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Volume 12, Issue 26: June 28, 2010

  1. Landmark Supreme Court Decision Overturns Chicago Handgun Ban
  2. Kagan Should Answer Questions on Legal and Policy Views, Argues Watkins
  3. Reckless Federal Policies May Create Another Housing Crisis
  4. Venezuela’s Chavez Issues Arrest Warrant for Globovision Chief
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Landmark Supreme Court Decision Overturns Chicago Handgun Ban

On Monday, the Supreme Court overturned Chicago’s ban on the issuance of handguns—its second landmark ruling on firearms in two years. Whereas in the 2008 case of District of Columbia v. Heller the Court decided that the Second Amendment protected an individual right, in McDonald v. Chicago the Court determined that states and their subdivisions must abide by the Second Amendment.

In his decision for the five-member majority, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “the right to keep and bear arms must be regarded as a substantive guarantee, not a prohibition that could be ignored so long as the States legislated in an evenhanded manner.” He cited the work of Stephen P. Halbrook, research fellow at the Independent Institute, six times in the decision.

Referencing the outcome, Halbrook, a noted attorney and author of The Founders’ Second Amendment and Securing Civil Rights, commented: “At this point, you can say that the Chicago and Oak Park handgun bans are history.”

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

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

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

“Second Amendment Incorporated Against the States,” by Melancton Smith (The Beacon, 6/28/10)


2) Kagan Should Answer Questions on Legal and Policy Views, Argues Watkins

In an era when the U.S. Supreme Court has come under criticism for becoming another policymaking branch of the federal government, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee should steadfastly press Elena Kagan (and other nominees to the Court) to answer their questions in full—even questions about how she would rule on particular issues, according to William J. Watkins, Jr., a research fellow at the Independent Institute.

To take but one example, the Supreme Court’s transformation from interpreter of the Constitution to policymaker was evident last month in Graham v. Florida, when the Court overturned a state statute that allowed life imprisonment without parole for certain crimes committed by juveniles. In the estimation of Watkins, the Court admitted that it weighed policy considerations when reviewing the statute—the prerogative of legislatures, not courts.

If the Supreme Court wishes to set policy on the basis of its “independent judgment,” then nominees to the bench should be prepared to answer questions posed by members of Congress. Writes Watkins: “Because the senators are representatives of the people, they have a duty to ask probing questions. And as a prospective participant in the policymaking game, Kagan should candidly answer all questions put to her.”

“Abandon the ‘Ginsburg Rule’ for Supreme Court Candidates,” by William J. Watkins, Jr. (San Jose Mercury News, 6/26/10)

“A Role for the People in Judicial Selection,” by William J. Watkins, Jr. (Washington Examiner, 6/25/10)

Reclaiming the American Revolution: The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and Their Legacy, by William J. Watkins, Jr.


3) Reckless Federal Policies May Create Another Housing Crisis

Government spending exploded in response to the pop of the housing bubble and ensuing financial crash and recession. Since fiscal year 2008, the federal deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product has more than tripled to about 10 percent. Nevertheless, several prominent economists, under the spell of theories of John Maynard Keynes, have recently urged Washington to spend even more money in the hope of averting an economic slowdown.

History, however, shows that temporary fiscal surges don’t follow simple Keynesian assumptions, argues Robert Higgs, senior fellow at the Independent Institute, in his latest op-ed. Moreover, according to Higgs, government “emergency” spending serves mainly to reward favored constituents, buy political loyalties, and strengthen the power of government bureaucracies. Witness the unprecedented role that federal housing agencies and government-sponsored enterprises now play in setting the terms for residential mortgage lending.

“This aspect of the government’s power-grab has been especially important,” writes Higgs, “because by continuing to pump funds into dodgy mortgages, the government is preventing the necessary restructuring of the housing-construction industry and the mortgage-credit sector, propping up unqualified and underwater borrowers and ill-managed and even insolvent lenders. These short-sighted actions create great potential for a second round of the housing crisis.”

“Why Less Government Spending Would Mean Less Economic Trouble,” by Robert Higgs (Christian Science Monitor, 6/23/10)

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

Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis, edited by Randall G. Holcombe and Benjamin Powell


4) Venezuela’s Chavez Issues Arrest Warrant for Globovision Chief

Hugo Chavez wishes to eliminate freedom of broadcast journalism in Venezuela. His arrest warrant for Guillermo Zuloaga, president and chief owner of Globovision, shows how far Chavez will go to curb an independent media capable of exposing rampant government corruption and disastrous economic policies, according to Alvaro Vargas Llosa, senior fellow at the Independent Institute.

Chavez’s policies have created an inflation rate of 30 percent—a disaster the regime has tried to deal with by imposing price controls that have caused chronic shortages. In addition, the regime routinely accuses private retailers of hoarding food for speculation, but various government-owned enterprises have been discovered to have hoarded 30,000 tons of imported food.

Zuloaga told Vargas Llosa and others at a conference last year that he had taken steps to ensure that Globovision would broadcast from overseas in the event that Chavez tried to shut it down. Writes Vargas Llosa: “A few days ago, when Zuloaga went into hiding, Chavez called him a coward. The dictator knows very well he is up against an enemy far more courageous than he is.”

“Zuloaga, A Wanted Man,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (6/23/10) Spanish Translation

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

The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

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


5) This Week in The Beacon

Here are the past week’s postings to the Independent Institute blog:


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless