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The Lighthouse®

The Lighthouse® is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 12, Issue 14: April 5, 2010

  1. Why States Must Recognize the “Right to Bear Arms”
  2. Obamacare Roundup
  3. Cuba’s True Martyrs
  4. Fear, Politics, and Terrorism
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Why States Must Recognize the “Right to Bear Arms”

By the end of June, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide, in McDonald v. Chicago, whether the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits state governments and their subdivisions from encroaching on the “right to keep and bear arms” that the Second Amendment guarantees. The Lighthouse is delighted to announce the reissue of the most authoritative book dealing with the origin and purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment and its relationship to the Second Amendment—Securing Civil Rights: Freedmen, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Right to Bear Arms (Updated Edition), by Independent Institute Research Fellow Stephen P. Halbrook.

Drawing upon legislative debates, Congressional hearings on Ku Klux Klan violence, and newspapers and law books from the years following the Civil War, Halbrook shows that both supporters and opponents of the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) believed that it protected all Bill of Rights guarantees—especially the Second Amendment—from infringement by the states. From the Freedmen’s Bureau Act of 1866 to the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Cruikshank (1876) and beyond, Halbrook—a noted legal scholar and an attorney who has argued cases before the Court—paints a vivid portrait of a political and legal system grappling with what it meant to take civil rights seriously.

“Trusting ex-slaves to own firearms was, by any definition, the cutting edge in true belief in civil rights,” Halbrook writes. “It remains to be seen whether contemporary society will accommodate the same rights of the freedmen that the Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment sought to guarantee.”

Purchase Securing Civil Rights: Freedmen, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Right to Bear Arms, by Stephen P. Halbrook.

Read the press release.

Read a detailed book summary.

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


2) Obamacare Roundup

Independent Institute fellows offer a host of comments about the new healthcare reforms. Writing in The Beacon, William Shughart examines the new law’s unintended consequences for the labor market, including the downward pressure it will exert on workers’ wages and non-insurance benefits. “The costs of the mandate will fall most heavily on employees now earning incomes at or near the minimum wage,” he writes. “Since their pay cannot be cut, some will be priced out of jobs altogether if their employer also is required to provide health insurance for them.”

Competition in the unfettered marketplace serves to control costs, whereas competition among interest groups operating in the political arena typically increases costs, argues D. W. MacKenzie. He writes: “Anyone who believes that health care regulation will simply, as President Obama has put it, serve the interests of the American people, does not understand how economic laws relate to politics.” Robert Higgs echoes that analysis: “Pressure will be created to increase the prices of care and the amount of insurance premiums needed to cover the costs of care.”

About the enforcement of the insurance purchase mandate, Jonathan Bean writes: “If left to the ‘honor system,’ what becomes of the vaunted (and entirely mythical) ‘cost savings’ to be earned by overcharging young, healthy people and then subsidizing those who are neither young nor healthy?”

Randall Holcombe wonders whether the mismanagement of the distribution of the H1N1 vaccine, reported last week in the Washington Post and elsewhere, is a harbinger of waste in other areas of health care. “Here’s an example where health care was rationed and unavailable to some even as a surplus was produced that will be wasted,” he writes. “Is there any reason to think that this won’t become more common as government becomes increasingly involved in the administration of our healthcare system?”

“ObamaCare Will Make Employees and Employers Worse Off,” by William Shughart (4/5/10)

“The Viability of Health Care Reform,” by D. W. MacKenzie (3/29/10) Spanish Translation

“Q&A on Obamacare,” by Robert Higgs (3/30/10)

“Tax Police and the Health Mandate: We Will, We Won’t, We Are Not Saying,” by Jonathan Bean (4/1/10)

“The H1N1 Vaccine: An Example of Government Health Care,” by Randall Holcombe (4/2/10)


3) Cuba’s True Martyrs

When a hunger strike claimed the life of imprisoned Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo in late February, the concept of martyrdom was resurrected from its recent association with suicide bombers and restored to its original nobility, according to Alvaro Vargas Llosa, a senior fellow at the Independent Institute. Now other activists and journalists, incarcerated by the Castro regime during the 2003 crackdown known as Black Spring, have pledged to follow up with hunger strikes of their own—lethal ones, if necessary.

Outside of prison, their mothers, wives, and sisters—collectively known as the Ladies In White—endure physical and emotional harassment by the Cuban government as they protest the imprisonment of political prisoners. And the world is taking notice. More countries, including Spain, are criticizing Cuba’s civil rights abuses, and Cuban-American entertainers such as Gloria Estefan and Andy Garcia are leading thousands in protest marches in the United States.

“When least expected, it has fallen upon a group of valiant Cuban men and women to not only restore the noble tradition sullied in our day by genocidal terrorists but also the original meaning of the word martyr,” writes Vargas Llosa. “As witnesses, they are testifying the truth—indeed a deadly truth.”

“Cuba’s True Martyrs,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (3/31/10) Spanish Translation

Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

The Che Guevara Myth, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

Lessons from the Poor: Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa


4) Fear, Politics, and Terrorism

On March 28th, two female suicide bombers attacked the Moscow subway system, reportedly killing at least 35 people. Officials in Washington, D.C., responded to the bombings by increasing security on the U.S. capital’s Metro rail transit and at the Jefferson Memorial. Independent Institute Research Fellow Ivan Eland attributes that response to irrationality and political posturing.

American officials wish to calm nervous commuters no matter how unlikely it is that Chechen terrorists would protest Russian policies by launching an attack on American soil. In this respect the heightened security at subway stations and monuments in Washington, D.C., resembles previous policies aimed at protecting low-risk but highly visible targets, according to Eland.

Moreover, such measures distract policymakers and the public from considering more effective strategies to protect civilians from terrorist attacks. “In the case of Russia, it has to somehow recognize Chechen self-determination,” writes Eland. “In the case of the United States, an honest debate has to finally occur about the blowback effects from an unnecessarily interventionist and militarized U.S. foreign policy abroad. A nation’s foreign and defense policies are supposed to make its people and territory safe, not less secure.”

“Does the U.S. Government Understand the Terrorist Threat?” by Ivan Eland (3/31/10) Spanish Translation

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

Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, by Ivan Eland

Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, by Ivan Eland


5) This Week in The Beacon

Visit the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language blog, El Independent. Below are the past week’s offerings from our English-language blog, The Beacon.


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless