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

Volume 15, Issue 46: November 12, 2013

  1. Gun Control and Nazi Violence
  2. The Costly Blunder of Medicare and Medicaid
  3. CEOs and NSA Intimidation
  4. The Pentagon’s Missile to Nowhere
  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) Gun Control and Nazi Violence

November 9 and 10 marked the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht—the Night of Broken Glass—a Nazi attack on Jewish homes, businesses, synagogues, and even lives. It’s been called “the day the Holocaust began,” and although volumes have been written about the topic, historians have ignored a key element that helped make it possible: Germany’s gun registration laws. Independent Institute Research Fellow Stephen P. Halbrook illuminates the connection between those laws and the Nazi repression in his path-breaking new book, Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and “Enemies of the State.”

In the fall of 1938, weeks before Kristallnacht, the Nazi government began to confiscate the lawfully owned firearms of Jews. Alfred Flatow, a former Olympic gymnast, was one who was arrested by the Gastapo while waiting in line at a police station to surrender his registered firearms. When a Polish Jewish teenager shot and killed a German diplomat in Paris, the Nazi government found an excuse to instigate a gun search that became a night of destruction and killing. “Orders were sent to shoot anyone who resisted,” Halbrook writes in the Washington Times. “SS head Heinrich Himmler decreed that possession of a gun by a Jew was punishable by 20 years in a concentration camp. An estimated 20,000 Jewish men were thrown into such camps for this reason or just for being Jewish.” Just as the German Interior Minister had predicted years earlier, Weimar-era gun registration records had fallen into the wrong hands. As it so happens, the “wrong hands” were those of the government.

“Today, gun control, registration and prohibition are depicted as benign and progressive,” Halbrook continues. “Government should register gun owners and ban any guns it wishes, Americans are told, because government is inherently good and trustworthy. The experiences of Hitler’s Germany and, for that matter, Stalin’s Russia and Pol Pot’s Cambodia, are beneath the realm of possibility in exceptional America. Let’s hope so.”

What Made the Nazi Holocaust Possible? Gun Control, by Stephen P. Halbrook (The Washington Times, 11/7/13)

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

“The Mother of All Nazi Analogies, Now Available at Amazon” Gun Control in the Third Reich reviewed by The New Republic (11/10/13)

“New Book Looks at Hitler’s Use of Gun Control to Disarm Jews” Gun Control in the Third Reich in The Daily Caller (11/7/13)

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2) The Costly Blunder of Medicare and Medicaid

Runaway federal spending is mortgaging America’s economic future. Unless policymakers quickly get their act together, that problem will become increasingly complicated as baby-boomers put greater and greater demands on Social Security and Medicare. The funding shortfall facing Medicare and Medicaid will be especially acute, according to Burton A. Abrams, who devotes a chapter to these entitlement programs in his new book, The Terrible 10: A Century of Economic Folly. In a new op-ed published in The Hill, Abrams calls the problem a “train wreck” that’s more worrisome than Obamacare.

“The present value of these unfunded obligations [for Medicare and Medicaid] is an estimated $36 trillion,” he writes. “This means that if we are to make good on promises, given our current tax rates, we should have already accumulated $36 trillion in savings from which we could pay the future shortfall.”

Putting this sum in perspective, Abrams notes that $36 trillion “is about 2.5 times our current national income” and far exceeds “the value of all the shares on our nation’s stock exchanges.” So much for President Lyndon Johnson’s claim that the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, the biggest nonmilitary government spending programs since the New Deal, were “financially sound.” “In fact,” Abrams continues, “they rank among the greatest economic blunders of the past century.”

Think Obamacare’s a Train Wreck? Watch Out for Medicare and Medicaid, Burton A. Abrams (The Hill, 11/1/13)

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

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3) CEOs and NSA Intimidation

The National Security Administration (NSA) has used intimidation tactics to get some of America’s most powerful companies—technology giants like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo—to help spy on ordinary people without probable cause. Even disclosing that the agency has requested that a firm provide data on customers can land a business leader in jail. But Independent Institute Senior Vice President Mary L. G. Theroux argues that today’s corporate executives are cut from a cloth different from that of their predecessors, who likely would have resisted government intimidation.

“That the government could impose a gag order on such prominent business leaders—and that nearly every business leader so ordered would be intimidated into compliance—would have been unthinkable to earlier generations of American entrepreneurs, who viewed the government as a servant to be watched carefully, rather than the other way around,” Theroux writes in Forbes.

One tech executive who asserts his defiance is Joseph Nacchio, former CEO of Qwest. Prosecuted for insider trading, Nacchio claims he was jailed for his refusal to comply with NSA’s warrantless wiretapping “requests.” Nacchio calls to mind independent-minded business leaders from a bygone era, such as Theroux’s late father, Willard Garvey. Among other business enterprises, Garvey operated World Homes, a developer active in the Third World. His travels and meetings with foreign leaders often attracted the attention the CIA. He warned his would-be handler, “don’t ever tell me anything that you don’t want anybody in the world to know because if anyone ever asks me, I’ll tell them.” It’s even more difficult to imagine one of today’s business executive making this claim of Garvey’s: “I wouldn’t be co-opted or subservient to any government bureau at any level. Patriotism and government are two unrelated subjects.”

America’s Technology Sector Is Too Eager to Cave to a Snooping Government,
by Mary L. G. Theroux (Forbes, 10/31/13)

Willard Garvey: An Epic Life, by Maura McEnaney

VIDEO: Maura McEnaney on Willard Garvey at Wichita Rotary Club (10/28/13)

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4) The Pentagon’s Missile to Nowhere

Alaska’s “bridge to nowhere” was supposed to cost taxpayers $398 million to connect the town of Ketchikan with Gravina Island, home to the airport that serves the town. (Airport visitors had long been served by ferry boat.) The Pentagon has an even pricier pork-barrel project, a missile defense system funded jointly with Italy and Germany and known as MEADS (the Medium Extended Air Defense System).

The U.S. Army would like to shut down the MEADS project (estimated price tag: $19 billion), but the Pentagon and Congress won’t let it. The U.S. Senate earmarked $380 million for it in fiscal year 2013. No one thinks MEADS will every become operational—it’s just a “missile to nowhere,” according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Charles V. Peña.

“Defense’s fiscal year 2014 budget request does not include funding for MEADS. But that doesn’t mean that congressional backers of the program won’t try to reinstate it, as they did during the last budget go-around,” Peña writes. “Assuming Congress and the president can come to terms on a budget (or continuing resolution), this would be a good time to cut our losses, admit that MEADS has been a costly mistake, and stop needless spending on the missile to nowhere.”

The Missile to Nowhere?, by Charles V. Peña (Modesto Bee, 10/29/13)

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

Can You Hear Me Now? We Have Too Much Health Insurance
John R. Graham (11/11/13)

Venezuela’s Price Police
Alvaro Vargas Llosa (11/11/13

Just Say No to Jobs for the Young and Unskilled
Mary Theroux (11/11/13)

New Videos Slam Obamacare’s Lies
David J. Theroux (11/7/13)

California Energy Officials Repeat Lies to Expand Their Power
Lawrence J. McQuillan (11/7/13)

A Woman May Die Because of Obamacare
John C. Goodman (11/7/13)

The “Rs”: Understanding the Death Spiral in the Obamacare Exchanges
John R. Graham (11/7/13)

David Eckert and the Reality of the American Police State
Anthony Gregory (11/6/13)

Markets versus Government: Real Alternatives versus Possibilities
Randall Holcombe (11/5/13)

Stephen Halbrook’s Gun Control in the Third Reich
Carl Close (11/5/13)

The Selling of Obamacare
John C. Goodman (11/5/13)

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

The Hazards of Government Waste
K. Lloyd Billingsley (11/11/13)

How the Affordable Care Act Is About to Become More Expensive
Craig Eyermann (11/10/13)

IRS Sends $3.6 Billion to Identity Thieves
K. Lloyd Billingsley (11/8/13)

The Political Calculations of Obamacare
Craig Eyermann (11/7/13)

Federal Government Keeps Bad Company
K. Lloyd Billingsley (11/6/13)

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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