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 14: April 2, 2007

  1. The European Union at Fifty
  2. Constitution’s Framers Favored Congress in Setting U.S. Foreign Policy
  3. Branch Rickey: Unsung Hero of Baseball and Civil Rights
  4. Despite His Unpopularity, Chavez’s Message Resonates

1) The European Union at Fifty

Like the Roman god Janus, the countries that constitute the European Union face two directions, argues Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Global Prosperity, in his latest column. Backward-looking countries, such as France, Germany, and Italy, helped found the EU; but their legacy also includes protectionist laws and bankrupt welfare systems that continue to create unemployment and, ironically, a disdain for the free-enterprise system, especially among the young people disproportionately made victims by those policies. In contrast, the EU’s relative latecomers—especially those from Central and Eastern Europe—have been more forward-looking—and often more welcoming of globalization and new immigrants.

“The irony of this is that immigrants, who are blamed for plundering the welfare state, are actually prolonging its inept existence because they have reduced the gap between those who contribute and those who benefit,” writes Vargas Llosa.

If Europe is to progress politically, economically, and socially, EU countries must face forward and walk unhesitatingly through the doorway to economic liberalization. “In today’s world, the only way to ensure that the European Union continues to be prosperous and peaceful is to make it as open, flexible and decentralized as possible,” Vargas Llosa continues. “This will mean being less anxious about forcing a European identity into the imagination of dissatisfied European citizens by conjuring up grandiose schemes, and being more concerned with removing the barriers that make so many youngsters unable to exercise the expanded choices that globalization has to offer.”

“Europe-Janus’ Dilemma,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (3/28/07) Spanish Translation

Center on Global Prosperity

The Che Guevara Myth, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa


2) Constitution’s Framers Favored Congress in Setting U.S. Foreign Policy

An important point has been neglected in the fuss between the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) regarding her visit to Syria: the Constitution’s framers intended that Congress be actively involved in creating U.S. foreign policy.

“In fact, suspicious of European monarchs’ propensity to fight numerous wars with the blood and treasure of their citizens, the Constitution’s framers actually gave more powers in foreign affairs to the Congress than the president,” writes Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty, in his latest op-ed. “The Congress was given the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, declare war, raise and support armies, provide and maintain a navy, regulate the armed forces, organize, arm, and discipline the militia, and call it forth to resist invasions.”

Following World War II, presidents have asserted increasing power in foreign affairs, at the expense of Congress. For its part, Congress has been a willing accomplice to this development, since it has allowed lawmakers to avoid taking responsibility for foreign-policy snafus.

“The founders would be horrified at the erosion of a major pillar of their system of checks and balances,” Eland continues. “To fulfill their constitutional responsibility as a check on the president, members of Congress do have a responsibility to be heavily involved in U.S. foreign policy.” Bush should be happy that someone in the U.S. government is willing to take the political risks to talk to the Syrians, as the bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommended.

“Kudos for Nancy Pelosi’s Visit to Syria,” by Ivan Eland (4/2/07) Spanish Translation

The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland

Center on Peace & Liberty


3) Branch Rickey: Unsung Hero of Baseball and Civil Rights

Former Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey, like the great abolitionist William Wilberforce, is one of the humble heroes of civil-rights history. His achievement—breaking down the color bar in Major League Baseball—gave us Jackie Robinson, who showed us not only athletic greatness, but also a glimpse of the greatness possible if the country would embrace freedom of opportunity. Richey was honored last weekend at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.

Rickey worked for decades to integrate baseball, leaving nothing to chance, explains Adjunct Research Fellow George W. Nicholson in a recent article. From 1903, when as a 22-year-old coach for Ohio Wesleyan University he witnessed the indignities suffered by black catcher Charley Thomas, to 1947, when Jackie Robinson played his first game in the Majors, Rickey, a man of faith and conviction, never took his eye off the prize of a racially integrated game.

“As did Wilberforce’s 1785 awakening, Rickey’s 1903 awakening drove him for the remainder of his life,” writes Nicholson. “The evils the two men despised were two sides of the same coin. Wilberforce confronted slavery, while Rickey challenged its bitter residue, Jim Crow.”

“Kindred Spirits, Humble Heroes: Branch Rickey and William Wilberforce,” by George W. Nicholson (3/28/07) Spanish Translation


4) Despite His Unpopularity, Chavez’s Message Resonates

Although Hugo Chavez is not popular in much of Latin America—the polls show him to be slightly less popular than President Bush—many Latins agree with much of what the Venezuelan president has to say, particularly his call for “social justice” to rectify the region’s long history of poverty. It’s his growing authoritarianism they don’t like.

Chavez’s message resonates partly “because it is far easier to blame the U.S. for one’s problems than to reform the traditionally unresponsive Latin culture and institutions that are responsible,” writes Independent Institute Adjunct Fellow William Ratliff, in a recent op-ed.

Latin America especially needs “vastly expanded, high quality education that promotes entrepreneurship and personal responsibility,” Ratliff continues. “It needs the creation of opportunities for all to work and grow with equal protection under the law. It needs greater pluralism, economic liberalization and truly free trade. The United States is not perfect in these areas, but it is light years ahead of Venezuela. Several Latin countries are tilting, in varying degrees, in the constructive direction: among them Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Brazil. Washington should support these countries and they in turn should join the U.S. in quietly but firmly demonstrating how free trade and markets offer a potentially productive alternative to Chavez’s scape-goating, paternalistic recipe for continuing inequality and poverty.”

“Beware Chavez’s Ancient ‘Twenty-first Century Socialism,’” by William Ratliff (3/20/07)

Spanish Translation

Liberty for Latin America, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless