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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 17, Issue 52: December 29, 2015

  1. ‘The Future of the Economy’: The Independent Review’s New Symposium
  2. Condemn the Fed
  3. FDA Is Not ‘Safe and Effective’
  4. Title IX and the Campus Witch Hunts
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts



1) ‘The Future of the Economy’: The Independent Review’s New Symposium

Picture what our daily lives will look like on December 29, 2065. Do you envision people flying off to an eco-village swap meet in their 3D-printed jetpacks? Or do you predict a mass of protesters blockading government buildings after the Treasury Department bans digital currencies because they prevent the feds from collecting the revenue needed to support the 90 percent of Americans who live on the dole? Whether prosperity or peril are in the cards, you need to read the Winter 2016 issue of The Independent Review, which features a symposium on the future of the economy. P. J. O’Rourke, the best known of our 19 contributors, argues that economists’ forecasts are a self-fulfilling prophecy—but what if the soothsayers contradict each other?

Our symposium contributors are often at odds, offering a range of predictions: Some anticipate a world of widespread abundance; others warn of declining total output. Some predict a “great enrichment” from automation, the sharing economy, and network-connected homes; others fear that government regulation and dependency will snuff out progress unless young people embrace an ethos of liberty and self-responsibility. Here we make only one prediction: our winter issue will challenge your assumptions and spark new insights of your own. For a taste of the symposium, see the kickoff essay, “The Economic Future: An Introduction,” by journal co-editor Robert M. Whaples.

This issue also includes an analysis of alternatives to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; a look at the parallels between the leader of the Austrian School of economics and an influential Catholic theologian and philosopher; and reviews new books about the rise of capitalism in China, an international perspective on income inequality, the “fair trade” scandal, Tolkien’s vision of freedom, asteroid mining, altruism and group selection, the crisis in business leadership, and the flaws of socialism.

Get your e-subscription or print subscription today! (Print subscriptions include FREE book.)

The Independent Review (Winter 2016)

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2) Condemn the Fed

The Federal Reserve raised a key interest rate on December 15—almost one week before its 102nd birthday. The timing invites an evaluation of the Fed, according to Robert P. Murphy, author of Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action. Offering a quick glance at the central bank’s performance, the economist and Independent Institute research fellow shows that there’s no cause for celebration—only cause for scorn and dread.

The central bank was created in 1913 to serve as a “lender of last resort” in the event that the banking system faced a liquidity crisis. The contraction of 1929-31 demonstrated that, if anything, the Fed had made the banking system more fragile than it had been during the panic of 1907. In 1977, after years of economic stagnation and inflation, the Fed was given a new mission: to promote growth and price stability. Subsequent recessions and crises—especially the near-meltdown of 2008-2009 and its aftermath—show that the Fed still doesn’t know its assets from a hole in the ground.

“If a central bank is supposed to smooth the ups and downs of the ‘wildcat free market,’ it’s a bit awkward that the two worst economic calamities occurred well after the creation of that central bank,” Murphy writes. “We should keep this abysmal track record in mind when assessing the Fed’s recent interest rate hike.”

The Fed’s Birthday—Celebrate or Denigrate?, by Robert P. Murphy (The Daily Caller, 12/23/15)

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

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3) FDA Is Not ‘Safe and Effective’

Last year’s release of Solvaldi—a breakthrough drug for hepatitis C—was greeted with both cheers and jeers: cheers, because it can cure an estimated 90 percent of sufferers in only three months; jeers, because a typical treatment costs $84,000. Critics of Gilead, the manufacturer, denounced the company for pricing the drug beyond the reach of many, but according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Abigail R. Hall, the blame rests with the Food and Drug Administration.

In a recent op-ed for The Hill, Hall raises several objections to the way the FDA operates. First, the agency requires clinical trials so costly that many pharmaceutical companies are effectively barred from developing certain drugs; this makes prices higher than they would be in a more competitive market. Second, the high cost of the clinical trials ensures that the drug makers who manage to jump through all the regulatory hoops must price their drugs higher than otherwise in order to recoup their extra expenses. Third, the FDA robs doctors and patients of choice while foisting on others its own flawed judgment. From 2004 to 2014, Hall notes, the agency had to recall 4,200 different medicines, including 362 drugs in the Class I category that could have caused grave harm.

“It’s time to rethink the FDA,” Hall writes. “While regulating drugs for the sake of the public may sound appealing, it arguably does more harm than good. Ultimately, the FDA increases prices to consumers, slows the production of life-saving drugs, and is alarmingly ineffective.”

Time to Do Away with the FDA, by Abigail R. Hall (The Hill, 12/14/15)

Is the FDA safe and effective? See FDAReview.org.

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4) Title IX and the Campus Witch Hunts

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that banning flag burning was unconstitutional, First Amendment supporters sighed with relief; government could not silence even ideas that most people would deem offensive or disagreeable. Today, however, free speech is under siege on college and university campuses across the United States—in the form of speech codes, trigger warnings, and dubious grievance procedures, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow William J. Watkins, Jr.

The leading cause of politically correct campus censorship, Watkins argues, is the Obama administration’s promotion of new guidelines for Title IX, the 1972 regulation that bars federally funded schools and programs from practicing gender discrimination. The new standards broaden sexual harassment and encourage institutions of higher learning to rout out “hostile environments” and to pronounce guilt based on “a preponderance of evidence” instead of “clear and convincing” evidence.

The new censorship makes American academia less a marketplace of ideas than a closed society worthy of Stalin. As Northwestern University film professor Laura Kipnis discovered, even questioning Title IX in the classroom can trigger a Title IX inquiry. “Prohibiting sex discrimination is one thing,” Watkins writes. “Prohibiting free speech is quite another—and it shouldn’t be tolerated.”

Ending Title IX Tyranny, by William J. Watkins Jr. (The Washington Times, 12/23/15)

Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus, by Donald A. Downs

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

A Festivus Airing of Grievances for Government Waste
Craig Eyermann (12/27/15)

The Federal Government Throws a Party
Craig Eyermann (12/23/15)

Scam Cell, Continued
K. Lloyd Billingsley (12/21/15)

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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