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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.

Do Libertarians Support a National Sales Tax?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Question: I have read about proposals to eliminate the income tax and replace it Collect Taxwith a consumption tax (national sales tax). This seems like a very good idea. First, it would mean foreign manufacturers would pay almost the same tax as domestic ones. Second. it would remove the need for large accounting and legal departments in corporations, and would certainly simplify the paperwork of small businesses. Third, it would eliminate the ability of the wealthy to utilize loopholes in the present tax system. There are many more benefits I can see, and I can’t see a downside. Am I missing something? Do libertarians support this idea?

My Short Answer: Libertarians recognize that taxation of any kind is theft and therefore do not support taxation. However, some dedicated libertarians have been working to replace the income tax with a consumption tax, like the one you’ve outlined.

Among other things, they believe that people would feel the bite much more if everything they bought came with a double-digit sales tax. Tax increases would be more visible — and more unpopular for politicians to propose. The abuses perpetrated by the IRS would also end. Public support for abolishing taxes altogether would increase.

However, one danger many libertarians see in proposing this switch is the possibility that we would end up with a national sales tax AND an income tax.

Why not simply get rid of the income tax and replace it with nothing, as libertarian presidential candidates like Ron Paul and Harry Browne have proposed?

As Ron Paul told the New York Times in 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.”

Ron Paul is right. If all we did was to restrict government to its constitutional limits, we could provide for defense and other necessary functions with constitutionally-permitted excise taxes.

Then, libertarians could start working on getting rid of those, too!

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

Fairtax.org is the website of Americans For Fair Taxation, a non-profit organization that argues for the Fair Tax. Their site includes an extensive FAQ that answers common questions about the proposal.

* “There Is No Such Thing as a Fair Tax“ by Laurence M. Vance, Mises Daily, December 12, 2005. Vance says advocates of the Fair Tax are right on the evils of the income tax, but the Fair Tax isn’t the solution. He lists 17 problems with the Fair Tax from a libertarian perspective.

* “Against the FairTax Proposal“ by Jim Cox, LewRockwell.com, March 29, 2005. Additional criticisms of the Fair Tax from the author of The Concise Guide to EconomicsMinimum Wage Maximum Damage, and The Haiku Economist, the latter two published by the Advocates.

* * * * * * * * * *
Short Answers to the Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

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

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

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

Short Essays Attract More Readers

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

(From the Persuasion PowerPoint section in Volume 19, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Every week, more and more online and offline writers flood us with more and more information.

They write long essays and long books.Writing

You and I simply don’t have enough time to read everything worth reading.

So we skim, sift, and sort a few pages of this and a few pages of that — to determine which, if either, is worth an hour — or more.

Would you like your writing to go to the front of the line?

Would you like busy, overwhelmed readers to read your whole essay?

Write a short, short piece. 300 words.

Or write a short blog or essay. 600 to 900 words.

SurfingIn a world of long essays, the short essays stand out.

And they can be read in less time than it takes to decide whether to read the 3,000 to 5,000 word essay.

An average reader can read 300 words in 90 seconds — or 900 words in 4-1/2 minutes.

Want to quickly learn how to write brief, to-the-point essays?

First, read How to Write Short by Roy Peter Clark.

Second, read The 30-Minute Writer by Connie Emerson.

Your essays will get read — by the vital, busy, bright readers you want to reach.

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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.

Would Religious References Be Removed from Money, Courts and Schools in a Libertarian Society?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: I want to see the removal of all references to a god from money, courts, and schools, as I believe these are a violation of the separation of church and state. What is the libertarian stance on this?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, all schools would be private. You could send your children to a school that catered to your tastes (i.e., no references to a deity or religion) and religious people could send their children to a school devoted to Him (or Her as the case might be).

Competition in currency, which would be most likely in a libertarian society, would probably result in some private currencies without a religious reference and others with one.

Some libertarians believe that courts should compete as well; others want a monopolistic system like we have today. Since a libertarian society’s code would be ‘honoring our neighbor’s choice,’ it’s likely that courts would offer both Bible-based oaths and secular ones.

It’s a matter of choice. You choose what you want; others choose what they want. The market gives multiple choice; the government usually gives a one-size-fits-all monopoly.

If someone wants to use government to outlaw religious references, he can only do so by giving the government power to impose religious references. Rather than advocating such a win-lose situation, libertarians promote the win-win options that occur when we honor our neighbor’s choice, rather than imposing our own.

(For a more detailed explanation of what the phrase “honoring our neighbor’s choice” entails, see my book, Healing Our World, available from the Advocates. The earlier 1992 edition can be read online free at my website.)

* * * * * * * * * *
Short Answers to Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

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

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

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

Three Kinds of Government Waste

in Communicating Liberty by Michael Cloud Comments are off

Champagne and Beer

(From the Persuasion PowerPoint section in Volume 19, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

1. Paying champagne prices for beer quality.

2. Buying champagne when all you need is beer.

3. Buying champagne or beer when you don’t need either.

Waste: the government doesn’t need it. Taxpayers can’t afford it.

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Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian PersuasionMichael Cloud’s latest book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively in our store, 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.

“Home to Their Families”

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Bring them homeIn a statement this week  — featured in the Intellectual Ammunition column in this issue — the Libertarian Party called for the U.S. to “immediately withdraw all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and bring them home to their families.”

“Bring them home to their families.” That’s very powerful wording.

Libertarians often use wording like “bring our troops home.” And that’s a very useful phrase.

But adding “back home to their families” makes that far, far Home to their familiesstronger.

“Bring our troops back home to their families.”

The use of “back home” and “to their families” creates a vivid and heartwarming picture of returning husbands and fathers, back from the wars at last, greeted and embraced by tearful, loving wives and children. Of sons and daughters welcomed by their happy and relieved moms and dads and brothers and sisters.

This phrasing has an emotional appeal, something we libertarians need to do more often.

“Bring our troops back home to their families.”

That’s exactly what we want to do. That’s where American soldiers belong — defending America, not carelessly flung abroad to fight in vague wars without constitutional legitimacy and without national defense purposes. It’s a great way libertarians can demonstrate they — to use an oft-heard phrase — truly “support our troops.”

And many Americans — especially those with friends, relatives and loved ones in the military — will respond positively to this wording.

Try it and see.

Will Libertarianism Only Work if People are Rational and Reasonable?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: I’m not sure libertarianism can work unless people are rational and reasonable. And I’ve encountered at least as many irrational, unreasonable folks in my life as I have rational and reasonable ones. I’d like to know: how does libertarian philosophy address that issue?

MY SHORT ANSWER: The ideal political system is one which teaches people to be rational and reasonable. Only libertarianism does this by rewarding responsibility and penalizing irresponsibility.

Conversely, our current system usually does just the opposite.

You’d probably have run into fewer irrational, unreasonable folks if the 20th century had been more libertarian!

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

Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences-winning libertarian economist Gary Becker addresses this question briefly in his essay “Libertarian Paternalism: A Critique.

The relevant excerpts:

“Libertarians believe that individuals should be allowed to pursue their own interests, unless their behavior impacts the interests of others, especially if it negatively impacts others. So individuals should be allowed, according to this view, to buy the food they want, whereas drunk drivers should be constrained because they harm others, and chemical producers should be prevented from polluting as much as they would choose because their pollution hurts children and adults. …

“Classical arguments for libertarianism do not assume that adults never make mistakes, always know their interests, or even are able always to act on their interests when they know them. Rather, it assumes that adults very typically know their own interests better than government officials, professors, or anyone else…

“In addition, the classical libertarian case partly rests on a presumption that being able to make mistakes through having the right to make one’s own choices leads in the long run to more self-reliant, competent, and independent individuals. It has been observed, for example, that prisoners often lose the ability to make choices for themselves after spending many years in prison where life is rigidly regulated.

“In effect, the libertarian claim is that the ‘process’ of making choices leads to individuals who are more capable of making good choices.”

* * * * * * * * * *
Short Answers to Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

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

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

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

Questions to Open People’s Minds to Liberty

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

(From the Persuasion Powerpoint section in Volume 19, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

When you discuss politics or economics with others, do you ask thought-provoking libertarian questions?

Or do you make statements?

Do you invite them to consider new possibilities?

Or do you just argue?

What if certain provocative questions could get others to let down their mental defenses
and impartially consider libertarianism?

Would you be willing to experiment with several mind-opening libertarian questions — and see what results you get?

Try these.

“What if the situation is the opposite of what people in government say it is?”

“What if marijuana prohibition and the Drug War don’t contain or hold down drug use? What if they drive it up?”

“What if they have it backwards?”

“What if drug cartels and drug gangs don’t cause more drug use? What if drug prohibition and the War on Drugs promote and strengthen the cartels and gangs?”

“What if drive-by shootings are the result of drug prohibition, not drugs? How many drive-by shootings have we seen by alcohol distillers and brewers in the last 80 years?”

“What if the government ‘cure’ is worse than the disease?”

“What if the 2009 federal government bailout of Wall Street businesses caused more economic harm to taxpayers who footed the bill and other Wall Street businesses than liquidating the reckless, riverboat-gambling businesses would have?”

“What if tax-funded federal government propping-up of overpriced houses and inflated home loans made things worse for taxpayers and home buyers who were prudent and frugal and did NOT recklessly gamble their earnings and savings?”

“What if government non-involvement results in quick, efficient, inexpensive private-sector solutions?”

“What if, left alone by government, most social or economic problems were solved by private charity, private enterprise, and private ingenuity — at no cost to taxpayers?”

“What if, with NO government involvement, most social or economic problems were dramatically reduced or solved by the men and women and families in the private sector?”

Want the people you talk with to examine and embrace libertarian answers?

Why not ask them thought-provoking libertarian questions like those above?

* * * * * * * *
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.

Daily Beast: World’s Smallest Political Quiz and OPH Recruiting New Libertarians at CPAC

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Guess which booth at this year’s widely-covered CPAC drew the biggest, mostexcited crowds?

(CPAC — the Conservative Political Action Committee — is the nation’s largest annual gathering of conservative activists and office holders, with a strong number of libertarian students among the attendees.)

Here’s what The Daily Beast — one of the most influential news sites on the web, read by millions of readers each month – reported:

“Of all the booths, the one consistently drawing the biggest crowds was WarOnYouth, a joint project by Generation Opportunity and Young Americans for Liberty (YAL)…

“As a clever gimmick, YAL was having passers-by fill out a quickie quiz to determine where they fell on an ideological quadrant that included not just a left/right divide, but also a libertarian/statist one.

 “According to the results chart, the vast majority of respondents fell into the libertarian range, represented by — surprise! — Ron and Rand Paul.”

Yes, that’s Operation Politically Homeless (OPH) and the World’s Smallest Political Quiz working their magic on the CPAC crowd!

Once again the incredible effectiveness of the Advocates’ Operation Politically Homeless booth was demonstrated. Once again OPH has been used to reach the minds of the political leaders, activists and donors of tomorrow.

From the very first time the Advocates introduced OPH, some 25 years ago, users have told us over and over again that OPH brings their outreach booth and tabling efforts alive.

OPH consistently makes a booth the most active, the most talked about, the most fascinating, at any event. OPH consistently draws the biggest crowds, the greatest attention. It is fun and fascinating — for boothers and attendees alike.

And OPH opens minds and changes lives.

I strongly believe OPH, and the World’s Smallest Political Quiz that is the heart of OPH, has played a major role in opening up America’s political landscape to include libertarians.

Prior to the introduction of the World’s Smallest Political Quiz, most Americans thought of politics using a simplistic model of left versus right — which excludes libertarians.

But for over 25 years the Quiz has opened tens of millions of minds to a better political map — one that includes libertarians.

The CPAC OPH booth is just the latest example of the crowd-drawing, mind-opening power of this remarkable tool.

Ron Paul observed the power of the Quiz and OPH many years ago, and put it very well: “The World’s Smallest Political Quiz is responsible for many Americans’ first contact with libertarian ideas. While traveling around the country, I have often heard people say, ‘I never knew I was a libertarian until I took the Quiz!’”

Over 1,000 OPH Kits Delivered FREE to Campus Libertarian Groups

More good news: I am pleased to announce a new OPH milestone.

In the past few years the Advocates has given — completely free of charge — over 1,000 OPH booths to libertarian campus organizations across America.

These kits have reached tens of thousands of students with the ideas of liberty, and they will continue to do so for years. (Student groups: learn more about OPH — and how you can get your FREE OPH kit if you haven’t already — here.)

These OPH kits are being used by libertarian campus groups to discover libertarian-leaning students and welcome them to the liberty movement. Libertarian campus organizations are using OPH to sign up new members and supporters — new libertarian activists who will work in college and after graduation to bring liberty to all America.

And that’s great news indeed!

Word Choice: Blowback — Foreign and Domestic

in Communicating Liberty, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online Archives, National Defense, War by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 4 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“Blowback” is a term that originated in the CIA in 1954. It originally referred to the unintended consequences of a covert foreign operation — consequences that are often suffered by the civilians of the nation whose government instigated the covert operation. This “blowback” may take the form of riots, demonstrations, hostage-taking, terrorist attacks, and similar hostile actions. The civilians on the receiving end of the blowback don’t realize that it was their own government’s secret activities that caused the anger and violence being directed against them.

Blowback is a term heard more and more when discussing foreign policy. And its definition is often expanded to include overt as well as covert foreign interventions that have negative consequences.

Ron Paul helped popularize the concept of blowback, as well as the word itself, during his GOP presidential campaign runs. For example, in the 2008 Republican presidential primary debates in South Carolina, he introduced it this way:

“I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about ‘blowback.’ When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the shah, yes, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages, and that persists. And if we ignore [blowback], we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem. They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there. I mean, what would we think… if other foreign countries were doing that to us?”

Scholar Chalmers Johnson also popularized the term in an influential trilogy of books: Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (2000); The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (2005); and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2006).

Johnson defines the term and tells about the operation that led the CIA to use it:

“’Blowback’ is a CIA term first used in March 1954 in a recently declassified report on the 1953 operation to overthrow the government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran. It is a metaphor for the unintended consequences of the U.S. government’s international activities that have been kept secret from the American people. The CIA’s fears that there might ultimately be some blowback from its egregious interference in the affairs of Iran were well founded. Installing the Shah in power brought twenty-five years of tyranny and repression to the Iranian people and elicited the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution. The staff of the American embassy in Teheran was held hostage for more than a year. This misguided ‘covert operation’ of the U.S. government helped convince many capable people throughout the Islamic world that the United States was an implacable enemy.”

Blowback is a useful word in describing the unintended, but often terrible,  consequences of foreign intervention.

But it is a very useful term for discussing domestic policy as well.

Just like foreign intervention, domestic government intervention has many unintended negative consequences. As the word “blowback” becomes a familiar, popular, colorful pejorative in foreign policy discussions, it is also beginning to be used to describe the unintended destructive consequences of domestic government activities.

Libertarians — who are very aware of the negative unintended consequences of government domestic policy — can use the word blowback to add power and color to our discussions of domestic issues.

Some examples:

“An increase in the minimum wage would lead to blowback in the form of the loss of hundreds of thousands of desperately needed entry level jobs. This blowback would hit the most vulnerable people in our economy: the low-paid, the unemployed, the under-educated, minorities, and the young.”

“Blowback from the War on Drugs includes crowded prisons and wasted law enforcement resources, overdoses from impure street drugs, the spread of AIDS and Hepatitis B and C from shared needles, drugs peddled to children, loss of fundamental Bill of Rights civil liberties, the enriching of violent criminal gangs, the funding of terrorism, drive-by shootings by warring drug gangs… and more.”

“The blowback from government welfare programs includes the break-up of families, multi-generational poverty, dependence on government, and a weakening of the vital role that voluntarily-funded charities play in our society.”

There are innumerable further possibilities.

Blowback is a powerful, provocative word that quickly and colorfully conveys a vital concept. Many people realize its significance in the foreign policy realm. Their ears will perk up, and they may reach new understanding, when you apply it to domestic policy as well.

The FDA Vs. the Health and Safety of Americans

in Communicating Liberty, Healthcare, Liberator Online Archives by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

QUESTION: Which problem is the greatest: the FDA’s approving unsafe drugs, or the FDA’s delaying the approval of life-saving ones?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In 1992, Congress passed the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), allowing drug companies to voluntarily pay about $100,000 to get a speedier review. The money went to hire new reviewers.

The fee has grown steadily; it’s now over one million dollars per drug. The part of the FDA that reviews drug applications now receives about 50% of its funding from drug companies. FDA employees (e.g., Dr. David Graham, the whistleblower on Vioxx) have reported being told by supervisors that the drug companies — not the American public — are the FDA’s clients. This should be expected, as he who pays the bills makes the rules.

Does this mean that the FDA now approves unsafe drugs? It depends on how you look at it. Withdrawal rates (the percent of approved drugs removed from the market) from 1962-1992 and 1993-2013 are virtually identical at about 3%. As time goes on, however, more drugs approved during 1993-2013 are likely to be withdrawn. The differences may be small, though, as most withdrawals occur quickly. On the other hand, Vioxx, approved post-PDUFA, was by far the biggest drug disaster in history.

Does the FDA still delay approval of life-saving drugs? Yes! It does so by demanding that companies perform studies taking an average of 13-plus years. Prior to 1962, the average time was about 4 years. I suspect that these delays are still more costly, in terms of lives lost, than approvals of unsafe drugs.

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

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

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

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

How to Strengthen Your Voice and Prevent Hoarseness

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

(From the Persuasion Powerpoint section in Volume 19, No. 4 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

If you’re a libertarian candidate, public speaker, or seminar leader, you need a strong, reliable speaking voice.

Not just for two or three 20-minute talks. But for six hours to nine hours of speeches, conversations, and questions and answers each campaign day. Each seminar day.

How do you protect or treat your voice against raw throat, hoarseness, and voice fatigue?

For years, professional speakers have used throat lozenges, cough syrup, throat spray, and other over-the-counter remedies. Results? Temporary, minimal relief.

“Not nearly good enough,” thought Steve Chandler, a longtime public speaker and seminar leader.

He looked for and finally found an all-natural, reliable and free solution.

What is it?

“Sing… for an hour a day,” urges Mr. Chandler. “Before I started my singing practice, I didn’t have much of a voice at all. Now I never have a problem with my voice. I can always fill the auditorium with it, even if the AV system goes down and the microphone goes out.”

When does he practice? When he runs errands, he plays music CDs in the car — and sings along with them. Sometimes when he works out, he plays the music on his iPod — and sings right along.

Skeptical? I was. So I put it to the test. For the last 20 days, I’ve sung along 60 minutes each day — to my favorite rock and pop singers. My voice has gotten stronger, more clear, and I have NO rawness or hoarseness.

Try it yourself. You’ll love the results.

* * * * * * * *
But It Now!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.

A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Holidays and annual observances offer a great opportunity to present the ideas of liberty to new and receptive audiences. Every libertarian should collect a selection of facts and stories to share on those occasions. (We offer them frequently in the Liberator Online.)

February is Black History Month. This event, observed annually since 1976, opens the door for discussions on issues key to libertarians.

If anyone should be receptive to the message of libertarianism, it should be black Americans, who as a group have suffered from government oppression more than any other ethnic group in America, and whose historical and ongoing struggle for freedom is arguably the most dramatic one in our history.

And that story — the story of a people savagely oppressed by government power for centuries and bravely fighting to overcome that oppression — is one that Americans of all races would benefit from pondering. Libertarians have a unique angle to bring to that discussion.

As a start, I recommend “The Law Perverted: A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month,” an article by James Padilioni, Jr. of Students for Liberty. It will stimulate your thinking on this issue and provide a seldom-heard historical and theoretical background.

Black History Month is an excellent time to show how government coercion was and is the chief engine of the oppression of black Americans, as well as Americans in general. One obvious example is the War on Drugs, which is horrible for all society and from which blacks suffer disproportionately.

Here are some resources:

* “How the War on Drugs is Destroying Black America,” John McWhorter, Cato Institute.

* “Race and Prison,” drugwarfacts.org. Excerpt: “Mass arrests and incarceration of people of color — largely due to drug law violations — have hobbled families and communities by stigmatizing and removing substantial numbers of men and women. In the late 1990s, nearly one in three African-American men aged 20-29 were under criminal justice supervision, while more than two out of five had been incarcerated… orders of magnitudes higher than that for the general population. … In some areas, a large majority of African-American men — 55 percent in Chicago, for example — are labeled felons for life, and, as a result, may be prevented from voting…”

Another topic is state-created unemployment for black Americans. “Race and Economics,” a column by economist Walter Williams, examines this.

* Williams looks at the racist outcomes of the minimum wage more closely in Minimum Wage’s Discriminatory Effects.” Excerpt: “Minimum wage laws have massive political support, including that of black politicians. That means that many young black males will remain a part of America’s permanent underclass with crime, drugs and prison as their future.”

* Walter Williams’ 1982 book The State Against Blacks shows how numerous government programs, enacted supposedly enacted to help the poor have caused enormous harm to blacks and others.

* In his column “A Painful Anniversary“ economist Thomas Sowell argues that the 1960s Great Society / War on Poverty programs helped destroy black families. Excerpt: “The black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state that subsidized unwed pregnancy and changed welfare from an emergency rescue to a way of life.”

* Another fascinating topic tailor-made for Black History Month is the little-known history of how gun rights helped protect civil rights activists and advance the civil rights movement. For starters, check out “Yes, Guns Are Dangerous. But They Also Save Lives and Secure Civil Rights” by Damon W. Root of Reason magazine. Also see this excellent review of the 2004 book The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement by Lance Hill, from The Nation magazine. This book tells the remarkable story of the Deacons for Defense, who at their peak had several hundred members and twenty-one chapters in the South.

* Ex-slave Frederick Douglass is one of the towering figures for liberty in American history.  A short libertarian look at Douglass is found in “Frederick Douglass, Classical Liberal: A fresh look at the political evolution of a great American,” a book review by Damon Root from the August/September 2012 issue of Reason magazine. Also, see  the Cato Institute’s libertarianism.org for more on, and by, Douglass.

* Finally, here’s a great collection of videos of black libertarians and classical liberals, past and present, speaking on liberty. They’re suitable for any time of year, of course, but Black History Month is a great time to share them.

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.

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.

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