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Monday, January 14, 2002


"Enlightening Ideas for Public Policy..."
January 14, 2002


1. The Toxic Colombian Drug War
2. NOW's Leaders Hit Ground Zero with WTC Funds Grab
3. CONNING AMERICANS: How Politicians Create Dependence on Government -- Next Independent Policy Forum (Feb. 13, 2002)



The drug war in Colombia shows all the signs of a Vietnam-type quagmire, as discussed in the December 31 issue of THE LIGHTHOUSE. Cocaine production has more than doubled in the past five years, the guerilla war has worsened, and civil liberties have been trampled by leftist insurgents, private paramilitary militias, and the Colombian military, despite $1 billion in anti-drug assistance from U.S. taxpayers.

In addition, as CBS's "60 Minutes" noted Sunday night, the U.S.-assisted aerial herbicide spraying is taking a toll on Colombians' health and ecosystems. As Sarah Peterson writes in the current issue of THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, "The consequences of Colombia's ongoing chemical-herbicide-based eradication campaign are manifold, including degradation of individual rights, environmental damage, and hazards to human health."

Glyphosate-based herbicides (the kind used in Colombia), kill coca plants, but they also kill other crops. When sprayed from airplanes (the most common method in Colombia), winds can take the herbicides 800 meters from the target, harming human and wildlife populations, and contaminating soil that otherwise could safely be used to grow alternative crops. One form of glyphosate herbicide, Monsanto's Round-Up, "is classified in the United States as a level II toxin chemical -- highly toxic -- but in Colombia it is identified as only a level IV toxin," Peterson reports. And the "inert" agents mixed with glyphosate to make it stick to plants are even more harmful.

In addition, chemical herbicide spraying has prompted farmers to cut more trees in Colombia's unique forests (Colombia, some studies indicate, has more bird species than any other country) in order to make land available for more coca farming. Perhaps the European Union parliament was onto something when it voted 474 to 1 in condemning Plan Colombia, the U.S. government's anti-drug initiative, last January.

If the "stick" of herbicide spraying is beating too much in its path, what about the "carrot" of subsidized crop substitution? Government-supported crop-substitution programs have succeeded in a few areas, but in the eyes of farmers these programs usually don't pay, according to Peterson. One study found that farmers in La Sierra, Colombia, could earn a 36 percent return on their investment by growing organic coffee, or a 59 percent return by growing coca.

Furthermore, writes Peterson, "Many participating farmers have yet to see any aid, because alternative-development funding has been tied up in administrative battles within and among government agencies and NGOs contracted to implement alternative-development projects."

See "People and Ecosystems in Colombia: Casualties of the Drug War," by Sarah Peterson (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 2002).

Also see:

"Herbicide Problems" ("60 Minutes").

"A Losing Battle in Colombia," by Ron Gurantz (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 12/15/01).

"Toxic Torts by Government," by Bruce Benson (The Independent Institute, 1996).



One sad byproduct of September 11th has been the economic and political exploitation of the terrorist bombings -- illustrated, for example, by special-interest lobbying for new government subsidies or the over use of patriotic imagery in television advertising. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised, then, to see similar pandering by cash-starved groups who believe themselves to have a "higher" agenda.

The National Organization for Women (NOW) is one such group, according to Wendy McElroy, research fellow at The Independent Institute, and editor of the forthcoming Institute book, LIBERTY FOR WOMEN.

"NOW wishes to use relief funds to promote affirmative action of women to nontraditional recovery-related jobs, such as firefighter and police officer, in which women comprise less than 25 percent of workers.... It is prepared to legally complicate and possibly delay the recovery process in order to assert its agenda."

And Representative Jane Harman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security seems eager to accommodate NOW's threat to redirect funds bound for the families of those killed by the bombings.

"Harman's version of fairness assumes that any imbalance in female to male rescue workers is proof positive of discrimination in employment process. In short, an inequality of results is said to indicate an inequality of access."

But what else might explain why so few of New York's firefighters and police officers were women? Choice.

"An imbalance in the gender of firefighters ... may indicate nothing more than the fact that women freely choose to work elsewhere. But hurling statistics and accusations are all that NOW has to offer. And why not? That approach has worked handsomely in the past."

McElroy pulls no punches in her verdict of NOW's threats to delay the disbursement of recovery funds with discrimination lawsuits.

