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 11, Issue 21: May 26, 2009

  1. Alvaro Vargas Llosa Briefly Detained by Venezuelan Government
  2. Politicians Evade Corrective Policies for Guantanamo Detainees
  3. Stronger Legal Protections Enhance Economic Growth, Says Vargas Llosa
  4. Is the FDA Safe and Effective?
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Alvaro Vargas Llosa Briefly Detained by Venezuelan Government

Venezuelan authorities detained Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa for two to three hours Monday night, just after he flew in to the country to take part in a conference organized by a private think tank.

“They prevented me from continuing speaking on the phone, but then they released me,” Vargas Llosa is quoted as saying in a Caracas newspaper. “They told me that I have no right to make political statements, that I am here as a visitor or tourist, and that in such capacity, I am not entitled to make political comments.”

Unsurprisingly, the topic of the conference, hosted by the Center for Dissemination of Economic Knowledge for Freedom, bore on the problem at hand: free speech and democracy. One might have assumed that the Chavez administration would have avoided such an obvious target, given the electoral backlash it suffered a while back following its regulatory attack on Radio Caracas Televisión and its incitement of physical attacks against journalists.  But for Chavez, the quest more political control seems to know few limits.

If Chavez supporters doubt that the Venezuelan president is usurping free speech, perhaps they will ask Eduardo Galeano -- the author of the book Chavez pushed on President Obama last month -- to weigh in on Chavez’s policies on May 27, when Galeano addresses the New York Society for Ethical Culture.

“They told me I don't have the right to make any political comments,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (Buenos Aires Herald, 5/25/09)

“Independent Institute Fellow Victim of Chavez’s Abuses,” by Gabriel Gasave (5/26/09)

“Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa Harassed by Venezuelan Police State,” by Anthony Gregory (5/26/09)

“Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s Detention at Venezuelan Airport Is Over” (El Universal, 5/25/09)

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


2) Politicians Evade Corrective Policies for Guantanamo Detainees

When it comes to terrorism and civil liberties, Republican and Democratic politicians alike would rather obfuscate than reverse bad U.S. policies, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland. President Obama, for example, announced he will keep the constitutionally dubious military tribunals created for dealing with suspected terrorists and enemy combatants and that he may make permanent the Bush administration’s suspension of habeas corpus rights.

“All of this shows that Obama is not restoring the republic, but has adopted a policy of Bush Lite, which retains some of the unneeded and un-American Bush policies,” writes Eland. Members of Congress, he adds, have exaggerated the risk that released prisoners would continue their attacks on U.S. forces.

The best way forward, according to Eland, is to charge suspected terrorists with punishable offenses and try them in U.S. civilian courts. “If the evidence is not good enough to do so or it was obtained by torture, then we need to bite the bullet as a society and free them,” Eland continues. “In the worst case, if they commit another terrorist act, it would be bad, but not more horrible than trashing the constitutional freedoms that are the bedrock of the American republic.”

“Terrorism and Civil Liberties,” by Ivan Eland (5/26/09)

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

Ivan Eland on C-SPAN2. Interview by Rep. Ron Paul

Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, by Ivan Eland

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


3) Stronger Legal Protections Enhance Economic Growth, Says Vargas Llosa

Although the current economic malaise is hurting countries across the globe, economic recovery will be especially difficult in countries where the rule of law is weak, according to Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute’s Center on Global Prosperity. In his latest syndicated column, Vargas Llosa points to a new study that finds that the rule of law may be a better indicator of a country’s economic prospects than whether its economy is relatively open.

“In fact, the rule of law is so crucial that countries with relatively big and bureaucratic governments oftentimes do better than those with more open economies but more precarious legal safeguards,” writes Vargas Llosa in his latest syndicated column. “This is why Latin America ranks behind Central Europe and Asia, or why Uruguay and Costa Rica are ranked much higher than Mexico and Peru, where economies are more open but the rule of law is weaker.”

As to which countries will recovery more slowly because their weak legal systems will make foreign investment less attractive, Vargas Llosa says that Russia, Turkey, Argentina, Venezuela, Indonesia, and Nigeria will fare poorly. “By contrast,” he continues, “those such as Peru, Colombia, Slovenia, Qatar, Botswana, Mauritius and Kuwait in which markets and the rule of law made progress, in some cases much more than others, will probably outpace many of their neighbors.”

“A Time of Reckoning for the Poor,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (5/20/09) Spanish Translation

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

Video: “Latin America in the Post-Bush Era,” featuring Alvaro Vargas Llosa and Mark Weisbot


4) Is the FDA Safe and Effective?

We are pleased to announce the update to our mini-website, Edited by Research Director Alex Tabarrok and Research Fellow Daniel Klein, this web-based resource cites or links to numerous studies -- by academics who have subjected the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to close scrutiny -- which suggest that the FDA’s control of pharmaceuticals and medical devices imposes large and often overlooked costs that almost certainly exceed the benefits.

In other words, FDA policies may be hazardous to your health.

“A large body of academic research has investigated the FDA and with unusual consensus has reached the same conclusion,” write Tabarrok and Klein. “Drawing on this body of research, we evaluate the costs and benefits of FDA policy. We also present a detailed history of the FDA, a review of the major plans for FDA reform, a glossary of terms, a collection of quotes from economists who have studied the FDA, and a reference section with many webbed links.”

Theory, Evidence, and Examples of FDA Harm

Where Is the Market Failure Argument?

The Sensible Alternative: The Voluntary Provision of Assurance

Hazardous to Our Health? FDA Regulation of Health Care Products, edited by Robert Higgs


5) This Week in The Beacon

If you haven’t done so yet, please be sure to check out the past week’s offerings from the Independent Institute’s blog, The Beacon.


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless