Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gun Control Laws

Thomas Sowell

Now that the Supreme Court of the United States has decided that the Second Amendment to the Constitution means that individual Americans have a right to bear arms, what can we expect?

Those who have no confidence in ordinary Americans may expect a bloodbath, as the benighted masses start shooting each other, now that they can no longer be denied guns by their betters. People who think we shouldn't be allowed to make our own medical decisions, or decisions about which schools our children attend, certainly are not likely to be happy with the idea that we can make our own decisions about how to defend ourselves.

When you stop and think about it, there is no obvious reason why issues like gun control should be ideological issues in the first place. It is ultimately an empirical question whether allowing ordinary citizens to have firearms will increase or decrease the amount of violence.

Many people who are opposed to gun laws which place severe restrictions on ordinary citizens owning firearms have based themselves on the Second Amendment to the Constitution. But, while the Supreme Court must make the Second Amendment the basis of its rulings on gun control laws, there is no reason why the Second Amendment should be the last word for the voting public.

If the end of gun control leads to a bloodbath of runaway shootings, then the Second Amendment can be repealed, just as other Constitutional Amendments have been repealed. Laws exist for people, not people for laws.

There is no point arguing, as many people do, that it is difficult to amend the Constitution. The fact that it doesn't happen very often doesn't mean that it is difficult. The people may not want it to happen, even if the intelligentsia are itching to change it. When the people wanted it to happen, the Constitution was amended 4 times in 8 years, from 1913 through 1920.

What all this means is that judges and the voting public have different roles. There is no reason why judges should "consider the basic values that underlie a constitutional provision and their contemporary significance," as Justice Stephen Breyer said in his dissent against the Supreme Court's gun control decision.

But, as the great Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, his job was "to see that the game is played according to the rules whether I like them or not."

If the public doesn't like the rules, or the consequences to which the rules lead, then the public can change the rules via the ballot box. But that is very different from judges changing the rules by verbal sleight of hand, or by talking about "weighing of the constitutional right to bear arms" against other considerations, as Justice Breyer puts it. That's not his job. Not if "we the people" are to govern ourselves, as the Constitution says.

As for the merits or demerits of gun control laws themselves, a vast amount of evidence, both from the United States and from other countries, shows that keeping guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens does not keep guns out of the hands of criminals. It is not uncommon for a tightening of gun control laws to be followed by an increase-- not a decrease-- in gun crimes, including murder.

Conversely, there have been places and times where an increase in gun ownership has been followed by a reduction in crimes in general and murder in particular.

Unfortunately, the media intelligentsia tend to favor gun control laws, so a lot of hard facts about the futility, or the counterproductive consequences of such laws, never reach the public through the media.

We hear a lot about countries with stronger gun control laws than the United States that have lower murder rates. But we very seldom hear about countries with stronger gun control laws than the United States that have higher murder rates, such as Russia and Brazil.

The media, like Justice Breyer, might do well to reflect on what is their job and what is the voting public's job. The media's job should be to give us the information to make up our own minds, not slant and filter the news to fit the media's vision.



The Keynesian Dead End

Spending our way to prosperity is going out of style -- but not with Obama

The current Keynesian revival began under George W. Bush. Larry Summers, then a private economist, told Congress that a "timely, targeted and temporary" spending program of $150 billion was urgently needed to boost consumer "demand." Democrats who had retaken Congress adopted the idea —they love an excuse to spend— and the politically tapped-out Mr. Bush went along with $168 billion in spending and one-time tax rebates.

The cash did produce a statistical blip in GDP growth in mid-2008, but it didn't stop the financial panic and second phase of recession. So enter Stimulus II, with Mr. Summers again leading the intellectual charge, this time as President Obama's adviser and this time suggesting upwards of $500 billion. When Congress was done two months later, in February 2009, the amount was $862 billion. A pair of White House economists famously promised that this spending would keep the unemployment rate below 8%.

Seventeen months later, and despite historically easy monetary policy for that entire period, the jobless rate is still 9.7%. Yesterday, the Bureau of Economic Analysis once again reduced the GDP estimate for first quarter growth, this time to 2.7%, while economic indicators in the second quarter have been mediocre. As the nearby table shows, this is a far cry from the snappy recovery that typically follows a steep recession, most recently in 1983-84 after the Reagan tax cuts.

The response at the White House and among Congressional leaders has been . . . Stimulus III. While talking about the need for "fiscal discipline" some time in the future, President Obama wants more spending today to again boost "demand." Thirty months after Mr. Summers won his first victory, we are back at the same policy stand.

The difference this time is that the Keynesian political consensus is cracking up. In Europe, the bond vigilantes have pulled the credit cards of Greece, Portugal and Spain, with Britain and Italy in their sights. Policy makers are now making a 180-degree turn from their own stimulus blowouts to cut spending and raise taxes. The austerity budget offered this month by the new British government is typical of Europe's new consensus.

To put it another way, Germany's Angela Merkel has won the bet she made in early 2009 by keeping her country's stimulus far more modest. We suspect Mr. Obama will find a political stonewall this weekend in Toronto when he pleads with his fellow leaders to join him again for a spending spree.

The larger lesson here is about policy. The original sin —and it was nearly global— was to revive the Keynesian economic model that had last cracked up in the 1970s, while forgetting the lessons of the long prosperity from 1982 through 2007. The Reagan and Clinton-Gingrich booms were fostered by a policy environment for most of that era of lower taxes, spending restraint and sound money. The spending restraint began to end in the late 1990s, sound money vanished earlier this decade, and now Democrats are promising a series of enormous tax increases.

Notice that we aren't saying that spending restraint alone is a miracle economic cure. The spending cuts now in fashion in Europe are essential, but cuts by themselves won't balance annual deficits reaching 10% of GDP. That requires new revenues from faster growth, and there's a danger that the tax increases now sweeping Europe will dampen growth further.

President Obama's tragic mistake was to blow out the U.S. federal balance sheet on spending that has produced little bang for the buck. The fantastical Keynesian notion (the "multiplier") that $1 of spending produces $1.50 in growth was long ago demolished by Harvard's Robert Barro, among others. That $1 in spending has to come from somewhere, which means in taxes or borrowing from productive parts of the private economy. Given that so much of the U.S. stimulus went for transfer payments such as Medicaid and unemployment insurance, the "multiplier" has almost certainly been negative.

With the economy in recession in 2008 and 2009, we argued that some stimulus was justified and an increase in the deficit was understandable and inevitable. However, we also argued that permanent tax cuts aimed at marginal individual and corporate tax rates would have done far more to revive animal spirits, and in our view would have led to a far more robust recovery.

What the world has now reached instead is a Keynesian dead end. We are told to let Congress continue to spend and borrow until the precise moment when Mr. Summers and Mark Zandi and the other architects of our current policy say it is time to raise taxes to reduce the huge deficits and debt that their spending has produced. Meanwhile, individuals and businesses are supposed to be unaffected by the prospect of future tax increases, higher interest rates, and more government control over nearly every area of the economy. Even the CEOs of the Business Roundtable now see the damage this is doing.

A better economic policy will have to await a new Congress, which we hope at a minimum can prevent punishing tax increases. But for now the good news is that voters and markets are telling politicians to stop doing what hasn't worked.



President Alfred E. Obama

David Limbaugh

Observing President Obama's relentlessly reckless approach to our nation's fiscal integrity is reminiscent of the signature phrase of Mad magazine's Alfred E. Neuman, "What, me worry?" Obama struck again last week at the G-20 conference in Toronto, urging other nations to follow his Pied Piper lead into deficit spending hell.

Unlike recent U.S. presidents who recognized and touted this nation as the world's exemplar for economic growth and prosperity, Obama is turning us into a poster nation for financial irresponsibility. While other nations at the meeting were focusing on deficit reduction, Obama was haplessly urging them to join us in Keynesian spending oblivion.

He told the conference that global economic recovery remains "fragile" and implored the nations' leaders to continue deficit spending to sustain the "recovery." The Washington Post reports that Obama's remarks "tempered the Group of 20's headline achievement at the summit, a deficit-reduction target that had been pushed by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the host of the meeting and a fiscal conservative."

Obama is wholly impervious to the historical record documenting the failure of FDR's pump priming during the Depression, which exacerbated rather than ameliorated the economic problems. He is similarly detached from reality concerning the failure of his own policies to stimulate growth of any kind to save his beloved public sector and thus recommends more of the same.

In speech after speech, he takes credit for having launched an economic recovery in the United States and for achieving job growth. Notwithstanding his economic models that stubbornly predict such results, he can point to no empirical evidence to verify his delusional boasts.

It would be bad enough if his economic policies were simply retarding our economic recovery, but they are also accelerating our trip to national bankruptcy. Yet Obama continues to press forward with his foot smashed down on the gas pedal.

Though fiscal sanity would demand that we put the brakes on runaway government spending, Obama wants more of it and is in the process of securing it -- not just in the short term but also in perpetuity. Obama launched an array of new spending programs ostensibly billed as temporary -- to help "stimulate" the economy -- but his latest budget, according to The Heritage Foundation, "would replace this temporary spending with permanent new programs." As if that should surprise anyone! ...

Yet after all his newly imposed federal spending programs, Obama will soon unveil the results of his "bipartisan" budget commission and swear he's going to drastically reduce the deficit -- mostly by raising taxes even more. To make the numbers work, even in theory, he'll have to break -- yet again -- his promise not to raise taxes "of any kind" on those making less than $250,000. And he'll expect to be lauded for his stewardship and given a pass for reneging on his pledge. Those who criticize him for his reckless spending, his broken promises and his economically suicidal blueprint to solve our debt and economic problems through higher taxes will be castigated as mere partisans. So predictable. So maddening. So destructive.

In a nutshell, then, Obama's plan is to spend us into bankruptcy without improving private-sector economic growth, impose national health care and other permanent entitlements to further bankrupt us and suppress the economy, exploit the Gulf oil spill to cram through the further growth-destroying cap-and-trade bill, and then revamp the tax code to place even further burdens on income earners and the economy as a whole. What, me worry? Duh! How about you?


My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


No comments: