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The Lighthouse®

The Lighthouse® is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 17, Issue 26: June 30, 2015

  1. After King, Congress Should Enact Real Health Reforms
  2. Mandated Paid Maternity Leave Would Harm Women
  3. Shale Drillers and Water Conservation
  4. Rachel Dolezal and the NAACP
  5. The 2015 Challenge of Liberty Seminars—Or How to Change a Life
  6. New Blog Posts
  7. Selected News Alerts


1) After King, Congress Should Enact Real Health Reforms

The Affordable Care Act has survived the challenge of King v. Burwell, but this in no way absolves Congress from a responsibility to consider new healthcare laws. Indeed, reform is needed on six major fronts, and the legislature will need to reach bipartisan agreement to enact the necessary corrections, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman, author of A Better Choice: Healthcare Solutions for America.

Fortunately, Republicans in Congress are beginning to do their part to put forth a workable alternative, Goodman explains in an op-ed for The Hill. Some GOP lawmakers would create a flat-rate health tax credit in place of the variable tax credits for health plans in the Obamacare exchanges. This would correct several problems, including the high implicit marginal tax rate that people face when a rise in household income would cause a disproportionate loss of tax credits. Also, some Republicans propose eliminating the federal mandates on individuals and employers while creating incentives to encourage healthy people to obtain coverage—a measure that would help assuage concerns that without mandates, the risk pools would have too few healthy people. Most proposals would also make it easier to use a Flexible Savings Account.

This is a good start, but for Washington to enact meaningful reforms, politicians will need to overcome two basic tendencies. Writing in Forbes, Goodman argues that Republicans will need to stop getting bogged down in details that prevent them from seeing the big picture, and Democrats will need to become more attuned to the problem of perverse incentives. For a fuller treatment, Goodman prescribes his new book, A Better Choice: Healthcare Solutions for America.

Six Problems with the ACA That Aren’t Going Away, by John C. Goodman (Health Affairs Blog, 6/25/15)

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

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


2) Mandated Paid Maternity Leave Would Harm Women

Scores of politicians nationwide, including presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, are campaigning for laws that would mandate paid maternity leave. While their intentions sound noble, such mandates would hurt the employment prospects of women of childbearing age, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Abigail R. Hall. Such mandates would impose extra costs for employers—including wages paid and possible overtime for other workers—and this would be reflected both in firms’ hiring decisions and in the compensation they would offer.

“Forced paid leave would fail to help women and their families by reducing their wages and harming their chances at employment,” Hall writes in the Daily Caller. “This policy truly throws the baby out with the bathwater.”

Mandated paid maternity leave addresses a valid concern, but it does so in a way that is counterproductive. What would be a better approach? “Contractual alternatives to coerced paid maternity leave make much more sense,” Hall writes. “How about encouraging women to negotiate maternity leave as she would salary or other benefits? This would allow women to obtain a longer leave without increasing the cost of employing younger women as a group.”

Mandated Paid Maternity Leave: A Bad Idea for Women, by Abigail R. Hall (The Daily Caller, 6/16/15)


3) Shale Drillers and Water Conservation

Environmental activists have found a new reason to oppose energy companies that develop oil from shale: They claim that shale drillers waste scarce water supplies. However, according to Independent Institute Research Director William F. Shughart II, “Shale drillers are among the most conservation-minded companies in our country—precisely because the water they use to free trapped oil and gas from underground geological becoming expensive.”

Shale drillers recycle significant amounts of water via hydraulic fracturing. Moreover, this process accounts for only a small fraction (3 percent) of freshwater usage at the national level—less than one-sixtieth of the amount of water used in irrigation.

“Accusing oil and gas companies of squandering water may grab headlines, but the fingers are pointed in the wrong direction,” Shughart writes. “Because they seek to maximize profits, fossil-fuel producers actually use water more wisely than most other consumers.”

Drillers Big on Conservation of Water, by William F. Shughart II (Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/22/15)

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


4) Rachel Dolezal and the NAACP

On June 15, Rachel Dolezal resigned from her job as president of NAACP Spokane. Much has been written about the woman, but scarcely little about two related issues. According to Independent Institute Research Fellow Jonathan Bean, editor of Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader, those issues are a little-known work of speculative fiction about race relations, and the national organization that until two weeks ago was proud to defend the controversial Dolezal.

In 1931, the African-American writer George Schuyler penned a satirical novel about racial “passing” that some consider a classic—Black No More. Set in 1930s Harlem, it tells the story of a black man who, following a national fad, makes his skin white and is hired by a Klan-like organization set on determining who is of European descent and who is trying to fake it. Bean writes, “Schuyler’s point was clear: we are so mixed over so many generations, it makes no sense to label ourselves white or black.”

The story in some ways presages l’affaire Dolezal. One thing that differs, of course, is the nature of the national organizations in the two stories. As Bean explains, the NAACP promoted a colorblind society until well into the 1960s, when it began to adopt color-conscious public policies and racial classifications that it formerly reviled. “Dolezal was deceitful,” Bean writes. “But the greater deceit is the NAACP ‘passing’ as colorblind when it helped recreate a world where skin color holds out something to gain.”

“Black No More”: Rachel Dolezal and the History of the NAACP, by Jonathan Bean (InsideSources, 6/24/15)

Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader, edited by Jonathan Bean


5) The 2015 Challenge of Liberty Seminars—Or How to Change a Life

The Challenge of Liberty Summer Seminars fill a critical gap for college students who want to explore the philosophical, historical, and economic principles of liberty and free markets. When students describe the experience, two things come up again and again: The life-changing effect of the program, and heartfelt gratitude for the donors who make their attendance possible.

Fifty more students have the opportunity to share in this experience, from July 6-10, at our third and final 2015 Seminar in Berkeley, California. Last week, we put out a call for help on their behalf, and the Conservative Forum of Silicon Valley as well as six individual donors generously responded. Thank you so much!

However, we still have a gap in funding our seminar students, and we are hoping that our Lighthouse readers will help bridge it. You can learn more about how you can help, and whether you are covering meals for a day ($25), or a full scholarship for a week ($1,200), you'll be making a life-changing impact on a bright young student.

Sponsor a Student!


6) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

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


7) Selected News Alerts


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless