Volume 20, Issue 14: April 3, 2018
- Veterans Affairs in Limbo as Usual
- What the Pope Doesnt Know about the Environment
- The Astonishing Success of Hoovers Foreign Policy
- The Secret to Mending Our Political Differences
- Independent Updates
1) Veterans Affairs in Limbo as Usual
In hindsight, the only thing surprising about last weeks ouster of Department of Veterans Affairs chief David Shulkin was that President Trump fired him via Twitter. The agencys size (360,000 employees, $186 billion annual budget) is second only to that of the Pentagon. Its internal turf wars may be just as epic. Consequently, Shulkins downfall had less to do with a European travel junket than with a bureaucratic brawl regarding the scope and pacing of VA reform.
Shulkins replacementTrumps official physician, Rear Admiral Ronny L. Jacksonhas his work cut out for him. As a job, [VA chief] may very well be several orders of magnitude more difficult than dealing with President Trump, writes Independent Institute Research Fellow Craig Eyermann, creator of the Government Cost Calculator at MyGovCost.org.
Since the VA became a cabinet-level agency almost 30 years ago, seven of its nine chiefs have left office before their term expired. The agencys culture of corruption goes back decades further, as the late historian and Independent Institute Research Fellow Ronald Hamowy has explained. Making the VA an effective and efficient servant of the nations veterans must therefore go hand in hand with ridding the agency of its toxic culture. And so it must go, Eyermann writes, whether the VA wants it to be, or not. For a sound approach to reforming the VA and many other government agencies, see Better Than Government: A New Way of Managing Lifes Risks, by Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman.
Reform Coming to the VA, Whether It Wants This or Not, by Craig Eyermann (MyGovCost News & Blog, 4/2/18)
Failure to Provide: Healthcare at the Veterans Administration, by Ronald Hamowy (3/18/10)
Better Than Government: A New Way of Managing Lifes Risks, by John C. Goodman (10/6/16)
2) What the Pope Doesnt Know about the Environment
Along with poverty reduction, Pope Francis made environmental protection a theme of his 2015 encyclical about care for our common home. Unfortunately, the pontiff voiced widespread misunderstandings about markets and the environment, mistaken claims he repeated last January during his widely reported visit to Peru. In truth, rather than being inherently antagonistic, the free market creates strong incentives for the prudent conservation of earths amenities.
Private property and the profit motive are crucial to the long-term preservation of resources, from water and land to endangered species, write Independent Institute Research Fellows Robert M. Whaples and Adam B. Summer in a recent op-ed. Pope Francis and other critics of free-market capitalism need to understand that the deciding issue isnt whether or not capitalistsor companieshave humanitarian motives. Its whether or not the environment and humanity are better served when environmental resources are privately owned and property rights are vigorously enforced, or when government runs the show.
Free-market pricing for water, for example, discourages the wasting of that scarce resource, whereas mandated below-market pricing encourages demand to outstrip supply. Similarly, a free market in rhinoceros farming and the sale of horns drastically reduced rhino poaching in South Africa, whereas a ban in neighboring Kenya decimated the rhino population, Whaples and Summer explain. Such examples can be found around the globe, enabling us to draw a robust conclusion. As one study by Guatemalan economist Daniel Fernandez puts it, The greater the economic freedom, the better the environmental quality indexes.
To Protect the Environment, Pope Francis Should Look to Free Markets, by Robert M. Whaples and Adam B. Summers (The Daily Caller, 3/13/18)
Pope Francis and the Caring Society, edited by Robert M. Whaples
3) The Astonishing Success of Hoovers Foreign Policy
President Herbert Hoover was bad on economic policy; it was his interventionism, not his alleged restraint, that deepened and prolonged the Great Depression. His record on political liberties was also generally poor. Nevertheless, Hoovers national-security policy is highly underrated. In a recent piece for The American Conservative, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland goes so far as to call it one of the best in American history.
In Latin America, Hoover withdrew the U.S. Marines from Nicaragua, abandoned the dollar diplomacy characterized by President Woodrow Wilsons two invasions of Mexico, and stopped 30 years of meddling in the internal affairs of countries in the region. In East Asia, Hoover responded to the crisis precipitated by Japans 1931 invasion of Manchuria by seeking to play the role of mediator rather than pursuing a military option, because the conflict didnt imperil the freedom or economic future of the American people. In doing so, Hoover likely prevented a worse disaster for the United States than what began a decade later at Pearl Harbor.
Hoovers signing of the London Naval Treaty of 1930which banned all naval arms of the signatories until 1936was also prescient. The treaty helped allow countries to focus internally during the Great Depression (not that they adopted the right economic remedies). Bottom line: Thanks to Hoovers foreign-policy restraint, not a single American died in a foreign conflict. It was a grand performance that the United States today, secure with its vast inventory of nuclear weapons, intercontinental missiles, and long-range bombers, has the physical capability to repeat. And, Eland writes, given the nearly $21 trillion national debt, national exhaustion over recent interventions in the Middle East, five simultaneous drone wars that the United States is presently conducting, and consequent election of a populist president who has promised a less overextended U.S. foreign policy, now would be the perfect time to follow Hoovers example.
Herbert Hoover Had the Best National Security Policy of the 20th Century, by Ivan Eland (The American Conservative, 3/27/18)
4) The Secret to Mending Our Political Differences
Government activism creates winners and losersthose who benefit from public subsidies, favoritism (official or otherwise), and the disparate impacts of various regulations, and those who are disadvantaged by them. This activism messes with our minds, not just our pocketbooks.
As Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs explains in his latest column in The Independent Review, government activism feeds the bitter partisanship and mind-numbing groupthink that have been tearing at the fabric of Western political culture. Thats because people assess their standing in society through the lens of ideology; they identify themselves as members of a tribe thats on either the giving end or receiving end of the governments actions. (In reality, they may be both givers and takers.) Group allegiances come into play, along with a zero-sum, us versus them mentality.
To curb a movement toward greater political divisiveness in the United States, assuming there is such a trend, it is therefore necessary to slow, halt, or reverse the growth of government. To be sure, the effort is a herculean task. The beneficiaries wont easily relinquish their bounty. They will fight any changes that would require them to surrender benefits, policies, and programs in which they are deeply invested not only materially but also ideologically, Higgs writes. Such resistance constitutes one of the important aspects of the ratchet effect in the growth of government, whereby each major lurch toward greater government becomes at least in part irreversible.
Ideology and Political Divisiveness, by Robert Higgs (The Independent Review, Spring 2018)
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5) Independent Updates
The Beacon: New Blog Posts
- Making a Statement on Gun Control, by Adam Summers
- Economic EqualitySocialisms Unattainable, Undesirable Pie in the Sky, by Robert Higgs
- Against the Whole Concept and Construction of the Balance of International Payments, by Robert Higgs
MyGovCost: New Blog Posts
- Black Hawks Up, by K. Lloyd Billingsley
- Reform Coming to the VA, Whether It Wants This or Not, by Craig Eyermann
- Medicaid and Bureaucrat Pensions Creating Budget Crisis for States, by Craig Eyermann
- Court System Sex Abuse Payouts Shaft Taxpayers, by K. Lloyd Billingsley