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The Lighthouse


The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 20, Issue 5: January 30, 2018

  1. School Choice Reaching a Tipping Point
  2. Poverty Reduction, Market-Based Opportunity, and the Pope
  3. Health Apps a Partial Remedy for Doctor Shortages
  4. Rethinking Military Aid to Pakistan
  5. Independent Updates


1) School Choice Reaching a Tipping Point

School choice now enjoys support from the majority of voters across the country. According to Beck Research, a Democratic polling firm hired to conduct a recent survey for the American Federation of Children, a significant 63 percent of likely voters in next November’s elections favor school choice. Moreover, the popularity of school choice cuts across ethnic groups (it’s favored by 61% of whites, 66% of African-Americans, and 72% of Latinos); party lines (with 54% support among Democrats, 62% among Independents, and 75% among Republicans); and the geographic landscape (56% support school choice in large metropolitan areas, 62% in small metro areas, 62% in the suburbs, 67% in rural areas, and 70% at the fringe/exurban).

“These results suggest that school choice isn’t just an escape hatch out of truly bad schools,” writes Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger in the Orange County Register. “It’s a pathway into schools that are better fits for students based on their unique individual needs.”

As school choice approaches a political tipping point, the key policy question becomes: what type of school-choice policies should state lawmakers enact? For the largest state in the union, the answer is increasingly clear. “Most Californians across political and socio-economic lines support tax-credit scholarships—including two-thirds of public school parents,” Alger writes. “ESAs [Education Savings Accounts] funded through tax-credit contributions would go a long way toward satisfying Californians’ demand for more education options and more responsible education spending.” The enactment of tax-credit ESAs, Alger concludes, “would empower parents and guardians to personalize their child’s education, and would foster an educational landscape that can quickly adapt to meet the diverse needs of students and their families.”

California Should Celebrate National School Choice Week with Bold Thinking, by Vicki E. Alger (The Orange County Register, 1/24/18)

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

Customized Learning for California: Helping K-12 Students Thrive with Education Savings Accounts, by Vicki E. Alger

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2) Poverty Reduction, Market-Based Opportunity, and the Pope

There’s no shortage of bad news—the 24-hour news cycle has ensured a surplus for the foreseeable future. Perhaps it should not surprise us that the most underreported story is one of astonishingly good news: Extreme poverty has fallen significantly over the past few decades, with 1 billion fewer people earning less than $1.90 per day than in 1990, and most of the progress has come from pro-market reforms in China, India, and Indonesia. If you missed the story, you’re not alone; the Vatican seems to have missed it too. This would explain why Pope Francis has mischaracterized poverty as a growing problem.

Misdiagnosing the problem, the head of the Roman Catholic Church has also prescribed the wrong treatment: more taxation and coercive wealth redistribution. “Pope Francis is most certainly right when he calls for us all to work on creating a more caring world, especially to help those most in need, but government interventions that sustainably reduce poverty are the exception to the rule,” writes Independent Research Fellow Robert M. Whaples, in an op-ed for Investor’s Business Daily that draws on the anthology he recently edited, Pope Francis and the Caring Society.

What the world needs now is markets, not mandates. Economic freedom best enables wealth creation. It’s also a strong engine of effective giving. “By contrast, coercive wealth redistribution provides a strong disincentive to work, to innovate, to create jobs, and to share the resulting gains with the charitable works to address those most in need,” Whaples writes. “As Francis has well noted, we need to repurpose our lives to enable people worldwide to realize human dignity and well-being.”

Responding to Pope Francis’s Call to Alleviate Poverty, by Robert M. Whaples (Investor’s Business Daily, 1/26/17)

Pope Francis and the Caring Society, edited by Robert M. Whaples

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3) Health Apps a Partial Remedy for Doctor Shortages

Texas limousine driver Thomas Moran almost died from a heart attack. Lucky for him, he had installed the Pulsar health app on his smartphone and so emergency help was able to reach him in just 26 minutes. Success stories such as this will become more common if present trends continue—and government regulations don’t get in the way. Already more than 318,000 health apps are now used to detect or manage scores of medical conditions, including diabetes, glaucoma, pancreatic cancer, and opioid addiction. Unfortunately, some critics and skeptics would like to see health apps face greater regulatory scrutiny—in the form of FDA approval requirements.

“Although these concerns are well intended, they are largely misguided,” writes Independent Institute Research Fellow Raymond March at The Beacon. “Health apps are providing patients with necessary services where they are underprovided.”

Health apps, March explains, are partly a response to shortages of healthcare providers. In the United States, a shortage of 61,000 to 94,700 doctors has contributed to a 30 percent average increase in wait times in 15 metropolitan areas since 2014. “It would be folly to ask patients to wait in long lines or for federal regulators to verify quality when so many are receiving help every day,” March writes. Moreover, there is no good reason to deny American patients the kind of care-at-a-distance alternative that’s available to consumers in China and India, where severe doctor shortages have helped spark the development of health apps.

Medical Apps: Improving Healthcare on a Global Scale, by Raymond March (The Beacon, 1/11/18)

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

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

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4) Rethinking Military Aid to Pakistan

President Trump’s suspension of military aid to Pakistan was met with derision in Islamabad, where some officials called it a “betrayal” of a faithful ally. The White House announcement might have been met with loud cheers in the United States, if only more Americans had the confidence that the suspension presages lasting change. As Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland explains, Washington’s awkward relationship with Pakistan has been fraught with problems ever since George W. Bush solicited its help after launching the War on Terror in 2001.

Bush’s great mistake in this regard was to pursue a campaign of nation building in Afghanistan with occupational forces. This became a prescription for creating an anti-U.S. insurgency that took refuge in Pakistan, a country with elements sympathetic to the Taliban and leery of Washington’s overtures toward its enemy India. The nation-building war in Afghanistan has only served to destabilize nuclear-armed Pakistan.

“President Trump is right to cut off aid to Pakistan, but he should also reassess the entire Af-Pak regional picture,” Eland writes. “It’s time to remember the shining U.S. victory over bin Laden and al-Qaeda in that part of the world, admit defeat in remodeling Afghanistan, and withdraw all American forces before the continuing U.S. military presence inadvertently creates a super ISIS there.”

Let’s Rethink U.S. Policy Toward the Af-Pak Region, by Ivan Eland (InsideSources, 1/19/18)

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

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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