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Volume 16, Issue 51: December 23, 2014

  1. Federal Bureaucrats Threaten U.S. Energy Boom
  2. Rethinking the Affordable Care Act
  3. The Torture Report and Its Consequences
  4. 2015 Challenge of Liberty Student Seminars Are Now Taking Applications!
  5. Your Donation Helps Us Nurture Liberty’s Next Thought Leaders
  6. New Blog Posts
  7. Selected News Alerts

1) Federal Bureaucrats Threaten U.S. Energy Boom

Thanks in part to advances in hydraulic fracturing—a.k.a. “fracking”—the American railroad industry is in high gear, transporting ten times more crude oil a year ago than it shipped five years earlier. That boon may begin to slow if the Department of Energy has its way, however. According to Independent Institute Research Director William F. Shughart, the agency want the industry’s fleet of cars to be replaced or upgraded within two years.

“Such a rapid phase-out, however, could restrict the production of oil and gas, costing consumers as much as $45 billion, according to a study done by ICF International Inc.,” Shughart writes in The Hill, a news site that targets lawmakers in Washington, DC.

“Lengthening the replacement period to four years would help hold down that cost,” Shughart continues. “So, too would repealing the outmoded Jones Act and allowing U.S. crude oil to be exported to the rest of the world.” Removing those barriers to oil distribution would help the United States surpass Saudi Arabia in oil production.

Oil Trains, Pipelines and Tanker Ships, by William F. Shughart II (The Hill, 12/22/14)

Taxing Choice: The Predatory Politics of Fiscal Discrimination, by William F. Shughart II


2) Rethinking the Affordable Care Act

Was Obamacare a mistake? Most of its initial supporters don’t think so, but Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is one who has publicly raised doubts. Focusing on three aspects of the law—access, quality, and cost—Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman finds reason to lament the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Regarding access, except for the previously uninsured, most people in the Obamacare exchanges “are likely facing greater financial barriers to care than they were before the health reform was enacted,” Goodman writes in Forbes. The average out-of-pocket premium for a 2015 individual silver plan will be about twice as expensive as a typical employer plan.

Regarding quality, Obamacare creates incentives for insurers to over-provide for the healthy and under-provide for the sick. Sooner or later, these incentives will probably trump any recent improvements in hospital readmission rates. And regarding cost containment, improvements have been observed in the Medicare Advantage program, but probably nowhere else. But this isn’t something that Obama can take credit for, since he campaigned against Medicare Advantage in 2008 and his sweeping healthcare law cuts premium payments for the relatively thrifty program.

Is Obamacare Working?, by John C. Goodman (Forbes, 12/15/14)

Healthcare Solutions for Post-Obamacare America, by John C. Goodman

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


3) The Torture Report and Its Consequences

Public discussion about the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s majority report on CIA detention and interrogation continued last week. One of the oddest aspects of that discussion, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland, was that the defenders of the controversial program were so much easier to find on news talk shows than were its critics.

Turning to the substantive issues disclosed in the Senate report, Eland condemns the CIA’s program of extraordinary rendition and enhanced interrogation techniques—what many people rightly call “torture.” Despite the hot tempers that raged in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Eland argues that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney should have known better. Moreover, although they authorized brutal techniques on the basis of their belief that doing so would help them sleep better, such peace of mind has vanished for at least some of the policymakers who signed off on torture.

“At minimum, maybe former Bush administration officials will fear to travel overseas for fear of being shanghaied for prosecution and jailing,” Eland writes in the Huffington Post. “Alberto Gonzalez, Bush’s Attorney General, recently expressed some personal fear of this outcome on a news program. Since Bush started all of the U.S. government torture rolling by his ‘wink and nudge’ declaration in February 2002 that al Qaeda fighters would not be held under the safeguards of the Geneva Conventions and has crowed about the necessity of using torture during his tenure, maybe he should just stay at home on the Texas ranch too.”

Doing the Indefensible: Defending Torture, by Ivan Eland (The Huffington Post, 12/15/14)

Understanding the U.S. Torture State, by Anthony Gregory (The Independent Review, Fall 2012)

Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty (Updated Edition), by Ivan Eland


4) 2015 Challenge of Liberty Student Seminars Are Now Taking Applications!

We’re also delighted to announce that registration for the 2015 Challenge of Liberty Student Seminars is now open!

June 1-5: Denver, Colorado

June 8-12: Boulder, Colorado

July 6-10: Berkeley, California

These seminars have grown in popularity in recent years.

Visit here for more details and to register today.


5) Your Donation Helps Us Nurture Liberty’s Next Thought Leaders

Independent Institute interns go on to advance liberty in their careers, but some decide to stick around for a while—including Research Fellow Anthony Gregory, whose first position here was as a Research Intern 10 years ago!

Now a full-time Ph.D. student in History at the University of California, Berkeley, Anthony recently shared some nice words about our program:

“My decade of experience at the Institute honed my abilities in research, writing, and communication; taught me organizational skills; and made me more aware than ever that I wanted to dedicate my life to scholarship and teaching history to young adults. That wonderful work experience began with my internship.”

This December, we hope you'll join with us to inspire more principled champions for liberty like Anthony!

Make a contribution today to take advantage of our December matching grant, and we'll thank you with a free book!


6) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

Obesity Can Be a Disability, Says European Court of Justice
Melancton Smith (12/22/2014)

If You Like Rights, Liberty, and Economic Opportunity, Celebrate Christmas
Mary Theroux (12/22/2014)

High Taxes, Lack of Federal Bailout Make Vermont Cancel Single-Payer Plan
John R. Graham (12/22/2014)

Oil and Dictators
Alvaro Vargas Llosa (12/19/2014)

CROmnibus and Cronyism for Blue Health Plans?
John R. Graham (12/18/2014)

Katniss Everdeen and the Paradox of Revolution
Aaron Tao (12/17/2014)

Normalizing Relations with Cuba: Good Policy
Randall Holcombe (12/17/14)

Student Debt and Default Explode While U.S. Department of Education Fiddles
Vicki Alger (12/16/14)

Economics 101: Uber’s Prices Don’t “Exploit” People

Abigail Hall (12/16/14)

The Program No One Dares to Question: Social Security
James L. Payne (12/16/14)

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

Feds Back Bullet Train Boondoggle
K. Lloyd Billingsley (12/22/14)

Social Security Reform Needs More than De-Nazification
K. Lloyd Billingsley (12/17/14)

The Government
Craig Eyermann (12/16/14)

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


7) Selected News Alerts


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless