq: The Coming Train Wreck,” by Ivan Eland (7/6/09)

Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, by Ivan Eland

Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, by Ivan Eland

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

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5) This Week in The Beacon

If you haven’t done so yet, please be sure to check out the past week’s offerings from the Independent Institute’s blog, The Beacon.

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