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 7, Issue 5: January 31, 2005

  1. Iraqi Elections Don't Guarantee Peace, Eland Argues
  2. Bush and Roosevelt: Ominous Parallels
  3. Remembering Walter Wriston
  4. Attention, Students: Summer Seminars in Political Economy

1) Iraqi Elections Don't Guarantee Peace, Eland Argues

In his latest op-ed, Ivan Eland, Senior Fellow and Director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty, weighs in on Sunday's elections in Iraq.

"Iraqis should be commended for risking their lives to vote," writes Eland. "Sadly, it may ultimately be in vain."

The problem, according to Eland, is that if the Sunnis of central Iraq are underrepresented in the new national assembly, their estrangement may translate into greater support for the insurgents.

"Merely having elections doesn't guarantee that a unified Iraq will achieve a violence-free liberal federation. If the elected Shi-ite regime governs oppressively, the Sunni rebellion will be further inflamed.... If minority rights are not honored, civil war is very likely to occur."

Also, U.S. policy in the region will contribute to continued anti-U.S. animosity, Eland argues. Although the U.S. was the driving force for the elections in Iraq, the closure of Iraqi newspapers by U.S. forces, U.S. pressure on Qatar to shut down the Al Jazerra television network, and U.S. support of such autocratic dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Pakistan contribute to the notion that U.S. policy is hypocritical, thus feeding anti-U.S. sentiment, according to Eland.

"Thus, the Iraqi elections are unlikely to have a ripple effect in a region that is already cynical about U.S. motives," writes Eland. "The overly hyped plebiscite will probably do no more to stanch the downward spiral of violence in Iraq and the deepening U.S. quagmire there than the killing of Saddam Hussein's sons, the capture of the dictator, the nominal handover of power last summer, and the recapture of Falluja. In sequence, the Bush administration propaganda machine touted them as keys to ensuring a secure and prosperous Iraq, but none of those events made it happen. The Iraqi election will probably fare no better."

See "Are Iraqi Elections a Panacea?" by Ivan Eland (1/31/05)

Also see, "The Way Out of Iraq: Decentralizing the Iraqi Government," by Ivan Eland

To purchase THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland, see

Center on Peace & Liberty


2) Bush and Roosevelt: Ominous Parallels

Although no one will ever mistake George W. Bush for Franklin D. Roosevelt, the two presidents have more in common than you might think. In his latest op-ed, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs makes the case that, despite their obvious differences, the similarities between Bush and Roosevelt are uncanny -- and a little startling.

Both Roosevelt and Bush hailed from wealthy, well-established Northeastern families and attended elite institutions of higher learning, although neither distinguished himself academically. Both leaped eagerly into political careers, having accomplished little of note in the private sector. Both have had their intellectual curiosity and candor called routinely into question more often than the norm in American politics. Both campaigned successfully as "war presidents." And both "presided over a huge spurt in the growth of government finance in substantial part by running up a debt," writes Higgs.

"Under Roosevelt, domestic spending and economic regulation mushroomed prior to the gargantuan military buildup of the war years; under Bush, domestic and military spending and regulation all have zoomed upward," Higgs continues. "Although Roosevelt's sweeping regulatory measures bulked far larger than Bush's, the current president did make the largest addition in decades to the government's welfare apparatus -- the prescription-drug benefit attached to Medicare, which is sure to exceed its already enormous cost estimates before long. Bush's spending increases have been at the fastest rate since the guns-and-butter heyday of Lyndon B. Johnson's administration, and Bush has not seen fit to veto a single spending bill, no matter how outrageously packed with pork it might be.

"No doubt other parallels might also be mentioned, but the foregoing remarks suffice to establish my main point. In government, as many commentators have noted, no failure goes unrewarded. Indeed, the greater the failure, the greater the reward. Franklin D. Roosevelt and George W. Bush exemplify in strikingly similar ways the veracity of this observation," Higgs concludes.

See "Franklin D. Roosevelt and George W. Bush: Some Unsettling Similarities," by Robert Higgs (1/23/05)

Also see, "Can Anyone Unseat F.D.R.?" by John Tierney (NEW YORK TIMES, 1/23/05) oref=login&oref=login&pagewanted=print&position

To purchase AGAINST LEVIATHAN: Government Power and a Free Society, by Robert Higgs, see


3) Remembering Walter Wriston

Like the passing of Johnny Carson last week, the death of former Citicorp chairman Walter Wriston a week earlier confirmed the end of an era, although Wriston's legacy, like Carson's, is still very much alive.

Carson set the gold standard for late-night television with his wry humor and lively interviews. Wriston, an iconoclast in an industry known better for stasis than innovation, set new industry standards as well, pioneering the development of certificates of deposit, automatic transfer machines, and loans to emerging countries.

Wriston was also a thinking man's banker -- a prophet of the information revolution, as well as a profit center for Citibank. Although he criticized as naive, those futurists who prophesized the paperless society and helicopter in every backyard, he was deeply optimistic that the new information technologies would serve the cause of freedom.

"None of us can fail to understand that information technology is changing the way we think about the power of government; about the way the world works, the way we work and, indeed, the very nature of what we call work itself. This massive upheaval in the former Soviet Union is a case in point," he told the Independent Policy Forum in 1993, in an address commemorating the publication of his book, THE TWILIGHT OF SOVEREIGNTY: How the Information Revolution Is Transforming Our World.

As if to answer those who might dismiss him as a naive optimist, he eloquently conveyed a distrust of one of our longest-lasting "institutions": government meddling in the economy. "There are many in the new Administration who long for the increased regulation of all phases of our society," he told the audience the Sheraton Palace Hotel in San Francisco. "Sometimes the concept is expressed as industrial policy, and sometimes in more primitive terms. But whichever way it is phrased, it is designed to increase the power of government, and in an economy whose products consist largely of information this power erodes rapidly."

Job well done, Mr. Wriston.

To hear Walter Wriston's talk, "The Information Revolution and the New Global Market Economy," see

To read the transcript, see

For more on innovation in the financial services industry, see MONEY AND THE NATION STATE: The Financial Revolution, Government and the World Monetary System, edited by Kevin Dowd and Richard H. Timberlake


4) Attention, Students: Summer Seminars in Political Economy

(Oakland, Calif., June 13-17 & August 8-12)

Most Americans believe in the importance of economics, but their economic understanding often falls far short of their ideals. A recent nationwide survey, for example, found that two out of three high school students (and half of all adults) surveyed failed a test on economic literacy. If the survey had asked questions on political theory and the history of liberty, would they have fared any better?

Fortunately, the Independent Institute's five-day-long Summer Seminars in Political Economy can help narrow the gap. Designed as an introduction for high school and college-age students, the Seminars help students learn what economics is, how it affects their lives, and how understanding economic principles can help them achieve the things they care about.

Led by economist Brian Gothberg, each session includes a stimulating and fun lecture on economic principles, their applications in history and current affairs, and plenty of classroom discussion to help students become more confident in communicating their ideas and values.

* Economics and liberty: How the West grew rich and politically free
* Market chaos or hidden order? How markets coordinate people's plans
* Monopoly or competition? How competition improves the quality of life
* Market failure or government failure? Inflation, recession, the environment, and government policy
* Political economy and foreign policy
* The political economy of inflation


"This is a really great program!... I really enjoyed learning about all the famous economists, their basic philosophies, and their influence on economic reasoning. Overall, an exceptional week!"

"I enjoyed reading and hearing about different economists and seeing a variety of views and beliefs.... I enjoyed having a small group, making it easier to concentrate on everyone's questions and statements, in a more comfortable atmosphere."

"I learned so much during the week about how our world works. The things I learned were interesting, and I will be able to use them for the rest of my life in all kinds of situations."

Brian Gothberg, Department of Economics and Finance, Golden Gate University; Lecturer in the History of Western Civilization, Academy of Art College

8:30 AM - 12 noon
Session A: June 13-17
Session B: August 8-12
(Register early for preferred session.)


The Independent Institute
100 Swan Way
Oakland, CA 94621-1428

For more information, see or contact Carl Close, Academic Affairs Director at the Independent Institute at [email protected] or (510) 632-1366.


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless