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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 11, Issue 35: August 31, 2009

  1. King’s Dream
  2. “Oil Security” Doesn’t Warrant Supporting Dictators
  3. U.S. Military Restraint Helps Pakistan Fight the Taliban
  4. Independent Scholarship Fund Opens Doors for Bay Area Students
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) King’s Dream

Last Friday marked the forty-sixth anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, a cultural milestone that Americans from across the political spectrum have passionately invoked over the years. Defenders of individual rights, for example, have echoed King’s refrain of a future in which people “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”; whereas advocates of affirmative action, and the like, often cite King’s call to abstain from “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism” as support for their approach. King’s speech resonates with so many partly because it appeals to America’s founding principles without getting bogged down in specific policy prescriptions.

Yet one year after that historic speech, King, in his book Why We Can’t Wait, argued in favor of preferential treatment and government benefits to help remedy the effects of past discrimination against blacks and others. But that fact does not answer the question of who, in today’s society, espouses principles consistent with King’s vision, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Jonathan Bean, author of Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader.

The policies King demanded in his book were a means, not an end. King’s dream, Bean writes in a new op-ed, “was a world that looked beyond the group distinction of race and into ‘the content of (individual) character.’ Thus, in 1968, King would oppose a ‘diversity liberalism’ that makes a fetish of skin color.” Activists and policymakers who see themselves as King’s heirs should embrace the man’s individualist goal, and not just the means he thought were most appropriate at that time to advancing that goal.

“What Was the Essence of King’s ‘Dream’?” by Jonathan Bean (Tallahasee.com, 8/25/09)

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

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2) “Oil Security” Doesn’t Warrant Supporting Dictators

Did Scotland return convicted Lockerbie airplane bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi to his native Libya, not because he has terminal prostate cancer, but instead to help curry favor with an oil-rich government? If so, it would be doing pretty much what the United States has been doing since 1945: cozying up to one of the worst human-rights abusers on the planet, the government of Saudi Arabia, according to Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty.

Eland offers several economic and geo-strategic reasons why a policy of embracing oil autocrats is neither necessary nor desirable. First, oil is not, as most policymakers believe, too strategically important to rely on the profit motive to secure its delivery. In fact, the profit motive is so strong that even the OPEC oil cartel cannot effectively restrict the flow of oil to the world market for very long, according to Eland. Second, the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf does not enhance oil stability; it undermines it by inflaming radical Islamists. Third, rising oil prices per se do not send industrial economies into a tailspin. The stagflation of the 1970s was caused by bad domestic policies, not oil prices. Today, the U.S. economy is even more resilient to oil shocks because the cost of oil makes up only 3 percent of GDP—half of what it did in the ‘70s, according to Eland.

“Instead of coddling oil-producing tyrants like Moammar Gadhafi and the Saud family, the United States and other industrial countries should let the market work,” writes Eland. “We should not pay a premium for oil by sacrificing our principles or pursuing unnecessary, costly and counterproductive military activities.”

“Fallacies in U.S. Oil Policy,” by Ivan Eland (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 8/27/09)

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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3) U.S. Military Restraint Helps Pakistan Fight the Taliban

The re-population of Pakistan’s Swat Valley—after an estimated 2 million had fled during fighting between government troops and Taliban insurgents—shows that Islamabad is capable of solving its security problems without U.S. meddling. In fact, the absence of U.S. troops, whose previous presence had undermined local support for the anti-Taliban offensive, has given Pakistan’s counterinsurgency operations the legitimacy necessary to mount an effective campaign, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Charles Peña.

Pakistan’s recent success vis-à-vis the Taliban has little to do with U.S. assistance, Peña argues. The reason? Much of the $12 billion the United States has given Islamabad in mostly military aid has gone toward weapons and equipment more appropriate for waging a conventional war against India than fighting Taliban guerillas.

The best option for the United States, Peña continues, is to do even less in Pakistan. “Doing less has now enabled the Zardari government to more clearly define where U.S. and Pakistani interests coincide and where they diverge, and move forward accordingly,” writes Peña. “The lesson to be learned from Pakistan’s apparent success is that in international affairs, as in other matters, the less the U.S. government does the better.”

“The Lesson from Pakistan: Less Is More,” by Charles Peña (8/14/09)

Winning the Un-War: A New Strategy for the War on Terrorism, by Charles Peña

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4) Independent Scholarship Fund Opens Doors for Bay Area Students

Last week, the Independent Scholarship Fund (ISF) awarded 194 need- and merit-based scholarships—totally more than $291,000—to East Bay K-12 students for the 2009-2010 school year. Providing up to $1,500 toward the cost of tuition, the program helps its scholarship recipients to send their children to the private or parochial school of their choice.

“Independent Scholarship Fund families come to us because their children aren’t thriving in their current schools,” said Mary L. G. Theroux, senior vice president of the Independent Institute, the program sponsor. “The ISF is an opportunity for students in the East Bay to access the schools that genuinely meet their needs.”

Since its inception in 1999, the ISF has awarded more than $2.7 million in scholarships, thanks to the generous assistance of foundations, corporations, community organizations, and individuals.

Press Release

More about the Independent Scholarship Fund

More on Education

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5) This Week in The Beacon

Below are links to the past week’s postings to our blog, The Beacon.

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