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The Lighthouse®

The Lighthouse® is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 18, Issue 49: December 6, 2016

  1. Trump Picks Carson and Price for Cabinet
  2. Adiós, Fidel!
  3. Electoral College—or National Popular Vote?
  4. “Fake News” and Foreign Meddling Hardly Unique
  5. Independent Updates

1) Trump Picks Carson and Price for Cabinet

Still more than six weeks away from Inauguration Day, and the Trump-administration-in-waiting is already providing the suspense of a reality TV competition. Trump’s picks of Ben Carson and Tom Price, both physicians, for top Cabinet posts are just a few of what will continue to be interesting appointments, pregnant with possibilities.

Naming Carson to run Housing and Urban Development may not be the poor step that many have called it, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Samuel R. Staley. True, the retired neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate has no professional experience related directly to housing and urban issues. But redirecting the agency may require something different—namely, an ability to engage and inspire the public and the bureaucracy. Staley’s new post in The Beacon discusses five different ways that Carson might help, including deemphasizing “Smart Growth” and other place-based urban policies, and instead adopting policies that try to improve individuals’ habitats more directly.

One of Donald Trump’s key election promises was to repeal and replace Obamacare, from root to branch, as quickly as possible. Trump has since talked about retaining two of its provisions, but his pick of Georgia Representative Tom Price to lead Health and Human Services is a strong signal that huge (“yuge”) changes to U.S. healthcare lie ahead. A retired orthopedic surgeon who entered politics in order to improve the nation’s healthcare policies, Price knows his way around the byzantine system and has even sponsored anti-Obamacare legislation in the House. As Independent Institute Senior Fellow John R. Graham writes in The Beacon, “The choice of Dr. Price to lead the U.S. Department of Health & Services should make proponents of health care that puts patients and doctors—not politicians and bureaucrats—in charge of our health care very optimistic about positive change in 2017.”

Ben Carson and the Future of Cities, by Sam Staley (The Beacon, 12/5/16)

The Price Is Right! Trump’s Choice of Health Secretary Indicates Push to Repeal and Replace Obamacare, by John R. Graham (The Beacon, 12/1/16)

Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis, edited by Randall G. Holcombe and Benjamin Powell

The Voluntary City: Choice, Community, and Civil Society, by David T. Beito, Peter Gordon, and Alexander T. Tabarrok

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

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

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


2) Adiós, Fidel!

Fidel Castro’s funeral cast a somber shadow on Cuba’s uncharacteristically quiet Santeria festival, the New York Times reported Sunday evening. “Fidel Castro died peacefully as an old man,” writes Independent Institute Research Fellow Abigail R. Hall Blanco. “The same cannot be said for the thousands of Cubans who died violently and prematurely at the hands of his regime.” Hall Blanco urges everyone to keep in mind what many left-leaning politicians would prefer to have people forget: The dictator’s brutal human-rights record during his decades-long rule, including mass execution, internment of gays, show trials, punishment of political opponents, forced blood “donations,” forced abortions, and more.

Despite the abuses, Cuba’s propaganda machine—echoed by many progressives in the West—succeeded in convincing many people that Castro was the great benefactor of his countrymen. One myth that endures is the myth of healthcare excellence. In reality, however, Cuba’s healthcare system was rife with failure, including poor blood screening for young cancer patients, leading to infections of Hepatitis C; shortages of light bulbs, towels, and sheets in healthcare facilities; and more. A hospital widely depicted as a great facility was actually two floors reserved for medical tourists and the foreign media. These are revelations that Independent Institute Senior Fellow John R. Graham notes in a new post on The Beacon, discussing a U.S. intelligence cable that leaked by WikiLeaks.

Cuba’s horrors are not some unexpected anomaly. Rather, they are a predictable outcome of the government’s economic collectivism, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Benjamin Powell explains. “The horrific abuses of power that have occurred under socialism are a feature of the system, not a bug,” he writes. “The future of the Cuban people will be much brighter if Castro’s socialist policies go to the grave with him.”

Castro’s Death and Cuban Health Care, by John R. Graham (The Beacon, 12/5/16)

Cuban Socialism Should Die with Castro, by Benjamin Powell (, 11/30/16)

Make No Mistake: Fidel Castro Was a Horrible Person, by Abigail R. Hall Blanco (The Beacon, 11/27/16)

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


3) Electoral College—or National Popular Vote?

To continue the Electoral College—or not? That is the question. And Clinton’s electoral loss, despite winning of the majority of popular votes cast, means it will be debated even more in the coming years than it has been since December 12, 2000, when the Supreme Court ruled that George W. Bush, loser of the popular vote, had won in Florida and hence in the Electoral College. Would abandoning the current system be good for America? Reasonable people can disagree.

Independent Institute Research Fellow Gary M. Galles argues that scrapping the Electoral College and moving to a national popular vote (NPV) would be bad for America; mostly, it would give “safe” states greater leverage over contested states. It would also, he argues, fail to deliver the goods: The legitimacy of an NPV election could also be questioned, albeit in a different way. “It could take the Florida Bush-Gore controversy nationwide.” There are better ways to deal with perceived disenfranchisement, he argues, but few are willing to consider them.

Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland argues that adopting the right kind of national popular vote system would be more in keeping with the spirit of democracy. The Electoral College no longer functions the way the republic’s founders envisioned it. But Eland cautions that the wrong kind of NPV system—such as the current effort by many states to assign their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote—would be a politically fragile gimmick: It could be reversed even more easily than it was created. Instead, Eland calls for amending the Constitution to replace the Electoral College with a simple national-majority election system. “Because [Donald Trump] and his party benefited from the existing system in 2016, such a long-overdue proposal would likely make a powerful impact,” he concludes.

New Political Victors Would Arise from National Popular Vote, by Gary M. Galles (Fox & Hounds Daily, 11/14/16)

Electoral College Is a Modern-Day Travesty for the World’s Greatest Democracy, by Ivan Eland (Huffington Post, 11/22/16)


4) “Fake News” and Foreign Meddling Hardly Unique

Hillary Clinton’s blaming her electoral loss on “fake news” on the World Wide Web may “work” as a therapeutic distraction from her campaign’s off-target messaging and business-as-usual special-interest mongering. However, her claim that recent election interference by foreign powers, via WikiLeaks, was an unprecedented effort, is directly at odds with the historical record, according to Independent Institute Policy Fellow K. Lloyd Billingsley.

The worst culprit of foreign interference with an American election likely came from the Soviet Union during the Cold War, courtesy of the KGB. (Its American counterpart, the CIA, was also busy trying to influence election outcomes, the mention of which, by the way, doesn’t imply any suggestions of moral equivalency.) To cite but one example, the Soviets funded the U.S. presidential campaigns of Communist Party USA’s Gus Hall. While no one ever expected Hall to win anything more than free publicity, the candidate’s stance on various foreign-policy issues helped Moscow’s views circulate in the media.

Other underhanded Soviet campaigns promoted fake news—disinformation about, for example, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., and especially Soviet sponsorship of “friendly” voices, such as, in the 1930s, communist American reporter Walter Duranty, who kept his mouth shut regarding Stalin’s mass starvation in Ukraine. Duranty was not some Depression-Era equivalent of a blogger in Macedonia writing for naïve Western consumers of social media; he was a well-respected Pulitzer Prize winner with the New York Times. “For millennials and everybody else the lesson here is simple,” Billingsley writes. “Be wary of what politicians still dare to call the ‘mainstream media.’”

Attention, Millennials: Foreign Election Meddling and Fake News Are Nothing New, by K. Lloyd Billingsley (Daily Caller, 11/28/16)


5) Independent Updates

The Beacon: New Blog Posts
MyGovCost: New Blog Posts
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