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 13, Issue 38: September 20, 2011

  1. The Independent Review—Fall Issue Now Available
  2. Government Folly since 9/11
  3. Is Education a Public Good?
  4. Senior Fellow Robert Higgs in the News
  5. New Blog Posts

A Gala for Liberty: 25th Anniversary

Please join with us to celebrate The Independent Institute’s 25th Anniversary Dinner: A Gala for Liberty, November 15th, at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. Honorees Lech Walesa, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Robert Higgs will be presented with the Alexis de Tocqueville Award as champions of individual liberty, entrepreneurship, personal responsibility, civic virtue, and the rule of law.

1) The Independent Review—Fall Issue Now Available

The Lighthouse is delighted to announce the publication of the Fall 2011 issue of The Independent Review, the Independent Institute’s quarterly journal of political economy.

Read selected content by clicking on the links below. Bold links indicate articles or book reviews posted online, either in pdf or html format. For titles left unmarked we’ve posted an abstract.

Against Overlordship
Spontaneous Order and Liberalism’s Complex Relation to Democracy
Central Economic Planning and India’s Economic Performance, 1951–1965
Shrinking Leviathan: Can the Interaction Between Interests and Ideology Slice Both Ways?
Fiscal Illusion and Fiscal Obfuscation: Tax Perception in Sweden
The Silencing of Soldiers
Interview with Anthony de Jasay
A Critique of Politically Correct Language
Are Questions of War and Peace Merely One Issue among Many for Libertarians?
Peddling Protectionism: Smoot-Hawley and the Great Depression
Fair Trade Without the Froth: A Dispassionate Economic Analysis of “Fair Trade”
The Doomsday Lobby: Hype and Panic from Sputniks, Martians, and Marauding Meteors
Lysander Spooner: American Anarchist

The Independent Review (Fall 2011)

Subscribe now and get two free issues.


2) Government Folly since 9/11

Two days after he was sworn in to office, President Barack Obama issued an executive order calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, the U.S. holding camp in Cuba for prisoners in the war on terrorism. Congress, however, effectively blocked the administration’s effort to bring detainees to the United States for trial, and the White House quickly stopped pushing the matter in the court of public opinion. But earlier this month, White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan struck back at Congress by announcing that any new captives would be brought to the United States to stand before a military tribunal. Nevertheless, the Obama administration still seems comfortable with detaining some captives indefinitely without trial, a violation of habeas corpus. Thus, the government is still focusing on the wrong thing, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland, director of the Center on Peace & Liberty.

Other examples of inadequate problem-solving can be found on the domestic front. Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano, for example, opined recently that airline passengers would not need to remove their shoes while passing through security once better screening technology is in place, but she railed against exempting children and the elderly—extremely low-level terrorism risks—from searches. Unreasonable procedures are added but rarely reevaluated, Eland notes.

“The moral of the story is that the government rarely gets it right in fighting terrorism,” Eland writes. “But given this sorry track record, why do Americans continue to put so much trust in the government’s security and justice measures adopted to counter terrorists?”

Government Always Seems to Focus on the Wrong Things, by Ivan Eland (9/14/11)

Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, by Ivan Eland

The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed (Updated Edition), by Ivan Eland


3) Is Education a Public Good?

If education is a public good, then it is one that, by its nature, governments tend to provide poorly. So argues Jane S. Shaw, president of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. In an article published last fall in The Independent Review, Shaw explains that the same reasoning that leads many economists to believe that education would be underfunded if left entirely to the voluntary sector, also helps explain why the quality of government schooling is often deficient.

The issue is one of spillover benefits—“positive externalities,” in economics jargon. The common argument is that education helps people indirectly, such as adults who have no school-age children but who would benefit from having well-educated kids in their community instead of uneducated dropouts who might become delinquents or a net drain on the public purse. But those adults would derive such benefits without having to donate money to help educate other people’s kids. This is the public-goods case for funding the schools coercively, via property taxes.

Shaw takes this argument one step further. Quality assurance in the government provision of education (or any other government-provided service) also creates uncompensated spillover benefits, she notes. Therefore, the quality of public schooling tends to be deficient, since most people have weak incentives to help ensure that government schools provide a high-quality education. In other words, if education is a public good, then it is one that governments tend to provide ineptly. Shaw’s compelling article applies this analysis to K-12 schooling and higher education. Highly recommended!

Education—A Bad Public Good?, by Jane S. Shaw (The Independent Review, Fall 2010)

School Choices: True and False, by John D. Merrifield

Can Teachers Own Their Own Schools? New Strategies for Educational Excellence, by Richard K. Vedder

The Academy in Crisis: The Political Economy of Higher Education, edited by John W. Sommer


4) Senior Fellow Robert Higgs in the News

Last week, Robert Higgs, the Independent Institute’s Senior Fellow in Political Economy, was cited in several news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal (Amity Shlaes) and Fox News (John Stossel). He was quoted at length in a piece on the White House’s jobs policy in American Thinker:

“[D]uring the past three years ... an important reason for [the] apprehension and the consequent reluctance to make new capital commitments is regime uncertainty—in this case, a widespread, serious fear that the government's major policies in areas such as taxation, Obamacare, financial reform, environmental regulation, and other areas will have the effect of depriving investors of control over their capital or diminishing their ability to appropriate the income that the capital generates. President Obama's harping on the desirability of making ‘the rich’ pay their ‘fair share’ (that is, more) of the government's ever-rising costs only exacerbates regime uncertainty. Business leaders have spoken again and again of how the present political environment is discouraging risk-taking and entrepreneurship.”

Business-Killing Obama Is No Candyman, by Don Ross (American Thinker, 9/17/11)

Mr. Obama, to Create Jobs You Need the ‘Stossel Rule,’ by John Stossel (Fox News, 9/15/11)

They Gave a Recovery and Nobody Came, by Tim Cavanaugh (Reason, 9/15/11)

An Economy in Trouble, by Amity Shlaes (The Wall Street Journal, 9/13/11)

‘Son of Stimulus’ and Regime Uncertainty (Hot Air Greenroom, 9/12/11)

The Military-Industrial Complex’s War on Defense Cuts, by Michael Tennant (The New American, 9/12/11)

Spent Theory, by Donald J. Boudreaux (Pittsburgh Tribune Review, 9/9/11)

Global Economy in the Grip of Regime Uncertainty, by Brendan Brown (MUFG Economic Viewpoint, 8/30/11)


5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

You can find the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language blog here.


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless