Volume 18, Issue 4: January 26, 2016
- Hillarys and Bernies Distorted Visions for Healthcare
- Against the Federal Land Grab
- El Chapo, Sean Penn, and the Failed War on Drugs
- Bellicose U.S. Policies, in Word and Deed
- New Blog Posts
- Selected News Alerts
1) Hillarys and Bernies Distorted Visions for Healthcare
The race for the Democratic presidential nomination pits one activist vision for American healthcare (Hillary Clintons support for Obamacare) against another (Bernie Sanders version of a single-payer system: Medicare for all). Interestingly, although eight out of ten Democrats polled say they support such a system, Clinton has called it fiscally reckless. Her proposal: tweaking Obamacare at the margin. The truth is that both of these visions for healthcare are wrong, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman.
Clinton has misdiagnosed Obamacares problems; consequently, her prescription wouldnt cure an ailing system. Lighthouse readers have heard frequently about Goodmans remedy for Obamacare, presented in A Better Choice: Healthcare Solutions for America, but his critique of Sanders plan is less familiar. The fatal flaw in Sanders plan, Goodman argues, is its major premise: that a single payer (what economists call a monopsony) would lower the cost of healthcare due to an allegedly greater power to negotiate lower prices.
This premise is demonstrably false, according to Goodman, because we see that Medicare has achieved greater value at lower social cost precisely where it relies on a myriad of private plansin Medicare Advantage. Also, the plans run by independent doctor associations are the most cost-effective of the bunch. Moreover, Goodman argues, none of Obamacares major flaws would go away by adopting Medicare for all: burdensome mandates, premium distortions caused by community rating, and other existing problems would still be with usand for a price estimated to be at least $28 trillion over ten years.
Democrats Healthcare Debate: Clinton and Sanders Are Both Wrong, by John C. Goodman (Forbes, 1/18/16)
A Better Choice: Healthcare Solutions for America, by John C. Goodman
2) Against the Federal Land Grab
The standoff near Burns, Oregon, baffles many Americans. Because they treasure the Great Outdoors, they cant fathom why ranchers in western states might seethe with anger over federal management of public lands. In part thats because most Americans reside in counties where federal land holdings are relatively small. But for the one in ten who live in counties where the feds own more than half the land, federal policies and performance can make or break their ability to earn a decent living. And as Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert H. Nelson explains in a recent symposium in the New York Times, federal land management is mired in political gridlock and bureaucratic paralysis.
The resulting mismanagement has horrendous consequences. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the dysfunctional statutory, regulatory, and administrative framework under which it operates has undermined wildfire suppression efforts, which in turn has contributed to the destruction of millions of acres in the past decade and a half. Other harms, regarding access to grazing pastures and the like, are visible only to the few who must deal directly with federal land managers. If the feds cantor wontstep up to the plate, who could and would? Privatization advocates have made a compelling case for selling public lands, as Independent Institute Senior Fellow Lawrence J. McQuillan reminds us in his follow up to Nelsons piece, but the political will is lacking. The best politically viable alternative, according to Nelson, is to transfer the bulk of federally owned landsthe 70 percent that are not national parks or wilderness monumentsto state and local governments.
Like charter schools, these charter forests would be run by land managers who have the flexibility needed to adapt to local circumstances and priorities. They would also be held more accountable than politicians and bureaucrats ensconced in the cloisters of Washington, DC. Forests that are poorly managed at present by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management would be freed from their current dysfunction under centralized administration to spur more creative and locally responsive management solutions, Nelson writes. New charter forest managers would still be held accountable for federal standards dealing with matters such as broad land use goals, performance standards and environmental quality.
Give States Control Over Public Land Out West, by Robert H. Nelson (The New York Times, 1/8/16)
Time to Privatize Federal Public Land, by Lawrence J. McQuillan (The Beacon, 1/15/16)
3) El Chapo, Sean Penn, and the Failed War on Drugs
The arrest of Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán, head of Mexicos notorious Sinaloa drug cartel, ended a fascinating chapter in the history of the Global War on Drugs. But it by no means brought an end to the entire story, according to Independent Institute scholars Abigail R. Hall and Alvaro Vargas Llosa. Nor was it necessarily the final chapter on the adventures of a fugitive whose ability to escape confinement brought shame to Mexican prison authorities. If anything, this chapter simply presages more of the same: Another drug lord will step up, just as El Chapo did when he saw a lucrative opportunity.
