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The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 20, Issue 19: May 8, 2018

  1. Safety Scholarships Can Help Address School Violence
  2. Gas-Car Drivers Face New Threat: Russian Fake News
  3. Pharmaceutical Makers Need Antidote to Government Interference
  4. College Basketball Players Jump Through Hoops While Others Reap the Rewards
  5. Independent Updates


1) Safety Scholarships Can Help Address School Violence

Although recent school shootings have prompted a new wave of gun-control activism, a more fundamental reform would reduce far more school violence: measures that make it easier for parents to move their bullied children to safer schools. Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently passed the Hope Scholarship voucher program, which would do exactly that, and non-profit groups should get behind similar efforts, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger, author of Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children and Customized Learning for California: Helping K–12 Students Thrive with Education Savings Accounts.

About one in five children ages 12 to 18 has suffered physical or emotional harassment at school, but many parents can’t handle the added financial burden of transfering their child to a safer school. “It shouldn’t be that way, and that is why CSA (Child Safety Accounts) programs are so desperately needed,” write Alger, and co-authors Tim Benson and Lennie Jarratt of the Heartland Institute, in an op-ed at The American Spectator.

School bullying takes a huge toll on children—academically as well as emotionally. Alger and her co-authors suggest that it may be a leading reason that academic performance has plateaued in many public school districts: “Scores on the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) tests, colloquially known as the ‘Nation’s Report Card,’ continue to be stagnant, even though there has been a significant increase in recent decades in school funding and regulations passed in the name of creating better education outcomes.” Offering a helping hand for school children to escape from a 12-year sentence of involuntary confinement seems long overdue.

On the 19th Anniversary of Columbine—Child Safety Accounts: Protecting Our Children with Freedom, by Vicki E. Alger, Tim Benson, and Lennie Jarratt (The American Spectator, 4/20/18)

Audio: Student Safety Scholarships, featuring Vicki Alger (Marc Cox Radio Show, 4/3/18)

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2) Gas-Car Drivers Face New Threat: Russian Fake News

All-electric cars have made barely a dent in U.S. car sales or on the demand for gasoline: Last year, they accounted for only about 1 percent of the 17 million vehicles sold in America. But even if sales of electric vehicles were to surge, industry experts predict that the demand for gas to power light vehicles would grow three-fold by the mid-2030s. This is one reason why political efforts meant to keep oil in the ground can do major damage to Americans’ collective wallets.

Another reason, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II, may be geo-strategic: Russian state actors have joined anti-oil environmentalists to propagandize the public to urge policymakers to “keep it in the ground.” “With Russia’s help, the keep-it-in-the-ground movement threatens to impede the production of oil offshore and stifle hydraulic fracturing in shale formations,” Shughart writes in The Hill.

Whether the result of Putin’s propagandists, environmentalist egalitarians, or OPEC oligarchs, price hikes for gas and oil inflict heavy damage on U.S. consumers. “Every $10 per barrel hike in crude prices is like a $70 billion tax increase on Americas,” Shughart writes.

Russia’s ‘Keep It in the Ground’ Ploy to Stifle American Oil, by William F. Shughart II (The Hill, 4/22/18)

Video: Emily Skarbek on Call For More Oil, with Judge Andrew Napolitano (Freedom Watch, 5/19/11)

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3) Pharmaceutical Makers Need Antidote to Government Interference

Investment banking giant Goldman Sachs recently published a report arguing that gene therapy innovations offer investors little hope of sustained cash flow. Some may find the news alarming because it suggests that life-enhancing biotechnology breakthroughs are unlikely to get funded. In reality, however, the only warranted fear may be that government will hinder the genome revolution.

As Independent Institute Research Fellow Raymond J. March notes in The Beacon, the pharmaceutical industry has innovated numerous successful medical treatments that have earned no profits. In fact, only about one of five drugs that go to market earn enough revenues to cover the costs of R&D and the FDA’s cumbersome drug-approval process. Profits from new drugs often decay after a few years. Typically, the big profit-making drugs pull most of the weight for the pharmaceutical industry.

The FDA’s drug-approval process adds more layers of uncertainty on pharmaceutical companies. Industry lobbying of the government is often a zero-sum game in which the winner quashes competition from smaller rivals. “Efforts like these are how the firms in the healthcare sector can earn sustainable profits without benefiting customers,” writes March. Perhaps lawmakers someday will pass right-to-try legislation that will allow the pharmaceutical industry to experiment with an antidote to government interference.

Curing Diseases Is Sustainable, Government in Healthcare Is Not, by Raymond J. March (The Beacon, 5/3/18)

Is the FDA’s drug-approval process safe and effective? See FDAReview.org.

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4) College Basketball Players Jump Through Hoops While Others Reap the Rewards

As National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice had the ear of President George W. Bush and the foreign-policy press. Now, as a commissioner charged with recommending changes to college basketball, Rice has the ear of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Her task force recently published a study whose omissions say much about the neglect of the nation’s student athletes.

Although creation of the Commission on College Basketball was prompted by an FBI investigation of payments to ace high-school recruits, the task force had the opportunity to addresses numerous problems with how the NCAA treats college athletes. Unfortunately, it missed several easy shots, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Richard K. Vedder. For starters, it overlooked the way the collegiate sports organization helps ensure that few financial benefits from college sports accrue to the student athletes themselves. Most of the money, much of it from TV networks covering games watched by millions, goes disproportionately to coaches and athletic directors.

Moreover, the growing demands of college sports have put the squeeze on academic achievement. Students athletes play more games, attend more meetings, and travel more than ever, but they have less time for serious academic study. And superstar athletes who checks all the boxes cannot cash in on their names or physical likenesses. Perhaps it will take a well-timed student-athlete strike—say just before March Madness—to turn the tide. “One thing, however, is certain: the NCAA is incapable of policing itself—it is controlled by persons collecting millions annually from the current corrupt system,” Vedder concludes.

What’s Missing From Condoleezza Rice’s Report on College Basketball, by Richard Vedder (Forbes, 4/27/18)

During College Basketball’s March Madness, Everyone Wins Big Except the Athletes, by K. Lloyd Billingsley (The Daily Caller, 3/8/18)

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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