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The Lighthouse®

The Lighthouse® is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 17, Issue 38: September 22, 2015

  1. The Independent Review: Fall 2015 Issue Now Available
  2. Constitution Day: A Federal Exercise in Irony
  3. Experts Refute Doomsayers on Immigration
  4. FDA Expands Its Hazardous Reach
  5. Job Opportunity: Digital Marketing Manager
  6. New Blog Posts
  7. Selected News Alerts

1) The Independent Review: Fall 2015 Issue Now Available

The Fall 2015 edition of The Independent Review is one of our most diverse issues ever! Read it and learn about a plethora of timely topics:

And to keep you abreast of important new books, our Fall issue features reviews of the following recent releases:

Also, we’re now featuring additional book reviews exclusively on our website. Our first collection includes reviews of:

Get your e-subscription or print subscription today! (Print subscriptions include FREE book.)

The Independent Review (Fall 2015)


2) Constitution Day: A Federal Exercise in Irony

Thursday, September 17, marked Constitution Day, an annual day of observance that Congress established in 2004 to remind us all of the words and ambitions of the federal government’s charter. Perhaps the first point Americans should keep in mind, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow William J. Watkins Jr., is that nowhere in the document is the federal government given authority to establish Constitution Day—or, for that matter, to intervene at all in education. (Writing in The Beacon, Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki Alger concurs and suggests that federal intervention in education deserves a failing grade.)

The feds have, of course, long undertaken actions not authorized by the Constitution. Ironically, the great enabler of extra-legal encroachments, Watkins explains in an op-ed published in The Hill, is the judiciary. The Supreme Court decided in 1936, for example, that the General Welfare clause authorizes Congress to spend money on nearly anything it claims will promote the national welfare—despite James Madison’s insistence to the contrary in Federalist No. 41. The nation’s highest court has also eroded the Constitution’s limits on federal power via its gross misinterpretations of the Commerce Clause, “the Necessary and Proper Clause, the treaty power, and the judicial power,” Watkins writes.

In a separate op-ed for The Daily Caller, Watkins implores Americans to remember the Articles of Confederation—the nation’s first Constitution. Despite its flaws, that document made vital, pro-liberty contributions for which it should be commended: it helped secure America’s independence from the British government (by strengthening the economic might of the emerging republic) and it preserved the right to self-government (by establishing term limits meant to hinder the rise of a self-perpetuating political aristocracy, by requiring a supermajority for the authorization of government borrowing, and by stating explicitly that the states possess “sovereignty, freedom and independence”). “In this respect,” Watkins writes, “the Articles were an unqualified success.”

A Lesson Plan for Constitution Day by William J. Watkins Jr. (The Hill, 9/17/15)

Remembering Our First Constitution by William J. Watkins Jr. (The Daily Caller, 9/17/15)

Reclaiming the American Revolution: The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and Their Legacy, by William J. Watkins Jr.

Happy Birthday, US Department of Education...Now Go Away, by Vicki Alger (The Beacon, 9/19/15)

Some Constitution Day Reflections about Government’s Role in Education, by Vicki Alger (The Beacon, 9/17/15)


3) Experts Refute Doomsayers on Immigration

Donald Trump may be winning in the GOP polls, but he’s failing in his claims about America’s immigrant population. The business mogul, reality-TV star, and presidential hopeful has said, for example, that “the influx of foreign workers holds down salaries and keeps unemployment high” for non-immigrants. Such assertions garner headlines, but according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Benjamin W. Powell, “almost none of the claims Trump has made about immigration have a scholarly leg to stand on.”

In an op-ed for southern New Jersey’s Courier-Post, Powell offers a refreshing antidote to the feverish pitch of the anti-immigrant crowd: he discusses the findings of social scientists who have studied immigration. Although the scholars differ on the policies they would like to see, they agree that newcomers to the United States have not pushed down wages overall. “Instead, they debate whether immigration causes the wages of high school dropouts to fall by as much as 7 percent or whether their wages slightly increase,” writes Powell, whose forthcoming book, The Economics of Immigration, provides much needed objectivity.

The second canard hurled at immigrants is that they are an obvious drain on the U.S. treasury. This claim, Powell explains, overlooks the contributions that newcomers make to the public purse by paying sales taxes and often income taxes. Moreover, as the children of immigrants begin to earn paychecks, they too generate tax revenues. Thus, while respectable studies disagree about the precise impact of immigration on the public coffer, “in all cases, the magnitudes are small and clustered around zero,” Powell writes.

Why Trump’s Wrong on Immigration, by Benjamin W. Powell (Courier-Post, 11/14/15)

Making Poor Nations Rich: Entrepreneurship and the Process of Economic Development, by Benjamin W. Powell

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

Broken Borders: Government, Foreign-Born Workers, and the U.S. Economy, by Benjamin W. Powell and Zachary Gochenour


4) FDA Expands Its Hazardous Reach

No one who reads The Lighthouse should be surprised to find news reports that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to obstruct access to the life-enhancing innovations of the pharmaceutical industry. As many people have come to realize, the agency faces strong incentives to slow the introduction of new drugs that could save lives—“deadly overcaution,” some call it—all while claiming that it promotes “safety and effectiveness” in medicine. Less known is that the agency also hinders medical progress by hampering access to pharmaceuticals currently available only outside the realm of traditional commerce.

Independent Institute Policy Fellow K. Lloyd Billingsley reports on a recent notable example in the Washington Times. The FDA, he explains, has worked to suppress the market for kratom, a substance from a Southeast Asian plant that scientists have found reduces pain and lessens dependence on opiates. Ignoring these benefits, the FDA directed U.S. marshals to seize 25,000 pounds of kratom last year in Van Nuys, Calif. Instead of criminalizing kratom, Billingsley urges government officials to seek expert testimony and act accordingly, and calls for voters to be given the opportunity to strike down state prohibitions of kratom, just as many voters have weighed in on their state’s marijuana policies.

The FDA is also encroaching on the world of video games. As Independent Institute Marketing Coordinator Aaron Tao explains, the agency is requiring clinical trials for a game called Project Evo, whose creators claim will improve cognitive skills and improve mental health. “I can only wish them the best, and hope Schumpeterian creative destruction eventually sweeps the whole field of medicine,” Tao writes in a piece first published in The Beacon and picked up by Newsweek. “Abolishing the FDA and eliminating its too-often abused power to withhold innovative medical treatments from patients and providers would be one step toward genuine healthcare reform.”

An Excuse for Crushing Kratom, by K. Lloyd Billingsley (The Washington Times, 7/23/15)

Game Developers Face Final Boss: The FDA, by Aaron Tao (The Beacon, 8/20/15)

Hazardous to Our Health? FDA Regulation of Health Care Products, edited by Robert Higgs

Is the FDA safe and effective? See


5) Job Opportunity: Digital Marketing Manager

Independent Institute is currently seeking a Digital Marketing Manager to lead our social media program and to promote the work of our public-policy scholars and our award-winning publications. For listings of this and other job opportunities, please visit our Employment Opportunities page.


6) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

California Capitol Not Taxpayers’ House
K. Lloyd Billingsley (9/18/15)

Negative Dashboard Indicators for the U.S. National Debt
Craig Eyermann (9/17/15)

K. Lloyd Billingsley (9/15/15)

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


7) Selected News Alerts


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless