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Shouldn’t We All Vaccinate So We Don’t Endanger Others?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: Shouldn’t we all vaccinate so we don’t endanger others?Vaccination

MY SHORT ANSWER: My recent column “Should Vaccines Be Mandatory?” made a civil liberties argument for the right of people to make personal medical decisions like vaccination for themselves. Several readers expressed concern. They wondered whether people who didn’t vaccinate might endanger others with compromised immune systems who couldn’t vaccinate, such as the elderly or infants.

People with poor immune function are more likely to be exposed to the flu and/or pneumonia than measles from an unvaccinated person. Many thousands of Americans get the flu annually, while less than 200 people each year develop measles. The flu can lead to pneumonia also, making these two infections the 9th highest cause of death in the U.S.

The measures that compromised individuals take to protect themselves from these more common, deadly threats (e.g., avoiding crowds), would protect them from measles as well. These precautions are necessary, because the effectiveness of annual flu shots can be as low as 10%.

Contrary to popular opinion, the measles vaccine doesn’t always work, either. One-half of Canadian cases of measles come from vaccinated individuals; in the U.S., about one-third of people in a measles outbreak have received one or two doses of the vaccine.

Only about 25% of those vaccinated maintain measles immunity for 10 years or more; 75% of the vaccinated population loses their protection before that, although they often get a milder form of measles if infected.

As one might expect, the immune system doesn’t respond as strongly to a vaccine as it does when it mounts a full scale response to an actual infection. Only people who have had measles as a child can expect a lifetime of protection.

I had measles before we had the vaccine. Back then, some people purposefully exposed children to make sure they had immunity to measles, mumps, and occasionally other childhood diseases. Parents wanted to be sure that their girl children especially had immunity, as getting measles while pregnant could be detrimental to the unborn child. The good news is that many of our seniors probably still have immunity to childhood diseases, even if they haven’t been able to vaccinate.

In conclusion, universal vaccination for measles is unlikely to significantly protect compromised individuals, not only because the vaccine has limitations, but because other infections (e.g., flu, pneumonia) are the real threat. If an immune-compromised individual alters their lifestyle to avoid those more common, deadly infections, they are likely to avoid the measles too.

Inexpensive Vitamin A is currently being studied as a treatment and preventative for infections, including measles. If my immune system became compromised, Vitamin A supplementation is something I’d likely explore.

* * *

LEARN  MORE: Suggestions for additional reading, selected by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

* “Vaccine Controversy Shows Why We Need Markets, Not Mandates“ by Ron Paul, M.D., February 8, 2015. Excerpt: “If government can mandate that children receive vaccines, then why shouldn’t the government mandate that adults receive certain types of vaccines? And if it is the law that individuals must be vaccinated, then why shouldn’t police officers be empowered to physically force resisters to receive a vaccine? If the fear of infections from the unvaccinated justifies mandatory vaccine laws, then why shouldn’t police offices fine or arrest people who don’t wash their hands or cover their noses or mouths when they cough or sneeze in public? Why not force people to eat right and take vitamins in order to lower their risk of contracting an infectious disease? These proposals may seem outlandish, but they are no different in principle from the proposal that government force children to be vaccinated.”

Valentine’s Day: Uncle Sam Breaks Taxpayers’ Hearts

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Cupid

As I often point out, holidays can be a great time to share libertarian ideas with family and friends. It’s even more fun and effective if you’ve gathered liberty-themed facts, figures and stories specific for each holiday. We often share such information in the Liberator Online as a holiday nears.

With Valentine’s Day upon us, I’m pleased to present the following information from Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) about how much government is adding to the cost of your Valentine’s Day celebration. It’s shocking stuff, sweetened just a bit by ATR’s trademark humor.

Government Versus Valentine’s Day
(from Hayley Robinson, Americans for Tax Reform)

This Saturday is Valentine’s Day. Romantics all over the nation have spent the week buying gifts and making dinner plans, all at a considerable price. Last year the National Retail Federation estimated consumers would spend a whopping $17.3 billion on Valentine’s Day — an average of $133.91 per person.

But that price is driven up enormously by an unexpected third wheel — Uncle Sam. Valentine lovers certainly won’t love discovering that, for almost every part of the day spent with that special someone, government taxes and fees send costs skyrocketing.

Consider:

Roses and Valentine’s Cards: These are romantic must-haves for many people. An estimated 233 million roses are grown for Valentine’s Day, and consumers will spend $1.9 billion on flowers145 million Valentine’s cards will be purchased for the occasion. Over $1 billion of the money spent on cards and flowers goes to… you know who.

A Romantic Dinner for… Three? Yep, save a chair at the table for Uncle Sam. $3.5 billion is spent dining out on Valentine’s Day — and a hard-to-swallow 31% of the cost of your bill comes from government taxes.

Wine: If you’ve been saving a nice bottle of wine for the occasion, be sure to savor it — 33% of the cost is due to government. That’s enough to drive you to drink… if you could afford all the taxes.

Chocolate: Consumers will spend nearly $1.3 billion on chocolate. Of this, 31% will be paid to the government. Ugh — that dessert just got a little less sweet.

Jewelry: In 2013, 6 million people expected or planned a marriage proposal on Valentine’s Day. In 2014 it was projected that $3.9 billion would be spent on diamonds, gold, and silver. But beware, the government is standing right there beside you as you pledge your love — and taking a 36% cut of the cost of your glittering symbols of love.

Cell Phones: If you’re in a long-distance relationship and can’t travel to see your sweetheart, hopefully you’ll still be able to give them a call. You might want to keep it short, though: Uncle Sam will be on the line as well, and he’ll be responsible for 40% of the cost of your bill.

Travelling: Making a surprise visit to your long-distance loved one? Whether you’re driving or flying, you’re paying Uncle Sam for the privilege. Last year 45% of the cost of gasoline was due to government taxation, while other taxes and fees accounted for 44% of the cost of airfare. An annoying backseat driver or snoring seat mate would be much better than the travel companionship offered by Uncle Sam.

ATR sums it up this way: “Single or steady, taxpayers will remain heartbroken this Valentine’s Day — when it comes to the costs imposed by the government.”

The Coming Government Debt Explosion — and How to Deal with It

in Business and Economy, Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The U.S. ship of state is sailing full steam ahead — straight toward a massive debt iceberg. Debt Iceberg

Here are some genuinely shocking figures from “Medicare and Social Security Tabs Coming Due,” an article by Michael Tanner, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, in the March 2015 issue of Reason magazine:

  • The national debt recently reached $18 trillion — approximately 101 percent of the United States’ GDP.
  • The Congressional Budget Office projects the debt will rise to $27.3 trillion within the next decade. 
  • But those numbers are actually far too low — because they ignore Social Security and Medicare’s unfunded liabilities. Add those in, and the national debt hits $90.6 trillion.
  • Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are responsible for fully 47 percent — nearly half — of federal spending, and they continue to grow. 
  • Social Security has a $24.9 trillion shortfall, while Medicare has $48 trillion in unfunded liabilities. Should healthcare costs rise, the Medicare figure could soar to $88 trillion. 
  • Just this year, Social Security will have a $69 billion cash-flow deficit. Every year after, that shortfall will worsen. And Medicare is in even worse financial shape than Social Security.

In an article at Vice News last January, Tanner described the difficult choices we face:

“To pay all the benefits promised in the future, Social Security would have to increase the payroll tax by as much as half, or find that revenue elsewhere. The government can always cut benefits, but without a tax increase those benefits would have to eventually be slashed by 23 percent. That would be very hard for seniors who depend on the program to get by.”

What to do about these problems? You can read Cato’s proposals for reforming Social Security at their Social Security reform website.

Cato’s research and proposals for health care and welfare reform (including Medicare and Medicaid and Obamacare) can be found here.

Libertarian Party presidential candidate Harry Browne offered his plan for replacing Social Security with consumer-based choices in his 1996 book The Great Libertarian Offer. Though the numbers are a bit dated, his explanation of Social Security’s problems, and his solution, remain very relevant, elegant, and easy to read and understand.

For a quick overview of genuine market-based health care reform, see this short 2015 article “What True Health Care Reform Would Look Like“ by Matt Battaglioli, published by the Mises Institute.

Finally, see “How to Eliminate Social Security and Medicare“ by George Reisman (Mises Institute, 2011) for more reasons why these programs should be eliminated, and a plan to accomplish this.

The Great Libertarian Idea in President Obama’s 2015 Budget

in Business and Economy, Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

 Surprise! There’s at least one great — and solidly libertarian — idea in President Barac

Occupational LicensingObama’s 2015 budget: cutting back the plague of occupational licensing.

In an item entitled “Reducing Unnecessary Occupational Licensing Requirements” Obama announces plans to “reduce occupational licensing barriers that keep people from doing the jobs they have the skills to do,” noting that occupational licensing is “putting in place unnecessary training and high fees” in many fields.

President Obama proposes a $15 million in grants to states for “identifying, exploring, and addressing areas where occupational licensing requirements create an unnecessary barrier to labor market entry or labor mobility…”

This is yet another example of a libertarian/free market idea bursting into the mainstream.

Libertarians at the Institute for Justice, the Reason Foundation and elsewhere have long pointed out the harm of occupational licensing requirements.

For example:

  • Occupational licensing laws — found in all 50 states — restrict entry into over 1,100 different occupations.
  • They have grown explosively. In the 1950s, less than five percent of American workers were required to obtain a government license to do their job. But today, that number has passed an incredible 30 percent — meaning one in three Americans must obtain permission from the government to pursue their chosen profession. 
  • The cost of these laws to consumers is astonishing. One 2011 study estimated that occupational licensing laws increase costs to consumers by a whopping $203 billion per year. As a result, some people are not able to afford some services, including crucial ones like dental care. A 2009 study found that states allowing dental hygienists to provide routine dental care had fewer adults with missing teeth than those that did not.
  • Occupational licensing laws destroy millions of American jobs — by one estimate, a whopping 2.85 million jobs. They make it prohibitively expensive or too difficult for newcomers to enter fields in which they have competency but can’t afford costly and unnecessary training and licensing. 
  • Occupational licensing laws slow or even halt innovation. One recent example is the use of licensing regulations for taxi drivers to halt new, highly competitive app-based services such as Uber.
  • Among the occupations in which entry is restricted by licensing laws: interior decorators, hair braiders, foot massagers, animal breeders, bartenders, funeral attendants, upholsterers, shampooers, music therapists, auctioneers, talent agents, and ballroom dance teachers. 

Of course, supporters of occupational licensing argue it is needed to protect the public from unscrupulous or incompetent practitioners.

However, reports the Institute for Justice: “Research to date — on occupations as diverse as school teachers, interior designers, mortgage brokers, dentists, physicians and others — provides little evidence that government licenses protect public health and safety or improve the quality of products or services.”

Astute Liberator Online readers can probably guess the real reason these laws exist.

“These laws are created under the guise of ‘helping’ consumers,” wrote Adam B. Summers of the Reason Foundation in a 2007 study. “In reality, the laws are helping existing businesses keep out competition, restricting consumer choice, destroying entrepreneurship, and driving up prices.”

Further, many of these occupations are in fields where, in the past, the poor, immigrants and other challenged workers — those with the least resources — have been able to get a toehold in the economy.

To learn more, check out these resources:

Writing at National Review Online, economist Veronique de Rugy sums up the problem nicely:

“People who want to work, start businesses and make a living shouldn’t have to ask the government for permission to do so. Consumers can take care of themselves, especially with our sharing economy and the easy feedback mechanisms it offers. …

“Many of the licensed occupations have traditionally provided low-income Americans with a path to self-sufficiency and upward mobility. By erecting barriers to entry to these occupations, we erect barriers to entry to the American dream.”

Government Regulation to Cost Americans $1.882 Trillion This Year

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

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Free to ProsperA new report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) estimates that government regulation will cost the American economy a staggering $1.882 trillion in 2015.

This is larger than the entire GDP of all but 11 countries in the entire world — including major developed nations like Australia and South Korea.

Further, the regulatory burden is constantly growing. In 2014 alone, 3,541 new regulations hit the books. Complying with regulations will take an estimated 9 billion hours of paperwork. CEI contends such regulation drives up the cost of goods and services, destroys jobs and damages the economy in other ways. They also point out this huge expense is largely out of control — unmonitored and unaccountable. Many regulations are inefficient, unnecessary, destructive, and would be far better handled by market mechanisms.

The report, “Free to Prosper: A Pro-Growth Agenda for the 114th Congress,” can be read for free and includes CEI’s suggestions for reform.

Uber Revolution Shows How “Competition Breeds Competence”

in Business and Economy, Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 4 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

UberThe reaction of taxi companies to the sudden new competition from Uber and Lyft is revolutionizing the stuck-in-its-ways taxi industry — and it offers an excellent demonstration of how strong competition enormously benefits consumers, says economist Mark Perry at his blog Carpe Diem.

Writes Perry:

“When government agencies or heavily regulated industries are insulated from market competition, the incentives to offer better service and lower prices, along with the incentives to innovate, upgrade and improve are either significantly weakened or non-existent. But when faced unexpectedly with some market competition, it’s amazing how the normally sclerotic, anti-consumer and unresponsive government agencies or protected industries can suddenly become responsive and consumer-friendly.”

Perry quotes an article from the Los Angeles Times:

“All taxicab drivers in Los Angeles will be required to use mobile apps similar to Uber and Lyft by this summer, according to a measure passed by the Los Angeles Taxicab Commission this week.

“The order, passed on a 5-0 vote, requires every driver and cab to sign onto a city-certified ‘e-hail’ app by Aug. 20 or face a $200-a-day fine. The move is seen as a way to make taxicab companies more competitive with rideshare apps such as Uber and Lyft.

“Los Angeles cab companies reported a 21% drop in taxi trips in the first half of 2014 compared with the same period the previous year, the steepest drop on record. Cab companies largely attribute the drop to the popularity of app-based ride services.

“William Rouse, general manager of Yellow Cab of Los Angeles, says his company has utilized a mobile app for several years. The app, Curb, allows riders to hail and track a cab, provide payment and rate drivers. ‘If our industry is ever going to get a chance to move passengers from Uber back to taxis, each one of these companies should have an app,’ Rouse told The Times. ‘It’s a shame that the city had to mandate it in order for this to happen.’”

And this stunner, from ABC News last summer:

“Meet the new secret weapon to get a leg up in the cutthroat competition among cabbies — charm school. Taxi drivers in Washington state are getting lessons that they hope will give them an edge against startups such as Lyft and Uber. About 170 taxicab operators paid $60 out of their pockets for a four-hour training session to learn about topics including customer satisfaction and developing relationships with institutional clients.”

Taxi drivers going to charm school to learn how to better please customers? Talk about an economic miracle!

It all demonstrates what Perry calls Perry’s Law: “competition breeds competence.” It’s a perfect example, he says, of how “direct, ruthless, even cutthroat competition is often the most effective form of regulation, and provides the intense discipline that forces firms to maximize their responsiveness to consumers. … Government regulation typically reduces competition, which then reduces the competence of producers, and reduces their willingness to serve consumers and the public interest, which make us worse off. I say the more market competition the better, for consumers and for the human race.”

Food Stamps Shocker

in Business and Economy, Liberator Online Archives, Welfare by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!

Exploding Cost of Food StampsSome startling numbers on the recent explosive growth of the food stamp program (aka SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), from journalist Ali Meyer of CNSNews.com:

  • The number of Americans receiving food stamps has topped 46,000,000 for 38 straight months, according to the Department of Agriculture. 
  • In 1969, the average participation in the SNAP program stood at 2,878,000. In 2014, the average participation grew to 46,536,000 — an increase of 1,516.96 percent. 
  • About 14.6 percent of the U.S. population — about one in seven Americans — receives food stamps. 
  • Just under 20 percent of the nation’s households — one in five households — receive food stamps. 
  • Food stamp recipients have exceeded 46 million every month since September 2011.
  • Rapid increase: in October 46,674,364 Americans were on food stamps — an increase of nearly a quarter-million people (214,434) in just one month. According to the conservative Heritage Foundation, the number of food stamp recipients grew by about 26.39 million people from 2003 to 2013.
  • The 46,674,364 people on food stamps in the United States in October 2014 exceeded the total populations of Columbia (46,245,297), Kenya (46,245,297), Ukraine (44,291,413) and Argentina (43,024,374), and is just less than the population of Spain (47,737,941).
  • Households on food stamps got an average benefit of $261.44 in October. 
  • In October alone the program cost taxpayers $5,978,320,593 — just under $6 billion. 

While food stamp (SNAP) enrollment and spending have both grown dramatically under President Obama, the Cato Institute notes that the explosion in food stamp use and SNAP eligibility actually began with conservative Republicans under the leadership of George Bush, via the 2002 and 2008 farm bills.

New Study: Minimum Wage Hurts Low-Skilled Workers

in Business and Economy, Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 25 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

A new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research brings new weight to the argument that significant minimum wage increases hurt the very people they are intended to help — low-skilled workers, especially teens and minority workers.

minimum wageEconomists Jeffrey Clemens and Michael Wither examine the effects of the minimum wage increases in 2007, 2008 and 2009. They find that minimum wage increases have three devastating effects upon low-skilled workers: “minimum wage increases reduced the employment, average income, and income growth of low-skilled workers over short and medium-run time horizons.”

The study indicates that the minimum wage can keep low-skilled workers from moving up to a middle class income; such workers experience “significant declines in economic mobility.” Charles Hughes of the Cato Institute explains:

“Many of the people affected by minimum wage increases are on one of the first rungs of the economic ladder, low on marketable skills and experience. Working in these entry level jobs will eventually allow them to move up the economic ladder. By making it harder for these low-skilled workers to get on the first rung of the ladder, minimum wage increases could actually lower their chances of reaching the middle class.”

Adding weight to these findings is a report earlier this year by the non-partisan federal Congressional Budget Office estimating that a three-year phase in of a $10.10 federal minimum wage option would reduce total employment by a stunning 500,000 workers.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor, nicely summed up at MarketWatch the massive problems created for low-skill workers by the minimum wage:

“Minimum-wage laws criminalize low-skill work. Imagine being forbidden to work. That is the case for people with skills under $8.25 an hour. The federal hourly minimum wage is $7.25, and additional costs, such as Social Security, unemployment insurance, and workers compensation bring the cost of employment closer to $8.25. The minimum wage is one reason why the teen unemployment rate is 18%, the youth (20 to 24) unemployment rate is 11%, and the African-American teen unemployment rate is 28%. Those groups have markedly lower skills than average. …

“When the minimum wage is set above someone’s skill level, that person is left on the sidelines. If people cannot get their first job, how can they get their second or third? People who take minimum-wage jobs gain entry to the professional world. Once they are in, they can keep rising.”

A short, highly readable summary of the negative effects of the minimum wage is the 2004 booklet “Minimum Wage, Maximum Damage: How the Minimum Wage Law Destroys Jobs, Perpetuates Poverty, and Erodes Freedom” by Jim Cox, published by the Advocates and available at our online Liberty Store.

Study: States with Economic Liberty Benefit; States Without Economic Liberty Suffer

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 23 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

A just-released study shows that U.S. states with economic liberty benefit greatly from it, while residents of states with less economic freedom suffer badly from the lack of it.

Economic Freedom of North America 2014 is an annual report by Canada’s Fraser Institute that measures levels of economic freedom, and thus economic opportunity, in the 50 states (as well as Canada and Mexico).

Economic Freedom of North America 2014The report defines “economic freedom” as “the ability of individuals to act in the economic sphere free of undue restrictions.”

Elaborating on that: “The freest economies operate with minimal government interference, relying upon personal choice and markets to answer basic economic questions such as what is to be produced, how it is to be produced, how much is produced, and for whom production is intended. As government imposes restrictions on these choices, there is less economic freedom.”

The report shows that economic liberty has clear, measurable, dollars-and-cents benefits, writes study co-author Dean Stansel in the Washington Examiner:

“States that have low taxation, limited government and flexible labor markets enjoy greater economic growth, while states with lower levels of economic freedom suffer from reduced living standards for families and less economic opportunity.

“In the three most-free states (Texas, South Dakota, and North Dakota) average personal income is about 20 percent higher than in the three least-free states (Maine, Vermont, and Mississippi) — approximately $48,000 versus $40,000. And the unemployment rate is more than seven percent in Rhode Island (45th) versus about four percent in nearby New Hampshire (5th).

“Furthermore, cities in low-freedom states like California (43rd), Michigan (37th), and Rhode Island have made headlines in recent years for declaring bankruptcy, whereas cities in high-freedom states like Nebraska (5th), Texas, and the Dakotas, have seen incomes and their tax bases expand.

“In the top ten states, total employment grew by roughly 3.5 percent, while it has barely budged in the bottom 10. Over that same period, the economy grew more than eight percent in the top 10, but only by about two percent in the bottom 10.”

Concludes Stansel:

“The research is clear: Where economic freedom is high and rising, the number of jobs is expanding and the economy is vibrant and growing. Where it’s low and declining, the economy is stagnant, limiting opportunity and quality of life for residents of those states.

“Big, costly government at the expense of the people doesn’t work. It leads to economic decline. In contrast, expanding economic freedom increases economic opportunity and provides the path to economic prosperity.”

The report ranks economic freedom along a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (full economic liberty). This brings a warning: “Historically, economic freedom has been declining in all three countries. Since 2000, the average score for Canadian provinces on the all-governments index has fallen from 7.8 to 7.6; the number for U.S. states was 8.2 to 7.5.”

The Economic Freedom of North America study is an offshoot of the Fraser Institute’s acclaimed Economic Freedom of the World index, the result of a quarter century of work by more than 60 scholars including three Nobel laureates.

Grover Norquist: The Future Looks Libertarian

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

One of America’s most influential Republican leaders says that libertarians are winning big victories, creating new coalitions, and seem to be the wave of the future.

Grover Norquist: The Future Looks LibertarianGrover Norquist is the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). His article “Beyond Rand Paul: The Libertarians Are Coming” at OZY.com begins this way:

“They’re no longer on the fringes. The libertarians are now officially mainstream. Proof? The New York Times Magazine [in its August article " Has the ‘Libertarian Moment’ Finally Arrived?"] cites the popularity of Republican Sen. Rand Paul and opposition to American ‘boots on the ground’ in Syria and Iraq.

“But it’s much more than a moment. It’s the culmination of a powerful narrative building over the past 30 years in American politics. This is a movement — and it doesn’t live or die on the shoulders of one policy or one individual.

“What is notable is that regardless of whether an issue originates from the right or left, the side able to grab the mantle of liberty has advanced against all odds.

“So forget ‘moment.’ Think trend. And consider the once-impossible political shifts that have taken place over the past 30 years. The relevant dividing line is not right versus left or Republican versus Democrat but the expansion of individual liberty versus whatever and whosoever stands in the way.”

Norquist gives four examples of major libertarian policy shifts in recent years: support for freedom of choice in education, gay rights, marijuana legalization, and the right to keep and bear arms.

Concludes Norquist:

“These four radical, unthinkable expansions of individual liberty are not liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat. All flow from the small ‘l’ libertarian, live and let live, leave us alone, ‘laissez-nous faire’ attitude. Four movements calling for increased individual liberty while their opponents explained — with hundreds if not thousands of years of tradition and history to back them up — that society should have the power to control behavior for the public good.

“One can see other issues that follow this trend. Uber against the taxi regulators. Airbnb. Lyft. Bet and invest on the side advancing liberty.

“A libertarian moment? No. A trend. A long-term trend with no obvious roadblock in sight.”

Libertarian Candidates Pledge: Abolish the Income Tax

in Drugs, Economic Liberty, Elections and Politics, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Party, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Libertarianism, Military, Taxes by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Scores of Libertarian Party candidates for federal office have pledged to downsize the Abolish The IRSbloated federal government — in these big and specific ways:

  • Eliminate the federal income tax
  • End the War on Drugs
  • Abolish the NSA
  • Cut military spending by 60%

We’ll be examining those pledges in detail below and in the next few issues, because they show that these bold-sounding proposals are not only possible, but practical and beneficial. (Of course, you can jump ahead and read about all four positions right now.)

First, eliminating the hated federal income tax. The candidates pledge: “If elected, I will sponsor legislation to eliminate the federal income tax, cut federal spending to the 1998 level ($1.65 trillion), and get the IRS off the backs of taxpayers.”

(Yes, that’s right: government has grown so rapidly in recent times that if you cut spending to 1998 levels — the Clinton era of huge government — you could eliminate the federal income tax.)

Here are the benefits of eliminating the income tax, according to the Libertarians:

  • Immediately balances the budget — without raising taxes.
  • Gives back, on average, $11,525 to each American family — every year — that they can invest, save, spend, or give away as they see fit.
  • Pours $1.4 trillion into the productive, private-sector economy, stimulating massive investment in small businesses and creating tens of millions of new private-sector jobs.
  • Stops the devaluation of the dollar and stabilizes prices, preserving American wealth.
  • Forces politicians to eliminate destructive federal programs, regulations, and bureaucracies that do more harm than good. Examples include: stifling business regulations, the prohibition of marijuana, unnecessary foreign wars, and thousands of frivolous projects best left to the private sector (e.g., promoting the Hawaiian Chocolate Festival).
  • Creates a boom in charitable giving. Trillions of dollars back in the hands of American taxpayers enables them to take care of others in need through their churches and private charities, and by giving directly to help friends, family, and community members in need.
  • Eliminates wasteful bookkeeping needed to comply with IRS tax filings and audits, saving Americans 6 billion hours of their precious time and up to $378 billion in accounting costs — every year.
  • Aborts the Democrats’ and Republicans’ plan to add another $5 trillion over the next eight years to the already perilously high $17 trillion federal government debt, sparing future generations from footing a bill they played no part in creating.
  • Frees up billions of dollars for Americans to spend on music, entertainment, crafts, and the arts, enabling talented individuals — now unemployed or working in jobs they don’t like — to do what they love for a living.
  • Forces politicians to eliminate government waste.
  • Stops the growth in the interest due on the federal debt, now at $237 billion per year. This will help minimize this expense if interest rates ever rise, which is likely.
  • Restores America’s reputation as the envy of the world, demonstrating that the American experiment of free, unfettered trade creates prosperity and alleviates poverty. This sets an example for poor countries, helping them rise from hardship to abundance.

 

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Raising the Price of Milk: A Minimum Wage Metaphor

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

First, the bad news.

A strong majority of Americans favor increasing the minimum wage. A recent Reason-Rope poll asked Raising the Price of Milk1,003 American adults this question: “The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Do you favor or oppose raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour?”

Fully 67 percent supported raising the minimum wage.

But there’s more.

When the poll further asked: “What about if raising the minimum wage caused some employers to lay off workers or hire fewer workers? Would you favor or oppose raising the minimum wage?” the response changed dramatically. 58 percent opposed raising the minimum wage, and only 39 percent favored it.

And when asked: “What about if raising the minimum wage caused some employers to raise prices? Would you favor or oppose raising the minimum wage?” the vote was split almost evenly.

And that’s the good news. We can change minds and win the majority to our side on this issue — if we help people understand the true, terrible consequences of minimum wage laws.

How can we do that? It’s not easy. To many people, a higher minimum wage seems compassionate. It even seems to make economic sense. As one state representative said earlier this year: “Raising the minimum is a win-win. If you put an extra $700 or $800 in a worker’s pocket, that money is going to be spent. Everybody will benefit.”

One problem is that most people aren’t employers; they don’t “buy” labor. They don’t think in those terms.

But most people do buy milk. And that suggests a simple analogy that can cut through foggy thinking and help people understand why the minimum wage produces such bad results.

Ask your listeners: What if the government decided to mandate an increase in the retail price of milk? Suppose the price of a gallon of milk was doubled?

Would that help farmers, dairies, and grocery stores? Would it mean more money for them? After all, it would only be a small increase for most milk buyers, just a few dollars per week.

Ask your listener what they think would happen if the cost of milk doubled.

How would people react? Would people buy more milk, or less?

For some people, the price increase wouldn’t matter. They’d just keep on buying milk.

But for many consumers, the price increase would make a big difference. Struggling families would be hit especially hard.

Many people would start exploring milk substitutes. Instead of buying whole milk, they might switch to cheaper soy or almond or rice milk.

Others would simply cut back on the amount of milk they consume.

Still others might water down their milk after purchasing it, to make it stretch further.

Further, the cost of items that used milk — cheese, ice cream, butter, etc. — would also rise. Consumers would buy less of those items, too. And manufacturers, just like consumers, would switch to milk substitutes whenever possible, in order to keep the prices of their products as low as possible.

The bottom line? Consumers would buy less milk. And, ironically, many farmers — the very people the increase was supposed to help — would lose money or even go out of business.

Which brings us to the minimum wage.

Employers buy labor, not milk. But if you increase the cost of labor, employers will act in much the same way that our imaginary milk consumers did.

Some employers will no longer be able to afford to buy labor at the price mandated by the new minimum wage. As a result, some jobs will shrink (fewer bag boys, fewer check-out counters, fewer waiters, fewer warehouse workers, etc.). Some jobs will disappear altogether. (Remember movie ushers, and car attendants who pumped your gas and checked your oil for you?)

Further, as the price for labor is incorporated into the price of goods, prices will go up for some products, and others may simply disappear from store shelves.

Some employers will look for labor substitutes, just like our consumers above looked for milk substitutes. They will use technology. Check-yourself-out counters. Automation. Robots. When labor reaches a high enough price, substitutes suddenly become cost-effective. Even moving to a new country with cheaper labor costs may be feasible.

Still others will “water down” the work. They will hire fewer people, or fewer full time employees, and stretch the work out between them.

Most people understand that if you forcibly increase the cost of milk, less milk will be sold, and ultimately both consumers and farmers will be harmed.

This simple metaphor lets them see the same is true of labor, too. A mandated increase in the price of labor, via the minimum wage, brings fewer jobs, higher prices for goods and services, harder work loads, and other negative consequences.

That’s not what people want. When they learn such these things are consequences of the minimum wage, they will no longer support it.

(To learn more arguments against the minimum wage, see “Minimum Wage Maximum Damage” by economist Jim Cox, published by the Advocates. This short easy-to-understand booklet devastates every argument for the minimum wage.)

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America’s Real Welfare Queens: Fortune 100 Companies

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Welfare QueensEarlier this year Open the Books, a non-partisan watchdog group advocating transparency in public spending, issued a genuinely shocking report that added up all federal grants, loans, direct payments, and insurance subsidies going to private companies.

Among its findings: corporate-welfare payments from the federal government to the Fortune 100 companies, from 2000 to 2012, amounted to more than $1.2 trillion.

The bulk of this was in the form of contracts between government agencies and private firms, with the largest going to the military-industrial complex. While these provide some services to taxpayers, such spending is difficult to control because the huge sums also fund a massive lobbying industry busily working for more such spending.

But contracts aside, staggering amounts of money were just given away as outright subsidies — taxpayer-funded handouts to the biggest businesses in America.

Writing in National Review Online, economist Stephen Moore summarizes: “$21.3 billion… was doled out in the form of outright income-transfer subsidies to corporate America. On average, each Fortune 100 company received about $200 million in such [taxpayer-funded] handouts.

“So who are the major corporate-welfare queens? The biggest grant recipients were General Electric ($380 million), followed by General Motors ($370 million), Boeing ($264 million), Archer Daniels Midland ($174 million), and United Technologies ($160 million).

“About $8.5 billion of this largesse came in the form of taxpayer-subsidized loans. The big winners here were Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Ford Motor Company, and other multibillion-dollar corporations whose franchisees received Small Business Administration loans.

“Archer Daniels Midland got just under $1 billion for USDA farm-program loans, and this doesn’t include ethanol subsidies. Another $10 billion was doled out through federal insurance…”

And the problem goes beyond even these staggering sums. Says Moore:

“That $1.2 trillion number does not include the hundreds of billions of dollars in housing, bank, and auto-company bailouts in 2008 and 2009, because those payments are kept mostly invisible in the federal-agency books. It also doesn’t include the asset purchases of the Federal Reserve, indirect subsidies such as the ethanol mandate that enriches large agribusinesses like Archer Daniels Midland…

“Amazingly, all but one of the Fortune 100 stood in the federal soup line to take at least some form of corporate-welfare benefit.”

Sums up Moore: “Imagine for a moment that you are sitting on your couch watching TV and there is a knock on the door. There in a corporate suit is an employee of General Dynamics with a tin cup and he asks if you would contribute a dollar for a research project. You would slam the door in his face. But somehow when the government collects a dollar from each of us and gives the money to General Dynamics, this is considered in Washington a wise ‘investment.’”

Read the next article from this issue here.

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VIDEO: Remy’s “What are the Chances? (An IRS Love Song)”

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

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

A new video by the great liberty-minded comic Remy is always a cause for celebration.

Here’s his latest: “What are the Chances? (An IRS Love Song)“.

Remy, decked out handsomely in country music duds, croons a country-flavored ode to the IRS scandal concerning alleged unjust and biased targeting of conservative and free market organizations — and the suspiciously convenient IRS hard-drive crashes and loss of electronic correspondence relevant to the case. Remy’s expressions and voice in the last 30 seconds or so are particularly hilarious.

It’s about two minutes long. Written and performed by Remy, via ReasonTV.

Watch, laugh… then share with friends.

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.

Who’s to Blame for Dangerous Prescription Drugs: The FDA or Big Pharma?

in Healthcare, 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. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: The pharmaceutical company is sometimes caught pressuring the FDA to approve drugs with dangerous prescription drugsside effects and the FDA does so. Who is the prime mover of aggression here, the FDA or the pharmaceutical cartel?

MY SHORT ANSWER: It’s the karmic circle. The American public allowed the FDA to regulate the pharmaceutical companies under the largely erroneous assumption that they were nefarious. In the beginning, the primary loss to the American public was fewer life-saving drugs, since more money had to be spent on development instead of discovering new drugs.

The regulations reshaped the industry in a way that encouraged graft, as the regulations got more onerous. The industry “fought back” with the Prescription Drug User Fee Act which lets companies pay about $1 million for a faster review. This co-opted the regulators, since about half of their budget now comes from such fees.

In addition to losing many life-saving drugs, the drugs that we get now are less safe. The biggest safety problem with drugs on the market today is that they are meant for long-term use, which amplifies side effects. That’s because only drugs for long-term use can recover the high cost of development that regulations have produced. Even with the high prices of drugs, only 3/10 recover their costs.

This is a lose-lose situation for the American public, the industry itself (which has become close to unsustainable), and even the regulators, who will one day die or watch their loved ones die from diseases that might have been cured without regulations.

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

* “Abolishing the FDA: FDA Policies Keep People Sick and Create a False Sense of Security“ by Larry Van Heerden The Freeman, March 1, 2007.

Excerpt: “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started out as a bulwark against snake-oil peddling. It has since swung back and forth between hostility and subservience to the drug industry. The FDA seems indifferent to the many deaths its own intransigence has caused and imperious when forced to defend its actions in court, resulting in a system that withholds life-saving drugs from the market, approves dangerous drugs, and denies everyone freedom of choice. The time has come to seriously consider abolishing the FDA.”

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.

Cost of Government Day: July 6

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

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

While Americans celebrated Independence Day on July 4, we are far from being able to celebrate fiscal independence.

Indeed, according to Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), this year Cost of Government Day fell on… July 6. Ouch!

Cost of Government Day — calculated each year by ATR — marks the point during the year when the average American has finally earned enough income to pay for his or her share of the spending and regulatory burdens imposed by government at the federal, state and local levels.

2014 is the sixth consecutive year that Cost of Government Day arrived in July; prior to President Obama taking office, Cost of Government Day had never fallen after June 27.

All told, the full costs of government amount to a staggering 51 percent of GDP. Workers toil 121 days to pay for government spending alone, and 65 days to pay for regulatory costs. Americans labor in tax slavery 186 days — more than half the year — to pay off the full burden of government.

Some states like Connecticut and New Jersey must work even longer than that to pay for the costs of high spending and taxes in their states. The latest state Cost of Government Day once again occurs in Connecticut, falling on July 26 for 2014. The earliest Cost of Government Day goes to Louisiana, occurring on June 12 this year.

The days worked to pay for federal spending decreased since last year. However, federal regulatory costs have increased since 2013. While Americans worked 65 days to pay for the costs imposed by regulation in 2014, if the regulatory regime grows larger it will almost certainly mean much later Cost of Government Days in the future.

Thursday, June 5, 2014: Online Liberty Campaign “Reset The Net”

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Fed up with government surveillance spoiling the freedom and fun of the Internet? You’re not alone. And now there’s something you can do about it.

“Don’t ask for your privacy. Take it back.” Reset the Net - June 5, 2014

That’s the theme of Reset the Net — a new worldwide coalition of organizations, companies and tens of thousands of Internet users dedicated to preserving free speech and basic rights on the Internet.

They’re all pledging to “Reset The Net” on Thursday, June 5th, 2014 — the anniversary of the first NSA surveillance story revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden — by empowering Internet activists, companies and organizations to take simple steps to encrypt the web to shut out the government’s mass surveillance capabilities.

And you can join them.

Organizations — including some of the Internet’s largest and most influential — will participate by publicizing the effort, improving their own security and promoting free privacy tools to their followers.

Individual Internet users can act with Reset The Net in several important ways. Reset The Net will offer a free “privacy pack” of safe open-source software tools for easy encrypting of chat logs, email, phone calls and text messaging, as well as information on other ways to secure online life against intrusive surveillance.

” These super-easy encryption tools let you talk, chat, and text with pretty strong privacy,” says Reset The Net. “If everyone used them, that would go a long way to shutting down mass surveillance. So, be the first. And tell your friends. In the end, beating the NSA could be that simple.”

Reset The Net will offer supporters a splash screen they can run at their websites on June 5. These screens will reach millions with a call for privacy and a link to the privacy tools pack. You can also join the worldwide #ResetTheNet Twitter brigade to publicize the effort.

Information on these and other activities is at the Reset The Net website. Watch the short video on the home page to learn more.

“The NSA is exploiting weak links in Internet security to spy on the entire world, twisting the Internet we love into something it was never meant to be,” says Reset The Net. “We can’t stop targeted attacks, but we can stop mass surveillance, by building proven security into the everyday Internet.”

For more information — and more ideas on what you can do — watch the short ResetTheNet.org campaign video and visit ResetTheNet.org.

And remember the date: June 5th, 2014.

Who would make health decisions about children in a libertarian society: parents or medical professionals?

in Children's Rights, Healthcare, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Marriage and Family by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: I just read about Boston Children’s Hospital taking children away from their parents if children's health decisions in a libertarian societythey don’t agree to treat their children the way the doctors recommend. Would this happen in a libertarian society?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, a child’s guardians, normally the parents, would decide whether the treatment was worth the risk. No treatment works for everyone and every treatment has side effects in some people. Parents might not always make the optimal decision for their child, but doctors won’t always either. If the doctor feels strongly about a certain treatment, he or she should take the time to convince the parents of its worth, rather than use aggression to enforce their recommendation.

The article you cited indicated that children are taken from their parents most frequently “when doctors diagnose the child with a psychiatric disease, but the parents think the condition is a physical one.” Mental problems can be caused by physical factors, such as diet, genetic abnormalities, and certain vitamin deficiencies, which blur the distinction between psychiatric and physical. These factors are often downplayed or totally ignored in physician training. Licensing boards determine the medical school curriculum and reinforce the status quo, rather than cutting-edge or “politically incorrect” knowledge. Emphasis is placed on drug treatment instead of prevention or nutritional therapy, primarily due to FDA regulations. Since children often respond more negatively to psychiatric drugs than adults, forcing children to take them can actually be detrimental.

In a libertarian society, medical practice would be more diverse, since doctors would be certified instead of licensed and prevention wouldn’t be hampered by FDA regulations. Consequently, our medical science would be more advanced. In a society accustomed to using persuasion, rather than coercion, parents are likely to become better informed by doctors and make the best decision for their children.

* * *
Short Answers to Tough Questions - Dr. Mary RuwartGot 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.

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