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The Lighthouse

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Volume 20, Issue 10: March 6, 2018

  1. Parkland Shooting a Tragedy of Government Failure
  2. Pope Francis and China
  3. Rising Prices Likely Bane of New Fed Chairman—and the American People
  4. ‘The Post’ and ‘Darkest Hour’—Two Must-See Oscar Nominees
  5. Independent Updates

1) Parkland Shooting a Tragedy of Government Failure

Last month’s deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, claimed 17 lives and renewed the ongoing debate over gun rights. It’s important to examine the various proposed “common-sense gun safety measures” put forth, but it’s critical to also discuss what went wrong with existing official policies and procedures meant to keep people safe from gun violence.

The shooting was enabled by several lapses of bureaucratic responsibility and good judgement, as Independent Institute Research Fellow Stephen P. Halbrook explains in an op-ed widely distributed by the Tribune News Service. “Criminal charges for [the shooter’s] terrorist threats, assault, and shooting at a neighbor’s chickens could have been brought; convictions would have made him ineligible to buy firearms,” Halbrook writes. “Yet no prosecution was brought.”

Casting blame on Second Amendment protections of “arms that are typically possessed for lawful purposes by law-abiding citizens”—including the popular AR-15 semi-automatic rifle—is misguided, according to Halbrook. “The expired 1994 Clinton ban on ‘assault weapons’—a propaganda term for modern sporting rifles—had zero effect on crime.” Rather than killing off constitutionally sanctioned gun ownership for law-abiding people, those looking to reduce mass shootings are better off reconsidering the “gun free” killing zone, Halbrook concludes.

Blame for Parkland Rests with Local School Officials and FBI Ineptitude, by Stephen P. Halbrook (Sacramento Bee, 2/28/18; Arizona Daily Star, 3/5/18; and many other papers)

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

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

Coming in May: Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France: Tyranny and Resistance, by Stephen P. Halbrook


2) Pope Francis and China

The People’s Republic of China and the Vatican have taken a major step toward ending their seven-decades-long estrangement, a saga involving stealth worship by the nation’s Catholics and religious persecution by government authorities. For more than a year, Beijing and the Holy See have negotiated a controversial deal whereby the former would be authorized to select bishops for China’s 12 million Catholics while the pope would retain veto power over the bishops’ ordination.

“It is easy to see, then, why so many of the faithful in China who have risked so much to remain loyal to the Church now feel betrayed,” write Independent Institute Research Fellow Adam B. Summers and Senior Fellow Lawrence J, McQuillan, in an op-ed for US News & World Report.

The deal, Summers and McQuillan argue, fits a pattern of recent Chinese-government attacks on religious liberties, including the demolishing of thousands of church buildings and new requirements that religious groups register with local authorities. While the Vatican may see it as constructive engagement, Pope Francis’s new deal with Beijing may only further weaken China’s independent institutions, especially its few remaining religious ones. “Whatever its objective,” Summers and McQuillan write, “this would hardly be the prudent deed of a leader intent on defending the persecuted.”

The Pope Bows to Beijing, by Adam Summers and Lawrence McQuillan (US News & World Report, 3/2/18)

Pope Francis and the Caring Society, edited by Robert M. Whaples


3) Rising Prices Likely Bane of New Fed Chairman—and the American People

Jerome Powell, the new chairman of the Federal Reserve, is in for a wild ride. As President Trump’s appointee to run the nation’s central bank, Powell will get the credit—and eventually the blame—for a heating economy that’s heading toward high inflation. Last year’s “core” prices (not counting food or energy) climbed only 1.5 percent according to the Fed’s most-watched indicator, but that number is deceptive. After years of providing easy credit to promote economic growth, the Fed will have little ability to tame the party after it gets raucous.

As Independent Institute Research Fellow Burton Abrams explains in The Hill, it’s only a matter of time before the Fed’s “accommodative” monetary policies take prices beyond the official 2 percent inflation-rate target, push up interest rates, cause economic dislocations, erode capital investment, and, ultimately, create mass unemployment. Expect the worse to happen after the 2020 election, if Trump’s working relationship with Powell is anything like Nixon’s was with Fed chairman Arthur Burns.

“If inflation surges, Chairman Powell will get the blame even though the momentum was years in the making,” Abrams writes. “Powell, a lawyer by training, should know that attorneys have had a tough time at the Fed helm. The previous one to chair the central bank, G. William Miller, left in 1979 with inflation running about 12 percent. Let’s hope the new Fed chief can do better, but prepare for the worst.”

Inflation Is Going to Climb, but Could New Fed Chief Make It Worse?, by Burton Abrams (The Hill, 2/28/18)

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


4) ‘The Post’ and ‘Darkest Hour’—Two Must-See Oscar Nominees

Neither won the Academy Award for Best Picture, but if Oscars were given for moving depictions of political courage, The Post and Darkest Hour could both win. Our resident film reviewer, Independent Institute Research Fellow Samuel R. Staley, highly recommends watching them both.

Starring Meryl Streep as Washington Post owner Katharine Graham at the height of the Vietnam War, The Post conveys Graham’s bold decision to report on The Pentagon Papers—top-secret documents revealing official U.S. duplicity about the war—a move that could have shut down her newspaper. At the same time, the movie offers lessons on the value of not just a free press, but an independent press. “The freedom of the press to ‘speak truth to power’ means little without a willingness to exercise this right, and this principle is at the heart of the movie,” Staley writes.

Darkest Hour, Staley notes, takes liberties with the historical record. Nevertheless, its gripping dramatization of Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) leading England during the Second World War make it very worthwhile. “Controversy and historical accuracy aside, Darkest Hour is a compelling reminder of the role courage and leadership play when facing overwhelming odds,” Staley writes. “Paired with 2017’s earlier contribution to this period of England’s history, Dunkirk, viewers may get a sense of just how close Europe was to complete capitulation to Hitler’s totalitarian vision for the continent. Fortunately, in this case, freedom won. Just remember: Darkest Hour is a narrative film, not a documentary.

‘The Post’ Makes the Case for a Free and Independent Press, by Samuel R. Staley (Las Vegas Sun, 3/6/18)

Review: Darkest Hour Probes Depths of Political Courage, by Samuel R. Staley (The Beacon, 1/31/18)


5) Independent Updates

The Beacon: New Blog Posts

MyGovCost: New Blog Posts