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The Lighthouse®

The Lighthouse® is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 10, Issue 51: December 22, 2008

  1. Bailing Out Detroit, Bailing on Principles
  2. The Future of Second Amendment Rights
  3. Latin America’s Unsustainable Spending Binge
  4. Assessing the Bush Presidency and the Obama Promises (Washington, D.C., 1/7/09)
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Bailing Out Detroit, Bailing on Principles

The prospect of Uncle Sam playing Santa Claus and fulfilling the holiday wish-lists of General Motors and Chrysler (but not Ford, which last week claimed it would fend for itself, at least in the short term) provokes nausea and revulsion in those who adhere to the economic and ethical principles of free-market capitalism. In a new op-ed, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs puts it aptly: “Wailing and gnashing of teeth are all the rage in Washington as these wannabe plunderers warn us of dire consequences unless the government acts as the middleman in their attempts to raid the taxpayers’ bank accounts.”

As bad as the special-interest pleading is, those most culpable in the bailout abomination are the elected enablers in Washington, D.C., who, after all, decide whether funds will be taken from taxpayers and diverted to corporate welfare. The guilty include not only members of Congress (e.g., Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-MI, who receives near $100,000 annually from the automakers), but also the Bush administration. White House press secretary Dana Perino last week cited the risk of a weakened and destabilized economy as justification for abandoning the principle that markets should decide the fate of private firms.

The White House is wrong on two counts, Higgs argues. First, the bankruptcy of U.S. automakers would bring about a court-facilitated restructuring of those firms—not a catastrophe to the U.S. economy. Second, if the Bush administration is prepared to abandon the free-market principle of “sink or swim,” then it didn’t really hold that maxim in the first place. “Principles are intended especially to guide our behavior in difficult circumstances,” writes Higgs. “If they don’t do so, then our proclaimed principles stand revealed as having been nothing but rhetoric in the worst sense of the word.”

“Disgusting Political Humbug,” by Robert Higgs (12/15/08) Spanish Translation

Depression, War, and Cold War: Studies in Political Economy, by Robert Higgs

Against Leviathan: Government Power and a Free Society, by Robert Higgs

The Challenge of Liberty: Classical Liberalism Today, ed. by Robert Higgs and Carl P. Close


2) The Future of Second Amendment Rights

The U.S. Supreme Court decided last June, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own and possess firearms—but don’t expect the anti-gun crowd to abandon efforts to impose onerous gun restrictions. Last week the Washington, D.C., city council gave politicians and bureaucrats new powers to regulate firearms. Among other measures, their new ordinance requires that, by 2010, gun owners make their pistols “microstamp ready” on pain of imprisonment. Moreover, the ordinance stipulates that pistols must not be considered “unsafe” according to standards set by the California legislature.

Unfortunately, President-elect Obama—who refused to join his name to an amicus brief supporting Heller (and signed by 55 senators, the senate president, and 250 representatives)—is unlikely to oppose such measures after he becomes president. According to the author of that amicus brief, Independent Institute Research Fellow Stephen Halbrook, Sen. Obama’s “voting record in the Illinois legislature and the U.S. Congress has been as hostile to American gun owners as King George III was in 1775.” (The Brits’ confiscation of firearms in colonial Boston, Halbrook reminds us in his recent book, The Founders’ Second Amendment, helped motivate both the Revolutionary War and the constitutional protection of “the right to keep and bear arms.”)

“On Bill of Rights Day, Imagine the D.C. Gun Law in 1775,” by Stephen P. Halbrook (12/15/08)

You can catch Dr. Stephen Halbrook’s interview on “The Wake Up America Show” (Break the Matrix TV) at 10-11 a.m. Eastern Time, on Wednesday, December 24!

By the way, our Second Amendment Book Bomb has resulted (so far) in 1,144 pledges to purchase Halbrook’s book. During last week’s peak, The Founders’ Second Amendment soared to the top of the bestseller list in several categories at

#1: Law
#1: Civil Rights and Liberties
#1: Constitutions
#1: Constitutional Law
#1: Revolutionary and Founding History
#12: History
#11: Professional and Technical
#26: Nonfiction (all)

Join The Second Amendment Book Bomb and Pledge Today.

Buy The Founders’ Second Amendment

The Founders’ Second Amendment Book Summary


3) Latin America’s Unsustainable Spending Binge

Many Latin American governments grossly underestimated the harm a faltering U.S. economy posed for their countries and therefore continued to spend money at high levels when they should have been saving, according Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

“Except for Chile, which managed the revenue from its copper sales prudently, many of the nations that produce oil (Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador), minerals (Brazil, Peru) or agricultural commodities (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay) went on a binge,” he writes. “They will now find themselves starved for cash at a time when they are pledging new forms of government profligacy in the face of the global recession. The temptation to fund it via inflation will be irresistible.”

Here’s another interesting by-product to the economic slump: it’s weakening the Latin American left. Hugo Chavez is having difficulty exporting his Bolivarian “revolution” around the continent now that Venezuelan crude oil is priced below $35 per barrel. Argentina’s populism is losing popularity. And strains are growing between the “carnivorous” revolutionary left and the “vegetarian” social-democratic left. For example, Venezuela and Ecuador have stopped infrastructure-loan repayments to Brazil. This friction will help isolate Chavez and his allies, Vargas Llosa predicts.

“Obama’s Latin America,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (12/17/08) 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

The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa


4) Assessing the Bush Presidency and the Obama Promises (Washington, D.C., 1/7/09)

How will future generations rank the presidency of George W. Bush? Will they view him as the worst U.S. president? What must Barack Obama do to become a great president? And what exactly is a great president? Too often, historians and others have esteemed a president for his charisma and “energy” during a crisis—even if he helped create or abet that crisis—instead of assessing his tenure in terms of fundamental principles, according to Ivan Eland, author of the provocative new book, Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty.

At this upcoming Independent Policy Forum, Dr. Eland will examine Bush’s performance—and Obama’s campaign promises and post-election statements—in terms of peace, prosperity, liberty, and adherence to the U.S. Constitution. Joining him will be Congressman Ron Paul and historian Richard Shenkman.


Ivan Eland (Senior Fellow & Director, Center on Peace & Liberty; author, Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty
Ron Paul (U.S. Congressman, R-TX)
Richard Shenkman (Editor, History News Network; author, Presidential Ambition and Legends, Lies, and Cherished Myths of American History)


Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Wine & Cheese Reception: 5:00 pm
Program: 6:00-7:00 pm
Q & A and book signing to follow


The Independent Institute
1319 Eighteenth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C.
Map and Directions

Admission is free but space is limited.

RSVP online or call 1-800-927-8733 to reserve space.

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

Praise for Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty:

“In the intriguing book, Recarving Rushmore, Ivan Eland reassesses the record of all U.S. Presidents based on the constitutional principles that each swore to uphold. While conventional accounts glorify the flagrant misdeeds of the ‘Imperial Presidency,’ this insightful and crucial book provides an inspiring vision for both conservatives and liberals on the crucial need to rein in White House power and restore peace, prosperity and liberty.”
—Ron Paul, U. S. Congressman

“Of the four presidents exalted glory on Mount Rushmore, only George Washington deserves the honor, writes Ivan Eland, whose intriguing new book is appropriately titled Recarving Rushmore. The author argues that Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt was overrated by historians and scholars; Thomas Jefferson hypocritically violated his lofty rhetoric of liberty; and Abraham Lincoln provoked a civil war that achieved far less than believed. Mr. Eland’s book profiles and ranks every U.S. president on the merits, including his oath to uphold the Constitution. Surprisingly, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter are anointed the two best modern presidents, and Bill Clinton is declared in some respects more conservative than George W. Bush.”
Washington Times


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