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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 10, Issue 23: June 9, 2008

  1. New Book Examines the Origins of the Second Amendment
  2. Will Proof of Terrorist Ties Hurt Hugo Chavez?
  3. Bipartisan Aggression Plagues U.S. Foreign Policy, Eland Argues
  4. “Affordable Housing” Laws Backfire

1) New Book Examines the Origins of the Second Amendment

With the U.S. Supreme Court to rule soon on the constitutionality of the Washington, D.C., handgun ban, the Second Amendment is under growing scrutiny. What exactly did our nation’s founders have in mind when they sought to guarantee “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” as a fundamental liberty? What did they mean when they declared a “well regulated militia” to be necessary to secure “a free state”? What experiences led them to adopt the Second Amendment?

The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms, by Stephen P. Halbrook (co-published by the Independent Institute and Ivan R. Dee) answers these questions by examining the Founders’ own words as found in newspapers, correspondence, and debates in political assemblies. Their British antagonists, who sought to disarm the unruly Americans, also speak for themselves in proclamations and secret communiqués. Parts of the story are based on archival sources revealed for the first time ever, making The Founders’ Second Amendment the most authoritative book written on the subject.

Although The Founders’ Second Amendment answers such questions as whether the Founders sought to guarantee an individual right or a collective right, it also shows that the Amendment’s history is interesting for reasons that go far beyond its usefulness in resolving modern legal controversies. At last, readers can fully comprehend what the Founders intended, and the reasons behind their decision to ratify the amendment. Casual readers of American history and firearm enthusiasts, as well as scholars and legal experts, will benefit tremendously from the book.

Purchase The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms, by Stephen P. Halbrook.

Read a detailed book summary.

“Halbrook has produced what promises to be the standard work for years to come on the origins of the Second Amendment.”
—Donald W. Livingston, Professor of Philosophy, Emory University

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2) Will Proof of Terrorist Ties Hurt Hugo Chavez?

Colombia’s capture of laptop computers owned by the narco-guerilla Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has revealed extensive support for the group by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Rafael Correa in Ecuador—including weapons training and $300 million in aid. As a result of the discovery, authorities have seized FARC bank accounts in Costa Rica and non-enriched uranium supplies near Bogota. The bust bodes poorly for FARC, but whether it will harm Chavez’s and Correa’s relationships with other Latin American governments isn’t clear, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

“Some [neighbors], like the Caribbean countries, are interested in continuing to receive cheap oil from Venezuela,” writes Vargas Llosa in a recent column. “Others, including some Central American governments, think that good relations with Chavez are an antidote against Marxist terrorism at home. There are those, such as Brazil’s president, who use Chavez to keep their leftist supporters content while they follow a domestic policy at odds with what the Venezuelan [president] stands for. And governments such as Argentina’s combine financial interest—they sell sovereign bonds to Caracas—with the search for respectability in the eyes of the revolutionary base.”

Chavez’s subversion of the rule of law could backfire on those governments that have looked the other way, Vargas Llosa notes. If economic growth in the region—funded in many cases by rising commodity prices—comes to a halt, those governments may have their own armed guerilla movements to contend with.

“Chavez’s Chums,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (5/28/08) Spanish Translation

Purchase Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

“You may not agree with everything Alvaro Vargas Llosa says in his Liberty for Latin America, but you should take very seriously his central argument: that lack of political and economic freedom is at the root of our region’s underdevelopment. With this volume, Alvaro makes an important contribution to the present debate on the causes of Latin America’s poor economic and social performance.”
—Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico; Director, Center for the Study of Globalization, Yale University

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3) Bipartisan Aggression Plagues U.S. Foreign Policy, Eland Argues

Is U.S. foreign policy a “house divided,” with Republican and Democratic leaders standing on opposing sides of an aisle defined clearly by significantly different principles? No doubt leaders of each party often present matters that way, especially during election years. President Bush said he feared the United States would become more “isolationist and nervous” under a Democratic administration, whereas House speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) recently quoted from a speech in which John F. Kennedy stated that the United States “will never start a war”—the implication being that only her own party stands against bringing the country into war.

According to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland, however, Republican and Democratic leaders share culpability for reorienting the peaceful, noninterventionist U.S. foreign policy envisioned by the republic’s founders. For example, the latest installment of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on prewar Iraq intelligence, released last week, fails to mention that key congressional Democrats echoed the Bush administration’s claim that Saddam Hussein possessed unconventional weapons that constituted a threat to the United States, and that few in Congress asked the questions they should have asked before the March 2003 invasion.

“Especially in the post–Korean War era, the United States has departed from the founding principles of the country, adopting a bipartisan militaristic foreign policy and starting and participating in many unneeded wars,” writes Eland. “Thus, the real danger is not that the United States is becoming ‘isolationist and nervous’ as the President frets, but is in fact, quite the opposite.”

“Is the Real Problem ‘Isolationism’ or Bipartisan Aggression?” by Ivan Eland (6/9/08)

Purchase The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland.

“In The Empire Has No Clothes, Dr. Eland makes a persuasive case that current U.S. national security policy is contrary to the principles of both liberals and conservatives and is actually undermining our security and civil liberties. This book is an excellent contribution to the debate on the Bush Doctrine of waging preventive wars, maintaining hegemony, and spreading democracy by force.”
—Lawrence J. Korb, former Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Defense

Purchase Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy, by Ivan Eland.

“The book is a useful addition to a wide-ranging debate on defense spending today. Recommended for general readers, undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals.”
Choice

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4) “Affordable Housing” Laws Backfire

Courts in California have defended “affordable housing” ordinances partly on the grounds that requiring homebuilders to sell a portion of their new houses at prices in easier reach of low- and moderate-income families. In reality, these well-meaning laws have resulted in high prices for the fewer homes that get built, argue economists Edward P. Stringham and Tom Means in an op-ed that appeared in last week’s San Francisco Business Times. (The op-ed draws from a policy report they co-authored with Edward Lopez for the Independent Institute last November.)

Stringham and Means studied the effects of “affordable housing” mandates—also known as “inclusionary zoning” —as the number of California cities with these laws rose from 15 to 56. “The cities that adopted inclusionary zoning laws saw a 20 percent jump in housing prices and a 10 percent decrease in the number of new units built,” they write. The reason is basic economics. “When forced to sell at below-market rates due to this type of zoning, homebuilders must choose between decreasing the number of affordable units versus taking a loss,” they continue. “And, not surprisingly, they almost always choose decreasing the number of affordable units, which they accomplish by reducing the total number of planned units.”

The problem is especially acute where the median home price is much higher than median household income. “In San Francisco, where the median home price is now around $846,500 and the median household income is $86,100, only 7 percent of available houses are affordable for those whose income is in the median income range. In the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale area, it’s even worse. The median home price in this area is $515,000; the median income is $61,700; and only 3.7 percent of homes are within a ‘doable’ price range for the average family.”

“Affordable Housing Laws Make Housing Less Affordable,” by Edward P. Stringham and Tom Means (San Francisco Business Times, 5/30/08)

Also see, Below-Market Housing Mandates as Takings: Measuring their Impact, by Edward J. Lopez, Edward P. Stringham, and Tom Means

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