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The Lighthouse


The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 18, Issue 29: July 19, 2016

  1. Community Policing and Security Vouchers
  2. School Choice Lessons from the GI Bill
  3. Bush’s Historic Entitlements Blunder
  4. Personal Liberties versus Sexual Assault
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts


1) Community Policing and Security Vouchers

From Baton Rouge to Falcon Heights, Minn., and from San Francisco to New York City a rash of well-publicized police killings has sparked civil unrest and calls for police officers to undergo less aggressive use-of-force instruction. And yet, many police departments in question had already enacted such training—and their coffers have the extra tax dollars to prove it. This paradox highlights an uncomfortable truth: When it comes to reducing police abuses, increases in law-enforcement budgets yield a poor return on investment, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Lawrence J. McQuillan and Policy Researcher Kelly R. Lester.

In an op-ed last week for the Daily Caller, McQuillan and Lester note several police killings that occurred in departments that underwent new training. The problem may be largely institutional: police departments are insulated from the public—they must answer to mayors or city councils, but not to residents directly. Fortunately, the solution may be simple: security vouchers.

Security vouchers would help citizens to hire private security firms that must compete for funding. Like educational vouchers, they would be funded with money that taxpayers already fork over to their local governments. Their greatest virtue may be to ensure public accountability. As McQuillan and Lester write, “Security vouchers would allow all income groups to participate” in decisions over who is hired for policing their communities. “Citizens should be able to fire quickly any officer or security company they’ve hired that is not performing adequately.... Citizens must take control over policing in their communities.”

Bureaucrats or Citizens: Who Should Control the Police?, by Lawrence J. McQuillan and Kelly R. Lester (The Daily Caller, 7/13/16)

To Serve and Protect: Privatization and Community in Criminal Justice, by Bruce L. Benson

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2) School Choice Lessons from the GI Bill

Educational choice—reform policies such as voucher and tax-scholarship programs and educational savings accounts (ESAs)—enables K-12 students to avoid the cookie-cutter mold that government schooling pushes on them. But doesn’t it violate the principle of separation of church and state by allowing taxpayer funds to potentially go to religiously oriented schools? Research Fellow Vicki Alger, author of Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children, weighs in on the subject in a recent op-ed for the Washington Examiner.

Constitutionally speaking, the issue may be a red herring. Giving taxpayers (and their dependents) the option to apply tax dollars toward schooling from a religious institution doesn’t violate the First Amendment’s “establishment clause,” according to Alger. Moreover, we already have a precedent: the GI Bill. Under the GI Bill (and its legislative descendants) veterans can apply taxpayer dollars toward the accredited school of their choice, even a religious school; funds “can be used to study for the priesthood, the rabbinate, or to become a preacher,” Alger writes.

Passed during the Second World War, the GI Bill—officially the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944—has been “an unprecedented success,” whereas the Department of Education has been “an unprecedented failure,” Alger writes. “It’s time to end the Department of Education and put America’s parents in charge of education,” she continues. “The GI Bill shows that education and religion can coexist in America without creating a constitutional crisis.” Whether a veteran uses the GI program to attend a secular school or a religious school is an issue left to individual choice. “Let’s give the same choice to America’s schoolchildren,” Alger concludes.

To Help Children in Failing Schools, Try Copying the GI Bill, by Vicki E. Alger (Washington Examiner, 6/30/16)

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

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3) Bush’s Historic Entitlements Blunder

In January 2001, George W. Bush came to the White House hoping to tame an out-of-control, pay-as-you-go federal entitlement program: Social Security. But not only did he fail to rein in the beast, he created another out-of-control, pay-as-you-go entitlement program: the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit. “What the Bush administration did to Medicare is arguably the worst domestic policy decision in the history of the country,” writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman. Look at the numbers, and you’ll see why.

In 2004, months after Bush signed Medicare Part D, Social Security’s “promised benefits (looking indefinitely into the future) exceeded expected revenues by $12 trillion,” Goodman writes in Forbes. By the time Bush left the White House, in January 2009, “the unfunded liability in the new Part D programs was estimated...to be $17 trillion.” In other words, “by the time he left office [Bush] had more than doubled the size of the [entitlements] problem.”

But did Medicare Part D solve a problem that couldn’t have been solved otherwise? No. According to Goodman, only 30 percent of seniors lacked drug coverage before Part D, and they could have gained coverage had politicians taken a different route. All they needed to do was just one thing: allow the market to combine Medicare spending with Medigap premiums. Had they done this, Goodman writes, “Medicare enrollees could have had acceptable drug coverage with no new taxes, no new spending, and no addition to the program’s long-term unfunded liability.”

The Worst Entitlement Program in Our History, by John C. Goodman (Forbes, 7/6/16)

Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, by John C. Goodman

A Better Choice: Healthcare Solutions for America, by John C. Goodman

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4) Personal Liberties versus Sexual Assault

An estimated 42 million people worldwide practice the world’s oldest profession, and researchers believe that 70 to 95 percent of them are victims of sexual assault. Independent Institute Research Fellow Abigail R. Hall Blanco, in a recent op-ed for the Las Vegas Sun, argues that laws prohibiting prostitution are responsible not only for sexual assaults—because they leave the victim without legal recourse—but they also create a variety of other ills that people associate with the sex trade, including human trafficking and organized crime. Lift the ban, and you eliminate these by-products.

Such arguments are nothing new—the late economist Milton Friedman, among many others, made them decades ago. But we now have abundant evidence validating them. In 2003, New Zealand legalized sex work and its law enforcement officials have claimed the lifting of the ban has resulted in “no incidence of human trafficking.” Moreover, legalization has made it easier “for police to prosecute sex crime,” Hall writes.

It should go without saying that this in no way suggests that the world’s oldest profession is a legitimate career move or that sex work has no deleterious consequences for the individual or society even when free of legal constraints. But ethics should not be allowed to hinder the recognition of reality. Writes Hall: “Although we may want a world in which no woman feels that prostitution is her best option, our focus must be on how the world actually operates.”

The Case for Decriminalizing Prostitution, by Abigail R. Hall Blanco (Las Vegas Sun, 7/8/16)

Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Wendy McElroy

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

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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  • MyGovCost.org
  • FDAReview.org
  • OnPower.org
  • elindependent.org