Volume 19, Issue 53: December 27, 2017
1) Independent Institutes Year in Review
2017 has given everyone much to think and talk about, so it’s fitting that the year has also given us 53 issues of our weekly e-newsletter, The Lighthouse (please click here if you have missed one). In this issue, we take a step back from the newest trees to look more at the forest, to share with you some of our year’s highlights and greatest hits. First, a few preliminaries:
Books: The Independent Institute’s research and publications program is the foundation of our modus operandi. In 2017, we made a strategic decision to publish fewer books than in recent years as we have many exciting, new ones in the pipeline for 2018. On July 1, we published the pioneering book on the greatest and most rapid episode of poverty reduction in memorypossibly in world historydriven not by government functionaries, but as usual by ordinary individuals seeking better lives for themselves and their families: China’s Great Migration: How the Poor Built a Prosperous Nation, by Bradley M. Gardner. To date the book has resulted in 15 reviews, interviews, media citations, or public talks (see here and here for the full list). Gardner is unique among our fellows in that shortly after completing his manuscript, he elected to join the diplomatic corps of the U.S. Department of State. Thus, his work now always comes with an official disclaimer: “The author’s views are not necessarily those of the U.S. government.” (Funny, but we never imagined the possibility of public confusion ever arising between “us” and “them,” but that’s cautious diplomacy for you!)
On September 1, we published the book, Pope Francis and the Caring Society, edited by Robert M. Whaples. Expanding upon our special Symposium in The Independent Review, The Economics of Pope Francis, the book contains several, key, additional chapters, including a foreword by the late Michael Novak, enabling greater engagement with the pope’s views on the economy, the environment, and charity. The book has already enjoyed tremendous media engagement (see the 47 items on its News list, plus three public events already and two more scheduled for early 2018, so far). Pope Francis and the Caring Society has given our fellows a unique opportunity to engage with both faith-based and secular communities on issues of concern to everyone, regardless of their religious or philosophical views. Expect more media attention in the coming weeks.
On November 1, we published Ivan Eland’s fifth book for Independent, Eleven Presidents:Promises vs. Results in Achieving Limited Government. The book is at once cautionary (“Don’t judge a president by the rhetoric!”) and celebratory (“Success is often hidden in history’s forgotten details.”). Mostly, though, it’s a straight-forward look at how U.S. presidents of the past one-hundred years lived up to (or, more often than not, failed on) their promises to restrain and indeed reduce the federal government. Eland is one of Independent’s most prolific writers and media figures, and you can find many video and audio clips from his television and radio appearances here.
Studies: In addition to our books, we are devoting greater resources to expanding other types of publications, including Briefings, Executive Summaries, and Policy Reports. The Executive Summaries, in particular, enable us to communicate very efficiently to busy business and civic leaders, educators and students, journalists, and policymakers: these two-page précis offer policy solutions for example on Obamacare and healthcare coverage, the environmental, the U.S. debt crisis, and education. Regarding the latter, Vicki Alger’s new, 52-page Policy Report, Customized Learning for California, is making a rock-solid case for Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) in the Golden State, as a blueprint for anywhere, especially as a program funded through tax-favored donations to qualified nonprofits. Alger’s work has been particularly impactful as states have consulted it to shape their own ESA legislation. Lawrence J. McQuillan’s further series of Briefingsthe California Golden Fleece Awardcalling out Cal Fire (for seriously misplaced priorities that we have subsequently seen contributed to the year’s horrific fires) and the state’s water department (for its mishandling of the Oroville Dam spillway).
The Independent Review: The most viewed article in our quarterly journal this year was also the piece with the most views on our website: On the Origins and Goals of Public Choice: Constitutional Conspiracy?, by Michael C. Munger (Co-editor, The Independent Review). A blistering critique of Nancy MacLean’s deeply flawed, National Book Award Finalist Democracy in Chains, Munger’s article is alsoa brilliant presentation of Public Choice theory. With 34 media mentions, it’s one of the most widely cited pieces ever published in The Independent Review. Other highlights this year include our symposia:
- Hamilton on Broadway and the Founding in American Culture
- Is Egalitarianism Fair?
- The One Hundredth Anniversary of the Russian Revolution
- Debating Immigration
Op-ed spin-offs from the journal have included ones by George Gilder (Currency Trading Is in Chaos, Dallas Morning News), Yuri Maltsev (The Russian Revolution and Terror of Marxism-Leninism, The Daily Caller), and Benjamin Powell (More Immigration Does Not Mean Less Economic Freedom, Reason).
Social Media: The Independent Institute had a very active year on Twitter (now with 20.1K followers. And as of this writing we have 249,418 followers to our Independent Institute Facebook page and 135,792 people followers of our MyGovCost.org Facebook page. Below are op-eds and blog posts, by subject, that our Facebook audience found particularly engaging (full citations and text are linked):
- Obamacare Bait-and-Switch Bludgeons Californians, by K. Lloyd Billingsley
- Philly Moves the Goalposts on Soda Tax, by William F. Shughart II, Josh T. Smith
- Single-Payer Healthcare Is Far More Expensive Than Advocates Claim, by Gary M. Galles
- Education Savings Accounts: A Golden Opportunity for California Students, by Vicki E. Alger
- Feds Take Defaulting Student Loan Borrowers to Court, by Craig Eyermann
- Keep the Federal Government Out of School Choice, by Vicki E. Alger, Neal McCluskey, and Lindsey Burke
- Trump’s Education Cuts Aren’t ‘Devastating,’ They’re Smart, by Williamson M. Evers and Vicki E. Alger
- Comparing Federal Pay with Private Sector Pay, by Craig Eyermann
- How Fiscally Healthy Is Your State?, by Craig Eyermann
- Illinois Headed for the Junk Heap, by Craig Eyermann
- Who Lent $20 Trillion to the U.S. Government?, by Craig Eyermann
- Who Owns the U.S. National Debt?, by Craig Eyermann
- Yet Another Debt-Expanding Republican Administration, by Ivan Eland
Defense, Peace, and Foreign Affairs:
- Could the Civil War Have Been Avoided?, by William Watkins, Jr.
- Four Years after Chavez’s Death, Venezuela Sinks Deeper into the Abyss, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa
- How the Black Market Helped Me, and Others, Escape North Korea, by Yeonmi Park
- California Expands Travel Ban Inequality, by K. Lloyd Billingsley
- Communists March with Democrats in Atlanta, but the Media Doesn’t Care, by William Watkins
- Is Capitalism a Caring Society, by Robert M. Whaples
- Was Hillary Clinton’s Progressive Presidential Bid Doomed from the Start?, by Sam Staley
- Why Are We So Divided?, by John C. Goodman
Regulation and Government Failure:
- Anti Price Gouging Laws Don’t Benefit Consumers, by Abigail R. Hall and Michael Coon
- California High-Speed Rail Rides No-Bid Gravy Train, by K. Lloyd Billingsley
- How Freedom, Innovation, and Incentives Do a Better Job at Building Society than Can Government, by Timothy C. Draper
- Death by Government Housing (Policy), by Mary L. G. Theroux
- How the Ethanol Mandate Is Killing the American Prairie, by William F. Shughart II
- “Stuff Happens.” Oroville Dam Crisis Is a Failure of Government, by K. Lloyd Billingsley
- United Airlines Incident Makes a Case for Less Government Regulation, by K. Lloyd Billingsley
- What We Can Learn from Portugal’s Drug Policy, by Abigail R. Hall and Kaila Preston
Ideas and Culture:
- The Core of the Classical Liberal Tradition: Adam Smith’s Concept of Justice, by Vernon Smith
- Hey, Millennials: Socialism Creates Poverty and Limits Freedom. So Stop Romanticizing It!, by Benjamin Powell
- Predicting the Economic Future: Karl Marx’s Crackpot Predictions in a New Light, by P. J. O’Rourke
- The Two Sides of Pope Francis, by Lawrence J. McQuillan
Events: This year, our fellows spoke at scores of events around the United States (for 45 video clips from such events, see our multimedia archive here). We hosted three additional events: New Bridges: California (with Patrick M. Byrne, John Hagel III, Alexander Lloyd, Robert P. Murphy, Mary L. G. Theroux, and William J. Watkins Jr.); New Bridges: Texas (with George Gilder, John C. Goodman, Robert P. Murphy, Mary L. G. Theroux, Joshua J. Umbeh, and Robert M. Whaples); and our 30th Anniversary Gala for the Future of Liberty (honoring Timothy C. Draper, Yeonmi Park, and Vernon L. Smith; with P. J. O’Rourke as Master of Ceremonies).
The Road Ahead: There’s much, much more we could say about 2017, including additional honors for Love Gov: From First Date to Mandate, our award-winning video series on YouTube with almost 7.5 million combined views (98% Millennials), the 178 op-eds we published in outlets such The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Daily Caller, Forbes, The Hill, Newsweek, and The San Francisco Chronicle, and the investments we’ve enthusiastically made in the next generation of pro-liberty thought leaders, through our internships and other student programs.
For a further update on the Independent Institute, please see our 2017 Annual Report: Building Bridges to the Future.
But most especially now, we are eager to launch our program for 2018 and beyond. We invite you to join with us in helping lay the intellectual and cultural groundwork for freer societies and the fruits that they bring. As always, your kind tax-deductible contributions are essential and most welcome. For further information on how you can help as this year is quickly drawing to a close, please see our membership page.
Keep reading, keep sharing, and stay engaged!
2) Independent Updates
The Beacon: New Blog Posts
- Rule of Law: Order Versus Justice, by Randall Holcombe
- BrexitEverything Changes so It Can Stay the Same?, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa
MyGovCost: New Blog Posts
- Government Trickle-Down Trickery, by K. Lloyd Billingsley
- Federal Government Shutdown Theater Christmas Pageant, by Craig Eyermann
- Bureaucrats Behaving Badly Inside Interior Department, by Craig Eyermann
- Government Traintanic Still Insolvent and Unsafe at Any Speed , by K. Lloyd Billingsley