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All Millennials Have Known is a United States at War

in Foreign Policy, Middle East, War by Jackson Jones Comments are off

In September 2003, nearly two years to the date after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the New Jersey-based post-hardcore band, Thursday, released its second record, War All of the Time. The title track of the record could serve as an anthem for a generation.

“War all of the time. In the shadow of the New York skyline, we grew up too fast, falling apart like the ashes of American flags,” Geoff Rickly sings in his nasally tone. “They burn on and on like an oil field or a memory of what it felt like. To burn on and on and not just fade away all those nights in the basement, the kids are still screaming on and on and on and on.”

The Millennial generation – young Americans born who became adults in or around 2000 – have now spent much of their lives with the United States at war, according to Martha Raddatz, an ABC News journalist who recently gave a commencement speech at Kenyon College.

“You have spent more than half your lives with this country at war. And yet the huge majority of you, and those your age, the huge majority of all people in this country have not been affected by these conflicts,” Raddatz told the graduates. “I can imagine all of you as 9- or 10-year-old children, huddled with your parents on 9/11, scared or just confused. Your parents surely thinking, as I did, that our lives would never be the same, your lives would never be the same.”

The Washington Post took a look at Raddatz’s statement an eye-opening revelation: “The percentage is almost certainly much higher than that.”

United States at warA young American born in 1980, for example, has lived 44.4 percent of their life while the United States was at war. The wars include only the first Gulf War and the War on Terror. The Washington Post didn’t count minor overseas interventions, such as the conflict in Kosovo.

“Anyone born after 1984 has likely seen America at war for at least half of his or her life,” Philip Bump wrote for the Washington Post. “And that’s a lot of Americans.”

If this isn’t concerning enough, that an entire generation has spent close to, if not most of their lives, with the United States at war, one should begin to wonder when the wars will end. Younger Americans, those born after the year 2000, have known nothing but their country at war. A 14-year-old has spent their entire life in this circumstance.

Just as important are the costs of war. Millennials may know war all too well, but it’s their children that will bear the costs. A recent estimate by the Watson Institute at Brown University concluded that the United States has spent and is committed to $4.4 trillion related to the War on Terrorism.

The question we should be asking ourselves is, when will it end?

Most Effective Outreach? Lead By Example

in Communicating Liberty, Libertarianism by Brett Bittner Comments are off

I’m often asked what I find to be the most effective ways to share libertarian ideas.

My answer? Lead by example.

Lead by ExampleDon’t worry about word choice, which book to recommend, or how you will answer a tough question. Start by being a shining example of what a libertarian is.

When you live your life in a way that exemplifies your beliefs, your actions display to others what you believe. This means getting involved in your community, volunteering for charity activities, and networking. What does it say to you when someone constantly talks about gardening should be, but you never see their tomatoes or roses? Is your mind questioning those supposed skills? The same goes for libertarian ideas. If you talk ALL DAY LONG about the wonders of free markets, voluntary cooperation, and how private charity outperforms government welfare programs in every way, but if no one sees you “gardening,” how much weight do your words carry?

Finding activities like maintaining a notoriously littered part of your community, starting a neighborhood tool library, or keeping the lawn trimmed of an infirm, elderly neighbor, are ways to show how individuals can make a difference in the community. As you perform these tasks, you inspire others to join you or to also do something that will also benefit those around you without looking to the government to pay someone to pick up litter or to send scary notices to your neighbor when their grass exceeds the mandated height for the city or county. Additionally, you will become known for your efforts to improve the quality of life in your community, which opens the door for others to seek you out.

Now that your neighbors seek you out, you have an amazing opportunity. You will get to hear about their concerns and the issues that are important to them. The key to this activity is NOT to talk, but to LISTEN. The most important to be done is to hear what they have to say, letting them lead the conversation. This will help you to build rapport by finding common ground with which you begin to converse.

Because libertarianism is such a broad philosophy, you will likely find that you have similar concerns and desire the same outcomes, but the person to whom you are speaking may not be considering how libertarian principles and ideals could solve a problem. THIS is your opportunity to speak.

You listened, identified a problem, heard their desired outcome. Now, you can effectively offer a libertarian solution. Whether it is helping the homeless via shelters, soup kitchens, and health and employment services in the community or offering answers to the area’s poor education results by NOT relying on a government “solution,” you have credibility because you took it upon yourself to address a tangible issue that others noticed.

As you converse about the issue you both identified as an issue in need of a solution, keep the conversation in a friendly tone, using everyday language. The use of unnecessarily scholarly verbiage or political jargon and buzzwords may turn off your new friend. This is just a conversation between two people about everyday issues, not a debate. As tempting as it is, there is no “win” in making him or her feel like your intellectual inferior.

We libertarians are a diverse lot, and not everyone can bring new people around to the ideas and principles of libertarian philosophy, and that is OK.

By being a great example of libertarianism, you can be active and bring more people into the movement, but if you are uncomfortable with the whole “walk the walk” concept, please find another way you can help the libertarian movement. There are candidates, campaigns, and organizations who need your assistance in other ways. It may be that your lifestyle allows you to finance activities, your skills can bring a professional website to them, or your “best fit” is to be someone who can distribute hundreds of flyers that affect an electoral outcome. The key is to find and do what you do well.

New Poll Shows Libertarians Represent One-Fifth of Voters

in Libertarianism, Philosophy by Jackson Jones Comments are off

In August, The New York Times ran a piece proclaiming that the United States’ political landscape was in the in the midst of a “libertarian moment.” The narrative may have focused some on Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and his strong libertarian leanings, but the story told was much deeper and, perhaps, a sign of a generational shift in American politics.

Still, some view the “libertarian moment” as a blip on radar. Old narratives, such as the stale left-right political paradigm, are repeated on television and talk radio shows by the pundit class, who are ignorant to changing attitudes and growing discontent with increasingly irrelevant political institution

Over the last several years, polling firms have tried to make sense of the rise of libertarians. In 2006, David Boaz and David Kirby of the Cato Institute analyzed polling data and found that 9 percent to 14 percent of the voting public held libertarian views. These voters, the authors suggested, were fiercely independent, and frustrated by the growth of government under President George W. Bush.

Boaz and Kirby released follow-ups to their 2006 report in 2010 and 2012, with occasional analyses of polling data mixed in between. Kirby and Emily Ekins of the Reason Foundation also released a thoughtful look at the roots of the Tea Party movement in 2012, finding a strong libertarian streak.

Although there is no looming libertarian takeover of the United States, subscribers to the philosophy find themselves gaining more influence, according to a recently released Reuters survey. In particular, the data show millennials – those between the ages of 18 and 29 – more likely to label themselves as libertarians.

Libertarian Moment

“One in five Americans consider themselves libertarian, with younger adults being the most likely to adopt the label,’ Reuters noted. “Among adults aged 18 to 29, 32 percent consider themselves libertarian. Just 12 percent of Americans age 60 or older consider themselves libertarian.”

Surprisingly, 22 percent of self-identified libertarians are Democrats to only 19 percent are Republicans, while 25 percent are politically independent.

It may be too early to draw any conclusions about what the data suggest, but it’s becoming clear that libertarians are becoming a subset of the body politic that is difficult for the political class to ignore. Those who do may be doing so at their own peril.

For libertarians, it’s crucial not to misread this growing trend. Influencing policy debates through responsible activism and well-messaged education are the best courses of action, at least for now.

Supposedly Sick Coast Guard Members Took Taxpayer-Funded Trips to Vacation Hot Spots

in Liberator Online Archives, wasteful spending by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Every fall, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) published an annual report, known as the Wastebook, highlighting dozens of the worst examples of wasteful spending by federal agencies.

vacation hot spotsSome of the items in the report may sound unbelievable, but this is the federal government, and one should never underestimate bureaucrats with tax dollars at their disposal. More ridiculous examples from the 2014 version of the report include the $387,000 the National Institutes of Health spent on Swedish massages for rabbits (yes, seriously) and the $200,000 the Department of Agriculture spent to help a New York-based brewer build a beer farm.

Coburn, who earned a reputation as a hardcore fiscal hawk, resigned from Congress last year after a second cancer diagnosis, leaving a need for transparency in federal spending. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is stepping up to fill the void left by Coburn’s departure.

On Wednesday, Paul rolled out a new feature on his official Senate homepage, dubbed The Waste Report. According to a press statement, the periodical report “will identify egregious examples of wasteful spending throughout the U.S. government.”

The inaugural edition of The Waste Report focuses on medical waste, specifically a little-known U.S. Coast Guard program that costs taxpayers $1.2 million each year. The Travel to Obtain Health Care Program pays for Coast Guard members stationed in locations where there are no providers to seek medical care elsewhere. The program is available to members in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, though the latter two account for 7 percent of cases.

The Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Homeland Security released an audit in February detailing the inefficiency and lack of oversight in the Travel to Obtain Health Care Program, which costs taxpayers $1.2 million annually.

“[T]he IG uncovered trips from Alaska to Vail, Colorado; Orlando, FL; Scottsdale, AZ; and Savannah, GA, Paul’s report notes. “Though a doctor’s referral is supposed to be required before travel is approved, only twelve percent of records had such notes.”

“In total, 94 percent of all records were missing key elements including travel requests, approval forms, cost estimates, and/or doctor’s notes,” the report continues. “This lack of basic documentation prevented the IG from substantiating whistleblower claims that trips – even to Anchorage – were more for shopping than medical care, while also preventing the IG from affirming the need for accompanying spouses (who also traveled at taxpayer expense) to assist patients.

The Inspector General made three recommendations aimed at improving accountability and oversight in the program, including greater documentation requirements and training. But as The Waste Report explains, “one should not need special training to know that taxpayer funded medical travel should not be approved without a doctor’s note, especially if that travel is for couples’ trips to vacation hot spots.”

Which Libertarian Are You?

in Liberator Online Archives, Libertarianism by Brett Bittner Comments are off

As libertarian philosophy gains popularity in response to the repeated failures of government, we need to define which type of libertarians we want to be. Our numbers are growing, and as we reach critical mass, we need to start to specialize our activities. In my mind, there are three kinds of libertarians: the candidates, the leadership, and the activists.

division of laborLibertarians will likely recognize this specialization as division of labor. Previously, libertarians had to “wear many hats,” because of how few our numbers were. Today, that is not the case.

Have you ever waved signs at a rally or a busy intersection for your favorite candidate or issue? Have you ever made statements to the press, defining an organization’s position on an issue? Have you ever run for office?

Chances are, most libertarians can answer “yes” to the first two questions, with a smaller number answering affirmatively about the third one.

Activists

Our hard-working activists are recruiting new libertarians through their efforts “on the ground,” working outreach booths, attending rallies, going door to door, passing out literature, and writing op-eds and letters to the editor about libertarian issues. These are often thankless jobs that happen in extreme weather, on nights and weekends, and bring attention to our philosophy at the actual grassroots level.

Many who “get off the couch” and get involved in politics for the first time start here, but it is not just for beginners. There is an art (and a LOT of effort) to a successful event or outreach activity, and there are some who find their niche here.

Leadership

Real leaders are the fewest in number in our movement, because they really need to be able to manage a lot of “chiefs” and far fewer “braves.” They need a thick skin and the ability to build bridges in an environment wrought with the wreckage from many burned ones.

Their focus is to grow the cause, party, or organization they represent, while serving the needs of those already on board. The effective ones have a vision for the organization, a plan for achieving it, and the skills to sell that to existing and prospective members. These are not easy tasks, but a real leader will excel here.

Candidates/Elected Officials

If there is one area that I wish saw more development in the libertarian movement, it is this one. Standard bearers on the ballot might have the most difficult job among the three I outline here.

Candidates represent the platform and beliefs of their party, while trying to communicate a message that attracts those not necessarily supportive of those beliefs. They are also meeting thousands of people, raising money to fund their campaign efforts, and trying to stay “on message.” In the age of YouTube, smartphones with amazing features, and “gotcha” journalism, they also need to watch everything they say and do, no matter who is around.

All the while, they need to be real and genuine in every interaction. It really IS a tough job.

So, are you an activist, a leader, or a candidate (and for Liberty’s sake, an elected official)? Which one best fits your skill set and aspirations?

Focus your efforts on being just one, and be a great one of those.

Don’t Be Surprised When Garland is Used as an Excuse to Renew The PATRIOT Act

in Issues by Jackson Jones Comments are off

NSA SpyingSupporters of the NSA’s domestic spying programs say that a vast data collection effort is needed more than ever to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States, but they are unable to point to any specific example of foiled terrorist plots through these unconstitutional, privacy-violating programs.

In June 2013, Gen. Keith Alexander, then the Director of the NSA, claimed that the spying programs prevented “potential terrorist events over 50 times since 9/11.” Testifying before a Senate committee in October of the same year, Alexander backtracked after Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) grilled him for misleading the American public.

“There is no evidence that [bulk] phone records collection helped to thwart dozens or even several terrorist plots,” said Leahy. “These weren’t all plots and they weren’t all foiled. Would you agree with that, yes or no?” he asked the NSA chief. Alexander, realizing he had been put on the spot for peddling misinformation, simply replied, “Yes.”

Of course Alexander was more honest than his colleague, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who lied about the NSA domestic surveillance program in a March 2013 Senate hearing. He was accused of perjury, although the allegation went nowhere in a Congress filled with pro-surveillance members.

Two government panels – President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board – have since determined that NSA’s domestic spying programs have not played a role in thwarting terrorist attacks.

The attack on Sunday evening in Garland, Texas at the “Draw Muhammad” event hosted by an anti-Islam organization will undoubtedly be used as a reason to reauthorize a soon-to-expire provision, Section 215, of the USA PATRIOT Act by which the federal government claims the vast authority to spy on Americans.

But such claims should be met with a large dose of skepticism. One of the suspects involved in the attack had already come across the FBI’s radar. The United States’ top law enforcement agency began investigating him in 2006 on the suspicion that he wanted to join a terrorist group in Somalia.

The alleged attacker lied to federal authorities. He was convicted in 2010 of making false statements and sentenced to three years of probation. He was, however, able to avoid being placed on the “no-fly” list.

The alleged attackers in Garland are precisely are the needle for which the federal government claims that it needs the haystack, and intelligence and law enforcement officials failed to prevent what could have been a mass murder.

The NSA’s resources are spread too thin. Collecting the phone calls of virtually every American – the proverbial “haystack” – even if the people on the call are not suspected of any terrorist involvement, not only betrays the constitutionally protected rights defined by the Fourth Amendment, but also makes Americans less safe because intelligence agencies may not be able to connect the dots efficiently and effectively.

Rather than using the Garland attack as tool to further reauthorization of Section 215, which expires on June 1, lawmakers should seriously reexamine the approach to intelligence, requiring agencies like the NSA to focus on actual terrorism suspects as opposed to innocent Americans calling their families and friends.

Special Thanks to My “Three Right Hands”

in Liberator Online Archives, News From the Advocates for Self-Government by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

It’s just impossible to thank by name all the people who have made my 20 years as Advocates president such a pleasure. (As a Liberator Online reader, you’re high on that list yourself.)

But I must acknowledge three very special people who have made my work immensely more successful, satisfying and joyful. In fact, I could not have done it without them.

Dagny Smith has been office manager for the Advocates for 15 of the 20 years I have been president. In that role, she kept the office running smoothly, made sure orders and donations were processed quickly and efficiently, and maintained the highest standards of customer service. But that’s just the start. As a representative of the Advocates at conferences across the country, she introduced thousands of people to the Quiz, OPH, and other Advocates programs, and instructed hundreds of college students on how to grow their campus outreach programs. She contributed many excellent ideas for Advocates’ programs, and she has done layout for the Liberator Online for years. If you’ve had any interaction at all with the Advocates, you’ve benefited immensely from Dagny’s expertise and caring.

Evelyn Hanson has been Advocates business manager and accountant for 13 years. Thanks to her, all things financial have been maintained at the highest level of quality and best practices. Evelyn made sure all records and reports were prepared impeccably, all deadlines for tax filings and nonprofit reporting requirements were met, and management was provided with accurate budgets, forecasts and analysis needed for decision making. But there’s much more. Evelyn’s dedication to the Advocates led her to also do extensive volunteer work, especially in the areas of prospect research and fundraising. Evelyn has further helped me enormously with brainstorming, strategizing and exploring new ideas.

James W. Harris has worked with the Advocates longer than anyone else (including me). He began in 1991 (!) as editor of the print version of the Liberator, and has edited the Liberator Online since its start nearly 20 years ago. He has been the writer or chief editor of almost everything that has been written for the Advocates since he came on board. More, he’s had key roles in virtually every major Advocates project of the past two decades. His work refining and documenting the World’s Smallest Political Quiz was profusely praised by Quiz creator Marshall Fritz. In countless ways Jimmy has contributed immensely to the Advocates’ success.

ACLU: Why the War on Drugs Is So Bad For Privacy

in Criminal Justice, Drugs, Liberator Online Archives, Victimless Crime by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The War on Drugs is a War on US!Earlier this month Jay Stanley, ACLU Senior Policy Analyst, neatly summarized why the War on Drugs is so very destructive of privacy rights. It’s a powerful argument, and very useful to bring those on the left to join libertarians in opposing the Drug War and other victimless crime laws:

“It’s important to remember a key point about why the Drug War has been so corrosive of privacy: drug use is a victimless crime.

“Why does that make it so bad for privacy? Think about it: with an ordinary crime, you have a victim who goes running to the police to tell them about the wrongdoing that has taken place. They have been assaulted, or stolen from, or otherwise wronged, and are hopping mad, and look to the police for justice. If the crime is murder, then the victim’s loved ones will do the same. While police might engage in a certain amount of patrolling, for the most part reports of crime come to them.

“But when there’s no victim, how are the police supposed to find out when the law has been broken? The only way for police to fight victimless crime is to proactively search out wrongdoing: insert themselves into people’s lives, monitor their behavior, search their cars, etc.

“The enforcement of drug laws thus relies disproportionately on surveillance, eavesdropping, and searches of private places and effects.

“This (and misguided judges) is the reason that the failed War on Drugs has generated so much bad law around privacy and the Fourth Amendment in particular.

“It’s a simple point, and I’m hardly the first to make it, but it’s well worth keeping in mind, and it’s one reason that the ACLU generally opposes victimless crimes.”

Walter Williams: Gun Control Nonsense

in Gun Rights, Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Walter Williams“Gun control advocates argue that stricter gun control laws would reduce murders. They ignore the fact that Brazil, Mexico and Russia have some of the strictest gun control laws but murder rates higher than ours. On the other hand, Switzerland and Israel have higher gun ownership rates than we but much lower murder rates. These are realities that gun controllers ignore.

“Another reality completely ignored in the gun control debate is the reason the Founding Fathers gave Second Amendment protections.

“Alexander Hamilton wrote, ‘If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government.’

“Thomas Jefferson wrote, ‘What country can preserve (its) liberties if (its) rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.’

“I leave it up to you to decide what representatives and rulers the Founders were talking about.”

— Walter Williams, “Reality May Be Optional,” syndicated column, April 15, 2015.

Why Not You?

in Liberator Online Archives by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion Powerpoint section in Volume 20, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The libertarian movement needs individuals to help us recruit tens of thousands of new libertarians each year… then each month… then each week.

Why not you?

We need informed and skilled communicators who can win the hearts and minds of others to liberty.

Why not you?

We need shy individuals to work behind the scenes to research, write, and coach our spokespersons and leaders.

Why not you?

We need internet-savvy libertarians to help set up and run libertarian websites, blogs, email, and social media.

Why not you?

The libertarian movement needs all kinds of volunteers. Young and old. Working or retired. Women or men. Married or single. Socializers or loners.

Why not you?

When should you email or call or text to see what’s available?

Why not now?

Reservations About Gay Marriage?

in Libertarian Answers on Issues, Marriage and Family by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Marriage EqualityQUESTION: I have some reservations on the issue of gay marriage. As a logician, I rely on well-defined terms to solve problems. While I do support civil unions, marriage has always been such a term (i.e., well-defined) historically. By making the definition more inclusive, the meaning of the term “marriage” loses its cultural significance. I fear the degeneration of such cultural structures will lead to further uncertainty and greater reliance on government. Not a good thing, in my view. What do you think?

MY SHORT ANSWER: I understand your concerns. However, marriage is not as well-defined as you might think.

For example, what are you actually agreeing to when you get married? You really don’t know until you get a divorce. The laws in each state differ as to child custody and how property is divided. In some states, everything owned by either party is divided equally; in others, anything brought to the marriage by one partner can be totally reclaimed during the divorce. If you are married in one state, but divorced in another, the marriage “contract” can be quite different from your understanding on the day that you tied the knot.

In some states, you are considered married by common law if you live with your partner for 7 years even if you don’t want to be; in others, cohabitation for decades isn’t recognized. In Texas, publicly claiming another as your spouse is presumably all it takes to become husband and wife.

Custom and culture are subject to change over time. The definition of marriage is one of those cultural norms that has indeed morphed over time and is likely to continue to do so. The question isn’t will it change, but rather, who decides how it changes. Libertarians generally agree that government shouldn’t be the decision maker.

* * *

Got questions? Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her classic Healing Our World.

 

I’m Retiring!

in Liberator Online Archives, News From the Advocates for Self-Government by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

For the Advocates, some big changes and celebrations are coming up.

* It’s the 30th Anniversary for the Advocates.

* It’s my 20th Anniversary as Advocates president.

* And… I will be retiring as Advocates president at the end of the month.

Please note, I am not retiring as an active libertarian. I’m stepping down from the varied and time-consuming job of Advocates president and will be focusing my efforts on the activities I love most: writing and speaking about libertarianism and — my favorite topic — the most effective ways to communicate the ideas of liberty. I will also continue doing communication workshops on this topic — some of them in conjunction with the Advocates.

Being president of the Advocates for Self-Government has been the most wonderful and fulfilling job I could have ever imagined for myself!

It has been an incredible honor for me to follow in the footsteps of the previous two Advocates presidents: Advocates Founder Marshall Fritz and Carole Ann Rand.

Sharon Harris & Dagny SmithThey created a fantastic organization that has deeply affected the lives of millions of individuals. The Advocates has enormously increased the size and effectiveness of the libertarian movement, and has introduced tens of millions of people to libertarianism, first and foremost through the amazing World’s Smallest Political Quiz — the most popular outreach tool in the libertarian movement.

Of course there is much more to the Advocates than the Quiz. The original mission of the Advocates was to empower libertarians to become excellent and successful communicators of the ideas of liberty. This is a unique and vital contribution the Advocates has made to the movement in our 30 years.

As Advocates president, I’ve learned about libertarian communication from the best: Marshall, Carole Ann, Michael Cloud, Mary Ruwart, David Bergland, Harry Browne, and many more too numerous to name. We’ve helped tens of thousands of libertarians become far more persuasive and effective in their outreach. And that has enabled libertarians to successfully win others to our side, helping build a strong and growing movement for liberty.

It has been a joy teaching numerous libertarian communication classes and seminars for libertarian groups in almost every state in America. Last year alone I had the pleasure of speaking on successful communication to over 1,000 libertarians.

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I look forward to continuing this — so please contact me when you want a libertarian communication workshop in your area!

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with some of the finest libertarians in the world — world-famous celebrities and people you may not have heard of who are making our world a freer and better place. What a privilege it has been! (I wouldn’t dream of trying to name them all — we’d fill this entire issue up, and still leave deserving people out. Thanks, everyone!)

Similarly, I’ve had the great pleasure of working with many of the very finest libertarian organizations. I must especially thank the Libertarian Party for the greatest honors of my professional career. The LP has honored me with two of its highest awards. In 2012, I received the Thomas Jefferson Award, “presented to the Libertarian Party member whose achievements merit our recognition of outstanding leadership, high character, and dedication to the principles and goals of the Party.” In 2014, I received the LP’s Thomas Paine Award for “outstanding communication of libertarian ideas, principles, and values.”

But most of all I’d like to thank YOU, my friends who read the Liberator Online, use Advocates tools and services, and support the Advocates’ work. You are the true heroes of the Advocates. You are building a successful movement for liberty that is changing our world.

I will miss connecting with you through the Advocates. I hope you will follow my new work and stay in touch with me. You can do this by “liking” me onFacebook — or emailing me. (Please do this right now, while it’s on your mind.)

I’d like to congratulate Brett Bittner, the Advocates’ new executive director! Brett has an outstanding record as a libertarian activist. He is a former executive director of the Libertarian Party of Georgia and a former Chairman of the Libertarian State Leadership Alliance. He has been working with the Advocates for the past year and will be taking the helm of the organization on May 1. You’ll be hearing more from Brett soon.

Finally, please read my President’s Column in the next issue. I’ll let you know more details about what’s ahead — including a special celebration of the Advocates’ and my anniversaries to take place in Atlanta on June 27. Hold that date on your calendar, and I hope to see you there!

New Poll: Millions of Voters Say They’re Libertarian

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

A new poll from YouGov brings exciting and unprecedented news for libertarians. Millenial Poll - Libertarian

Asked “Would you describe yourself as a libertarian or not?” fully one in five of likely millennial (ages 18-29) voters said yes — thus self-describing themselves as libertarians.

YouGov found that young Americans are more likely than any other age group to accept the label libertarian — great news for a growing political movement. And there is room for this figure to grow significantly as libertarian ideas spread, because, in addition to the 20% who self-identify as libertarians, another 42% said they were “not sure.” Only 39% rejected the label.

Among older voters, 17% of 30- to 44-year-olds, 15% of 45- to 64-year-olds and 9% of those 65 and older say that the word “libertarian” described their views.

More great news: a majority Americans are, broadly, embracing libertarian ideas of limiting government. Fully 51% say they want to shrink the size of government. A whopping 30% of Americans even agree with the radical libertarian statement that “Taxation is theft.” (It probably didn’t hurt that the poll was conducted April 8-9 — a week before Tax Day.)

But what is most remarkable about the YouGov poll is that it has found so many millions of voters who accept the libertarian “brand” as a label for their political views — something inconceivable just a few years ago.

Nor are these self-described libertarians tied to either of the two older political parties. The libertarian vote is up for grabs to the candidate or party that appeals most to it. Writes YouGov: “There is little difference between partisans when it comes to identifying as libertarians. Republicans (13%) are essentially no more likely than Democrats (12%) to identify as libertarian, while 19% of Independents describe themselves as libertarian.”

Notes Reason.com’s Nick Gillespie: “Let’s be clear about a couple of things: First, the fact that YouGov and other groups are hunting down the number of libertarians afoot — Pew even went ‘In Search of Libertarians’ just last year — is itself a sign that something new and different is happening. When you start touting up the way many things are breaking in a libertarian direction — the energy surrounding Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012, majority acceptance of pot legalization and gay marriage, serious efforts at criminal justice reform, plummeting numbers for faith in government, the rise of school choice, embrace of a sharing economy that routes around old-style regulation, general acceptance of free trade and free speech as positive values, and much more — it’s fair to call attention to what we’ve dubbed here as ‘The Libertarian Moment.’”

For more excellent commentary on the YouGov poll see “Millennials Are More Likely to Identify as Libertarians” by Robby Soave, Reason.com.

A “Devil’s Dictionary” of Washingtonese

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

WashingtoneseLibertarian journalist James Bovard — author of a dozen outstanding and eye-opening books including Lost RightsThe Bush Betrayal, and most recently Attention Deficit Democracy — has done Americans yet another service.

In an editorial for USA Today Bovard put together a short dictionary of “Washingtonese” — the slippery lingo that politicians, bureaucrats and other such nefarious critters use to hide what they really mean.

Or, as Bovard puts it, the government’s “nebulous nomenclature [that] deters citizens from recognizing exactly how well their elected leaders serve them.”

Here’s a sampling:

  • Historic — different than last week
  • Unprecedented — different than last month
  • Emergency — the gift that keeps giving
  • Truth — whatever people will swallow
  • Legacy — any political boast that survives more than three 24-hour news cycles
  • Handout — a government benefit received primarily by the supporters of the other party
  • Mandate — whatever a winning politician can get away with
  • Honorable — any public figure who has not yet been indicted
  • Bill of Rights — (archaic) political invocation popular in 1790s
  • Fair play — any process in which politicians or bureaucrats pick winners and losers
  • Rule of Law — the latest edicts from a deputy assistant Labor Secretary or deputy assistant HUD Secretary
  • Patriotic — any appeal that keeps people paying and obeying
  • Waste — federal spending that fails to generate laudatory headlines, votes or campaign contributions
  • Freedom — whatever rulers have not yet benevolently prohibited
  • Election — when voters are permitted to freely consent to one of the two aspiring despots offered by the major parties
  • Cynic — anyone who expresses doubt about the latest bipartisan agreement to gradually eliminate the federal budget deficit over the next 117 years
  • Anarchist — anyone who advocates across-the-board spending cuts of more than 3.63%
  • Scurrilous — anyone who mentions previous federal failures when the president proposes glorious new programs

For much more Bovardian wit and wisdom, see his USA Today article.

No One “Pays” Taxes

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“You don’t ”pay’ taxes. The government TAKES them.” — comedian Chris Rock.Chris Rock

Not only is this quote funny (especially when you hear Chris Rock say it), it makes a profound point — one well worth remembering when talking about taxes and politics.

The word “pay,” in connection with taxes, is just government propaganda. Using it — saying we “pay taxes” or “paid our taxes” — hides and distorts the true nature of taxation. And that’s something libertarians shouldn’t do.

Here’s what I mean.

In common usage, the word “pay” strongly implies some kind of consensual agreement. If you’re selling apples and I want one, I pay you for it. If I don’t want the apple, I don’t have to pay. If someone else has a better deal on apples, I’m free to trade with him instead. Or I can skip apples altogether.

Similarly, if I borrow money from a loan company, I agree to pay it back with interest. If a competing company offers lower interest rates, I’m free to trade with them instead. I also of course have the option of not borrowing money at all.

Those are payments, voluntarily agreed to.

However, the word “pay” is inappropriate for a coerced exchange — like taxation.

As the great Lysander Spooner famously pointed out, if a criminal points a gun at you and demands all the money in your pocket, you aren’t “paying” the robber when you hand over your money. You didn’t “pay” — you were robbed!

If burglars enter your home at night and steal your valuables, you didn’t “pay” the burglar. He TOOK your money! You were robbed.

Libertarians view taxes as a form of coercion, no different in essence from robbery or theft. (By the way, a startlingly large number of Americans now agree with us on this. See the story “New Poll: Millions of Voters Say They’re Libertarian” above.)

So we should never use language like “pay taxes” or “paid taxes.” Saying so legitimizes taxation. It implies that taxation is just another form of legitimate exchange, like paying for goods and services you voluntarily purchased.

PickpocketInstead, when someone else uses that term, we should, if appropriate, gently disagree. And respond with something like: “Actually, I didn’t ‘pay’ taxes. No one PAYS taxes. The government just seizes money from you. There’s a big difference. Payments are voluntary. Taxes are coercive. Like… theft.”

Your wording, of course, will depend on who you’re speaking with and where. But one thing’s certain — you’ll have trouble improving on Chris Rock’s monologue:

“The messed-up thing about taxes is you don’t ‘pay’ taxes. The government TAKES them. You get your check and money is GONE! It was not an option! That ain’t a payment — that’s a JACK! I been TAX JACKED!”

Classic “Bad Attitude” Anti-Tax Verse — and Hope for Ending the Income Tax

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

April 15, Tax Day, is nearly here.

It’s a grim subject — so how about some comic relief? And some inspiration, some hope, for change?

First, the comic relief.

I’ve had a lot of fun over the years with the following two classic anti-tax poems. The authors are unknown, but some versions seem to date from at least the 1930s.

It’s a good reminder that a lot of Americans have always had a “bad attitude” about taxes. (Just ask King George!)

Income TaxI hope they’ll give you a good laugh — and I hope you’ll keep working with the Advocates and other libertarians to create a movement that will make income taxes as much a thing of the past as slavery, alcohol Prohibition, and the Divine Right of Kings!

Don’t forget: following the poems, some inspiration and hope for change.

* * *

The Tax Collector’s Creed

Now he’s a common, common man
So tax him, tax him, all you can.
Tax his house, Tax his bed;
Tax the bald spot on his head.
Tax his drink, Tax his meat,
Tax the shoes right off his feet.
Tax his cow, Tax his goat;
Tax his pants, Tax his coat;
Tax his crop, Tax his work;
Tax his ties, Tax his shirt;
Tax his chew, Tax his smoke,
Teach him taxing is no joke.
Tax his tractor, Tax his mule;
Tell him: “Taxing is the rule!”
Tax his oil, Tax his gas,
Tax his notes, Tax his cash.
Tax him good and let him know
That after taxes, he has no dough.
If he hollers, Tax him more;
Tax him till he’s good and sore.
Tax his coffin, Tax his grave,
Tax the sod in which he’s laid.
Put these words upon his tomb,
“Taxes drove him to his doom.”
Even when he’s gone, we won’t relax —
We’ll still collect inheritance tax.

* * *

The Taxpayer’s Lament

Sit down my friends and just relax,
It’s time to pay your income tax.
For whether we are great or small,
They tax us one, they tax us all.
They tax the hobo and the queen,
They tax the bull and tax his ring.
They tax the gas that runs your car
And even tax the big cigar.
They tax your whiskey and home brew,
They tax the Bible and your pew.
They tax the wristwatch on your arm
And tax the rat trap on your farm.
They tax the baby in his crib, and
Tax his shirt and tax his bib.
They tax the crib that he sleeps in,
And don’t consider that a sin.
Then they go from bad to worse
And tax the doctor and tax the nurse.
They tax the dentist and his drill
And he just adds it to your bill.
Whenever you leave this world behind
They will be there to steal you blind.
Before you reach the Golden Gate
They’ll slap a tax on your estate.
They tax the hearse on your last ride,
And shed some tears because you died.
The reason for their deep distress?
You left them with no address.

* * *

Love ‘em!

And now the inspiration. Last year I wrote an article entitled “Making the Case for Ending the Income Tax.”

It suggests 11 ways to persuade others that abolishing the hated income tax — and replacing it with nothing — is not only extremely desirable, it is realistic and politically possible.

Check it out and consider using some (or all) of them. Recently we’ve seen once-radical libertarian ideas — for example, re-legalization of marijuana, marriage choice, and a non-interventionist foreign policy — leap into the mainstream. Let’s put ending the income tax —  and replacing it with… nothing — on that list!

The Libertarian Vote: How Big Is It?

in Elections and Politics, Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Now that Rand Paul has officially announced he is seeking the presidency, attention is being focused on the libertarian voting bloc. Just how big is it? How many libertarian-minded voters are out there?

The answer may surprise you.

First, it’s important to note that “libertarian voter” doesn’t necessarily mean a voter who meets the stricter definition of a libertarian, i.e., someone who consistently opposes the initiation of force. Rather, it refers to someone who would be inclined to vote for a libertarian candidate in an election. Someone who is more supportive of libertarian ideas than liberal, conservative, statist or centrist ideas.

Different organizations have used different methods to determine the size of this libertarian bloc. And they’ve come up with some pretty consistent estimates.

* For 20 years Gallup’s annual Governance Survey has divided voters into liberal, conservative, libertarian, or populist, based on their answers to two questions:

  1. “Some people think the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Others think that government should do more to solve our country’s problems. Which comes closer to your own view?”
  2. “Some people think the government should promote traditional values in our society. Others think the government should not favor any particular set of values. Which comes closer to your own view?”


In their 2014 survey Gallup classified 24% of respondents as libertarian (with 27% conservative, 21% liberal, and 18% populist). This is hardly a rigorous political litmus test, but it may well help single out voters who might be sympathetic to libertarianism.

  • The Cato Institute’s David Boaz has done a lot of work on this over the years, including an important 2012 book (with David Kirby Emily Ekins) that summarizes numerous polls by Cato and others on the topic: The Libertarian Vote: Swing Voters, Tea Parties, and the Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal Center.
    They conclude that, depending on the criteria used, roughly 15-18% of voters can be classified as “libertarian voters.”
  • A 2006 Zogby poll, commissioned by Cato, found surprising results. Zogby asked half of a group of 1,012 people who had voted in the 2006 election: “Would you describe yourself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal?” Fully 59% of the respondents said “yes.”
    Zogby asked the other half a more challenging question: “Would you describe yourself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, also known as libertarian?” A surprising 44% of respondents — representing 100 million Americans — answered “yes” to that question, thus self-identifying as libertarians. This is obviously higher than the number of true libertarians in America, but certainly it at least indicates that millions of people are open to these ideas and this label.
  • Finally, here’s an often-overlooked but remarkable finding — based on the Advocates’ World’s Smallest Political Quiz. In August 2000 Rasmussen gave the World’s Smallest Political Quiz to nearly 1,000 representative American voters. The Quiz is a far more rigorous test of one’s libertarian leanings than “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” or other looser definitions used by polling firms. Yet fully 16% scored in the libertarian sector then — a figure closely matching to the other estimates we’ve cited.

What can we conclude? While the numbers and the criteria in these studies vary, at the very least there is broad agreement on a figure between 15% to 20%. That’s 30 to 40 million voters — a huge, and growing, voting bloc that could easily swing an election.

Add to this the additional millions on the left, right, and center who may vote for a libertarian-leaning candidate who stresses issues of great importance to them — such as a more peaceful foreign policy, marijuana re-legalization, slashing taxes, and reforming the out-of-control surveillance state.

Which brings us back to Rand Paul’s presidential run announcement. Rand Paul doesn’t claim to be a libertarian. He has described himself as “libertarian-ish” and in 2013 told Sean Hannity “I use the term constitutional conservative, but I also use the term libertarian conservative. … I accept all of those terms if they mean they believe in limited government and more individual liberty.”

But he is certainly the most libertarian-inclined presidential candidate — outside the Libertarian Party — in memory. Cato’s Boaz notes in TIME what may well be the most important thing to come out of a Rand Paul campaign:

“One result of his campaign will be to help those tens of millions of libertarian-leaning Americans to discover that their political attitudes have a name, which will make for a stronger and more influential political faction. … Libertarianism is the framework for a future of freedom, growth, and progress, and it may be on the verge of a political breakout.”

New Poll: Voters in Three Key Swing States Solidly for Re-Legalization

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Since 1960 no candidate has won the presidential race without taking at least two of these three states: Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

And that makes a new Quinnipiac University poll on marijuana re-legalization so fascinating.

The poll, released April 6, finds voters in all three critical swing states solidly supporting re-legalization of marijuana for recreational use. More than 1,000 voters in each state were surveyed.

Further, voters in all three states favor legalization of medical marijuana by astounding margins — 5 to 1 or more.

Support for allowing adults “to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use” is 55% – 42% in Florida, 52% - 44% in Ohio and 51% - 45% in Pennsylvania.

And support for medical marijuana is near-universal. The numbers are remarkable: 84% in Florida, 84% in Ohio and 88% in Pennsylvania. You have to wonder: Why isn’t every politician jumping on this issue?

Also important: voters in these states overwhelmingly say they don’t plan to use marijuana themselves.

81% of Florida voters say they “definitely” or “probably” would not use it;  84% of Ohio voters say they “definitely” or “probably” would not use it; and 83% of Pennsylvania voters say they “definitely” or “probably” would not.

This indicates they favor legalization because the consequences of marijuana prohibition make the policy undesirable. And it indicates that one of the key arguments of prohibitionists — that re-legalizing marijuana would lead vast numbers of people to start using it — may just be dead wrong.

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