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The Lighthouse®

The Lighthouse® is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 18, Issue 40: October 4, 2016

  1. Innovating Patient Safety
  2. Europe’s Lessons on Gun Control—and Ours
  3. Bureaucratic Flimflam: Environmental Edition
  4. Trump, Clinton, and Foreign-Policy Denialism
  5. Independent Updates

1) Innovating Patient Safety

America’s medical malpractice system is ailing. Only a tiny percentage of patients who suffer from malpractice—fewer than 2 percent, according to a Harvard study—ever initiate litigation against their healthcare provider. And most of the spoils from successful malpractice lawsuits go toward legal expenses rather than the patient. There are much better ways to improve patient safety, argues Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman.

Goodman has spent decades analyzing our byzantine healthcare system and has found scores of opportunities to improve quality while reducing costs. Often his recommendations involve reducing government interference and allowing markets to work their magic in healthcare just as they work in other sectors of the economy--namely by sending free-market price signals to entrepreneurs hoping to make profits and avoid losses. In the case of reforming medical malpractice, however, Goodman’s leading recommendation is directed at changing not government policy, but the behavior of hospitals and insurers. In essence, he calls for them to offer patients a new alternative: no-fault insurance that patients could choose prior to undergoing treatment.

“The premiums would reflect the individual provider’s (or institution’s) success or failure at reducing adverse events,” Goodman writes. “Price competition would drive patients to lower-cost, higher-quality care.” To avoid giving doctors perverse incentives to favor younger, healthier patients at the expense of older, sicker ones, Goodman calls for putting physicians on independent commissions that would determine patient-compensation rates. Patients would still have access to the malpractice system, but many would flock to the no-fault alternative. Writes Goodman: “The potential rewards [of offering no-fault insurance] should make the reform effort worthwhile: fewer errors and fewer adverse events in a system shaped and molded by doctors themselves and all accomplished with no lawyers, no judges, no courtrooms, no juries, and none of the mental anguish that litigation produces.”

Protecting Patient Safety without Malpractice Law, by John C. Goodman (Forbes, 9/6/16)

The Sessions-Cassidy Health Plan, by John C. Goodman (8/25/16)

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

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


2) Europe’s Lessons on Gun Control—and Ours

The European Union’s proposed ban on various firearms—under review since the terrorist attacks in Paris last November—is a clear reminder of a vital difference between the United States and its Old World counterparts: the Second Amendment. It’s a reminder for people on both sides of the Atlantic. Unfortunately, one lesson it holds for Europe has been especially tragic: When gun policies are too restrictive, millions can fall under the yoke of tyranny or face annihilation, as Independent Institute Research Fellow Stephen P. Halbrook explains in a recent op-ed for The Daily Caller.

Gun registration in Weimar Germany was supposed to help keep the peace between communist and Nazi streetfighters. But in 1938, five years after Hitler seized power, the Nazi government used registration records to verify compliance with the disarming of German Jewry. In neighboring France, a 1935 gun-registration law set the stage for gun confiscation after the Nazi invasion in 1940. “Many [resisters] were executed while others used their guns in the Resistance,” Halbrook writes.

The lesson for Americans should also never be forgotten. In the United States, gun-registration proposals came to the fore amidst the riots and turmoil of 1968. “Proponents denied the Nazis used records to disarm enemies,” Halbrook writes. Such denialism was untenable in the late 1960s, but its absurdity has become all the more brazen since the publication of Halbrook’s Gun Control in the Third Reich in 2013. Ultimately, however, the greatest lesson for Americans isn’t about Europe’s tragic woes under gun registration—or even about America’s recent deadly shootings in “gun-free” zones. It’s that firearm policies in the United States must conform with the words of the patriots who penned and ratified the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “The purpose of the Constitution is not only to limit government power,” Halbrook writes, “but also to allow ordinary persons to have a plain statement of their rights so they can protect them.”

Registration, Confiscation, Arrest, by Stephen P. Halbrook (The Daily Caller, 9/21/16)

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

The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms, by Stephen P. Halbrook


3) Bureaucratic Flimflam: Environmental Edition

Like a stage magician performing sleight of hand before an unsuspecting audience, politicians and bureaucrats frequently engage in misdirection. Case in point: the federal Environmental Protection Agency. As Independent Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II and Utah State University colleague Michael Jensen reveal in the Detroit News, the EPA touts its proposed Clean Power Plan as a flexible and fair tool for dealing with climate change. Pull back the curtain, however, and you’ll see that the EPA’s publicists slyly direct the public’s attention away from two essentials: the exceedingly high cost of the coal regulation and the exceedingly low benefit.

One year after it goes into effect, the Clean Power Plan would result in the closure of enough coal-fired power plants to supply electricity to 2.5 million homes, according to Shughart and Jensen. As for its alleged climate-change benefit, an economist with the American Enterprise Institute estimated that the EPA plan “amounts to a temperature reduction of 0.0015 of one degree by the year 2100,” Shughart and Jensen write.

The Department of Interior performs similar tricks. Its proposed Stream Protection Rule would leave $14 billion to $29 billion worth of coal in the ground and kill 100,000 to 300,000 jobs, disproportionately harming low-income people in Appalachia. “The ‘look over there!’ trick of environmental regulation is class warfare at its finest, as lower-income earners are forced to carry the burden of achieving the environmental goals of the political elite,” Shughart and Jensen write. “We must always ask ourselves whom we are willing to harm in order to achieve our supposed ‘green’ dreams.”

Green Energy Reforms Will Hurt the Poor, by William F. Shughart II and Michael Jensen (Detroit News, 9/27/16)

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


4) Trump, Clinton, and Foreign-Policy Denialism

The Trump-Clinton showdown at Hofstra University last week reminded viewers why so many Americans feel particularly acute dread this election season. Understandably, the candidates’ personal foibles get the lion’s share of media attention. Their substantive proposals, however, also warrant grave concern. A close look at the candidates’ foreign policies, for example, “should likely lead to voters to the same place,” Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland writes in the Huffington Post.

Both Trump and Clinton reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership (which would benefit consumers by lowering prices), both focus too much on Russian expansionism (most recently Trump), and “neither candidate has developed a coherent grand vision for what a sustainable future U.S. role in the world should be,” writes Eland. Articulating such a vision would, of course, require Trump and Clinton to explain how America’s unparalleled global military presence can be sustained in the face of a $19 trillion national debt. (The answer: it can’t.)

“When bipartisan agreement exists on foreign policy, the voters should not rejoice but instead be wary,” Eland writes. “The voters deserve better.”

First Debate Showed that Both Major Candidates Are Severely Wanting in Foreign Policy, by Ivan Eland (Huffington Post, 9/30/16)

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


5) Independent Updates
The Beacon: New Blog Posts MyGovCost: New Blog Posts
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