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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 18, Issue 24: June 14, 2016

  1. Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Victory
  2. The Failure of Federal Education Bureaucrats: Prediction and Reality
  3. Lessons from Stanford’s Sexual Assault Case
  4. The Battle for Brazil
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts



1) Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Victory

When the final bell rang for the man born Cassius Clay, the United States lost not only one of its greatest athletes ever, but also a true patriot—defined as someone willing to suffer major personal hardship (imprisonment) to protest government actions he believes contradict a nation’s founding values (the war in Vietnam). “Muhammad Ali was a true patriot of the original variety when he just said ‘hell no’ to meddling in another country’s business that was unneeded and was, from the beginning, unlikely to turn out well,” writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland.

Like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Ali committed, in plain view for all to see, acts of civil disobedience that put him directly into conflict with law enforcement. As Eland reminds us, Ali would have faced a five-year prison sentence had not the Supreme Court nullified his conviction. (The vote was a remarkable 8-0.) And like Parks and King, Ali was taking a stand that was, it must be remembered, hugely unpopular. (In 1966, the year he was arrested for draft evasion, the anti-war movement had yet to reach full stride, and two years later TV personalities such as David Susskind were still condemning Ali.) For the sake of principle, America’s greatest boxer stood his ground, got knocked down, rose up—and was ultimately declared the victor.

What Susskind and his ilk had forgotten was that the original American patriots—the revolutionaries who pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to win independence from the British—were also lawbreakers. Yet while American attitudes about U.S. involvement in Vietnam have changed, many in power still embrace a conformist’s concept of patriotism: Patriotism as compliance with the letter of the law; patriotism as keeping silent for the sake of “unity.” Writes Eland: “Patriotism has been turned on its head and is now synonymous with reflexive nationalism—support for your government, no matter what.”

Muhammad Ali’s Real Legacy: True Patriotism, by Ivan Eland (Huffington Post, 6/6/16)

How does Barack Obama stack up against George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? See Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, by Ivan Eland

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2) The Failure of Federal Education Bureaucrats: Prediction and Reality

Political soothsayers fail more often than not. It is therefore worth noting when a prediction hits the bull’s-eye. Here’s a case that Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger discovered while writing her forthcoming book, Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children: In 1866, Representative Samuel J. Randall (D-PA) claimed that the creation of the national education department would succeed at drawing high pay for its bureaucrats, but it would utterly fail to educate America’s children. Randall didn’t live to see the creation of the U.S. Department of Education more than 100 years later, but if he had done so, he could have claimed bragging rights for guessing correctly—although it was an educated guess.

How has the federal education bureaucracy failed? “We were promised that illiteracy would be eliminated by 1984,” Alger writes. “We were promised that high school graduation rates would reach 90 percent by the year 2000 and that American students would be global leaders in math and science. And we were promised that by 2014 all students would be proficient in reading and math. None of this has happened.” Reading performance for 17-year-olds, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Alger notes, was the same in 2012 (the last year for which data are available) as it was in 1971. Math test results for 17-year-olds have improved, but not much. Raising educational achievement seems like unlikely—not without major change.

Fortunately, several states are experimenting with promising reforms. Alger cites the growth in educational alternatives such as charter schools, online schools, and home-schooling (now covering 1.7 million students). Arizona and four other states have also implemented education savings accounts (ESAs), which create tax incentives for parents to put aside money that can be used for a child’s private-school tuition and any other education-related expense. “Instead of funneling money through the D.C. bureaucracy, we should be funding American students directly through ESAs,” Alger writes.

Federal Authorities Flunk in Every Category but Promises, by Vicki E. Alger (The Sacramento Bee, 5/19/16; national syndicated in 19 newspapers)

Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children, by Vicki E. Alger

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3) Lessons from Stanford’s Sexual Assault Case

Stanford University student Brock Turner was arrested in 2015 and charged with five counts of rape. His sentencing earlier this month—six months in jail, for the lesser crime of sexual assault—has ignited a firestorm. Turner’s victim, who had been unconscious during the horror, has published an open letter—one deeply moving in its candor and detail—describing the devastation she is now forced to deal with daily. Turner himself has issued a statement, downplaying his culpability and shifting blame to “campus culture”—pouring salt on the emotional wounds he has inflicted. But not only has Turner caused incalculable damage, “the courts failed the victim,” writes Independent Institute Research Fellow Sam Staley. Judge Aaron Persky may not survive a recall campaign.

This episode offers several lessons, Staley explains. The victim’s letter underscores the need for survivors to share their stories, so that others may better understand the effects of sexual trauma. “Students need to recognize the harm that comes with non-consensual sex,” Staley writes. The case also demonstrates the importance that bystanders intervene to stop assaults in progress. Had two Swedish graduate students not stopped Turner during the crime, the result might have been even more horrific.

“Challenging the passive bystander culture on American campuses may do more than any other intervention to reduce the incidence and breadth of sexual assault and rape,” Staley writes. “Reducing sexual assault and rape on college campuses will require a long-term, dedicated strategy focused on improving civic culture.”

The Stanford Sexual Assault Case and the Limits of the Incarceration State, by Sam Staley (The Beacon, 6/11/16)

Rape Culture Hysteria: Fixing the Damage Done to Men and Women, by Wendy McElroy

Related articles

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4) The Battle for Brazil

Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s embattled president, has been suspended from carrying out her official duties. Unless she decides to step down, her future will be decided by voters in six months. Some have called her suspension an illegal coup d’etat. In reality, it has been carried out in strict accordance with proper legal procedure—an important fact in a region with a history of coups, explains Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

Nor have any actions that Rousseff has undertaken during her tenure warranted a coup. True, she has helped choke the life out of the economy, run up huge debts, used public money to benefit her friends and constituents, stifled commerce with tax hikes and new regulations, and helped create double-digit inflation. But these destructive stupidities, Vargas Llosa reminds us, “are economic sins typical of Latin American-style populism, not grounds for a coup.”

Vice president Michel Temer, who has played his cards with cunning, can help or hinder Brazil. There is some basis, however unlikely, for a good outcome. Almost a quarter century ago Itamar Franco took the reins after the resignation of former president Collor de Mello, explains Vargas Llosa: “Franco contented himself with being a low-profile, short-term leader preoccupied with putting the house in some kind of order before handing the power and glory to the elected successor.” Your turn, Temer.

Was That Really a Coup in Brazil?, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (The National Interest, 6/5/16)

Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

What Bible School Taught Me About Taxes
Abigail R. Hall Blanco (06/07/16)

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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