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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 side 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 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.

The Piketty Challenge to Capitalism

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Capital - Thomas PikettySeems like everybody is talking about French left-wing economist Thomas Piketty’s new book Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

It rocketed to the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

Lefty pundit Paul Krugman hails it as “the most important economics book of the year — and maybe the decade.”

An Esquire review was entitled “The Most Important Book of the Twenty-First Century.”

New York magazine described Piketty as a “Rock-Star Economist.”

The title of an article on Bill Moyers website crowed: “Piketty’s Bombshell Book Blows Up Libertarian Fantasies.”

Even the Pope tweeted a thumbs-up to the Piketty thesis: “Inequality is the source of social evil.”

No doubt about it: proponents of massive government intervention and coercive wealth distribution are praising Thomas Piketty’s new book to the skies.

Piketty’s tome is seen as a devastating criticism of the very fundamentals of capitalism. Basically, Piketty examines an enormous amount of historical economic data to conclude that capitalism inevitably, over time, promotes huge inequalities in wealth. This wealth becomes ever more concentrated in just a tiny percentage of the population, leaving the rest of us far poorer and far less powerful politically.

This inequality, Piketty believes, poses a serious threat to the people of the world (except the wealthy). The solution? Although he himself suggests it is probably unrealistic, at least for the moment, he urges a massive worldwide tax on wealth to radically reduce income inequality.

And what a tax it is! For the U.S. Piketty wants a steeply progressive income tax with a top rate of 80% on incomes starting at around $500,000 or $1 million, as well as a 50%-60% tax rate on incomes as low as $200,000, which he confidently asserts “would not reduce the growth of the US economy.” To make sure the beast of inequality remains slain, he suggests an annual wealth tax up to 10% on the largest fortunes, and grabbing up to 20% of lesser estates.

No, he’s not kidding. And the main purpose of this tax is not to flood governments with revenue — though it would, at least at first — but simply to reduce income inequality. Indeed, he has surprisingly little concern with how inefficiently or destructively government might use this money.

These proposals may sound downright insane to libertarians and other market advocates, but at the moment Piketty’s book is sweeping the country. So libertarians will want to learn about this latest challenge to liberty and why Piketty’s arguments against economic liberty are dangerous and wrong.

Here are some good short, very readable places to start:

Piketty Gets It Wrong by Michael D. Tanner (Cato Institute), National Review (Online), April 23, 2014.

Excerpt: “Piketty’s solutions would undoubtedly yield a more equal society, but also one that was remarkably poorer.”

Fighting Inequality: Rule of Law Vs. Legal Plunder by James A. Dorn (Cato Institute), Investor’s Business Daily, April 29, 2014.

Excerpt: “The likely result of this utopian scheme would be to drive creative people out of high-tax countries, slow economic growth, and make societies poorer in the long run.”

Will 80% Income Taxes and a New 10% Wealth Tax Fix Our Economy? by Hunter Lewis, AgainstCronyCapitalism.org, May 2, 2014.

Excerpt: “Perhaps the most astonishing claim in Piketty’s book is that government bureaucracies need to be reformed so that they can make most efficient use of all the new income and wealth taxes that are recommended. The assumption is that almost complete government control of the economy would be best, but that the machinery needs some fine tuning.”

Who Is Thomas Piketty And Why Has The Obama White House Rolled Out The Red Carpet For Him? by Hunter Lewis, AgainstCronyCapitalism.org, April 19, 2014.

Excerpt: “This is all complete nonsense. Economic growth is produced when a society saves money and invests the savings wisely. It is not quantity of investment that matters most, but quality. Government is capable neither of saving nor investing, much less investing wisely.”

The Inequality Trap Distracts from the Real Issue of Freedom by Richard Ebeling, May 5, 2014.

Excerpt: “The only important and relevant ethical and political issue in a free society should be: How has the individual earned and accumulated his material wealth? Has he done so through peaceful production and exchange or through government-assisted plunder and privilege?

“Rather than asking the source or origin of that accumulated wealth — production or plunder — the egalitarians like Thomas Piketty merely see that some have more wealth than others and condemn such an ‘unequal distribution,’ in itself.”

Thomas Piketty’s bestselling post-crisis manifesto is horrendously flawed by Allister Heath, UK Telegraph, April 29, 2014.

Excerpt: “Parts of the US intelligentsia now advocate the same ideas that are to be found on Europe’s Left-wing fringes… Envy is back, disguised as a concern about ‘inequality,’ and the bail-outs and QE were merely a convenient excuse to bash the rich. It is shocking how many intelligent people now support seizing most of the wealth created by entrepreneurs…”

Smith, Marx, and Piketty by George Reisman, Reisman’s Blog, April 21, 2014.

Excerpt: “Contrary to Mr. Piketty, the fact that the rate of return on capital is higher than the rate of economic progress does not at all imply that the fortunes of the rich will increase more rapidly than the overall size of the economic system. … Our problems today result largely from government policies that serve to hold down saving and the demand for capital goods. Among these policies are the corporate and progressive personal income taxes, the estate tax, chronic budget deficits, the social security system, and inflation of the money supply. To the extent that these policies can be reduced, the demand for and production and supply of capital goods will increase, thereby restoring economic progress, and the aggregate amount and average rate of profit will fall.”

On the Piketty Welcome Party by Bas van der Vossen, Bleeding Heart Libertarians, April 21, 2014.

Excerpt: “…inequality per se need not bother us as much as it does the Piketty-acolytes. …What matters is that living standards keep rising, and keep rising for all. That has been the crucial engine of humanity’s greatest achievements in poverty reduction, increases of life expectancy, literacy, culture high and low, and so on.”

Liberal Pundits of the World Unite Over Thomas Piketty’s New Book: Democratic pundits have enthusiastically and unconditionally embraced a book that evokes Karl Marx and talks about tweaking the Soviet experiment“ by David Harsanyi, Reason.com, April 25, 2014.

Excerpt: “…it is worth pointing out that liberal pundits and writers have enthusiastically and unconditionally embraced not only a book on economics but a hard-left manifesto. …But how does a book that evokes Karl Marx and talks about tweaking the Soviet experiment find so much love from people who consider themselves rational, evidence-driven moderates?”

Obama: Wrong About Income Inequality; The problem is joblessness, not rich people by Ronald Bailey, Reason magazine, April 2014.

Excerpt: “Are the rich getting richer? Yes. Are the poor getting poorer? No. In fact, over the past 35 years most Americans got richer. Has income inequality increased in the United States? Yes. Does it matter? …No. …if most Americans’ incomes are rising, does it matter if some are getting a larger share?”

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.

VIDEO: It’s Almost Illegal to Start a Business in the U.S.A.

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

Believe it or not, in what was once the land of the free, fully one in three Americans must seek and win a government-issued license before they can start a business. No wonder unemployment’s so high!

This funny — and horrifying — animated cartoon from the libertarian Institute for Justice (IJ) brings this important issue to life. Watch prospective entrepreneur Chuck try to start business after business across the country— and get slapped down time and time again by the outrageous maze of unjustifiable laws that stop would-be business owners from getting their ideas off the ground.

And… well, we don’t want to give anything away, but you just won’t believe what happens to poor Chuck in the end. And it’s all true.

The Institute for Justice says one of the principal obstacles to creating new jobs and entrepreneurial activity across the country is the complex web of regulations cities and states impose on small businesses.

IJ has lots of back-up information for this video at their website. Their report “License To Work” is a good place to start.

Share this entertaining and enlightening video with friends. Let them get mad about it too! About 5 minutes.

Worse and Worse: 101 Years of the Federal Income Tax

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

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

“The American income tax is perhaps the most dramatic example of how government grows at the expense of liberty,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), last week. “Slowly. Constantly. Inexorably.”

Indeed, the 101-year history of the federal income tax has been marked by more and more taxpayers paying higher and higher amounts of tax, accompanied by ever-increasing complexity and confusion, as this chart from ATR shows:

101 Years of the Income Tax

And that’s just the start. Consider the incredible burden and costs of compliance. According to the National Taxpayers Union (NTU)

  • The total time burden of tax compliance totals an astounding 6.1 billion hours this year.
  • That is the equivalent of about 3.05 million employees working 40-hour weeks year-round with just two weeks off; or more than the number of workers at three of the biggest retailers in the Fortune 500 — Wal-Mart Stores, McDonald’s, and Target — combined.
  • When calculated at the average hourly employee compensation cost, the value of the labor involved in tax compliance is a jaw-dropping $192.6 billion.
  • Individuals spend a combined $31.7 billion a year on tax software and other out-of-pocket costs related to tax compliance.

NTU thus estimates the total compliance burden of the income tax is a horrific $224.3 billion. And that does NOT include “numerous hours taxpayers spend on state and local taxes, pursuing tax minimization strategies, or responding to IRS notices and audits; nor do they include the huge ‘growth penalty’ imposed on the nation’s economy by high tax rates.”

Then there are the numerous severe civil liberty problems with the income tax. “Ten Ways the Income Tax Harms Civil Liberties,” a short commentary by the Cato Institute’s Chris Edwards, summarizes some of them.

If you’re tired of this madness, why not start convincing your family, friends, neighbors and community leaders that it’s time to end the hated income tax — and replace it with… nothing.

Yes, it’s both fiscally and politically possible, as Ron Paul, Harry Browne, and many others have pointed out. In this article Advocates President Sharon Harris offers some some background info and suggestions to help you make that argument persuasively and effectively.

Can We Abolish the Income Tax?

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In this issue‘s Intellectual Ammunition section you will find some truly shocking facts about the federal income tax.

It’s enough to make you mad — and, I hope, ready to do something about it.

In recent years libertarian arguments in many areas have made remarkable Abolish the IRSprogress. The re-legalization of marijuana and other drugs has moved from a theoretical possibility to legislative reality. We’ve seen the elimination of centuries-old anti-gay laws. In foreign policy, the ideas of non-intervention are catching on so fast it’s scaring the political establishment. And the idea of libertarianism itself has gone from being an obscure, little-understood political philosophy to being the hottest idea in politics today.

None of this happened by accident. It came about because libertarians and others who favored liberty on these issues spent years challenging the status quo, opening minds, and bringing the libertarian position into public debate.

I think it’s high time we added abolishing the income tax to that list.

A few years ago I wrote a series of articles on how to argue for eliminating the income tax and replacing it with nothing.

I’ve combined those into one article, which you can read here. I hope it helps you in the crucial work of pushing the “abolish the income tax and replace it with… nothing” meme into mainstream American politics.

In my Liberty Minute column in this issue, I discuss the concept of the Overton Window, a very useful model for advancing the ideas of liberty. One of our major goals as liberty advocates is to raise the Overton Window to include ever-bolder libertarian ideas.

Can we do this with the idea of ending the income tax? Can we make that a part of the national political debate? You bet we can. It’s what Hollywood describes as “high concept”: it makes sense, it is exciting, and it is easy to grasp. Ron Paul’s longtime support for this issue is another big benefit. Paul’s millions of influential and active followers have the manpower to bring this idea alive for the mainstream.

Perhaps, not so long from now, the income tax will go the way of censorship, sodomy laws, Jim Crow, and other discredited and vanished tyrannies liberty lovers have sent into oblivion.

Video: Hilarious Remy Take on “Working 9 to 5″

in Healthcare, Liberator Online Archives by James Harris Comments are off

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

The great liberty-minded comedian Remy sings about working “9 to… hey, wait a minute!”

See how Obamacare shakes up Remy’s employment situation. And he’s not the only one…

Watch it, laugh, then share with friends. PS: Lyrics, with helpful info links, are at the bottom of this page.

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!

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.

THEY SAID IT…

in Drugs, Healthcare, Liberator Online Archives, Victimless Crime by James Harris Comments are off


JAY LENO’S LAST STAB AT OBAMACARE:
 “And the worst thing about losing this job, I’m no longer covered by NBC. I have to sign up for Obamacare!” — Jay Leno on his last day as host of The Tonight Show, Feb. 6, 2014.

RAND PAUL TAKES ON NSA: “The Fourth Amendment states that warrants issued must be specific to a person, place or task and this provision of the Bill of Rights exists explicitly to guard against the notion of a general warrant,where government can plunder through anyone’s privacy at will. The NSA’s metadata collection program is a general warrant for the modern age, reflecting the same kind of tyranny our nation’s founders fought a revolution to make sure would never happen again. … It’s time to trash the NSA’s mass surveillance of Americans, for good.” — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), “The NSA is still violating our rights,” The Guardian, Feb. 20, 2014.

THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL WAR ON MARIJUANA: “The truth is that the federal ban on marijuana — unlike the federal ban on alcohol, which began and ended with constitutional amendments — has no basis in the powers granted by the Constitution, at least insofar as it purports to reach purely intrastate activities.” — syndicated columnist Jacob Sullum, “Let 50 Cannabis Flowers Bloom,” Jan. 29, 2014.

YES, THE GOV’T CAN KILL AMERICAN SUSPECTS ON AMERICAN SOIL: “The truth emerged only in 2013 when Senator Rand Paul asked point-blank whether the president could authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against an American citizen in the United States. Attorney General Eric Holder fired back that while the question was ‘hypothetical,’ the real-world answer was yes. Holder said he could imagine ‘an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.’ … They’ve thought about it. They’ve set up the legal manipulations necessary to justify it. The broad, open-ended criteria the president laid out for killing suspected terrorists exposes the post-Constitutional stance our government has already prepared for. All that’s left to do is pull the trigger.” — journalist Peter Van Buren, “How to Build a Post-Constitutional America One Killing at a Time,” February 17, 2014.

WHY TRUST THE GOV’T: “The United States has been lying to its people for more than 50 years, and such lies extend from falsifying the reasons for going to war with Vietnam and Iraq to selling arms to Iran in order to fund the reactionary Nicaraguan Contras. Why should anyone trust a government that has condoned torture, spied on at least 35 world leaders, supports indefinite detention, places bugs in thousands of computers all over the world, kills innocent people with drone attacks, promotes the Post Office to log mail for law enforcement agencies and arbitrarily authorizes targeted assassinations?” — Prof. Henry A. Giroux, “Totalitarian Paranoia in the Post-Orwellian Surveillance State,” Truthout, Feb. 10, 2014.

THE FOUNDERS BETRAYED: “The bottom line is that we’ve betrayed much of the moral vision of our Founding Fathers. In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees who had fled from insurrection in San Domingo to Baltimore and Philadelphia, James Madison rose on the floor of the House of Representatives to object, saying, ‘I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.’ Tragically, today’s Americans — Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative — would hold such a position in contempt and run a politician like Madison out of town on a rail.” — syndicated columnist and economist Walter Williams, “Concealing Evil,” Feb. 19, 2014.

Video: Coffeecare —The Affordable Coffee Act

in Healthcare, Liberator Online Archives by James Harris Comments are off

You know how you buy a cup of coffee. You just go into the store, ask for what you want, and pay. End of story.

But… What if we had to buy our coffee like the government is now forcing us to buy health insurance? What if, like Obamacare, we had… Coffeecare?

This scathing and very funny animated video by RealityAlwaysWins show us. The result is a lot of laughs and a thorough indictment of the bitter brew that is Obamacare. All in just three and a half short and funny minutes.

Share it online with friends. It will open their eyes and let them smell… the Coffeecare.

FREE Libertarian E-Book: The Morality of Capitalism

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

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

In recent issues we’ve reviewed and recommended two outstanding free e-books available through Students For Liberty (SFL): After the Welfare State and Why Liberty.

Now we’re pleased to suggest one more great SFL title to add to your ebook library.

The Morality of Capitalism: What Your Professors Won’t Tell You combines the writings of renowned economists, philosophers, historians, policy experts, and entrepreneurs from around the world to make the case that not only do free markets “deliver the goods,” but that true free market capitalism is a just and moral system.

It is clear and highly readable, suitable for students and non-students alike, for newcomers to free enterprise and libertarianism as well as longtime libertarians.

As SFL notes:

“As students for liberty, we are well-versed in defending the free market. Our opponents on campus constantly claim that markets are unfair, that capitalism is exploitative, that competition is inhumane, and that government control and redistribution are the solution to society’s problems. Every day we struggle to explain that a free society that embraces free exchange is the only way to create wealth, peace, and prosperity for all.

“Most people acknowledge, if only begrudgingly, that capitalism does produce considerable wealth and material well-being. But many feel torn between material prosperity on the one hand and living a moral life on the other. The self-interested pursuit of profit that is characteristic of a capitalistic system just doesn’t feel right to them.

“The task before us, then — if we wish to actualize the truly free social system that is laissez-faire capitalism — is to provide and defend its moral justification. We must convince fellow students that capitalism is not just the most efficient system, but a virtuous one as well.”

The Morality of Capitalism: What Your Professors Won’t Tell You makes that case, powerfully and convincingly.

Students For Liberty has distributed over 100,000 copies to students around the world since it was first made available.

You can learn more about The Morality of Capitalism: What Your Professors Won’t Tell here.

Download it as a FREE PDF ebook here.

Here’s the table of contents: 

Introduction: The Morality of Capitalism by Tom G. Palmer
The History of a Word
Free-Market Capitalism vs. Crony Capitalism

Section I: The Virtues of Entrepreneurial Capitalism

  • Interview with an Entrepreneur featuring John Mackey (Whole Foods CEO)
  • Liberty and Dignity Explain the Modern World by Deirdre N. McCloskey
  • Competition and Cooperation by David Boaz
  • For-Profit Medicine and the Compassion Motive by Tom G. Palmer

Section II: Voluntary Interaction and Self-Interest

  • The Paradox of Morality by Mao Yushi (Translated by Jude Blanchette)
  • The Moral Logic of Equality and Inequality in Market Society by Leonid V. Nikonov
  • Adam Smith and the Myth of Greed by Tom G. Palmer
  • Ayn Rand and Capitalism: The Moral Revolution by David Kelley

Section III: The Production and Distribution of Wealth

  • The Market Economy and the Distribution of Wealth by Ludwig Lachmann
  • Political and Economic Freedoms Together Spawn Humanity’s Miracles by Temba A. Nolutshungu

Section IV: Globalizing Capitalism

  • Global Capitalism and Justice by June Arunga
  • Human Betterment through Globalization by Vernon Smith
  • The Culture of Liberty by Mario Vargas Llosa
  • A Little Further Reading for Fun and Profit (and Better School Papers) by Tom G. Palmer

The Morality of Capitalism: What Your Professors Won’t Tell You is published by SFL and the Atlas Network. We highly recommend it.

Student groups note: SFL offers a limited number of hard copies at no cost to student groups. You can learn more about that here.