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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 16, Issue 7: February 18, 2014

  1. Federal Reserve Chief: Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss
  2. International Domestic Violence Bill Is Based on Falsehood
  3. Religious Freedom: Better Achieved via Quiet Diplomacy?
  4. The Search for Liberty Begins Here
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts


1) Federal Reserve Chief: Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen, who took over from Ben Bernanke on Feb. 3, has her work cut out for her. She’s tasked with formulating monetary policies that will support a healthy recovery and avoid triggering a prolonged bout of capital-eroding inflation. The risk of serious inflation is significant because the Fed, through its program of quantitative easing, “has flooded the banks with more than $2.3 trillion in excessive reserves,” writes Independent Institute Research Fellow Burton A. Abrams, author of The Terrible 10: A Century of Economy Folly. How well does Yellen understand the risk?

Judging by remarks she made to a group of business journalists last April, the new Fed chief will continue pursuing an expansionary monetary policy even though this approach might, in her words, “result in inflation slightly and temporarily exceeding 2 percent.” The unspoken premise here is that inflation, once unleashed, can be contained with little collateral damage to the economy—“something previous chairs found impossible,” Abrams adds.

“What this all means is that Yellen likely will try boosting the economy through inflation,” Abrams continues. “If she does, she likely will learn a painful lesson: that inflation is a poor remedy for a weak economy and often leads to recession.”

Will New Fed Chief Push Inflation?, by Burton A. Abrams (The Fresno Bee, 2/11/14)

The Terrible 10: A Century of Economy Folly, by Burton A. Abrams

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2) International Domestic Violence Bill Is Based on Falsehood

Should the United States redirect foreign aid funds for the purpose of trying to reduce domestic violence against women? That’s the aim of a bill currently before Congress, the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA). Among other provisions, the legislation would fund foreign police and military training to quell male-on-female domestic violence. But according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Wendy McElroy, the Act is based on a falsehood: the notion that gender violence against males is trivial and therefore doesn’t merit official recognition.

The International Violence Against Women Act is predicated on common assumptions about the demography of gender violence. The trouble is, common assumptions are sometimes at odds with rigorous social science research. The notion that females are the main victims of domestic violence appears to be one of them. In 2006, University of New Hampshire sociologist Murray Straus reported the results of a dating-violence survey of more than 13,000 university students in 32 countries. His findings turn popular assumptions upside down: he discovered that “the most frequent pattern was mutuality in violence, i.e. both were violent, followed by ‘female-only’ violence.” This isn’t to suggest that male-on-female violence is a trivial problem unworthy of public-policy attention. But it does suggest that I-VAWA would hinder more productive approaches to combatting gender violence.

“I-VAWA,” McElroy writes, “revictimizes every male victim by denying his existence. This is another reason why I-VAWA must be rejected.”

I-VAWA’s Global Lie, by Wendy McElroy (The Hill’s Congress Blog, 2/11/14)

Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Wendy McElroy

Freedom, Feminism, and the State, edited by Wendy McElroy

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3) Religious Freedom: Better Achieved via Quiet Diplomacy?

At the annual National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month, President Obama urged North Korea and Iran to drop their prosecution of religious minorities. He cited two deplorable injustices. Kim Jong-un’s regime has sentenced a missionary, Kenneth Bae, to 15 years imprisonment; the regime of Hassan Rouhani has sentenced a pastor, Saeed Abedini, to 8 years. Both are American Christians who probably knew their proselytizing could land them in hot water. Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland doubts that President Obama did them any favors by mentioning their cases.

“Jimmy Carter found that such public pressure made autocratic regimes even more intransigent in their abuse of human rights,” Eland writes in the Huffington Post. “Perhaps here, diplomacy behind the scenes on behalf of these individuals is likely to have a better chance of gaining their release.”

Eland also takes President Obama to task for “hypocritical U.S. government support for the suppression of Muslim freedoms.” Examples include the United States backing Bahrain’s suppression of (majority) Shi-ite protestors in 2011 and tacitly accepting the Egyptian military’s ouster of the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood in 2013. “Of course, religious freedom is very desirable,” Eland continues, “but the United States should promote it by setting an example, not by preaching it to the world or worse—by coercion using economic sanctions or a military ‘crusade.’ ”

Religious Freedom – Lead by Example, by Ivan Eland (The Huffington Post, 2/10/14)

Must-reading for Presidents Day: Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, by Ivan Eland

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4) The Search for Liberty Begins Here

Will today’s high-tech entrepreneurs establish a new nation on the high seas, a “land of the free” that is beyond the grasp of any existing government? The prospect sounds intriguing but, as Independent Institute Senior Vice President Mary L. G. Theroux notes, “it is hardly in the interest of the world’s established nations to bestow recognition on a new country setting itself up in competition for the world’s entrepreneurs and taxpayers.” In fact, such a project was attempted—and quashed by government—42 years ago.

In 1970, a small group of visionaries (including investment maven John Templeton and Theroux’s father, international developer Willard Garvey) identified a piece of watery real estate they thought they could convert into a new republic. The Minerva Reef was a sunken atoll in the South Pacific, situated 200 miles from Tonga, they planned to turn into an island capable of supporting 25,000 people. Long story short, the Minerva Project was sunk two years later when project head Michael Oliver filed a “Declaration of Sovereignty” with the U.S. State Department prematurely, prompting Tonga to assert its claims to the reefs one month later. Tonga won, the Republic of Minerva lost. Fortunately, the visionaries did not give up hope completely. They decided to promote liberty on terra firma, with Templeton establishing the foundation that bears his name and Garvey supporting the Independent Institute and other pro-liberty groups.

Today’s visionaries might succeed in their effort to create new jurisdictions out of reach of the overtaxing, overregulating predatory state—but they needn’t place a low-probability bet on the ability to create a new country. “They can learn from the Minerva experiment in Willard Garvey,” Theroux writes. “And the track record of Estonia makes a case for directing support toward creating demand for a free economy at home rather than a new economy elsewhere.”

The Quest for a New Land of the Free, by Mary L. G. Theroux (The Daily Caller, 2/7/14; San Jose Mercury News, 2/10/14)

Willard Garvey: An Epic Life, by Maura McEnaney

Become an Independent Institute Member.

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

Born to Lose
K. Lloyd Billingsley (2/17/14)

Bridge Full of Troubled Water
K. Lloyd Billingsley (2/13/14)

If You Dislike Your Health Plan You Must Keep It
K. Lloyd Billingsley (2/12/14)

So They Can’t Say They Weren’t Told
Craig Eyermann (2/11/14)

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

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6) Selected News Alerts

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