The economics of prohibition make this prediction all but certain. El Chapos enterprise reportedly brought in $3 billion annuallya strong inducement for his cartel to carry on. Im not at all confident that Guzmáns capture will have any significance whatsoever, Hall writes. The Sinaloa cartel will continue to operate, drugs will continue to flow into the United States, and Mexico will continue to see high rates of drug-related crime.
Years from now Sean Penn will be remembered for his entertaining and compelling roles on the silver screen. But his inadvertent role in enabling the capture of El Chapo elevates his significance to a higher planeat least for now. Should personalities like Penn, and journalists in general, be prosecuted for meeting with known criminals? No. If this were ever the case, we may all end up living under a government that can shut down a free press simply by outlawing contact with suspected criminals. As Vargas Llosa writes, Press restrictions would add new problems to the existing onesincluding producing less evidence of how absurdly inefficient an intelligence system is if it cannot find, using its massive technological resources, a criminal suspect who can be reached by a reporter.
El Chapo, Cartels, and the Consequences of the War on Drugs, by Abigail Hall (The Beacon, 1/20/16)
Is Sean Penn Guilty or Innocent?, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (The Beacon, 1/13/16)
Drug War Crimes: The Consequences of Prohibition, by Jeffrey A. Miron
4) Bellicose U.S. Policies, in Word and Deed
Napoleon Bonaparte and Otto von Bismarck were deeply flawed menneither was a friend of free markets and limited governmentyet each knew it was better, if the opportunity presented itself, to accomplish his goals without resorting to armed force. Unfortunately, the U.S. government too often discounts the economic, political, and security benefits of subtle diplomacy, in favor of the cost and commotion of military engagement. In his latest op-ed for the Huffington Post, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland castigates the bellicose rhetoric and belligerent policies emanating routinely from the White House, Capitol Hill, and the American media.
Americans, raised on action movies, seem to think the nation will be seen as weak internationally if it is not constantly bombing someone, leading presidential candidates, in a democracy, to give the public what it demandsmacho hot air, Eland writes. Case in point: Obama and Syria.
It wasnt enough that the president and Secretary of State John Kerry threatened U.S. military action if Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons. Although Obamas words were strong enough to get Assads ally, Russia, to see to it that Syria got rid of its chemical weapons, Obamas political opponents try to outdo each other to see who can sound the most warlike. But instead of a race to the belligerent bottom, they would do the nation better by revering the strategy of restraint that President Reagan, ostensibly their patron saint, showed during the Iran-Iraq war. Unfortunately, with a nearly $19 trillion national debt, promises to defend many nations all over the world, a costly far-flung worldwide military apparatus, and ubiquitous armed interventions in unimportant places such as Syria, the American Empire, without a major retraction and renewal, will likely travel down the same road to ruin, Eland concludes.
U.S. Foreign Policy needs Some Old-Fashioned Subtlety, by Ivan Eland (The Huffington Post, 1/18/16)
5) New Blog Posts
From The Beacon:
Another Reason to Scrap Obamacares Exchanges
John R. Graham (1/22/16)
El Chapo, Cartels, and the Consequences of the War on Drugs
Abigail Hall (1/20/16)
From MyGovCost News & Blog:
Fire the Coastal Commission, Not Just the Boss
K. Lloyd Billingsley (1/25/16)
Whats Really Driving Up the Nations Deficits?
Craig Eyermann (1/22/16)
Pension Reform Rollback Shows True State of the State
K. Lloyd Billingsley (1/22/16)
Ruling Class Reactionaries Set Back Pension Reform
K. Lloyd Billingsley (1/20/16)
CBO: Fictional, Real Deficit Projections Converge
Craig Eyermann (1/19/16)