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Volume 7, Issue 50: December 12, 2005

  1. Shi'ite Victories in Iraq Could Hasten Civil War
  2. PBS Probes Biased Film
  3. Lessons from Central Europe
  4. The Independent Review

1) Shi'ite Victories in Iraq Could Hasten Civil War

The most influential cleric in Iraq, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistanti, recently asked his fellow Shi'a to cast their votes this week for representatives of the Shi'ite religious groups currently controlling Iraq's interim government. If Shi'ite religious groups win big in this week's elections, a civil war would become significantly more likely, argues Ivan Eland, senior fellow and director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty.

"A permanent Shi'ite-Kurdish government may prove even more intransigent than the interim government in addressing Sunni concerns about being cut out of Iraq's oil revenues -- thus accelerating the incipient civil war in that nation," writes Eland in his latest op-ed.

Iraq's Shi'ite religious parties are heavily influenced and funded by Iran. Promoting democratic elections in Iraq thus "amount to letting U.S. soldiers die to make the world safe for theocracy," Eland writes.

To stave off a civil war, Eland urges U.S. policy-makers to announce a withdrawal of U.S. troops from in Iraq. Doing so, Eland argues, would increase the incentive for Iraq's Shi'ite-Kurdish government to reach a meaningful decision on the sharing of oil revenues with Sunnis.

"The administration has dug itself so deeply into the Iraqi hole that no perfect solution exists to avoid the impending civil war. But this solution at least stops the digging and begins filling in some dirt," Eland concludes.

See "Making the World Safe for Theocracy," by Ivan Eland (12/12/05)
"Volviendo al Mundo Seguro Para la Teocracia"

"The Way Out of Iraq: Decentralizing the Iraqi Government," by Ivan Eland

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)


2) PBS Probes Biased Film

Did the Public Broadcasting Service participate in an illegal campaign to change child-custody laws?

After viewer complaints about "Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories" -- a documentary that claims, falsely, that U.S. divorce courts routinely award custody of children to abusive fathers over the objection of the mothers -- the ombudsman of PBS's overseer, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, released a report claiming that the documentary was "slanted" and had "no hint of balance."

Research Fellow Wendy McElroy suggests in a recent op-ed that the documentary's biases may have resulted from efforts to drive public policy, which would have violated PBS's charter. The documentary, McElroy notes, portrayed one mother of a child custody battle as a heroic mom and victim of domestic abuse. But according to the father, who was awarded custody, the documentary makers made no mention of the evidence he provided them -- six months before the film aired -- of the mother's multiple acts of child abuse.

"The depth of PBS' (or its affiliates') involvement in partisan politics may be difficult to judge," writes McElroy. "An internal PBS memo recently leaked and circulated on the Internet instructs PBS affiliates on how to stonewall those who call or email in protest. PBS' final review of the documentary is still pending, but the memo is hardly a propitious sign."

"PBS Continues Probe into Biased Film," by Wendy McElroy (12/7/05)
"La Televisión Pública y un Film Parcial"

For more by Wendy McElroy, see

To purchase LIBERTY FOR WOMEN: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century," ed. by Wendy McElroy, see


3) Lessons from Central Europe

A new report on the economies of central Europe, published by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, offers four important lessons applicable to Africa and Latin America, according to Alvaro Vargas Llosa, senior fellow and director of the Independent Institute's Center on Global Prosperity.

Lesson 1: Free markets spur growth. Romania and Slovakia were economic underdogs when the Iron Curtain fell, but they've taken bold steps that have spurred economic growth. Romania has slashed taxes (and adopted a 16 percent flat tax), deregulated its labor markets, and privatized the government-owned steel company, among others. Slovakia is doing a better job at protecting property rights (and consequently is growing faster) than the Czech Republic.

Lesson 2: Eliminating trade barriers especially spurs growth. Estonia has grown 7 to 8 percent annually after unilaterally eliminating all its tariffs. Its exports now constitute about 80 percent of its GDP.

Lesson 3: Comprehensive reforms beat piecemeal reforms. "It's no use opening trade -- that is, removing external barriers -- if you don't also remove internal impediments to enterprise and exchange," writes Vargas Llosa, citing the superior economic performance of the Baltic states.

Lesson 4: Free and flexible labor markets are essential. "Whereas Hungary, which has a reasonably free labor market, has virtually eliminated poverty altogether in the last 15 years, Poland, where high payroll taxes, a high minimum wage, and restrictive policies on hiring and firing have slowed the creation of new jobs, has only 51 percent of the working-age population employed."

Concludes Vargas Llosa: "Thanks to bold reform, ex-communist countries have taken some 40 million people out of poverty in the last seven years. It is easy to forget that only one generation ago these republics were in the hands of regimes that had obliterated the institutional foundations of the free society."

See "Lessons From Central Europe," by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (12/8/05)
"Lecciones de la Europa liberal"

To pre-order THE CHE GUEVARA MYTH AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERTY, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (Jan./Feb. 2006), see

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)

Spanish-language Blog:
El Independent: El Blog del Centro Para la Prosperidad Global de The Independent Institute


4) The Independent Review

We are pleased to announce the publication of the Winter 2006 issue of THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, the Independent Institute's quarterly journal of political economy.

This issue's articles and review essays address the following questions:

* What's wrong with medical science's definition of "disease"?

* How can the standard economic theory of monopoly best be made more realistic?

* How well have state lotteries met the purported goals of their advocates?

* What does the archeological record of the Harappa civilization suggest about the historical role of coercive government?

* If money can't buy happiness for the long term, what psychological values can it help secure?

* How well does Francis Wayland's contribution to political economy hold up 170 years later?

* How can the World Bank, the UN Development Program, and other donor organizations be made more transparent and accountable?

* What, if anything, has just war theory contributed to government policies in the post-9/11 era?

* How did the structure of Russia's privatization program contribute to the anti-reform backlash?

* How do governments use fear to keep themselves in power?

Books reviews:

ON ADAM SMITH'S "WEALTH OF NATIONS": A Philosophical Companion, by Samuel Fleischacker

BANANAS AND BUSINESS: The United Fruit Company in Columbia, 1899-2000, by Marcelo Bucheli

AMERICA THE VIRTUOUS: The Crisis of Democracy and the Quest for Empire, by Claes G. Ryn

THE NEW AMERICAN MILITARISM: How Americans Are Seduced by War, by Andrew J. Bacevich

DEMOCRACY AND POPULISM: Fear and Hatred, by John Lukacs


Thomas Szasz, Stephen Shmanske, Donald W. Gribbin, Jonathan J. Bean, Thomas J. Thompson, Dwight R. Lee, Laurence M. Vance, Salim Rashid, Laurie Calhoun, Yuri Maltsev, James R. Otteson, Carlos Sabino, Edward A. Olsen, Jude Blanchette, Christopher Preble, Robert Higgs

Selected articles and book reviews from this issue are available at:

And copies of the Winter 2006 issue, as well as subscriptions and back issues, may be ordered at:

We hope that you will find this and other issues of THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW useful and enjoyable in your own teaching, research, and writing. You can also review back issues at:


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