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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 12, Issue 41: October 12, 2010

  1. Mario Vargas Llosa Wins 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature
  2. Supreme Court to Hear First Amendment Case
  3. Entrepreneurs Need Free Markets, Not Government Favors
  4. Justice versus “Social Justice”
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Mario Vargas Llosa Wins 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature

Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa posted the following item last Thursday to The Beacon, the weblog of the Independent Institute:

“The 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature awarded to my father, Mario Vargas Llosa, is great news for those of us who value freedom. His work, as the Swedish Academy recognized in its public statement, explores the oppressive structures of power and the plight of the individual who rebels against them. His novels examine this theme through the potent means of literary creation, of course. His journalism, public speaking and non-fiction writing do it in more direct form; their impact has given some comfort, for decades, to those who struggle against authoritarian regimes.

“Among the moving messages he and the family have received since the announcement are hundreds of letters of hope from Cubans and Venezuelans who see in him a symbol of what they stand for.

“The cause of liberty in the Western Hemisphere has good reason to rejoice.”

2010 Nobel Prize in Literature

Post your comments to The Beacon.

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

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

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

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2) Supreme Court to Hear First Amendment Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Snyder v. Phelps, a case many observers believe will yield a landmark decision on free speech. The facts of the case seem to guarantee abundant media attention. Albert Snyder is the father of a Marine killed in Iraq, and Fred Phelps is the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church, a small congregation best known for its inflammatory picketing of about 200 military funerals, including that of Snyder’s late son, Matthew. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s $5 million judgment in favor of Snyder on the grounds that the demonstration Phelps led at the Snyder funeral was protected speech under the First Amendment.

Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland calls Phelps’s epithets at the funeral “vile and repugnant” but argues that the government has no business trying to punish Phelps.

“If the government starts shutting down speech that it doesn’t agree with or that isn’t favored by a majority of the population, everyone’s liberty to speak freely and influence the government is at risk,” writes Eland in a new op-ed. “Preservation of liberty in a republic is undergirded by the ability for people to speak freely without penalty, no matter how distasteful the speech.”

“Will Militarization of the First Amendment Undermine the Republic?” by Ivan Eland (10/6/10) Spanish Translation

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

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

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3) Entrepreneurs Need Free Markets, Not Government Favors

During his Labor Day speech last month, President Obama extolled the hard work of ordinary Americans, denounced corporate greed, and reiterated his call for government “investments in roads and bridges and high-speed railroads that will lead to hundreds of thousands of jobs in the private sector.” It is a theme the administration has expressed repeatedly—and one whose irony was especially apparent last April at a government-sponsored entrepreneurship summit populated disproportionately by political hacks.

The theme’s greatest flaw is that it ignores the hidden harm that government spending inflicts on private entrepreneurship, as Independent Institute President David J. Theroux explains in Investor’s Business Daily: “Where governments dominate society, enterprising individuals typically are stifled. Their talents and energies are misdirected into political patronage.” Government subsidies to businesses, in other words, turn businessmen into parasites living off the backs of taxpayers, rather than creators of wealth.

Theroux continues: “In their book, The Voluntary City: Choice, Community, and Civil Society, David Beito, Peter Gordon, and Alexander Tabarrok demonstrate that private business and social entrepreneurs, not government command-and-control, is what makes progress possible. This is another book the president and his staff should take on their next vacation, instead of their golf clubs. They might learn something and put an end to their destructive big-government policies.”

“Entrepreneurs Know What Obama Doesn’t,” by David J. Theroux (Investor’s Business Daily, 8/31/10)

The Voluntary City: Choice, Community, and Civil Society, edited by David Beito, Peter Gordon, and Alexander Tabarrok

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

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4) Justice versus “Social Justice”

Justice is among the oldest ideals in Western thought. Although philosophers have long debated its meaning and application, they have usually agreed that justice deals with individual merit or individual actions. The perennial question has been: by what standard should someone’s actions be praised or blamed, rewarded or punished? not: whom should society provide with unearned, undeserved gifts at the expense of others?

Yet recent decades have seen the rise of a new concept—“social justice”—that denies a necessary connection between what one does and what one is due. According to theories of “social justice,” someone may be entitled to income, opportunities, or power—and others may be compelled to provide those amenities—simply because some people possess them in relative abundance whereas others do not.

The development and validity of the idea of “social justice” are examined in a noteworthy article by Tulane University sociology professor Carl L. Bankston III in the fall issue of The Independent Review. “The most troubling assumption in both the perspective and the theory of social justice involves power,” writes Bankston. It is troubling, he argues, because a redistribution of power in order to implement “social justice” would require ceaseless efforts to radically restructure society. “This goal,” Bankston continues, “is implicitly totalitarian, although it certainly does not necessarily lead to totalitarianism because of the many real-world barriers to translating moral goals into political action.”

“Social Justice: Cultural Origins of a Perspective and a Theory,” by Carl L. Bankston III (The Independent Review, Fall 2010)

The Independent Review (Fall 2010)

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5) This Week in The Beacon

Stay informed. Get heard. Read and comment on the Independent Institute blog.

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