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

Volume 15, Issue 45: November 5, 2013

  1. NEW BOOK: Stephen Halbrook’s Gun Control in the Third Reich
  2. Federal Income Tax at 100 Years
  3. Domestic Energy Producers Under Attack
  4. Argentina: What’s Next?
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts

The Independent Review: Subscribe or renew today and get a free copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Crisis and Levithan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, by Robert Higgs.


1) NEW BOOK: Stephen Halbrook’s Gun Control in the Third Reich

The gun control debate in the United States is often couched in somewhat parochial terms, with one side invoking, for example, the nation’s unique Second Amendment guarantees and the other citing America’s disturbing problems with gun violence. Yet for this issue (and many others), it’s often enlightening to look at the experiences of other countries. Drawing on previously unexamined material from German archives, Independent Institute Research Fellow Stephen P. Halbrook takes such an approach in his pioneering new book, Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and “Enemies of the State.” Halbrook’s revealing work adds considerably to our understanding of the Nazi regime’s consolidation of power, and it’s likely to become widely cited as evidence of the risks of firearm restrictions to the civil rights, liberties, and even lives of scapegoated minorities.

A major strength of the book is its surprising uniqueness. “Despite the significance that the Nazis themselves perceived of the need to ruthlessly disarm political enemies and Jews, no historian has addressed the subject,” Halbrook writes. “This is the first book to address Nazi firearms laws and policies that functioned to disarm German citizens, in particular political opponents and Jews.”

Although scholarly, the book is written in an accessible style that will captivate general readers. It begins by recounting the civil and political turmoil in the Weimar republic that created pressure for the 1928 law on firearms. Ominously, the German Interior Ministry warned in 1932 that gun registration records must be made secure lest they fall into the hands of violent groups. This caution became prophetic after the Nazis came to power in 1933; the weapons law of 1938—Hitler’s gun law—made further use of ownership rolls. The arrest of former Olympic gymnast Alfred Flatow for gun possession presaged that November’s ransacking of Jewish homes and businesses, an incident known as the Night of Broken Glass or Reichskristallnacht. (Flatlow would later die in a concentration camp.) Halbrook sheds new light on this episode by drawing on government memos and diaries of Jewish victims. “The book’s conclusion,” Halbrook writes, “presents a potpourri of events during the wartime period, the second half of the ‘thousand-year Reich,’ to explore the effects of the disarming policies of the previous two decades.... Although such actions do not foretell what will happen, they demonstrate what can happen.”

Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and “Enemies of the State” by Stephen P. Halbrook

Video: Stephen Halbrook interviewed about the book on NRA News Television

Book Review: How Adolf Hitler Prevented ‘Subject Races’ from Possessing Arms, by AWR Hawkins (Breitbart News, 10/27/13)

Book Review: Stephen Halbrook’s Gun Control in the Third Reich, by David B. Kopel (America’s 1st Freedom Magazine, 10/1/13)

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2) Federal Income Tax at 100 Years

In his new book The Terrible 10: A Century of Economic Folly, Independent Institute Research Fellow Burton A. Abrams takes aim at the worst economic policy mistakes of the past 100 years.Readers of The Lighthouse probably won’t be surprised to learn that the federal income tax, authorized by the 16th Amendment, makes his top-ten list. In a recent op-ed for the Washington Times, Abrams notes a few of the problems with the income tax.

Two leading indicators of the federal income tax’s destructiveness are its growing complexity and its (overall) rising rates. In 1913 “it had, count em, three pages of forms and a single page of instructions,” Abrams writes. “There are now more than 500 separate tax forms and more than 7,000 pages of tax-preparation instructions.” This complexity has led to a tax-return preparation industry that employs an estimated one million workers, plus or minus a hundred thousand or so.

As for tax rates, in 1913, “an individual or married couple earning taxable income under $20,000 ($458,000 in 2011 dollars) paid only 1 percent of their income in taxes,” Abrams continues. “The highest marginal rate, 7 percent, applied only to any income in excess of $500,000, or more than $11 million in current dollars.” We will wager that few Americans will be celebrating the centennial of the 16th Amendment.

