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Volume 9, Issue 50: December 10, 2007

  1. The Intent of the Second Amendment
  2. Nation Building and Political Violence
  3. That Counterproductive Cuba Embargo
  4. The Military in Domestic Policing

1) The Intent of the Second Amendment

Now that gun bans in Washington, D.C., are under Supreme Court review, the court must confront a crucial question: Is there an individual right to bear arms? Nearly no one argues that the Fourth Amendment right of “the people” to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures should not apply as an individual right. Yet where the same language appears in the Second Amendment, affirming the right of “the people” to keep and bear arms, many gun control advocates contend that there is no individual right at stake. Instead, they argue that the Second Amendment protects a collective right, one enjoyed by the respective states’ National Guard units.

According to a new op-ed by Independent Institute Senior Fellow and legal scholar Stephen P. Halbrook, however, “These attempts to deconstruct ignore that ‘the people’ means you and me, not the states, and that no ‘right’ exists to do anything in a military force—a militiaman does what is commanded.” Gun control proponents also neglect American history. After the American Revolutionary War, “Antifederalists protested that [the newly framed Constitution] included no declaration of rights and would allow deprivation of rights like free speech and keeping arms. James Madison responded in The Federalist that a declaration was unnecessary, in part because of ‘the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation.”

A Bill of Rights was ratified to keep the new U.S. government limited and the American people free. Violations of the right to bear arms were a key grievance the colonists had against the British Crown. It is unimaginable that the Founders would have trusted government with control over individual weapons ownership. In the forthcoming Supreme Court deliberations, Halbrook hopes that “the Justices will be mindful of the Founders’ intent and will recognize that the Second Amendment is every bit a part of the Bill of Rights as is the First.”

“Our Second Amendment: The Founders’ Intent,” by Stephen P. Halbrook (12/06/07) Spanish Translation

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


2) Nation Building and Political Violence

Among the most important assumptions behind U.S. foreign policy toward Iraq is the ability to promote democracy through military force, occupation, and the implantation of electoral processes. In a new op-ed titled, “Does Nation-Building Work?” Independent Institute Research Fellow James Payne addresses this assumption and provides a fundamental explanation as to why the U.S. experiment in Iraq has gone so sour.

The legacy of nation building leaves much to be desired. “The record shows that of the 51 times the United States and Great Britain attempted nation-building by force over the past 150 years, they left behind an enduring democracy in only 14 cases, or 27 percent of the time,” explains Payne. The failure goes back to the first serious U.S. attempt at democratization at gunpoint – in Cuba right after the Spanish-American War. “In Iraq, the batting average for nation-building is zero,” writes Payne. “The British occupied it from 1917 to 1932, and again from 1941 to 1947. Despite their efforts to cultivate democracy, civil strife, warlordism, and dictatorship emerged both times after the troops left.”

Payne argues that “policymakers have overlooked the first, necessary requirement for democracy, which is a low level of political violence.” This explains the relative success at democratization in Germany, which “had a basically nonviolent politics” until “the peaceful political elite was temporarily displaced by Hitler’s gang of thugs.” Without a peaceful political tradition, nations like Iraq cannot be forcibly made into democracies. “If you invade a politically violent society, you have to expect more violence—civil strife, terrorism, and repressive dictatorship—after you leave,” according to Payne.

Does Nation-Building Work?“ by James L. Payne (12/6/07) Spanish Translation 

Also see Payne’s related work in the new Independent Institute book, Opposing the Crusader State: Alternatives to Global Interventionism, edited by Robert Higgs and Carl P. Close.


3) That Counterproductive Cuba Embargo

For sixteen years in a row, the United Nations General Assembly has condemned the U.S. embargo on Cuba. President Bush and other defenders of the policy correctly attribute much of Cuba’s economic troubles to its own internal socialism, and yet other socialist nations apparently enjoy the better side of a double standard in U.S. diplomacy. “The United States has conducted eminently flexible and constructive policies in recent decades toward Eastern Europe and Asia, encouraging once totalitarian leaders to turn in the direction of openness and to the kind of economic reforms that are increasingly likely in Cuba,” write William Ratliff, an Independent Institute research fellow, and Oscar Espinosa Chepe in a new op-ed. “It is ridiculous to pretend that today, Vietnam, China and particularly North Korea have the freedom of press and political organization in support of the ‘periodic, multi-party elections,’ which alone will make Cuba acceptable to Washington and Miami. Why is it good to work step-by-step in those countries but not in Cuba?”

“U.S. restrictions on [trade and exchange] have greatly facilitated totalitarianism’s efforts to mask the national disaster, and to sell the false notion of Cuba as a fortress under siege and increasingly threatened by foreign attack,” continue Ratliff and Chepe. Even during the repressive Cultural Revolution, President Nixon wisely opened up relations with Maoist China. It is time for Bush to do the same with Cuba, the authors conclude.

“U.S. Blows It Again on Cuba” by William Ratliff and Oscar Espinosa Chepe (Providence Journal, 10/6/07) Spanish Translation

See also the Institute’s Center on Global Prosperity


4) The Military in Domestic Policing

A recent police operation has killed one and captured another of the top leaders of Shining Path, a Peruvian terrorist organization active since 1980. Writing from Tingo Maria, Peru, Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Global Prosperity, reflects upon the difference between having domestic police handle such missions and relying on the military: “In the 1980s, after a series of massacres carried out by Shining Path, Peru’s government decided to cede political control of certain areas of the country to military leaders. The result, eventually, was the collapse of democratic government and its replacement by a corrupt dictatorial regime whose members are currently being tried for human rights abuses.”

While the military is now involved in efforts against Shining Path, the police maintain primary control. This is how it should be, according to Vargas Llosa, who reminds readers that “it was not the military but a group of clever policemen who caught” Shining Path Founder Abimael Guzman in the 1990s. The recent police success only shows “that law enforcement should be carried out by those who are trained to fight the enemy through the use of intelligence rather than indiscriminate extermination,” Vargas Llosa concludes.

“In Search of Artemio” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (12/5/07) Spanish Translation

Also see, Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo 500 Years of State Oppression, and The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty by Alvaro Vargas Llosa.


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