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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
Subscribe now, or browse Back Issues.

Volume 15, Issue 5: January 29, 2013

  1. The Case for Armed Guards at Schools
  2. Who Are the Biggest Holders of U.S. Debt?
  3. Obama’s Second Term: More War or More Peace?
  4. 2013 Challenge of Liberty Summer Seminars for Students
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts

Urgent Tax-Reduction Opportunity: The “Fiscal Cliff” tax legislation of January 2, 2013, reinstated a provision allowing individuals 70.5 or older to make charitable contributions, including donations to the Independent Institute, from their IRAs. The distribution must be made prior to January 31 in order to be deductible from 2012 taxes, and various requirements must be met. For more information, please see this briefing, and if you would like to further the mission of the Independent Institute with such a gift, please contact Sarah Galt at 510-632-1366, ext. 152, or donate@independent.org.


1) The Case for Armed Guards at Schools

Should armed guards be posted in the nation’s schools? When Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and NRA president Wayne LaPierre made this proposal in the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., many pundits ridiculed them. Perhaps those critics were unaware that approximately 17,000 armed police officers already serve in the nation’s schools—albeit mostly to control drugs and gang violence at urban middle schools and high schools. But if we are serious about keeping kids from getting gunned down, we must give the idea of armed guards serious consideration, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Stephen P. Halbrook.

One reason why the proposal should be taken seriously is that mass shooters tend to target gun-free zones, where they expect no immediate resistance. When law enforcement arrives on the scene, the killers typically turn their guns on themselves or surrender, says Halbrook. This happened, for example, in Newtown, Portland, Ore., and Aurora, Colo. In contrast, proposals to ban semi-automatic weapons misfire because determined killers can resort to non-banned guns, as happened at the Columbine High School mass shooting in 1999, or employ even more destructive methods, such as fertilizer-based explosives like those used in Oklahoma City in 1995.

“Murder and mayhem are not abolished by banning possession of selected physical objects by law-abiding individuals,” Halbrook writes in a new op-ed. “No ‘conversation’ is needed to know that armed security can protect schools, just as they protect courts and other public buildings, airline travelers, banks, and even convenience stores.”

Armed School Guards Are Our Best Bet to Stop Future Newtowns, by Stephen P. Halbrook (Kansas City Star and other McClatchy newspapers, 1/24/13)

More articles, books, and videos on the gun control issue

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2) Who Are the Biggest Holders of U.S. Debt?

The U.S. Treasury recently released its latest (preliminary) tally of U.S. debt holders. As of September 30, 2012, U.S. entities own about 65.8 percent of all debt issued by the U.S. government, including 30.4 percent owned by U.S. individuals and institutions such as banks, insurance companies, and other government entities. Independent Institute Research Fellow Craig Eyermann shows the breakdown in another one of his incredibly helpful charts at MyGovCost.org.

Foreign entities, Eyermann explains, own 34.2 percent of U.S.-issued debt. The largest non-U.S. holders of U.S. debt? China (8.1 percent), followed by Japan (7 percent), and Brazil (1.6 percent). The United Kingdom, once a great creditor to the United States, now holds only 0.9 percent of U.S. debt. The Federal Reserve, by the way, holds a larger share than China!

Eyermann concludes with this jaw-dropping paragraph: “Since the end of the U.S. government’s 2012 fiscal year on September 30, 2012, the U.S. government has since racked up roughly another $400 billion (or 0.4 trillion dollars) in debt at this writing, bringing the total national debt up to 16.4 trillion dollars.”

The Major Holders of the National Debt, by Craig Eyermann (MyGovCost Blog, 1/23/13)

MyGovCost.org—Home of the Government Cost Calculator

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3) Obama’s Second Term: More War or More Peace?

How will the White House conduct U.S. foreign policy during Obama’s second term? If history repeats itself—and there’s never a guarantee that it will—then the President’s next four years will be more warlike than his first four years, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Anthony Gregory. In a recent op-ed for the Huffington Post, Gregory writes that the Democrats in the Oval Office “seem to become more bellicose in their second term.”

Here’s the foreign policy record of Democratic presidents during their second terms. Woodrow Wilson ran for re-election on the slogan, “He Kept Us Out of War”—only to drag the country into the Great War—at a cost of 116,000 American lives. Franklin Delano Roosevelt didn’t actually commit U.S. troops to World War II until his third term, but he did approve a peacetime draft during his second term and thereby made it easier to send U.S. troops overseas when he did. In his first term, Harry Truman helped conclude a war he inherited from his predecessor, but in his second term he sent U.S. troops to the Korean peninsula, at a cost of 37,000 American lives. Lyndon Johnson campaigned as the “peace candidate” when he ran against Barry Goldwater after filling in for John F. Kennedy, but then Johnson escalated the war in Vietnam. And Bill Clinton’s second term included his war against Serbia.

If this pattern by itself isn’t sufficient cause for concern, Gregory points to other ominous indicators of growing belligerence during Obama’s second term. “He has been arming unsavory characters throughout the Muslim world, playing with a full-blown war with Syria, and tightening the sanctions on Iran,” Gregory writes. “He rang in the new year with a major escalation of drone bombings.” In contrast, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland offers an alternative prognosis. “Obama,” he writes, “has been headed down the right path of lessening U.S. involvement in unnecessary wars.” The nation’s dire financial condition may even reinforce the trend. “Drastic cuts in the defense budgets will be needed,” Eland continues, “especially if President Obama adheres to his apparent irresponsible Second Inaugural pledge to hold fast on reforming rapidly growing entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare. At minimum, the president should endorse additional defense cuts of about $500 billion over nearly a decade, which will take effect if nothing is changed.”

The Bellicosity of a Democrat’s Second Term, by Anthony Gregory (The Huffington Post, 1/24/13)

Foreign Policy and Defense in a Second Term, by Ivan Eland (1/28/13)

No War for Oil: U.S. Dependency and the Middle East, by Ivan Eland

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4) 2013 Challenge of Liberty Summer Seminars for Students

We are pleased to announce the dates for the Independent Institute’s 2013 Challenge of Liberty Summer Seminars!

These five-day seminars feature a wide variety of topics, including:

  • The rise of liberty and economic development
  • Economics fundamentals, property rights, and civil liberty
  • Taxation, regulation, antitrust, and interventionism
  • Education, healthcare, immigration, and the environment
  • The economics of war and peace
  • The Great Depression and the Great Recession
  • Classical Economics, Austrian Economics, and Public Choice

Speakers include: Robert Higgs (The Independent Institute), José Yulo (Academy of Art University), James C. W. Ahiakpor (California State University, East Bay), Anthony Gregory (The Independent Institute), Ivan Pongracic, Jr. (Hillsdale College), Benjamin Powell (Texas Tech University), Gregory Rehmke (EconomicThinking.org), and Michael Winther (Institute for Principle Studies).

Reserve your space today!

The 2013 Challenge of Liberty Summer Seminars

Videos from our 2011 and 2012 seminars

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

Ain’t That a Shame? Treasury Nominee Bagged Wall Street Bonus
K. Lloyd Billingsley (1/28/13)

Bigger Than China
Craig Eyermann (1/25/13)

Feds’ Allergy Problem
K. Lloyd Billingsley (1/24/13)

Federal Government Debt Undermines the Programs It Finances
Randall Holcombe (1/23/13)

The Major Holders of the National Debt
Craig Eyermann (1/23/13)

You can find the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language website here and blog here.

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6) Selected News Alerts

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