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The Main Blog of Independent Institute

Community, True and False
Monday March 18, 2019 | Robert Higgs

Leftists affect to love the community. When they make or support a political proposal, they are likely to say that it is for the community, that it is what the community wants. In discussions with such people, I find that they think I’m crazy for challenging their conception of community and what promotes the society’s peace, prosperity, and good order. They take me to be some sort of rugged individualist, the sort of character Ayn Rand might relish. They’re wrong about me. I place a high value on community, and I feel sorry for people who have no membership in one. But I distinguish true community and false community. The line that separates them is the locus of points at which people bring government compulsion to bear to compel those who disagree with them to fall into line or suffer punishment. This is the line that separates those who recognize and respect everyone’s natural rights and those who do not. True communities form spontaneously and function voluntarily. False communities represent groups of people who use political means to victimize those outside the group and violate their natural rights. True communities have no need for cops; false communities cannot get by without them. False communities are more accurately described as political factions.

Captive State Probes Depths of Despair Under Oppression
Monday March 18, 2019 | Samuel R. Staley

When working at their highest level, science fiction movies provoke and engage in ideas fundamental to human existence. Because these artistic works are often dealing with alien and extraterrestrial experiences, they often probe the depths of human psychology, social psychology, and emotional trauma, testing the limits of the human experience. The recently released movie Captive State falls into this genre of science fiction, and those interested in themes focused on freedom and personal identity should find it a satisfying addition to pro-liberty filmmaking. The movie opens nine years after first contact from an alien race in Chicago. Facing annihilation, humans have capitulated to the aliens. Weapons and other means of rebellion have been confiscated. National defense forces have been demilitarized. Humans are watched and scanned in order to ensure compliance that “preserves order” and “protects” their safety. The aliens have set up puppet governments run by humans to keep this order and purge resistance. (more…)

Bureaucrats Licensed to Spend Your Tax Dollars
Monday March 18, 2019 | Craig Eyermann

Every September, as the end of the U.S. government’s fiscal year draws near, thousands of federal bureaucrats go on a massive spending bender, lest they risk having their future budgets cut in the next year because they didn’t spend all the money they could have in the current year. According to fiscal policy watchdog OpenTheBooks, federal bureaucrats spent $97 billion in a single month to close out the U.S. government’s 2018 fiscal year, setting a new record for their annual spending binge. Here are some selected lowlights from their report, The Federal Government’s Use-it-or-Lose-it Spending Spree: (more…)

National Emergencies Act: Flawed from the Beginning
Sunday March 17, 2019 | William J. Watkins, Jr.

There has been much debate about President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on our southern border. Critics complain either that no real emergency exists and/or that Trump’s actions are unconstitutional. Too often, how one feels about the issue of immigration shades one’s view of the declaration. Open borders advocates detest it and condemn the declaration, but those in favor of less immigration generally like it. No matter where one comes down on this immigration issue, anyone holding any loyalty to our written Constitution should decry the National Emergencies Act itself. In declaring the emergency, Trump specifically relied on “sections 201 and 301 of the National Emergencies Act.” In 1976, Congress granted to the president the authority to declare an emergency and to invoke “special or extraordinary power[s].” (more…)

Gov. Newsom Grants a Mass Reprieve for Death Row Inmates
Friday March 15, 2019 | K. Lloyd Billingsley

As California voters may recall, in 2016 they rejected Proposition 62, which would have eliminated the death penalty, and approved Proposition 66, which speeded up the process for executions. As Lt. Governor, Gavin Newsom said he would abide by the will of the voters. But as governor, he has trampled the will of the voters by reprieving 737 convicted murders awaiting execution on death row, explaining to the public that some might be innocent. This gives Californians good cause for bewilderment. Governor Newsom is not an attorney and not a judge. He did not attend the trials and produced no new exculpatory evidence in any of the cases. Yet, the governor remains certain that some of the duly convicted murderers, who have exhausted all appeals, are innocent, and he called off executions for the whole lot. On the other hand, this former San Francisco mayor kept rather quiet about the victims of those murderers, such as 12-year-old Polly Klaas. As it happens, confusion between guilt and innocence is not a new development in the Golden State. (more…)

Resurgent Thomas Sowell Weighs In on Socialism, Venezuela
Thursday March 14, 2019 | K. Lloyd Billingsley

In 2016, Hoover Institution economist Thomas Sowell, 86, decided to give up his nationally syndicated column and “spend less time following politics and more time on my photography.” Sowell practically dropped out of sight, but recently decided to speak out on an idea that was troubling him. “Socialism is a wonderful sounding idea,” Sowell recently told Fox Business. “It’s only as a reality that it’s disastrous,” and the difference was on display close at hand. “When you see people starving in Venezuela and fleeing in the neighboring countries and realize that this is a country that once had the world’s largest oil reserves, you realize that they’ve ruined a really good prospect with ideas that sounded good but didn’t turn out well.” (more…)

FDA Wants More Sunscreen Regulations, but Would Consumers Get Burned?
Thursday March 14, 2019 | Raymond J. March

Although many consumers and dermatologists are satisfied with the quality and safety of current sunscreens, sweeping changes may soon be coming. The Food and Drug Administration recently proposed a variety of new heavy-handed regulations for over-the-counter sunscreen. The regulations getting the most media attention involve sixteen ingredients common in sunscreen products. According to the new guidelines, many of these ingredients have “insufficient data to decide on safety,” requiring manufacturers to undertake additional tests and submit their products for FDA approval. The proposal is currently under discussion and taking comments from the public. By requiring sunscreen to undergo additional tests and earn FDA approval, the agency hopes to incorporate current scientific knowledge into supposedly outdated standards. As FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated in a news release, the agency’s proposal “is an important step in the FDA’s ongoing efforts to take into account modern science to ensure the safety and effectiveness of sunscreens.” (more…)

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