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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 18, Issue 14: April 5, 2016

  1. The Second Amendment versus Merrick Garland
  2. California’s Latest Assault on Low-Skilled Job Seekers
  3. Rise of Trump and Sanders Worries Europe and Latin America
  4. Tibor Machan: Passionate Advocate of Liberty
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts



1) The Second Amendment versus Merrick Garland

Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, is no friend of the Second Amendment. If the Senate were to confirm his nomination, he could become the deciding vote that weakens the individual right to bear arms, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Stephen P. Halbrook, the author of numerous works on the Second Amendment and an attorney who has argued and won three gun-rights cases before the Supreme Court.

Garland has left behind more than one piece of evidence indicating bias against constitutional firearm ownership, but the smoking gun is the vote he cast to rehear Parker v. the District of Columbia (2007), a case that struck down a handgun ban in the nation’s capital and upheld the notion that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own firearms, rather than the “collective right” of states to maintain armed militias. “The only obvious reason to vote in favor [of rehearing Parker] would be to overturn the decision,” Halbrook writes.

When the Supreme Court heard the case—renamed District of Columbia v. Heller (2008)—it decided to strike down D.C.’s handgun ban on Second Amendment grounds. The Court’s 5-4 decision was controversial, and the Justices who dissented have called for its overturn—which could happen if Garland were confirmed. “Based on Judge Garland’s record in the D.C. Circuit,” Halbrook continues, “it should be clear that his elevation to the Supreme Court would create a Court majority that could not be expected to support the Second Amendment and that would uphold gun restrictions of all kinds.”

Justice Garland and the Second Amendment, by Stephen P. Halbrook (The Washington Times, 3/29/16)

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

Securing Civil Rights: Freedmen, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Right to Bear Arms, by Stephen P. Halbrook

That Every Man Be Armed: The Evolution of a Constitutional Right, by Stephen P. Halbrook

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

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2) California’s Latest Assault on Low-Skilled Job Seekers

California Governor Jerry Brown has just signed legislation raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2023—supposedly to reverse the harm done by decades of wage stagnation.

“As a consequence, much of the desired help for the poor will actually come from others who are poor,” writes Independent Institute Research Fellow Gary M. Galles. “And those with the fewest skills, least education and job experience will face the greatest employment losses now, as well as having rungs of advancement removed from their potential career ladders.”

Raising the minimum wage is so destructive to the labor-market prospects of unemployed, low-skilled workers that we are required to write frequently on this topic, despite the inevitable redundancy. Stay tuned for further commentary on the economics and ethics of minimum-wage madness.

Helping the Poor by Hurting Them, by Gary M. Galles (Ventura County Star, 4/2/16)

Walmart Stores to Close—Blame the Minimum Wage, by Abigail R. Hall Blanco (Oakland Tribune, 4/14/16)

The Two Moralities of the Minimum Wage, by Dwight R. Lee (The Independent Review, Summer 2014)

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3) Rise of Trump and Sanders Worries Europe and Latin America

America’s pundit class has spilled much ink—and the digital equivalent—debating the appeal of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Even categorizing them has become a topic of conversation. Chuck Todd, moderator of NBC TV’s venerable “Meet the Press” political talk show, refers to the “populist” streaks of the two campaigns—suggesting connections with the American tradition. Commentators in Europe and Latin America, however, hear the word “populism” and bristle. They worry that American populism may become just as toxic as the strains that have given them so much grief, explains Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

“They base [their concerns] particularly on Trump’s diatribes against immigration and international trade, as well as his general demeanor and language,” Vargas Llosa writes. “But they also base it on Sanders’s class-based redistributionist message.”

Many Americans view the rise of Trump and Sanders merely as healthy skepticism toward “elitism”—including the presumption that the leadership of the Republican and Democratic parties know what’s best for the rank and file. Latin Americans and Europeans, in contrast, see America’s new populism and worry that it reflects “the same illiberal forces they have experienced or are now experiencing themselves,” Vargas Llosa continues. “Which is why in some countries there is shock, disbelief and, increasingly, fear about the American election.” Perhaps our friends overseas know something we don’t.

American Populism Seen from the Outside, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (The Daily Caller, 3/28/16)

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

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

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4) Tibor Machan: Passionate Advocate of Liberty

Tibor R. Machan (1939–2016) was one of the most prolific writers to champion freedom. A philosopher with dozens of books to his name—and who-knows-how-many journal articles and even more op-eds—he was also one of liberty’s most passionate advocates, as anyone who ever talked with him about politics or philosophy can attest. His personal history may have had something to do with it: He was born in Hungary and witnessed firsthand the oppression of life under communism—until age 14, when his father had him smuggled out of the country. As an exponent of free will, however, Machan might have rejected this thesis, on the grounds that it suggests some kind of philosophical determinism. Or perhaps he would not have. No matter. What matters most now is that we remember his productivity and persistence—and many of the principles for which he fought.

And their relevance. His 1995 book for Independent Institute, Private Rights & Public Illusions (“A work at once passionate and brimming with critical intelligence.”—Nicholas Rescher), illustrates the powerful role that philosophical principles—good ones and bad ones alike—play in debates about government policy. Here Machan treats pollution regulations, labor policies, advertising law, workplace safety regulations, and the welfare state not as isolated cases, each possessing unique requirements for proper analysis, but rather as examples of a single theme: how what were once widely viewed as private matters are now considered (wrongly in his view) the rightful province of voters, elected officials, and unelected government bureaucrats.

The ability to see political/cultural change in such fundamental terms is rare—as recent presidential debates have sadly illustrated. “I wish to contribute to the rejuvenation of normative political thought and public policy,” Machan wrote in the book’s introduction. Surely it’s not asking too much that we reflect on the prodigious efforts of an émigré from communist Hungary who sought to restore America by fighting philosophically and tirelessly for liberty.

Private Rights & Public Illusions, by Tibor R. Machan

Video: Why Freedom? Featuring Tibor R. Machan and Jan Narveson. Introduction by David J. Theroux (Independent Policy Forum, March 31, 1999)

Edited Transcript: Why Freedom? Featuring Tibor R. Machan and Jan Narveson. Introduction by David J. Theroux (Independent Policy Forum, March 31, 1999)

Also see: C. S. Lewis on Mere Liberty and the Evils of Statism, by David J. Theroux (Culture and Civilization, 8/23/10)

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

Obamacare’s “Monstrous Forecasting Boo-Boo”
Craig Eyermann (4/4/16)

UC Disadvantages California Students, State Auditor Charges
K. Lloyd Billingsley (4/4/16)

How Bureaucrats Think
Craig Eyermann (3/31/16)

More Bureaucracy a Bust for the Homeless
K. Lloyd Billingsley (3/30/16)

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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