Bump Stocks on Cato... Think tank info

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Bump Stocks Aren't Machine Guns
By Trevor Burrus, James Knight, Thursday, October 3, 2019 5:20 PM

Trevor Burrus and James Knight

A bump stock is firearm accessory that allows the user to fire a semi-automatic gun more quickly by harnessing its recoil. After the tragic 2017 mass killing in Las Vegas, it was reported that the shooter used guns equipped with bump stocks to carry out his crime, leading to a backlash against the devices. Despite considerable bipartisan support in Congress for passing a bill banning bump stocks, President Trump told members of Congress not to address the issue. Instead, the president directed his administration to ban bump stocks by reinterpreting existing laws that ban fully automatic guns. Thus, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms reinterpreted the word ?machinegun? to include bump-stock devices, despite a longstanding determination under both the Bush and Obama administrations that bump stocks did not fit within the legal meaning of ?machinegun.?

As a result, possession of a bump stock is now a crime, even though Congress has never passed a law criminalizing the devices. Before the ban was enacted, members of the president?s own administration had expressed concerns about this approach, saying that only Congress has the power to ban bump stocks.

Several lawsuits were filed against the rule. In Guedes v. BATF, the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of the government. Instead of analyzing whether the administration was correct in determining that the term ?machinegun? includes bump stocks, however, the court simply deferred to the administration?s interpretation. This was an example of the controversial doctrine of ?Chevron deference,? in which courts defer to an administrative agency?s permissible interpretation of a statutory term if the term is ambiguous.

Because of Chevron deference, the law often means whatever the current administration decides it should mean. And while the Supreme Court has told lower courts not to apply the doctrine to criminal laws, there is a grey area for laws like this that have both criminal and civil sides. So, even after both the challengers of the law and the administration asked the court not to apply Chevron deference, the D.C. Circuit did it anyways.

The plaintiffs in Guedes have petitioned the Supreme Court to hear their case and Cato has filed a brief in support. We argue that the Court should take the case and clarify that courts should not let the executive branch determine the meaning of the very laws they enforce, especially when the laws have criminal consequences. The structure of our Constitution is based around the principle of separation of powers, which is the idea that no single branch of government should exercise more than one of the three powers of government?legislative, executive, and judicial. It is Congress?s job to write the laws, the president?s job to enforce them, and the courts? job to determine what they mean.

Chevron deference violates the Constitution?s structure by allowing the executive branch to rewrite the meaning of laws, cutting out the other two branches from the business of governing. This leads to bad law and bad politics by reducing both the accountability and stability of our legal system. Getting a bill passed through Congress is difficult by design?it encourages debate and compromise and protects our liberty. Short-circuiting that process is both unconstitutional and unwise. Without the Supreme Court?s intervention, American citizens will be punished for a crime that was crafted, interpreted, and enforced by executive branch bureaucrats without the input of their elected representatives or meaningful oversight by the courts.

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The Economics of Ethnic Enclaves
By Alex Nowrasteh, Thursday, October 3, 2019 3:33 PM

Alex Nowrasteh

Ethnic enclaves are communities with high concentrations of one ethnic group usually resulting from immigration patterns. Many scholars believe that ethnic enclaves slow immigrant assimilation into American society, a phenomenon known as the ?enclave thesis.? Recent academic literature on the enclave thesis has yielded mixed results, but there are also severe research design problems due to data limitations, a lack of definitional consensus, and seemingly insurmountable endogeneity. This post will analyze key findings within the ethnic enclave literature.

Background and Definitions

Concerns about ethnic enclaves, specifically their impact on assimilation and increased crime rates, run deep. Dan Cademan of the Center for Immigration Studies is concerned that they spread crime. Reihan Salam of the Manhattan Institute wrote that ?an ongoing [immigration] influx will tend to reinforce ethnic enclaves and endogamous marriage, both of which impede assimilation.? Salam devoted a few pages of his book Melting Pot or Civil War? to the pernicious effects that ethnic enclaves have on assimilation, ultimately concluding: ?But is this any reason to be alarmed? The answer is yes.? Salam?s exhortation to panic was outdone by Andrew McCarthy, who thinks that Muslim enclaves are going to overwhelm European legal institutions and universally impose Sharia law.

Beyond the writings of pundits, there is expansive academic literature on the effects of ethnic enclaves. One of the biggest disputes within the literature is the definition ? what exactly is an ethnic enclave? Some studies define enclaves as those communities in which immigrants cluster in residential housing, like Borjas (1995) and Sanders and Nee (1989). Other studies define enclaves as segregated workplaces comprising a specific ethnic group, like Alejandro and Portes (1989). We note where these distinctions matter below.

The ethnic enclave literature also suffers from data limitations. Lower skilled immigrants tend to cluster in enclaves while higher-skilled immigrants find work outside the enclaves. Separating an immigrant?s workplace and personal residence is crucial to statistically account for all members of an ethnic enclave. Many studies control for this factor, but there are other factors such as immigrants? legal status and the educational quality and regulatory restrictions within the enclave that are rarely controlled for. Although we must be wary of overcontrolling, proper statistical analysis must have enough controls to identify and separate the effects of enclaves from other endogenous variables.

Lastly, many of these studies have exploited recent immigrant arrivals in Western Europe. There have been considerably fewer studies evaluating the effects of recent immigrant inflows into U.S. ethnic enclaves. For various legal, cultural, and economic reasons, Europe?s immigration experience is very different from that of the United States.

Major Findings

Many studies exploit the exogenous placement of refugees by governments as quasi-natural experiments to study how the assimilation rates of those placed in ethnic enclaves compare to those who do not settle in ethnic enclaves. Since government agencies make the settlement decisions for refugees, endogeneity is less of a concern. A recent study by the National Academy of Sciences by Linna Mart?n, Jens Hainmueller, and Dominik Hangartner (2019) analyzed the marginal effect of increased ethnic clustering on employment outcomes by using Switzerland?s dispersal placement program for recently arrived refugees. The program assigns refugees to specific regions in the country. This program allowed researchers to compare labor market outcomes between the government-placed refugees and non-refugee immigrants who chose to settle in ethnic enclaves. The study found that settling in an ethnic enclave increased the probability of employment in Switzerland. These effects were observed with respect to the number of co-nationals, ethnicity, and language concentration in said enclaves, indicating robust short- and medium-term results.

Sweden used a similar placement strategy for refugees. Economists Per-Anders Edin, Peter Fredriksson, and Olof ?slund (2003) discovered that a one standard deviation increase in an area?s co-ethnic population caused a 13 percent bump in earnings for low-skilled immigrants of the same ethnicity placed in the area by the government. Another study of an exogenous refugee-placement program in Denmark reached three conclusions: first, there is ?strong evidence that refugees with unfavorable unobserved characteristics self-select into ethnic enclaves. Second, a relative standard deviation increase in the ethnic enclave size increases annual earnings by 18 percent on average, irrespective of skill level. Third, further findings are consistent with the explanation that ethnic networks disseminate job information, which increases the job-worker match quality and thereby the hourly wage rate.?

Some studies, however, suggest opposite employment effects, particularly for low-skilled immigrants in ethnic enclaves. For example, George Borjas (2000) measured the impact residential segregation has on ?economic assimilation,? or the convergence of immigrant wages with their native-born counterparts. Borjas found that increased residential segregation led to adverse wage effects for both newly arrived and least-educated immigrants. He also observed that increased residential sorting into ethnic enclaves lowers the likelihood an immigrant will become English-proficient but increases the likelihood they will further their education. Borjas attributes these negative results to the lack of diversity within ethnic neighborhoods after 1965, suggesting that the increased homogeneity among immigrants is depressing labor market opportunities and assimilation practices.

The National Institutes of Health found that higher ethnic concentrations in enclaves yield negative employment effects for immigrants in the United States. Hispanic immigrants living in an enclave face an almost 11 percent reduction in earnings relative to Hispanics who live elsewhere, a figure which translates to an approximate $1.37 hourly wage reduction. The authors caution, however, that their small sample size may prevent their results from representing all ethnic groups.

Another study by economists Roberto Pedace and Stephanie Rohn Kumar (2012) evaluated the effects of increased ethnic concentrations on wages and employment propensities for several ethnic groups in the United States, including Mexicans, Central Americans, Cubans, Chinese, and Indians. For Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban males, the overall wage effects of living in an ethnic enclave were negative and statistically significant. For higher educated Korean and Indian immigrants, however, the opposite was true. In addition, economists Barry Chiswick and Paul Miller (2005) found that the costs of increased competition (supply) inside an ethnic enclave offset the potential economic gains from larger ethnic networks in California.

Entrepreneurship inside ethnic enclaves also affects whether their members receive net positive or negative economic impacts. Per-Anders Edin, Peter Fredriksson, Olof ?slund (2003) conclude that higher rates of ethnic self-employment put upward pressure on wages. Alejandro Portes (1987) describes the importance of Cuban-owned banking services that extended funds to recent immigrants with little collateral. These services immensely contributed to the entrepreneurial vibrancy of Miami, especially in the wake of the Mariel Boatlift. Additionally, economist Maude Toussaint-Comeau found that as the size of the ethnic network increases (an indicator of the enclave?s quality), so does the probability that immigrants are self-employed.

A major qualification in the above-cited literature is that increasing an enclave?s educational quality significantly improves employment outcomes and rates of cultural assimilation, such as English language acquisition. For instance, Anna Daam (2014) found that in Denmark, co-ethnics with higher skills and employment rates matter far more than the nominal size of the ethnic enclave. In other words, improving the human capital within and around the ethnic enclave has a far greater effect on immigrant economic success than whether or not immigrants live in ethnic enclaves. The Institute of Labor Economics surveyed the literature and observed that improved quality measures, like education and income, are more important than the scale of an enclave. Economists David M. Cutler, Edward L. Glaeser, Jacob L. Vigdor (2007) also found that an immigrant?s education is more important than his residence in an ethnic enclave. Another study indicates that increased legalization status for immigrants increases immigrant wages and the likelihood they will become naturalized citizens.


Enclaves are often formed naturally, and they lower the costs of gathering information for newly arrived immigrants. These immigrants benefit economically and culturally, and these benefits are often perceived as outweighing the potential costs of enclave life. Since ethnic enclaves will not disappear, making them better is the easiest approach to encourage faster and better assimilation.

Granting illegal immigrants legal status would encourage many to contribute in new ways to the formal market economy and improve their skills and income over the long run. Also, research has shown that legalizing illegal immigrants incentivizes many to move from higher immigrant populations to lower immigrant populations ? a potentially important development that can lead to more assimilation.

The literature on ethnic enclaves produces many consistent findings. Many of these findings could aid in the creation of immigration policies that better affect immigrant assimilation. Most importantly, immigrants residing in enclaves are more likely to be employed and employed with higher wages when the average education and entrepreneurial levels of said ethnic enclaves are higher. Adopting policies to increase entrepreneurship by relaxing regulatory burdens, like occupational licensing and minimum wage, will give many immigrants the opportunity to more easily establish new businesses. Ethnic enclaves assist in assimilating immigrants into the American economy, and policies focused on maximizing entrepreneurial activity will most improve the enclave?s quality.

Michael N. Peterson helped research and write this blog post.

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What Ukraine Tells Us about Trump
By Christopher A. Preble, John Glaser, A. Trevor Thrall, Thursday, October 3, 2019 2:17 PM

Christopher A. Preble, John Glaser, and A. Trevor Thrall

According to a formal whistleblower complaint, President Donald Trump withheld Congressionally-appropriated aid from Ukraine in an attempt to pressure Ukraine?s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Trump?s 2020 political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. In addition to seeking dirt on Biden, Trump also asked Zelensky to help locate the computer server allegedly used by the Democratic National Committee that was hacked by Russia, suggesting that Trump is intent on relitigating the Mueller investigation into the 2016 campaign.

Although Trump has tried to pass off this episode as entirely above board, he did all this largely outside official channels. Rather than going through the normal interagency process to carry out official policy, Trump tasked his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and several other loyalists to do his dirty work ?off the books.? The White House also engaged in an attempted cover up of this chicanery, according to the complaint.

The controversy brings to mind a famous New York Times op-ed published a year ago. In it, an unnamed senior administration official, claiming to be a part of an internal resistance against the president, identified Trump?s ?amorality? as ?the root of the problem.? ?Anyone who works with him,? the official explained, ?knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.?

We agree. It is clear from the whistleblower complaint, the rough transcript of the Zelensky call, and Trump?s own public confessions that the president put his personal political interests above the national interest. While the revelations are shocking, they should not be surprising.

We study international relations, so that?s our frame for analyzing, in our forthcoming book, what drives Trump?s decision-making. To be sure, President Trump is a hard case. His foreign policy preferences often defy neat categorization, and many of his positions change with the political winds -- sometimes even within a single news cycle. The president?s mercurial personality and psychological makeup, and his apparent lack of a fixed ideology, make it difficult to define his worldview with precision.

But it is possible to work out certain consistent features of Trump?s overall worldview that drive his approach to foreign affairs. And his apparent attempt to shake down a foreign leader to provide dirt on a political opponent makes perfect sense in light of these defining features.

First, Trump is driven by zero-sum transactionalism. This mentality pervades his thinking across personal and political domains, and explains his views on trade, alliances, and multilateral agreements. His record in office so far strongly suggests that ethical and strategic imperatives matter far less than whether Americans ? or, more often, him personally ? can gain at the expense of others.

This calculated transactionalism is reflected not only in Trump?s attempt to use the power of his office to further his own narrow election interests, but also in his expectation that Zelensky?s only concern would be narrow self-interest. Ukraine desperately wanted the U.S. military aid Trump withheld, and the president expected a simple zero-sum transaction ? a quid pro quo, if you will.

Second, Trump is a stereotypical Jacksonian. ?Jacksonian political philosophy,? explains the political scientist Walter Russell Mead in a 2001 book, ?is often an instinct rather than an ideology?a set of beliefs and emotions rather than a set of ideas.? Jacksonians, according to Mead, are disposed ?toward conspiracy thinking? and are willing to deploy the powers of the presidency ?even at the cost of constitutional niceties.? That political leaders ?employ vigorous measures? is more important to Jacksonians ?than to worry about the niceties of international law.?

Indeed, Trump?s attempt to pressure Ukraine was driven in part by a stream of debunked conspiracy theories circulating on the fringes of the right-wing online media. One such theory alleges that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 elections on behalf of the Clinton campaign. Another claims that Vice President Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its prosecutor in order to relieve his son, who was then on the board of a Ukrainian company Burisma Holdings, of scrutiny for corruption (in fact, the prosecutor was failing to go after corruption, the investigation into Burisma had gone dormant, and Ukraine?s current top prosecutors says publicly that there is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the Bidens).

Third, Trump is obsessed with his own reputation. In a review of five hours of recorded interviews with Trump con?ducted by his biographer in the mid 2000s, the New York Times?s Michael Barbaro identifies Trump?s ?deep-seated fear of public embarrassment? as his most powerful driving force. ?The recordings reveal a man who is fixated on his own celebrity? and ?anxious about losing his status.?

Again, this helps explain Trump?s determination to get information from Ukraine. The finding of the U.S. intelligence community and Special Counsel Robert Mueller that Russia meddled in the 2016 election to help the Trump campaign undermines the legitimacy of his election. Overturning that narrative by getting to the bottom of these Ukraine conspiracy theories required pressuring Kiev outside of official U.S. channels, something Trump apparently had few qualms about.

Finally, Donald Trump?s inclinations are unusually authoritarian by the standards of contemporary U.S. political culture. Scholars have been researching authoritarian personality traits in political leaders for decades. Authoritarians tend to share important psychological habits and decision-making styles. They have greater difficulty engaging in critical thinking, are more likely to blame scapegoats for societal problems, are given to superstition and stereotyping, place a high value on power and toughness, and tend to abuse and intimidate subordinates, thus suppressing an open and deliberative decision-making process.

Donald Trump exhibits all of these characteristics in spades. He demands loyalty from officials in federal departments that are supposed to be independent and nonpartisan. Trump has repeatedly attacked federal courts as illegitimate, and leveled ad hominem attacks against individual judges who had the gall to overrule his executive orders. He vilifies the press as ?the enemy of the people.? He has recklessly accused the whistleblower of being a spy and Rep. Adam Schiff, who is leading the impeachment inquiry, of
"What is truth?'


  • Mr. PerfectMr. Perfect Member Posts: 59,460 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Do you happen to have a link to the article that gets cut off right where it started to get interesting?
    Some will die in hot pursuit
    And fiery auto crashes
    Some will die in hot pursuit
    While sifting through my ashes
    Some will fall in love with life
    And drink it from a fountain
    That is pouring like an avalanche
    Coming down the mountain
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