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Volume 17, Issue 20: May 19, 2015

  1. Father of Health Savings Accounts Offers Valuable Insights
  2. Gun Prohibition and the Armenian Genocide
  3. Lessons from the United Kingdom
  4. Change Is Coming to the Independent Institute
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts

a better choice

1) Father of Health Savings Accounts Offers Valuable Insights

More than 30 million people in the United States manage some of their own healthcare dollars via Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) or Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs). Yet despite these numbers, many misconceptions abound. Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman dispels these myths in a recent op-ed at Forbes.

Goodman is well qualified for the task. He pioneered the concept in America, earning him the title, “The Father of Health Savings Accounts” (The Wall Street Journal). What’s especially remarkable, Goodman explains, is that when he and his colleagues first proposed the idea, almost no one in academia, the think-tank world, or industry supported it. Most insurance companies spoke against consumer-driven healthcare, and only one financially contributed to getting them off the ground—Golden Rule Insurance Company, led by the late Pat Rooney.

Goodman also has ideas for making HSAs work better. Although only Congress could enact some improvements, others would require little more than the stroke of a pen in the Oval Office. For example, Flexible Spending Accounts are use-it-or-lose-it accounts only because the Treasury Department says so. If President Obama were to strike this rule, people could roll over whatever funds are left unspent in the account. The result? “We would have 35 million additional people with a full-fledged use-it-or-save-it account,” Goodman concludes.

Ten Things I Bet You Don't Know About Health Savings Accounts, by John C. Goodman (Forbes, 5/8/15)

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


2) Gun Prohibition and the Armenian Genocide

April marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide, a two-year period of mass murder during which the Ottoman government claimed the lives of an estimated 800,000 to 1.5 million Armenians. Although many in modern day Turkey dispute the details, most historians agree that Ottoman gun laws prohibited Armenians from possessing firearms, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Stephen P. Halbrook.

The Armenians didn’t stand a chance. In 1901, a British traveler to the Ottoman Empire reported that the Armenian minority, which the government viewed with suspicion, was disarmed. When the government ordered the internal exile of Armenians in 1915, in part due to concerns about loyalty during World War I, not only did the deportation make the target population more vulnerable to mass execution, anyone who sheltered Armenians or hid firearms was also vulnerable. In the coming decades, disarmament came in Central Europe, with horrific results: Authorities in Weimar Germany enacted gun registration to reduce bloodshed from Communist and National Socialist extremists, but eventually this backfired when the Nazis took over the reins of power.

“The Armenian genocide and the Holocaust are not the only instances in which brutal despots have disarmed their victims and then murdered them,” Halbrook writes. “Similar tactics were used in Stalin’s Russia, Idi Amin’s Uganda, and Pol Pot’s Cambodia. Americans need to keep such events in mind the next time Washington seeks to limit gun ownership rights—or seeks to require gun registration. One cannot argue with history.”

Armenian Genocide Didn’t Happen by Accident, by Stephen P. Halbrook (Fresno Bee and other McClatchy-Tribune newspapers, 5/18/2015)

Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and “Enemies of the State”, by Stephen P. Halbrook



3) Lessons from the United Kingdom

The recent re-election of UK Prime Minister David Cameron caught pollsters and pundits completely off-guard. Cameron succeeded in large measure because Brits feared that if he were pushed out of office, they would lose the opportunity to vote in favor of breaking away from the European Union and the pro-independence Scottish National Party would gain political influence.

A key takeaway from all of this, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa, is that nationalism and identity politics now play such large roles that they threaten the political status quo. In an op-ed for Investor’s Business Daily, Vargas Llosa writes, “Britain’s tribal divisions have become the biggest challenge to its venerable constitutional and political system.”

Another lesson is that, contrary to conventional wisdom, reining in government spending often makes perfect political sense. In part this is because fiscally conservative policies—including one of Cameron’s related achievements: reducing Britain’s military footprint overseas—give the private sector more capital and confidence for improving long-term economic growth. As Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland writes in the Huffington Post, “More austerity at home and abroad can revitalize the economy, which is the basis of all other indices of power.” Unfortunately, it’s a lesson that U.S. presidential hopefuls have yet to learn. “Hillary Clinton and almost all of the Republicans running,” he continues, “are probably incapable of such an enlightened policy.”

Election Shows Tribal Divisions Are U.K.’s Biggest Challenge, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (Investor’s Business Daily, 5/12/15)

What Americans Should Learn from the British Election, by Ivan Eland (Huffington Post, 5/11/15)

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

Global Crossings: Immigration, Civilization, and America, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa


4) Change Is Coming to the Independent Institute

The world has changed since the Independent Institute unveiled its website in 1996. Back then, Osama bin Laden was getting kicked out of Sudan and moving to Afghanistan, Bill Clinton was preparing for his second term in the White House, and Internet Explorer was duking it out with Netscape in the Great Browser Wars. The Independent Institute has changed, too: We’ve since published many award-winning books, added new programs and personnel, and made occasional upgrades to our website.

We’ve changed with the times. But never have we altered our mission of boldly advancing peaceful, prosperous, and free societies grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity. We remain committed to this goal, and are encouraged by the growth in our membership and the surge in interest in pro-liberty alternatives to “politics as usual.” We are working to better tap into this growing demand for our ideas and products by adopting further changes.

Later this week we will be unveiling our new look. In the weeks ahead, we will unveil additional exciting changes to improve our effectiveness with key target audiences. As always, we welcome your feedback and would be delighted to answer any questions you may have about our mission and programs!

Please join with us and invest in a brighter future for liberty!


5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

Bay Bridge Not Over Water, Corrosion Troubles
K. Lloyd Billingsley (5/18/15)

Big Brother Barges Into the Bathroom
K. Lloyd Billingsley (5/13/15)

Tax Rules Too Complicated for IRS to Explain
Craig Eyermann (5/13/15)

IRS Marijuana Rip-Off
K. Lloyd Billingsley (5/11/15)

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


6) Selected News Alerts


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless