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

Volume 6, Issue 17: April 26, 2004

  1. Behind the "Fatherhood Crisis"
  2. Why Canada's "Free" Health Care Isn't
  3. Steinbeck, Iraq and bin Laden

1) Behind the "Fatherhood Crisis"

Virtually every major social pathology has been linked to fatherless children: violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, truancy, unwed pregnancy, suicide, and psychological disorders -- all correlating more strongly with fatherlessness than with any other single factor. Apparently aware of these correlations, Congress in 1998 passed the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act, and the Bush administration more recently pledged to vigorously prosecute America's "most wanted deadbeat parents" -- by which is meant mostly fathers.

Tragically, however, government policies intended to deal with the “fatherhood crisis” have been ineffective at best because the root cause is not child abandonment by fathers, but policies that give mothers an incentive to initiate marital separation and divorce.
Women file about 70 percent of divorces, and about 80 percent of divorces are unilateral, according to Howard University political scientist Stephen Baskerville.

"Most significantly, the principal incentive [to instigate separation] is not grounds such as desertion, adultery, or violence, but control of the children," writes Baskerville in the spring 2004 issue of THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW.

Among the largest sources the "fatherhood crisis" are unilateral, "no fault" divorces, resulting in at least 700,000 parents becoming involuntarily divorced each year, and child-support policies that disproportionately harm jilted husbands, both financially and emotionally. These policies must be reformed if the United States is to drastically reduce the number of fatherless families. Unfortunately, policymakers and pundits more often blame a symptom instead of the underlying problem, Baskerville argues.

"Identifying fathers rather than governments as the culprits behind family dissolution...rationalizes policies that contribute further to the absence of fathers, which they ostensibly are meant to prevent. Further...it allows officials to ignore the simplest and safest solution to these ills, which is to stop eliminating fathers," writes Baskerville.

"By concocting a fatherhood crisis where none previously existed, government across the spectrum has neutered the principal rival to its power and created an unlimited supply of problems for itself to fix."

See "Is There Really a Fatherhood Crisis?" by Stephen Baskerville (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Spring 2004)

Also see, LIBERTY FOR WOMEN: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-first Century, edited by Wendy McElroy

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2) Why Canada's "Free" Health Care Isn't

With its poor quality of services, lack of consumer choice and long waiting periods, Canada's "low-cost" health-care system actually comes with a high price tag -- albeit one hidden from public view, according to Pierre Lemieux, research fellow at the Independent Institute, in a new op-ed in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.

"The Canadian system is built around a compulsory public-insurance regime that provides most medical and hospital services free," writes Lemieux. "Of course, it is not free for the taxpayer, who finances the system at a rate of 22% of all taxes raised in Canada."

Not only must Canadians pay for "free" health care with higher taxes, the system severely limits their private alternatives. "Private insurance covering publicly insured services is illegal," Lemieux continues. "Physicians are forbidden to accept private payments above the fees billed to the government. Hospitals are public or non-profit, and tightly regulated. Physicians' fees are determined -- or 'negotiated' -- by provincial agencies. Prices of drugs are controlled. In short, the public supply of medical services is rationed, and there is little private alternative. Hence the apparent low cost of the system."

Lengthy waiting periods compound the difficulties of Canadians. Last year patients had to wait on average more than four months "from referral by a general practitioner to actual treatment." Adding insult to injury, Canadians must also endure the "frequent rudeness of unionized personnel in the Canadian system."

"One last cost should not be ignored: the loss of personal responsibility and the habit of dependence on the state. Opinion polls show that Canadians are generally proud of their public health insurance. Indeed, for most people, any basis for comparison has been made illegal. Auberon Herbert, a libertarian Member of Parliament in late 19th century England wrote, 'If government half a century ago had provided us all with dinners and breakfasts, it would be the practice of our orators today to assume the impossibility of our providing for ourselves.'”

See "Canada’s 'Free' Health Care Has Hidden Costs," by Pierre Lemieux (THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/23/04)

Also see, AMERICAN HEALTH CARE: Government, Market Processes and the Public Interest, edited by Roger D. Feldman

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3) Steinbeck, Iraq and bin Laden

Truth may be stranger than fiction, but the latter can be immensely helpful for understanding complex events and unseen motives.

John Steinbeck's short novel, THE MOON IS DOWN, which was published in 1942 and brought to the silver screen a year later, depicted a Norwegian town turned upside down by Nazi occupational forces intent on securing the town's coal. Although the particulars obviously differ, the novel's resemblance to U.S.-occupied Iraq is uncanny -- and illustrative of how occupations usually turn violent and undermine the occupier's "legitimacy" -- according to William Marina, research fellow at the Independent Institute.

"The story even has a 'fifth column' Ahmed Chalabi-like character, who sets up the town for an easy occupation, imagining he will be beloved by the people," Marina writes in a new op-ed.

Thus, a U.S.-imposed "Iraqization," as Independent Institute Policy Intern Anthony Gregory calls it, may well become a Pyrrhic victory.

Fiction can also suggest to us what Osama bin Laden might be thinking about the White House's prosecution of the War on Terrorism, according to Ivan Elan, director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute. Eland offers a fictional memo explaining why, despite the loss of some of its leaders, bin Laden may consider al Qaeda to be winning.

"In short, the flaying about of the Bush administration against us" -- Eland has Osama bin Laden saying -- "has left our senior leadership intact, caused an organizational decentralization that will make us harder to take down and more deadly, spurred organizational growth, and helped us fulfill our objectives. If the question is asked: Are al Qaeda and its affiliated organizations better off than they were before 9/11, I can honestly render a resounding 'yes!'”

See:

"Iraq: The Moon Is Down, Again!" by William Marina (4/23/04)

"The 'Iraqization' Scam," by Anthony Gregory (4/20/04)

"A Hypothetical Memo from Osama bin Laden," by Ivan Eland (4/20/04)

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