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Volume 12, Issue 12: March 22, 2010

  1. Healthcare and the Veterans Administration
  2. U.S. Census: Concerns about Costs and Privacy Persist
  3. Will U.S. Policy in Somalia Create More Terrorists?
  4. The Independent Review—Spring Issue Now Available
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Healthcare and the Veterans Administration

The question of who is ultimately responsible for medical treatment long predates the debate that culminated in Sunday night’s passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of sweeping legislation intended to overhaul the nation’s health care system. It even predates the campaign that led to Medicare in 1965. According to Independent Institute Research Fellow Ronald Hamowy, the Veterans Administration (VA), founded in 1930, “was a giant first step in undermining the notion of private responsibility for one’s medical treatment.”

In Failure to Provide: Healthcare at the Veterans Administrationa policy report published last week by the Independent InstituteHamowy (Emeritus Professor of History, University of Alberta) traces the history of the VA from its origins in the federal provision of medical coverage to veterans during World War I to the restructured and renamed Department of Veterans Affairs in 1989 to recent years, when the agency faced challenges posed by veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“An aging and declining veteran population has led the governments of Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom to close or convert their veterans’ hospitals to other uses and to integrate the treatment of veterans into their general health-care systems,” writes Hamowy. “Surely this policy makes equal sense in the United States.... ‘Solutions’ such as allowing veterans’ dependents to use the VA’s excess hospital capacity or converting acute-care hospitals into nursing homes undermines the whole purpose of the VA’s medical programs and would pit government health care against private health care in direct competition. What direction these programs will eventually take remains an open question.”

Failure to Provide: Healthcare at the Veterans Administration, by Ronald Hamowy (3/18/10)

News Release

American Health Care: Government, Market Process, and the Public Interest, edited by Roger D. Feldman


2) U.S. Census: Concerns about Costs and Privacy Persist

In 2006 the Government Accountability Office raised concerns about the transparency, accuracy and cost of the 2010 Census. Back then, the current census was estimated to cost more than any other in U.S. history: $11.3 billion. Cost estimates have risen since then, with current estimates now at $14.7 billion.

“The 2010 Census of Population will by all appearances be a major boondoggle,” writes William F. Shughart II, senior fellow at the Independent Institute. “The 2010 census essentially will be conducted the same way it was in 1790—and may well be less accurate.”

Privacy concerns also continue. Only 46 percent of respondents to a poll released last week by Zogby believe their data will be kept confidential. CNET News reports Independent Institute Vice President Mary Theroux will, as in previous years, refuse to answer census questions beyond enumeration:

In 2000, Theroux said, “one morning I came out of the house and the census worker was in our driveway interviewing workmen who were doing some work on our house, so I told him, ‘Four human beings live here. That’s all you need to know. Leave.’”

“Most Expensive Census in History,” by William F. Shughart II (3/17/10)

“Census Time Heightens Privacy Concerns,” by Declan McCullagh (CNET News, 3/22/10)


3) Will U.S. Policy in Somalia Create More Terrorists?

Is Somalia the next Afghanistan—a backwater country in which U.S. meddling will come to haunt us? Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland raises this question in his latest weekly op-ed.

Somalia gave little support for al-Shabaab, a fundamentalist Islamist movement, until the United States began to support the local warlords and Ethiopian troops who fought it, according to Eland, author of four books related to U.S. foreign policy and defense. But with al-Shabaab able to portray itself as fighters of foreign infidels, it has gained more public support in Somalia. News reports now suggest that al-Shabaab may be forming an alliance with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group believed to have supported the would-be Christmas airliner bomber.

The similarities between the Somalia episode and previous cases of U.S. foreign-policy blowback should make Americans rethink the prudence of intervening in Muslim countries, Eland argues. “The United States is aiding the upcoming offensive of an ineffectual and corrupt ‘friendly’ Islamist government to retake the capital Mogadishu from the ‘unfriendly’ Islamist al-Shabaab,” writes Eland. “Is this Afghan déjà vu all over again?”

“Making Unneeded Enemies in Somalia,” by Ivan Eland (3/16/10)

The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland

Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, by Ivan Eland

Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, by Ivan Eland


4) The Independent Review—Spring Issue Now Available

The latest issue of The Independent Review deals with the following questions:

  • Why are central banks sources of financial instability? Read the article.
  • How might a regime of laissez faire in money and banking transform fractional-reserve banking?
  • In what ways has ecological science told a creation story similar to accounts found in Genesis? Read the article.
  • Why does the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository appear to be doomed?
  • Why does the modern growth of government spring more from ideas than from vested interests?
  • How do inmates govern a prison?
  • What were the main causes of the development of the military draft in the United States? Read the article.
  • What line of reasoning led John Stuart Mill to undermine liberty?
  • What must a legal system provide in order to ensure a free market? Read the review.
  • What should be done about America’s looming water crisis? Read the review.
  • Why did Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa abandon the political left? Read the review.

The Independent Review (Spring 2010)

Special offer for first-time subscribers: Subscribe today to The Independent Review and receive TWO complimentary issues—the next six issues for the price of four!


5) This Week in The Beacon

Visit the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language blog, El Independent. Below are the past week’s offerings from our English-language blog, The Beacon.


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless