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The Lighthouse®

The Lighthouse® is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 20, Issue 16: April 17, 2018

  1. Mr. Facebook Goes to Washington
  2. Trump and Syria: ‘Mission Accomplished’ vs. Mission Creep
  3. Some Clouds Lifting on Tax Day
  4. China’s Great Migration Wins Two Prestigious Book Awards
  5. Independent Updates

1) Mr. Facebook Goes to Washington

Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony last week may or may not lead to lasting major changes in how Facebook deals with user privacy and “fake news” (to use the term that MIT researchers say is “irredeemably politicized” in today’s climate). Nevertheless, the two-day affair offered several interesting nuggets, reports Independent Institute Policy Fellow K. Lloyd Billingsley at MyGovCost News & Blog.

Here, in no particular order, are just a few:

  • Facebook has already taken steps to prevent another breach such as Cambridge Analytica’s unauthorized use of data from 87 million Facebook users (no surprise there).
  • President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign also exploited user data, albeit with full cooperation from Facebook.
  • Zuckerberg confirmed, but refused to disclose details, that it was working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
  • Zuckerberg confirmed that Facebook has removed user content at the U.S. government’s behest (again, no details).
  • Zuckerberg agreed with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) that it would be “a good idea” for civil rights groups to help vet issue ads for Facebook (no details yet on how to vet the “vetters”).

Zuckerberg also intimated that Facebook’s security challenges are never-ending. “Observers could be forgiven for believing that their Facebook data is never secure and that the billionaire boss is most careful to guard confidentially when he is collaborating with government investigators,” Billingsley concludes.

Facebook.Gov.Con, by K. Lloyd Billingsley (MyGovCost News & Blog, 4/11/18)

American Surveillance: Intelligence, Privacy, and the Fourth Amendment, by Anthony Gregory


2) Trump and Syria: ‘Mission Accomplished’ vs. Mission Creep

Last week’s U.S.-led air strikes on Syrian targets were supposed to diminish but not fully eliminate the Assad regime’s chemical weapons capability, according to analysts such as Lori Esposito Murray at the Council on Foreign Relations. The strikes, and whatever response comes from Bashar al-Assad (or his allies Russia and Iran), may complicate the timetable for President Trump’s plan to withdraw the 2,000 or so American troops sent there to help destroy the militant Islamist insurgency of ISIS.

The U.S. is close to seeing the defeat of ISIS in Syria—good fortune that led Trump to suspend a $200 million stabilization fund for that war-torn country. But the American foreign-policy establishment has been campaigning fiercely for a U.S. policy of “staying the course”—the purpose of which is subject to change, reports Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland in a piece for The Hill.

“Moreover, with his new hardline national security team—national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—withdrawal from the civil war in Syria will be that much less likely,” Eland writes. “Trump’s desire to get out of Syria is a glimmer of hope in this otherwise dismal outlook, but even that may be quashed by the U.S. foreign policy establishment.” Trump’s “Mission Accomplished” tweet, in other words, may succumb to a more daunting power: mission creep.

Withdrawal from Syria Would Be Unusual Bright Spot for American Foreign Policy, by Ivan Eland (The Hill, 4/12/18)

Eleven Presidents: Promises vs. Results in Achieving Limit Government, by Ivan Eland


3) Some Clouds Lifting on Tax Day

April 17 marks the deadline for filing your 2017 U.S. and state tax returns—but you already knew that. It also marks Tax Freedom Day, the date when one’s 2018 tax liability could theoretically be covered by earnings made thus far this year. To help calm frayed nerves, Independent Institute Senior Fellow and Research Director William F. Shughart II offers a soothing headline in the Washington Times: For Many, Tax Day Will Be a Bit Less Gloomy.

The main reason is that last December’s tax legislation—the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—will reduce the tax liability for most households and businesses. Already, some workers are seeing less federal tax withholding from their paychecks. On the corporate tax side, the permanent reduction of income tax rates to 21 percent, along with several other provisions, will likely lead to a faster growing economic pie for all (or for most) to consume.

Still, there is much work to be done. The tax cuts for households need to be made permanent, as does the larger standard deduction. Most of all, federal spending needs to be scaled back so the country isn’t driven over a fiscal cliff. To help end the debt crisis, Congress and the White House should also look into the liquidation of federal assets.

For Many, Tax Day Will Be a Bit Less Gloomy, by William F. Shughart II (The Washington Times, 4/11/18)

Liquidating Federal Assets: A Promising Tool for Ending the U.S. Debt Crisis, by William F. Shughart II and Carl P. Close (4/12/17)


4) China’s Great Migration Wins Two Prestigious Book Awards

To cap off this week’s downbeat analysis, we’re delighted to share some good news. China’s Great Migration: How the Poor Built a Prosperous Nation by Independent Institute Research Fellow Bradley M. Gardner, a former East Asia correspondent for The Economist who has since become a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. State Department, just won two prestigious awards in the independent book-publishing industry. (See here for more news about the book.)

Last week, China’s Great Migration was awarded the IPPY Gold Medal for Best Book in Political/Economic/Foreign Affairs (awarded by Independent Publisher) and the esteemed Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Book in Political/Current Events (awarded by the Independent Book Publishers Association). Independent Institute Founder and President David J. Theroux called this “the best winning combination we’ve ever had for one of our books.”

China’s Great Migration tells how history’s largest migration spurred its greatest economic transformation. Over the course of three decades, the book explains, 260 million people left China’s countryside in search of urban jobs, forcing the government to ease many restrictions and recognize property rights and new enterprises. Ultimately, the internal migration helped pull 753 million Chinese out of poverty. The vital lesson for countries of all levels of economic development is that the free mobility of labor helps drive economic growth. The corollary: hampering labor mobility curbs economic prosperity.

China’s Great Migration: How the Poor Built a Prosperous Nation by Independent Institute Research Fellow Bradley M. Gardner

Video: Behind the Scenes of China's Great Migration | Bradley M. Gardner


5) Independent Updates

The Beacon: New Blog Posts

MyGovCost: New Blog Posts


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