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The Lighthouse®

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Volume 11, Issue 9: March 2, 2009

  1. “Slumdog Millionaire” and Its Critics
  2. Obama and Defense Pork
  3. Gun Confiscation in Nazi Germany
  4. This Week in The Beacon
  5. Independent Institute Seeks Development Associate

1) “Slumdog Millionaire” and Its Critics

When “Slumdog Millionaire” won the Oscar last month for Best Picture, residents of Mumbai’s slums celebrated. In contrast, Indian activists and intellectuals who have decried the movie for its portrayal of poverty and violence and its alleged exploitation of child actors and slum dwellers lamented the victory.

Some critics even lobbed the charge of “cultural imperialism,” claiming that the movie is a flawed Western interpretation of Mumbai. This claim, however, overlooks both the film’s basic faithfulness to the novel by Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup on which it is based and Bollywood’s own tradition of uplifting stories.

Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute and editor of Lessons from the Poor: Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, defends the film from such Indian critics. “The charge that ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ exploits Mumbai’s poverty is so absurd that by the same token Charles Dickens’ entire body of work would have to be invalidated as a defamation of 19th-century England,” Vargas Llosa writes. “Like all accomplished stories, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ is probably resonating with audiences because it gives a glimpse of complex truths and tells us something about ourselves that we had trouble defining. In that sense, the Motion Picture Academy did not honor a ‘foreign’ film, but one strangely familiar.”

“Slumdog Millionaire’s Indian Critics,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (2/25/09)

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

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

Making Poor Nations Rich: Entrepreneurship and the Process of Economic Development, edited by Benjamin Powell


2) Obama and Defense Pork

If President Obama wants genuine change in the federal budget, he should look toward slashing discretionary spending, not expanding it. Defense spending, which makes up more than half of the $1.4 billion per year of discretionary spending, grew 78 percent during the Bush administration. Enacting Congressman Barney Frank’s proposal to cut defense spending by 25 percent moves us in the right direction, according to Ivan Eland, Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute.

“Because Obama has a tough row to hoe to equal his Democratic compatriots Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton at deficit reduction, he needs to start with big cuts in the defense budget,” Eland writes in a recent op-ed.

Obama’s plans to cut U.S. troops in Iraq and deploy some of them to Afghanistan are insufficient, Eland argues. Instead, he recommends that Obama withdraw promptly from Iraq and Afghanistan, vow to end using troops for policing and nation-building, and scrap the expensive plan to beef up the Army and Marine Corp by adding 92,000 troops. (Personnel costs make up two-thirds of the Pentagon’s budget.) In addition, Obama should call for each branch of the armed services to cancel unneeded or excessively expensive weapons systems, such as the Army’s Future Combat System, the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, and the Air Force’s tanker aircraft and F-22 fighter.

“Erasing Red Ink: Slash the Defense Budget,” by Ivan Eland (3/2/09)

Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, by Ivan Eland (April 2009)

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

Putting “Defense” Back in Defense Spending: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World, by Ivan Eland


3) Gun Confiscation in Nazi Germany

Independent Institute Research Fellow Stephen Halbrook, author of The Founders’ Second Amendment, has written a law-review article on the confiscation of firearms in Nazi Germany that merits much attention. “Based in large part on German archival resources, the article contributes to a neglected topic in human rights and Holocaust studies,” Halbrook writes. Former Olympic gymnast Alfred Flatow, a gold medalist at the 1896 Athens games, is one of three gun-owners profiled in the paper. Here’s an excerpt:

“Over a period of several weeks in October and November 1938, the Nazi government disarmed the German Jewish population. The process was carried out both by following a combination of legal reforms enacted by the Weimar Republic and by sheer lawless violence. The Nazi hierarchy could now more comfortably deal with the Jewish question without fear of armed resistance by the victims....

“One wonders what thoughts may have occurred to Alfred Flatow in 1942 when he was dying of starvation at the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Perhaps memories of the 1896 Olympics and of a better Germany flashed before his eyes. Did he have second thoughts, maybe repeated many times before, on whether he should have registered his revolver and two pocket pistols in 1932 as decreed by the Weimar Republic? Or whether he should have obediently surrendered them at a Berlin police station in 1938 as ordered by Nazi decree, only to be taken into Gestapo custody? We will never know, but it is difficult to imagine that he had no regrets.”

“‘Arms in the Hands of Jews Are a Danger to Public Safety’: Nazism, Firearm Registration, and the Night of the Broken Glass,” by Steven P. Halbrook (St. Thomas Law Review, 2009)

The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms, by Stephen P. Halbrook


4) This Week in The Beacon

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


5) Independent Institute Seeks Development Associate

The Independent Institute is currently seeking an energetic and detail-oriented administrator and enthusiastic communicator with a desire to advance our mission. This position reports to the Development Director, assists with the overall fundraising activities of the Institute, and administers the Independent Scholarship Fund. (Applicants, please do not reply via the Lighthouse e-mail address.)

More information


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