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 10, Issue 50: December 15, 2008

  1. Bill of Rights Day and the Second Amendment
  2. Slumdog Millionaire
  3. Ignition Interlocks Would Create New Problems
  4. Counterinsurgency Lessons Aren’t Only for Battlefield Commanders
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Bill of Rights Day and the Second Amendment

December 15 marks America’s Bill of Rights Day, the anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution. To commemorate this event, the Independent Institute has created a unique and powerful way to communicate the importance of the Second Amendment for the protection of liberty. That method is the Second Amendment Book Bomb—a viral marketing campaign to promote Independent Institute Research Fellow Stephen Halbrook’s highly acclaimed book, The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms.

With your help, we can put Stephen Halbrook’s book at the top of the New York Times bestseller list. To make this happen, please pledge to buy at least one copy of the book via the Second Amendment Book Bomb website, and then spread the word to others. Let’s make this the most amazing and explosive event ever on the right to bear arms, and declare in no uncertain terms that the Second Amendment will be around for a very long time to come.

“Stephen Halbrook's The Founders' Second Amendment is first-rate work, utterly convincing. This is a solid and important work.” —Forrest McDonald, U.S. constitutional historian and author, We the People, The American Presidency, and Novus Ordo Seclorum

The Founders’ Second Amendment Book Bomb

Buy The Founders’ Second Amendment

The Founders’ Second Amendment Book Summary

“2A Today for the USA” (video – Quicktime)

“2A Today for the USA” (video – Windows Media)


2) Slumdog Millionaire

Suppose your city has been terrorized by murderous zealots, and you and your neighbors—not to mention the rest of the world—could use an uplifting reminder of life’s possibilities. Mumbai, India, is just such a city, and the movie Slumdog Millionaire—the story of a young Indian’s rise to fame and fortune on the Hindi version of the TV game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”—is just such a� reminder.

Had director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy set out to make a cliché-laden Horatio Alger–type of story—or worse, a meditation on how poverty perpetuates group despair, another cliché—the film would have been a disaster. But, as Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa explains in his latest column, that’s not the kind of movie they made. Instead, they tell a rags-to-riches story (based on Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup’s novel Q&A) in a refreshingly original way that happens to reveal a message of universal appeal.

“They simply set out to tell us, in a series of flashbacks that echo [the protagonist] Jamal’s tale of his interrogators at the police station, the experiences that have formed his identity,” writes Vargas Llosa. Jamal doesn’t complain about his initial circumstances or envy others’ good fortunes; instead, he develops his character and pursues the possibilities open to him. “Every little victory—and the final prize, which is not the money—is the result of ingenuity meeting opportunity,” continues Vargas Llosa. By telling us how Jamal got where he is, Slumdog Millionaire reminds us “that every identity is profoundly individual and that destiny is what you aim for, not what you wait for.”

“Slumdog Millionaire,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (12/10/08) Spanish Translation

Lessons from the Poor: Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa


3) Ignition Interlocks Would Create New Problems

Would electronic alcohol sensors in automobiles be a good thing? Several organizations (including the Governors Highway Safety Association and Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and states (including New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma) are considering mandating them for every car. Although that may reduce the 13,000 or so alcohol-related traffic deaths that occur on America’s roads each year, requiring them in every automobile would create new harms, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Charles Peña.

Such devices would, for instance, likely be set far below the blood-alcohol-content (BAC) limits of most states. “Twenty-four states have what is known as ‘presumptive intoxication levels,’ which means that a driver can be arrested and convicted of DUI at levels as low as 0.04 and 0.05 BAC,” writes Peña. “In all states, mandatory interlocks would be set below those levels, due to product liability concerns and variances in technology.”

Even with 99.99 percent accuracy (an unrealistically high reliability rate), the number of false positives (i.e., sober drivers incorrectly identified as drunk) could be in the tens of thousands, discouraging even safe drivers from driving when they present no extra safety risk. If you’ve enjoyed a glass of wine with your dinner during a night out with your friends, for example, and your child phones you for help, you might think twice about driving to him or her immediately. Peña therefore concludes that law enforcement officers and courts—not machines that presume all drivers are equal—are the appropriate means for fighting drunk driving.

“Ignition Interlock Is Not a Panacea,” by Charles Peña (12/1/08) Spanish Translation


4) Counterinsurgency Lessons Aren’t Only for Battlefield Commanders

General David Petraeus, the former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, learned a valuable lesson from the British counterinsurgency campaign in Malaya in the 1950s: to defeat armed rebels, you must win the hearts and minds of the people. Had that lesson been learned immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the United States would not have become embroiled in military quagmires in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Pakistan’s nukes would be less likely to fall into the hands of radical Islamists, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland.

Unfortunately, that lesson still seems lost on the Pentagon’s civilian leadership, argues Eland. Therefore, the battleground for another U.S. military quagmire is being prepared—this time in the horn of Africa. The rise of piracy off the Somali coast and the pullout of U.S.-supported Ethiopian troops from Somali lands provide convenient excuses for sending in U.S. troops to counter the threat of a radical Islamist takeover.

“Over the years, with the Bush administration being only the latest installment, the U.S. government has continued to have a tin ear toward the counterproductive effect on U.S. security of using frequent and excessive military force,” writes Eland. “One can only hope that Barack Obama will glean the lessons that Generals Templer [from Britain’s Malay campaign] and Petraeus learned on the battlefield and adopt a policy of military restraint.”

“Lessons on the Battlefield Need to Be Learned at a Higher Level,” by Ivan Eland (12/15/08)

Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, by Ivan Eland

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

Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy, by Ivan Eland


5) This Week in The Beacon

Below are the past week’s offerings from The Beacon, the web log of the Independent Institute.

Please post your comments to the blog.


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless