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Volume 20, Issue 28: July 11, 2018

  1. Halbrook Shoots Down Bogus Claim about the Second Amendment
  2. Help Workers by Freeing the Labor Market
  3. Thieves Find Riches in Golden State’s Prop 47
  4. How Accreditation Is Cheating College Students
  5. The Beacon: New Blog Posts

1) Halbrook Shoots Down Bogus Claim about the Second Amendment

The Second Amendment has been under fire for several decades. Although the Supreme Court has recently shored up the amendment’s status as an individual right against government prohibition—most famously in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010)—the Constitution’s “right to keep and bear arms” still faces hostility from the intelligentsia. In a recent op-ed at, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Stephen P. Halbrook, author of several books on the history of gun rights and restrictions, slays the claim that the Second Amendment was created to protect slavery.

The claim, spelled out twenty years ago by Prof. Carl T. Bogus (!) in the U.C. Davis Law Review and repeated last May in a New York Times op-ed, ignores mountains of evidence. Long before the Constitutional Convention, the American colonists saw themselves as enjoying the same rights as other Englishmen, who possessed the right to “have arms for their Defense” as expressed in the English Declaration of Rights of 1689. During ratification, discussion of the Second Amendment centered on self-defense against tyranny and invasion, not slavery. After the Civil War, Congress adopted the Fourteenth Amendment largely to prevent state governments from denying freed slaves the right to keep and bear arms.

“The Second Amendment has nothing to do with slavery; it never did,” Halbrook writes. “The historical injustice is that even after the Constitution’s ratification, African-Americans were denied fundamental rights that others enjoyed, including the right to arm themselves to protect their lives and liberties.” This fits a recurring pattern: Tyranny and oppression often come because the oppressed have been disarmed, their individual right to armed self-defense deemed non-existent. Halbrook has shown that this was a central concern to America’s Founders, to authors of the antebellum amendments, and to Nazi oppressors in the run-up to World War II. Americans forget this history at their peril.

The Second Amendment Had Nothing to Do with Slavery, by Stephen P. Halbrook (, 6/22/18)

Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France: Tyranny and Resistance, by Stephen P. Halbrook

Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and “Enemies of the State”, by Stephen P. Halbrook

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

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


2) Help Workers by Freeing the Labor Market

Although the U.S. unemployment rate, currently around 4 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is low by historical levels, this is only one measure of the health of a labor market. In a recent op-ed at Forbes, Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman looks at three major challenges that worry many American workers: growing automation, the rise of the gig economy, and the increasingly precarious state of “employee benefits.”

Are robots a threat? Some economists believe so, but for the economy as a whole the answer may depend on the degree to which robots and automation are substitutes for human labor rather than complements. Certainly laws governing minimum wages and overtime help accelerate the trend toward automation. The gig economy (and the associated uncertainties for workers) has also grown in response to government intervention, since independent contractors are largely unaffected by labor law and health-and-safety regulations. Thus some of the new challenges to the labor force could be lessened by loosening up labor regulations, Goodman argues.

The same is true with easing problems in procuring what used to be called employee benefits. Government regulations treat some workers more favorably than others. To correct the resulting asymmetries in employee-compensation outcomes, “we should begin by deregulating the labor market,” Goodman writes. Labor laws and regulations should be neutral—the same whether one is a full-time employee, a part-time employee, or an independent contractor in the gig economy. “The solutions are simple and straightforward,” Goodman continues. It’s up to policy entrepreneurs to disrupt the political status quo and get the solutions implemented.

Free the Labor Market, by John C. Goodman (Forbes, 6/20/18)

Better Than Government: A New Way of Managing Life’s Risks, by John C. Goodman

A Better Choice: Healthcare Solutions for America, by John C. Goodman

Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, by John C. Goodman


3) Thieves Find Riches in Golden State’s Prop 47

Many Californians had high hopes for Proposition 47, a ballot initiative passed in November 2014 with 60 percent voter approval. The measure reduced penalties for some crimes, including certain drug violations, and helped relieve overcrowding in state prisons. But while Prop 47 succeeded in meeting those objectives, it also triggered a wave of “smash-and-grab” motor-vehicle burglaries and a surge of retail shopliftings. For this reason, Prop 47 has earned the dishonor of receiving Independent Institute’s fifth California Golden Fleece® Award, recognition given quarterly to state or local government programs or laws that swindle taxpayers or break the public trust.

By raising the monetary threshold for a felony theft to $950 in property value, up from $500 before the measure passed, Prop 47 lowered thieves’ expected cost of criminal violations. Thus, “Prop 47 de-prioritizes justice for California residents and businesses, who are now increasingly victims of vandals and thieves operating with near impunity,” writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow Lawrence J. McQuillan, in his new report, California Property Crime Surge Is Unintended Consequence of Proposition 47.

After delving into the damage caused by Prop 47, the report issues several recommendations. These include lowering the threshold for a felony to property valued at closer to the pre-Prop-47 amount of $500. Also, when sentencing a thief, courts should be allowed to consider the total combined value of all stolen property across multiple incidents. Law enforcement should make property crimes a higher priority, pursuing arrests even for small crimes, so that track records of criminal activity are established. Ultimately, people will help by reporting more crimes when they gain more confidence that law enforcement is taking the problem more seriously. Residents and businesses should also invest more in security technology and use social media to monitor and discourage criminal activity. “Property crimes produce true victims, McQuillan writes. “Californians deserve a legal system that provides true justice.”

California Property Crime Surge Is Unintended Consequence of Proposition 47, by Lawrence J. McQuillan


4) How Accreditation Is Cheating College Students

Americans mostly embrace competitive markets and grasp that less competition means greater rigidity, reduced innovation, and lower quality of products and services. One sector in which people may not realize competition is thwarted is higher education. Perhaps the greatest obstacle to robust, meaningful competition between institutions of higher learning—and certainly an obstacle that few people outside of educational administration understand well—is the system of accreditation, explains Independent Institute Senior Fellow Richard K. Vedder, in a recent column at Forbes.

Accrediting organizations—and there are hundreds of them—are not a completely bad idea. They can, for example, discourage unscrupulous diploma mills, ensuring that colleges and universities meet basic levels of competence. “There are at least nine problems, however, with the current system,” Vedder writes. The system is too complex, costly, secretive, of limited use to students and parents, filled with conflicts of interest, focused more on educational inputs than outcomes, anti-competitive, and the means by which the federal government wielded influence and control over schools.

Consumers get better information from Forbes magazine’s America’s Top Colleges rankings and Department of Education’s College Scorecard than from accrediting organizations, according to Vedder. While a uniform, useful measure of educational product quality and outcomes has yet to be applied to all of the nation’s colleges and programs, this is an idea whose time has come. “At the minimum, accreditation needs to be significantly remodeled—simplified, made transparent, less prone to conflicts of interest, etc.,” Vedder writes. “Perhaps accrediting agencies should be the vehicle for providing far more detailed and consumer-friendly data on such things as student vocational success rates by major, student satisfaction with courses, etc. Then let consumers, not bureaucrats, decide whether the institution is worth attending.”

Needed: Drastic Reform (Elimination?) of Accreditation, by Richard K. Vedder (Forbes, 6/4/18)

The Academy in Crisis: The Political Economy of Higher Education, edited by John W. Sommer


5) The Beacon: New Blog Posts


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless