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Volume 17, Issue 4: January 27, 2015

  1. The True State of the Union
  2. Obamacare Deadbeats Throw Off True Enrollment Numbers
  3. EPA’s ‘Green’ Carbon Tax Isn’t Really Green
  4. Tolstoy Exposes the State
  5. Challenge of Liberty Student Seminars Now Accepting Applicantions
  6. New Blog Posts
  7. Selected News Alerts

1) The True State of the Union

President Obama last Tuesday night told Congress and the nation, “The State of the Union is strong.” We beg to differ. The U.S. government owes roughly 20 times as much as it takes in. The financial picture is bad, but it didn’t always look so bleak. During the 2008 primary season, Barack Obama was the only serious contender for his party’s nomination who talked tough about reining in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

After the election, he even appointed Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles to head an important commission on fiscal responsibility, and pledged to champion their proposals for getting the federal government’s financial house in order. Unfortunately, Obama failed to follow through. “In fact, the president greeted the report with stony silence,” writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman. “In January 2011, there was no mention of the report in his State of the Union speech to Congress. And there has been no mention of it ever since.”

What should be done? Many things, but Independent Institute Senior Vice President Mary L. G. Theroux names a key step: “Having abandoned any pretense of protecting Americans’ liberties, and exercising increasing tyranny over every aspect of our lives, the presidency must be returned to strict constraints. Let’s just say No, keep saying No, and tell our friends to say No.”

State of the Union: Debt, Debt, and More Debt, by John C. Goodman (Forbes, 1/21/15)

A Preview of the 2015 State of the Union Address, by Craig Eyermann (MyGovCost News & Blog, 1/20/15)

The State of the Disunion, Mary Theroux (The Beacon, 1/19/15)


2) Obamacare Deadbeats Throw Off True Enrollment Numbers

Obamacare enrollment is slowing to a trickle. Will the White House meet its target for 2015? Independent Institute Senior Fellow John R. Graham has serious doubts.

“Also, it is important to note that when the Administration and Obamacare’s advocates state that they expect 9.1 million to enroll in 2015, they mean exactly that and nothing more than that,” Graham writes. “If people enroll and don’t pay premiums, they are still counted. If people enroll, pay premiums, and then drop out, they are still counted.”

Those who enroll but don’t pay their premiums can create a huge headache for the Obama administration. By November 15, 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services estimated that 9.7 million people had enrolled in an exchange. “However,” Graham continues, only 8.5 million had paid premiums up to that date. Because of drop outs, the number of people paying premiums at the time was only 6.7 million.”

Obamacare Enrollments Slow to a Trickle, by John R. Graham (Right Side News, 1/14/15)

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

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


3) EPA’s ‘Green’ Carbon Tax Isn’t Really Green

Nuclear power provides nearly two-thirds of the zero-carbon energy in the United States, but a carbon tax that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to impose on power plants could shut down 30 of the nation’s 100 nuclear plants. The agency says the tax would be good for the environment, but in reality nuclear power gives people more clean energy than solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric power combined.

“The agency balked on the question of shielding existing nuclear plants from the rule,” writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II. “Under the agency’s plan, states with at-risk nuclear plants receive a 5.8% ‘credit’ against carbon emissions as an incentive to keep the plants in operation. But the incentive is hardly a credit, because it is added to states’ overall emissions-cutting targets.”

The U.S. Energy Administration has estimated that the U.S. demand for nuclear energy would rise nearly 30 percent by 2040—a demand that would have been partly met by nuclear plants under construction in Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The EPA’s carbon tax, however, would punish those states even before the plants are completed. The agency, Shughart continues, “includes those plants in states’ baseline carbon emissions calculations, thus requiring them to take regulatory compliance steps as if those plants were not on the drawing board.”

The EPA’s “Carbon Rule” Ignores Nuclear Power, by William F. Shughart II (Ogden, Utah, Standard-Examiner, 1/17/15)


4) Tolstoy Exposes the State

Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) is world-famous for having penned War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and other novels of nineteenth-century Russia, but the writer was also well-known in his day for criticizing government power and championing Christian libertarianism and pacifism. One of the best examples of his thinking on those topics is his often overlooked nonfiction book, The Kingdom of God Is Within You (1893), a work bursting with memorable insights. Although his economic reasoning is often flawed, Tolstoy has much to offer contemporary political thinkers, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs.

“He even makes an analyst such as [public choice theorist] James Buchanan, who often complained about people’s ‘romantic’ views of politics and the state, seem himself utterly romantic,” Higgs writes in the Winter 2015 issue of The Independent Review.

Here’s one of several quotable passages that Higgs found in the Russian writer’s unjustly neglected book: “Undisguised criminals and malefactors do less harm than those who live by legalized violence, disguised by hypocrisy.” Here’s another: “The good cannot seize power, nor retain it; to do this men must love power. And love of power is inconsistent with goodness; but quite consistent with the very opposite qualities—pride, cunning, cruelty.” More than a century later, Tolstoy’s insights about government power still sound fresh.

Tolstoy’s Manifesto on the State, Christian Anarchy, and Pacifism, by Robert Higgs (The Independent Review, Winter 2015)

The Independent Review: Winter 2015

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Delusions of Power: New Explorations of the State, War, and Economy, by Robert Higgs


5) Challenge of Liberty Student Seminars Now Accepting Applicantions

Attention, College Students:

Want to learn more about freedom? Eager to learn how the world works—and how to make it better? If so, the Independent Institute’s Challenge of Liberty Summer Seminar is the kind of intellectual adventure that will benefit you for years and years.

Our very popular, five-day program teaches college-aged students about the ethical and economic principles of free societies—truths that are immensely helpful for making sense of today’s world as well as for changing it.

Informative, inspiring, and fun, the Challenge of Liberty is an ideal way to:

  1. Study free-market economics with leading professors
  2. Discovery the foundations of liberty in Western Civilization
  3. Get valuable advice on your career in academia and beyond
  4. Meet like-minded students from around the world

See what is on the curriculum for 2015.

See a flyer on the Seminars suitable for printing or posting electronically. 

The faculty includes a stellar mix of economists, historians, and philosophers, including Steve HorwitzLawrence White, Ivan Pongracic, Ben Powell, Michael Huemer, Kyle SwanJose Yulo, Robert HiggsAbigail Hall, and Ryan Yonk.

Scholarships are available and cover tuition, room and board.

More information: Enrollment, Application


6) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

Federal Double Standard on Debt
K. Lloyd Billingsley (1/26/15)

Failing the Test of Accountability
Craig Eyermann (1/24/15)

Same as the Old Boss?
K. Lloyd Billingsley (1/21/15)

A Preview of the 2015 State of the Union Address
Craig Eyermann (1/20/15)

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


7) Selected News Alerts

Peter Boettke on the resurgence of Austrian economics

Video: Ivan Eland on Japan’s ISIS problem

Wendy McElroy on Cuba


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless