The Power of Independent Thinking


Stay Connected
Get the latest updates straight to your inbox.

The Lighthouse®

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

Volume 9, Issue 3: January 15, 2007

  1. Many Apologies Owed in the Duke Lacrosse Travesty
  2. The State Lottery Scam
  3. U.S. Escalation Doomed by Shi'ite Opposition
  4. Colombia's Failing Drug War

1) Many Apologies Owed in the Duke Lacrosse Travesty

Mike Nifong, the discredited district attorney in the "rape" trial of three Duke University lacrosse players, declared after his January 2 swearing-in ceremony, "Durham [North Carolina] has some healing to do. And I need to be part of that process.... I don't feel that I'm part of the problem [of the Duke case]."

The man has no integrity. Nifong has failed to take responsibility for the shameful prosecution that won him an election -- despite the revelation that he hid potentially exculpatory evidence from the court. (The accuser dropped the rape charges last month, and the state legislature will likely examine the issue of Nifong's prosecutorial misconduct after it reconvenes later this month.) But, as Independent Institute Research Fellow Wendy McElroy explains in her latest column, Nifong is not alone in the moral-failings department: those university administrators, faculty members, and community activists who judged the defendants to be guilty -- and treated them accordingly -- before the charges were proven also owe apologies.

"Those victimized by the vigilante justice that has characterized the Duke travesty want their reputations back," writes McElroy. "Healing and restitution require three words that are next to impossible for those in political or academic power to pronounce: 'I was wrong.'"

"In Duke Rape Case, Accused Fight Back," by Wendy McElroy (1/10/07)
"En el caso de violación de la Duke University, los acusados contraatacan"

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


2) The State Lottery Scam

Public lotteries have been hailed as a way to raise funds for public works "voluntarily," as an alternative to raising taxes, but according to historian Jonathan Bean and accounting professor Donald Gribbin, state lotteries in recent decades have done little to help fiscally troubled states or to improve public services. Instead, lotteries have enabled politicians to avoid making controversial decisions on spending -- by freeing up money that formerly went to whatever cause that the new lottery revenue is allegedly "earmarked" to help fund, such as government schooling.

"Politicians use lottery revenue to replace general fund dollars previously spent on education," write Bean and Gribbin in a new op-ed based on an article published last winter in THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW. "This gimmick frees up funds for other non-educational purposes such as transportation, roads, and pork barrel spending projects."

The California Lottery Commission, for example, has raised more than $15 billion since its inception in 1985, but this has simply freed up money previously directed toward education, which can now be spent on other, often more controversial or less monitored, programs -- a variation on the classic bait-and-switch scam of confidence men. Conclude Bean and Gribbin: "If it were anyone else -- say, John Gotti -- we would put these snake oil salesmen in jail. At the very least, it is time to give the state lottery a harder look."

"The State Lottery: California Hustle," by Jonathan Bean and Donald Gribbin (1/15/07)

"Adoption of State Lotteries in the United States, with a Closer Look at Illinois," by Jonathan Bean and Donald Gribbin (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 2006)

TAXING CHOICE: The Predatory Politics of Fiscal Discrimination, ed. by William F. Shughart II


3) U.S. Escalation Doomed by Shi'ite Opposition

The Iraqi government's increasingly pro-Iranian leanings present a challenge for the U.S. mission in Iraq. The latest example: Iraq is calling for U.S. forces to release five Iranian officials captured in Iraq. However, the biggest difficulty may be Iraqi obstruction of an expected campaign for U.S. forces to subdue Iraq's Shi'ite militias, such as the Mahdi Army of Moktada al-Sadr, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland, director of the Center on Peace & Liberty.

"The Iraqi government will do everything it can to impede the entry of U.S. forces into Sadr City, because the government will fall without al-Sadr's critical support," Eland writes in his latest op-ed.

"According to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, if the Iraqi government doesn't deliver its promised troops, money for reconstruction, and progress in meeting other benchmarks, the United States might stop the month-by-month increase in troops before the 21,000 level is reached," Eland continues. "Since the Iraqi government is not enthusiastic about U.S. escalation in the first place, this U.S. threat appears to be empty. It's like threatening to withhold a kid's spoonful of castor oil if he or she fails to do homework."

"U.S. Escalation Doomed by Shi'ite Opposition," by Ivan Eland (1/15/06)
"La escalada estadounidense en Irak arruinada por la oposición chiíta"

THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland

Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, Director)


4) Colombia's Failing Drug War

The U.S.-backed war on drugs in Colombia is a failure: cocaine is abundant and relatively cheap ($8 per gram) on many of that country's street corners, drug-selling narco-terrorist organization FARC is making a comeback, and even some politicians are calling for decriminalization, according to Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director of the Independent Institute's Center on Global Prosperity.

However, unless more American policymakers begin to reconsider the drug war, Latin American governments are unlikely to experiment with decriminalization: "No Latin American government could decriminalize drugs unilaterally without incurring the fatal wrath of the United States, exposing its country to ferocious reprisals," writes Vargas Llosa in his latest column for the Washington Post Writers Group. "A recent example is former Mexican President Vicente Fox's attempt to sign into law a bill passed by Congress legalizing tiny amounts of certain drugs for personal consumption. When the seven plagues of Egypt fell upon Fox -- courtesy of Washington -- the conservative president was forced to rethink."

Vargas Llosa, who recently visited Colombia, explains that when that country began in 2002 to renew its efforts to fight coca cultivation -- spending one-third of its U.S. aid on combatting cocaine -- the number of coca plantations dropped for three years -- until growers came up with a way to thwart detection by growing on smaller plots of land. Now the drug is widely available, and the program is increasingly viewed as counterproductive. "However well meaning, the U.S. war on drugs is doing much more harm than good to Colombia, one of America’s staunchest allies in the Western Hemisphere," writes Vargas Llosa. "That is something that merits reopening the debate sooner rather than later."

"Killing Cocaine," by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (1/10/07)
"La ilusión de prohibir"

"The Secret of Worldwide Drug Prohibition: The Varieties and Uses of Drug Prohibition," by Harry G. Levine (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Fall 2002)

"People and Ecosystems in Colombia: Casualties of the Drug War," by Sarah Peterson (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 2002)

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

THE CHE GUEVARA MYTH, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director)

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


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless