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The Lighthouse®

The Lighthouse® is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 15, Issue 11: March 12, 2013

  1. Latin America after Chávez
  2. Manning Trial Underscores Obama’s Broken Promise
  3. Fire Safety Lessons from Nigeria
  4. Dennis Rodman Visits North Korea
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts

The Independent Review: Subscribe or renew today and get a free copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Crisis and Levithan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, by Robert Higgs.

1) Latin America after Chávez

When Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez succumbed to cancer last week, did his revolution die with him? Chávez’s hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, will attempt to lead the Latin American left—with the backing of Havana, which has gained huge influence in Venezuela by providing 45,000 Cuban workers to help staff Chavez’s social programs. But according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Maduro faces two major challenges: he lacks his predecessor’s charisma, and he faces stiff competition from other leaders eager to take Chávez’s place as an ideological leader.

Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner would love to lead the Latin American left. Her administration has taken the country further toward the left on matters of economic policy, and she has taken to denouncing foreign “imperialists” and making regular trips to Havana to shore up her radical bona fides. But Argentina’s constitution currently prohibits Kirchner from seeking another presidential term—an obstacle she is seeking to have amended. Evo Morales of Bolivia would also seem like a strong candidate, given the symbolism of his indigenous roots, but the movement that propelled him into office has criticized him for failing to make good on his promises of social justice. What about Rafael Correa of Ecuador? Vargas Llosa calls him “the intellectual alpha male of the pack,” but Ecuador’s diminished economic power—the country defaulted on some of its national debt in 2008—would prevent Correa from handing out favors to foreign allies in the lavish manner that Venezuela’s huge oil resources allowed Chávez to do. And as for Dilma Rousseff of Brazil—she seems more interested in reviving her country’s moribund economy than in leading the Latin American left.

“With no viable leader to take up Chávez’s mantle, the future portends disarray for the Latin American left,” Vargas Llosa writes. “Fearful that this may spell the end of the movement, there is but one miracle the left can cling to—that Chávez finds a way to rise from his...deathbed.”

The End of the Latin American Left, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (Foreign Policy, 2/7/13)

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

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


2) Manning Trial Underscores Obama’s Broken Promise

In his first run for the Oval Office, Barack Obama promised to protect government whistleblowers. Has he lived up to his word? Hardly. According to Bloomberg News, his attorney general, Eric Holder, has “prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks under than World War I−era Espionage Act than all his predecessors combined.” Particularly egregious is the administration’s persecution of Bradley Manning, the army soldier who provided WikiLeaks with documents revealing severe U.S. military malfeasance, such as the 2007 killings in Iraq made famous in a video that went viral three years ago. Manning’s recent guilty plea, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Anthony Gregory, should remind Americans not only of Obama’s broken promise to make the government more transparent and accountable, but also of the heroism of those who have risked their lives and liberties to draw attention to government misconduct.

“Many struggle to reconcile their genuine commitments to human rights with their admiration for the president,” Gregory writes. “But here no reconciliation is possible. Manning is the good guy in this whole ordeal, and his persecution at the hands of the Obama administration should be condemned as loudly as anything that happened on Bush’s watch.”

Manning, who has already served about one thousand days, could get up to 20 years in prison. A presidential pardon for him would not be unprecedented: Andrew Johnson pardoned Confederate soldiers; Warren Harding pardoned conscription foe Eugene Debs; and Jimmy Carter pardoned Vietnam War draft-dodgers. A pardon from Obama is possible, but it’s almost certainly not imminent. “A lot of things can happen,” Gregory continues, “but Manning will most likely suffer for at least the remainder of Obama’s second term.”

Obama’s Persecution of Bradley Manning, by Anthony Gregory (The Huffington Post, 3/6/13)

Video: Anthony Gregory on Rand Paul’s Senate Filibuster (3/8/13)

Video: Anthony Gregory on Independent Watch: The Bellicosity of a Democrat’s Second Term (3/4/13)


3) Fire Safety Lessons from Nigeria

No one would mistake Lagos, Nigeria, for paradise. Litter blankets the streets, blackouts occur daily, and traffic moves at a snail’s pace. Yet, in one realm chaotic Lagos performs well above average: fire safety. Despite a dearth of fire-fighting equipment, building fires are rare. Why?

Lagos’s success in fire prevention isn’t the product of strong building regulations. (Lagos effectively has none because almost no one can find where they are buried in the municipal code.) Nor is it due to the watchfulness of particularly conscientious government bureaucrats. (The city is famous for political corruption.) Instead, Lagos’s fire-safety record comes from its reliance on market alternatives and private firms, according to economics professor John M. Corbin, whose article in the winter issue of The Independent Review, “The Enterprise of Fire Safety in Lagos, Nigeria,” draws on his extensive field research, including interviews with private- and public-sector fire departments.

“The evidence from Lagos,” Corbin writes, “shows that market alternatives and private firms have been responsible for the best successes in improving building fire safety, whereas government measures to improve safety have been irrelevant or unreliable.”

The Enterprise of Fire Safety in Lagos, Nigeria, by John M. Corbin (The Independent Review, Winter 2013)

The Independent Review (Winter 2013)

Special offer: Subscribe or renew now and receive a free copy of Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government (25th Anniversary Edition), by Robert Higgs!


4) Dennis Rodman Visits North Korea

Retired basketball star Dennis Rodman raised eyebrows when he ventured to North Korea at the invitation of Kim Jong Un, but the six-foot-six Hall of Famer returned with an important message: the U.S. policy of isolating Pyongyang has done no good and should be changed. It’s an idea whose time has come, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland.

Not that the foreign-policy establishment is ready to buy it. Rodman’s appearance on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopolous” was met with predictable indignation. Stephanopolous himself characterized the visit as a propaganda coup for the oppressive and bellicose dynasty that Kim Jong Un is perpetuating, whereas “The Worm,” as he was known on the basketball court, characterized his trip as one of sports tourism undertaken for the sake of international goodwill. Might it have been both? And might Rodman, who has spent more time with Kim than has any other American, merit more respect?

Like a shy teenager, Kim asked Rodman to do him a favor: to spread the message that he wants Obama to call him. North Korea’s young dictator should be careful what he wishes for. If the United States were to reverse its policy of isolation, Kim would ultimately lose his stranglehold on the country. “Counterintuitively, the North Korean leadership probably fears this possibility the most,” Eland writes, “because new ideas creeping into the country could lead to instability or even a revolt by the populace.”

Rodmania in North Korea, by Ivan Eland (3/5/13)

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


5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

You can find the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language website here and blog here.


6) Selected News Alerts


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless