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Volume 11, Issue 34: August 24, 2009

  1. “Small Government” and the Economic Mess
  2. American Catholics and Civil Rights
  3. Oil Tyrants’ Fortunes Likely to Rebound
  4. The Independent Review: Announcing the Summer 2009 Issue
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) “Small Government” and the Economic Mess

You can find anything on the Internet. In a recent online commentary, for example, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs found the following odd question: “How did the politics of small government lead to big government bailouts?”

“This,” Higgs replies, “is akin to asking, How did the extinction of the elephants lead to Barack Obama’s election as president? If you make a claim of the form ‘A caused B,’ but A never happened, then you are wasting your time by delving into the historical details of this bogus relationship. Yet we continue to see one example after another of what suspicious readers may be tempted to view as the Big Lie that deregulation or other obliging government measures caused the present economic mess.”

The assumption that stricter financial regulations would have prevented the current mess, Higgs notes, overlooks that fact that regulators had already possessed enormous powers. What specific powers did they lack? And why should we think that the regulators would have possessed strong incentives to exercise those powers prudently, especially given their dismal record in setting the stage for the economic meltdown? Writes Higgs: “This faith in the regulators is touching, to be sure, but it is also extremely naïve.”

“Small Government Caused Our Current Problems?” by Robert Higgs (8/21/09)

Depression, War, and Cold War: Challenging the Myths of Conflict and Prosperity, by Robert Higgs


2) American Catholics and Civil Rights

Independent Institute Research Fellow Jonathan J. Bean writes in Ignatius Insight: “My new book, Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader...emphasizes the role of Christianity (and Judaism) in the classic tradition of civil rights. This ‘classical liberal’ tradition is neither Left nor Right but was deeply influenced by Judeo-Christian notions of natural law. Naturally, Catholics played a role in upholding the ‘natural rights’ of men and women.”

Bean notes, for example, that the Catholic Church married interracial couples many years before the Supreme Court ruled in 1967 that anti-miscegenation laws are unconstitutional. Forty years earlier, in Buck v. Bell, the sole Catholic Supreme Court Justice at the time, Pierce Butler, broke with a majority of the Court when it upheld the practice of forced sterilization of those deemed cognitively deficient. Bean’s book abounds with similar examples of Catholics leading the way in the struggle for civil rights.

“In a word, Catholics were at the center of many civil rights struggles, including the struggle to be recognized as equal to other Americans,” writes Bean. “With the help of classical liberalism, they secured their rights to free association (schools) and all the ‘privileges and immunities’ of citizenship. In turn, they fought for the ‘natural’ right to marry whomever we please by drawing upon natural law—a doctrine rooted in Catholic thought.”

“Catholics, Civil Rights, and the Holy Name,” by Jonathan Bean (Ignatius Insight, 8/17/09)

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


3) Oil Tyrants’ Fortunes Likely to Rebound

Until the economic recession spread across the world, oil prices had been soaring—and in the process enriching oil tyrants such as Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Hugo Chavez. A silver lining of the recession, some pundits prophesied, was that it would jeopardize the rule of autocrats by slashing their oil revenue. What happened?

Although no oil tyrants were overthrown, the fall in the price of their top exports may have helped to check their power, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa. Oil prices appear to be rebounding, however. Also, Western governments are inflating their currencies, which will eventually further enrich the oil tyrants.

Vargas Llosa concludes: “The realities of the market, and probably the expectation of inflation caused by the printing of money in the United States and the rest of the world during the current recession, virtually guarantee that oil tyrannies in the Middle East, Eurasia and Latin America will continue to enjoy big revenues. Those seeking to topple them will need to take into account this sobering fact when putting together their strategies.”

“The Tyranny of Oil,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (8/19/09) Spanish Translation

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

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

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


4) The Independent Review: Announcing the Summer 2009 Issue

Edited by Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs, The Independent Review continues its tradition of publishing path-breaking articles about political thought, economic history, and public policy. Here are some questions examined in our summer issue:

  • Why can’t F. A. Hayek’s concept of “spontaneous order” provide much normative guidance to judges and legislatures?
  • Why have the more than $105 billion in development aid given to the world’s worst dictatorships yielded no meaningful progress? Read the article. (PDF)
  • What structural feature underlies the worst problems of the U.S. health care system? Read the article. (PDF)
  • Why were slave families in the antebellum South broken up when doing so increased the likelihood of runaways?
  • Why does Latin America have high levels of entrepreneurship but only mediocre rates of economic growth?
  • How might opening the U.S.-Mexico border reduce the solvency problems facing Social Security and Medicare? Read the article. (PDF)
  • What recent book provides a sophisticated picture of how various human foibles can cause economic bubbles, crashes, and recessions, but maintains a naïve perspective on the way humans behave in the context of government?
  • What myths about the U.S. economy does a study of the number of hours that Americans worked during the Great Depression and World War II refute? Read the article. (PDF)

Books reviewed:

  • The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom, by Robert A. Levy and William Mellor. Read the Review.
  • The Cult of the Presidency, by Gene Healy. Read the Review.
  • Montessori, Dewey, and Capitalism: Educational Theory for a Free Market in Education, by Jerry Kirkpatrick. Read the Review.


Timothy Sandefur, Christopher J. Coyne, Matt E. Ryan, Charles Kroncke, Ronald F. White, Mark Thornton, Mark A. Yanochik, Bradley T. Ewing, Christián Larroulet, Juan Pablo Couyoumdjian, Jacques Delacroix, Sergey Nikiforov, Arnold Kling, Robert Higgs, James W. Ely Jr., Ryan W. McMaken, Jane S. Shaw

Table of Contents

Purchase this issue.


Recommend The Independent Review to your library!


5) This Week in The Beacon

Below are links to the past week’s postings to our blog, The Beacon.


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless