Archive for the 'Political Ignorance' Category

Do You Know Why Coolidge Matters?

Posted by on Jun 20 2013 | Events, Political Ignorance, Politics

Calvin Coolidge is just now getting the recognition he deserves some 18 years after the end of the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes.” Go figure. The reason might be that America in the 1920s has real similarities to America today. Unlike our current President, Coolidge stood up to the left and shrank the size of government.

We invite you to learn about the president grade school teachers barely mention in history class. Charles C. Johnson has just authored Why Coolidge Matters and he’ll be visiting us on June 26 at 5:30PM at the Independence Institute offices. Please come listen to the Coolidge story, which might, might make you place him slightly higher than Reagan on your list of great presidents. And find out why he is the only one that sees that tiger come to life. RSVP here: http://coolidge.eventbrite.com/

no comments for now

Laws about gun ownership in early America

Posted by on Dec 09 2011 | Constitutional History, Election Law, guns, History, Militia, Political Ignorance, Religion and the Law, Right to carry

Regarding Eugene Volokh’s post below about an NYU L. Rev. article, “The People” of the Second Amendment: Citizenship and the Right To Bear Arms. I just scanned the article, and there appears to be only a single footnote which directly cites any state statutes from before 1800. Note 125, accurately cites standard statutory compilations from Massachusetts and Connecticut for laws against selling firearms to Indians. Although the author is apparently unaware that by 1661 (Connecticut) and 1688 (Massachusetts) the laws were changed to allow gun sales (and even gun carrying in towns) by friendly Indians. The article suffers very severely from its near-exclusive reliance on secondary sources for the pre-1800 period, especially since some of those sources are highly tendentious.

To summarize the information from Chapter 3 of my forthcoming textbook Firearms Law and the Second Amendment: Regulation, Rights, and Policy (Aspen Publishers, available in late Jan. 2012) regarding American law pre-1800:

Women: No restrictions. Of course they did not serve in the militia. Laws requiring “householders” (whether or not they were in the militia) to have arms were common, and these usually included a woman who was the head of the house (e.g., a widow).

Free blacks: Some states had no restrictions, some states had bans on their owning guns. Free blacks served in some state militia, not in some other states, and in some states policies changed depending on military necessity. They were excluded from the federal militia by the Second Militia Act of 1792.

Slaves: Several states banned gun ownership, or allowed ownership only with the master’s permission.

Poor whites: To claim that they were excluded from gun ownership or from militia service is absurd. There were absolutely no property or wealth restrictions on gun ownership, nor on service in the militia. To the contrary, many states had programs to supply poor people with guns (“public arms”) for militia service, if they could not afford their own. Further, the laws requiring householders to be armed often required that the household provide arms to adult male servants. State laws also required that when an indentured servant finished his or her term of service, the master must provide the former servant with “freedom dues” so that the servant could begin independent life. The freedom dues were specified set of goods; in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, freedom dues for male servants included a firearm. In short, the state laws of the 17th and 18th centuries in America were generally prescriptive about gun ownership by poor people, and the prescriptions were to put guns into the hands of the poor.

The author of the NYU article asserts that “arms bearing was considered congruent to voting, holding public office, or serving on juries.” That’s incorrect for “bearing” in the sense of carrying a gun for personal use, since there were no wealth, sex, age, or citizenship restrictions on carrying. And the claim is even more incorrect if “bearing” is meant in the restrictive sense of “bearing for militia service.” Militia laws always mandated service by all males (except, sometimes Blacks or Indians) in a certain age range. Period. The only exemptions were for specified professions (e.g., clergy). Militia duty was generally required starting at age 16 or 18 (which was before voting eligibility). Indeed, during the end of the 18th century and the early 19th century, one of the standard,successful, arguments for broadening the franchise by eliminating the property requirement for voting was that anyone who served in the militia deserved to vote. E.g., “Let every man who fights or pays, exercise his just and equal right in their election.” Thomas Jefferson letter to Samuel Kercheval, July 12, 1816.

Catholics: In Maryland, temporarily barred from gun ownership during the French & Indian War.

Dissenters: During the Revolution, there were plenty of instances of confiscating guns (sometimes with compensation) for militia use from people who would not take a loyalty oath to the new nation, or who would not serve in the militia (this included plenty of religious pacifists in Pennsylvania). During the early theocratic days in Massachusetts, 75 supporters of the religious dissident Anne Hutchinson were disarmed.

The author’s thesis is that illegal aliens and legal non-resident aliens should be allowed to own guns. Part of his argument is to construct and then criticize the supposedly historical “gendered,and class-stratified understanding of persons permitted to own guns.” The author could have made a stronger historical argument for his position if he had accurately described the gun laws of 17th and 18th century America.

Comments Off for now

Reagan’s infamous speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi

Posted by on Aug 16 2011 | elections, History, housing, kick off, Mississippi, philadelphia, Political Ignorance, Racism, Reagan, Tenth Amendment

In 1980, one of the major party presidential nominees opened his general election by delivering a speech in a small town in the Deep South that just by coincidence happened to be the national headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan. That same candidate had previously complained about federal housing policies which attempted “to inject black families into a white neighborhood just to create some sort of integration.” He argued that there was “nothing wrong with ethnic purity being maintained.” That candidate was President Jimmy Carter, the Democratic nominee.

Carter kicked off his general election campaign with a speech in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Although the Klan’s headquarters were located in that small town, Carter was not appealing to the Klan vote, but was instead hoping to win the votes of the more than 40,000 people who saw him speak at the town’s annual Labor Day fair. Perhaps Carter chose to start his general election campaign in rural Alabama because he recognized that Reagan might take away some of the southern states that had been crucial to Carter’s win in 1976. As things turned out, Carter was right to be concerned; he ended up losing Alabama by 1%.

After the Republicans nominated Ronald Reagan in Detroit in July, he gave his first post-convention speech in New Jersey, near the Statue of Liberty. While the informal opening date of the general election campaign is traditionally Labor Day, Reagan continued to campaign during August, and on August 3, 1980, spoke at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi. The Neshoba Fair is large and popular, which probably explains why Democratic Senator John Glenn campaigned there in 1983, when seeking the presidential nomination, and why Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis spoke there during the 1988 general election campaign, shortly after being nominated by the Democratic Convention.

Seven miles away from the fairgrounds is the town of Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964. Unfortunately, it would be difficult to find many places in Alabama or Mississippi which are not within seven miles of the scene of some infamous past act of racial violence, such as a lynching.

Reagan’s Neshoba speech was 33 paragraphs, consisting almost entirely of remarks about economics and jokes about Jimmy Carter. In the middle of the speech, he discussed his experience with welfare reform as Governor of California. He began by rebutting the idea that people on welfare are lazy and don’t want to work. To the contrary, said Reagan, they were just trapped by bureaucracy. Welfare, education, and other programs would work better for their beneficiaries if they were managed by state and local governments, rather than federally:

“I don’t believe stereotype after what we did, of people in need who are there simply because they prefer to be there. We found the overwhelming majority would like nothing better than to be out, with jobs for the future, and out here in the society with the rest of us. The trouble is, again, that bureaucracy has them so economically trapped that there is no way they can get away. And they’re trapped because that bureaucracy needs them as a clientele to preserve the jobs of the bureaucrats themselves.

“I believe that there are programs like that, programs like education and others, that should be turned back to the states and the local communities with the tax sources to fund them, and let the people [applause drowns out end of statement].

“I  believe  in  state’s  rights; I believe in people doing as much as they can for themselves at the community level and at the private level. And I believe that we’ve distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended in the constitution to that federal establishment. And if I do get the job I’m looking for, I’m going to devote myself to trying to reorder those priorities and to restore to the states and local communities those functions which properly belong there.”

A rather mainstream sentiment, even if some devotees of federal centralization might disagree with it. Indeed, the bipartisan welfare reform law signed by President Clinton carried out Reagan’s vision, by returning much of the control of federal welfare programs to the states.

Some ignorant people claim that “state’s rights” is just a euphemism for racism. The phrase certainly has been sometimes been misused that way, but it is false to claim that the phrase is necessarily racist. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) introduced the “States’ Rights to Medical Marijuana Act” in the 107th, 108th, and 109th Congresses.

Reagan ended up winning Mississippi by 1.4% of the vote. Both Reagan and Carter were politically smart to take the opportunity to speak before large audiences in the rural South in states where the election would be close. It would be false to say that Carter was appealing to racists because he kicked off his campaign in a town that was the current home of the Ku Klux Klan, and it would be equally false to say that Reagan was appealing to racists because he mentioned his lifelong theme of state’s rights at a county fair several miles away from the site of an infamous crime 16 years earlier. Today, columnists and commentators who tell you that the ”kick off” for Reagan’s general election campaign was an appeal to racists are demonstrating that they don’t bother to check the facts before they make extreme allegations. People who are making coded appeals to racism don’t tell their audience that the “stereotype” of welfare recipients is wrong,  and that “the overwhelming majority” of them want to work.

Comments Off for now

Clicky Web Analytics