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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 17, Issue 45: November 10, 2015

  1. Budget Deal Postpones Fiscal Judgment Day
  2. Income Inequality in Perspective
  3. Paris Climate Conference Will Fizzle, Not Sizzle
  4. ‘Love Gov’ Video Series Up for Two Film Awards
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts



1) Budget Deal Postpones Fiscal Judgment Day

The budget deal that Congress and the White House struck last month averted a government shutdown in the near term, but it failed to resolve America’s debt crisis and thus delays the final day of reckoning. That’s the takeaway from the latest op-ed by Independent Institute Research Fellow Robert P. Murphy, author of Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action, a new book that updates for modern readers the path-breaking insights of history’s greatest economic defender of free enterprise and limited government, Ludwig von Mises.

Murphy also offers a case for keeping the debt ceiling—and making it stick. “Progressive” critics have argued that it should be done away with altogether, and that raising the debt ceiling (i.e., preventing it from being truly binding) “merely” enables the government to pay for spending that Congress has already ordered. Murphy takes issue with the term “merely.” In reality, the debt ceiling provides a tangible benefit for the nation’s fiscal health: “at the very least [it] forces legislators to acknowledge the impact of their spending decisions,” he writes. “Symbolic” political gestures have real-world consequences.

Meanwhile, Independent Institute Research Fellow Craig Eyermann, creator of the Government Cost Calculator at MyGovCost.org, last week criticized several features of the budget deal, which former House Speaker John Boehner negotiated before he stepped down from office. In contrast to the deal’s flawed provisions, Boehner accomplished a major fiscal success four years ago, when he got the president to sign the Budget Control Act of 2015. Eyermann credits this legislation with cutting the growth rate of government spending compared to earlier during Obama’s presidency. As for the recent budget deal, Eyermann argues that it shows that Boehner is less a statesman than a politician.

The Oh-So-Familiar Debt Ceiling Dance, by Robert P. Murphy (The Daily Caller, 11/4/15)

Inside a Bad Debt Deal, by Craig Eyermann (The Beacon, 10/27/15)

Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action, by Robert P. Murphy

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2) Income Inequality in Perspective

Income inequality is a popular topic in the current election cycle. From opposite ends of the spectrum, Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz agree that the wealth and income gap has widened over the past fifty years. Census Bureau data show that the wealthiest 20 percent of income earners now get a larger share of total income today than they did in 1967, and that the poorest 20 percent now get a smaller share. But this doesn’t tell the whole story, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Abigail Hall.

To focus on changes in relative shares of income is to overlook the bigger picture, Hall argues. What exactly is the bigger picture? The title of her op-ed gives it all away: The Rich Are Getting Richer, but So Are the Poor.

Hall acknowledges the plight of America’s poor, struggling to make ends meet. But this problem doesn’t imply that wealth inequality per se is to be dreaded. We must acknowledge that many who remain relatively poor have achieved meaningful economic gains in absolute terms. “While those at the top may have a lot, those at the bottom have more today than ever before,” she writes. “Just as important, even those at the bottom have a great chance of getting out.”

The Richer Are Getting Richer, but So Are the Poor, by Abigail R. Hall (The Daily Caller, 10/8/15)

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3) Paris Climate Conference Will Fizzle, Not Sizzle

The world is three weeks away from an event that many pundits believe will have momentous implications for the earth and its people: the Paris conference on a global climate treaty—a.k.a. the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP). If climate activists get their wish, the confab will result in global restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions. Will it? Independent Institute Research Fellow S. Fred Singer is skeptical. More precisely, he believes the event is unlikely to produce lasting results desired by its supporters.

The reason involves the huge economic costs that CO2 restrictions entail. Consider the examples of China and India. While both nations’ governments have announced that their carbon emissions will peak around 2030, neither has agreed to enact significant restrictions until then. China seems to be banking on less energy demand from slower population growth. India is even planning to double its coal production over the next five years. Their lukewarm commitments aren’t really commitments—and this is a good thing, especially for the masses of people who need a market-oriented, “carbon economy” to help them climb out of poverty.

Singer writes: “After all the hype, Paris-2015 may turn out to be a big (and expensive) nothing-burger and mark the end of COP.”

Paris Climate Conference Is Likely to Fail, by S. Fred Singer (American Thinker, 10/22/15)

The Real Case against Activist Global Warming Policy, by James L. Payne (The Independent Review, Fall 2014

Understanding the Climate Science Boom, by Carl Close (The Beacon, 10/1/15)

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4) ‘Love Gov’ Video Series Up for Two Film Awards

Love Gov—the Independent Institute’s satirical online video series dramatizing huge problems that bad government policies have created for young people—has resonated with more people than we had any right to expect: it’s racked up more than 1.8 million total views on YouTube since we posted the series on July 6 of this year—less than five months ago. It has also enjoyed much attention within the liberty movement—including from organizations who officially recognize and encourage the growing number of pro-freedom videos.

We are therefore delighted to announce that Love Gov is a Finalist for not one but two video awards: the 2015 Lights, Camera, Liberty Film Festival Award, and the 2015 Reason Video Prize.

The awards will be announced this Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. It is a great honor even to be nominated. But the greatest excitement for us comes from knowing that so many people have enjoyed watching Love Gov and sharing it on social media!

We are tremendously encouraged by the success of Love Gov, a collaboration with our partner on the project, Emergent Order, whose well-deserved reputation for producing engaging, liberty-oriented online videos grows by the minute. And as we consider making related video episodes—or perhaps even an entirely new online series—you can help make this goal a reality with your generous, tax-deductible donation. Please join with us today!

Love Gov: From First Date to Mandate

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

Jerry Brown’s Gusher of Government Abuse
K. Lloyd Billingsley (11/9/15)

U.S. National Debt Liabilities
Craig Eyermann (11/9/15)

$339 Billion Deeper in Debt
Craig Eyermann (11/4/15)

Why Bureaucrats Stonewall on Salaries
K. Lloyd Billingsley (11/3/15)

Reconsidering the Compact for a Balanced Budget
Craig Eyermann (11/2/15)

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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