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Volume 9, Issue 23: June 4, 2007

  1. Which Amendment Matters Most?
  2. Permanent U.S. Bases in Iraq a Flawed Idea, Eland Argues
  3. Chavez Cracks Down on Venezuela’s True Hero
  4. The Independent Review: Special Internet Offer for New Subscribers

1) Which Amendment Matters Most?

Defenders of private gun ownership are fond of claiming that the Second Amendment safeguards the rest of the Bill of Rights. If citizens couldn’t arm themselves, the argument goes, the U.S. Constitution would be merely antiquarian rhetoric, worth little more than the parchment it’s written on.

“The implication is that the Second Amendment is the Constitution, or that it’s the single most important right enumerated therein,” writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow Charles Peña in a new op-ed. But fans of private gun ownership should also pay attention to the rest of the Bill of Rights, parts of which complement the Second Amendment, he argues, such as the Fourth Amendment, “with its protection against unreasonable search and seizure, and its requirement for first obtaining a warrant.”

“Whether it’s imposing the USA PATRIOT Act, or granting the president unilateral, unchecked power to declare U.S. citizens ‘enemy combatants’—denying them the due process guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment—watering down the Constitution in the name of protecting Americans against terrorism is fundamentally no different from eroding the Second Amendment in the name of saving people from gun violence,” Peña continues. “Either all of [the Constitution] matters or none of it matters—not just the Second Amendment.”

“Which Amendment Matters Most?” by Charles Peña (5/31/07) Spanish Translation


2) Permanent U.S. Bases in Iraq a Flawed Idea, Eland Argues

According to a recent story in the New York Times, the Bush administration plans to model its long-term strategy in Iraq after the U.S. presence on the Korean peninsula. According to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland, this is hardly an improvement over current strategy: maintaining U.S. troops in the predominantly Muslim country is unnecessary to assure a smooth flow of oil out of the region and would result in the continuation of attacks on U.S. forces.

“Any U.S. bases remaining in Iraq, either to keep a finger on the oil, or to act as a jumping off point for attacking Iran, will similarly quickly come under withering attack from Iraqi insurgents and al Qaeda,” Eland writes in his latest op-ed. “It will not be easy for these bases to be used effectively for these roles if they are constantly under siege…. A permanent U.S. military presence is likely to be the worst of all worlds.”

Noting the example of oil produced by radically Islamist Iran, Eland argues that because countries with oil deposits must sell oil if they are to make any money from it, the profit motive will guarantee that oil will continue to flow freely. With regard to helping to protect Israel by keeping U.S. forces stationed in the Iraq, Eland writes that “Israel is a rich country with 200-plus nuclear weapons that doesn’t need to have its security subsidized by endangering U.S. lives in Iraq ad infinitum.”

"The U.S. Military Presence in South Korea Is Not a Model for Iraq," by Ivan Eland (6/4/07) Spanish Translation

Ivan Eland’s Center on Peace & Liberty

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

"The Way Out of Iraq: Decentralizing the Iraqi Government," by Ivan Eland


3) Chavez Cracks Down on Venezuela’s True Hero

When Hugo Chavez’s government last week closed Venezuela’s oldest TV network—Radio Caracas Television (RCTV)—many citizens expressed outrage over the thinly veiled political attack on what might have been the leading obstacle to Chavez’s full consolidation of power. In contrast, a smaller number of people—mostly from outside the region—have reacted to the clampdown with indifference or, worse, have applauded it as a prelude to the “democratization” of the airwaves.

But attitudes of either apathy or approval display significant ignorance about the vital role of the media—print and broadcast—as an arm of civil society. In Latin America, with its history of politicized courts, the media have been at times the sole effective challenger of abusive governments that run roughshod over people’s liberties, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa. Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa, for example, played a key role in maintaining civil society when it criticized abuses of power committed by both the Somoza dynasty and the Sandinista regime that replaced it.

“Forced by circumstances, RCTV had become in recent years something of a surrogate National Assembly, a surrogate Supreme Court, and a surrogate electoral authority,” writes Vargas Llosa in his latest syndicated column. The television network, he continues, “is the latest chapter in a long tradition of civic virtue turned into political necessity at a time of extreme peril to a nation’s freedom. The decision, a few days ago, by Venezuela’s Supreme Court—the institution that should have reversed Chavez’s diktat—to confiscate RCTV’s broadcast equipment, adding insult to injury, exemplifies the circumstances that have made [RTCTV head Marcel] Granier and his journalists a reference for those desperate to find something or someone who embodies justice in Venezuela.”

“Venezuela’s Cool Hero,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (5/30/07) Spanish Translation

Be sure to check out Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s books:

Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression

The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty


4) The Independent Review: Special Internet Offer for New Subscribers

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The Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Privateers, by Alexander Tabarrok (Spring 2007)

SUMMARY: Privateers—private ships licensed to carry out warfare—helped win the American Revolution and the War of 1812 but fell into disuse after the federal government made it hard to monitor their performance. Like the government’s use of private military companies in today’s hotspots, privateering was an instance of the “contracting out” of security services, not the full privatization of security, and thus operated in the context of incentives and constraints established by the government.

Gold Standards and the Real Bills Doctrine in U.S. Monetary Policy, by Richard H. Timberlake (Winter 2007)

SUMMARY: Discounting the differences between the self-regulating classical gold standard that prevailed before World War I and the government-managed gold-exchange standard that replaced it, many writers have erroneously blamed “the gold standard” for the inability of Federal Reserve Board policymakers to implement countercyclical policies in 1929–33 and thus to prevent the Great Depression. Worse, they have failed to identify the true culprit in the monetary system of that era—the fallacious real bills doctrine, which guided Fed policy.

Government and Science: A Dangerous Liaison? by William N. Butos and Thomas J. McQuade (Fall 2006)

SUMMARY: Many scientists have said that government funding of research sometimes has strings attached that stifle the spirit of independent inquiry. Unaware of a viable alternative, however, they assume that without government funding, basic scientific research would receive no funding at all.

Four Years After Enron: Assessing the Financial-Market Regulatory Cleanup, by Roy C. Smith and Ingo Walter (Summer 2006)

SUMMARY: Immediately after the Enron bankruptcy, regulators, legislators, and prosecutors enacted a host of measures to punish corporate wrongdoers, stabilize financial markets, and improve corporate governance systems. Unfortunately, their efforts were better suited for ameliorating public outrage than for preventing fraud by the relatively few corporations that commit it.

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