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

Volume 13, Issue 19: May 10, 2011

  1. Obama Should Hasten Withdrawal, Eland Argues
  2. Problematic Pakistan
  3. Talk Radio and Tornado Relief
  4. Is Steve Jobs Killing Jobs?
  5. New Blog Posts

1) Obama Should Hasten Withdrawal, Eland Argues

With Osama bin Laden out of the picture, can Americans expect a return to normalcy anytime soon? Don’t count on it. One reason President Barack Obama won’t be using the occasion to bring troops home sooner or to lighten the U.S. military and political footprint in the Islamic world is because the national security establishment has warned him that anti-U.S. terrorist attacks “will likely continue and may actually increase, at least in the short term, in retaliation for bin Laden’s martyrdom,” writes Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty, in his latest op-ed.

But “staying the course” is exactly the wrong approach, Eland argues. Doing so would ignore the main reason Osama bin Laden and members of al-Qaeda’s terrorist network took to killing innocent civilians in the first place—a meddlesome U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Identifying this cause does not “blame the victim.” Rather, it exposes the deadly unintended consequences of U.S. foreign policy in the Islamic world—a policy that must be reconsidered if radical Islamists who seek jihad against the United States are to disappear, Eland argues.

That policy rests on two pillars. “The two pillars of American Middle East policy have traditionally been U.S. support for Israel and the control of oil using military power,” Eland writes. “Neither is needed. Israel is now a rich country, with hundreds of nuclear weapons, and it can easily defend itself without U.S. support. Oil is a valuable commodity that will be produced and exported to the world market, around and even through conflicts, without the need for U.S. military occupation or meddling in the Middle East. Yet these two policy pillars motivate Islamists such as bin Laden to attack the U.S. Let’s declare victory and come home.”

“Let’s Call It ‘VO Day’ and Get Out,” by Ivan Eland (5/4/11)

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

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

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

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2) Problematic Pakistan

Osama bin Laden was holed up 35 miles from Pakistan’s capital, in a mansion close to the country’s leading military academy, but this does not prove that the civilian government was complicit in sheltering the leader of al-Qaeda. If only things were that simple. In reality, the situation is more complicated—and more dangerous—than if Pakistan’s complicity with al-Qaeda came from the top, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

“It is infinitely worse to have a government in which the leadership does not control vast segments of a rogue military establishment than one in which the top leadership controls a rogue state,” Vargas Llosa writes in his latest column with the Washington Post Writers Group. “In the first case, you are never sure who exactly is your enemy. In the second, things are clear.”

Muslim fundamentalists sympathetic to al-Qaeda have long been intertwined with Pakistan’s military and intelligence services—a relationship whose origins can be traced to the Cold War, when the army leadership encouraged the spread of fundamentalism, via the Pakistan Muslim League, as a counterweight to the spread of pro-Soviet ideology. Pakistan’s soldiers and intelligence officers have helped the U.S. government track down terrorists, but their efforts have been countered by opposing forces within their own ranks. “In many ways, getting bin Laden was the easy part,” Vargas Llosa continues. “The really tough one is remaking the Pakistani state.”

“Pakistan’s Complicity,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (5/4/11) Spanish Translation

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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3) Talk Radio and Tornado Relief

College fraternities and sororities, church groups, and even talk-radio stations have come to the aid of those devastated by tornadoes in central Alabama last month—all “without the guidance of any central planer,” writes David Beito, a research fellow at the Independent Institute and history professor at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. College students have cooked more than 7,000 meals per day, and local churches have collected and distributed a vast range of goods, but the radio stations have provided perhaps the most fascinating example of mutual aid.

Four Tuscaloosa Clear Channel stations, employing only 12 full-time employees, have suspended their usual programming of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and top 40 songs, so that listeners may phone in their requests for aid. What happens after a call for assistance? “Fifteen minutes later, the same listener relates that 10 people showed up and offered their services,” Beito writes in the Wall Street Journal. “Churches and other groups often call in to specify a shortage of particular goods, such as bug spray and suntan lotion for volunteers, and an excess of others, such as diapers. This allows givers to tailor their donations.”

Some commodities may still be in short supply, but there is no shortage of stories that illustrate the generosity—not to mention the efficiency—of voluntary aid. Tuscaloosa Clear Channel normally caters to a white, conservative audience, but its relief efforts often serve “black and Hispanic neighborhoods like Alberta that bore the brunt of the tornado,” Beito writes. “No other radio or television stations in the community, public or private, have come close to matching this effort.” Even talk-radio listeners who are normally angered about illegal immigration have shown no hesitation to lend a helping hand to “undocumented Hispanics living in tents who were afraid to go the authorities,” Beito notes.

“Talk Radio Rides to the Rescue,” by David Beito (Wall Street Journal, 5/7/11)

“Disaster Relief as Bad Public Policy,” by William F. Shughart II (The Independent Review, Spring 2011)

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

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4) Is Steve Jobs Killing Jobs?

Last month Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) took to the House floor to protest the Apple iPad for “eliminating thousands of American jobs” related to publishing, paper production, and book retailing. The implication is that the federal government—or even iPad creator Steve Jobs himself—should have prevented the development of this new device or mitigated the enormous impact on the labor market that it has allegedly had. Jackson “manages to roll Luddism, class warfare, make-work bias, and xenophobia into a very tight and passionate two minutes,” writes Independent Institute Research Fellow Art Carden in his latest column at Forbes.com.

At root, Jackson is guilty of myopia—of noting (and exaggerating) some obvious first-order effects of technological change, but ignoring its less visible, but very real second- and third-order benefits. In the case of the iPad, these benefits arise, for example, from the increased productivity of companies that make use the device’s information-storage and appointment-management capabilities.

“When left alone, the market process opens two, three, five, or ten windows and doors for every door it closes,” writes Carden. “We don’t know exactly what these doors will be, but this is part of the wonder of the market process: when people are free to cooperate voluntarily, they are able to use their creative minds to come up with new and better ways to do things that we cannot possibly comprehend today—or that limited minds such as mine cannot begin to understand.”

“Is Steve Jobs Killing Jobs?” by Art Carden (Forbes.com, 4/21/11)

Out of Work, by Richard Vedder and Lowell Gallaway

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

The Independent Institute’s Spanish-language blog is available here.

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