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Volume 17, Issue 17: April 28, 2015

  1. New Book Offers a Better Choice than Obamacare
  2. Drought-Stricken California Needs Real Water Markets
  3. The Case Against Forgiving Student Debt
  4. Congress Challenges Obama over Treaty Authority and Iran
  5. Job Openings: Development and Multimedia
  6. New Blog Posts
  7. Selected News Alerts

a better choice

1) New Book Offers a Better Choice than Obamacare

More than 18 months after Obamacare’s health-insurance exchanges were rolled out, many Americans remain dubious about—and some are outraged by—the president’s overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system. But where should people begin in their search for alternatives on a topic as complex and confusing as healthcare policy? We’re delighted to announce the publication of an invaluable guide to curing what ails American healthcare: A Better Choice: Healthcare Solutions for America, by Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman.

A Better Choice cuts through the fog and offers crystal-clear analyses of the problems of and best alternatives to Obamacare. This easy-to-read pocket guide will help readers make sense of where we are today, and how to create a healthcare system that empowers patients, reduces bureaucracy, and saves taxpayers billions of dollars. It’s essential reading for anyone who wants to learn a way out of our healthcare predicament.

In addition to its many concrete proposals, A Better Choice presents Goodman’s six principles for guiding healthcare reformers in Congress—principles that address the six major problems of Obamacare. Goodman also shares his grand vision for healthcare reform, and explains why his proposal would create a system that is more equitable than those of Britain, Canada, and especially the United States under Obamacare. Whether you’re a novice eager to make sense of healthcare policy, a scholar curious about Goodman’s latest thoughts on reform, or an elected official eager for principles for crafting sound legislation, you’ll find the book filled with insightful prognoses and thoughtful prescriptions for American healthcare.

A Better Choice: Healthcare Solutions for America, by John C. Goodman

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


2) Drought-Stricken California Needs Real Water Markets

In early April, California Governor Jerry Brown ordered the reduction of water consumption by urban dwellers by 25 percent below 2013 levels. Such mandates are off-target because rural communities—namely agricultural users—account for four-fifths of state’s freshwater usage. But rather than simply redirect their regulatory arrows, policymakers should take a more sophisticated approach: they should reform California’s byzantine water system to allow water trading and market prices. As Independent Institute Senior Fellow Lawrence J. McQuillan and Policy Analyst Aaron L. White explain in an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee, 22 of the state’s 58 counties restrict the sale of water to other counties, thereby preventing water from going to its highest-valued uses.

Moreover, the absence of market pricing encourages the Golden State’s farmers to grow rice, alfalfa, and other water-intensive crops poorly suited for the Central Valley’s dry climate and unreliable water flows. “When prices accurately reflect scarcity, people decide how best to reduce consumption,” McQuillan and White write. “The government doesn’t ban trips to Grandmother’s house when gasoline becomes scarcer. When gasoline becomes scarcer, gas prices rise and consumers decide how best to conserve. We don’t have gas cops, and we don’t need water cops.”

Although water trading and market prices should have strong appeal to anyone who paid attention in Econ 101, their effectiveness has also been confirmed in the real world. In the early 2000s, Australia responded to an unusually harsh drought by enacting major reforms that facilitated online water trading and market prices. The results? “Total water consumption fell by 35 percent in Australia after adopting scarcity water pricing,” McQuillan and White write. “Given the opportunity, this would work well in California as well.”

Water Market Offers Better Approach to Conservation, by Lawrence J. McQuillan and Aaron L. White (The Sacramento Bee, 4/25/15)

Market Pricing vs. Water ‘Shortages’, by William F. Shughart II (American Thinker, 4/4/15)

Aquanomics: Water Markets and the Environment, edited by B. Delworth Gardner and Randy T. Simmons



3) The Case Against Forgiving Student Debt

Seven out of ten college grads from the Class of 2014 held student debt that averaged $33,000. Some pundits have reacted to this startling statistic by proposing that student debts be forgiven, but Independent Institute Research Fellow Research Fellow Abigail R. Hall thinks this idea would ultimately harm those it is supposed to help.

“No one likes the idea of young graduates starting out tens of thousands of dollars in debt,” she writes. “The proposal for student-loan forgiveness, however, deserves a failing grade.”

Forgiving student debts would, in the short term, help those currently saddled with debt. But if students believed a policy of debt forgiveness would continue for several years, then more would apply to college and the resulting competition to win admission would put upward pressure on tuition and other school-related expenses. Also, schools might have reduced incentives to control their costs if their waiting lists were lengthened. And if debt forgiveness meant that banks and other lenders would be stuck holding non-performing student loans in their portfolios, they might stop making loans. “Lower-income students would especially suffer as a result,” Hall writes.

Don’t Forgive Us Our Debts: The Case Against Student Loan Forgiveness, by Abigail R. Hall (Real Clear Policy, 4/23/15)

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

The Academy in Crisis: The Political Economy of Higher Education, edited by John W. Sommer


4) Congress Challenges Obama over Treaty Authority and Iran

Echoing Dick Cheney’s don’t-weaken-the-presidency sentiment, New York Times op-ed contributor Steven Rattner claims that Congress has throttled the executive branch of government. In fact, the reality is exactly the opposite, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland. In both domestic and foreign policy, Congress has unconstitutionally ceded its duties to the Oval Office and given it new powers that would have repulsed the Founders.

Rattner is correct to note that Congress pushed back against executive power in the 1970s, in war powers, the budget, and international agreements. “Yet all of these congressional clawbacks were temporary or have been almost inconsequential,” Eland writes in the Huffington Post. Congress, for example, seldom challenges presidential disregard of the War Powers Resolution of 1973, makes only marginal changes to the president’s budget proposals, and allows the president to make executive agreements with foreign nations, by-passing the constitutional requirement that treaties secure a two-thirds supermajority in the Senate.

Members of Congress are now challenging President Obama’s framework for a nuclear agreement with Iran. Their prospects for success, however, may be compromised both by the precedents they have established and the dubious way they are trying to circumvent Obama’s plan. “Just as I support immigration reform, I support a verifiable nuclear agreement with Iran, but I do not support the unconstitutional way Congress is passing judgment on it,” Eland continues. “Obama’s acquiescence to Congress’s charade of relevancy reminds me of the Roman Empire, where emperors continued to pay due respect to the Senate, long emasculated from its glory days during the Roman Republic, but where everyone knew who was really running things.”

Congress’s Charade with the Iran Nuclear Agreement, by Ivan Eland (The Huffington Post, 4/13/15)

No War for Oil: U.S. Dependency and the Middle East, by Ivan Eland


5) Job Openings: Development and Multimedia

The Independent Institute is looking for committed and energetic job-seekers eager to work with us on a variety of Development and Multimedia projects. For details, please visit our Employment Opportunities page.


6) New Blog Posts

Tax Freedom Day, 2015
William Shughart (4/24/15)

Barack Obama Has the Last Word on the Medicare “Doc Fix”
John R. Graham (4/24/15)

Obamacare and Employment
John R. Graham (4/22/15)

An Argument for “Selling” Babies
Abigail Hall (4/22/15)

Is FDA Reporting Drug Shortages Adequately?
John R. Graham (4/21/15)

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

Not Getting the Job Done
Craig Eyermann (4/17/15)

Tax Freedom Day Delayed in 2015
Craig Eyermann (4/14/15)

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


7) Selected News Alerts


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless