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Libertarianism and Forced Testimony in Courts

in Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: In a libertarian society, when marriage becomes a private institution, what will happen to the right of a person not to be forced to testify against their spouse in a court of law?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, no peaceful person could be forced to do anything, including testify against another. Today’s government simply threatens people with prison and fines unless they give information, often at great cost to themselves (e.g., missing work).

Does this mean if you were charged with murder that the witness who could save you wouldn’t testify? Probably not. Witnesses could be reimbursed for lost work and other expenses for testifying, so their cost would be minimal. Withholding crucial information would likely be considered socially unacceptable. Few people would want to be embarrassed by a public announcement that they had done so — and caused an innocent person to suffer.

Even today, it’s almost impossible to force someone to testify truthfully. Witnesses lie to protect themselves and others, even under oath. That’s probably the real reason that spouses can’t be forced to testify today: they are the ones most likely to twist the truth for the benefit of their loved ones.

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for further reading on this topic from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

Free or Compulsory Speech“ by Murray N. Rothbard. The great libertarian thinker Murray Rothbard explores this issue with his characteristic vigor and consistency in this article, which first appeared in Libertarian Review in November 1978.

Excerpt: “The most flagrant example of continuing compulsory speech takes place in every courtroom in our land: the compulsory bearing of witness. Now surely each person is the absolute owner of his or her own body; as the owner of his own body, only the individual should decide on whether or not to speak in any given situation, and there should be no compulsion upon him to talk or not to talk. And yet in every court, witnesses are dragged in by force (the subpoena power) and compelled to bear witness for or against other people.”

Why Isn’t the Libertarian Movement Bigger and More Successful?

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion PowerPoint section in Volume 19, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Reading diet books won’t make you thin.

Reading exercise books won’t make you fit.

Reading libertarian books won’t make you free.

If you want small government and freedom, you must act.

Not just once. Regularly, repeatedly, relentlessly.

In 1995, I gave speeches at a number of Libertarian Party state conventions. After one of these speeches, a man in his thirties asked me, “Why aren’t there more women here?”

“How many women did you bring?” I asked.

“None,” he said.

“How many women did you invite?” I asked.

“None,” he said.

“How many women did you tell about this Libertarian convention?” I asked.

“None.”

“So, what’s your answer to your question? Why aren’t more women here?”

“Because I didn’t tell them, I didn’t invite them, I didn’t bring them…” he answered.

Why isn’t the libertarian movement bigger?

How many people have you shared libertarian ideas with in the last seven days?

How many people have you forwarded libertarian essays and articles to in the last seven days? How many times have you shared libertarian ideas, essays, and articles with each of them?

How many people have you invited to sign up for a free subscription to the Liberator Online?

How many people have you invited to support the vital work of the Advocates for Self-Government — so the Advocates can reach and teach more people?

What have you done to bring more people into the libertarian movement in the last seven days? What will you do to make the libertarian movement bigger in the next seven days?

Why isn’t the libertarian movement more successful?

In the last seven days, what have you done to make it more successful?

Have you used Advocates tools — like OPH and the World’s Smallest Political Quiz — to effectively reach new people and bring them into the liberty movement?

Have you done volunteer work for a libertarian political campaign? Have you donated to the campaign — so they can reach more people?

Reading diet books won’t make you thin.

Reading exercise books won’t make you fit.

Reading libertarian books won’t make you free.

If you want a bigger and more successful libertarian movement, YOU must act.

Not just once. Regularly, repeatedly, relentlessly.

What are YOU going to do?

They Said It

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

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

LIBERTARIANS, REPEAT AFTER ME: “Libertarians, repeat after me. The goal is Jeffrey Tuckerhuman liberty. The dream is human liberty. The ideal is human liberty. The end is human liberty. Therefore the subject is human liberty. And what does liberty encompass? All things wonderful, productive, beautiful, creative, magnificent. It’s because you believe in these things that you are a libertarian. Anything that distracts from human liberty, much less contradicts that, is irrelevant to the libertarian message. Don’t get distracted. Please. Civilization needs your voice, your passion, your love.” — libertarian writer and entrepreneur Jeffrey Tucker, Facebook, October 12, 2013.

Justice Antonin ScaliaJUDGE SCALIA: MASS ROUND-UPS, IMPRISONMENT COULD HAPPEN (AGAIN): “Well, of course, Korematsu [1944 US Supreme Court decision upholding mass incarceration of Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II] was wrong. And I think we have repudiated in a later case. But you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again. ‘Silent enim leges inter arma.’ [In times of war, the laws fall silent.] That’s what was going on — the panic about the war and the invasion of the Pacific and whatnot. That’s what happens. It was wrong, but I would not be surprised to see it happen again, in time of war. It’s no justification but it is the reality.” — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaking to law students at the University of Hawaii law school, Feb. 3, 2014.

THE WAR ON DRUGS VS PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN: “Our drug policy ofEugene Robinson prohibition and interdiction makes it difficult and dangerous for people like Hoffman to get high, but not impossible — and it makes these tragic overdose deaths more common than they have to be. The obvious problem is that when an addict buys drugs on the street, he or she has no way of knowing how pure the product is and what else it might contain. …As long as this commerce is illegal, it is totally unregulated. Since we know that addicts will continue to buy drugs on the street, we also know that some will die from drugs that are either too potent or adulterated with other substances that could make them lethal. Is this really the intent of our drug policy? To invite users to kill themselves?” — syndicated columnist Eugene Robinson, “Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death shows that we’re losing this drug war,” Feb. 3, 2014.

Vermont Governor Peter ShumlinVERMONT GOV. SAYS WAR ON DRUGS IS LOST: “We have lost the War on Drugs. The notion that we can arrest our way out of this problem is yesterday’s theory.” — Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, PBS Newshour, January 9, 2014.

NEW JERSEY GOV. CHRISTIE DENOUNCES “FAILED New Jersey Governor Chris ChristieWAR ON DRUGS”: “We will end the failed War on Drugs that believes that incarceration is the cure of every ill caused by drug abuse. We will make drug treatment available to as many of our non-violent offenders as we can and we will partner with our citizens to create a society that understands that every life has value and no life is disposable. We will fight to continue to change government so that we value our differences and honor the strength of our diversity.” — Gov. Chris Christie‘s inaugural speech, Jan. 21, 2014.

Erick EricksonLAISSEZ FAIRE: “You know what the government can do for me? Leave me the hell alone. They can’t get us through airports without groping us, they can’t deliver our mail without a bailout, they can’t fight a war without turning the military into a sociological experiment, and they can’t manage healthcare without 404 errors, death panels, and rigged numbers to hide massive debt. Leave us alone. … If they’d just leave us alone, I suspect we’d be just fine, have more freedom, and Main Street could be productive again.” — conservative commentator Erick Erickson, “Leave Us Alone,” RedState.com,  January 28th, 2014.

GOP Denounces NSA Spying as Unconstitutional; Calls for Repeal, Investigation

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Hey: the Republican Party National Committee has gone all Edward Snowden on us.

In what TIME magazine calls “the latest indication of a growing libertarian wing of the GOP,” the Republican National Committee (RNC) passed a Resolution on January 24 calling for Republicans in Congress to conduct a public investigation into the “gross infringement” of Americans’ rights by National Security Agency programs and to repeal much of the NSA’s PRISM surveillance programs on Americans.

The “Resolution to Renounce the National Security Agency’s Surveillance Program” denounces what it called the “largest surveillance effort ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens… the surveillance of U.S. citizens on a vast scale and [the monitoring of the] searching habits of virtually every American on the internet…”

The remarkable document, while not binding on any GOP member, passed by an overwhelming majority voice vote.

The Resolution boldly declares that “the mass collection and retention of personal data is in itself contrary to the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution” and says “unwarranted government surveillance is an intrusion on basic human rights that threatens the very foundations of a democratic society and this [PRISM] program represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association and the right to privacy and goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act…”

Further, the Republican National Committee “encourages Republican lawmakers to enact legislation to amend Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make it clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity, phone records and correspondence — electronic, physical, and otherwise — of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court…” and they urge Republican lawmakers “to call for a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying…”

This committee, says the RNC, “should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance as well as hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance…”

Good stuff! And there’s more. You can read the whole Resolution at TIME’s web site.

However, you’d also be wise to be skeptical, as journalist John Glaser astutely notes at Reason.com’s blog. After all, reminds Glaser, this is “the party that stood by President George W. Bush when he secretly (and illegally) ordered the NSA to spy on the domestic communications of Americans without any warrants at all.”

VIDEO: Get Rid of the U.S. Department of Un-Education

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“The Department of Education should be closed and its programs terminated,”says the Cato Institute. “Federal intervention into the nation’s schools has consumed great deals of taxpayer money and created large bureaucracies to administer the funding and regulations. It has produced little, if any, improvement in academic results.”

Shutting down the Dept. of Un-Ed would also cut a whopping $50 billion badly-spent dollars annually off the federal budget. That’s about $400 per household – every year. Most people can probably find something better to do with that money.

In just two minutes and 20 seconds, this video from the Cato Institute provides some genuinely shocking figures about the U.S. Department of Un-Education, and introduces the powerful case for eliminating it altogether.

Share it with friends. Open some minds.

And if they (or you) want more info, Cato’s got it right here.

Libertarian Party Response to 2014 State of the Union Address: “Americans’ Rights Violated Like Never Before”

in Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Party by James W. Harris Comments are off
(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)
Perhaps you heard President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address and the GOP responses.The Libertarian Party responded as well, lambasting the Big Government policies of both parties and offering a pro-liberty alternative in a hard-hitting statement from Executive Director Wes Benedict.
Naturally the mass media declined to carry it, but don’t let that stop you State of the Union Responsefrom encountering a genuine libertarian State of the Union address. Some excerpts:
“Thanks to unprecedented levels of government interference and government coercion, Americans’ rights are violated like never before. We are harmed by taxes, regulations, prohibitions, and shocking privacy intrusions. …

“Our Libertarian hope is that we can convince enough Americans to change their minds. We hope voters will come to understand that government is force, and force is unjust.

“Here are some of the problems we see.

* The government debt situation is atrocious. Government debt is a terrible thing, because it forces future generations to pay off debts they never agreed to incur. From 2001 to 2008, George W. Bush doubled the debt, mostly with the support of a Republican Congress. Since 2009, Barack Obama and the Democrats (and Republicans) have nearly doubled it again. It doesn’t matter whether Republicans or Democrats control the government. Libertarians would quickly balance the budget by cutting spending on everything, including entitlements and the military.

* The employment situation is still pretty bad. Why? Because government gets in between employers and employees, and tries to dictate everything. Minimum wage laws, hiring laws, firing laws, subsidies, and business taxes all make it harder to create jobs and find jobs. These laws are supported by both Republicans and Democrats. Libertarians would eliminate the minimum wage, employment red tape, and business subsidies and taxes. …

* If there’s one thing we have learned since 2001, it’s that we can’t trust what government officials say. They lie. Bush and Cheney said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. James Clapper (Director of National Intelligence) said under oath that the NSA does not collect data on Americans. Those are a couple of the most outrageous lies, but there have been many others. The more power government has, the more government officials will have the opportunity and incentive to lie. Libertarians would greatly reduce government power. …

* How about the military? The Libertarian attitude is pretty simple: the U.S. military should leave other countries alone, even if their governments are unstable, and even if there are people living there who hate Americans. We need to cut military spending a whole lot. Try getting Republicans or Democrats to support ANY cuts to military spending. …

“All in all, the state of our union is a big mess created by Republicans and Democrats. Libertarians offer a path forward to peace and prosperity.”

And there’s lots more good stuff. You can read the rest of the statement at the Libertarian Party’s website.

Ex-TSA Agent: “We Laughed at, and Abused, American Citizens”

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“Dear America, I Saw You Naked. And Yes, We Were Laughing.”

That’s the title of a damning expose of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in Politico Magazine, subtitled “Confessions of an ex-TSA Agent” and written by former Transportation Security Officer Jason Harrington.

And yes, what ex-TSA agent Harrington reveals is probably exactly what you thought was going on.

Some excerpts:

“Just as the long-suffering American public waiting on those security lines suspected, jokes about the passengers ran rampant among my TSA colleagues… All the old, crass stereotypes about race and genitalia size thrived on our secure government radio channels.”

TSA X-Ray Scan

“We knew the full-body scanners didn’t work before they were even installed. …the machines were good at detecting just about everything besides cleverly hidden explosives and guns. The only thing more absurd than how poorly the full-body scanners performed was the incredible amount of time the machines wasted for everyone.”

“[W]e would also sometimes pull a passenger’s bag or give a pat down because he or she was rude. We always deployed the same explanation: ‘It’s just a random search.’”

“It was a job that had me patting down the crotches of children, the elderly and even infants as part of the post-9/11 airport security show.”

“In private, most TSA officers I talked to told me they felt the agency’s day-to-day operations represented an abuse of public trust and funds.”

“I was even required to confiscate nail clippers from airline pilots — the implied logic being that pilots could use the nail clippers to hijack the very planes they were flying.”

Racial profiling was standard, he says: “The thought nagged at me that I was enabling… government-sanctioned bigotry…”

His summing up: “As I saw it, $40 million in taxpayer dollars had been wasted on ineffective anti-terrorism security measures at the expense of the public’s health, privacy and dignity.”

One more thing: After the article appeared, Harrington tweeted this follow-up: “One thing I left out of that Politico piece: HELL YES airport employees often drink those bottles of alcohol you surrender at the checkpoint.”

Your government at work…

(Hat tip to: Tim Shoemaker’s article at Campaign for Liberty’s blog.)

Do You Prefer Cats, Dogs — Or Liberty?

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 2 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

As president of the organization that publishes the world’s first and most popular online political Quiz, I was naturally interested when TIME magazine posted an online political quiz this month in an article entitled “Your Personality Makes Your Politics.”

“Can TIME Predict Your Politics?” the article’s subhead asked.

Alas, for me — and, I suspect, many other readers — the answer was a resounding NO.

I took their quiz, and TIME’s description of my political views was wildly out of synch with what I believe. Not even remotely close. And I found some of the questions downright bewildering.

There are several reasons for this, which I’ll discuss in a moment.

But the main reason TIME got my position so very, very wrong is that my political view — libertarian — was not one of the possible answers.

Yes, that’s right. TIME’s quiz attempts to shoehorn every taker’s politics as some variant of liberal, conservative, or moderate.

TIME’s quiz uses the simplistic, inaccurate, discriminatory, discredited left-versus-right view of politics — which leaves out libertarians entirely.

And there’s simply no excuse for that.

Numerous recent surveys indicate that 15%-20% or more of Americans are more libertarian than either liberal or conservative. The 2012 Cato Institute book The Libertarian Vote: Swing Voters, Tea Parties, and the Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal Center explores these results at length, and concludes that 10 to 20 percent of Americans are fiscally conservative and socially liberal-libertarian.

In August 2000 the Rasmussen polling firm gave the Advocates’ World’s Smallest Political Quiz to nearly 1,000 representative American voters. Our Quiz is a far more rigorous test of one’s libertarian leanings than the looser definitions typically used by polling firms. Yet fully sixteen percent scored in the libertarian sector then — a figure roughly identical to Cato’s estimate.

And the numbers are growing fast. An August poll by FreedomWorks found that fully “78 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents self-identify as fiscally conservative and socially moderate.” Further: “Told that libertarians generally believe individuals should be free to do as they like as long as they don’t hurt others and that the government should keep out of people’s day-to-day lives, 58 percent of the full national sample said they agree.”

Any attempt to identify American’s political leanings that leaves out many of these millions of libertarians and libertarian-leaners is thus doomed to fail.

The inadequacies of the left-versus-right model of politics was the main reason David Nolan created his now-famous Nolan Chart back in 1971, the graphic foundation of the Advocates’ World’s Smallest Political Quiz.

By showing that there was more to politics than just left versus right, our Quiz has opened millions of minds to a more inclusive, more insightful political map.

This accuracy is one reason the Quiz rapidly became the world’s most popular political quiz. It’s been taken over 20 million times online. It’s been recommended by numerous major high school and college textbooks and is used in classrooms across America. It’s been translated into several languages and reprinted in newspapers and magazines with total circulations in the many millions.

All of this is because it works. Because it provides honest, essential, enlightening insights into politics. Because it realizes that no discussion of modern American politics makes sense without including the distinctive libertarian view (and its mirror-opposite, statism).

But back to the TIME quiz.

I have a lot of respect for the researcher behind TIME’s quiz. Jonathan Haidt is the author of the outstanding 2012 book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, which is carefully researched and rich in political insights. I recommend it.

That book shows Haidt has a solid understanding of libertarianism and, more than that, an appreciation of what libertarians believe. And I’m a strong proponent of Haidt’s goal of fostering more productive political discussions through a greater understanding of different viewpoints.

TIME’s quiz isn’t a traditional political quiz. It tries to identify your politics based on a number of seemingly non-political questions that have been found to correlate with a person’s political leanings. The first question, for instance is, “Do you prefer cats or dogs?”

This is an interesting line of research, but since libertarians apparently aren’t included in this — and since the overriding value of libertarians is political liberty across the board, trumping cultural or lifestyle matters — I would think it would be hard to identify libertarians in such a way (though I could be wrong). Perhaps the quiz’s lack of a libertarian score indicates this.

A few of the questions also suffer from ambiguity in wording, something libertarians are especially sensitive to. Like “Respect for authority is something all children need to learn.” What KIND of authority? Political? Family? School? Religion? Tell us more! For libertarians, the key political question is always: Is force being initiated?

By the way, Haidt himself acknowledges the problems with the left-right line. In the introduction to his TIME quiz, he notes: “many people can’t place themselves along the liberal-conservative dimension — such as libertarians, or people who find wisdom on both sides on different issues.” The results, he says, is that the TIME quiz has “moderate predictive power.”

Given this, TIME’s Quiz — like all efforts at political measurement based on the hopelessly inadequate left-versus-right model — is doomed to not work for millions of us — or to produce less than satisfying results overall.

Back to the drawing board, TIME! Meanwhile, why not offer the World’s Smallest Political Quiz to your readers — as the Washington Post, London Sunday Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Miami Herald and many other outstanding publications have done?

Word Choices: “Free Enterprise” Instead of Capitalism?

in Communicating Liberty by Sharon Harris Comments are off

Word choices are very important. Two words might mean the same thing to you. But to your audience, one word may be far more meaningful and positive than another — and may get your point across not just more favorably, but more accurately.

An example is the word “capitalism” to describe the economic system libertarians believe in.

In a past column, I described some of the positive and negative reactions some audiences have to “capitalism,” and suggested some alternatives that are better in some circumstances.

You can read that column here.

Now we have some fascinating information to add.

A January 2010 Gallup poll makes a very good case for using “free enterprise” in many situations.

This January 2010 poll asked a representative sampling of Americans whether their top-of-mind reactions to several political terms were positive or negative. Respondents were not given explanations or descriptions of the terms.

Two of those terms were “capitalism” and “free enterprise.”

Both words, of course, essentially mean the same thing in typical, common usage.

However, they drew considerably different approval ratings.

First, the word “capitalism.”

Says Gallup: “Americans are more positive than negative on ‘capitalism,’ the word typically used to describe the United States’ prevailing economic system.

“‘Capitalism’ generates positive ratings from a majority of Americans, with a third saying their reaction is negative [61% versus 33%].

Ellis Island“Republicans are significantly more positive than Democrats in their reactions to ‘capitalism,’ although majorities of both groups have favorable opinions.

“Conservatives have the highest positive image [for the word "capitalism"], followed by liberals. Moderates have somewhat lower positive ratings than either of these groups.”

Now consider reaction to the term “free enterprise.”

According to Gallup:

“Americans are almost uniformly positive in their reactions to… ‘free enterprise.’”

“Eighty-six percent of respondents rated the term ‘free enterprise’ positively, giving it substantially more positive ratings than ‘capitalism.’ Although in theory these two concepts are not precisely the same, they are in many ways functional equivalents.

“Yet, underscoring the conventional wisdom that words matter, the public clearly reacts differently to the two terms. Free enterprise as a concept rings more positively to the average American than does the term capitalism.

“Strongly positive ratings of free enterprise are generally uniform across both partisan groups [Democrats and Republicans], and across the three ideological groups [liberals, conservatives, moderates].”

Gallup sums up with a lesson effective libertarian communicators cannot ignore:

“Bottom line: As most politicians and many in business have learned, the choice of words to describe a concept or a policy can often make a substantial difference in the public’s reaction. The current research confirms that assumption.

“It is apparent that ‘free enterprise’ evokes more positive responses than ‘capitalism,’ despite the apparent similarity between the two terms.”

NOTE: The same Gallup report I link to above also offers a very useful analysis by Gallup that breaks the popularity of these phrases down further, by political ideology (conservative, liberal, and “moderate”), by party, and so on. I highly recommend this short analysis to anyone seriously interested in using these terms effectively.

They Said It…

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

SECRETIVE US SPECIAL OP FORCES DEPLOYED WORLDWIDE: “A review of open-source information reveals that in 2012 and 2013, US Special Operations forces (SOF) were likely deployed to — or training, advising or operating with the personnel of — more than 100 foreign countries. And that’s probably an undercount. In 2011, then-SOCOM spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told TomDispatch that Special Operations personnel were annually sent to 120 countries around the world. They were in, that is, about 60 percent of the nations on the planet. … SOCOM is weaving a complex web of alliances with government agencies at home and militaries abroad to ensure that it’s at the center of every conceivable global hot spot and power center. In fact, Special Operations Command has turned the planet into a giant battlefield…” — award-winning journalist Nick Turse, “Why Are US Special Operations Forces Deployed in Over 100 Countries? That’s over 60 percent of the nations on the planet,” The Nation, January 7, 2014.

JUDGE: FOUNDERS WOULD BE “AGHAST” AT NSA: “[N]o court has ever recognized a special need sufficient to justify continuous, daily searches of virtually every American citizen without any particularized suspicion. … I have little doubt that the author of our Constitution, James Madison, who cautioned us to beware ‘the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power,’ would be aghast.” — from U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon‘s Dec. 16 ruling that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records was “almost certainly” unconstitutional. The issue seems headed to the Supreme Court.

SNOWDEN JUSTIFIED: “I acted on mybelief that the NSA’s mass surveillance programs would not withstand a constitutional challenge, and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts. Today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans’ rights. It is the first of many.” — NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden reacting to U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon’s Dec. 16 ruling (above).

OUR UNCONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT: “Article I, Section 8 of our Constitution lists the activities for which Congress is authorized to tax and spend. Nowhere on that list is there authority for Congress to tax and spend for: Medicare, Social Security, public education, farm subsidies, bank and business bailouts, food stamps and thousands of other activities that account for roughly two-thirds of the federal budget. Neither is there authority for congressional mandates to citizens about what type of health insurance they must purchase, how states and people may use their land, the speed at which they can drive, whether a library has wheelchair ramps, and the gallons of water used per toilet flush. The list of congressional violations of both the letter and spirit of the Constitution is virtually without end. Our derelict Supreme Court has given Congress sanction to do just about anything for which they can muster a majority vote.” — economist and syndicated columnist Walter Williams, “Parting Company,” Jan. 1, 2014.

JAY LENO STONES CONGRESS:  “In defending the budget deal, Congressman Paul Ryan quoted the Rolling Stones and said, ‘You can’t always get what you want.’ When it comes to Congress, here’s a better Stones quote: ‘Can’t get no satisfaction.’ How about that?” — Jay Leno Dec. 13, 2013.

A Modest Proposal for New Year’s Resolutions

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion Power Point section in Volume 19, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

We’re now well into the New Year. If you’re like a lot of people, you’ve either made New Year’s resolutions or you’re thinking you ought to make some.

“Let’s see. I ought to lose 10 pounds. And I probably ought to stop smoking. Oh yeah, I need to spend more time with my spouse,” you might say.

So you write down these items. New Year’s is a good time to improve yourself. And this time you’ll really keep your resolutions. Uh-huh.

Why did you pick these resolutions?

They’re hard. They’re important. They’re uplifting. And you’d feel really proud of yourself if you actually accomplished them.

So you start out with the best of intentions. The highest of hopes. And a grim determination.

Then you break one of them. You forget another. Before you know it, your resolutions have you on your back, all four feet in the air, another victim of resolution road kill.

You feel guilty. You get a funny-looking grin on your face when your friends ask you, “How are your resolutions coming?”

Your self-esteem plummets. Until time lets you forget all about the resolutions.

Frankly, this isn’t good for you.

It isn’t good for the people you spend time with.

But I have a solution.

It’s bold, breathtaking, and BIG.

It feeds your need to be uplifted. It gives you a steely look and the calm confidence of a poker player holding four Aces.

THE BIG TRUTH: Most of your problems are caused by other people.

Your life would be a whole lot smoother if other people were way more considerate of your wants and needs. Of your hopes and expectations.

Your life would be a whole lot better if other people would stop being so selfish.

Always putting themselves first. Always thinking about their problems. Always wanting things their way.

Most religions teach that it is better to give than to receive.

So what is the greatest gift you can give to others?

The opportunity for them to give.

THE MODEST PROPOSAL: Write New Year’s Resolutions for other people. Tell them exactly how they can make your life better, and nicer, and happier.

Why should you lose 10 pounds? After all, how many times do you look in the mirror each day? They should lose 10 pounds. You look at them more often than you look at yourself.

And they should learn to say, “You’re not fat. You’re snuggly.”

Why should you stop smoking? They should learn to appreciate the fragrant smell of burning tobacco. And enjoy the process of scooping up ashes that have fallen in the wrong place. And cleaning out ashtrays.

Why should you spend more time with your spouse?

She should appreciate the spare moments you ration out. After all, the rare is the precious. If diamonds were commonplace, who would value them? If your time were commonplace, would your wife really appreciate you?

Remember, most of your problems are caused by other people.

That means that most of your solutions can be provided by other people. Unless they insist on selfishness.

Maybe your friends don’t call you often enough. Or invite you to dinner regularly. Or listen in rapt attention when you repeat your story for the 11th time.

It is better to give than to receive. Help them give. Write their resolutions so that they can learn to give and give and give.

Write their resolutions so that they can grow and grow and grow.

So they can be more worthy of being your friend.

So make up a list of your friends. Write out their New Year’s Resolutions. The resolutions that put you first. The resolutions that make them better friends. Resolutions that let them live to give.

If they keep those resolutions, they’ll become stronger and better.

If they fail to keep the New Year’s Resolutions you wrote for them, they will feel frustrated. Guilty. They will suffer plummeting self-esteem.

Help your friends become better people. Write their New Year’s Resolutions today.

Some day they’ll thank you.

Should Libertarians Work Within the Libertarian Party?

in Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: I’m very disappointed in the Libertarian Party (LP). It doesn’t elect many libertarians. Shouldn’t we just try to take over the GOP and work within that party instead?

MY SHORT ANSWER: Some individuals feel called to do that, but it’s tough. After Congressman Ron Paul qualified to be nominated for president in 2012, the GOP changed the rules at the last minute to exclude him.

The LP has had great success at rolling back Big Government without electing anyone. When the city of Kalamazoo tried to take some land by eminent domain shortly after my run for city commission, an elderly gentleman came up to me and put $200 cash into my hand.

“Dr. Ruwart,” he said, “the city wants to take my bicycle shop. I know your employer, Upjohn, is going to benefit, but YOU are a Libertarian, so I know you are on my side. Take this money and fight them for me!”

Clearly, I had a conflict of interest, but this gentleman trusted me because the LP candidates had made principle their campaign focal point. The local LP joined the fight — and stopped the land grab.

This is what the LP does best. It stops eminent domain, tax hikes, etc. at the local level, even without ever electing anyone.

The LP does this at the state and national level too. LP member Steve Kubby and the California LP were key players in getting the first medical marijuana bill passed. Many states now have medical marijuana laws and a couple have decriminalized it.  Big Government was rolled back without ever electing anyone.

About 80% of the visible critics of ClintonCare (myself included) were libertarians. Although Libertarians haven’t taken credit for it, they were the prime movers in stopping ClintonCare. Big Government was thwarted — for a while, at least — without ever electing anyone.

Maybe the LP should run candidates so that people know where to turn when Big Government comes knocking at their door. Rolling back Big Government is something the LP can do, whether or not it elects candidates.

LEARN MORE: Suggested further reading from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris on this topic:

* “7 Vital Reasons to Join the Libertarian Party Now.” In this short piece the Libertarian Party makes its case for why it is essential in the fight for liberty.

Libertarians Save Taxpayers Billions: “Libertarian Party Successes” by “Critto” is an informal forum post at the website of the Free State Project. It lists a number of major anti-tax efforts initiated by, led by, or joined by, the Libertarian Party. It argues persuasively that the Libertarian Party has helped save taxpayers literally billions of dollars. No doubt this list, which is ten years old, could be enormously expanded. Further, similar lists could be created showing how the LP has helped defeat other oppressive legislation.

(Note, this information is provided for educational purposes. The Advocates does not, and cannot, endorse parties or candidates.)

The “Trickle Down Economics” Myth — and How to Refute It

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Economist and syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell begins a recent column this way:

“New York’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, in his inaugural speech, denounced people ‘on the far right’ who ‘continue to preach the virtue of trickle-down economics.’ According to Mayor de Blasio, ‘They believe that the way to move forward is to give more to the most fortunate, and that somehow the benefits will work their way down to everyone else.’”

President Obama, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Paul Krugman and many other prominent persons and publications have similarly attacked “trickle-down economics.”

There’s just one problem, says Sowell. No economist in history has ever advocated such a policy. The phrase is pure propaganda; the alleged theory is a straw man. “Trickle-down economics” is a pejorative term made up by opponents of free enterprise to distort what genuine free market reform is all about and to demonize those who advocate free enterprise.

Indeed, writes Sowell: “If there is ever a contest for the biggest lie in politics, this one should be a top contender. While there have been all too many lies told in politics, most have some little tiny fraction of truth in them, to make them seem plausible. But the ‘trickle-down’ lie is 100 percent lie.”

Sowell argues, in his book Basic Economics: A Citizen’s Guide to the Economy, in papers, and in several columns, that no economist in history has ever advocated a “trickle-down” economic theory, i.e., giving tax breaks, regulatory breaks, and other advantages overwhelmingly to the wealthy, in the belief that some crumbs from this will eventually fall to the poor.

“Years ago, this column challenged anybody to quote any economist outside of an insane asylum who had ever advocated this ‘trickle-down’ theory. Some readers said that somebody said that somebody else had advocated a ‘trickle-down’ policy. But they could never name that somebody else and quote them.”

Further, Sowell notes: “The ‘trickle-down’ theory cannot be found in even the most voluminous scholarly studies of economic theories — including J.A. Schumpeter’s monumental History of Economic Analysis, more than a thousand pages long and printed in very small type.”

In short, the phrase “trickle-down economics” is a slur, a weapon used to attack free market advocates by distorting what they actually believe.

If you hear the phrase “trickle down economics” used to describe what you believe or what free enterprise reform is concerned with, don’t accept it. Don’t allow it to define what we believe. Politely but firmly reject it, as we’ve done above.

Say instead that what you favor is genuine free enterprise. Libertarians believe free enterprise benefits everyone, especially the disadvantaged, and we want to bring those benefits to everyone — rich, middle class, and poor alike.

Then make a persuasive case that free market small-government reforms will immediately benefit the poor. Point out how government policies destroy jobs and keep skilled but unlicensed entrepreneurs from starting businesses. How the government education monopoly harms poor children. How minimum wage laws, high taxes, convoluted tax laws, regulations, corporate subsidies, drug laws and so many other government policies hurt poor families and deny them opportunity.

There’s not room to cover these issues in this column, of course. As we’ve noted in previous columns, these are the kinds of questions libertarians are frequently asked, and you should have soundbite answers and up-to-date facts at your fingertips.

Finally, when choosing the phrase to describe the economic system of liberty, consider alternatives to “laissez faire capitalism,” which provokes a negative response from many people. By far the most positive such phrase, according to recent Gallup polls, is “free enterprise.” You can read more about this in my column here.

Help the truth about this too-often-heard propaganda phrase “trickle down” to fellow freedom fighters. Pass the word on to other free enterprise advocates.

Washington Post: Year 2013 Proved “Paranoids” Were… Right

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“2013 is the year that proved your ‘paranoid’ friend right.” That’s the title of a funny, but alarming, end-of-year column by Washington Post technology policy reporter Andrea Peterson.

“Most people involved in the tech scene have at least one friend who has been warning everyone they know about protecting their digital trail for years — and have watched that friend get accused of being a tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist. But 2013 is the year that proved your ‘paranoid’ friend right,” Peterson’s column begins.

“It’s now a matter of public record that the NSA collects and stores the calling records of domestic phone calls, tracks the location of millions of mobile devices worldwide, infiltrates the data links between the data centers of tech companies used by millions of Americans, piggybacks onto commercial tracking mechanisms, collected potentially sensitive online metadata for years and actively worked to undermine the privacy and security measures that underpin the Internet. And considering the purported size of the Snowden cache, that could be the tip of the metaphorical iceberg.”

The NSA story alone confirms those who suspected the government of monstrous deeds, Peterson says. But there is so much more.

“For instance, the ACLU released a cache of documents showing that police around the country are collecting license plate scanner information [from people who are completely innocent] that could be used to track physical locations of many Americans… when you pool together huge databases of this type of location information, it can create incredibly intimate portraits of how individuals live their lives — including where they work, which friends they visit and what doctors they see.”

And how’s this for sheer B-movie uber-creepiness:

“Someone might be watching you through your laptop’s webcam — without even activating the warning light. Reports say the FBI has had this capability for several years, and researchers at John’s Hopkins were able to demonstrate how to covertly spy via webcams in MacBooks. Good thing you can cover up your webcam. Too bad there’s not a similarly easy solution for stopping hackers from listening in on your laptop’s built-in microphone.”

Check Peterson’s excellent article — complete with extensive links — for more disturbing examples and information.

And we suppose she ran out of room, because there is much more surveillance-state stuff she could have mentioned: public spy cameras, the huge federalarsenal of malware, US surveillance of Cloud computing… not to mention secret laws approved in secret courts, presidents who can start wars on their say-so and kill civilians without warrants or trial… but don’t get us started.

Peterson’s conclusion: “…you owe your paranoid friend a beer.”

VIDEO: 2014 — The Most Libertarian Year Ever?

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Here’s a great way to start 2014: Indulge in a healthy dose of realistic libertarianism optimism!

In this short (two minutes) video, Reason TV’s Nick Gillespie gives three solid reasons why 2014 might well be the most libertarian year ever.

The best thing is, while he’s right about all three reasons, knowledgeable libertarians can easily add many more reasons to his list.

And that’s great news indeed!

Gallup Poll: Nearly 3 in 4 Americans Say “Big Government Is Our Greatest Threat”

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

For nearly 50 years Gallup has polled the American public on this question: “In your opinion, which of the following will be the biggest threat to the country in the future — big business, big labor, or big government?”

In mid-December Gallup announced this year’s result: Fully 72 percent of Americans now say big government is a greater threat to the U.S. than either big business or big labor.

That’s an all-time record — and by a sizeable margin.

A majority of Americans have always chosen “big government” when asked this question. But the 72% choice of big government as the biggest threat is the largest ever, far surpassing the prior record of 65% in 1999 and 2000.

(For comparison, when the poll was first taken in 1965, only 35% of Americans thought big government was the greatest threat.)

This year just 21% named big business as the greatest threat, and only 5%, a record low, said big labor.

Further, the response is consistent across party lines. Gallup notes: “Each party group currently rates big government as the greatest threat to the country, including a record-high 92% of Republicans and 71% of independents, as well as 56% of Democrats.”

Concludes Gallup: “This suggests that government policies specific to the period, such as the Affordable Care Act — perhaps coupled with recent revelations of government spying tactics by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — may be factors.

“Americans have consistently viewed big government as a greater threat to the United States than either big business or big labor, but never more than they do now. That may be partly a reaction to an administration that favors the use of government to solve problems. Also, the revelation of widespread government monitoring of U.S. Internet activity may be a factor in raising Americans’ concern about the government. …

“In the future, Americans likely will continue to view big government as the greatest threat of the three, partly because of Republicans’ reluctance to rely on government to solve problems, and because Democrats and independents are also inclined to view big government as a greater threat than big business or big labor.”

Rand Paul and Sen. Cory Booker: We’re Taking On the Drug War in 2014

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Talk about New Year’s resolutions.

Liberal Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Liberty) have publicly vowed, via Twitter, to work together to take on the failed War on Drugs in 2014.

The idea of a partnership between the two on this crucial issue began — publicly at least — in late December, when Booker and Paul exchanged a series of tweets. After some joking back and forth about Festivus, the parody holiday popularized by the sitcom “Seinfeld,” Paul responded more seriously: “how about mandatory minimum sentencing reform instead?” Booker tweeted back the suggestion they “throw in reforming Fed Hemp & Marijuana laws.”

To which Paul replied: “I’m the Senate author of Hemp bill!” (Paul here refers to his Industrial Hemp Farming Act bill, which would re-legalize hemp for industrial uses.)Booker responded: “I know… Here is to a 2014 where we take on the failed war on drugs.”The possibility of liberty-oriented single-issue coalitions with the left and right on specific issues has long intrigued libertarians. In a year when drug reform is in the air,  Paul and Booker sound ready to lead the way.

How the Government Stole Christmas

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 18, No. 24 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Forget the Grinch — it’s the government that’s stealing Christmas.

So reports Americans for Tax Reform, a non-profit group that works for lower taxes and smaller government. (The following article is based on their 2011 report.)

The holidays are supposed to be a season for giving and spending time with loved ones. However, Uncle Sam has forced taxpayers to add him and his greedy local and state relatives to their gift list. Of an identified $10.72 billion of holiday spending, an incredible 43.36 percent is due to government taxes, fees, and other costs.

If you are one of the 93 percent of holiday revelers traveling this season, you will pay $69.65 in gas taxes for the average $152.47 round-trip excursion — 45.68 percent of the cost of the trip. Taking a rental is another convenient option, but 38.77 percent of your car’s rental cost is due to taxation, particularly from state and local governments.

Choose to fly to visit friends and family and 42.47 percent of your trip is made up of government costs. If you retreat from your in-laws to a hotel, remember that 39.39 percent of the cost of your stay is funneled back to the government. In Christmas 2011, the government stuffed its stocking with $3.79 billion in traveling taxes.

Holiday revelers enjoy an estimated $992 million in alcoholic beverages to celebrate the season. Savor your next mug of eggnog, because 56.31 percent of the price is taxes. Government guzzles 44.33 percent of your seasonal beer and drives up the price of your glass of wine at Christmas dinner by 32.77 percent. Sipping a soft drink won’t let you escape frosty government fees — 27.98 percent, or $61 million in taxes, is attached to the cost of soda.

When Santa comes down the chimney this year, he’ll have to save room in his sack for Uncle Sam’s gifts. Government gets $21 billion of a cumulative $69.1 billion spent on presents, consuming nearly a third of Christmas gift-giving.

All told, the government collects around $26 billion in new revenues over the holiday season.

That’s naughty — and definitely not nice!

(Please note: This excellent and entertaining report was prepared in 2011 by ATR. We deleted a section referring to a proposed Obama Christmas tree tax, which is to our knowledge no longer relevant. When sharing this information with friends and family, just add “A couple of years ago, Americans for Tax Reform found…” in case some of these figures have since changed. To see if ATR has updated this report since we published this issue, visit their website.)

Videos: Christmas Edition

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 18, No. 24 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“I Saw Daddy Pat Down Santa Claus” (A Very TSA Christmas Song) 

Hilarious! See what happens when the holiday season’s most frequent flier meets… the TSA!

“I Saw Daddy Pat Down Santa Claus” is written and performed by the renowned comedian Remy, produced by Meredith Bragg, and made available by our friends at Reason TV.

A little over one minute long.

VIDEO: New Twist on a Christmas Classic: “The NSA is Coming to Town”

Yeah, they’re making a list and checking it… well, we don’t know how many times. But ONCE is too many!

This hilarious (and creepy) song and video from the ACLU is a must-see and a great online share.

Sample lyrics:

You better watch out,
You better not Skype,
You better log out,
Yeah you better not type,
The NSA is coming to town.

You’re making a list,
They’re checking it twice;
They’re watching almost every electronic device,
The NSA is coming to town…

…..and more. The accompanying video shows NSA agents in Santa suits, tracking, harassing, recording, and surveilling ordinary innocent citizens — which is what they do every day, of course. Except for the Santa suits (to the best of our knowledge).

The video ends with an appeal to reel in the security state. Now THAT’S a present we’d like to see under our tree!

They Said It…

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

(From Volume 18, No. 24 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

CHRISTMAS AND DEFICITS:  “Christmas is a time when kids tell Santa what they want and adults pay for it. Deficits are when adults tell the government what they want and their kids pay for it.” — Richard Lamm, former Governor of Colorado.

IS SANTA CLAUS A DEMOCRAT, REPUBLICAN, OR… “If Santa Claus were a Democrat, his elves wouldn’t make toys. They’d loot them from rich kids and toy stores. If Santa were a Republican, he’d deport all the elves back to Middle Earth. So Santa must be a Libertarian.” — online comment by “gatman7,” responding to an article at TheBlaze.com discussing whether Santa is a Democrat or Republican, December 11, 2012.

THE GOV’T SANTA STEALS TOYS: “Too many adults treat government the way kids treat Santa. But government is not magic. … Many adults want government to cover everything under Santa’s flying sleigh. Their wish lists say, ‘subsidize my retirement, my big house, a year’s worth of unemployment, my medicine, my college loans, my electric car, my auto company, my union, my bank, my bad decisions in general, and my ethanol and solar companies.’  But unlike Santa’s bottomless bag of toys, every subsidy government gives to someone must first be taken from someone else. For every happy kid there is another whose toy was ripped from his hands.” — Joseph G. Lehman, “Government as Santa,” op-ed, The Mackinac Center,  Dec. 25, 2012.

A TSA CHRISTMAS: “It’s so cold that the security guys at the airports are putting their hands in their own pants.” — David Letterman, Dec. 7, 2010.
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