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The Lighthouse


The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 19, Issue 47: November 14, 2017

  1. Eleven Presidents Reveals the Hidden Scorecard for Limited Government
  2. CBO Scores House Tax Plan
  3. Medical Innovations Lower Risk of Opioid Abuse
  4. Free Speech and the Silent Majority
  5. Independent Updates


1) Eleven Presidents Reveals the Hidden Scorecard for Limited Government

Will President Trump be remembered for “draining the swamp” and reversing the growth of federal power? If he fails to meet these objectives, it wouldn’t be the first time that such campaign promises were broken. And yet, more often than not the American people remember a president’s rhetoric (or that of his party) more than his actual record, as Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland shows in his illuminating and timely new book, Eleven Presidents: Promises vs. Results in Achieving Limited Government.

The following example of this disconnect is one that small-government conservatives should take to heart. During President Reagan’s tenure federal spending went up, the nonmilitary federal workforce increased, and the national debt as a share of GDP grew more than under any other president since the end of World War II. On the other hand, President Clinton, who faced opposition from more progressive members of his own party, cut federal spending more than any president since Truman, shrank the federal workforce by 350,000, lowered trade barriers, scrapped Depression-era banking restrictions, and ended unfunded federal mandates on the states. Despite their records, however, it’s often the case that Reagan is touted as the unsurpassed champion of limited government while Clinton’s successes go unnoticed.

It’s essential to set the historical record straight (and give credit where it’s due), but Eleven Presidents achieves more than this. By telling it like it is, by examining the historical threats and opportunities for limited government, the book gives readers insights for helping to return America to the constitutional republic the Founders created it to be. Anyone who truly wishes to champion limited government—and to prevent Leviathan’s ongoing attack on civil and economic liberties—will therefore be more effective in serving that goal after having absorbed the author’s eye-opening lessons.

Eleven Presidents: Promises vs. Results in Achieving Limited Government, by Ivan Eland

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

Audio: Ivan Eland on SiriusXM Radio’s Patriot Tonight Show (11/9/17)

Audio: Ivan Eland appears on the Lars Larson Radio Show (11/9/17)

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2) CBO Scores House Tax Plan

How would the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act impact the national debt? Last week, the Congressional Budget Office reported to the Congress that under the current House proposal the publicly held portion of the national debt would likely increase slightly to 97.1 percent of GDP in 2027, up from 91.2 percent. That estimate doesn’t paint a complete picture, however, because it doesn’t consider the effects of the tax plan on total public debt outstanding.

To determine the bigger picture, Independent Institute Research Fellow Craig Eyermann, creator of the Government Cost Calculator at MyGovCost.org, looked closely at the numbers. For a visual representation, check out his nifty chart at MyGovCost News & Blog.

Without tax cuts, in ten years the national debt is expected to grow to 116.7 percent of GDP (it’s currently at 109.2 percent). Under the House proposal, according to last week’s report, national debt would grow to 122.6 percent—“about the same as was realized during President Obama’s second term in office,” Eyermann writes. This estimate, he hastens to add, assumes the tax cuts would have no impact on GDP growth over the next ten years.

President Trump’s Tax Cuts and the National Debt, by Craig Eyermann (MyGovCost News & Blog, 11/13/17)

Science: Cutting Spending Better than Raising Taxes, by Craig Eyermann (MyGovCost News & Blog, 7/31/14)

Government Cost Calculator

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3) Medical Innovations Lower Risk of Opioid Abuse

The U.S. opioid endemic has laid to waste entire communities, with more than 20,000 U.S. fatalities in 2015 alone. Physicians who prescribe opioids face growing criticism, as do pharmaceutical distributors. A recent investigation by 60 Minutes and the Washington Post even implicated members of Congress for the opioid scourge. Nevertheless, opioids can help some of the estimated 24.3 million Americans who suffer from severe pain every day. Fortunately, innovative technology companies are helping prevent opioid users from succumbing to overdoses, explains Independent Institute Research Fellow Raymond March.

OpiSafe, a pain medication platform created by RxAssurance, “helps physicians who prescribe opioids closely monitor the dosages taken by their patients,” March writes in an op-ed for Real Clear Health. “Although state prescription drug monitoring programs collect information similar to what OpiSafe reports, doctors say it meets their needs better.” The company’s mobile app for monitoring opioid intake was used by over 5,000 patients in forty-one states as of last February, according to March.

Another company, Proov Biosciences, has developed technology to predict a patient’s risk of opioid addiction. Yet another, Triggr Health, has a mobile app that puts addicts in touch with a recovery coach to help prevent relapse. These companies are leading the way in fighting opioid abuse and turning despair into hope. Comparing their success with the outcomes of government efforts, “it might be time for governments to step aside,” March continues. “At least technology has fewer side effects.”

Medical Innovation—Not Government—Can Ease the Pain of Opioid Abuse, by Raymond March (Real Clear Health, 11/2/17)

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4) Free Speech and the Silent Majority

Academia was once viewed as a marketplace for competing ideas—even (or especially) unpopular ones. But almost every week yields news stories showing the decline of free speech on America’s college campuses. A study by Brookings Institution published in October even found that almost one-fifth of students polled consider it acceptable to use violence to prevent offensive speech. This bad news, however, isn’t the only news about the status of free speech on campus.

A Gallup survey for the Knight Foundation and Newseum found that only a small segment of students actually supported speech codes—just 16 percent at Yale, for example. But if students tolerate unpopular views more often than not, then what accounts for speech codes, safe zones, and the shouting-down (and shutting down) of guest speakers some students find objectionable?

In large part, it’s the phenomenon of the squeaky wheel, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Donald A. Downs. “The anti-speech activists are more aggressive than their tolerant counterparts and better able to influence school administrators,” he writes in an op-ed for the Washington Examiner. Whether or not the administrators will once again cultivate and protect the spirit of free inquiry is a matter still undecided. Continues Downs: “Higher education can turn things around if it finds the resolve and fortitude. Will it?”

Will Free Speech Prevail on Campus?, by Donald A. Downs (Washington Examiner, 11/6/17)

Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus, by Donald A. Downs

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5) Independent Updates

The Beacon: New Blog Posts

MyGovCost: New Blog Posts

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