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

Volume 16, Issue 21: May 28, 2014

  1. Rediscovering the Champions of a Color-Blind America
  2. Russia-China Gas Pact Signals Opportunity for U.S. Energy Producers
  3. Understanding American Anti-Militarism, Then and Now
  4. MyGovCost: An Essential Guide to the U.S. Fiscal Crisis
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts


1) Rediscovering the Champions of a Color-Blind America

In April, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s constitutional amendment banning affirmative action in public university admissions. The 6 to 2 decision effectively ends legal challenges to similar measures enacted or proposed in other states. In a concurring opinion, Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas argued that it is absurd for the courts to divide the nation into “racial blocs,” especially in a land populated with so many mixed-race individuals. This individualistic viewpoint has a venerable history, as Southern Illinois University history professor and Independent Institute Research Fellow Jonathan Bean notes in a new op-ed.

One of the most articulate opponents of racial collectivism was the antislavery orator and former slave Frederick Douglass. The son of a white slave owner and a black field slave, Douglass insisted he was neither black nor white but “a member of the one race that God created.” Bean notes that a similar “color blind” outlook was expressed long ago by thought leaders such as Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, “the lone dissenter in the ‘separate-and-equal’ decision of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896),” and the writer Zora Neale Hurston, who once wrote that racial consciousness “is the root of misunderstanding and hence misery and injustice.”

“It is now 2014 and time to return to the civil rights tradition of Douglass, Harlan, Hurston and many others,” Bean writes in The Hill. “The Supreme Court should abandon the notion of group interests and uphold the Constitution for all individuals, regardless of race or ethnicity. In the meantime, voters in all fifty states must do what the Court will now permit—amend their constitutions to mandate nondiscrimination.”

Are Some Groups More Equal Than Others?, by Jonathan Bean (The Hill, 5/22/14)

Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader, edited by Jonathan Bean

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2) Russia-China Gas Pact Signals Opportunity for U.S. Energy Producers

Last week, Russia and China signed a historic trade agreement—a 30-year deal that provides China with a reliable alternative to troublesome coal supplies and gives Russia revenues estimated at $400 billion. The accord may have come just in time for Vladimir Putin. But it also signals an important opportunity for the United States.

In the wake of Russia’s land grab in Crimea and provocations in eastern Ukraine, some European countries are talking about weaning themselves off of Russian gas imports and turning to the burgeoning U.S. natural-gas industry for their energy needs. This is why Putin was eager to lock in a deal with China many years in the making. Europe’s disdain for Russian adventurism could prove very rewarding for America’s natural-gas industry. But for this to become a reality, U.S. policymakers must expedite the two-dozen or so natural-gas export applications currently awaiting review at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Independent Institute Research Director William F. Shughart II makes this point in an op-ed widely distributed by the McClatchy-Tribune News Service. “Putin’s stranglehold on the European gas market is slipping through his hands,” he writes. “Let’s not let it slip through ours.”

Putting Putin in His Place, by William F. Shughart II (Anchorage Daily News and elsewhere, 5/20/14)

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3) Understanding American Anti-Militarism, Then and Now

Many Americans celebrated Memorial Day this week—with a day off from work and a picnic with family and friends—while knowing nothing about its origins after the Civil War, when it was called Decoration Day. Veterans Day probably suffers less in this regard, as many people recall from their schooldays that it was once called Armistice Day and commemorated the ending of World War I. But overall, the public’s ignorance about U.S. traditions and attitudes related to the military is vast. This may have been the main reason that the late historian, and founding member of the Independent Institute’s Board of Advisors, Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr., wrote his magisterial book, The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition.

Here’s an example of what Ekirch’s book reveals. Shortly after World War I ended, civic and church groups campaigned to end the compulsory military training required by 83 American colleges and universities. Although they failed to stamp out compulsory military training in higher education, they did succeed in keeping Junior R.O.T.C. out of the public high schools. Their effort, Ekirch shows, reflected a long tradition of anti-militarism that rarely receives its due.

Americans today also seem unaware of how the anti-militarist tradition shaped U.S. foreign policy in the early decades of the nation. Earlier this month, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland discussed some of the advantages of this tradition in a debate at George Washington University. Ignorance of or ambivalence toward this tradition, he suggested, is responsible for the chaos that has befallen Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya since the U.S. military intervened in those countries. A more restrained foreign policy, he argues, would enhance national security and help put the economy on the road to recovery. Those reasons alone should inspire us to pay closer attention to what Eland calls the traditionalist view of U.S. foreign policy.

The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition, Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr.

The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland

VIDEO: Whither America: A Foreign Policy Debate Among Realists, Nationalists, and Internationalists, featuring Ivan Eland, Henry R. Nau, and Michael Lind (George Washington University, 5/6/14)

AUDIO: Ivan Eland Assesses America’s Presidents and Foreign Policy

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4) MyGovCost: An Essential Guide to the U.S. Fiscal Crisis

In March, The Lighthouse reported that Social Security's Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance trust funds were following a trajectory that would make them insolvent in 2033. The day of reckoning may be closer at hand. According to Brianna Ehley of the Fiscal Times, unless trends in spending and/or revenues change, the Disability Insurance (SSDI) trust fund will run dry in 2016, necessitating cuts of 20 percent or more for those who receive Social Security disability benefits.

In his latest contribution to the MyGovCost blog, Independent Institute Research Fellow Craig Eyermann, creator of the Government Cost Calculator, discusses two alternative scenarios that might avoid cuts in disability benefits, their unintended consequences, and the likelihood that they will be adopted.

MyGovCost, in case you haven't heard, is now available as a FREE mobile app for iPhones and iPads. Download today by visiting the Apple App Store. And be sure to tell your friends about how the Government Cost Calculator will help them estimate their lifetime federal tax liability and show which components of federal spending will cost them the most.

MyGovCost.org

MyGovCost at the Apple App Store

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

Once Again, Government Displaces Real Aid
Mary Theroux (5/27/14)

Using Marketable Vouchers to Speed Up Drug Approvals
John R. Graham (5/27/14)

Big Pharma, Trial Lawyers, and Harry Reid Kill Patent Reform
William Watkins (5/26/14)

Common Core: Raising the Bar-barians
Vicki Alger (5/26/14)

Stagnation Nation? High School Seniors’ Results on Nation’s Report Card Didn’t Budge
Vicki Alger (5/26/14)

This Memorial Day Honor Vets with Education Savings Accounts
Vicki Alger (5/26/14)

Patent Trolls and Trial Lawyers Thwart Patent Reform
William Watkins (5/25/14)

Dining with Stalin
Aaron Tao (5/22/14)

Apple and Google Announce a Ceasefire in the Patent Wars
William Watkins (5/21/14)

Piketty on Inequality
Randall Holcombe (5/21/14)

Piketty’s Capital: IV
Randall Holcombe (5/20/14)

Obamacare’s “Bailout” of Insurers Is Still a Live, Moving Target
John R. Graham (5/20/14)

Disinvitation Season 2014
Aaron Tao (5/20/14)

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

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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