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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
Subscribe now, or browse Back Issues.

Volume 16, Issue 18: May 6, 2014

  1. Ron Paul on the Future of Liberty
  2. Licensed to Kill Jobs
  3. We Have Charter Schools, So Why Not Charter Forests?
  4. The IRS’s Growing Reach
  5. Ivan Eland to Debate Foreign-Policy Fundamentals (Washington, DC, 5/6/14)
  6. New Blog Posts
  7. Selected News Alerts


1) Ron Paul on the Future of Liberty

In his brilliant book The Decline of American Liberalism, renowned historian Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr., warned that individual freedom faces threats from nationalism, war, and the concentration of power in the modern state and its corporate adjuncts—what today might be called “crony capitalists” or, more accurately, government-subsidized profiteers who oppose genuine, free-market capitalism. Ekirch penned his treatise almost 60 years ago, but his insights are still true and timely. Former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul shed additional light on the threats to our freedom in his April 9 appearance at Cal State University, East Bay, “Defining Liberty: The Future of Freedom.” A video of this event is now posted on the Independent Institute’s website.

Dr. Paul—an OB/GYN who has delivered more than 4,000 babies—showed why he has little in common with career politicians, even though he served in the House of Representatives for twelve terms. The reason is that he’s not afraid to criticize members of his own party—even denounce them—whenever they put politics above principle. In fact, he argued, it is the Republicans’ and Democrats’ deviations from the principle of individual liberty that has given us the NSA surveillance scandal, the Drug War, the Federal Reserve and its history of inflation and recession, and a foreign policy of unnecessary wars and military adventures. The government’s demonization of whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and former CIA officer John Kiriakou is directly related to an aggressive foreign policy. “Truth is treason in an empire of lies,” he said.

Dr. Paul was equally articulate in spelling out the case for freedom. “Liberty guarantees that you have a right to your life . . . and you ought to have a right to keep the fruits of your labor, which means that you do what you want and bear the responsibilities. If you do well, the government shouldn’t come and take it from you. . . . But if you don’t do well, you don’t have the right to go to your neighbor through your government and demand that you be taken care of because you didn’t do the right thing.”

Video: “Defining Liberty: The Future of Freedom,” featuring Ron Paul

New Video with Ron Paul: “Defining Liberty: The Future of Freedom”, by David J. Theroux (The Beacon, 5/3/14)

Ron Paul event information

The Decline of American Liberalism, by Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr., Foreword by Robert Higgs

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2) Licensed to Kill Jobs

How job-friendly is your state? If you listen to many in your state legislature, undoubtedly you hear from half or more of your representatives that they are hard at work to ensure a climate conducive to job growth, especially for small businesses and the like. However, a recent study by the Institute for Justice finds that states have enacted more and more barriers to job creation in the form of occupational licensing laws. Nearly one in three occupations now requires a state license, whereas in the 1950s only one in 20 jobs needed one. And the most populous state in the nation—California—is also the second worst offender, as Independent Institute Senior Fellow Lawrence J. McQuillan explains in a recent piece for The Beacon.

“California’s heavy licensure burdens make it harder for people to get hired or start new businesses that create jobs,” McQuillan writes. “The barriers are especially harmful to poorer people aspiring to climb out of poverty, those with less education, and minorities.”

No other state, for example, requires licenses for tree trimmers and landscape contractors. But not only does California make a license mandatory, it also makes it hard to obtain one: it takes four years of training to obtain the necessary paperwork. On average, the Golden State’s licensing fees are also the second highest in the nation. If this isn’t a roadblock to self-employment, what is? “Lawmakers should eliminate occupational licensing requirements, which harm people of modest means the most,” McQuillan concludes.

Why Occupational Licensing Is Unjust, Unneeded, and Increases Income Inequality, by Lawrence J. McQuillan (The Beacon, 4/29/14)

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3) We Have Charter Schools, So Why Not Charter Forests?

Wildfires have gotten worse and worse. Thanks to mismanagement by the U.S. Forest Service, the number of acres lost by raging fires has grown an average of 90,000 per year since 1984. The agency and Congress have tried to address the problem, but each reform they have considered failed to get to the root of the problem, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert H. Nelson, formerly a staff economist at the Department of the Interior.

“What’s needed is a new management model—the type public education reformers have been experimenting with,” Nelson writes in an op-ed published in numerous McClatchy-Tribune newspapers. “Like charter schools, we need ‘charter forests.’”

How would a charter forest operate? It would continue to receive federal funding—this would help make the idea politically viable, rather than ensuring that it gets quashed by lobbying from the 35,000 employees who work for the Forest Service. But the forest would become exempt from a host of requirements—ranging from public decision-making to environmental impact reports—that have made the federal forests a tinderbox of litigation. The charter forest’s operations would be governed by a local board with the authority to hire and fire workers. “It’s time to give a new management model a try,” Nelson writes. “If not, we may find the destructive pattern of the past 30 years continue for another 30.”

As Fire Season Approaches, Let’s Create ‘Charter Forests,’ by Robert H. Nelson (The Sacramento Bee, 4/28/14; and other McClatchy-Tribune newspapers)

The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion versus Environmental Religion in Contemporary America, by Robert H. Nelson

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4) The IRS’s Growing Reach

For nearly 100 years, the Internal Revenue Service has possessed the authority to keep people with unpaid back taxes from leaving the country. But the taxman has increasingly found creative ways to apply the doctrine on which this power is based—a principle called ne exeat republica (“Let him not go out of the republic”), according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Wendy McElroy.

Two recent victims of the IRS’s tactics are Charles and Kathleen Barrett. When the couple, who make Ecuador their home, visited Colorado to attend their daughter’s wedding last August, U.S. Marshalls detained them and confiscated their passports. Charles was locked up without the authorities even bothering to file charges. Kathleen was sent to a separate jail whose location was not disclosed for two days. A district judged released them but would not discharge the debt the IRS claimed they owed—$351,197.

The incentive for the IRS to apply the doctrine of ne exeat republica against expatriates is strong. As of last January, an estimated 6.8 million American lived outside the United States. Moreover, the political clout of expats is obviously weak. McElroy identifies six criteria that likely make one especially vulnerable to this action. “No one knows how the process of entering or leaving the U.S. will evolve,” she writes. “The prudent should assume it will only get more difficult and unpleasant.”

The Next IRS Tactic vs. Expats and Accidental Americans?, by Wendy McElroy (The Daily Bell, 4/17/14)

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5) Ivan Eland to Debate Foreign-Policy Fundamentals (Washington, DC, 5/6/14)

The long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have sparked renewed debate about foreign policy within the Democratic and Republican parties. William Kristol recently said that while Republicans generally agree on domestic policy, the real debate would be on foreign policy. Likewise, in the Democratic Party the more hawkish Clinton wing of the party continues its clash with the more dovish McGovernite wing.

To shed light on these differences, the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and the Oakland, Calif.-based Independent Institute are hosting a debate among the various foreign policy traditions.

  • Representing the conservative, internationalist school (which includes but is not synonymous with neoconservatism) will be Henry R. Nau of George Washington University.
  • Representing the traditional, liberal, internationalist school will be Michael Lind of the New American Foundation.
  • Representing the realist-minimalist or strategic independence school will be Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland.
Please join us for this necessary and timely debate at George Washington University on Tuesday, May 6, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

EVENT: “Whither America: A Foreign Policy Debate Among Realists, Nationalists, and Internationalists,” with Ivan Eland, Michael Lind, and Henry R. Nau (George Washington University, Washington, D.C., 5/6/14)

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6) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

$3 Billion Scamiversary
K. Lloyd Billingsley (5/5/14)

Fannie Puts the Load on Taxpayers
K. Lloyd Billingsley (5/2/14)

Uncle Sam’s Biggest Creditors
Craig Eyermann (5/1/14)

Government BS
K. Lloyd Billingsley (4/30/14)

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

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7) Selected News Alerts

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