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“A Masterwork”: Rave Review for Libertarianism in One Lesson

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Libertarianism In One LessonDavid Bergland’s classic introduction to libertarianism, Libertarianism in One Lesson (published by the Advocates), has been given a rave review by longtime libertarian activist and writer Charlie Burris at LewRockwell.com.

Burris begins by complimenting “the brilliant strategic insight of 1984 Libertarian Party presidential candidate David Bergland which has guided all libertarian realists for three decades in adhering to the Non-Aggression Principle and the refusal to compromise that principle  — ‘Utopia Is Not One of the Options.’

“David wrote and elucidated upon this key concept in his wonderful volume, Libertarianism in One Lesson.”

Continues Burris:  “In 1984, I had the distinct honor and privilege of reading the manuscript copy of the first edition of this brilliantly executed work. In each subsequent edition, David has finely crafted and honed this masterwork into the most concise, understandable work of its kind.”

You can order single or multiple copies at a discount of Libertarianism in One Lesson from the Advocates.

“This brief book remains the best place to begin your exploration of the ideas of libertarianism,” Burris concludes.

Contrarian Writers Get Published and Read Way More Often

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

(From the Persuasion PowerPoint section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Contrarian Writing

Look for issues where 80%, 90%, or more of the writers and readers disagree with you.

Where conventional opinion is overwhelmingly against you.

Brainstorm the key 3 to 6 reasons why you’re right and they’re wrong.

Sketch out 10 or 20 headlines for your essay or letter.

Pick the headline that absolutely, positively summarizes your strongest point — the one they’re wrong about.

Then, lead your letter or essay with the strongest reason of your 3 to 6 for your point of view or against theirs. Give an example or two of how or why your point is right — or theirs is wrong.

Second paragraph, use your second strongest reason. Give an example or two.

Third paragraph, use your third strongest reason for your position or against theirs.

And so on… until you reach 500 words. Max. Then sign your name — and email it or post it at the website.

Do not pretend or fake disagreement just to get published. Do not make up bogus reasons for disagreement.

Look for issues where you DO disagree with the overwhelming majority — and have good reasons for why you do.

Contrary opinions attract readers and commenters. Contrary opinions trigger responses. Contrary opinions get noticed.

Sometimes it pays to disagree.
* * * * * * * *

Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion

Michael Cloud’s latest book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively from the Advocates, along with his acclaimed earlier book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion.

In 2000, Michael was honored with the Thomas Paine Award as the Most Persuasive Libertarian Communicator in America.

“Intervene globally, lose freedom locally”

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“Intervene globally, lose freedom locally.” — Robert Higgs.

I’ve long written about the importance of soundbites and pithy sayings in getting people to consider libertarian ideas.

I saw this phrase at the Facebook page of the great libertarian writer and scholar Robert Higgs this week, and I think it is brilliant.

In just five words Higgs sums up arguments that many people have written whole books about.

An interventionist foreign policy leads to many domestic evils, as the Founders realized. Among them:

  • “Blowback” when angry residents of other countries retaliate
  • Restrictions on freedom of the press
  • Repression of public dissent
  • Government surveillance and loss of privacy
  • Loss of other civil liberties
  • The militarization of local police
  • Restrictions on travel, both internally and abroad
  • Domestic political strife
  • Massive taxes and subsequent loss of economic opportunities
  • Higher prices for domestic goods and services
  • Interruption of trade
  • A poorer country, as economic resources are diverted to war
  • Destruction of families, as more soldiers are sent overseas to police the empire
  • Expansion of domestic political power to deal with the consequences of interventionism

…and so on. You can no doubt add more to this list.

Higgs’ wonderful and insightful little phrase contains all that. It reworks a familiar phrase — “Think globally, act locally” — into a powerful mind-opener and conversation starter. It gets your listeners thinking.

“Intervene globally, lose freedom locally.” I love it.

It’s a great addition to your collection of soundbites on liberty. Use it in conversations. Be prepared, of course, to expand on the topics it raises, including those I’ve listed.

How He Did It: Two Hundred New Libertarian Students Recruited — in One Semester

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Michael Melendez and OPH at LDS Business College

I was delighted to get this email from Michael Melendez, Young Americans for Liberty State Chair in Utah:

In one semester, I recruited more than 200 students on campuses all over the state of Utah.

There is no tool more effective for a campus liberty activist than the Operation Politically Homeless (OPH) kit.

I just ordered another OPH kit. Thank you!

Thank you, Michael!

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael at the November 2013 Utah Student Liberty Forum, where I conducted a libertarian communication workshop. Currently a student at Brigham Young University (BYU), Michael has been active locally with Campaign for Liberty since 2009. He was chief-of-staff for Senator Howard Stephenson in the Utah State Senate during the 2014 legislative session. Michael founded a Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter at BYU in 2011 and was made a YAL chair for the state of Utah in January of 2013. He also served as a Campus Coordinator for Students For Liberty (SFL) during the 2013-2014 school year. Whew!

Michael is a great example of the new generation of libertarian activists who are making liberty once again a burning issue in American politics.

And — as his quote indicates — he’s using the Advocates’ OPH to find hundreds more young people to join in this great crusade.

OPH is the Advocates’ acclaimed “event in a kit” that enables libertarian groups to quickly and efficiently discover dozens or even hundreds of libertarian-leaning people in their communities or on their campuses — and get their contact information and sign them up!

William Jergins opening minds with OPH at Southern Utah UniversityOPH is one of the great success stories of the libertarian movement. Hundreds of thousands of people have encountered the ideas of liberty through OPH. And millions more people are out there, just waiting for someone — maybe you? — to introduce them to libertarianism.

OPH works like magic. Wherever people are gathered, OPH will attract them. It turns an ordinary (yawn) ho-hum outreach booth into a crowd-drawing fun event! Bonus: it’s fun!

FREE OPH KITS for libertarian student groups: The Advocates is giving OPH outreach kits free to student libertarian groups. All we ask is that you use them at least three times during the next year and send us photos documenting your OPH activity. OPH normally sells for $50.00 plus shipping. Learn how campus libertarian groups are doubling and tripling their membership with OPH here.

Right now is a great time to do OPH! As students return to school, as freshman begin exploring ideas and organizations on campus, use OPH to open their minds to liberty and welcome them to your campus liberty organization.

Could your libertarian group benefit from dozens — or even hundreds — of new sign-ups? How much stronger would the liberty movement be if hundreds of OPHs were conducted across America this year — discovering thousands of eager new libertarian activists, supporters, donors and voters?

It’s up to you! Start now by learning more about OPH!

Are You Having Libertarian Conversations?

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

(From the Persuasion PowerPoint section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Libertarian persuasion usually takes place in conversation.Libertarian Conversation

Not speeches or seminars, books or white papers, important though they are.

Libertarian understanding usually grows out of talking and listening.

So start or join a libertarian conversation. One-on-one. Or with a small group.

In person. On Skype. Or on the telephone.

Conversation engages us. Draws us out. Brings into play more of our intelligence and attention.

Which makes it ideal for teaching and learning. For grasping and embracing libertarianism.

* * * * * * * *
Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian PersuasionMichael Cloud’s latest book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively from the Advocates, along with his acclaimed earlier book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion.In 2000, Michael was honored with the Thomas Paine Award as the Most Persuasive Libertarian Communicator in America.

The Missing Ingredient in Your Fact-Based Arguments for Liberty

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Facts are essential to making the case for liberty. But you can make dry facts come alive to your listeners — by using the mind-changing power of stories.

Stories — both true and fictional — have a special power. The greatest teachers have Memorable Storiesalways used stories: think of the parables of Jesus, the fables of Aesop, the witty tales of the Taoist Chuang-Tzu. Nearly every culture uses stories both to entertain and to convey vital lessons.

Now we have scientific evidence that stories are extraordinarily effective. Bestselling author Carmine Gallo, in his book Talk Like TED, cites Princeton University research which used MRIs to study how the brains of audience members reacted to stories. The studies showed that stories actually activate all areas of the brain.

Says Gallo: “Brain scans reveal that stories stimulate and engage the human brain, helping the speaker connect with the audience and making it much more likely that the audience will agree with the speaker’s point of view.”

Obviously, if we want to successfully persuade others, we should be telling lots of stories.

When you can combine a story with your facts and figures, your audience listens. They identify. They are moved. They feel, as well as calculate. Further, while it’s hard to remember facts and figures, people remember stories — and eagerly share them.

Let’s take as an example the issue of medical marijuana. There are many logical, fact-based arguments that can — and should — be used in persuading others on this issue. But consider this story, a version of which was published in the Pittsburgh Press in the early 1990s, before liberty activists begin to have success in getting states to re-legalize marijuana for medical purposes:

James Burton, a former Kentuckian, is living literally in exile in the Netherlands. Burton, a Vietnam War vet and master electrical technician, suffers from a rare form of hereditary glaucoma. All males on his mother’s side of his family had the disease. Several of them are blind.

Burton found that marijuana could hold back, and perhaps halt, the glaucoma. So he began growing marijuana for his own use and smoking it.

Kentucky State Police raided his 90-acre farm and found 138 marijuana plants and two pounds of raw marijuana. At his 1988 trial, North Carolina ophthalmologist Dr. John Merrit — at that time the only physician in America allowed by the government to test marijuana in the treatment of glaucoma — testified that marijuana was “the only medication” that could keep Burton from going blind.

Nevertheless, Burton was found guilty of simple possession for personal use and was sentenced to one year in a federal maximum security prison, with no parole. The government also seized his house and his farm, valued at around $70,000. Under forfeiture laws, there was no defense he could raise against the seizure of his farm. No witnesses on behalf of the defense, not even a statement from the Burtons, were allowed at the hearing.

After release, Burton and his wife moved to the Netherlands, where he could legally purchase marijuana to stave off his blindness. Instead of a sprawling farm, they now live in a tiny apartment.

They say they would love to return to America — but not at the cost of Burton going blind.

See how that puts a human face on the medical marijuana issue?

There are equally moving, equally appalling stories about taxation, utility monopolies, First Amendment issues, gun rights, licensing laws, war… virtually any issue. Anywhere the government has committed aggression against individuals, there is a story to be told.

A great place to find such stories is the website of the Institute for Justice (IJ), a libertarian legal defense organization. IJ has done a wonderful job of collecting stories of heroic individuals fighting to defend their lives and property against oppressive government.

Whenever you come across heart-rending, powerful stories of victims of government, or people overcoming oppression, collect them for future use.

Most people decide what they believe not just on bare facts but also on feelings and emotions. Give them stories to hang your facts on, memorable stories that make your facts come alive, and you will be far more effective in your political persuasion.

Tip: Make Your OPH Booth a “Politically Homeless Shelter”

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

I’m always on the lookout for ways to make OPH even more fun and successful than it already is. Politically Homeless Shelter

(OPH is, of course, Operation Politically Homeless — the Advocates’ acclaimed “event in a kit,” which uses the World’s Smallest Political Quiz and other tools to transform an ordinary dull ho-hum outreach booth into a crowd-drawing, fun event.)

Danny Bedwell — Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Congress and former Chair of the Libertarian Party of Mississippi — has a neat tip I’m pleased to share with you.

On hot summer days, make your OPH booth even more attractive to passers-by: turn it into a “Politically Homeless SHELTER.”

The idea is simple, clever and easy. Just put those words — “Politically Homeless Shelter” — on a sign near your OPH booth, and prominently show that you have free iced water or soft drinks, snacks, and perhaps a shady place to pause and rest a moment.

If you’re doing OPH outside on a hot day — at a fair, festival, concert, rally or other event — this is an easy way to make your OPH booth even more popular.

When your guests take the World’s Smallest Political Quiz, they will discover where they fit on the political map. You’ll be turning the “politically homeless” into people who have a true political home!  And you’ll discover lots of people who are thirsty for liberty (as well as that cold drink).

Thanks, Danny!

Learn more about OPH here.

Students: We’re giving free OPH kits to student liberty groups! Learn morehere.

Ayn Rand and American Indians

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Property Rights by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: How do libertarians feel about this Ayn Rand statement: “[The Native Americans] didn’t have any rights to the land and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using… [W]hat was it that they were fighting for, if they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence. Their right to keep part of the earth untouched, unused, and not even as property, but just keep everybody out, so that you can live practically like an animal, or maybe a few caves above it…. Any white person who could bring the element of civilization had the right to take over this country.”

MY SHORT ANSWER: I’ve never seen this comment before; thanks for sharing! Most libertarians — myself included — would disagree with it.

Native Americans did conceive of, and recognize, property rights for scarce resources, such as Naturefishing rights in rivers, which were generally held and passed down in families. Land property wasn’t usually scarce; property rights usually aren’t well-defined when a resource is abundant, since there is no competition for it. Consequently, Native Americans often did not establish land boundaries, homestead particular parcels, or recognize land claims. Some exceptions included an individual or family’s farmed fields and tribal hunting grounds.

Although by European standards, the Native American existence might be considered primitive, the land wasn’t untouched or unused. Native Americans used the land primarily to hunt, to fish, and to farm, but used sustainable practices to insure future sources of food. Natives living in our rainforests today are in a similar position as Native Americans were; libertarians often donate to a legal fund so that they can litigate for recognition of their homesteading claims.

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

* “The most ignorant thing Ayn Rand ever said?“ by Timothy Sandefur. Sandefur , a Pacific Legal Foundation attorney, Cato Institute adjunct scholar, author of several books, and Objectivist, thoughtfully examines the quote, Rand’s fallacies on this issue, and the context of her remarks.

SequoyahEXCERPT: “I consider myself an Objectivist; I think Ayn Rand’s philosophical and political arguments are basically correct, and I enjoy her literature tremendously. But I think it’s important for Objectivists to acknowledge when Rand was wrong about something, and there can be no doubt she was wrong [in this quote]… The Cherokee had property rights, as well as a written constitution, newspapers, a formal government, schools, and a capital city. Other tribes had similar institutions… I think it’s safe to say that Ayn Rand knew virtually nothing about the history of American Indians. In part this is no fault of hers, since historiography and cultural anthropology at that time was pretty shabby, and because that was a period when the silly leftist romanticization of Indians was first reaching a height which is only now diminishing.”

* “Dances With Myths“ by Terry L. Anderson, Reason Magazine, February 1997. Anderson is executive director of the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) and a leading free market environmentalist. In this article he gives numerous examples of how, at times, American Indians established and defended property rights.

EXCERPT: “American Indian tribes produced and sustained abundant wealth because they had clear property rights to land, fishing and hunting territories, and personal property. Pre-Columbian Indian history is replete with examples of property rights conditioning humans’ relations with the natural environment.”

George Bernard Shaw’s Tailor

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

(From the Persuasion PowerPoint section in Volume 19, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each Tailortime he sees me,” wrote George Bernard Shaw. “The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.”

Most of us aren’t as wise as George Bernard Shaw’s tailor.

We see people we haven’t seen for years, and we tell them, “You haven’t changed a bit!”

Or, “You’re the same as you always were.”

Are they really the same?

Or are we forgetting to take their measure anew?

Social psychology has a name for this: the High School Reunion Phenomenon.

At our 10th year reunion, or 20th year reunion, we see people we haven’t seen since high school.

We talk about old times. We relive glory days. We reminisce.

Then we go home and say, “I’ve changed a lot, but they’re the same as they ever were.”

Are they?

When we go to high school reunions, we’re scanning for similarities. Our memories are primed to find people who look just like, sound just like, and act just like the kids we went to high school with. Only older. And wrinklier.

We’re looking for similarities. So that’s what we find.

We know that we’ve changed.

Or have we?

If we rode home with some of the people that we’d just seen for the first time in ten or twenty years, we’d hear them saying, “Boy, they haven’t changed a bit… but I have.”

We didn’t take their measure anew. And they didn’t take ours.

George Bernard Shaw’s tailor was right. People do change. And unless we look for change, we’ll miss it.

This is crucial to persuasion.

People change their values. People change themselves. And events change people.

Changed values and changed lives mean new opportunities for communicating libertarianism.

Changed values and changed lives mean new wants and needs. New situations.

New concerns and interests. New conversational openings.

If we assume that the person we were talking with “hasn’t changed a bit,” we might miss out on the fact that they just got audited by the IRS. Do you think that might make them more receptive to libertarian tax cut and tax repeal proposals?

If we forget to take the person’s measure anew, we might never know that one of their close friends or family members has been sentenced to prison for a marijuana offense. They might be open to the idea of ending the War on Drugs.

If we overlook the fact that people are always changing, we might not hear about a friend being stalked or threatened. We might never know that they are ripe for a discussion of gun ownership and the right to protect themselves and their families.

If we neglect to look for how the person has changed, we might not learn that they are expecting a baby… and might be eager to hear about homeschooling. Or separating school and state.

What can George Bernard Shaw’s tailor teach us?

1. Actively look for what’s different when you meet people again. Actively ask what’s different.

2. Seek and scan for changes in their lives. Explore the changes. Ask them to talk about the changes since you last got together.

3. What’s new in their lives? New activities. New people. New events. New feelings and values. Invite people to talk about the novel and new.

4. Comment on and, where appropriate, compliment them for positive changes. Drop them notes mentioning how healthy and good they look since they’ve lost the weight. Or since they got their promotion. Send them notes and emails giving them warm feedback on the changes.

Change is opportunity. A new chance to build libertarian bridges to other people’s lives.

And we might miss this opportunity.

Unless we emulate George Bernard Shaw’s tailor.

* * * * * * * *
Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian PersuasionMichael Cloud’s latest book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively from the Advocates, along with his acclaimed earlier book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion.

In 2000, Michael was honored with the Thomas Paine Award as the Most Persuasive Libertarian Communicator in America.

Marijuana Shockers Propel New Re-Legalization Effort

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“The Uncovery” is a new online program by the American Civil Liberties Union designed to facilitate mass online activism in support of marijuana re-legalization.

The UncoveryThe Uncovery website lets users select facts about the failures of marijuana prohibition, both national and state by state, and convert these facts into customized graphic messages they can share on social media and send to legislators — all in sixty seconds or less.

Among the sobering facts offered by The Uncovery:

  • Police in the U.S. make a marijuana arrest every 37 seconds.
  • Police made over 8 million marijuana arrests total nationwide between 2001 and 2010.
  • 88% of all marijuana arrests are for marijuana possession.
  • States spent an estimated $496 million incarcerating people for marijuana possession in 2010.
  • States spent an estimated $1.4 billion adjudicating marijuana possession cases in 2010.
  • States spent an estimated $3.6 billion enforcing marijuana laws in 2010.
  • States spent over $1.7 billion on police enforcement of marijuana laws in 2010.
  • In 2010, police made 889,133 marijuana arrests — 300,000 more arrests than they made for all violent crimes.
  • Between 2002 and 2011, the government spent billions enforcing marijuana laws. In that time, marijuana use increased from 6.2% to 7%.
  • 9 out of 10 U.S. adults believe people who possess or use small amounts of marijuana should not face jail time.
  • 52% of Americans support legalizing marijuana.
  • Since legalizing marijuana in 2012, Washington State projects it will raise more than $500 million in marijuana-related revenues annually.
  • More than 42% of all Americans report having tried marijuana in their lifetime.
  • The world’s largest jailer, the U.S. has only 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prison population.
  • Black people and white people use marijuana at similar rates, but Blacks are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.
  • In New York and Texas in 2010, 97% of all marijuana arrests were for possession.
  • 62% of all marijuana arrests in 2010 were of people 24 years old or younger.
  • Between 1995 and 2010, police increased the number of marijuana arrests they made nationwide by 51%.
  • 52% of all drug arrests in 2010 were for marijuana.
  • If current trends continue, the government will spend almost $20 billion enforcing marijuana laws in the next five years.

Learn more at TheUncovery.org

Free Market or… Freed Market?

in Business and Economy, Communicating Liberty, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Free MarketHere’s a neat little phrase that can be very handy when talking about economics: “freed market.”

No, not “free market.”

Freed market.

Here’s why.

As we’ve discussed in the past, “capitalism” is often not a very useful word for libertarians to use to describe the economic system we advocate. Sheldon Richman of the Future of Freedom Foundation gives some good reasons for not always using the word “capitalism” here.

A more accurate and more popular (according to a Gallup poll) alternative I’ve discussed is “free enterprise.”  Also good is “free market.”

But even these useful words are often hijacked by big-government conservatives and others who don’t really mean what libertarians mean by genuine free enterprise.

Today’s economic system is nothing like a free market. Yet it is often described as one. So, when people see massive economic problems and scandals all around them — subsidies and bailouts of rich businesses, unemployment, high taxes, dangerous products, corporate favoritism, monopolies — all of which are due to anti-market actions — it’s natural that they would oppose the “free market” system that we supposedly have. After all, the terms “capitalism” and “free market” are frequently used by those who defend this very system.

Ugh! What confusion!

Which makes “freed market” a great phrase to toss into a discussion.

For example, asked about your economic views, you might say: “I believe in the free market. Or, to be more precise, a freed market.”

Your listener: “What do you mean, ‘freed’ market?”

And that gives you the chance to explain what libertarians actually believe. Something along these lines:

“I want to see our current economic system freed up, for consumers and for competitors. A free market — which we don’t have today — would do that, and we’d all benefit.”

You then persuasively share the many ways everyone would benefit from this.

The use of “freed market” lets you point out how government meddling and crony capitalism, not the market, are responsible for today’s economic woes. It frees you from defending the present system, while still letting you use successful examples from that system as examples of what libertarians are striving for.

Importantly, “freed market” also makes it clear that we don’t have a free market today. It makes it clearer that you are talking about a goal, a better future, something different and better than the status quo.

In short, it lets you present the free market as the solution — not the cause — of today’s problems. It lets you offer a vision of a better future — not a defense of current abuses.

It’s a neat little twist.

The word “freed market” and the idea behind it have been discussed a lot at the Center for a Stateless Society. Here’s an excerpt from “Embracing Markets, Opposing ‘Capitalism’” by Gary Chartier that nicely points out the difference between the economic system we have today — and the free market libertarians want to see:

“To a very significant degree, the economic system we have now is one from which peaceful, voluntary exchange is absent. An interlocking web of legal and regulatory privileges benefit the wealthy and well connected at the expense of everyone else (think patents and copyrights, tariffs, restrictions on banking, occupational licensing rules, land-use restrictions, etc.). The military-industrial complex funnels unbelievable amounts of money — at gunpoint — from ordinary people’s pockets and into the bank accounts of government contractors and their cronies.

“Subsidies of all kinds feed a network of privileged businesses and non-profits. And the state protects titles to land taken at gunpoint or engrossed by arbitrary fiat before distribution to favored individuals and groups. No, the economies of the US, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, and Australia, at least, aren’t centrally planned. The state doesn’t assert formal ownership of (most of) the means of production. But the state’s involvement at multiple levels in guaranteeing and bolstering economic privilege makes it hard to describe the economic system we have now as free.”

With the right listeners, the term “freed markets” can help you open minds to a new understanding of genuine economic freedom and the blessings it can bring.

Free Markets Nurture Empathy

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

Free markets(From the Persuasion Powerpoint section in Volume 19, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Would you like to live in a world where empathy is both virtuous and profitable?

A world where it pays to meet the wants and needs of others?

Look for it in the private sector. Private enterprises. Free markets.

Without empathy, private businesses and free markets wither and die. With empathy, they survive and thrive.

Each business must be guided by empathy for their customers’ wants and needs and budgets.

Or the customers will seek out and patronize a business that does.

Every retail business faces this truth each day.

What would attract customers to our store?

How do our shoppers want to be greeted and treated?

What store layout and merchandising would appeal most to our customers?

What kind of employees would our customers be most comfortable with?

What do our shoppers expect from our employees? Information? Guidance? Courtesy? Close assistance, or room to roam?

What prices and terms make it easiest for our customers to buy?

What do our shoppers think? What do they know? What do they need to know? What do they want? What are they looking for — that no one else has offered them?

Empathy guides businesses toward the right solutions. The answers that open the wallets and purses of their customers.

Private enterprises instill a deep and abiding empathy in each of us who work there.

Free markets nurture empathy.

TIME Magazine: The War on Drugs Is a Real War

in Communicating Liberty by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

TIME MagazineFrom “This Is Why Your Local Police Department Might Have a Tank,” TIME Magazine, June 24:

“Forget Officer Friendly. A new report finds that local police departments are becoming excessively militarized, equipped with weapons, uniforms and even vehicles formerly used by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. …

“As the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have wound down, police departments have been obtaining military equipment, vehicles and uniforms that have flowed directly from the Department of Defense. According to a new report by the ACLU, the federal government has funneled $4.3 billion of military property to law enforcement agencies since the late 1990s, including $450 million worth in 2013. Five hundred law enforcement agencies have received Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, built to withstand bomb blasts. More than 15,000 items of military protective equipment and ‘battle dress uniforms,’ or fatigues worn by the U.S. Army, have been transferred. The report includes details of police agencies in towns like North Little Rock, Ark., which has 34 automatic and semi-automatic rifles, a Mamba tactical vehicle and two MARCbots, which are armed robots designed for use in Afghanistan.

“‘More Americans are becoming aware of the militarization of policing, but the use of paramilitary tactics to fight the war on drugs has been going on for a very long time,’” says the ACLU’s Kara Dansky. Throughout the 1980s, law enforcement agencies got more aggressive in how they served drug warrants …

“As police departments have added military gear, they’ve also upped the number of SWAT deployments, especially for use in drug warrants. Eighty-nine percent of police departments serving populations of 50,000 or more had SWAT teams in the late 1990s, twice as many as in the mid-1980s. In the mid-2000s, 80% of smaller police agencies — those serving between 25 and 50,000 people — had SWAT teams, up from 20% in the mid-1980s.

“Those squads are increasingly being deployed for drug searches. Almost two-thirds of SWAT deployments between 2011 and 2012 were for drug raids. Many of those units base their strategy and tactics on military special operations like Navy SEALs. …

“Using military-style equipment has an effect on the behavior of police officers as well, adds Kraska. ‘It changes the culture of the police department,’ she says. ‘It gets them into a much more intense, paramilitary mindset rather than thinking about a community-oriented approach to policing.’”

 

Thank You, Libertarian Party!

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Party, News From the Advocates for Self-Government, Philosophy by Sharon Harris Comments are off
(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)
Last week at its national convention, the Libertarian Party awarded me the greatest honor of my career.I was awarded the party’s Thomas Paine Award. The Thomas Paine Award is given by the Libertarian Party every two years to the Libertarian Party member “who has been an outstanding communicator of Libertarian ideas, principles, and values through written, published, or spoken communications.”
As someone who has spent the last two decades teaching libertarians to successfully communicate the ideas of liberty, there can be no greater professional honor for me.
I am deeply moved to receive this award, and I cannot thank the Libertarian Party enough for this recognition. It will inspire me to work even harder for our great cause.
In 2012 Advocates Chairman of the Board Jim Lark was given this same award, driving home the vital role the Advocates plays in this important field.The Libertarian Party national awards program began in 1996 with the Samuel Adams Award (for outstanding activism), the Thomas Paine Award (for outstanding communication of libertarian ideas), and the Thomas Jefferson Award (for lifetime achievement through 2010; from 2012 henceforth, for outstanding leadership).I think it speaks very highly of the Advocates that so many people associated with this organization have received these awards.Since 1996, only three people have won at least two of the awards: Harry Browne (1998 Thomas Paine Award, 2006 Thomas Jefferson Award); Jim Lark (2004 Samuel Adams Award, 2008 Thomas Jefferson Award, 2012 Thomas Paine Award); and me (2012 Thomas Jefferson Award, 2014 Thomas Paine Award).Advocates Chair Jim Lark is the only person who has won all three.Other longtime Advocates friends and associates who have won these prestigious awards are David Bergland (1998 Thomas Jefferson Award), Michael Cloud (2000 Thomas Paine Award), and Mary Ruwart (2004 Thomas Paine Award).And I was deeply moved this year when Hardy Macia — an Advocates Board member and longtime Advocates supporter who died last May — received the 2014 Samuel Adams Award recognizing outstanding LP activism.

Also at this convention, Harry Browne and ballot access expert and activist Richard Winger were inducted into the Libertarian Party’s new Hall of Liberty. Harry was a great friend of the Advocates. He did communication workshops with us, gave us the honor of publishing his great book Liberty A-Z: 872 Soundbites You Can Use Right Now!, and delivered his last speech at our 20th Anniversary Celebration just a few months before his death.

Richard Winger has been a friend of the Advocates for many years, and I have long admired his unique and important work. He has also advised Liberator Online editor James W. Harris on articles on ballot access issues.

Advocates people stayed busy at this year’s convention fulfilling our mission: helping libertarians become great communicators of the ideas of liberty.

I conducted three workshops the week of the convention: a workshop on effective communication; a workshop on how learning about personality types can help libertarians successfully present the ideas of liberty to everyone; and a communication workshop for the Libertarian State Leadership Alliance (LSLA) at their candidate training the day before the convention. Thanks to everyone who attended!

Jim Lark conducted a campus organizing workshop along with Students For Liberty co-founder and president Alexander McCobin. Advocates Board member Emily Salvette was chair of the Credentials Committee at the convention, a position she has held on previous occasions and for which she has drawn great praise.

Finally, the Advocates booth, featuring a wide variety of communication books and other tools, as well as some fun convention specials, was a big draw and was kept busy throughout the convention. A big thanks to Advocates Program Services Coordinator Dagny Smith and Brett Bittner for making this booth a smashing success.

Again, thank you Libertarian Party for this great honor. This would not have been possible without the inspiration, teachings and personal examples of numerous mentors I have been blessed to have in the libertarian movement. I cannot begin to thank them all here, but I would like to single out my predecessors at the Advocates for Self-Government: our late founder Marshall Fritz and past Advocates president Carole Ann Rand. I am enormously grateful to them — and all who inspired and worked with them — for building this organization that has given me such a wonderful opportunity to serve the liberty movement.

The Advocates will continue to provide vital resources for libertarian activists — helping them to be successful in taking the libertarian message of individual liberty, abundance and peace to the world.

Thank you!

Are You Waiting for Our Libertarian Ship to Come In?

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

(From the Persuasion PowerPoint section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

big ship“Big Government is unsustainable,” said one libertarian. “It’ll collapse and that’s when we’ll get liberty.”

“I’m part of the Remnant,” said another. “Liberty is doomed…for now. My job is to quietly share libertarianism until the world is ready for liberty.”

“Our tax-burdened, regulation-strangled economy can’t last,” said a third. “When it falls apart, liberty will march in.”

Passive waiting is NOT a strategy. Nor even a good choice — if you want freedom in our lifetime.

You have to send out ships — if you want our ship to come in.

Do you know where the phrase “waiting for my ship to come in” came from?

In the 19th Century, English investors and entrepreneurs built huge sailing ships. It took months to build them, months to stock them with trading goods and provisions, and months to hire a good captain and crew.

Then these ships were launched to seek out foreign producers and traders. To exchange English goods for gold and silver and jewels, for silk and spices and other precious things.

Some of the ships hit reefs and sank. Others were destroyed by storms. Some were seized by pirates. Others mutinied — and went to Australia.

There were no shortwave radios. No telegraphs. No cell phones. No way to communicate with the ships until they returned to England.

“Waiting for my ship to come in” was coined by those who sent their ships out.

How many ships have you sent out? How many have you helped make ready to launch?

For our libertarian ships to come in, we must first send out many more seaworthy ships.

Have you acquired an Operation Politically Homeless (OPH) libertarian outreach kit for your local libertarian organization? OPH is a proven, tested way to discover new libertarian-leaning people and bring them into the liberty movement. That’s one ship sent out.

If you’re a student, the Advocates is giving OPH kits FREE to any campus libertarian organization that agrees to use them a minimum of three times in the coming year. Have you requested one for your campus group? That’s a second ship sent out.

Have you volunteered to work at an OPH booth? That’s a third ship sent out. (AND the most fun you can have with your clothes on.)

Have you forwarded thought-provoking articles from the Liberator Online to interested friends? That’s a fourth ship launched.

Have you bought an Advocates book or product — say, Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion — for libertarian friends and acquaintances? For their birthdays? Or just because? That’s a fifth ship. (And a handbook on “shipbuilding” for liberty.)

Work for liberty! Send out more and more ships. And you will stand a much better chance that YOUR libertarian ship will come in — and that you will have liberty in our lifetime.

* * * * * * * *
Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion by Michael CloudMichael Cloud’s latest book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively from the Advocates, along with his acclaimed earlier book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion.

In 2000, Michael was honored with the Thomas Paine Award as the Most Persuasive Libertarian Communicator in America.

Word Choices: Pro-Market, Not Pro-Business

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Libertarianism by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Libertarians enormously appreciate the positive contributions so many businesses have made to our

world.

Because of this, libertarians are sometimes labeled “pro-business.”

But this is incorrect — and misleading.

Libertarians are not “pro-business.” We are “pro-market” — a very different thing.

The distinction is a vital one.

Libertarians support a free market where businesses are free to enter a field and offer their goods and services, in competition with any and all others who wish to do the same.

The resulting competition brings ever-better goods and services. Lower prices. Innovation. More convenience and more choice.

The companies that succeed in this free market competition do so by doing the best job of pleasing customers. Those that fail to sufficiently please consumers go out of business. The consumer is king.

This is the market process that libertarians strongly support.

But being “pro-business” is an entirely different thing. Politicians, lobbyists, economists, pundits and others who are pro-business — or who favor a particular business entity — may lobby for special favors for a particular business or area of commerce.

This may be pro-business. But it is anti-market.

Many who are pro-business want government to help particular businesses or industries that are unable to compete effectively. Sometimes they want government to use political power and tax dollars to entice a business to locate in a particular area.

Pro-business forces may want to prop up a favored business with bailouts of tax dollars or with other tax grants. They often call for punitive taxes on competition that challenges the favored business (especially if that competition is foreign). They may offer special zoning privileges to favored businesses. They may call on the government to seize private property through eminent domain and give it to a favored business.

Pro-business forces may endorse licensing, education requirements, regulations and other obstacles that protect favored businesses from competition. It often surprises people to learn that many large businesses love government regulation because it limits their competition. But as Nobel Prize winning economist George Stigler wrote: “…as a rule, regulation is acquired by the industry and is designed and operated primarily for its benefit.”

Governments may declare a business is “too big to fail” and thus deserves a huge taxpayer bailout. Or that a field is crucial to the “public interest,” and thus deserving of subsidies and special treatment; agriculture is a prime example.

You get the picture. All of this is done by pro-business people. And all of it is deeply, profoundly, anti-market.

In an excellent article on this topic, “‘Free Market’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Pro-Business“ economist Art Carden quotes a great passage from the book The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley:

“I hold no brief for large corporations, whose inefficiencies, complacencies, and anti-competitive tendencies often drive me as crazy as the next man. Like Milton Friedman, I notice that ‘business corporations in general are not defenders of free enterprise. On the contrary, they are one of the chief sources of danger.’ They are addicted to corporate welfare, they love regulations that erect barriers to entry to their small competitors, they yearn for monopoly and they grow flabby and inefficient with age.”

The fruits of the pro-business mindset — taxes, unfairness, lack of competition and choice, over-priced goods and services, unemployment — are often the things that people hate most about our economic system. People naturally blame this on free enterprise, on the market system. Yet it is the pro-business mindset — not the market — that is responsible for these ills.

Let me give Art Carden the (almost) final word:

“In a free market, you are welcome, and indeed encouraged, to enter the mousetrap industry if you think you can build a better mousetrap or find a way to make similar mousetraps more efficiently. The other side of that coin is that you will be encouraged to leave the mousetrap industry if it turns out that your mousetraps are not better, but inferior.

“A ‘free market’ agenda is not the same thing as a ‘pro business’ agenda. Businesses should not be protected from competition, losses, and bankruptcy when they fail to deliver for the customer. All three are essential to truly free markets and free enterprise.”

Don’t use the label “pro-business.” And politely but firmly reject it if someone attempts to label you that way. Respond that you are pro-market, not pro-business. And explain the difference.

Grab Those Ideas — Before They Get Away!

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

I was enjoying a delightful lunch with Harry Browne and a few other libertarians. Harry was discussing an upcoming book project. As usual with Harry, it was fascinating, enlightening and fun listening.

Someone at the table commented on something Harry had said, adding a surprising fact and quote that backed up Harry’s argument.

Harry listened attentively to the first few words, and then — still listening carefully — he Write It Down!pulled out a pad and pen and jotted down the information. “What was the name of that congressman you quoted?” he asked. He wrote that down, too.

I was impressed. Harry — a prolific writer and New York Times bestselling author — had obviously learned to grab onto ideas and important information that came his way. And to write it down, not trust his memory.

It’s a great idea. Probably everyone has heard that advice. But, as author Chris Guillebeau — who writes several hundred thousand words a year —notes:

“You may have heard the advice about carrying a notebook everywhere and writing things down as you think of them. This advice falls into the category of ‘extremely helpful tips that almost no one follows.’ Trust me, it helps: I have my notebook when I ride my bike, when I go to a restaurant, and with me on the seat of two hundred airplanes a year. Never keep anything in your head — keep it in the notebook instead.”

Is this idea “simplistic?” Maybe. But sometimes when someone describes an idea as “simplistic,” that really means “something everyone knows is a great idea — but almost nobody actually does.”

What should you use?

Liberator Online editor James W. Harris uses 3 X 5 note cards, an idea suggested to him by a prominent journalist. He writes down one idea or thought or item per card, transfers them onto his computer or elsewhere later, and then tosses them. That keeps things organized — one card doesn’t get crammed with half a dozen unrelated notes. He carries a few dozen of these ridiculously inexpensive cards (a dollar or so for 300) in his pocket at all times, held together by a small black binder clip. (Several years ago this combination was given the unfortunate name of the Hipster PDA.)

Other people swear by small wirebound notebooks.

Write It Down!There are e-devices and apps that are useful, too, of course. You can speak into a recording device — a stand-alone recorder, or a pad or phone.

When the perfect blog post title, a few lines of poetry, the perfect wording for a letter to the editor… whatever it is, when the right wording or the right idea comes to mind, jot it down.

Ideas have a tendency to pop into your mind at odd, unexpected moments. It’s your job to catch them. And the more you do this, the more the ideas seem to come.

It’s not just brilliant literary brainstorms that you want to record, of course. If someone says “Hey, can I have your email address?” you can dash it off and hand it to them. And vice-versa.

If you’re preparing a political meeting and you suddenly have to run to the store to pick up some essential last-minute items, jot them down — don’t rely on memory.

If you need directions, pull out your notepad. When you hear the name of a book or movie you want to check out… a great song on the radio… a new restaurant… write it down.

Get the idea?

Keep something to write on by your bed, too. Perhaps also a lighted pen.

As blogger and web developer Glen Stansberry advises:

“It almost always never fails. I’ll have a great idea, I’ll think about it for a while, and never remember it again. Why? I didn’t write it down. Half of having a good idea is actually writing it down. Writing it down gives you freedom to let your mind explore it even more, because it doesn’t have to work on actually remembering it. If paper isn’t your thing, use a voice recorder, your cell phone’s voicemail, a pda, a rock and chisel… anything so that you can file it somewhere other than your brain.”

And remember the advice of one famous writer (whose name I can’t recall — I should have written it down!): When you get a great idea, and you think, “I’ll never forget that — I’ll write it down later” — that’s the Devil speaking!

A Testimonial and Thank You to My Fellow Advocates

in Communicating Liberty by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion Power Point section in Volume 19, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Michael Cloud at the Advocates 20th Anniversary CelebrationFifteen years ago — in 1999 — the Liberator Online published my first Persuasion Point Column.

I had been researching and developing, designing and refining, testing and correcting the Art of Libertarian Persuasion since the mid-1970s — and had published and taught what I had learned at Libertarian Party state conventions and many other libertarian events.

But it was not until I partnered with the Advocates for Self-Government that my work really broke through and caught fire in the libertarian movement.

We were made for each other. And for our fellow Advocates.

Advocates Presidents Marshall Fritz, Carole Ann Rand, and Sharon Harris built an organization rooted in courtesy and civility — while advancing and advocating 24 carat gold, undiluted, uncompromised libertarianism.

Jimmy Harris put together the FUN libertarian e-newsletter: the Liberator Online — featuring writers such as Mary Ruwart, David Bergland, Advocates’ President Sharon Harris, and me… Michael Cloud. Under his editorship we created a libertarian ezine that’s filled with life, love, liberty… and laughter. A publication that takes the ideas of liberty and the best ways to communicate them to tens of thousands of libertarian activists.

It’s been a pleasure and an honor writing and working with these shining stars for 15 years. And I look forward to another 15 years of writing Persuasion Power Points.

But I’m mainly writing for YOU, gentle reader, fellow Advocate… friend.

Because you may be the next Tom Paine or George Washington or Patrick Henry.

You may be the next Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, or Ludwig von Mises.

You may be the next Henry Hazlitt or Harry Browne, Marshall Fritz or Dave Nolan.

You could set in motion the largest political change since the American Revolution.

OR — you could reach and teach the person who will be.

Are you the one? Are you the individual who will take freedom to the Tipping Point?

You give me hope. You and those you talk to about libertarianism.

Thank you for choosing liberty.

* * * * * * * *
Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian PersuasionMichael Cloud’s latest book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively from the Advocates, along with his acclaimed earlier book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion.In 2000, Michael was honored with the Thomas Paine Award as the Most Persuasive Libertarian Communicator in America.

Raising the Overton Window

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In the 1990s I had the great pleasure of meeting the late Joseph P. Overton at a leadership seminar at the free-market Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Joe was senior vice president of Mackinac. He was brilliant, charismatic, inspiring and fun to be with. The liberty movement lost a great leader when he died in a plane crash on June 30, 2003.

One of Joe’s many contributions to liberty was the popularizing of a vital concept that now bears his name: the Overton Window.

Overton Window: A Model of Policy Change
The Overton Window is explained by Mackinac this way:

“Joseph Overton observed that in a given public policy area… only a relatively narrow range of potential policies will be considered politically acceptable.”

“This ‘window’ of politically acceptable options is primarily defined not by what politicians prefer, but rather by what they believe they can support and still win re-election.”

“In general, then, the window shifts to include different policy options not when ideas change among politicians, but when ideas change in the society that elects them.”

This is a powerful concept. You can see it clearly when you illustrate it, as Joe did, by lining up possible positions on a political issue in order from more free to less free.

Let’s do this with drug policy. Here are a few positions on this issue, lined up (starting from the bottom) from most oppressive to least oppressive:

All drugs are legal for adults to buy, sell, and consume
“Hard drugs” legal but only with doctor’s prescription
Some other drugs in addition to marijuana also legal; other still illegal
—————————————————————————
Marijuana legal to own, grow, sell with permission from government
Marijuana legal to buy but not sell
Marijuana legal for medical purposes only, with doctor’s prescription
Marijuana illegal but only minimal punishment
All drugs illegal with stiff penalties
—————————————————————————
Mandatory drug tests for all Americans
Harsh punishment for drug use
Death penalty for drug use, possession, sale

See the two lines I made in the middle of that list? Those lines show the area of today’s most politically-acceptable options. That’s an approximation of where we are right now.

Those lines show the top and the bottom of the Overton Window at this time.

Those policies inside the Overton Window are politically acceptable. It doesn’t mean they are right, universally agreed on, or that they are law. It just means that people holding or seeking political office can say they support them, and still get elected.

In contrast, the policies outside the Overton Window are not very politically acceptable. It is far harder to advocate them and get elected. Not impossible, but more difficult.

The Overton Window makes our goal as libertarians clear: to raise the window. To push it ever higher. To make currently unpopular libertarian positions acceptable. To bring those positions into the mainstream political debate.

As we do so, we also raise the bottom part of the window, so that previous authoritarian solutions are no longer acceptable.

How do we do this? Surprisingly, not by electing politicians, according to the Mackinac Center:

“Many believe that politicians move the window, but that’s actually rare. In our understanding, politicians typically don’t determine what is politically acceptable; more often they react to it and validate it. Generally speaking, policy change follows political change, which itself follows social change. The most durable policy changes are those that are undergirded by strong social movements.”

Politicians are lagging indicators; that is, they usually reflect what is acceptable, rather than making radical political change.

The Overton Window model gives us some major insights into how we can effectively change government policy. Rather than just hoping to elect the “right people” to office, it suggests that the most powerful way to changing government policy lies in changing the views of the public as to what is acceptable.

Do this, and the politicians will follow. Witness the growing popularity of the movement to relegalize marijuana. It’s not a movement that was brought about by politicians. Rather, politicians are reluctantly accepting it because of the years of work by liberty activists to educate the public to demand reform.

That means our job as libertarian communicators is to constantly be pushing the window up — gently but persuasively — in the direction of liberty. In our discussions with people, in our outreach efforts, in our casual conversations.

When, for example, relegalizing medical marijuana is politically possible, we support that — but we also argue that marijuana should be legal across the board, for everyone. And as that idea begins to win, our job is to push it further, until we reach the full libertarian ideal: adults are free to use whatever substances they wish.

Similarly, on taxation, our goal right now might be a particular tax cut or reducing the tax burden. But we also want to argue for something that’s now outside the Window — like ending the income tax, for example — in order to introduce that idea into the debate and thus raise the Overton Window. And as that idea gains traction, we discuss more seriously the libertarian ideal: ending all taxes.

Important: This does NOT mean that we should deliberately pursue gradualism or avoid discussing long-range and ultimate libertarian goals. We don’t have to move one small step up the Overton Window at a time. I strongly agree with the great abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison: “Gradualism in theory is perpetuity in practice.” I strongly believe we should be ready and happy to argue persuasively for the full libertarian position any time. Indeed, doing so is part of raising the Overton Window.

However, during a political discussion in which there is general agreement on a particular libertarian reform, there is often a great opportunity for us to push the discussion a bit further — to raise the Overton Window higher. Be alert for such opportunities.

This also suggests that, for most of us, using effective and persuasive communication methods, such as those taught by the Advocates, is crucial. While we need our Menckenish curmudgeons and pundits, most of us can’t do that well. We can be most effective by winning the trust of our neighbors and community members, bringing them to our side.

Ultimately it is public opinion, not political power, that changes society. Which means we have in our hands the ability to make bold political change. Which means the more successfully and persuasively we can communicate our ideas, the greater our chance for victory.

So let’s use that power to push the Overton Window up, up, up until it’s wide-open — and we welcome in the fresh air of liberty.

*  *  *

More on the Overton Window can be found at this website: The Overton Window, A Model of Policy Change by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. This web page has several short essays on the Overton Window, illustrations of the Window in action, videos, thoughts on how to move the Window up, and more. Essential.

Also of interest: Murray Rothbard challenges gradualism in his essay “The Case for Radical Idealism.

Making the Case for Ending the Income Tax

in Communicating Liberty, Taxes by Sharon Harris Comments are off

Ending the personal income tax would be a great blessing for America. And it would achieve many libertarian goals in one single swoop.

However, to most Americans — even those who hate the income tax — the idea currently seems unrealistic and breathtakingly radical.

Can we persuade others to accept this idea — and eventually propel it into the mainstream political discussion?

Libertarians are already doing this with many issues, including drug re-legalization, ending the Federal Reserve, privatization, a non-interventionist and many more.

Why shouldn’t we add ending the personal income tax to that list? The potential pay-off is incredible.

Here are some ways to present this bold libertarian idea as sensible, desirable and realistic.

ONE: Use the popularity of Ron Paul. If you’re discussing this issue with a Ron Paul admirer and there are millions of them then the battle is already at least half won. Just tell the person that Paul has long supported ending the personal income tax, and several times he has introduced legislation, the Liberty Amendment, to do this, most recently on April 30, 2009.

In fact, even if your listener isn’t a Ron Paul fan, the mere fact that legislation has been introduced in Congress to end the personal income tax will make the idea seem more real, more possible.

TWO: If appropriate, explain your position with dramatic language along these lines:

“I want to end the income tax — and replace it with… nothing.”

This makes it clear that you’re calling for bold change, not just a reshuffling of the status quo. This is powerful and provocative phrasing. The pause, then the unexpected “nothing” at the end surprises your listener — and makes him eager to hear what you’ll say next.

THREE: The natural question you’ll be asked is: “But how will we fund the government without the income tax? How can we fund essential services?”

Happily, there’s a great and persuasive answer. On November 20, 2008 Ron Paul said in a New York Times interview:

“About 45 percent of all federal revenue comes from the personal income tax. That means that about 55 percent — over half of all revenue — comes from other sources, like excise taxes, fees, and corporate taxes.

“We could eliminate the income tax, replace it with nothing, and still fund the same level of big government we had in the late 1990s. We don’t need to ‘replace’ the income tax at all.

That is remarkable and eye-opening: to think that we could adapt a budget from roughly ten years ago (or, more precisely, cut spending back to the still extremely high levels of just ten years ago) — and no longer be plagued by the personal income tax.

You’ll want to update the numbers, if possible, or at least qualify the statement by saying something to the effect of In 2008, Ron Paul pointed out

FOUR: Having made this striking point, you can de-radicalize the issue by adding: “So perhaps this idea isn’t so radical after all.”

FIVE: Strengthen point number three by adding something along these lines: “By the way, in the late 1990s, when Bill Clinton was president, I don’t remember many people complaining that government wasn’t big enough, or complaining we had too little government.”

Ask your listener if he would be willing to reduce the federal government to the size it was in the last years of the Clinton administration — if it meant we could abolish outright the personal income tax.

Many people will respond by saying that we need more reduction than that. Congratulations — you’ve just turned a radical-sounding idea into something that doesn’t sound radical enough!

SIX: Now it’s time to make the point that history is on your side. Tell your listener that America didn’t have an income tax until well into the 20th century — and without an income tax we quickly rose from a struggling ex-colony to become the most abundant nation in history.

Ron Paul, who has done more than any other elected official to advance this issue, made this point beautifully in 2001. Use his language to shape your own response:

“Could America exist without an income tax? The idea seems radical, yet in truth America did just fine without a federal income tax for the first 126 years of its history. Prior to 1913, the government operated with revenues raised through tariffs, excise taxes, and property taxes, without ever touching a worker’s paycheck.”

SEVEN: You may be asked: “But what about the Fair Tax (or the Flat Tax, or some other income tax reform plan)?”

Ron Paul provides a friendly and supportive response to this question. From the New York Times, Nov. 20, 2008:

“I see a consumption tax as being a little better than the personal income tax, and I would vote for the Fair Tax if it came up in the House of Representatives, but it is not my goal. We can do better. … We could eliminate the income tax, replace it with nothing, and still fund the same level of big government we had in the late 1990s. We don’t need to ‘replace’ the income tax at all.”

You can also point out that it is hard work to build support for any form of bold tax reform, including the Flat Tax and Fair Tax. We may get just one shot at major tax reform in our lifetimes. So why not put our effort into building a movement for change that would dramatically limit government and increase freedom? As the old saying goes, if you don’t ask for what you really want, you’ll never get it; but if you do ask, you might just get it all.

EIGHT: Make the benefits of abolition come alive for your listeners! Do what every good salesperson — and political persuader — must do: sell the benefits of the idea.

Help your listeners feel the desirability of income tax abolition. Make them feel in their pockets the extra money that would be theirs. Help them envision spending it. Create for them a vivid mental picture of what they would do, and how they would feel, when freed of the awful burden of the personal income tax. Help them see the better America that would emerge from this change. Make the dream come alive!

No one was better at doing this than the late Harry Browne, two-time Libertarian Party presidential candidate and one of the best libertarian communicators of all time.

Here is how Browne presented this:

“Imagine what would happen if we repealed all forms of federal income tax — including the personal income tax, the corporate income tax, Social Security, the estate tax, and the gift tax. A world of benefits would quickly come in the wake of repealing these taxes.

“The first benefit is the most obvious: all the money you’re paying in income taxes will be yours — to spend, to save, to give away as you see fit, not as the politicians think is best for you…

“When we repeal the income tax, all that you pay now in income and Social Security taxes will be yours at last — to do with as you see fit.

“If yours is the average American family, that means over $10,000 dollars a year that’s been going to the politicians that will stay in your hands.

“Every dollar you earn will be yours — to spend, to save, to give away as you see fit…

“So what will you do with that money when they no longer take it away from you?

“Will you put your children in private schools — where you could get exactly the kind of education you believe best for them? …

“Will you start that business you’ve always dreamed of?

*Will you move into a better neighborhood, take your family on a better vacation, arrange a much more comfortable and much more secure retirement?

“Will you help your church or your favorite cause or charity in a way you’ve never been able to do before?

“What will you do with that money?

“At last, it will all be yours — and the government will no longer have a claim on it.” …

“There will be a similar increase in take-home pay for everyone you do business with — your customers or your employer — meaning that people will have more money to spend on what you have to offer.

“A similar increase in take-home pay will occur throughout America, unleashing the biggest boost in prosperity that America has ever seen. There will be a job for everyone who can work and charity for everyone who can’t.

“Your life will be your own again: an end to government snooping into your finances, an end to keeping books for the IRS, an end to fear of an audit, an end to rearranging your financial life to minimize your tax burden.”

Wow! Harry really gives flesh and bones to this abstract political idea.

Notice, too, that he doesn’t just appeal to narrow self-interest. He realizes that many people want to keep more of their own money so they can help others — by giving to churches and charities, improving education, and so forth.

That excerpt is from Harry’s great 2003 article “Freedom from the Income Tax.” You can read the entire article here.

Use this example to create your own way to make your listeners feel, at a deep emotional level, the benefits of being completely free from the income tax.

NINE: Know your audience so you can show them specifically how ending the income tax will make a big difference on the issues most important to them.

Are they concerned about poverty and joblessness? Ending the income tax will put hundreds of billions of dollars every year back into the hands of those who earn it. It will dramatically stimulate economic growth. It will unleash, as Harry Browne said, “the biggest boost in prosperity that America has ever seen. There will be a job for everyone who can work and charity for everyone who can’t.”

Are your listeners concerned about education and strong families? Without the burden of an income tax, private education will flourish. Parents will be able to afford the education they think best for their children. Families where both parents are now forced to work fulltime will be able to afford, if they wish, to let one parent stay home and devote their time to their children. Nothing will do more to strengthen family values than ending the income tax.

Are they concerned about intrusive Big Government? Ending the income tax will limit government power and force government to act with far more restraint and responsibility.

Whatever the issue, ending the income tax will benefit them. Help them see this.

TEN: Point out to your liberty-minded friends that ending the income tax will win numerous victories for limited-government advocates — at once. Currently freedom activists must address so many issues. But the abolition of the personal income tax would win many of these victories in a single stroke!

This is a powerful argument that supporters of the Liberty Amendment have made for years. For examples of how the Liberty Amendment would dramatically shrink government in many ways at once, see this article.

ELEVEN: Some will say that such dramatic reform is impossible, that it is simply too big a change to hope for. One way you can address this is point out specific, concrete examples of enormous political change that happened quickly.

Examples: It became illegal to sell liquor in 1920 — a gigantic change in American life. Further, that seemingly permanent law was repealed just as dramatically in 1932, after the failures of Prohibition became obvious. Women secured the right to vote in America in 1920 — after nearly a century and a half of being denied this. The Berlin Wall, once seemingly as permanent as the Great Pyramids, fell suddenly in a matter of days in 1989. Government-imposed segregation in the South was halted after being the norm for a century.

Have examples like this at your fingertips. They can help your listener see, understand — and most importantly, feel — that bold libertarian change like abolishing the income tax is indeed possible.

When enough Americans understand the case for ending the income tax, and demand it be done, it will disappear. Help them see, understand, and feel this. Its hard to think of much else that could so quickly and dramatically benefit our country and the world.

Resources:

Read Ron Paul’s comments on introducing the Liberty Amendment:

Read the wording of the Liberty Amendment.

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