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

Volume 6, Issue 38: September 20, 2004

  1. Why Politicos Let “Assault Weapons” Ban Expire
  2. U.S. Rhetoric vs. Iraqi Realities
  3. China's Missing Women

1) Why Politicos Let “Assault Weapons” Ban Expire

This being election season, both President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry have used the expiration of the decade-old "assault weapons" ban to help win points with swing voters. Both sought to avoid offending anti-gun voters but did little to push for an extension of the ban -- not only because letting the ban expire was good politics, but also because "assault weapons" is a loaded, legally ambiguous term, according to attorney and Independent Institute Research Fellow Don B. Kates.

"This is why the courts have regularly held 'assault weapons' bans as unconstitutionally vague unless specific guns or features are named," writes Kates in a new op-ed.

"Anti-gun advocates have confessed that they deliberately used the term 'assault weapon' to confuse people into thinking that semi-automatic civilian firearms are the same as assault rifles (i.e., machine gun-type weapons that are used by the military and have long been illegal to manufacture and sell to civilians)," writes Kates. "In fact, armies don't use ['assault weapons'] because, being only civilian-type arms, they are far less lethal than actual assault rifles."

Sportsmen say that the firearms targeted by the gun ban lacked sufficient firepower even for deer hunting, while several National Institute of Justice studies found that the ban did not contribute to the reduction of violent crime observed over the past decade. Letting the "assault weapons" ban expire may well help reduce crime, however, according to Kates.

"Criminals have no more desire to face an armed victim than victims have to face an armed criminal," writes Kates. "To be sensible, gun laws must focus on disarming criminals and the insane, not ordinary law-abiding, responsible adults."

See "Not Targeting 'Assault Weapons'" by Don B. Kates, Jr. (9/20/04)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1365

Also see, "Guns and Violent Crime," the transcript of an Independent Policy Forum featuring Don B. Kates, Jr. and Joyce Lee Malcolm (9/21/99)
http://www.independent.org/events/detail.asp?eventID=38

To purchase THAT EVERY MAN BE ARMED: The History of a Constitutional Right, by Stephen P. Halbrook, see
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=23

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2) U.S. Rhetoric vs. Iraqi Realities

Public opinion polls indicate that Americans trust President Bush more than Senator John Kerry to deal with the war in Iraq and the war against al Qaeda. At the same time, Iraq's insurgency is becoming more deadly and al Qaeda's two most important leaders are still at large.

The gulf between most Americans' national optimism and the harsh realities on the other side of the globe suggests that Americans are out of touch with foreign-policy realities, argues Ivan Eland, director and senior fellow of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute.

In the absence of Iraqi WMDs, the administration is pushing Mideast political stability and democracy as the goals of the Iraqi invasion, but a recent National Intelligence Estimate conducted for Bush, and a new study by Chatham House, a British think tank, suggest that stability is a best-possible outcome, not the most likely one.

"These predictions are based on the realities on the ground, not the continued Pollyanna rhetoric of the Bush administration," writes Eland. "Such realities will most likely made the scheduled January 2005 elections impossible."

As for the war on terrorism, Eland writes: "The respite that al Qaeda received from the diversion of U.S. Special Forces and intelligence assets to the invasion of Iraq helped the organization survive; the subsequent Mesopotamian mess has been a recruiting poster for radical Islamist terrorists worldwide that has enabled the group to thrive."

See "So Far, You Can Fool Most of the People Most of the Time," by Ivan Eland (9/21/04)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1366

For information on Ivan Eland's forthcoming book, THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, see
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=54

Center on Peace & Liberty
http://www.independent.org/research/copal/

To order a copy of the video, UNDERSTANDING AMERICA'S TERRORIST CRISIS: What Should be Done?, see
http://www.independent.org/store/events/event_detail.asp?eventID=12

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3) China's Missing Women

China's one-child policy, which began in the early 1980s and included coerced abortions, has led to a potentially momentous social problem: a shortage of females. With 19 percent more boys born than girls (in the rural provinces of Hainan and Guangdong the imbalance is 30 and 35 percent, respectively), an estimated 30 to 40 million bachelors in China will be without wives by 2020.

China's leaders, however, have introduced a new social engineering program, called "Care for Girls," that they hope will defuse the potential social time bomb. Unfortunately, by the very nature of social engineering the new program may well produce its own undesirable outcomes, argues Independent Institute Research Fellow Wendy McElroy in a recent op-ed.

McElroy explains that social engineering -- the centralized attempt to override individual preferences for the sake of the leaders' preferences -- creates at least two problems: it distorts individuals' unplanned responses to fix the problem and it attempts to supplant the knowledge of millions of individuals with the highly limited knowledge of the social engineers, as social philosopher and Nobel laureate economist F. A. Hayek first explained.

"The ultimate folly of the 'Care for Girls' program may well be that it is unnecessary," writes McElroy. "Simply by becoming scarce, girls have become more highly valued. The issue of 'the missing girls' has social commentators speculating wildly about China's future. Will roving gangs of young men overrun the nation, or will China declare war in order to siphon off her 'surplus' sons?

"With a new appreciation of their importance to society, the role of women in China seems poised for redefinition. The Chinese government can best help that process by getting out of the way," McElroy concludes.

See "China's Missing Women," by Wendy McElroy (9/1/04)
http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?ID=1363

Also see:

"Autocratic Ghosts and Chinese Hunger," by Bryan Caplan (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 2000) http://www.independent.org/publications/TIR/article.asp?issueID=23&articleID=274

"Does Hayek Speak to Asia," by Chandran Kukathas (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 2000) http://www.independent.org/publications/TIR/article.asp?issueID=23&articleID=273

To purchase LIBERTY FOR WOMEN: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-first Century, ed. by Wendy McElroy, see
http://www.independent.org/store/book_detail.asp?bookID=43

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