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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 18, Issue 46: November 15, 2016

  1. Trump, Media Bias, Hubris, and Denial
  2. America in the Age of Trump: Revolution or Gridlock?
  3. Trump’s Foreign Policy: Tyranny of the Status Quo?
  4. Approve the Dakota Pipeline
  5. Independent Updates


1) Trump, Media Bias, Hubris, and Denial

What does the Trump victory say about America today? Independent Institute Research Fellow Robert P. Murphy, a self-identified non-voter, begins by addressing what it says about the news media and pundit classes. Their hubris and denialism, he argues, contributed not only to the vast underestimation of Trump’s popularity, but also to the mischaracterization of Trump’s supporters as mostly misogynists and bigots. Contrary to that narrative, Murphy writes, “I don’t know a single person who approved of his boorish comments about women; they were all voting for him despite his obvious flaws as a person.”

For their part, many Trump voters have major blind spots of their own. The president-elect has famously pledged to raise trade barriers, which Murphy calls “regulations and taxes on foreign products” that “won’t make America richer.” In fact, import tariffs and quotas make us much poorer, by reducing competition and thwarting the efficiencies that otherwise would arise owing to the principle of comparative advantage, as Murphy ably explains in Choice, his primer about the greatest economics treatise of the twentieth century.

Trump has also proposed to repeal Obamacare. But unless he and his advisors show familiarity with thorough-going alternatives similar to the one that Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman proposes in Priceless and A Better Choice, we would do well to remember that good intentions do not trump (sorry) the unintended consequences of ill-crafted reforms. Goodman himself notes that no campaign season in recent memory focused less on the candidates’ policy differences than this one. This too is a failing of the news media.

Reflections on Donald Trump’s Election, by Robert Murphy (The Beacon, 11/9/16)

What Was the Election All About?, by John C. Goodman (Townhall, 11/11/16)

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

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

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

The Sessions-Cassidy Health Plan, by John C. Goodman (8/25/16)

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2) America in the Age of Trump: Revolution or Gridlock?

Senior Fellow Robert Higgs offers an unusual (and insightful) take on the prospects of a Trump Revolution. Trump supporters are rejoicing at the prospect of “Making America Great Again,” and Trump opponents are mourning an imminent apocalypse, but could the election end up making little real difference? Higgs argues that deep and lasting changes in public policy are less likely than either camp believes.

That’s because momentum from the juggernaut of special interest groups—the Deep State, he calls it—often helps keep the nation on a pro-regulation, anti-liberty trajectory, even if that means heading toward the rocks. Thus, rather than a Trump Revolution, “gridlock seems a better bet,” Higgs writes.

Gridlock is not necessarily a good thing, of course, as Research Fellow Craig Eyermann, creator of the Government Cost Calculator at MyGovCost.org, reminds us. Gridlock can be just one more obstacle to enacting reforms that would help control the national debt, what Eyermann calls “the biggest threat to the nation’s fiscal future.”

Is a Trump Revolution in the Offing?, by Robert Higgs (The Beacon, 11/9/16)

Principles for Shaping President-Elect Trump’s Fiscal Policies, by Craig Eyermann (MyGovCost News & Blog, 11/14/16)

Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, by Robert Higgs

“A Splendid Essay on the Two Great Classes in Contemporary America,” by Robert Higgs (The Beacon, 7/23/10)

MyGovCost.org – Home of the Government Cost Calculator

Video: Love Gove: From First Date to Mandate

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3) Trump’s Foreign Policy: Tyranny of the Status Quo?

Donald Trump, at least until November 9, proposed a sharp break from the status quo of U.S. foreign policy. On matters related to national security, diplomacy, and military intervention, he projected an anti-Clinton, anti-Obama, and anti–George W. Bush posture. Was Trump’s self-portrayal accurate? Recent news coverage raises some doubts.

Trump’s foreign-policy team, according to news reports, may turn out to be a nest of neo-conservative hawks, after all. Our next Secretary of State, rumor has it, could be former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Sen. Bob Corker, or former diplomat John Bolton. Hawks are also reportedly under consideration for the position of Defense Secretary and National Security Advisor. Of course, the Washington press corps thrives on rumors—and their “truthiness” is a lesser concern.

But what America needs, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland, is a new team with a different focus: “fresh voices on the right who advocate the time-tested and more restrained foreign policy of the nation’s founders,” Eland writes. This, of course, calls to mind Trump’s campaign promises of “fewer entanglements in exhausting faraway foreign wars, better relations with great powers such as Russia, and reassessment, and perhaps a scaling back, of the costly U.S. role in a globe-spanning network of outdated alliances.” Fingers crossed.

Is Trump Already Headed Down the Path of the George W. Bush Presidency?, by Ivan Eland (Huffington Post, 11/9/16)

Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, by Ivan Eland

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4) Approve the Dakota Pipeline

Spanning four states and extending 1,172 miles, the Dakota Access Pipeline is an engineering marvel. It may also be a political Wonder of the World: Among other obstacles, the unfinished oil conduit successfully navigated 389 meetings with 55 Native American tribes, resulting in 140 modifications enabling it to bypass grounds held sacred by indigenous communities.

“The Obama administration should green light its operation immediately,” writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II. “And the people still protesting and disrupting the pipeline’s completion, many of whom failed to participate in public hearings, should go home.”

Allowing the project to move ahead would improve access to energy and boost local economies, including providing an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 jobs. It would also signal that the Obama administration is serious about making its final months a time for Americans to breathe a collective sigh of relief, allowing them to see the glimpse of a future unmarred by partisan rancor. The years ahead might be very different indeed.

Dakota Access—Legal, Beneficial & Necessary, by William F. Shughart II (Morning Consult, 10/28/16)

Taxing Choice: The Predatory Politics of Fiscal Discrimination, edited by William F. Shughart

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5) Independent Updates

The Beacon: New Blog Posts

MyGovCost: New Blog Posts Featured Video News Alert

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