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 20, Issue 37: September 11, 2018

  1. What Are We Spending on School Supplies?
  2. The Myth of Fed Independence
  3. An Evening with Tucker Carlson (Oakland, Calif., 10/16/18)
  4. The Beacon: New Blog Posts

1) What Are We Spending on School Supplies?

Back-to-school season offers families much excitement—including sticker shock, as parents begin forking over billions of dollars for extra school supplies, field trips, and gym uniforms. School teachers and principals also chip in a few billion, with some even taking to crowdfunding to raise money for classroom projects. In an op-ed for Duluth News Tribune, Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger, author of Failure: The Federal “Misedukation” of America’s Children, attempts the herculean task of trying to put these spellbinding numbers in perspective.

Collectively, “parents, teachers, principals and private donors are conservatively kicking in at least $26 billion for [public] school supplies—an amount that approaches the annual revenue of some Fortune 100 companies,” writes Alger. Just as surprising is that, by her calculation, the cost of supplies needed for instruction and student support is actually much lower—closer to $17 billion, or $340 per student.

“That funding alone is more than enough to pay for every single item on a typical school-supplies list,” Alger continues. “The upshot is many taxpayers are paying twice for school supplies. So, the next time district officials claim the supply cupboard’s bare, parents, teachers, principals and private donors should demand those officials open up the books before opening up their wallets.”

Billions in the School Supplies ‘Poorhouse’, by Vicki E. Alger (Duluth News Tribune, 8/24/18)

Failure: The Federal “Misedukation” of America’s Children, by Vicki E. Alger


2) The Myth of Fed Independence

Contrary to popular belief, the Federal Reserve is hardly an independent institution beyond political reach. Nor is President Trump’s public criticism of the central bank’s announced interest-rate hikes unprecedented, as some in the press have claimed. In truth, presidential interference with Fed monetary policy is so well established that, as Independent Institute Research Fellow Robert P. Murphy notes in a piece for the Fiscal Times, analysts have a name for it: the political business cycle.

Scholars have been analyzing data on this phenomenon for decades. In a seminal paper published in 1975, Yale University economist William Nordhaus showed that, for many years, changes in unemployment rates before and after presidential elections had followed the pattern one might expect if the Fed had intentionally helped incumbent presidents to get re-elected. Historians and journalists have also reported cases of presidents urging Fed policymakers to stimulate economic growth before re-election. As many scholars (but relatively few members of the general public) know, President Nixon pressured Fed chairman Arthur Burns to goose the economy in the run-up to November 1972, resulting in price inflation for the rest of the decade. Fed chiefs William McChesney Martin, Alan Greenspan, and Ben Bernanke also succumbed to political pressures.

Nevertheless, “the root problem with the Federal Reserve isn’t one of especially weak leadership caving to political pressure,” Murphy writes. Rather, the underlying issue is that the Fed is a creature of the state, established by Congress and run by presidential appointees confirmed by the Senate. Its interests therefore are closely intertwined with those of the Washington power elite. People who champion a truly independent institution, Murphy advises, shouldn’t get too hung up on who’s calling the shots but instead should focus their efforts on pulling back the Fed’s monopoly powers and regulatory authority: “So by all means, let’s champion Fed independence from political interference, and start by taking away its government-granted power to create legal tender,” Murphy concludes.

The Idea That the Fed Is ‘Independent’ Is Absurd, by Robert P. Murphy (The Fiscal Times, 8/30/18)

Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action, by Robert P. Murphy

Boom and Bust Banking: The Causes and Cures of the Great Recession, by Robert P. Murphy


3) An Evening with Tucker Carlson (Oakland, Calif., 10/16/18)

The Independent Institute has long hosted speakers with a variety of provocative viewpoints, including P.J. O'Rourke, Gore Vidal, Daniel Ellsberg, John Stossel, Peter Thiel, Lewis Lapham, George Gilder, and Desmond Tutu, to name just a handful. On Tuesday, October 16 at the Independent Institute Conference Center in Oakland, Calif., popular Fox News host Tucker Carlson will be joining that list as he discusses his forthcoming (yet already bestselling) book, Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution.

A captivating speaker who doesn’t shy away from tough issues, Mr. Carlson will take audience questions as well as offer a blistering critique of what sociologist C. Wright Mills called “the power elite.”

“Left and right,” Tucker says, “are no longer meaningful categories in America. The rift is between those who benefit from the status quo, and those who don’t.” Our leaders are fools, Tucker concludes, “unaware that they are captains of a sinking ship.” On October 16, he will address the all-important question: How do we put the country back on course?

With his signature fearless and witty style, Tucker Carlson is one of today’s most influential voices on the national stage. An Evening with Tucker Carlson promises to be an event you won’t soon forget. Please join with us for a wide-ranging conversation on the next steps for advancing the principles of individual liberty, self-government, and human dignity.

An Evening with Tucker Carlson
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Independent Institute Conference Center
100 Swan Way
Oakland, CA 94621

“America’s Ruling Class—And the Perils of Revolution,” by Angelo M. Codevilla (American Spectator, 7/19/10)

“A Splendid Essay on the Two Great Classes in Contemporary America,” by Robert Higgs (The Beacon, 7/23/10)

“The Rise of Political Correctness,” by Angelo M. Codevilla (Claremont Review of Books, 11/28/16)

“Ideology, Identity Politics, and Politico-Cultural Conflict,” by Robert Higgs (The Beacon, 11/30/16)


4) The Beacon: New Blog Posts


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless