The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute. Subscribe
now, or browse Back Issues
Volume 15, Issue 16: April 16, 2013
- Tax Freedom Day Is Almost Here
- What to Do about North Korea?
- Thatcher and Her Foes
- Californias Toxic Policy-Making
- New Blog Posts
- Selected News Alerts
The Independent Review: Subscribe or renew today and get a free copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Crisis and Levithan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, by Robert Higgs.
1) Tax Freedom Day Is Almost Here
As taxpayers rush to meet todays deadline with the Internal Revenue Service, theres another date they should keep in mind: April 18 is Tax Freedom Day, the day that the nation will have earned all of the money needed to pay its 2013 tax obligationsan estimated $4.22 trillion dollars! In his latest op-ed for the Huffington Post, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Benjamin Powell helps us makes sense of this staggering sum by breaking it into subcomponents.
On average, Americans will work 40 days just to pay their income taxes, another 25 days for payroll taxes, 15 days for excise taxes, and 12 days for property taxes, Powell writes. Of course, Tax Freedom Day would be pushed back much further if we also accounted for the federal deficita potential future tax burden.
How much would federal spending need to be reduced in order to eliminate the deficit? Based on current revenues, it would need to fall to about the same level as was spent during President Clintons last year in the Oval Office. Powell writes: That is hardly a return to an era of small government. Though, if I had my druthers, Id like to see National Tax Freedom Day in January.
Happy Tax Freedom Day?, by Benjamin Powell (The Huffington Post, 4/12/13)
MyGovCost.orgWhat Is Washingtons Spending Costing You?
Back to Top
2) What to Do about North Korea?
Its hard to know what Kim Jong-un is thinking. On the one hand, the belligerent rhetoric coming from North Koreas new dictator may be a risky ploy to extort money from the United States, a well-tested strategy from his late fathers playbook. On the other hand, Kims deficiencies, including his sheltered upbringing, may be so severe that he actually believes in his regimes invincibility. In either case, he is playing with fire. How should the United States respond?
According to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland, the best response is to treat the North Korean regime as one would treat a child who acts up to get attention: ignore it. A show of military forceincluding practically buzzing the country with American B-2 and B-52 bombers and F-22 fighter jets, as the United States has doneruns the risk of escalating the matter into a major war. Such an outcome, it should go without saying, would not serve the publics interests.
In addition to military restraint, Eland makes other recommendations. First, the United States should refrain from discouraging private citizens from traveling to North Korea. Such contacts do not officially sanction any North Korean policies or their importance, but keep the door open to dialogue through such intermediaries and information about the regime that they might bring, he writes. Second, Eland urges the United States to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation by lifting economic sanctions on North Korea and thereby reducing its incentive to sell nuclear technology and missiles to rogue states and terrorist groups.
North Korea Is Like a Misbehaving ChildIgnore It, by Ivan Eland (4/9/13)
No War for Oil: U.S. Dependency and the Middle East, by Ivan Eland
Back to Top
3) Thatcher and Her Foes
Margaret Thatchers death prompted a flurry of comments across the globe. Two Independent Institute scholars entered the fray. Writing the day after her April 8 passing, Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa noted that some classical liberals objected to the Iron Ladys excessive conservatism, whereas some conservatives considered her too libertarian. Regardless of how she is viewed, however, observers from across the spectrum ought to agree on a few generalizations about her and her legacy.
For starters, according to Vargas Llosa, all should recognize that Thatcher opened up the political right, making it more meritocratic and less of an old boys club. Second, she should be remembered for her extraordinary passion for ideas. Thatcher was not an ideological animal, but a political animal with ideas, Vargas Llosa writes. We can debate whether she went as far as she could in applying hers, but there is no debating her love of ideas.
In contrast, Thatchers political enemies avoid espousing principles, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow John C. Goodman. Instead, they seem to believe in only two basic things. What are they, according to Goodman? First, government should have virtually unrestricted authority to intervene in the economic sphere.... Second, people should be able (and even encouraged) to form special interest groups to pressure government for the express purpose of taking from Peter to benefit Paul. Such an unprincipled orientation, Goodman argues, helps explain the nihilistic glee expressed by some of Thatchers foes after her death.
Thatchers Enemies, by John C. Goodman (Townhall, 4/12/13)
Goodbye, Maggie, Alvaro Vargas Llosa (The Beacon, 4/9/13)
Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, by John C. Goodman
Lessons from the Poor: Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa
Global Crossings: Immigration, Civilization, and America, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa
Back to Top
4) Californias Toxic Policy-Making
In 1986, California voters passed Proposition 65, a measure intended to reduce the publics exposure to toxic chemicals. Like many well-intended laws, it has created a process driven less by science than by sensationalism. Last month, for example, saw the end of a contentious period of public comment about whether to put BPA, a substance used in packaging, on the Prop. 65 blacklist. Now the state regulators will try to craft policy based on this informationor, as the case may be, misinformation. Unfortunately, Californias regulatory bureaucrats are more likely to favor politics over science.
But putting BPA on the blacklist will do nothing to improve public health, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Ryan M. Yonk, because the substance is not toxic at the levels that ordinary consumers are exposed to. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has even acknowledged this in its most recent assessment of BPA. Unfortunately, peer-reviewed studies count for little under Prop. 65 and the hyper-politicized activism it inspires.
There are, of course, circumstances when government must act to protect us against unseen hazards, Yonk writes. But blacklisting relatively harmless chemicals like BPA has a different effect: It makes us wonder whether the government is motivated by safety concerns, or politics.
In California, Leading the Wrong Way on BPA, by Ryan M. Yonk (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/11/13)
Bootleggers, Baptists, and Political Entrepreneurs: Key Players in the Rational Game and Morality Play of Regulatory Politics, by Randy T. Simmons, Diana W. Thomas, and Ryan M. Yonk (The Independent Review, Winter 2011)
Special Offer: Subscribe or renew now and receive a free copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, by Robert Higgs!
Back to Top
5) New Blog Posts
From The Beacon:
From MyGovCost News & Blog:
You can find the Independent Institutes Spanish-language website here and blog here.
Back to Top
6) Selected News Alerts
Back to Top