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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 13, Issue 28: July 12, 2011

  1. Mario Vargas Llosa’s Intellectual Journey
  2. More Defense Pork at the Public Trough
  3. Skewering the Left and Right
  4. Dr. Fred Singer to Discuss Global Warming at Luncheon in Oakland, Calif. (7/14/11)
  5. New Blog Posts

1) Mario Vargas Llosa’s Intellectual Journey

Mario Vargas Llosa admired the Cuban Revolution well into his writing career, but for more than two decades the 2010 Nobel laureate author has been the most famous exponent of classical liberalism in the Spanish-speaking world. Why did he forsake the radical collectivism of Che and Marx and embrace individual liberty instead?

In his autobiographical works, Vargas Llosa describes his political migration away from the left as a result of gradual disenchantment with ideology and fanaticism. He also conveys this disillusionment in his greatest political novels, The War at the End of the World (1981) and The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta (1984), explains Julio H. Cole (Francisco Marroquín University in Guatemala) in his article for the Summer 2011 issue of The Independent Review.

Both novels shed light on the nature of violent social movements in Latin America. The War at the End of the World is a fictionalized account of a real event—a peasant uprising in northeastern Brazil in the late 1800s led by a charismatic preacher—but it can also be read as “a rejection of a false dichotomy that has plagued Latin America throughout the twentieth century: revolutionary violence versus military repression,” Cole writes. “Neither of these courses of conduct, Vargas Llosa had come to believe, is the solution for Latin America’s problems.” The other novel, The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta, also deals with a real insurrection. Cole argues that it portrays the leftist cliques of Peru in the late 1950s as clueless and makes the case that revolutionary violence had been disastrous for Latin America. Both novels reflect Vargas Llosa’s close study, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, of the writings of historian of ideas Isaiah Berlin and philosopher of science Karl Popper. Vargas Llosa, according to Cole, viewed their works as antidotes to dogmatism and fanaticism, the two great enemies of liberty.

Mario Vargas Llosa: An Intellectual Journey, by Julio H. Cole (The Independent Review, Summer 2011)

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Event: A Gala for Liberty, with Mario Vargas Llosa, Lech Walesa, and Robert Higgs (San Francisco, California, 11/15/11)

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2) More Defense Pork at the Public Trough

Members of the House of Representatives have offered another display of bad faith. A report issued by the House Appropriations Committee says that a defense-spending bill up for congressional debate has no earmarks, but Independent Institute Research Fellow Winslow T. Wheeler examined the legislation and found lots of earmarks.

Wheeler, who has worked as a defense budget analyst for decades, has a sharp eye for hidden earmarks. He found a non-defense educational subsidy amounting to $20 million for Army Research and Development on page 211 of House Appropriations Committee’s report on the bill. On page 269 he found an earmark of $523 million for medical research not related to war. On page 331 he found a gigantic $1.5 billion earmark for specific National Guard and Research equipment requested by state-level Reserve component commanders. Wheeler found more earmarks, but space limitations allowed him to list only a few in his recent op-ed for the Washington Times.

The defense appropriations bill also has accounting gimmicks that make the bill look less costly. For example, it offers reduced spending estimates for operations, maintenance, and research and development—reductions supposedly based on “revised economic assumptions.” But the bill report fails to mention assumptions, the rationale for the revision, and the names of the budget analysts or lawmakers who made the revisions—probably because those who made them wished to appear to offset pork added elsewhere in the defense budget. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that detailed questions about defense earmarks will be asked when the bill goes to the floor of the House. “Instead, it’s all business as usual as the Republicans and Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee run a defense-budget operation every bit as full of pork, gimmicks and dodges as ever,” Wheeler concludes.

Defense Appropriations: Pork and Gimmicks, as Usual, by Winslow T. Wheeler (The Washington Times, 6/30/11)

Congress, the Defense Budget, and Pork: A Snout-to-Tail Description of Congress’ Foremost Concern in National Security Legislation, by Winslow T. Wheeler (Independent Policy Report, 2006)

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3) Skewering the Left and Right

Independent Institute Research Editor Anthony Gregory skewered the political left and right in two recent articles. One piece, published July 1, criticizes what he terms the “collectivist, un-American legacy” of the Pledge of Allegiance, an oath embraced especially by conservatives but crafted by a socialist in the late nineteenth century.

Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance (minus the “under God” clause) in 1892 and hoped its adoption would encourage citizens to favor the national government above the interests of the individual. “A pledge of allegiance better fits a totalitarian regime like North Korea than any nation deemed the land of the free,” Gregory writes.

The other article, published June 30, takes aim at anti-libertarian screeds emanating from the political left. Gregory notes that a recent piece on Slate.com laments the supposed ubiquitous influence of libertarianism on the contemporary American political landscape—although the same online publication declared the end of this political movement not three years earlier. The reason for the exaggerated assessments of libertarian demise or influence? Fear. “The left knows that in the very long run, libertarianism [not conservatism] really is the great philosophical adversary it must contend with,” Gregory writes. “As libertarians, our dream is more utopian and our ideals are loftier, but our understanding of reality is also much more grounded and justified. Voluntarism and the market are far more humane and productive than any coercive alternative.”

Should Patriots Love the Pledge of Allegiance?, by Anthony Gregory (7/1/11)

Why the Left Fears Libertarianism, byAnthony Gregory (6/30/11)

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4) Dr. Fred Singer to Discuss Global Warming at Luncheon in Oakland, Calif. (7/14/11)

Astrophysicist and Independent Institute Research Fellow S. Fred Singer will discuss global warming, Climategate, and public policy at a luncheon on Thursday, July 14, at the Independent Institute’s headquarters in Oakland, Calif. In his latest piece for American Thinker, Singer takes on the claim that global warming poses a threat to agriculture. Whatever challenges agriculture and food production will face in the coming decades, global warming is not one of them, Singer argues. For starters, a sustained rise in global temperatures, were it to occur, would tend to increase evaporation from the oceans and increase the total amount of global precipitation. Global warming is thus “a perfect recipe for creating more fresh water, which according to the alarmists is badly needed,” Singer writes. “Of course, we cannot be sure where this precipitation will come down—but neither can the alarmists.”

Singer offers two additional reasons why global warming would tend to boost, not reduce, food production. First, climate models predict that global temperatures will increase more at the high latitudes and rise only slightly in the tropics. If that occurs, Canada and Siberia may see an increase in crop output owing to longer growing seasons. Second, plants thrive on carbon dioxide. “Countless experiments conducted by agriculturalists in different nations have established that increased CO2 levels not only speed up plant growth, of crops and forests, but enable plants to do better under stressed conditions of drought, pollution, and attacks by insects and fungi,” Singer writes.

The outlook for food production is bright, not dim. Kenya has just dropped its ban against crops genetically engineered to better withstand pests and water shortages; hopefully other developing nations will follow suit. And as population growth slows down during the next few decades, the misguided Malthusian assumptions that underlie many counterproductive public policies will lose their influence. “There is every reason therefore to view the world food problem with optimism,” Singer concludes.

Event: Hot Talk and Cold Science of Global Warming Luncheon: After Kyoto, Climategate and the “Hockey Stick”—featuring S. Fred Singer (Oakland, Calif., 7/14/11)

Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate, by S. Fred Singer

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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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