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

Volume 7, Issue 16: April 18, 2005

  1. Bad Priorities Plague Homeland Security Department
  2. Wealth Creation, Not Redistribution, Required to End Poverty
  3. Free Speech Served Better by Private Property

1) Bad Priorities Plague Homeland Security Department

In his testimony before Congress, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff admitted that his agency has serious problems in gathering, analyzing, and sharing intelligence -- weaknesses that make Americans more vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

According to Ivan Eland, senior fellow and director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty, the root cause of Homeland Security's poor performance is its poor incentive structure. The agency devotes too much of its resources to preparing for responses to terrorist attacks and devoting too little on preventing them, Eland argues. The reason is largely political: constituents for terrorism-response have a stronger lobby, one that includes local hospitals, paramedics, and fire departments in cities across the country.

"The result has been a Homeland Security budget that distributes spending around the country rather than concentrates it in the few large American cities that might actually be the targets of terrorism," Eland writes in his latest op-ed.

Because Congress can control a sizable portion of the budgets of these "first responders," Congress itself bears much of the blame for the agency's poor performance in terrorism prevention. And although Congress may review proposals aimed at distributing Homeland Security funding on the basis of risk -- Representative Christopher Cox has introduced a bill in the House which would attempt to do this -- it is difficult to imagine how political considerations could be eliminated from the agency's spending priorities.

Furthermore, effectively managing a sprawling agency comprised of what were once 22 separate agencies is an inherently daunting task, Eland notes, especially when America's worst foe "is no longer an equally ponderous foreign government, but small, agile terrorist cells that can run circles around large security agencies."

"Sadly, although the new Homeland Security chief has pledged to reform the badly performing department, he and his congressional overseers probably don't have the incentives to do so," Eland concludes.

See "Reform of the Homeland Security Department Is Unlikely," by Ivan Eland (4/18/05)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1497

To purchase THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland, see
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=54

To purchase PUTTING "DEFENSE" BACK IN U.S. DEFENSE POLICY, by Ivan Eland, see
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=19

"The Way Out of Iraq: Decentralizing the Iraqi Government," by Ivan Eland
http://www.independent.org/publications/policy_reports/detail.asp?type=full&id=16

Center on Peace & Liberty
http://www.independent.org/research/copal/

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2) Wealth Creation, Not Redistribution, Required to End Poverty

The World Social Forum (WSF) meetings in Porto Alegre, Brazil, last January brought together nearly 130,000 people to hear more than 350 policy proposals about subjects as diverse as hunger, weapons proliferation, child abuse, and "globalization" in the developing world.

Yet although the meetings' attendees fancied themselves as cutting-edge humanitarians fighting the good fight against poverty and injustice, their proposals have little chance of improving the everyday lives of the poor and disenfranchised because the WSF participants failed to challenge the root causes of underdevelopment and social marginalization, according to Independent Institute Research Analyst Gabriel Gasave.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, for example, said nothing about the government restrictions and political cronyism that hamper local entrepreneurs. Instead, he reaffirmed his administration's intention "to size three million hectares of land this year -- about 3.4 percent of the area of Venezuela -- to give to poor farmers, illustrating a deep antipathy toward property rights characteristic of many of today's reformers," writes Gasave in a new op-ed.

Gasave also points out that poor countries benefit greatly from enacting policies that protect real property rights for the public at large (as opposed to political cronyism), and free up entrepreneurs to produce goods and services for their customers. "From 1980 to 2000, poor countries whose economies were relatively free of government interference had economic growth rates of 5.2 percent per year, compared to 3.4 percent for all economically free countries," writes Gasave.

"But prosperity cannot be created if would-be reforms attack wealth creation by offering the false promise of wealth redistribution," Gasave continues. "Nineteenth-century French economist Frederic Bastiat aptly called such foolishness 'legal plunder'.... Bastiat observed a simple truth that countless 'reformers' have overlooked: wealth is not static or fixed in quantity, nor does it fall from heaven; it is created day by day through profit-seeking production and voluntary exchange, by the offering of better and cheaper goods and services to our fellow man.

"For that reason we could say that those who participated in the latest World Social Forum represent countries underdeveloped by their own hand, because they used all the tools of the State available to them to hinder and prevent the indispensable process of capital accumulation and wealth creation. Although the anti-globalization activists may wish to ignore the unintended consequences of the policies they advocate, they do so at great cost: the redistributionist boomerangs they throw always return to hit them -- or at least hit those they intend to help."

See "The Impossible World of the World Social Forum," by Gabriel Gasave (4/18/05)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1496
SPANISH TRANSLATION:
http://www.elindependent.org/articulos/article.asp?id=1496

For the Independent Institute's Spanish-language archives (which includes nearly 500 translated articles), please see
http://www.elindependent.org/

For more on Latin America, see LIBERTY FOR LATIN AMERICA: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=55

PUBLIC APPEARANCE: On Saturday, April 23rd, Alvaro Vargas Llosa will be signing books at the LOS ANGELES TIMES Festival of Books, 202 West First Street, Los Angeles, Calif., 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

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3) Free Speech Served Better by Private Property

After a University of New Hampshire (UNH) feminist student group recently told conservative student reporter David Huffman that he must leave their on-campus "Patriarchy Slam" -- reportedly telling him it was because he was a conservative male -- school officials scolded the university-funded group.

But regardless of whether or not the university censured the student group, cases like this illustrate an inherent clash between free speech and taxpayer-funded venues for controversial ideas, according to Wendy McElroy, research fellow at the Independent Institute and editor of LIBERTY FOR WOMEN: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-first Century.

Unlike at private venues, where the property owner determines what kind of speech and assembly is allowable, policies at taxpayer-funded universities are tricky because free speech at such venues often comes with implied strings attached or with subtle forms of political favoritism. Public universities such as UNH ostensibly attempt to censure the expression of speech deemed discriminatory or offensive -- so called "hate speech" -- but "this often means nothing more than speech of which they do not approve," writes McElroy in a recent op-ed.

"In short, even if unlimited access to scarce podiums were possible, the authorities would not permit it. This is the contradiction inherent in trying to reconcile the terms 'free speech' and 'tax funding,'" writes McElroy.

"The solution is simple: privatize. Just as Huffman's conservative paper is privately funded so, too, should scissor-wielding feminists be forced to finance their own pro-castration agenda. That would be freedom of speech. That would constitute the exercise of First Amendment rights."

"On Campus, Free Speech at Odds With Tax Funding," by Wendy McElroy (4/6/05) http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1493
SPANISH TRANSLATION:
http://www.elindependent.org/articulos/article.asp?id=1493

RESTORING FREE SPEECH AND LIBERTY ON CAMPUS, by Donald A. Downs
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=57

LIBERTY FOR WOMEN: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-first Century, ed. by Wendy McElroy, see:
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=43

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