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Libertarian Parenting

in Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Marriage and Family by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

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Me: What are the rules of the house?
BA (10): Do not encroach on the person or property of another. Do all you have agreed to do. [We took those rules directly from Richard Maybury.]11988564_10104815737879530_1104378496462959819_n
Me: Who has to obey the rules?
BA: Everyone in the house?
Me: Me and Dad?
BA: Yes.
Me: What if you don’t want to obey those rules?
BA: You can ask if you can change the rules.
Me: Who would you ask?
BA: It depends on who is in a good mood.
Me: Young Statesman, what are your thoughts? What if you don’t want to obey the rules? Do you only lose the constraint?
YS: You lose the protection that the rules provide you.
Me: What does that make you?
YS: An outlaw. Fair game.
Me: So, BA, what would you think if we said, “Great. You don’t want the constraints or the protection of the rules, there are more of us, we’re going to take your stuff!”
BA: I’d be like, “That was a bad choice. I take that back.”
Me: So you think those are good rules.
BA: Yeah.
Me: Are they rules you’ll take with you into adulthood?
BA: I think so.
Me: What if you met someone who didn’t obey those rules?
BA: I would be quite upset.
Me: What would you call that person?
BA: A thief.
Me: Are you free to leave the family?
YS: Yes. I’m not going to.
Me: So you’re here voluntarily?
YS: Yep.
Me: How can that be? What recourse do you have? Isn’t it dangerous just to leave?
YS: You would help me find a good home that suited me better.
Me: That’s true. That’s a big part of being a member of this family. You are free to go. Your father and I both agree on that point. He is free to leave, I am free to leave, you are free to leave, your brother is free to leave. How do you think it impacts our parenting to know that we have agreed that you can walk away–right now–and not look back?
YS: It makes you think about your actions and consequences.
Me: Does that make us perfect parents?
YS: No.
Me: Why don’t you leave?
YS: Because I love you all and you are my family.
Me: What if we were oppressive?
YS: You aren’t so how would I know what I would do?
Me: So if we were prone to being oppressive we wouldn’t give you the option to walk away.
YS: Right. If you’re going to be oppressive you aren’t going to give the kid the option to safely walk away.
Me: But you’re given the right to walk away when you’re eighteen, right? Earlier if you become an emancipated minor. So eventually everyone has the right to rid themselves of relationships they find abusive or broken. We’ve just given it to you earlier. Why would we do that?
YS: Because you want to be respectful of me.
Me: It also keeps us honest. Knowing that you can leave us. It levels the field. What if I couldn’t leave my marriage to your father?
YS: That would make you a slave and he could do anything.
Me: Would that be healthy?
YS: No. You couldn’t do anything. You would have no power.
Me: There has to be balance. We decided early on that our relationships had to be balanced. You had to have the right to leave. Your father and I agreed to that with one another. That’s our agreement. If one of us refuses to make leaving the family a safe option for a child, the other is the fail safe. They will guarantee your safe departure and survival until you are old enough to make it on your own. Are there other adults who would assist you if your dad and I suddenly lost it?
YS: Yes.
Me: Miss Katy, Miss Alison, Miss Karen, Mr. Jamie, The Whites, Scott. Would they help you?
YS: Yes, they would. But I’m not leaving.

We have this conversation about every six months. Just so he knows his father and I remain bound by this rule. We check in. They know the rules of our union as a family and they know that removing themselves safely is an option guaranteed to them as members of this family. Particularly as they become young adults with all that adulthood brings with it, I think having the option to walk away is fundamental.

Do You Listen?

in Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

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I mean TRULY listen.

Or are you waiting for your turn to speak?

We have conversations every day, but I don’t see many engaged conversations. I see many participating, as if they are following a script’s cues: talk, talk, talk, and wait to talk again.

listeningGreat communicators listen actively, not waiting for their opportunity to speak, scrolling through things on their smartphone, or talking past others in the conversation.

In political conversations, it seems that we only wait for our opportunity to talk past one another. Unfortunately, that means that no participant actually understands the others’ concerns or point of view on the issue being discussed. We simply wait to throw out our next fact, figure, emotional pitch, or sound-byte, rather than listening to what others say.

When we truly listen, we get the benefit of hearing a different perspective. We hear their concerns, and we find out how they work through solving an issue of concern to them.

What can you do to make yourself a better listener (and a better communicator)? Try out these five tips from Inc. on The Huffington Post:

  1. Be present. Being “in the moment” is not just for yoga or Grateful Dead concerts. If you are going to take in what someone is saying, you have to truly focus your mental awareness on the person. Push distractions aside. Give a person the gift of your attention. Put down the smartphone, turn off your computer screen, put down the book or magazine, and look at him or her with a neutral or pleasant expression. Most people are so accustomed to having half of someone else’s focus at any given moment that this gesture alone will make them feel important and it will allow you to actually hear what they are saying.
  2. Turn down the inner voice. Internal analysis of any conversation is unavoidable and necessary, but often it’s at the expense of objectivity. That voice can actually take over in your brain to the point at which you are no longer listening to the person talking and instead simply listening to the diatribe in your head. There is plenty of time after a conversation to assess the value of what you heard, but first you have to hear it. One technique for quieting the inner voice is simple note taking. Writing down even key words or short phrases will force you to absorb the information coming in. Then you can process it on your own outside the presence of the speaker. As an added benefit, you’ll have a more accurate representation of what was actually said for later discussion.
  3. Hold up a mirror. This is a technique many psychologists and counselors recommend to help alleviate conflict. When the opportunity arises, speak up and describe for the person what you have just heard him or her say. It is OK to rephrase in your own words. Be sure to end with a request for confirmation: “So what you’re most concerned about is that the new hires lack training. Is that accurate?” The speaker then knows you are paying attention and fully engaged.
  4. Ask for clarification. During a conversation, hunt for areas of interest where you might further inquire. Without derailing his or her train of thought, ask the speaker to expand and clarify: “What do you mean by ‘interesting?’” or “Why do you think that is so important?” The speaker will appreciate the interaction, and you will gain better understanding of the person’s perspective as well as your own perception of the information.
  5. Establish follow-up. At the end of any conversation, discuss and determine if there are action steps required. This check-in will alert speakers to your actual concern for what they said, and help them assess their own relevancy to your needs.Express appreciation for their sharing, and let them know what you found to be valuable from the conversation. Making them feel heard increases the odds they’ll truly listen to you when you have something to say you believe is important.

So, are you ready to listen?

Renaming Mt. McKinley: An Otherwise Silly Controversy Because of Executive Overreach

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

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On Monday, the United States Department of the Interior announced that it would change the name of Mt. McKinley, located in Alaska, to Denali. The name change reflects the decades-old wishes of the state, but Ohio Republicans are miffed because they see it as a sign of disrespect toward President William McKinley, who hailed from the Buckeye State.

Mount McKinleyWith a prominence 20,128 feet, Denali is in the highest mountain peak in Northern America and the third highest in prominence the world, behind only Nepal’s Mt. Everest and Argentina’s Aconcagua. In 1917, Congress named it Mt. McKinley in honor of McKinley, who was assassinated in 1901, not long after beginning his second term in office.

McKinley wasn’t connected to the mountain in any meaningful way, as the Department of Interior’s statement explains: “President McKinley never visited, nor did he have any significant historical connection to, the mountain or to Alaska.”

Alaska was a territory when McKinley was president. The United States purchased the land from Russia in March 1867 and took possession of it in October 1867, under President Andrew Johnson’s administration. It wouldn’t be granted statehood until January 1959, during the Eisenhower administration.

Originally named Mt. McKinley National Park, the park in which the mountain rests was created by the same act of Congress, signed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1917, which named the mountain after McKinley. It was renamed Denali National Park and Preserve in December 1980, in one of President Jimmy Carter’s final acts in office.

Legend has it the mountain was named after McKinley as a jab at William Jennings Bryan’s supporters. Bryan, the Democratic Party’s nominee in 1896 and 1900, was a supporter of “free silver” movement. McKinley, a Republican and a backer of the gold standard, was his opponent in both elections. Bryant lost both elections.

James Pethokoukis, writing at The Week, speculated that President Barack Obama might have signed off on the name change to “troll” current supporters of the gold standard. Pethokoukis is a critic of the gold standard, so take it for what it’s worth. Likewise, Ohio Republicans consider it a slight at McKinley. Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he is “deeply disappointed in the decision.”

“There is a reason President McKinley’s name has served atop the highest peak in North America for more than 100 years, and that is because it is a testament to his great legacy,” said Boehner. “McKinley served our country with distinction during the Civil War as a member of the Army. He made a difference for his constituents and his state as a member of the House of Representatives and as Governor of the great state of Ohio. And he led this nation to prosperity and victory in the Spanish-American War as the 25th President of the United States.”

Locals call the mountain as Denali, which is Athabaskan for “the high one.” No, it’s not Kenyan for “black power,” as the absurd meme making the rounds on Facebook says. In 1975, as well as subsequent years, Alaska asked the federal government to rename the mountain Denali, but Washington hasn’t listened to the requests. Alaska’s congressional delegation expressed support for the name change.

“Denali belongs to Alaska and its citizens. The naming rights already went to ancestors of the Alaska Native people, like those of my wife’s family. For decades, Alaskans and members of our congressional delegation have been fighting for Denali to be recognized by the federal government by its true name,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska. “I’m gratified that the president respected this.”

Still, though, one of the criticisms of the name change is the administration acted without proper authority. The Department of the Interior cites 43 U.S.C. §364(b) as its authority to make the change. The statute, which deals with policies and procedures of the United States Board on Geographic Names, states: “Action may be taken by the Secretary in any matter wherein the Board does not act within a reasonable time.”

Given that Denali got its original name through an act of Congress, some are crying that the renaming of the mountain is an example of executive overreach. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, for example, said the change is “yet another example of the President going around Congress.”

Ed Morrissey, a blogger at the conservative space, Hot Air, also complained about the power grab. “[I]t’s an arbitrary and capricious use of executive power in pursuit of a petty end. The federal government controls vast swaths of Alaska land, and Congress should exercise joint authority over it with the executive branch,” Morrissey opined. “We seem to be getting farther and farther from that concept.”

“This may be a comparatively minor and frivolous example of that problem, but in one way that makes this even worse. One might understand an executive overstep in an emergency or to secure the nation, but …. renaming a mountain?” he added.

The name of the mountain matters not, unless you’re a Republican from Ohio, apparently. The use of executive power, though, is a legitimate criticism in light of this administration’s expansionist of view of its constitutional authority. The next president can call it Mt. Sarah Palin if they want as long as they go through Congress to do it.

The Radical Environmentalist Roots of the Anti-Immigration Movement

in Immigration, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

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Immigration is dominating much of the national political dialogue at the moment. Republicans in Congress are preparing legislation to target so-called “sanctuary cities” and eyeing a new five-year mandatory minimum sentence for immigrants who illegally re-enter the United States.

immigrationConservatives, generally, are supportive of rolling back illegal immigration. A recent poll found that 55 percent of conservatives want to deport the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States. Most Americans – 56 percent, in fact – support a plan that would allow them to stay.

Much of the rhetoric on the Republican side reveals more than just opposition to illegal immigration, but animosity toward even legal immigrants. It shows nativist tendencies; the sort of sentiment that is dangerous, disgusting and seriously misinformed. There’s a wealth of information, for example, showing that immigrants, including illegal ones, are a net-benefit to the economy. But the negative attitude toward them persists.

So what’s driving it?

Organizations like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and NumbersUSA are some of the driving forces in the debate. And these three groups all share a common name: John Tanton.

Tanton is a retired ophthalmologist and radical environmentalist who was unable to convince prominent environmental groups to support restrictionist immigration policies. A resident of Michigan, he also served on the board of his local Planned Parenthood.

Tanton, who founded FAIR and helped organize CIS and NumbersUSA, opposes not only illegal immigration but advocates for zero-population growth for fear that an influx of immigrants would be dangerous for the environment. But, keeping to form, there was a hint of prejudice in his motives.

The New York Times’ 2011 profile of Tanton quotes from a letter he wrote to a donor, in which he said, “One of my prime concerns is about the decline of folks who look like you and me.” Tanton is white.

In his 2008 book, Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders, Jason L. Riley, a columnist with the Wall Street Journal, details the connection that Tanton has to the restrictionist movement in the United States. He provides details on some of the more sinister aspects of these groups that he helped get off the ground, such as the $1.2 million in funding FAIR received from the pro-eugenics foundation, the Pioneer Fund.

“When I travel the country to report on immigration, or speak to groups in the known about Tanton and his network, I’m often asked why the mainstream media continue to cite groups like FAIR and the Center for Immigration Studies without mentioning their origins or ulterior motives,” writes Riley. “CIS ‘reports’ are given the gravitas of the Brookings Institution’s, and FAIR is described as an organization that merely favors less immigration, when in fact its stated goal is to cut the U.S. population in half.”

Others have taken note of the restrictionist movement’s zero-population growth roots. Mario H. Lopez published a study in October 2012 in which he explained the views that, at the very least, were foundational principles of today’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.

“The myth that human beings are ‘overpopulating’ the earth, which has persisted for centuries, is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of human activity, economics, and natural science,” writes Lopez. “Numerous political elites have promulgated the overpopulation myth in pursuit of various big-government policies both in their home countries and around the world. People like Thomas Malthus, Paul Ehrlich, and Margaret Sanger have sought various ‘remedies’ for this false crisis, ‘solutions’ which devalue human life—abortion, sterilization, and euthanasia—and promote government control of economic activity.”

Malthus’ An Essay on the Principle of Population, in which he theorized that population growth would eventually outpace agriculture production and offered “two great checks” – “positive,” which includes famine and war, and “preventative,” which refers to birth control. His work influenced many thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Some of his beliefs were carried forward, perhaps unwittingly, perhaps not – by radical environmentalist Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb, and Margaret Sanger, a member of the American Eugenics Society and founder of Planned Parenthood.

“The opinions of the abortion and population-control movements are dominant among the founders, funders, and board members of FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA,” Lopez explains. “They represent the direct modern continuation of the 1960s and 1970s population-control movement—in many cases the same people involved in that movement decades ago sit on the boards of these three organizations.”

“Of course, not everyone concerned about immigration advocates population control, abortion, or sterilization. However, the evidence shows that the primary leaders and funders of the anti-immigration movement were drawn to it because they were also active organizers and supporters of, and contributors to, the population-control movement in the United States,” he adds.

Similarly, Neil Stevens, a contributor at the popular conservative outlet, RedState, has called these restrictionist groups, specifically FAIR and NumbersUSA, “fronts for the extreme left.”

“FAIR took a number of early members from ZPG, the group founded by Paul Ehrlich of The Population Bomb fame. They’ve now renamed themselves to Population Connection, but they’re always been a group about abortion and birth control in the global green left context,” Stevens explains. “FAIR spun off from them when, in the United States, it turned out that our fertility rate before Roe v. Wade was low enough that the way to end population growth here was to end all immigration.”

He turned his attention to NumbersUSA and its executive director, Roy Beck. “[B]uried in PDFs is the real NumbersUSA agenda. Take a look for example at Page 8 of this PDF by the group, which goes off into a whole rant against a vast Catholic conspiracy to oppose abortion and birth control,” he notes. “Or take Page 189 of this PDF which outlines Beck’s green left agenda, including ‘Laws that force greater cuts in consumption and waste,’ and ‘Tougher enforcement of environmental laws.’”

One has to wonder that if conservatives would still support the work of restrictionist and anti-immigration organization if they had even a basic overview of its background in the zero-population growth movement. For now, just sit back and enjoy the irony.

How to Prove the Drug War Is Futile and Self-Defeating

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, One Minute Liberty Tip by Sharon Harris Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

“The Iron Law of Prohibition” offers you a powerful argument to help persuade others of the dangers of the War on Drugs.

white lightning (moonshine)The term was first used by Richard Cowan, longtime libertarian activist and former director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Cowan introduced the term and the concept behind it in a 1986 cover article for the conservative magazine National Review.

The idea is simple and powerful — and it undermines some of the major arguments for drug prohibition.

In a nutshell, the Iron Law of Prohibition says that the economics of black markets inevitably creates strong incentives for dealers to sell ever-stronger, ever-more-dangerous drugs. (I’ll explain that further in a moment.) So prohibition, rather than protecting the public, actually makes drugs ever more potent and ever more dangerous for drug users, the public, and law enforcement. Prohibition is thus extremely counterproductive — even by many of the stated goals of those who favor it.

As Cowan wrote in National Review: “The Iron Law of Drug Prohibition is that the more intense the law enforcement, the more potent the drugs will become.”

Why does this happen? It’s simple economics. When drugs are prohibited, they will continue to be produced and sold in black markets. And drug smugglers and drug sellers will invariably move to sell the drugs in the most concentrated and powerful forms possible. That’s because the more potent and concentrated forms use much less space to store and smuggle, and they sell for far more money, pound-for-pound.

It’s really just common sense. If alcohol is prohibited, bootleggers can smuggle bulky low potency beer, which sells for a low price, or high potency hard liquor, which takes up no more space than beer but sells for much more. Which do you think they will choose?

History confirms it. During alcohol Prohibition there was a huge shift from beer to hard liquor, as bootleggers began focusing on the higher profits of hard liquor — exactly as you would expect, given the Iron Law of Prohibition. Even hard liquor became “harder,” more potent. After Prohibition, consumers were again free to choose among competing products, and they resumed their pre-Prohibition move towards less potent (and less dangerous) drinks.

You can see The Iron Law of Prohibition at work in the War on Drugs. When bulky opium was made illegal around the turn of the century, refined high potency heroin quickly took its place. When marijuana was targeted, smugglers turned to other high-potency, less bulky, far easier to smuggle drugs like cocaine. Bulky bags of powder cocaine were in turn replaced by tiny pellets of highly addictive crack. The same process continues to bring such dubious innovations as crystal meth, dangerous and untested “designer drugs,” and other cheaper, more dangerous, more bang-for-the-buck drugs.

Cowan summarizes the Iron Law of Prohibition in bumper sticker form: “The harder the enforcement, the harder the drugs.”

It’s called “The Iron Law” because this effect is so predictable and invariable. It’s as rock-solid as the law of supply and demand. Or even the law of gravity.

Interestingly, the exact opposite tends to happen in legal markets. Consumers tend to prefer ever milder, less potent versions. Thus the popularity of beer over hard liquor.

The Iron Law of Prohibition means that the War on Drugs strategy is futile and fatally flawed. It will inevitably bring us ever stronger and more dangerous drugs, with the concurrent deaths, health problems, crime and so forth, until it is ended.

This argument can open minds. It may not by itself convince someone to turn against the Drug War, but it is a powerful and persuasive addition to your other arguments.

To learn more about The Iron Law of Prohibition, including other negative consequences of it, check out these resources from Mark Thornton, an economist who had done outstanding work in this field:


Walmart Surrenders to the Gun Control Lobby

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

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Walmart announced a new policy on Wednesday that it will no longer sell AR-15s and similar semiautomatic rifles, though it will continue to sell some firearms, such as pump-action shotguns and bolt-action rifles. The nation’s largest retailer and largest seller of firearms has long been a target of gun control organizations.

WalMartThe decision was made, according to a company spokesperson, due to the lack of “consumer demand.” In June, guns sales were up 11 percent, according to CNN Money, when “the FBI conducted nearly 1.53 million background checks” conducted by dealers with a Federal Firearms License (FFL).

“That’s the highest volume of checks in June since 1999,” CNN Money noted, “when the FBI started keeping track.” Although background checks are conducted for gun purchases from federally licensed dealers, the AR-15, the civilian version of the M16, is the most popular semiautomatic rifle on the market.

Depending on the estimate, Walmart sells firearms between one-third and half of its 4,500 stores in the United States, although the types of firearms now being discontinued from sale may not have been available at these stores. The gun control lobby has targeted Walmart for selling the AR-15 and similar semiautomatic weapons in the past.

In April, for example, Walmart successfully fought off a federal lawsuit filed by Trinity Church in Manhattan that would’ve allowed shareholders to vote on a proposal to prohibit the sale of semiautomatic weapons. Trinity Church, which has a history of leftist activism, is a shareholder of Walmart.

“The proposal asked that Wal-Mart’s Board of Directors oversee the development of policies to guide management’s decision whether or not Wal-Mart should sell products that are 1) especially dangerous to the public, 2) pose a substantial risk to company reputation and 3) would reasonably be considered offensive to the community and family values that Wal-Mart seeks to associate with its brand,” Rev. James Cooper wrote on the church’s blog in December 2014. “For instance, the decision to sell guns equipped with high capacity magazines seems inconsistent to Trinity (and we presume like-minded shareholders), given other merchandising decisions that Wal-Mart has made to protect its reputation and the public.”

CNN commentator Errol Lewis claimed Walmart was being inconsistent when the retailer pulled the Confederate battle flag from stores but not guns. Some leftist activists even cast some blame on Walmart in the wake of the 2012 Newtown shootings, in which a madman used an AR-15 and a handgun to slaughter 28 innocent people, mostly young children.

The criticism is unfounded, of course. Firearms are used overwhelming for defensive purposes, and most guns used in criminally violent acts are obtained through illicit means, such as theft or illegal purchases, or slipping through the background check process, like the Charleston shooter.

Efforts to ban the AR-15, through an assault weapons ban, wouldn’t have much of an effect, despite what gun control advocates may say. A 2013 memo from the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice noted that an assault weapons ban is “unlikely to have an effect on gun violence.” What’s more, the gun homicide rate has declined by 49 percent since 1993, according to data from Pew Research Center.

Perhaps it’s an effort to gain some “positive” media in the midst of slumping sales, who knows. But whatever the case may be, Walmart has, essentially, kowtowed to the pressure from the gun control lobby.

Blame Protectionist Policies for Oreo’s Exit from the United States

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

At the end of July, Mondelēz International, which owns the Oreo brand, announced that it would be moving the production of the delicious cream-filled sandwich cookie from Chicago, Illinois to a recently opened facility in Salinas, Mexico. Oreo’s move across the border will take with it 600 jobs.

Marilyn Katz, president of MK Communications, opined on the announcement at the Huffington Post, taking aim at Mondelēz International CEO Irene Rosenfeld. “Certainly Rosenfeld’s move is legal (although whether it should be is another question),” she complained. “But I can find no sense in which it is moral, just or defensible.”

Likewise, Donald Trump, ever the populist know-nothing, blasted the move during a rally last week in Mobile, Alabama. “You know Mexico is the new China. The other day Nabisco, Nabisco; Oreos, right, Oreos. I love Oreos, I’ll never eat them again, okay. Never eat them again,” Trump said. “Nabisco closes a plant, they just announced a couple days ago, in Chicago and they’re moving the plant to Mexico. Now, why? Why? Why?”

One conservative blogger has already opined that the United States’ corporate income tax, currently one of the highest in the world, may have something to do with the move. As a businessman, one would think that would’ve been easy conclusion for Trump.

Another logical conclusion is protectionist price supports that prop up sugar growers in the United States, which raise the cost of overhead to make sweet snacks and junk food. Oreo’s move to Mexico isn’t a new thing. The Wall Street Journal, in October 2013, noted that American-based candy producers were moving overseas, where sugar was available at a cheaper price.

“The leading ingredient in Oreos is sugar, and U.S. trade barriers currently require Americans to pay twice the average world prices for sugar,” Bryan Riley wrote at The Daily Signal. “Sugar-using industries now have a big incentive to relocate from the United States to countries where access to their primary ingredient is not restricted.”

Like the Export-Import Bank, the U.S. Sugar Program is a product of the New Deal, one that was seen by lawmakers as a temporary step to stabilize the economy in the aftermath of the Great Depression. It was supposed to end in 1940, but it has managed to stick around, usually reauthorized every five years in the farm bill, to placate sugar growers.

The sugar program, however, comes with a big price tag for consumers. “The resulting estimated costs to US consumers have averaged $2.4 billion per year, with producers benefiting by about $1.4 billion per year,” a 2011 study from the American Enterprise Institute noted. “So the net costs of income transfers to producers have averaged about $1 billion per year.” An estimate released by the Coalition for Sugar Reform pegs the cost to businesses and consumers at $3.5 billion.

It may be easy to ride the strong populist sentiment against corporations that are sending jobs oversea to score cheap political points, but Oreo’s move to Mexico is a result of a bad, market-distorting, and outdated policy that should come to an end.

Free to Be Stupid, College Students

in Freedom On Campus, Liberator Online by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

Last week, the Eta Chi chapter of Sigma Nu Fraternity at Old Dominion University made national news for hanging banners from a balcony with the messages: “Rowdy and fun—hope your baby girl is ready for a good time,” “Freshman daughter drop off,” and “Go ahead and drop mom off too…”.

The banners were displayed at an off-campus house and were seen by many visitors to the Virginia college town during move-in week. Concerned parents and students were quick to post photos of the banners on social media along with their reactions.



Old Dominion President John Broderick condemned Sigma Nu’s actions along with other university administrators.

Broderick wrote that a young woman told him she had seriously considered going back home after she saw the signs but was reassured when she read the responses from other students on social media. “She realized this callous and senseless act did not reflect the Old Dominion she has come to love.”

According to The Washington Post, Sigma Nu’s national organization has suspended the chapter pending an investigation. “Any Fraternity member found to be responsible for this reprehensible display will be held accountable by the Fraternity,” said a national Sigma Nu spokesperson.

Being suspended by the national fraternity basically means that all administrative and social activities for the chapter stop pending the outcome of whatever university hearings follow an investigation.

But, aren’t these students free to be stupid college students?

There’s no doubt that these banners were crude, tasteless and stupid, but the First Amendment protects them. They are classless, but not obscene. No specific person is being threatened or disparaged and they were not directed at anyone in particular.

Broderick associating the banners with sexual assault is a considerable exaggeration. Sigma Nu members didn’t threaten anyone with sexual assault and hanging some mildly suggestive signs does not constitute an act of violence.

ODU is a public university, and is obligated to extend First Amendment rights to its students. ODU also does not own the off-campus house and cannot dictate what is or isn’t hung from its balcony regardless of the student organization affiliation of the house.

However, the fraternity brothers responsible shouldn’t have been so quick to hang up suggestive banners.

Recent media attention at the University of Virginia and the University of Alabama have put fraternity and sorority life at the center of the culture war around Greek Life, sexual assault and bad PR.

Just last year, the Phi Kappa Psi chapter at UVA came under fire for an alleged gang rape as reported by the Rolling Stone. That story turned out to be fabricated, and the three fraternity brothers are requesting a trial by jury and are seeking more than $75,000 for “mental anguish and severe emotional distress,” caused by the article and its aftermath.

And in recent weeks, Alpha Pi sorority at the University of Alabama faced harsh backlash over a controversial recruitment video that some said lacked diversity and objectified women. The video was pulled from YouTube and has since been put back up.

Overall, these past two years have been difficult in the media for fraternities and sororities across the country.

Is ODU doing more harm than good by punishing the entire chapter of Sigma Nu over some dumb actions by a couple of members?

By punishing Sigma Nu, the university is teaching its students to not take responsibility for their own actions. If a student is made uncomfortable by any message, then it is up to the individual to choose not to associate with the organization or the individuals that share that message.

You Might Be the First…

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

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Recently, I attended an event with numerous political groups using that event to reach out to the community about their political party or movement.

While there, I witnessed some astonishing behavior posing as outreach, some of which I couldn’t believe. I offered some advice, though I’ll offer more here today.

firstThese days, my outreach activities are mostly internal, within the libertarian movement, though I do have significant experience “in the trenches.” Through that experience I took steps to learn how to improve the results, whether I was to persuading someone to re-examine their political home, convincing them to vote for my candidate, or introducing them to a new organization.

One of the best lessons I learned to improve my outreach was to constantly think to myself that “You might be the first libertarian this person has ever met.”

When you ARE that first libertarian contact, you are an ambassador to libertarianism.

You represent every libertarian in the movement at that point in time to that person. He or she will be left with a permanent impression, good or bad, about libertarians going forward.

First impressions matter.

If you leave a bad first impression, you’ve just made it that much harder for your fellow libertarians. They now have to overcome that negative impression to persuade that person to consider libertarian ideas. If you left a REALLY bad first impression, he or she might have told others about how terrible libertarians are.

Luckily, there are more libertarians today than ever. Since the Advocates’ founding in 1985, we’ve identified and recruited countless people to accept libertarian ideas, philosophy, and way of life. Even on college campuses, where freedom seems to be a dirty word, our partner organizations, Students for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty, have opened the door, as well as hearts and minds, to thousands that now yearn for a libertarian society.

Honestly, I hope that you are not the first libertarian contact. That is not because I think you will give a bad first impression. You’re clearly interested in being a better ambassador for libertarianism by keeping yourself informed about the libertarian movement and how you can be a better representative of the philosophy. I hope you are not the first libertarian contact because of the growth of the libertarian movement.

Whether or not you are the first, act like you are. I can guarantee the results are better when you do.

Freedom Is Indivisible

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Economic freedom. Civil freedom. Religious freedom. Sexual freedom. Personal freedom. Political freedom.

Freedom is popular.

freedomAs such, some attempt to position themselves as its champions, by defining which carefully-worded sliver of freedom they feel comfortable permitting you to exercise.

Libertarians believe that freedom, while formed from many components, is indivisible. 

While some may value their economic freedom over their political or civil freedom, without the political freedom to choose between candidates and ideas and civil liberties to ensure that government has not improperly imprisoned the dissidents, economic freedom cannot exist.

The freedom to live your religious convictions cannot survive in an environment without the freedom to choose your mate or to have the ability to support your church financially.

Essentially, each aspect of freedom is interdependent on the others, and when you try to dissect and distribute only parts of the whole, freedom does not really exist. When only slivers are permitted, none of us live free.

As documented in the Declaration of Independence, rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were paramount in the founding of America. Our freedom engenders our ability live our lives as we see fit without the force or coercion of others.

This week, our friends at The CATO Institute and the Fraser Institute released the Human Freedom Index, which “presents the state of human freedom in the world based on a broad measure that encompasses personal, civil, and economic freedom.”

As you will note, the United States is no longer the leading bastion of liberty we once were, falling to 20th out of 152 countries measured in the index. Expansion of the regulatory state, multiple “wars” (terror, drugs, poverty, etc.), and the victories of eminent domain and civil asset forfeiture over property rights all contribute to our loss of freedom. None of those factors is exclusively detrimental to one aspect of freedom, yet they all undermine our overall freedom.

So, the next time you hear someone espouse their love for their preferred aspect, remind them that freedom is indivisible, and that without all of it, none of us are truly free.

Immigration is Good for the Economy

in Immigration, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

The Republican presidential race has devolved into a contest about who can spew the most venom at immigrants. Make no mistake about it, the rhetoric on the campaign trail hasn’t been limited to illegal immigrants but even those who came to the United States through the legal process.

immigration at ellis islandMuch of the focus has been on the comments of Donald Trump, the businessman turned celebrity turned presidential candidate turned general annoyance of anyone who wants a serious discussion of the issues facing the United States.

Trump has already accused Mexico of “sending people that have lots of problems,” accusing immigrants from our neighbor to the south of being drug runners and criminals. Of course, that isn’t true. But Trump has continues to spout of this nonsense to appeal to a certain segment of the public that, simply put, just doesn’t like people of color.

On Tuesday evening, for example, Trump told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that he wants to eliminate citizenship for children who are born to immigrant parents in the United States. He actually said that Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to people “born or naturalized in the United States”, is “unconstitutional.”

“What happens is, they’re in Mexico, they’re going to have a baby, they move over here for a couple of days, they have the baby,” Trump said on The O’Reilly Factor. “It’s not going to hold up in court, it’s going to have to be tested.”

Yes, seriously. He said that, and it’s painfully ignorant of, you know, the Constitution – the “supreme law of the land.”

Other Republicans contenders have made equally asinine comments. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon turned presidential candidate, said he wants to use militarized drones to police the southern border.

“We can use a whole series of things to do that, not just fences and walls but electronic surveillance, drones and many of the techniques that are used to keep people out of top secret places,” Carson told a crowd in Phoenix on Wednesday. “All of those things are available to us. We have the ability to do it; we just don’t have the will to do it. That will change when we have the right administration in place.”

“The reason that is so important—a lot of people think there are just people coming from the south of the border—there are radical global jihadists who want to destroy us and our way of life and we have to keep them out. We have to make it not easy for them to get in here. This is a matter of our own security,” he said. “Then once we have that border sealed, we have to turn off the spigot that dispenses the goodies. If there are no goodies, guess what? They won’t come. It won’t be worth trying to get through our borders if there are no goodies. That includes employment—we should make it illegal to employ people in this country who are not legally here.”

Carson’s nativist logic – which has been repeated by a handful of other Republican contenders – is baseless. Immigrants contribute to the economy. A 2006 study conducted by the Texas Comptroller found that immigrants contributed $17.7 billion to the state’s economy and paid $1.58 billion in taxes, more than the $1.16 billion they consumed in services.

On the whole, immigration, much like trade, is a net-benefit for the economy. This doesn’t mean that immigration reform proposals in previous congresses were worth passing, but as a general principle, immigration is a good thing. Republican candidates need to stop demagoguing this issue and propose serious policies to educate to the party’s base rather than appealing to the lowest common dominator of it.

A New Mandatory Minimum for Illegal Immigration is a Costly Bad Idea

in Criminal Justice, Immigration, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

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Senate Republicans plan to bring to legislation to the floor in September that will target so-called “sanctuary cities” that provide a safe haven for illegal immigrants. The bill, according to a Politico report last month, “would block funding for cities and other local governments that decline to cooperate with federal immigration officials.”

mandatory minimum  sentencingThere’s a recent wrinkle in that a) doesn’t make much sense and b) could undermine efforts in Congress to reform America’s criminal justice system. In response to the tragic murder of Kate Steinle at the hands of an illegal immigrant, some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, want this proposal attached to the sanctuary cities bill.

“Kate’s Law” would require a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for any immigrant who re-enters the United States illegally. Those who are lobbying for the measure, either professionally or through citizen activism, don’t seem to understand the costs associated with housing federal prisoners.

On average, the annual price tag for incarcerating a federal inmate is around $30,000. Multiplied by five years; that’s $150,000 to incarcerate someone who those pushing for the bill don’t want here, anyway.

Greg Newburn of Families Against Mandatory Minimums notes that this isn’t a small sum, given the number of people incarcerated for illegal re-entry in the most recent fiscal year for which data are available. “According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 16,556 offenders were sentenced for illegal reentry in FY 2014,” Newburn writes, ” 98.6% of those offenders were sentenced to prison; the average sentence was 17 months.”

“If they all received five-year mandatory minimums rather than the average sentences of 17 months, new incarceration costs would be $1.78 billion per year. That’s nearly $2 billion that could be spent on finding, arresting, and prosecuting violent undocumented immigrants that will instead have to be spent on incarcerating people [who’ve re-entered the United States illegally],” he added.

Not only does “Kate’s law” fail to make any fiscal sense, it could undermine movement on criminal justice reform, which is currently a topic of serious discussion in both chambers of Congress. Much of the logic behind this effort is that there are too many people in prison and mass incarceration is too expensive.

Although he’s been a reluctant participant, Grassley led discussions in the Senate Judiciary Committee to bring legislation that would include some mandatory minimum sentences, though the expansion of the federal safety valve, and prison reforms to reduce the likelihood that offenders will engage in recidivist behavior.

Enacting a new and very costly mandatory minimum sentence defeats the purpose of criminal justice reform. In fact, this is how mass incarceration in the United States really took off. Congress enacted harsh sentences, including mandatory minimum sentences, as a reaction to a problem. As well intended as these policies were, they haven’t been an effective deterrent to crime. This proposed mandatory sentence won’t be any different.

You Can’t Force a Person to Learn Something

in Conversations With My Boys, Education, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

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Me: Can I force you to learn something?
The Young Statesman (then 12): No. You can not.
Me: So, if I sat you down and did chemistry lessons with you and threatened to….
You can't force someone to learnYS: Take something away?
Me: Yes. Take something away. If I threaten to take something away if you don’t do well on a chemistry test I give you will that make you learn it?
YS: I’ll learn it, I’ll spit it out, and then I’ll forget it.
Me: Isn’t that learning?
YS: No. That isn’t learning. That’s wasting time.
Me: What if I gave you an incentive to do well on a chemistry test. Will that make you learn it?
YS: If I don’t want to learn it, I won’t learn it. I’ll just memorize it, spit it back out at you, and forget it.
Me: What about subjects that are important?
YS: Important to whom?
Me: To many adults.
YS: Does that mean it’s important to me? If I don’t want to learn it, I will not learn it.
Me: Some people say if you don’t learn a thing when you’re young then that field will be closed to you when you’re older.
YS: Like what?
Me: We could say science. If you aren’t exposed to science when you’re young….
YS: You won’t be exposed to it again? You weren’t exposed to libertarian thought and Austrian economics when you were young and look at you. You’re running a page with over 25 thousand likes.
Me: What you’re saying is that I’m teaching people about liberty and Austrian economics and I wasn’t exposed to it as a child.
YS: Right. You were never exposed to that when you were little. Just because you weren’t exposed to it then doesn’t mean you won’t be great at it later.
Me: You’ve watched me teach myself, haven’t you?
YS: I have. I’ve watched you teach yourself a lot. I’ve watched you teach other people, too.
Me: You’ve watched me tutor. You’ve been in the room with me when I’ve tutored. What have you learned by watching students struggle with subjects they’ve been told are “important” but aren’t aren’t important to them?
YS: They want to make their teachers happy but the subjects aren’t important to them so they aren’t going to excel. Daisy was an artist. They were trying to cram all sorts of other stuff into her.
Me: What did that do to her?
YS: You had to re-school her.
Me: What do you think was the most important thing for her?
YS: Art. She was a wonderful artist. You let her focus on that.
Me: Someone had told her it was more important that she be a mediocre, miserable student than a fantastic artist. One would have to be blind to miss that she was an artist.
YS: She was told doing what she was good at wasn’t as important as what the teachers thought was important.
Me: And what did the teachers think was important?
YS: Everyone being the same was important. Following the curriculum was important. Art wasn’t important.
Me: It’s like a factory isn’t it? It makes one product.
YS: No variations. All the same thing.
Me: Does that work with people? Who does it reward?
YS: The state gets a nice new batch of uniform people.
Me: What happens to people like Daisy who are brilliant in something the school doesn’t value?
YS: Their talent gets squashed. I’ve noticed that you tutor the brilliant people. It’s the creative people who don’t do well in the school system.
Me: I would say that every child I’ve tutored had a burning passion that was being neglected or misdirected or devalued. I don’t think there’s one child I’ve worked with who wasn’t obviously being sold short. Can you imagine being a fantastic artist and having to sit in classes that bored you, that you weren’t interested in, that you actively hated and that you were failing every day of your life?
YS: I can not imagine how bad that would be. That would basically be the first eighteen years of your life thrown away.
Me: It would be worse than wasting it. It would be eighteen years of being told that you weren’t good enough. It would be a daily attack. We were talking about whether or not you can force a person to learn something.
YS: You can’t force a person to learn something.
Me: I was required to teach Daisy certain subjects. Do you think they stuck?
YS: No. She probably forgot them. It was probably a big waste of her time and your time.
Me: What do you think she remembered?
YS: That you let her do what she loved to do. That you understood what her talent was.
Me: I wish we had spent more time on art with her.
YS: She was a lot happier here than in school.

More Fit Than Fat

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

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Recently, I saw an example that made me think about this piece I wrote a while back about how we test, punish, and exclude new people in our circles.

It is a new year, and like every January that I remember, many of us make resolutions to improve an aspect or two of our lives. Some of us want to spend more of our time and attention with loved ones. Others want to improve our health by kicking a bad habit, watching what we eat, or increasing the frequency with which we exercise.

I love seeing people make positive changes in their lives. It’s exciting. Lately though, I have noticed something of a trend among the more fitness-focused in my network. I do not mean the folks who joined a gym the last week of December or were “waiting until after the holidays” to start working on attaining a six-pack before swimsuit season. I mean the guys and gals who are pumping iron, taking a spin class, or running treadmill marathons every day (or so it seems).

fitThe trend I see is a tendency to begrudge having all these new bodies at the gym. I see tweets complaining about full parking lots that will be “back to normal by February,” Instagram photos of a rookie misusing equipment, and Facebook posts poking fun at someone who just began their quest to be more fit than fat.

This trend is recent, but feels very familiar. The familiarity I feel comes from some within the libertarian movement, who challenge, ridicule, and belittle new and prospective libertarians. My hope is that this is not being done intentionally.

I am sure you have seen a “seasoned” libertarian speaking to someone whose interest in freedom is relatively young. They are pontificating about the fundamentals of natural rights and natural law, quoting long passages from Mises’ Human Action, or challenging a new libertarian’s view on a principle or issue of which they have yet to consider or examine the “proper” libertarian position. Perhaps you have seen another longtime libertarian list all of the “essential” books on their bookshelf, intimating that until they have been read, no ounce of libertarianism resides within this n00b. Possibly, you have borne witness to a game I like to call “The Biggest Libertarian in the Room,” where the “winner” is a jerk who made everyone else feel like they are not libertarian enough to even remain there. Noted libertarian communicator Michael Cloud would probably classify each of these as examples of the “Libertarian Macho Flash.”

If you identify as having done any of the above or variants thereof, I ask that you think back to the time when you first found that thirst for liberty. You may not have protested the Federal Reserve on the first day after you realized your newfound political lifestyle. You may not have committed the entire e-book collection of the Mises Institute to memory during your first month as a new libertarian. You may not have begun to look for the unintended consequences in every new governmental proposal or program.

I admit that I am probably guilty of some variation of those dastardly deeds outlined above in the past, and, for that, I ask forgiveness. Today, however, is a new day where I know better than to run off the newly-interested while flexing my libertarian muscles and showing off my libertarian bonafides. I hope this opened your eyes to some of these behaviors, and you will join me in welcoming these new eyes, ears, hearts, and minds to the beauty of our philosophy.

The Risky Business of Communicating Liberty

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, One Minute Liberty Tip by Sharon Harris Comments are off

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Nobel Prize-winning libertarian economist Milton Friedman was one of the earliest prominent public advocates of ending the War on Drugs.

In a 1991 interview on “America’s Drug Forum,” a national PBS public affairs talk show, Friedman made this excellent point:

risky business“The case for prohibiting drugs is exactly as strong and as weak as the case for prohibiting people from overeating.

“We all know that overeating causes more deaths than drugs do. If it’s in principle OK for the government to say you must not consume drugs because they’ll do you harm, why isn’t it all right to say you must not eat too much because you’ll do harm?

“Why isn’t it all right to say you must not try to go in for skydiving because you’re likely to die? Why isn’t it all right to say, ‘Oh, skiing, that’s no good, that’s a very dangerous sport, you’ll hurt yourself’? Where do you draw the line?”

This is a powerful argument for persuading others of the unfairness of the War on Drugs.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Overweight and obesity are leading risks for global deaths. Around 3.4 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, being overweight or obese “substantially increase[s] the risk of morbidity from hypertension, dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, and sleep apnea and respiratory problems, as well as cancers of the endometrium, breast, prostate, and colon. Higher body weights are also associated with an increase in mortality from all causes.”

Scary stuff! Yet no one — well, almost no one — would support a violent War on Eating Too Much Food, with armed Food Police breaking into fast food joints and homes to stop people from overeating. Few would support outlawing common foods associated with obesity, despite the documented dangers and huge social costs.

And what about swimming?

According to the Center for Disease Control, about 3,600 people — many of them children — die annually from accidental drowning, the fifth largest cause of accidental death in the United States. Yet we allow adults and children complete freedom to swim.

Disturbing research finds that football, boxing, hockey and other contact sports can cause severe and permanent brain damage. Yet millions of Americans still support and participate in these sports.

There are countless other risky activities we casually accept. Bungee jumping looks crazy to me, riding a motorcycle isn’t my thing, and I won’t be gazing down at the world from atop Mount Everest. But I strongly support and defend the right of others to engage in these things – along with the great majority of Americans.

Indeed, the freedom to make risky choices in such personal matters is a bedrock American value. Most people today make exceptions to this value only in certain narrow areas — most notably drugs. (And just some drugs, of course — not, for instance, liquor and tobacco, to bring up another wild inconsistency.)

When you use comparisons and concrete examples like the ones above, you help your listeners grasp the unfairness, injustice and inconsistency of the War on Drugs. It can be very effective to have specific numbers and reliable sources when making these comparisons, as I’ve done here, but just citing any risky but legal activity can open minds.

Try it — the risk is yours to take!

Thanks to Carpe Diem, Mark Perry’s outstanding economic blog, for recently mentioning Milton Friedman’s interview, which can be read in its entirety here.

That interview is also in the superb book Friedman & Szasz On Liberty and Drugs: Essays on the Free Market and Prohibition (1992), which features essays by Friedman and the great libertarian psychiatrist Thomas Szasz.

381 Million Taxpayer Dollars Turned to Sludge

in Environment and Energy, Issues, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

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On Aug. 5, a team of workers contracted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spilled 3 million gallons of orange-colored waste from the Gold King Mine into the Animas River in Colorado. The pollutants flowed into New Mexico where it merged into the San Juan River, a critical source of water for Navajo communities.

Local citizens and lawmakers alike are outraged by the lack of transparency from the EPA for the spill and now, the amount of tax dollars given to the firm responsible.

Colorado and New Mexico are now in a state of emergency because of the accident.

RiverNew Mexico governor Susana Martinez said in a press release that she is “concerned about the EPA’s lack of communication and inability to provide accurate information.” Stating that, “one day the spill is 1 million gallons, the next day, 3 million.”

Part of the frustration is the EPA’s failure to disclose the name of the contractor responsible to law makers and media outlets.

However, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that a Missouri-based firm, Environmental Restoration LLC (ER), was the “contractor whose work caused a mine spill in Colorado that released an estimated 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into a major river system.”

According to a WSJ review of data, ER received $381 million in government contracts since October 2007, approximately $364 million from the EPA and $37 million from work performed in Colorado.

That $381 million is a large chunk of change for taxpayers to spend to have pollutants that were carried to the Shiprock community on the Navajo reservation.

Despite preliminary tests showing minimum adverse health effects, Shiprock Chapter President Duane “Chili” Yazzie told CNN that he is waiting for a definitive all-clear before using river water on crops.

“Our community here, the very critical nature of our predicament is that we are a river-based community and we’re a strong agricultural community and the impact is very, very tremendous,” Yazzie said.

Around 750 families rely on the river to grow melons, corn and other crops.

According to CNN, the Navajo Nation is the first to announce legal action against the federal government. Yazzie said the EPA didn’t alert them about the spill until 24 hours after the incident, placing tribe members’ health at risk.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye told CNN that the spill will have a “destructive impact on the ecosystems…that the Navajo culture depends on.” Begaye also said that the Navajo Nation intends to “recover every dollar it spends on cleaning up up this mess and every dollar it loses as a result of injuries to our natural resources.”

Beyond the obvious economic impact, it is the cultural and traditional impact on the community that is the most agonizing.

The river represents a spiritual element that is the basis of the tradition of the Navajo religion and for it to be harmed is spiritually, emotionally and psychologically very difficult, Yazzie said.

Libertarianism in Pop Culture

in Communicating Liberty, From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

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There is no shortage of “libertarian books,” whether you mean fiction works like Orwell’s 1984Huxley’s Brave New World, and any of Heinlein’s sci-fi, or more academic non-fiction texts like Hazlitt’s Economics in One LessonMises’ Human Action, or Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom.

How many of you became libertarians because someone handed you a book to read?

I didn’t. I don’t remember when a “libertarian switch” turned on, but I do remember when former talk-radio host Neal Boortz shared that my political philosophy had a name… libertarian.

Libertarians recognize that every individual is different. To me, that means that what opens one person’s mind to libertarianism may not work with another. Each individual’s path to libertarianism is different, and I think that many can be reached by the “normalization” of libertarianism and libertarians in popular culture.

As with any change to the status quo, a political change happens behind the wave of change in popular opinion. Popular culture plays a large role in that, and we are on track to have libertarian thought remain a part of that conversation.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss EverdeenThere is a wave of anti-authoritarian messaging in many popular teen novels that became blockbuster movies like The Hunger Games and Divergent series with strong female leads like Katniss and Tris exercising independent will and standing up to tyrannical central authorities. We see similar messaging in animated films like The LEGO Movie (which I LOVE) and The Nut Job for younger audiences.

Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson was a libertarian hero for many, and Community’s Jeff Winger and Californication’s Hank Moody both self-identified as libertarians. One of the longest running and most consistent libertarian television shows began my senior year of high school, South Park. On a recent flight, I even read this book about the libertarian lessons the show contains, which begins its 19th season next month.

The stand-up comedy world also features Doug Stanhope and Joe Rogan, while actors like Vince Vaughn, Dax Shepard, and Glenn Jacobs recently “came out” as libertarian thinkers. Recently, musicians Big Boi (from the hip hop group, OutKast), country music singer Kacey Musgraves, and Aimee Allen released songs with strong libertarian messages. Former MTV VJs Kennedy and Kurt Loder mix pop culture and political leanings for Reason and Fox Business, respectively.

We’ve collected quite a few libertarian celebrities here, and we plan to update that list shortly with many new additions this fall.

It’s a start, and we have a long way to go, but there’s hope still with all of the non-political avenues noted above that we can reach and recruit new libertarians. Let’s make sure we support the artists and commentators that share our views to keep them in the public eye.

Will you commit to that with me?

Audit the Fed Could Come Up for a Vote in the Senate

in Audit the Fed, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, Monetary Policy, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

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Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced on Tuesday several amendments that he plans to offer to the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), a controversial bill that could come up for a final vote in the upper chamber later this week. While most of the amendments are privacy-focused, one of them would require an audit of the Federal Reserve.

audit the fedPaul picked up the “audit the Fed” cause from his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, after his exit from Congress in January 2013. The amendment appears to be the exact same language of Paul’s Federal Reserve Transparency Act, S. 264, which was introduced in January. To date, the bill has 32 cosponsors. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., has introduced companion legislation in the House, H.R. 24, which is co-sponsored by 184 of his colleagues.

The amendment Paul plans to offer – that is, if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., doesn’t use procedural tactics to block them – would require the Federal Reserve to give information – such as discussion between the central bank the Treasury Department and transactions with foreign banks – currently excluded from audits conducted by Government Accountability Office under 31 U.S. Code § 714(b).

“A complete and thorough audit of the Fed will finally allow the American people to know exactly how their money is being spent by Washington. The Fed currently operates under a cloak of secrecy and it has gone on for too long,” Paul said in a release on Tuesday. “The American people have a right to know what the Federal Reserve is doing with our nation’s money supply, and the time to act is now.”

The House, in July 2012 and September 2014, passed iterations of the Federal Reserve Transparency Act by strong, bipartisan margins. The Senate, then controlled by Democrats, never took the bills up for a vote.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has firmly stated her opposition to transparency at the central bank, claiming that it would threaten its independence. “Back in 1978 Congress explicitly passed legislation to ensure that there would be no GAO audits of monetary policy decision-making, namely policy audits,” Yellen said in December. “I certainly hope that will continue, and I will try to forcefully make the case for why that’s important.”

Any attempt at an real audit of the Federal Reserve would face challenges should Congress actually pass it. The White House, in February, announced its opposition to the bill, calling the measure “dangerous.”

Created by an act of Congress in 1913, perhaps one of the worst years for liberty, the Federal Reserve holds a tremendous amount of influence over the economy. Despite the arguments against stronger audits, the power the central bank holds means more transparency is necessary. The American people have a right to know what the Fed is up to.

Would You Double Down on Big Government?

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Walk the Walk by Brett Bittner Comments are off

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Last month, after serving mid to low-income neighborhoods for nearly 60 years, Double 8 Foods made the decision to close all five of their Indianapolis locations following many years of declining revenues. Immediately, community leaders turned to city government for an answer, asking the Mayor to find a workable solution. The “food desert” in areas that could not support the chain’s five locations quickly became an issue for candidates in this fall’s mayoral election.

double downRather than waiting the couple weeks it took to begin “talks” with Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, one prominent community leader took only a few days to mobilize a shuttle service to minimize the impact of the stores’ closures in the short-term. That leader is Senior Pastor of Barnes United Methodist Church on Indianapolis’ westside Charles R. Harrison.

Waiting for Big Government to come along to solve this problem is not an option for Harrison and the area churches in the communities that these stores served. They jumped into action by providing transportation with their church vans from the now-closed Double 8 stores to other grocery stores unreachable by foot and cumbersome to navigate by IndyGo, Indianapolis’ mass transit bus system.

Reverend Harrison also led by example, driving the shuttle himself while recruitment efforts for volunteers to handle the thrice-daily trips for the neighborhood bore fruit. Churches in the affected areas quickly followed suit, shuttling dozens of former Double 8 shoppers to Aldis, Safeways, and Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets just a few miles away.

One candidate for Indianapolis mayor identified it as a problem, pledging “to work with state, federal and local leaders to explore bringing more food options to the city,” while the other wants to use “economic incentives” to attract grocery retailers to these areas and use the tax dollars collected to fund neighborhood improvements. Both mayoral candidates clearly favor a slow-moving Big Government solution, while residents seek to meet the immediate need of stocking their pantries and refrigerators.

While Harrison’s efforts are clearly an interim measure to minimize the pain felt by area residents, it provides a bridge to what happens next in the city, in a peaceful and voluntary way. This week, donations to defray the costs of the shuttle service began to appear at the church and at the shuttle stops, so it’s possible this initiative may become a full-fledged program until new or existing grocers, co-ops, or community gardens fill the void.

Isn’t it awesome when people come together without coercion or force to do some good?

Now that you see how immediately someone can act to help the most vulnerable among us without outsourcing responsibility to Big Government, what can you do in your neighborhood or city to address an issue before government can step in and likely make things worse, like they did recently?

Just two years ago, Midwest retailer Meijer showed interest in building a superstore that included full grocery options just a mile and a half south of the closed Double 8 where Reverend Harrison’s shuttle meets riders daily. The store’s planned footprint would have required Meijer to purchase 35 area homes for demolition, many of which were already abandoned by their owners, but “not in my backyard activists” swarmed to have the city stop the proposed build, pushing Meijer out of the project and across town by almost six miles or nearly an hour by city bus.

In past messages I’ve asked that you no longer outsource responsibility to government to help those in need. In just over a week, there is an example that I can reference that is local.

Can you imagine the positive response you could elicit if you took on the challenge of solving an issue in your neighborhood or city?

As a former school board member, I can tell you that access to books is an issue in many neighborhoods, and a small book drive for families in your area or a Little Free Library would make a world of difference.

As someone who lives in an urban area, I can attest to the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in the “food deserts.” Some urban gardeners could teach valuable skills, while providing some fresh food alternatives to the processed and pre-packaged junk available in convenience stores and drive thrus.

As a firm believer in being a positive example for someone, I cannot begin to tell you how much just a couple hours a month as a mentor can change the life of someone who needs to know that there is more in their future than what they may have today.

Will you take a look and see how you can be a shining libertarian example and solve a problem without Big Government?

Your Electricity Rates May Necessarily Skyrocket

in Economic Liberty, Environment and Energy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Back in 2007, during his initial run for the presidency, Barack Obama, then the junior senator from Illinois, said that his energy proposals would “bankrupt” a company looking to build a new coal plant. For consumers, he said, “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”

As President, Obama has sought to implement those policies through legislation, though he has been largely unsuccessful. Since Obama can’t get his agenda through Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has, at the direction of the White House, promulgated regulations to clamp down on emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants.

The EPA rule, which was formally rolled out on Monday, directs these plants to reduce their carbon emissions by 32 percent of 2005 levels over the next 25 years. “We only get one home. We only get one planet. There is no plan B,” Obama said in a speech hailing the new rule. “I don’t want my grandkids to not be able to swim in Hawaii, or not to be able to climb a mountain and see a glacier, because we didn’t do something about it.”

The alarmist rhetoric may be a nice touch, but the rule is going to have negative consequences that will lead to job losses. In April, the American Action Forum noted that 93 power plants, representing some 80,000 jobs, would be in jeopardy because of the rule.

“As we predicted, EPA’s proposed federal implementation (FIP) entails two emissions trading schemes. Of course, Congress has expressly and repeatedly rejected such ‘cap and trade’ schemes, which raises an obvious question: Why is it appropriate for EPA to impose major policies that were refused by Congress? In practice, emissions are virtually synonymous with energy use, and, as a result, EPA’s FIP is not inaccurately labeled an energy rationing program,” said William Yeatman, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Talk about mission creep!”

Consumers, too, will feel the impact. Take, for example, the “clean coal” power plant in Kemper County, Mississippi. The $6.2 billion (originally $4.7 billion) plant, owned by the Southern Company, has been the hailed as example of what the administration hopes to see in the future. But the plant has been plagued by significant cost overruns, which were initially passed onto consumers in the form of a 15 percent rate hike. The Mississippi Supreme Court intervened in the matter and ordered refunds.

Consumers exposed to the EPA’s new climate rule may not be so lucky. It’s expected to cost as much as $479 billion between 2017 and 2031, and there’s no guarantee that it will have any measurable impact. Of course, this rule isn’t about climate change; it’s about controlling Americans who have no choice but to spend more of their money because of regulations that will boost favored businesses selling their products to plants hoping to comply with rules created by the fourth branch of the federal government.

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