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Volume 18, Issue 17: April 26, 2016

  1. Earth Day and the Balance of Nature
  2. Where’s the Republican Fill-In for Obamacare?
  3. Must Outdated Laws Drive Innovation Away?
  4. Peru May Return to Autocratic Rule
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts

1) Earth Day and the Balance of Nature

Earth Day has come and gone, but the environmental beliefs that inspired it have long been mainstays of everyday life in America. These include not only unobjectionable tenets, such as the wrongfulness of littering on another’s property, but also falsehoods and wishful thinking, as Independent Institute Research Fellow Ryan M. Yonk and Michael Jensen explain in an op-ed for American Thinker.

One widespread environmental misconception, according to Yonk and Jensen, is the notion that nature, when left to its own devices, maintains a state of “peaceful coexistence” between the flora and fauna of any given habitat. In reality, the Balance of Nature doctrine, as it’s called, was discarded by scientific ecologists decades ago. Ecosystems change over time, they recognize, as successful plants and animals drive out their rivals in the struggle for life, and the result can be less biodiversity, rather than more. Thus, “disturbance and change, not balance and harmony, best describe nature,” Yonk and Jensen write.

The Balance of Nature doctrine is not a sterile creature in our intellectual landscape. Rather, it has helped conceive sweeping laws whose lack of nuance acts to the detriment of the environment—and harms the human “ecosystem” of private property and voluntary exchange, as well. “When emotion and environmental mysticism, instead of historical evidence and ecological science, hold sway over policymakers, poor policy is the inevitable result,” Yonk and Jensen write. Whatever the appeal of the Balance of Nature doctrine, it is, they conclude, “a poor foundation upon which to build good environmental policy. Scientists have abandoned it, and it is about time legislators do the same.”

Earth Day Anniversary and the Balance of Nature Myth, by Ryan M. Yonk and Michael Jensen (American Thinker, 4/21/16)

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

Video: The True Cost of Wind, by Ryan M. Yonk (Independent Institute’s Challenge of Liberty Seminars, 6/4/15)

The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion vs. Environmental Religion in Contemporary America, by Robert H. Nelson


2) Where’s the Republican Fill-In for Obamacare?

Will Republicans offer a credible healthcare plan before voters go to the polls this November? Many GOP politicians have pledged to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, but they’ve fallen short on the second item of that pledge. This is a major mistake, because millions of Americans would face a frightening absence of coverage if Obamacare were repealed but not replaced. Independent Institute Senior Fellows John C. Goodman and John R. Graham discuss these shortfalls separately in two recent op-eds.

Writing in Forbes, where he contributes frequently, Goodman takes Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich to task for failing to deal seriously with “the problems of uninsurance, pre-existing conditions, and healthcare costs.” These aren’t trivial problems, either. If Obamacare were repealed, but not replaced with a good alternative, 20 million people would lose coverage, bringing up the total number of uninsured to perhaps 50 million. “The only candidate that did have a credible replacement plan was Marco Rubio,” Goodman writes. Rubio’s plan didn’t flesh out how to deal with pre-existing conditions, but it had a huge advantage over its rivals: it would have offered nearly universal coverage, via a refundable, defined-contribution tax credit.

The GOP’s remaining presidential hopefuls don’t have anything nearly as comprehensive to replace Obamacare, but Congressman Tom Price (R-GA) has taken up the tax-credit torch. If a Republican wins the White House this fall, Price’s tax-credit would be the best alternative for a GOP president to adopt, according to Graham, in a recent piece for Real Clear Policy. The tax credit could be claimed by consumers who purchase health insurance in the individual market rather than obtaining coverage through their employer. The size of the tax-credit would rise with the purchaser’s age and number of children. Conservative fiscal hawks shouldn’t fear a tax credit, Graham argues, because “a universal tax credit would replace, not supplement, current federal spending.”

The Congressional GOP’s Health Care Tax Credits, by John R. Graham (Real Clear Policy, 4/21/16)

Why Do None of the GOP Presidential Candidates Have a Credible Health Plan?, by John C. Goodman (Forbes, 3/28/16)

Video: Senior Fellow John C. Goodman interviewed on Rep. Pete Sessions’ legislation to replace Obamacare (WFAA-TV’s Inside Texas Politics, 12/16/15)

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

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


3) Must Outdated Laws Drive Innovation Away?