"NOW is so desperate that, at a time of national crisis, it is willing to divert money from its intended recipients. Thousands of people died at Ground Zero. Tens of thousands more have been emotionally devastated by the tragedy. The relief funds were meant for rebuilding and healing. They were not attached to a gender agenda; they were not slated for affirmative action. The threat of tying up relief funds in discrimination suits is beyond cynical," McElroy concludes. "It is obscene."

See "Feminists Hit Ground Zero with WTC Fund Grab," by Wendy McElroy.

For more on the individualist feminist alternative to gender-feminism, see FREEDOM, FEMINISM, AND THE STATE, edited by Wendy McElroy.

For information about Wendy McElroy's forthcoming book, LIBERTY FOR WOMEN.


CONNING AMERICANS: How Politicians Create Dependence on Government -- Next Independent Policy Forum (Feb. 13, 2002)

"Dependence" on government has grown at unprecedented rates over the past 70 years. This ominous trend has coincided with the growth of centralized government power, which at its own discretion is used to regulate, manipulate, or prohibit. Driven by bipartisanship, bureaucracies, and interest groups, and accelerated by presidential ambitions, this trend has been so profound that few today can imagine life without government control.

At our next Independent Policy Forum on February 13th, economist and historian CHARLOTTE TWIGHT, a leading expert on politics and privacy, will show how special-interest politics created income-tax withholding, Social Security, Medicare, surveillance of ordinary citizens, and other linchpins of the "dependence-state," which in turn have made opposition to centralized control seemingly futile. She will then offer a strategy to reverse this trend in order to fulfill the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


-- CHARLOTTE A. TWIGHT (Professor of Economics, Boise State University) is author of DEPENDENT ON D.C.: The Rise of Federal Control Over the Lives of Ordinary Americans (St. Martin's Press)

Wednesday, February 13, 2001
Reception and book signing: 6:30 p.m.
Program: 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.

The Independent Institute Conference Center
100 Swan Way
Oakland, CA 94621-1428
Click here for a map and directions.

TICKETS: $30.00 per person: includes one copy of DEPENDENT ON D.C.: The Rise of Federal Control Over the Lives of Ordinary Americans. Admission without a book is $12 per person ($8 for Independent Institute Associate Members). Reserve tickets by calling (510) 632-1366.

Praise for Charlotte A. Twight's DEPENDENT ON D.C.: The Rise of Federal Control Over the Lives of Ordinary Americans

"Twight offers a spirited and plausible argument that will engage readers who follow Washington politics."
-- Publishers Weekly"

"If the Framers of our Constitution were alive today, they would be shocked by the loss of so many liberties they sought to guarantee for us. Professor Charlotte Twight has produced an excellent analysis of the how and why of the diminution of our liberties. She shows that today’s intrusive federal government, unthinkable to the Founders, is not some evil conspiracy but the natural result of Americans attempting to live at the expense of one another. The plain language of DEPENDENT ON D.C. and its thorough diagnosis not only puts us on alert, it might even suggest some strategies to strike at the menace of our runaway government."
-- WALTER E. WILLIAMS, John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics, George Mason University

"This book is a wake-up call to those libertarians, conservatives, and classical liberals, who, almost literally, went to sleep when the Cold War ended and socialist ideology collapsed. There has been no slacking off in the control efforts of the nanny-state, whose final aim is to make dependents of us all."
-- JAMES M. BUCHANAN, Advisory General Director of the Center for Study of Public Choice, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at George Mason University and Virginia Tech, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, 1986

"After years of combing through congressional debates, federal legislation, and Supreme Court arguments, Charlotte Twight has developed an original and striking indictment of how the federal government has made more and more Americans dependent on it and has worked to increase the costs of resistance to government expansion. Her explanation of how and why the federal government grew so large reads like a good detective story."
-- DAVID BOAZ, author of Libertarianism: A Primer

Click here for more about this event


THE LIGHTHOUSE, edited by Carl P. Close, is made possible by the generous contributions of supporters of The Independent Institute. If you enjoy THE LIGHTHOUSE, please consider making a donation to The Independent Institute. For details on the Independent Associate Membership program, see http://www.independent.org/tii/tii_info/associat.html or contact Mr. Rod Martin by phone at 510-632-1366 x114, fax to 510-568-6040, email to , or snail mail to The Independent Institute, 100 Swan Way, Oakland, CA 94621-1428. All contributions are tax-deductible. Thank you!


For previous issues of THE LIGHTHOUSE, see http://www.independent.org/tii/lighthouse/Lighthouse.html


For information on books and other publications from The Independent Institute, see http://www.independent.org/tii/pubs.html


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