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Volume 7, Issue 43: October 24, 2005

  1. Katrina Relief: Private vs. Public Responses
  2. Colin Powell's Former Chief of Staff Blasts Cheney-Rumsfeld "Cabal"
  3. Ibero-American Summit Leaders Inconsistent on Human Rights

1) Katrina Relief: Private vs. Public Responses

In a recent address to the Chief Executive Organization's Women's Seminar, Independent Institute Vice President Mary L. G. Theroux explained how for-profit and non-profit organizations -- from hospital company HCA, retailers Wal-Mart and Home Depot, Red Cross and the Salvation Army, and many others in the voluntary sector -- came to the aid of survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

The lesson, she argued, is that such organizations are characteristically more effective than government bureaucracies, such as FEMA, that rely on taxpayer dollars and thus need not demonstrate continued competence in order to increase their funding.

"Private organizations, whether for-profit or non-profit, perform or lose their customers or their donors," said Theroux. "When a private entity fails to deliver on its promise, or actually causes harm, it is held liable for the failure and pays the damages. When government fails, it gets a bigger budget and even more power."

Private organizations would have performed more effectively, but their efforts were initially hampered by government officials, Theroux explains:

"What is probably most inexcusable and has been kept relatively quiet is that the Red Cross and the Salvation Army were staged and ready to enter New Orleans with food, water and other emergency supplies. The roads to the Superdome and the Convention Center were open, and other areas of the city remained similarly accessible. But the Louisiana Dept. of Homeland Security denied them permission to go in, saying their presence would 'prevent people from leaving.'

"In the ultimate, horrible example of a bureaucratic Catch-22, the government kept people from leaving New Orleans, and the Dept. of Homeland Security would not let aid agencies in, saying having aid available in the city would create a magnet to keep people from leaving."

See "Public and Private Responses to Katrina: What Can We Learn?" by Mary L. G. Theroux (10/20/05)

For more on social innovation in the private sector, see THE VOLUNTARY CITY: Choice, Community, and Civil Society, ed. by David T. Beito, Peter Gordon, and Alexander Tabarrok.


2) Colin Powell's Former Chief of Staff Blasts Cheney-Rumsfeld "Cabal"

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, recently lambasted the "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal" for pressing the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In a speech last week at the New America Foundation, Wilkerson argued that, contrary to official procedures for vetting war plans within the national security apparatus, Cheney and Rumsfeld "made decisions that the bureaucracy didn't know," resulting in numerous U.S. failures in the Iraq war. Wilkerson also lauded a new book on the Iraq war, by NEW YORKER magazine reporter George Packer, which makes similar arguments.

Ivan Eland, senior fellow and director of the Center on Peace & Liberty, discusses Wilkerson's talk and Packer's book, THE ASSASSINS' GATE, in his latest op-ed.

"Although valuable for cataloging the Bush administration's bungling," writes Eland, "ihe book falters by implying that a more competent administration could have been more successful in the Herculean task of restructuring an entire society's political, economic, and social system. In other words, the author [Packer] presents an essentially Wilsonian Democratic critique of a Wilsonian Republican occupation, thus avoiding the larger question of whether such grand nation-building can ever be successful."

Eland argues that Packer notes the U.S. reluctance to suffer casualties (an aversion called "force protection") but fails to note that such reluctance weakens the ability to succeed in nation-building.

"Some U.S. officials, usually former military officials like Powell and Wilkerson who served during the Vietnam period, do evidently have some qualms about such wars of choice. It's too bad that even as civilians, they remain such good soldiers that they fail to publicly protest before American lives are endangered needlessly," Eland continues. "According to the Senate staffer, even when they do openly dissent after the fact, they 'go out of their way to blast the incompetence of the execution, while avoiding any criticism of the premise on which the whole mess was based, that is, that the U.S. has a presumptive right to invade and occupy other countries.'”

"Critics on Iraq Policy Come Out of the Woodwork Too Late," by Ivan Eland (10/24/05)

To purchase THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland, see

To purchase PUTTING "DEFENSE" BACK IN U.S. DEFENSE POLICY, by Ivan Eland, see

Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, director)


3) Ibero-American Summit Leaders Inconsistent on Human Rights

The 15th Ibero-American Summit concluded in Spain recently with an official statement condemning U.S. sanctions -- which it termed a "blockade" -- against Cuba. Cuban critics responded by "denouncing Castro's human rights violations and the summit's failure to address this question," writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa in his latest op-ed.

Human-rights statements are often politicized because liberty itself is controversial -- and seldom embraced consistently, explains Vargas Llosa, who also runs the Institute's Center on Global Prosperity.

"The left, as we have seen in Spain's summit, continues to decry the embargo against Cuba and calls it 'a blockade,' and yet that same left was at the forefront of the calls for sanctions against Pinochet."

Vargas Llosa condemns the double standard of much of the left and the right: "If you think individual liberty is paramount, you do not justify Castro's human rights violations on the grounds that U.S. foreign policy against Havana is unjust, and you do not justify Pinochet's elimination of 3,000 Chileans on the grounds that his free-market policies were ultimately beneficial for the country."

With regard to the U.S. "blockade," Adjunct Fellow Carlos Sabino makes the following observation: "While it is true that Cuba has borne that embargo (maybe useless or counterproductive) for a long time, the truth -- as big as a cathedral -- is that Cuba is perfectly free to trade with the rest of the entire world, as it doubtless does.... The Cuban government has been shrewd enough to take advantage of this circumstance, denouncing the embargo as the main cause of the abysmal backwardness and poverty in which Cuba's inhabitants live.... If trade brings so much benefit, why not allow Cubans to trade freely among themselves?"

See "Human Rights, Revisited," by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (10/20/05)
"Derechos Humanos"

"Blockades, Embargoes and Lies," by Carlos Sabino (10/24/05)

For information about LIBERTY FOR LATIN AMERICA: How to Undo Five-Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director)


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