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Volume 12, Issue 2: January 11, 2010

  1. Solving the Human Organ Shortage—Lessons from Abroad
  2. Cheney vs. Eisenhower
  3. More on the Flight 235 Terrorist Incident
  4. Latin America Poised for Swing to the Right?
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Solving the Human Organ Shortage—Lessons from Abroad

The United States has been slow to address the deadly shortage of human organs for transplants—a dearth that in 2008 killed nearly 5,000 Americans who needed a kidney transplant but couldn’t get one. Several other countries, however, have taken bold steps to increase the supply of transplant organs, as Independent Institute Research Director Alex Tabarrok explains in a new feature story for the Wall Street Journal.

Many countries, especially in Europe, have adopted a standard of presumed consent, allowing organs to be harvested from deceased patients unless they had stated explicitly that their organs not be used for transplants. Singapore, however, is moving toward a cash-incentive program, which will pay donors about $36,000 for an organ, as well as non-monetary incentives, such as greater access to transplant organs for those who agree to make their own organs available for transplants—what Tabarrok calls a “no give, no take” policy. Israel, too, is phasing in a no-give, no-take system—one that also rewards patients whose relatives had previously donated an organ or had offered to donate one.

Iran eliminated its organ shortage a decade ago, thanks to a program begun in 1988. The government pays organ donors $1,200, with the recipients also paying the donors (via a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization) $2,300 to $4,500. “Charitable organizations provide remuneration to donors for recipients who cannot afford to pay, thus demonstrating that Iran has something to teach the world about charity as well as about markets,” writes Tabarrok. A similar kidney-transplant payments system in the United States would be cheaper for taxpayers than the cost of dialysis covered under Medicare’s End Stage Renal Disease program, he adds.

“The Meat Market,” by Alex Tabarrok (The Wall Street Journal, 1/8/10) Spanish Translation

Entrepreneurial Economics: Bright Ideas from the Dismal Science, edited by Alex Tabarrok


2) Cheney vs. Eisenhower

In the aftermath of the bombing attempt aboard Flight 235, former Vice President Dick Cheney asked of President Obama, “Why doesn’t he admit we’re at war?” In reply, the White House stated that it has long said so.

Cheney’s partisan attack was meant to evoke the image of Obama as a “Democratic wimp”—a tactic with a long pedigree among Republicans in Washington, D.C., and one that the White House had long prepared itself to deflect. But contemporary politicians from both major parties often overlook how one Republican president in particular—Dwight Eisenhower—might have responded to terrorist attacks.

“Ike, after being subjected to the horrors of World War II, disdained and avoided unneeded military action,” writes Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty. “He would have quickly realized that the ‘war on terror’ has been counterproductive, especially the part in which the U.S. invades Muslim countries.” Eisenhower, Eland suggests, would have had the wisdom to apply a different approach from the one that George W. Bush initiated and that Barack Obama more or less continues. Writes Eland: “Using a lighter touch—intelligence, law enforcement, and maybe even a rare military strike—to counter terrorism would at least be less likely to make the problem worse.”

“Is Dick Cheney Unpatriotic?” by Ivan Eland (1/6/10) Spanish Translation

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

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

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


3) More on the Flight 235 Terrorist Incident

Did the attempted bombing of Northwestern Airlines Flight 235 on Christmas Day represent a “systemic failure,” as President Obama proclaimed? Yes, in the most obvious sense: a man who had been placed on a federal terrorism “watch list” had managed to pass through airport security, his pentaerythritol tetranitrate explosives undetected in his undergarments, and had attempted to blow up a plane.

But an assessment of “failure” is notoriously easy to make in hindsight, as Independent Institute Senior Fellow Charles Peña notes in his recent op-ed for the Baltimore Sun. Dots are readily connected after the fact, when one knows which data points were relevant and which not, but omniscience cannot be a realistic standard. Nor perhaps is a security system that intercepts every potential villain. “So the system ‘failed’ only if we expect it to be prescient and believe all risk can be eliminated,” Peña writes.

“Ultimately, what the ‘lap bomber’ incident demonstrates is that there is no such thing as perfect security, and chasing it is a Quixotic quest,” continues Peña. “Just as police forces can’t prevent all crime or catch all criminals, neither can homeland security avert all terrorism. Most importantly, just as we shouldn’t sacrifice essential freedoms to fight crime—such as probable cause and the need for a search warrant—neither should we do so for the sake of security.”

“Terror on Board,” by Charles Peña (The Baltimore Sun, 12/31/10) Spanish Translation

Video: Charles Peña on Preventing Terrorism (MSNBC, 12/31/09)

Winning the Un-War: A New Strategy for Winning the War on Terrorism, by Charles Peña


4) Latin America Poised for Swing to the Right?

Over the past decade Latin America famously migrated to the political left. Now the pendulum appears ready to swing to the right in upcoming elections in Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, and Argentina. Whether a move away from the left will result in meaningful reform or foreign-policy realignment is another question. The emerging leaders of the center-right may opt to avoid reminding the public of the corruption scandals associated with the poorly designed liberalization and privatization efforts of the 1990s. If so, they may settle for the status quo in domestic policy.

It is in the realm of foreign policy that the shift to the right may make its greatest impact, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa. A center-right victory in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina may take the wind out of the sails of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. This in turn could reduce Venezuela’s pressure on Colombia and Peru.

“Predicting anything in Latin America is mighty risky,” writes Vargas Llosa. “But if I were sitting at a desk in President Obama’s National Security Council or the State Department, I would be preparing for a strange scenario in which a left-leaning American president might find more common ground with right-leaning Latin American leaders than he has been able to find with neighbors too ready to let Venezuela—with Cuba’s help—undermine Washington’s limited engagement with the region so far.”

“Latin America’s Tilt to the Right?” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (1/6/10) 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


5) This Week in The Beacon

Visit the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language blog, El Independent. Below are the past week’s offerings from our English-language blog, The Beacon.


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless