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 49: November 28, 2017

  1. Terminally Ill Patients Deserve “Right to Try”
  2. Poll Finds Clarity Needed on Socialism versus Capitalism
  3. Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro Maintains Grip on Power
  4. Join with Us on Giving Tuesday
  5. Independent Updates

1) Terminally Ill Patients Deserve “Right to Try”

After 21-year old Abigail Burroughs succumbed to cancer in 2001, her family created an organization to help give terminally ill patients access to what Abigail was denied: potentially life-saving drugs not approved for such purposes by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Fortunately, after much criticism the FDA now routinely grants access to patients requesting such drugs, and most state governments have enacted so-called right-to-try laws. These are steps in the right direction, but more could be done.

Terminally ill patients and their families would have even more hope if Congress passes SB 204, a national right-to-try bill that gives patients access to experimental drugs without having to get FDA permission, explains Independent Institute Research Fellow Raymond March, in an op-ed for The Hill. Passing such a law, he notes, would require its supporters to overcome political opposition.

Remarkably, opponents of right-to-try laws cite safety concerns for their favoring that the FDA continue to have veto power over the decisions of terminally ill patients and their physicians. Opponents also worry that experimental drug treatments create false hope. “What is truly ‘false hope’ for the terminally ill,” March writes, “is to leave life-and-death decisions to politicians and federal regulators. Allowing them unwarranted and unneeded influence only works to deny these patients from a chance to prolong their life. The alternative, although less ‘risky’, is certainly worse.”

Right-to-Try Laws Offer Hope for the Terminally Ill, by Raymond March (The Hill, 11/7/17)

Is the FDA safe and effective? See


2) Poll Finds Clarity Needed on Socialism versus Capitalism

Nations moving toward capitalism enjoy more personal liberties as well as greater wealth. This shouldn’t be controversial, and yet a recent opinion poll of Millennials found that only 42 percent favored capitalism, compared to 51 percent who advocated socialism and another 7 percent who identified with communism. What’s going on? Whatever the cause, it’s not the result of careful observation. As Independent Institute Senior Fellow Benjamin Powell explains in an op-ed for The Daily Caller, one need not look back at history to Stalin’s gulags or Pol Pot’s killing fields to see that socialism—real socialism, that is, government ownership of the means of production—leads to misery.

Every year, The Economic Freedom of the World Annual Index provides evidence of how countries fare as they move toward or away from capitalism. Estonia, the most impressive gainer of the former Soviet Union’s satellite countries, has moved up in the economic-freedom rankings to 17th place; incomes are up 461 percent since 1995, when Estonians were still finding their post-socialist footing. China has risen up the scale 76 percent since 1980; average incomes are now twelve times higher than in 1995. Even Russia, the former Motherland of hard-core socialism (see The Independent Review’s Fall 2017 issue for a fascinating symposium on the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution), has climbed to the upper half of the economic-freedom ladder, and poverty there has fallen 23 percent since the mid-1990s.

“Millennials could delve into history books to learn about Socialist atrocities,” Powell writes. “But they could also just look at the facts of the world and see how prosperity has increased as the former socialist countries have begun embracing capitalism. If they’d do either, I doubt you’d find many socialists among them.”

Hey, Millennials: Socialism Creates Poverty and Limits Freedom. So Stop Romanticizing It!, by Benjamin Powell (The Daily Caller, 11/21/17)|300x600&c=1511813360

The One Hundredth Anniversary of the Russian Revolution, by Robert M. Whaples (The Independent Review, Fall 2017)


3) Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro Maintains Grip on Power

October’s regional elections led to victory for President Nicolás Maduro and defeat for the opposition. Having won 17 of 23 governorships, Maduro’s party claims popular support. In reality, however, the election was anything but fair, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

Maduro’s success at the polls, Vargas Llosa explains in a piece for The Daily Caller, resulted mainly from two factors: government-rigged electoral fraud, including voter intimidation, and the disenchantment of would-be voters, including a mass exodus of Venezuelans from their homeland. Under these circumstances, it is senseless to expect a meaningful and conclusive audit, as Europe, the United States, and twelve other nations in the Western Hemisphere have urged.

Also, it didn’t help that Maduro’s opponents were politically divided, with the Democratic Unity Roundtable agreeing to participate in the elections while prominent leaders of the opposition movement, such as former Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, called for a boycott. Venezuela’s near-term future looks bleak—the government’s recent default on its scheduled debt payments likely foreshadows a fiscal death spiral, as Independent Institute Research Fellow Craig Eyermann notes at MyGovCost News & Blog—but all is not lost for the long term. If opposition forces inside and outside Venezuela build, this may force a fatal split among the government’s supporters, creating an opportunity for real negotiations with the ruling party or even the collapse of the Maduro regime.

Stalin-esque Nightmare Is Befalling Venezuela, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (The Daily Caller, 11/23/17)

Venezuela Defaults on Its National Debt, by Craig Eyermann (MyGovCost News & Blog, 11/16/17)

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


4) Join with Us on Giving Tuesday

November 28 is Giving Tuesday, a yearly opportunity to remind ourselves of those in need. We invite you help make a difference in the world—with your tax-deductible donation to Independent Institute.

This past year our supporters have helped us publish China’s Great Migration by Bradley Gardner; Pope Francis and the Caring Society, edited by Robert Whaples; and our latest book, Eleven Presidents by Ivan Eland. We’ve also published scores of commentaries and blog posts, made numerous media appearances (a small sampling is on our Multimedia page), released several Briefings, Policy Reports, and Executive Summaries; continued to publish our quarterly journal, The Independent Review (our Winter issue is at the printer); and hosted many inspiring events, including our New Bridges series in Dallas and San Francisco, and our 30th Anniversary Gala for the Future of Liberty.

Despite these accomplishments, our best work lies ahead of us. 2018 promises even more excitement, and we hope you’ll join with us as we transform ideas into impact!

Invest in Liberty


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


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless