The Power of Independent Thinking


Stay Connected
Get the latest updates straight to your inbox.

The Lighthouse®

The Lighthouse® is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
Subscribe now, or browse Back Issues.

Volume 19, Issue 9: February 28, 2017

  1. How Trump Could Clean Up Environmental Policy
  2. Trump’s Mexico Policies: Contradictory and Harmful?
  3. T.R.M. Howard: A Forgotten Black Business Hero for All Americans
  4. Jerry Brown’s Historic Land Grab
  5. Event: New Bridges: Advancing Liberty & Prosperity in a Divided America (San Francisco, 4/7/17)
  6. Independent Updates

1) How Trump Could Clean Up Environmental Policy

Political rancor surrounded the Senate’s confirmation hearing for Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Nevertheless, reformers on both sides of the political divide should be able to find agreement on cutting back at least some of the tangled patchwork of federal environmental policy. To help identify common ground and bridge the partisan gap, the Independent Institute has just released “Five Ways Trump Can Improve Environmental Policy,” by Independent Institute Research Fellow Ryan M. Yonk.

Yonk’s proposals target inefficiencies and waste that plague some of the nation’s most far-reaching environmental laws while also reducing their economic costs. The effects of the Clean Air Act, for example, could be made more transparent by requiring the EPA to assess the broader economic impacts of its rulemaking and enforcement decisions on emissions. Also, compliance with the Clean Water Act could be streamlined by returning that law’s applicability to only “navigable waters” (not shallow wetlands and tributaries), as written in the legislation’s original text.

Yonk proposes a major reform for the Endangered Species Act: Require policymakers to foster Stewardship Incentives Programs that reward landowners who have endangered species on their property; current policies do the opposite. In addition, the federal permitting process could be streamlined by eliminating duplicative and unnecessary paperwork requirements for environmental impact statements. Yonk also calls for eliminating subsidies for politically favored energy companies. Yonk’s five reforms would make environmental policymaking significantly more decentralized, pragmatic, effective, efficient, and intellectually honest.

Five Ways Trump Can Improve Environmental Policy, by Ryan M. Yonk (Independent Institute Executive Summary, 2/13/17)

Video: Nature Unbound: Bureaucracy vs. the Environment, featuring Ryan M. Yonk (5/11/16)

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


2) Trump’s Mexico Policies: Contradictory and Harmful?

One of the most damning criticisms one can level at a foolish law or regulation is that it will do the opposite of what its advocates promised. President Trump’s proposals for Mexico—to levy a 20 percent tariff on imports from that country and build a 2,000-mile-long wall to keep “those people” from crossing the border—merit just such an indictment. In a recent op-ed published in The Washington Times, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Benjamin Powell explains why.

The United States is the final destination of approximately four-fifths of Mexico’s exports, valued at about $316 billion in 2015. A 20 percent tariff—or border-adjustment tax—would inflict tremendous harm on U.S. buyers for those goods, including car manufacturers, hospitals, and food distributors. Moreover, such a tariff would likely provoke Mexico’s government to erect similar penalties on U.S. products bound for Mexico. Then there’s the wall. Recall that fears of tighter restrictions on the legal purchase and ownership of firearms have led to surges in gun sales. A similar phenomenon could happen as fears that Trump’s Wall will come to fruition: It could spark a surge of people entering the United States illegally. This number would only increase if Trump’s tariff actually took effect and inflicted damage to Mexico’s economy.

An air-tight border would also trap Mexicans in the United States who wish to return to their home country. This is not a small number. “Since 2009, in fact, the number of Mexicans returning home exceeded the number of Mexicans entering the United States by approximately 140,000, according to the Pew Research Center,” Powell writes. The reason is that jobseekers follow job prospects, and Mexico’s economy has been growing faster than the U.S. economy. “A 20 percent tariff would put the brakes on Mexico’s expansion and likely reverse the migratory trend, as Mexicans, both legally and illegally, seek economic opportunities in the United States.”

The Downside of a Trump Tariff, by Benjamin Powell (The Washington Times, 2/22/17)

Video: Is a Border-Adjustment Tax a Good Idea?, Featuring Benjamin Powell (Fox Business, 2/23/17)

The Economics of Immigration: Market-Based Approaches, Social Science, and Public Policy, edited by Benjamin Powell


3) T.R.M. Howard: A Forgotten Black Business Hero for All Americans

Black History Month—February—is a time when schools and the media reflect on the tragedies and triumphs of the African-American experience. Unfortunately, one of that saga’s most accomplished heroes is also one of its most overlooked: physician, entrepreneur, and philanthropist T. R. M. Howard (1908-1976). A recent event gives us further cause to reflect on Howard and his significance: a confession in January about the racially motivated murder of Emmett Till, age 14.

First, some background. As Independent Institute Research Fellow David T. Beito and social scientist Linda Royster Beito explain in a new op-ed, Howard’s example and encouragement led the way for Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. In 1955, Howard—probably Mississippi’s wealthiest black man at the time—rallied around the cause of justice for Emmett Till, a black boy who had been brutally murdered that year for allegedly whistling at a white woman by her white husband and brother-in-law. (The woman’s admission that she had lied about Till’s supposed transgression came to light in a book published just last month.) Justice was denied: The murder trial resulted in acquittal for the two killers. Howard pushed on, however, giving public talks about the imperative for justice and equality under the law.

“Weeks after the acquittal, Howard spoke about the trial to an overflow crowd at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama,” the Beitos write. “The host was a largely unknown 26-year-old pastor named Martin Luther King Jr. In the audience sat Rosa Parks. Four days later, when she refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus, Howard’s speech was still headline news in the local black press.” History hasn’t been kind to Howard—neither historians nor the media have given him his due. Howard’s accomplishments—in medicine, business, and civil rights—are worthy of celebration, and his obscurity reminds us that justice is still being denied.

T.R.M. Howard Led Way for MLK, Others, by David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito (Clarion-Ledger, 2/24/17)

Race & Liberty in America: The Essential Reader, edited by Jonathan J. Bean

Book review: David Beito on Black Titan: A. G. Gaston and the Making of a Black Millionaire, by Carol Jenkins and Elizabeth Gardner Hines (The Independent Review, Spring 2006)


4) Jerry Brown’s Historic Land Grab

With his signing of a controversial land bill last year, California Governor Jerry Brown has paved the way for perhaps the largest state land grab in U.S. history: Approximately 121,000 square miles of private land could fall into the hands of state and local politicians and bureaucrats to dispose of as they wish. As Independent Institute Policy Fellow K. Lloyd Billingsley explains in the Orange County Register, Assembly Bill 2492 “allows governments to grab property and hand it over even to private developers.”

Brown’s land grab doesn’t quite rise to Obama proportions: On his way out of the White House door, the forty-fourth president declared more than 1.5 million acres of land in Utah and Nevada off-limits to development. Nevertheless, Brown’s land grab is epic in scope and the economic threat it poses to property owners who risk having their land condemned as “blighted” and seized by the government for “redevelopment.”

“For all his wrath against Donald Trump, California’s recurring governor has signed legislation that will empower predatory developers to thrive as never before,” Billingsley writes. “That is the stuff of which corruption legacies are made.”

Jerry Brown the Born-Again Land Grabber, by K. Lloyd Billingsley (Orange County Register, 2/17/17)

Property Rights: Eminent Domain and Regulatory Takings Re-Examined, edited by Bruce L. Benson


5) Event: New Bridges: Advancing Liberty & Prosperity in a Divided America (San Francisco, 4/7/17)

With a new administration in Washington, D.C., what have we learned and what can be done now? We invite you to join with us for a very special seminar and luncheon on the post-election prospects for liberty and prosperity in a divided America, and how we as individuals and communities can advance freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and security for all.


Patrick M. Byrne is an American entrepreneur, e-commerce pioneer, and Founder/CEO of Forbes has named Dr. Byrne the CEO with the highest employee approval rating (92%) and ranked as the 9th Best U.S. Company to Work For. In 2011, Dr. Byrne was named Ernst & Young’s National Entrepreneur of the Year.

William J. Watkins Jr., Research Fellow, Independent Institute; author, Crossroads for Liberty: Recovering the Anti-Federalist Values of America’s First Constitution.

Robert P. Murphy, Research Fellow, Independent Institute; author, Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise and Human Action.

Lawrence J. McQuillan, Senior Fellow, Director of the Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation, and Director of the California Golden Fleece Awards, Independent Institute.
REGISTRATION: 9:00 a.m. | PROGRAM: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Parc 55 Hotel
Cyril Magnin Ballroom
55 Cyril Magnin Street
San Francisco, CA
Map and Directions

TICKETS: (Reception, Luncheon, Program & Book Signings)
INDEPENDENT INSTITUTE MEMBER: Tables of ten are available.
Individual $50 per person.
Sponsor Circle $90 per person (Preferred seating, program recognition)
NON-MEMBER: Tables of ten are available.
Individual $60 per person.
New Bridges Circle $100 per person (Preferred seating, program recognition)
PLUS SPECIAL BOOK BUNDLE: $50 per bundle of all 3 featured books (40% SAVINGS).
EVENT PAGE: New Bridges: Advancing Liberty & Prosperity in a Divided America


6) Independent Updates
The Beacon: New Blog Posts
MyGovCost: New Blog Posts
Featured Video
News Alert


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless