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The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 20, Issue 17: April 24, 2018

  1. No, Justice Stevens, the Second Amendment Is Here to Stay
  2. Excessive Federal Spending Robs Future Generations
  3. Trump’s Brushfire Wars Burn Pledge of ‘America First’ Foreign Policy
  4. After Earth Day
  5. Startup Societies Summit, May 9-10
  6. Independent Updates


1) No, Justice Stevens, the Second Amendment Is Here to Stay

Writing in the New York Times last month, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens called on gun-control advocates to “demand a repeal of the Second Amendment.” This is hardly the “simple” move he suggests it would be, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Stephen P. Halbrook. Not only does it take three-fourths of the states to change the Constitution, but 44 of the 50 state constitutions guarantee a right to keep and bear arms.

In a recent op-ed at National Review, Halbrook explains what the Second Amendment meant to American patriots such as James Madison, who was well acquainted with the British redcoats’ efforts to confiscate the firearms of the people of Boston, after having failed to do so at Lexington and Concord. Halbrook also notes congressional actions in the 20th century to preserve “the right of any individual to keep and bear arms.” The lesson: The notion of a Second Amendment guarantee is deeply ingrained in the American culture.

“When Heller (2008) was pending before the Supreme Court, a majority of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives joined in an amici curiae (‘friends of the court’) brief urging the Court to recognize the amendment as an individual right,” Halbrook writes. “I had the privilege of authoring that brief. Don’t expect the necessary two-thirds of Congress to flip-flop and now propose repeal of the amendment to the States.”

Justice Steven’s Second Amendment Pipe Dream, by Stephen P. Halbrook (National Review Online, 4/18/18)

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

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

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2) Excessive Federal Spending Robs Future Generations

Judging by the 2016 electoral outcome, Donald Trump’s campaign appearances struck a loud chord when he spoke of “the forgotten man”—blue-collar workers in the economically distressed rustbelt and the like. However, the truly forgotten people in the U.S. economy were, and remain, the unborn taxpayers who will foot the bill for Washington, DC’s decades of unfunded profligate spending.

“By jacking up deficits and debt, just as previous presidents have done, the Trump administration has increased the burden borne by future taxpayers, who will, one way or another, pay for this generation’s government-provided benefits,” write Jody W. Lipford and Bruce Yandle, in an op-ed for American Thinker that draws on their 14-page article in the spring issue of The Independent Review. “The $1.3-trillion omnibus spending bill the president signed last month only adds fuel to the fiscal inferno.”

By some accounts, large federal budgets might in theory benefit future generations if the spending went largely toward long-term “investments” in education, transportation infrastructure, and cybersecurity. However, according to Lipford and Yandle, this is certainly not the case with the current mix of federal spending, which is tilted heavily toward entitlements, which benefit only current recipients. Some members of Congress seem aware of the root problem. As Independent Institute Research Fellow Craig Eyermann explains at MyGovCost News & Blog, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has floated the idea of dissolving his committee as a step toward making the budget process less politicized and more focused on long-term fiscal health. No real changes can be expected, however, unless the American people insist that fiscal responsibility be a leading priority.

The US Economy’s Truly Forgotten People: Future Taxpayers, by Jody W. Lipford, Bruce Yandle (American Thinker, 4/11/18)

Who Is the Forgotten Man (and Woman) on the Fiscal Commons?, by Jody W. Lipford, Bruce Yandle (The Independent Review, Spring 2018)

Time for New Budgeting Rules, by Craig Eyermann (MyGovCost News & Blog, 4/23/18)

Subscribe to The Independent Review and choose a free gift!

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3) Trump’s Brushfire Wars Burn Pledge of ‘America First’ Foreign Policy

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump called for a less interventionist, more America-centric U.S. foreign policy. His recent picks for National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, however, leave many with the distinct impression that war is becoming more likely. But looking closely at global hotspots, it seems that the American military under Trump has already gotten more involved in the world’s conflicts, explains Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland at RealClearWorld.

In Libya, for example, U.S. forces are now carrying out drone strikes against al-Qaeda affiliates in the southwestern part of the country, rather than just in the north. In Niger, increased involvement means U.S. troops have lost lives combatting militant Islamists. Team Trump has also escalated the fight against al Shabaab in Somalia.

“These groups normally have regional goals, and redirecting their ire toward Americans is something that should not be done without a sense of clear strategic purpose,” Eland writes. Yet, “the Trump administration is not asking whether such combat deaths are worth carrying out the aggressive U.S. role as the world’s policeman in faraway countries.” There’s something else it’s also failed to ask: whether Congress would authorize this use of military force as required under the Constitution.

The Capillary Growth of Counterproductive Wars, by Ivan Eland (RealClearWorld, 4/11/18)

Eleven Presidents: Promises vs. Results in Achieving Limit Government, by Ivan Eland

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4) After Earth Day

The first Earth Day, held in 1970, marked a confluence of societal changes, grassroots activism, and political deal-making. It also signaled the birth of a new era, one that gave us the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act, as well as a new way of viewing the world. Forty-eight years later, Independent Institute Policy Fellow K. Lloyd Billingsley shares a few observations.

“The core belief of [the modern environmental movement] was that human beings were a kind of invasive species and that if humans are not around, nature returns to a pristine state of harmony on balance,” Billingsley writes at MyGovCost News & Blog. In reality, however, even without humankind’s footprint, the natural world is in a constant state of flux: “Disturbance and change, not balance and harmony, describe nature.”

Human beings are, of course, part of nature. Consequently, ill-conceived environmental policies that seek a return to a mythical, static Eden often trash the social, legal, and economic landscape that humans need to flourish. “The environment does better when public policy respects that reality and protects property rights instead of violating them,” Billingsley continues. “When Earth Day recognizes that reality, it will truly be worthy of celebration.”

An Earth Day Meditation for Millennials, by K. Lloyd Billingsley (MyGovCost News & Blog, 4/20/18)

Killing Sea Lions Won’t Balance Nature or the Budget, by K. Lloyd Billingsley (The Daily Caller, 4/5/18)

Nature Unbound: Bureaucracy vs. the Environment, by Randy T Simmons, Ryan Yonk, and Kenneth J. Sim

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5) Startup Societies Summit, May 9-10

Independent Institute is pleased to invite you to join Startup Societies Foundation on May 9 & 10, 2018. Located at George Mason University near Washington D.C., this event will focus on using technology, entrepreneurship, and the blockchain to rebuild Puerto Rico in the aftermath of 2017 Hurricane Maria. You won’t want to miss this Startup Societies Summit, which will be host to a variety of top industry pioneers including Cryptocurrency experts, Special Economic Zones experts, established investors, policymakers, and NGOs discussing their solutions to the Puerto Rico’s hurricane devastation and economic struggles. This conference is the call to action to rebuild. Please join Independent and Startup Societies Foundation in creating partnerships that will establish startup cities benefiting all Puerto Ricans!

Save the date and REGISTER NOW for just $199 with this special discount code: independentssf

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6) Independent Updates

The Beacon: New Blog Posts

MyGovCost: New Blog Posts

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  • MyGovCost.org
  • FDAReview.org
  • OnPower.org
  • elindependent.org