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 30: July 27, 2009

  1. Sudan’s Lessons for Iraq
  2. Sotomayor Out of Step with Liberal Justices, Too?
  3. Why School Competition Improves Education
  4. Zelaya’s Supporters Ignore His Violation of Honduran Constitution
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Sudan’s Lessons for Iraq

After violence erupted in Sudan last year, threatening to reignite a civil war between the Muslim Arabs of the north and the animists and Christians of the south, representatives from the opposing camps reached a settlement with the help of The Hague. That agreement offers examples that Iraqis may want to emulate in order to avert a civil war of their own, according to Ivan Eland, Senior Fellow with the Independent Institute and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty.

One lesson from Sudan stresses the importance of finding a suitable arbitrator between Iraq’s ethnic, religious and tribal groups. “A neutral mediator — the U.S. occupiers can no longer be regarded as an honest broker — should be brought in to negotiate among the Iraqi groups to create a loose confederation of autonomous regions,” writes Eland. Another lesson stresses the need for a neutral party to redraw Iraq’s internal borders in a land-for-oil swap. The new borders “don’t have to be perfect as long as they don’t strand a large minority on the other side,” Eland writes. Any proposed confederation should be submitted for approval by referendum.

“It is sad that humans sometimes cannot on their own reach the obvious solution to simply divide the spoils between the warring factions; they would instead choose decades of conflict rather than a safe and more prosperous peace — the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is another case in point,” Eland continues. “That is where neutral international mediation or arbitration can play a valuable role.”

“Lessons from Sudan for Iraq,” by Ivan Eland (7/24/09)

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

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

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


2) Sotomayor Out of Step with Liberal Justices, Too?

Although the full Senate has not yet voted on her nomination, U.S. appellate court judge Sonia Sotomayor is likely to be confirmed by a wide margin to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Many of Sotomayor’s critics argue that her views on race and sex make her unfit for the federal government’s top court, among them constitutional lawyer Don B. Kates, Jr., a Research Fellow with the Independent Institute.

“She did not simply make the self-evident point that diversity is important because judges’ opinions may be shaped by their differing backgrounds,” Kates writes in a recent op-ed. “Rather, she says the reverse — that the background of Latin females makes them better decision-makers than white male judges.”

It was Sotomayor’s earlier ruling in the New Haven, Conn., firefighter case, Ricci v. DeStefano, that the Supreme Court struck down earlier this month in a 5-4 vote. At first glance, that narrow margin would seem to suggest that the Court’s dissenters agreed with Sotomayor. But appearances can be deceiving. Digging deeper, Kates concludes that Sotomayor’s views are out of step with the Court’s liberals, as well as its conservatives. “It is true that four of the nine justices dissented in the case,” Kates continues. “But that was because they endorsed a different theory Sotomayor had not used. As to the theory Sotomayor used, all nine justices agreed that it was wrong.”

“Sonia Sotomayor Unfit for the Supreme Court,” by Don B. Kates, Jr. (San Francisco Examiner, 7/16/09)

Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader, edited by Jonathan J. Bean


3) Why School Competition Improves Education

Opening up schools to competition leads to better educational outcomes. Empirical evidence for this proposition is mounting. According to Independent Institute Adjunct Fellow Art Carden and Mike Hammock of Rhodes College, a study published last year in the Journal of Urban Economics, for example, found that Texas’s charter schools led to better academic performance.

“It wasn’t just students who attended charter schools who were better off,” write Carden and Hammock in the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “Students who remained in the traditional schools improved their test scores as well.” Why? Because when parents can pull students out of a school, the school then faces pressures to improve.

Unfortunately, lawmakers in Tennessee (and perhaps in other states) are considering legislation that would allow parents to switch their child from a traditional public school to a charter school, but only if the former were to fall short of a federal benchmark two years in a row. “This is two years too long,” write Carden and Hammock. “Parents should not need government permission to try to improve their kids’ education.”

“School Competition Begets Greater Quality,” by Art Carden and Mike Hammock (Commercial Appeal, 7/16/09)

School Choices: True and False, by John D. Merrifield

Can Teachers Own Their Own Schools? New Strategies for Educational Excellence, by Richard K. Vedder


4) Zelaya’s Supporters Ignore His Violation of Honduran Constitution

Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has only himself to blame. When he ordered a referendum on changing the terms of the presidency, he triggered Article 239 of the Constitution, thereby making his removal from office lawful. Yet somehow Zelaya’s unconstitutional transgression slipped by his loud defenders at the United Nations, the European Union, the World Bank, and especially the Organizations of American States (OAS).

“The OAS declaimed its eternal rejection of the ‘anti-democratic,’ ‘anti-constitutional’ ‘military coup’ by the new government. But it was Zelaya who was in the wrong,” writes William Ratliff, an Independent Institute Research Fellow. “The OAS diplomats can’t have it both ways — professing their unshakable dedication to national constitutions and the rule of law even as they militantly make a hero of a country’s No. 1 lawbreaker.”

This episode says much about the integrity of the OAS and its leadership. Writes Ratliff: “The OAS is indeed the Organization of American Sheep.”

“Too Much Ado Over a Non-Coup,” by William Ratliff (Los Angeles Times, 7/18/09)

William Ratliff reviews Bad Neighbor Policy: Washington’s Futile War on Drugs in Latin America by Ted Galen Carpenter (The Independent Review, Winter 2004).

Vietnam Rising: Culture and Change in Asia’s Tiger Cub, by William Ratliff


5) This Week in The Beacon

If you haven’t done so yet, please become a fan of the Independent Institute on Facebook and follow us on Twitter — and urge your friends to do so!

Here, now, are the latest offerings from our blog, The Beacon:


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless