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Volume 12, Issue 21: May 24, 2010

  1. How the Financial Crisis Has Fed the Federal Leviathan
  2. Will NATO’s Expansion Bring Down Its Members’ Economies?
  3. Colombia’s Election Only Looks Like a Circus
  4. The Supreme Court and the Battle for Second Amendment Rights (Washington, DC, 6/8/10)
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) How the Financial Crisis Has Fed the Federal Leviathan

The past century gave Americans two World Wars, the Great Depression, the tumult of the Johnson-Nixon years, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Each crisis led to the adoption of policies that expanded the breadth and depth of federal power. The economic and financial collapse that followed the burst of the housing bubble is another such episode.

In a wide-ranging talk at an investment meeting last month in Venice, Italy, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs presented a sobering analysis of this development—including the return of the “vulgar Keynesianism” (which lent cover to the boondoggle known as the economic “stimulus” plan), the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented expansion of excess reserves in the banking system, the ballooning of federal deficits, the “hypertrophy” of U.S. military operations, and more. The likely result of these policies, Higgs predicts, will be a decade characterized by economic stagnation.

“If America’s economic future turns out to be even worse than I now foresee—for example, with rapid inflation, price and capital controls, and a flight from the dollar—then even greater retrenchment of the U.S. military presence abroad will be unavoidable,” writes Higgs. “Such economic ruin would be a heavy price to pay for reining in America’s global hegemony, but, nevertheless, the military retrenchment itself would be a consequence that most of the world’s people would celebrate.”

“Crisis and Leviathan: Observations amid the Current Episode,” by Robert Higgs (5/20/10)

Neither Liberty nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government, by Robert Higgs

Depression, War, and Cold War: Challenging the Myths of Conflict and Prosperity, by Robert Higgs

Against Leviathan: Government Power and a Free Society, by Robert Higgs

Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, by Robert Higgs


2) Will NATO’s Expansion Bring Down Its Members’ Economies?

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and other foreign-policy specialists have issued a new—and likely to be influential—report that recommends further expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the military alliance created to defend the West in a war against the Soviet Union, explains Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland.

“Although the Cold War is long over, the report advocates recommitting the alliance to its original collective security mission—so that member countries will feel more confident committing to do missions in far-flung areas outside the NATO area to counter the new threats of terrorism, piracy, cyberattacks, and nuclear and missile proliferation,” writes Eland in his latest op-ed.

Eland takes issue with the recommendations of Albright and company as well as the expansion of the alliance since the Soviet collapse. “Albright’s report again illustrates how irresponsible it has been to induct into NATO so many new countries so close to Russia,” he writes. “She and her panel seem to be backhandedly opening a vast sinkhole of new spending on actually defending these nations—at a time when budget deficits are out of control in many NATO countries (including the U.S.) and could bankrupt some of them (Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Italy).”

“Defending Everything Is Defending Nothing,” by Ivan Eland (5/19/10) Spanish Translation

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

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

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


3) Colombia’s Election Only Looks Like a Circus

Colombian presidential candidate Antanas Mockus has added much color to the country’s upcoming elections. Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa explains: “You would be forgiven for shuddering at the thought of a president who, as rector of a university, mooned his students; got married atop an elephant; and, as mayor of Bogota, walked around the capital city in a spandex suit and sent 400 mimes to enforce traffic laws. Not the kind of chap with whom Queen Elizabeth II is clamoring to have tea and scones.”

Yet beneath the absurd exterior are encouraging signs that a Mockus presidency might correct the excesses of the current President Alvaro Uribe while preserving the gains he has made against FARC, the narco-guerilla group, argues Vargas Llosa.

“I have seen too many anti-politicians not to fear Mockus turning into a Fujimori or a Chavez,” continues Vargas Llosa. “But the more I observe Colombia, the more I am convinced Mockus’ support is for the right reasons, whether he delivers or not—meaning that Colombians will hold him in check if he wins and becomes messianic, and that they will force Santos to restore the pre-eminence of institutions if he bests his rival. A comforting thought because I too was starting to think that this most admirable of countries was going cuckoo.”

“Is Colombia Going Cuckoo?” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (5/19/10) 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) The Supreme Court and the Battle for Second Amendment Rights (Washington, DC, 6/8/10)

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark ruling on the Second Amendment’s individual right to “keep and bear arms” in its 2008 decision in Heller v. District of Columbia. Now the question remains whether the Court will rule that states and their political subdivisions must recognize this right. The Court heard oral arguments in McDonald v. Chicago in March and is expected to announce its historic decision next month. Will the Fourteenth Amendment, which was adopted after the Civil War in part to protect the Second Amendment rights of freed slaves against state and local deprivation, be the guarantor of civil rights that its Framers intended? Join constitutional scholar and attorney Stephen P. Halbrook and law professor Nelson Lund as they examine what it means to take the Bill of Rights seriously.


Stephen P. Halbrook is a research fellow at the Independent Institute and the author of Securing Civil Rights: Freedmen, the Fourteenth Amendment and the Right to Bear Arms; The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms, and other books. The winner of three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court (Printz v. United States, United States v. Thompson/Center Arms Company, and Castillo v. United States), he has testified before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Subcommittee on Crime of the House Judiciary Committee, Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, and House Committee on the District of Columbia.

Nelson Lund is Patrick Henry Professor of Constitutional Law and the Second Amendment at George Mason University School of Law. He has served in the White House as Associate Counsel to the President, 1989-1992, clerked in the U.S. Supreme Court for Hon. Sandra Day O’Connor, and written on the Second Amendment in publications such as Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases, The Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court Decisions, Hastings Law Journal, UCLA Law Review, National Review, and The Weekly Standard.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Wine & Cheese Reception: 5 PM
Program: 6 PM-7:30 PM
Q&A to follow


The Independent Institute
1319 Eighteenth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036
Map and Directions


Free. Reservations are suggested. Phone Ms. Nichelle Beardsley at (510) 632-1366 x118 or email [email protected].

Praise for Securing Civil Rights: Freedmen, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Right to Bear Arms, 1866-1876, by Stephen P. Halbrook:

"[Halbrook] provides overwhelming evidence that the Fourteenth Amendment was meant to protect the right of individuals to be armed and that this particular right was a major concern of its framers. He offers scholars in the field a wealth of quotations from the historical debates. . . . Above all, Halbrook helps restore the historical record of a badly served constitutional amendment."
--American Historical Review

"In the aftermath of the Civil War, there was an outpouring of discussion of the Second Amendment in Congress and in public discourse, as people debated whether and how to secure constitutional rights for newly free slaves. See generally S. Halbrook, Freedmen, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Right to Bear Arms, 1866-1876."
--Antonin G. Scalia, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller

"Halbrook’s book demonstrates that many proponents and opponents clearly understood that the Fourteenth Amendment would impose the first eight amendments as limitations on the states. Halbrook does an impressive job of gathering evidence not only from the speeches of Bingham and Howard before, during, and after ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, but from a variety of other members of Congress, from newspaper coverage, and from law books of the day."
--National Review

Purchase Securing Civil Rights.

Read a detailed book summary.

Event Website: "The Supreme Court and the Battle for Second Amendment Rights"


5) This Week in The Beacon

Here now are the past week’s offerings from our English-language blog, The Beacon:


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless