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The Lighthouse® is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 18, Issue 11: March 15, 2016

  1. Sanders, Socialism, and Schooling
  2. Energy Wasted on “Efficient” Energy
  3. The Independent Review: Spring Issue Now Available
  4. Criminal Misspending on Criminal Injustice
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts

1) Sanders, Socialism, and Schooling

Owing to his enthusiasm for the Soviet Union during the Cold War (he actually spent his honeymoon there!), Bernie Sanders may indeed be morally unfit to be President of the United States, as Independent Institute Senior Fellow Lawrence J. McQuillan argues in The Beacon. According to a recent poll, however, the senator’s socialist credentials pose no problem for one-fourth of the Millennials it surveyed; they may even favor a socialist on principle. Could this attitude have anything to do with the decline of American education? Independent Institute Senior Vice President Mary L. G. Theroux argues that this may indeed be the case.

Since its creation more than three decades ago, the U.S. Department of Education has been a troubled underachiever—at least by the standard of ensuring academic excellence. But there is, of course, more to the story. Citing Charlotte Twight’s article in the Winter 2016 issue of The Independent Review, Theroux suggests that while the agency is a failure when it comes to the three R’s, it may be judged a success by a different standard: the undermining of support for liberty.

“American students,” Theroux writes, “have ‘unlearned’ the concept of liberty during their passage through the government education system—with the result that they have been formed into increasingly compliant subjects of an increasingly powerful state.” The situation is desperate, but not irreversible. “If we want children who can succeed in a global economy that runs on tech, children who embrace and defend individual and civil liberty, who value and help their fellow-man, we’re going to have to educate them ourselves,” Theroux continues. “And that can only be done privately, wholly divorced from government involvement.”

Why Bernie Sanders Is Morally Unfit to Be President, by Lawrence J. McQuillan (The Beacon, 3/4/16)

So You Think Public Education Is Failing? It Helps to Understand Its Goals, by Mary Theroux (The Beacon, 3/11/16)

Through the Mist: American Liberty and Political Economy, 2065, by Charlotte Twight (The Independent Review, Spring 2016)

Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children, by Vicki E. Alger (forthcoming)


2) Energy Wasted on “Efficient” Energy

A trade association calling itself Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) has petitioned the courts to side with the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed restrictions on carbon dioxide. The agency’s edict, a feature of its “Clean Power Plan,” would favor “low-emission, energy-efficient” companies at the expense of traditional energy producers—benefitting the former by up to an estimated $20 billion per year through 2030. The trade group’s efforts are both harmful to the economy (especially to energy innovation) and morally outrageous, according to Strata Research Associate Michael Jensen and Independent Institute Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II.

“This politically bestowed windfall comes as coal and even some natural gas electricity producers get booted to the sidelines by the visible foot of government rather than by the invisible hand of the market,” Jensen and Shughart write.

The basic unfairness of AEE’s efforts, Jensen and Shughart argue, is akin to salad vendors lobbying city officials to ban hot dog sales on city sidewalks. You might agree that people should eat more salads and fewer hot dogs, but you would likely recognize that banning hot dogs would have numerous undesirable consequences—including constituting an assault on the principle of individual choice. As for favoring green energy at the expense of fossil fuels, Jensen and Shughart write: “Unfettered competition, not heavy-handed government intervention, is what will best address our energy needs and climate change concerns.”

Hot Dogs, Salads, and Rent Seeking, by Michael Jensen and William F. Shughart II (Charleston Gazette-Mail, 2/23/16)

Taxing Choice: The Predatory Politics of Fiscal Discrimination, edited by William F. Shughart II

Nature Unbound: Bureaucracy vs. the Environment, by Randy T Simmons, Ryan M. Yonk, and Kenneth J. Sim


3) The Independent Review: Spring Issue Now Available

The Spring 2016 issue of The Independent Review has shipped! Here are some of the questions it answers:

  • What were the unintended consequences of tenement reforms begun during the Progressive era?
  • How did trade restrictions of the late 19th century help launch America’s War on Drugs?
  • What’s the political and economic outlook for post-Castro Cuba?
  • Why should economists investigate “regime uncertainty” as a possible cause of sluggish economic recoveries? Read the article.
  • Will bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies replace the dollar? Read the article.
  • What are some of the most promising approaches for reversing the surge in government regulation?
  • Why does the standard economic model survive its bad predictions?

The Independent Review (Spring 2016)

Subscribe now and select your free book!


4) Criminal Misspending on Criminal Injustice

Wrongful convictions, legal errors, and failed prosecutions have cost California taxpayers “at least $221 million from 1989 through 2012,” according to Criminal Injustice, a new study from the Opportunity Institute. Add in the 85 exonerations from the Ramparts policy corruption scandal, and the price tag rises to $282 million, explains Independent Institute Policy Fellow K. Lloyd Billingsley.

“By confirming that waste and injustice are chained together, the new Criminal Injustice study will help taxpayers make the case for long overdue reforms,” Billingsley writes.

It’s especially disheartening to note where the majority of proven mistakes occur: in homicide cases, where errors cost an average of $1.3 million per case. Crime victims, the falsely accused, and California taxpayers deserve much better.

Waste and Injustice, by K. Lloyd Billingsley (MyGovCost News & Blog, 3/14/16)

The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State, by Bruce L. Benson

Prison Break: A New Approach to Public Cost and Safety, by Erwin A. Blackstone and Simon Hakim


6) Selected News Alerts

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  • Catalyst
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