Will the market support another ride-sharing service? Former Uber driver Michael Pelletz is betting the answer is yes. His new Boston-area company, Chariot for Women, plans to enter that race—but with a twist: only women (and young children) will ride, and only women will drive. For females worried about Uber and Lyft potentially exposing them to sexual harassment (or worse), Chariot for Women may arrive just in time. But according to Independent Institute Research Fellow William J. Watkins, the company may face a formidable challenge, though not from the marketplace: Chariot for Women may have to grapple with government regulators and courts that claim the women-only business model illegally discriminates against males.

“Although Chariot’s rationale for not hiring male drivers—peace of mind for female passengers—seems inherently reasonable, reasonableness is not the standard imposed by the law,” Watkins writes in an op-ed for the Washington Examiner. The start-up may need to prove its gender-based restrictions are a “bona fide occupational qualification”—that is, a lawful exception to the “public accommodation” requirement handed down by common-law courts ages ago, when consumers who needed transportation or overnight lodging often lacked a safe alternative to using a local monopoly.

There’s a larger lesson here. According to Watkins, overly broad, outdated restrictions are a common reason that today’s entrepreneurs can’t serve consumers as effectively as they otherwise might. “Social progress, no less than commercial innovation, requires that we cast off the assumption of legal coercion and embrace the principle of a voluntary society,” Watkins continues. “And in the case of Chariot for Women, there is no necessity for government laws to put the break on an innovative company that could help take us to a future richer in choice and opportunity.”

Will Litigiousness Wreck Chariot for Women?, by William J. Watkins, Jr. (Washington Examiner, 4/23/16)

Patent Trolls: Predatory Litigation and the Smothering of Innovation, by William J. Watkins, Jr.

Audio: William J. Watkins, Jr. on the Death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (2/17/16)


4) Peru May Return to Autocratic Rule

Alberto Fujimori, Peru’s disgraced former ruler, is serving a 25-year prison term for corruption and human-rights abuses, but this doesn’t mean his daughter won’t become their country’s next president. Forty-year-old Keiko Fujimori cleared her first electoral hurdle earlier this month and faces a run-off in June. How her candidacy has succeeded thus far, and why this is cause for concern, are topics Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa addresses in a recent op-ed in Canada’s esteemed Globe and Mail.

In the 1990s, President Fujimori gave Peru salvation from Marxist terrorists and stabilized an economy ravaged by hyperinflation, but in 2001 he fled to Japan when his abuses came to light. Daughter Keiko has publicly distanced herself from her father’s authoritarian legacy, but has managed to broaden and solidify his political machine. This has succeeded in part, according to Vargas Llosa, because the nation’s institutions were left in tatters. A new breed of officeholders, poorly prepared to govern, came to power. Police and the courts became suspect in the eyes of a weary public. Voters lost hope. Into this gap slipped Keiko Fujimori, a woman likely to borrow from her father’s corrupt playbook.

“The biggest mistake made by her father’s successors was to act as if no further reforms were needed and they could afford to be complacent,” Vargas Llosa writes. “The paradoxical co-existence of a growing economy and the shrinking social legitimacy of the institutions and political organizations was bound to have consequences.”

Peruvian Elections: Another Fujimori in the Wings, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

The Che Guevara Myth—And the Future of Liberty, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

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


5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

Tax Freedom Day 2016
William Shughart (4/24/16)

Obama Administration Continues to Bail Insurers Out of Exchanges
John R. Graham (4/22/16)

Death to “Safe Spaces”
Abigail R. Hall Blanco (4/21/16)

Health Status Is Associated with Income, Not Health Insurance
John R. Graham (4/20/16)

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

TSA Endures Despite Failure
K. Lloyd Billingsley (4/25/16)

Bureaucrats Behaving Badly: HUD Edition!
Craig Eyermann (4/25/16)

Who Is Second Worst?
Craig Eyermann (4/22/16)

National Debt as a Weapon
Craig Eyermann (4/19/16)

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6) Selected News Alerts

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  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless