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The Lighthouse


The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 18, Issue 32: August 9, 2016

  1. Olympic Miscarriage of Justice Continues
  2. Trump and Clinton: United Against Privacy
  3. Democrats’ Healthcare Plank: Fruit Salad without Citrus?
  4. More Casualties in the Drug War
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts


1) Olympic Miscarriage of Justice Continues

The Olympic torch in Rio de Janeiro is burning brightly, but for many who remember the men’s basketball final at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972, which pitted the US against the USSR, another torch petered out long ago: the torch of justice. Forty-four years later, sports fans are still talking about the spectacle. Just after the clock ran out, with fans of the American team crowding onto the court to celebrate a 50-49 victory over the Soviets, official timekeepers extended the game by three seconds—just long enough for the Soviets to score against their bewildered American opponents. What makes this episode a gross miscarriage of justice, as Independent Institute fellow K. Lloyd Billingsley explains, is that the man who called for adding extra time to the clock had, as he later conceded, no authority to make his demand.

“FIBA boss Renato William Jones wanted the Soviet team to win, which he confirmed with his post-game statement,” Billingsley writes in the Daily Caller.

If politics had played no role in the games, the International Olympic Committee would have awarded gold medals to the American team long ago. That it hasn’t done so is proof that good sportsmanship and fair play are still low priorities for the committee. Writes Billingsley: “If the IOC is willing to ban entire national teams and strip athletes of medals for doping, it would do better to correct a longstanding injustice of its own making.”

Decades After 1972 Gold Medal Travesty, Olympic Injustice Still Prevails, by K. Lloyd Billingsley (The Daily Caller, 8/1/16)

Book Review: Brad R. Humphreys on Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup, by Andrew Zimbalist (The Independent Review, Spring 2016)

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2) Trump and Clinton: United Against Privacy

For advocates of personal freedom, November will bring disheartening news: No matter who wins the presidential election, Americans will see their privacy suffer more attacks from government surveillance. Whatever their differences in other realms, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump agree that it’s better for government to secretly monitor ordinary people than for the people to enjoy stronger privacy safeguards. As Independent Institute Research Fellow Anthony Gregory suggests in an op-ed for his new book, American Surveillance, perhaps the only thing that warrants surprise is that some people still believe that breached privacy safeguards can easily be restored, such as by electing a president who promises to turn back the tide.

Both Clinton and Trump supported the USA Patriot Act, and both have called for the prosecution of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, whose leaks to the press revealed warrantless federal surveillance on a scale greater than most had imagined. In contrast, when Barack Obama was first gunning for the White House, the then-senator from Illinois criticized its occupant, George W. Bush, for trying to indemnify telecommunication firms involved in the NSA’s warrantless electronic spying campaigns. Reformers running for elected office may call for “change”—but often they jettison their promises to strengthen privacy and embrace the bipartisan surveillance state. In this regard, it’s worth noting that it was President Obama’s NSA predations that Snowden exposed.

Privacy activists should therefore consider directing their focus less on promoting candidates who promise greater transparency and privacy, and instead target the more fundamental causal factors that drive the surveillance juggernaut. What factors? “A bipartisan foreign intelligence posture has tended to bleed into the domestic sphere,” Gregory writes. “More pedestrian policy goals, such as wars on crime, drugs, and poverty, have also fueled violations of privacy.” To defeat the surveillance state, friends of liberty must address these causes. “Privacy advocates must look to policy prescriptions, foreign policy history, and broader culture value,” Gregory concludes.

Regardless of the Election, Americans Can Expect Less Privacy, by Anthony Gregory (Washington Examiner, 8/5/16)

American Surveillance: Intelligence, Privacy, and the Fourth Amendment, by Anthony Gregory

The Power of Habeas Corpus in America: From the King's Prerogative to the War on Terror, by Anthony Gregory

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3) Democrats’ Healthcare Plank: Fruit Salad without Citrus?

The official 2016 Democratic platform offers glimpses into how the party that pushed through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 views the healthcare law more than six and a half years after its passage. With two of its planks—a “public option” and Medicare for anyone 55 years and older—the Democrats are implicitly acknowledging that Obamacare is having trouble delivering on its promises.

The Dems’ platform even calls for granting waivers for states to experiment with alternatives to Obamacare. Unfortunately, as Independent Institute Senior Fellow John R. Graham notes in a recent piece for The Beacon, it has in mind only alternatives aimed at one particular goal: The platform calls for waivers to states that would ensure universal healthcare to all, but not block grants that might allow more consumer choice.

“Promising waivers for state-based innovation in health coverage while forbidding block grants ... is like promising people fruit but outlawing citrus fruit,” Graham writes. “It cuts out a lot of choices.”

The Democratic Platform on Health Care: Bad, but Not Universally Bad, by John R. Graham (The Beacon, 7/29/16)

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) More Casualties in the Drug War

With a population of only 4,200, Austin, Indiana, would seem like an improbable candidate for a health crisis on a scale surpassing that of the nation’s largest cities. But unfortunately, it’s true: Last year, the rural town suffered more new HIV cases than New York City saw in 2014, the director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told USA Today. One reason for the outbreak, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Abigail R. Hall Blanco, is an unintended consequence of the state’s approach to the war on drugs.

Like many states, Indiana restricts the sale of medical syringes, a policy that has prompted injectable drug users to reuse them and sometimes to share infected needles with other users. One result is a health crisis that may cost more than $100 million to treat. In contrast, according to Hall Blanco, the average cost of a needle-exchange program is $100,000 to $300,000.

Drug users aren’t the only casualties of needle restrictions. “Diabetes patients, faced with frequent use and sometimes difficult access, also reuse needles and face a range of mild to potentially life-threatening consequences,” Hall Blanco writes. A diabetic visting one of several states with needle restrictions could therefore find herself facing a medical crisis if she can’t quickly procure a replacement for a broken syringe. “If we are really interested in stopping the spread of disease and other health problems,” Hall Blanco writes, “it’s time for government to get on board with easier access.”

Government Needle Policy Helps Spread Disease, by Abigail R. Hall Blanco (Inside Sources, 8/1/16)

Drug War Crimes: The Consequences of Prohibition, by Jeffrey A. Miron

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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