The Income Tax Turns 100, by Burton A. Abrams (The Washington Times, 10/30/13)

The Terrible 10: A Century of Economic Folly, by Burton A. Abrams

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3) Domestic Energy Producers Under Attack

Coal power in the United States is on the wane. Scores of coal mines have closed or are running far below capacity. Not since the Second World War has coal dropped to below a 40 percent share of total U.S. electricity sources. This development is due partly to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s tightening of restrictions for ground-level ozone and mercury emissions. The Obama administration says it hopes that green energy sources will step up to the plate, but according to Independent Institute Research Director William F. Shughart II, such talk is “just whistling in the wind.”

Nuclear power is also under attack, with the feds banning uranium mining in parts of Arizona and Utah and halting the completion of the Yucca Mountain repository for spent fuel rods. Shale has become a leading domestic energy source, thanks to hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. “fracking”) technology, but this boom could go bust if local governments cave in to environmentalist pressures.

One such tactic in the war on shale: pressure to hinder the mining of fine-grain sand, a component of fracking technology. “Without sand mines, many of them in Wisconsin and Minnesota, there wouldn’t have been a shale revolution,” Shughart writes. Shughart urges the White House and its supporters to wake up and reverse their anti-energy policies before they further weaken domestic production. “Like it or not, oil and natural gas, coal and nuclear power now and for the foreseeable future are the best available alternatives.”

Coal, Gas, Oil and Uranium Are Still Best Energy Alternatives, by William F. Shughart (The Salt Lake Tribune, 11/1/13)

Taxing Choice: The Predatory Politics of Fiscal Discrimination, edited by William F. Shughart II

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4) Argentina: What’s Next?

Argentina under the rule of Cristina Kirchner has been a disaster, with the economy expected to grow only 2 percent this year, according to JP Morgan. It’s no wonder why. The government has raised taxes, taken over private pensions, increased public spending to 46 percent of GDP, and implemented capital controls to keep investment funds from going abroad.

This is the context necessary for making sense of last Sunday’s midterm legislative elections. What we are seeing, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa, is the collapse of the Kirchner political economy. Its policies of pillage and plunder have lost their appeal.

Voters aren’t willing to amend the constitution to allow Kirchner to run another term, but it’s not yet clear what kind of administration they will replace hers with. “The opposition spans a wide spectrum of movements and leaders that include dissident populists as well as more reasonable centre-left and centre-right figures who may not want to reform the foundations of the system for fear of alienating the masses,” writes Vargas Llosa. “Meanwhile, the ones who have a much better understanding of what is really needed have not yet proven that they can make a difference at the ballot box.”

Beginning of the End for the Kirchner Era, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (The Globe and Mail, 10/26/13)

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

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

The "Deep State" in American Health Care
John Graham (11/4/2013)

President Obama: “I’m really good at killing people.”

Mary Theroux (11/4/13)

Questions—and Answers—for Janet Yellen
J. Huston McCulloch (11/4/13)

On My Libertarian Catholicity
Robert Higgs (11/3/13)

Schooling for Profit: Doing Good for Students while Creating Wealth for Staff
Vicki Alger (11/2/13)

San Francisco Professor Compares BART Transit Workers to Slaves
Lawrence J. McQuillan (11/1/13)

Scary Movie Medicare Edition: We Pay Dead People
Vicki Alger (11/1/13)

T-shirts and Free Speech: The Newest NSA Threats
Vicki Alger (11/1/13)

What Krugman Doesn’t Understand about Medicare for All
John C. Goodman (10/31/13)

The Whole Surveillance State Must Go
Anthony Gregory (10/30/13)

“Creepy Uncle Sam” Is Back Just in Time for Halloween!”
David J. Theroux (10/29/13)

Why the Exchanges Are a Mess and a Very Simple Alternative
John C. Goodman (10/29/13)

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

Government Pays Grateful Dead
K. Lloyd Billingsley (11/4/13)

Preliminary Map of Cancelled Health Insurance Policies by State
Craig Eyermann (11/3/13)

America the Busybody
Burt Abrams (11/1/13)

Another Government Snitch Surge
K. Lloyd Billingsley (10/31/13)

The Benefits of Cash for Clunkers
Craig Eyermann (10/31/13)

Scrambled Obamabuse
K. Lloyd Billingsley (10/29/13)

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

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6) Selected News Alerts

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