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Volume 16, Issue 11: March 18, 2014

  1. Conflict in Crimea
  2. Fight Poverty with Economic Growth
  3. Meningitis Outbreak Shows FDA’s ‘Fanatical Risk-Aversion’
  4. Ron Paul on the Future of Freedom (Hayward, CA—4/9/14)
  5. Challenge of Liberty Student Seminars—Application Deadline: March 31st
  6. New Blog Posts
  7. Selected News Alerts

1) Conflict in Crimea

Last weekend’s referendum in Crimea likely marks another plot point in the story of Russia’s souring relations with the West. Three Independent Institute scholars weigh in on recent developments. Senior Fellow Ivan Eland notes that U.S. policy regarding separatist movements has been highly selective (or, to put it less charitably, hypocritical). Washington doesn’t want Crimea to leave Ukraine, but it didn’t mind contributing to Kosovo’s break from Serbia in 1999. “But lest we let Russia off the hook too much,” Eland writes, “the Russians are hypocritical in detaching the Russian-speaking Crimea from Ukraine but denying self-determination to regions of Russia that might want to separate from it—for example, Chechnya and Dagestan.”

Vladimir Putin is scheduled to address his nation’s parliament about the future of Crimea on Tuesday. Independent Institute Research Fellow Angelo M. Codevilla suggests that Putin would rather have ethnic Russians continue to populate Ukraine. This would provide leverage that could enable Mother Russia to someday regain Ukraine through political means, instead of via military measures that risk causing Europeans to look at sources other than Russia for their energy needs. The Crimea referendum results, however, may make things more complicated for Moscow. Codevilla calls for the West to respond to Putin’s imperial ambitions by imposing economic and travel restrictions against the super-rich oligarchs who make up “Putin’s only real constituents.”

Can the United States craft a policy response that doesn’t risk greater U.S. military involvement? Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert H. Nelson thinks so. He proposes that Washington aggressively boost U.S. oil production so that the European Union could wean itself off of Russia or at least reduce its dependence. “Opening up more [U.S.] government-owned land to energy development would be a wise and courageous strategic move at this time,” Nelson writes. American energy firms could also encourage their European counterparts to develop the continent’s sizable shale gas reserves by exporting hydraulic-fracturing technology and know-how. “Given the large geopolitical stakes, the United States could also apply direct political pressures on our European allies to take the steps needed to increase their gas production.”

Energy: Russia’s Achilles’ Heel, by Robert H. Nelson (Fresno Bee, 3/10/14; other McClatchy papers on other dates)

Cracking Putin’s Code, by Angelo M. Codevilla (Library of Law and Liberty, 3/13/2014)

Why Is the United States So Hypocritical in Foreign Policy?, by Ivan Eland (The Huffington Post, 3/11/14)

Video: Ivan Eland Speaks on Meeting Between Obama and Yatsenyuk (CCTV, 3/12/14)


2) Fight Poverty with Economic Growth

Politicians and even public-policy experts say little about it, but economic growth is the greatest anti-poverty program in human history. For most of humanity’s existence, material progress was flat. Not until the latter decades of the 1700s did that begin to change (and only for a small segment of humanity). But by the 20th century, the developed world saw annual growth in real incomes rise to 1.5 percent. Since the 1960s, it has averaged 2.3 percent.

“Unfortunately, economic growth has not reached everyone,” Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman writes in Investor’s Business Daily. “Roughly one-third of all people on the planet are living no better than their ancestors lived for millennia.”

Goodman calls for pundits and policymakers to read up on the literature about economic growth and its causes. One study worth noting, for example, “found that raising taxes to fund additional [government] spending almost always hurts economic growth. But slowing that spending and reducing tax rates, the study found, lead to higher investment and employment.” Goodman urges President Obama to pay close attention to this literature. “Almost every policy initiative of his administration has been anti-investment, anti-work, anti-production and therefore anti-growth,” he concludes.

Economic Growth Is the Greatest Anti-Poverty Program, by John C. Goodman (Investor’s Business Daily, 3/7/14)

Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, by John C. Goodman


3) Meningitis Outbreak Shows FDA’s ‘Fanatical Risk-Aversion’

After an outbreak of meningitis B (MenB) caused a lacrosse-playing college student in Santa Barbara, Calf., to have his feet amputated last November, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted limited approval for a vaccine to be administered on his campus in late February. The FDA could have approved a MenB vaccine much earlier but didn’t.

This lethargy is just one example of the agency’s “fanatically risk-averse” policies that have led to preventable suffering and fatalities, explains Independent Institute Policy Fellow K. Lloyd Billingsley. This is especially troubling because, he writes, “the European Union, Australia and Canada all have approved use of a MenB vaccine.”

The FDA should immediately approve a MenB vaccine for general use while it’s still undergoing final testing. “If the FDA continues to resist,” Billingsley continues, “Congress should intervene, empowering Americans to access the vaccine before outbreaks, when it might be useful in protecting lives, rather than months later when an overcautious health bureaucracy finally says it is OK.”

FDA Meningitis Vaccine Delay Killing Americans, by K. Lloyd Billingsley (USA Today, 3/3/14)


4) Ron Paul on the Future of Freedom (Hayward, CA—4/9/14)

How can Americans overcome record government spending and debt, escalating healthcare costs, intrusive federal surveillance, endless wars, ongoing economic malaise, high unemployment, failing schools, and increasing abuses of civil and economic liberties?

Please join the Smith Center for Private Enterprise Studies and the Independent Institute for a special event featuring former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul. Drawing on his 24 years in Congress, Dr. Paul will highlight the need to rein in government power and will chart the future of freedom in America.

The program will be held on Wednesday, April 9, at 4:00 p.m. on the campus of California State University, East Bay in Hayward, Calif. The event is free and open to the public! But tickets are required and are first come, first served.

A separate reception and book signing follows at 6:30 p.m. for paid ticket-holders only.

Sign up now!


5) Challenge of Liberty Student Seminars—Application Deadline: March 31st

We are eager to share the following post from our Summer Seminars Director Tsvetelin Tsonevski:

The Challenge of Liberty Student Seminars are returning for another exciting season!

Thanks to the generous support of donors, we will hold two seminars for college students — one at the University of Denver (June 16–20) and one at the University of California, Berkeley (July 7–11) — and one seminar for high-school students at the Independent Institute’s headquarters in Oakland, Calif. (July 14–18).

Our seminars offer an interdisciplinary approach to the study of liberty, with a focus on economics, history, the rule of law, property rights, free trade, environmentalism, and government regulation. But most importantly we emphasize the role of moral character and individual responsibility as the foundation of a free and prosperous society. Students will spend five intensive days with our top-notch faculty and enjoy making new friends from around the country and abroad.

This year we are happy to welcome as new faculty Christopher Coyne, Michael Thomas and Abby Hall, who will join returning faculty Robert Higgs, Ivan Pongracic, Ben Powell, Alex Padilla, Anthony Gregory, Fred Foldvary, José Yulo, Greg Rehmke, and Mike Winther.

Scholarships are available to cover books, lodging, and food. Students who qualify will be responsible only for their travel.

The deadline for scholarship applications, March 31, is approaching fast.



6) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

Bridge and Chips
K. Lloyd Billingsley (3/17/14)

Bureaucrat Benefits Twice Bankrupt City
Craig Eyermann (3/16/14)

Spend $36 Billion More
K. Lloyd Billingsley (3/12/14)

Grasping the Big Bad Budget
Craig Eyermann (3/11/14)

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


7) Selected News Alerts


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless