Liberator Online

Home » Liberator Online

Walmart Surrenders to the Gun Control Lobby

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Walmart announced a new policy on Wednesday that it will no longer sell AR-15s and similar semiautomatic rifles, though it will continue to sell some firearms, such as pump-action shotguns and bolt-action rifles. The nation’s largest retailer and largest seller of firearms has long been a target of gun control organizations.

WalMartThe decision was made, according to a company spokesperson, due to the lack of “consumer demand.” In June, guns sales were up 11 percent, according to CNN Money, when “the FBI conducted nearly 1.53 million background checks” conducted by dealers with a Federal Firearms License (FFL).

“That’s the highest volume of checks in June since 1999,” CNN Money noted, “when the FBI started keeping track.” Although background checks are conducted for gun purchases from federally licensed dealers, the AR-15, the civilian version of the M16, is the most popular semiautomatic rifle on the market.

Depending on the estimate, Walmart sells firearms between one-third and half of its 4,500 stores in the United States, although the types of firearms now being discontinued from sale may not have been available at these stores. The gun control lobby has targeted Walmart for selling the AR-15 and similar semiautomatic weapons in the past.

In April, for example, Walmart successfully fought off a federal lawsuit filed by Trinity Church in Manhattan that would’ve allowed shareholders to vote on a proposal to prohibit the sale of semiautomatic weapons. Trinity Church, which has a history of leftist activism, is a shareholder of Walmart.

“The proposal asked that Wal-Mart’s Board of Directors oversee the development of policies to guide management’s decision whether or not Wal-Mart should sell products that are 1) especially dangerous to the public, 2) pose a substantial risk to company reputation and 3) would reasonably be considered offensive to the community and family values that Wal-Mart seeks to associate with its brand,” Rev. James Cooper wrote on the church’s blog in December 2014. “For instance, the decision to sell guns equipped with high capacity magazines seems inconsistent to Trinity (and we presume like-minded shareholders), given other merchandising decisions that Wal-Mart has made to protect its reputation and the public.”

CNN commentator Errol Lewis claimed Walmart was being inconsistent when the retailer pulled the Confederate battle flag from stores but not guns. Some leftist activists even cast some blame on Walmart in the wake of the 2012 Newtown shootings, in which a madman used an AR-15 and a handgun to slaughter 28 innocent people, mostly young children.

The criticism is unfounded, of course. Firearms are used overwhelming for defensive purposes, and most guns used in criminally violent acts are obtained through illicit means, such as theft or illegal purchases, or slipping through the background check process, like the Charleston shooter.

Efforts to ban the AR-15, through an assault weapons ban, wouldn’t have much of an effect, despite what gun control advocates may say. A 2013 memo from the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice noted that an assault weapons ban is “unlikely to have an effect on gun violence.” What’s more, the gun homicide rate has declined by 49 percent since 1993, according to data from Pew Research Center.

Perhaps it’s an effort to gain some “positive” media in the midst of slumping sales, who knows. But whatever the case may be, Walmart has, essentially, kowtowed to the pressure from the gun control lobby.

Blame Protectionist Policies for Oreo’s Exit from the United States

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

At the end of July, Mondelēz International, which owns the Oreo brand, announced that it would be moving the production of the delicious cream-filled sandwich cookie from Chicago, Illinois to a recently opened facility in Salinas, Mexico. Oreo’s move across the border will take with it 600 jobs.

Marilyn Katz, president of MK Communications, opined on the announcement at the Huffington Post, taking aim at Mondelēz International CEO Irene Rosenfeld. “Certainly Rosenfeld’s move is legal (although whether it should be is another question),” she complained. “But I can find no sense in which it is moral, just or defensible.”

Likewise, Donald Trump, ever the populist know-nothing, blasted the move during a rally last week in Mobile, Alabama. “You know Mexico is the new China. The other day Nabisco, Nabisco; Oreos, right, Oreos. I love Oreos, I’ll never eat them again, okay. Never eat them again,” Trump said. “Nabisco closes a plant, they just announced a couple days ago, in Chicago and they’re moving the plant to Mexico. Now, why? Why? Why?”

One conservative blogger has already opined that the United States’ corporate income tax, currently one of the highest in the world, may have something to do with the move. As a businessman, one would think that would’ve been easy conclusion for Trump.

Another logical conclusion is protectionist price supports that prop up sugar growers in the United States, which raise the cost of overhead to make sweet snacks and junk food. Oreo’s move to Mexico isn’t a new thing. The Wall Street Journal, in October 2013, noted that American-based candy producers were moving overseas, where sugar was available at a cheaper price.

“The leading ingredient in Oreos is sugar, and U.S. trade barriers currently require Americans to pay twice the average world prices for sugar,” Bryan Riley wrote at The Daily Signal. “Sugar-using industries now have a big incentive to relocate from the United States to countries where access to their primary ingredient is not restricted.”

Like the Export-Import Bank, the U.S. Sugar Program is a product of the New Deal, one that was seen by lawmakers as a temporary step to stabilize the economy in the aftermath of the Great Depression. It was supposed to end in 1940, but it has managed to stick around, usually reauthorized every five years in the farm bill, to placate sugar growers.

The sugar program, however, comes with a big price tag for consumers. “The resulting estimated costs to US consumers have averaged $2.4 billion per year, with producers benefiting by about $1.4 billion per year,” a 2011 study from the American Enterprise Institute noted. “So the net costs of income transfers to producers have averaged about $1 billion per year.” An estimate released by the Coalition for Sugar Reform pegs the cost to businesses and consumers at $3.5 billion.

It may be easy to ride the strong populist sentiment against corporations that are sending jobs oversea to score cheap political points, but Oreo’s move to Mexico is a result of a bad, market-distorting, and outdated policy that should come to an end.

Free to Be Stupid, College Students

in Freedom On Campus, Liberator Online by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

Last week, the Eta Chi chapter of Sigma Nu Fraternity at Old Dominion University made national news for hanging banners from a balcony with the messages: “Rowdy and fun—hope your baby girl is ready for a good time,” “Freshman daughter drop off,” and “Go ahead and drop mom off too…”.

The banners were displayed at an off-campus house and were seen by many visitors to the Virginia college town during move-in week. Concerned parents and students were quick to post photos of the banners on social media along with their reactions.

 

Students

Old Dominion President John Broderick condemned Sigma Nu’s actions along with other university administrators.

Broderick wrote that a young woman told him she had seriously considered going back home after she saw the signs but was reassured when she read the responses from other students on social media. “She realized this callous and senseless act did not reflect the Old Dominion she has come to love.”

According to The Washington Post, Sigma Nu’s national organization has suspended the chapter pending an investigation. “Any Fraternity member found to be responsible for this reprehensible display will be held accountable by the Fraternity,” said a national Sigma Nu spokesperson.

Being suspended by the national fraternity basically means that all administrative and social activities for the chapter stop pending the outcome of whatever university hearings follow an investigation.

But, aren’t these students free to be stupid college students?

There’s no doubt that these banners were crude, tasteless and stupid, but the First Amendment protects them. They are classless, but not obscene. No specific person is being threatened or disparaged and they were not directed at anyone in particular.

Broderick associating the banners with sexual assault is a considerable exaggeration. Sigma Nu members didn’t threaten anyone with sexual assault and hanging some mildly suggestive signs does not constitute an act of violence.

ODU is a public university, and is obligated to extend First Amendment rights to its students. ODU also does not own the off-campus house and cannot dictate what is or isn’t hung from its balcony regardless of the student organization affiliation of the house.

However, the fraternity brothers responsible shouldn’t have been so quick to hang up suggestive banners.

Recent media attention at the University of Virginia and the University of Alabama have put fraternity and sorority life at the center of the culture war around Greek Life, sexual assault and bad PR.

Just last year, the Phi Kappa Psi chapter at UVA came under fire for an alleged gang rape as reported by the Rolling Stone. That story turned out to be fabricated, and the three fraternity brothers are requesting a trial by jury and are seeking more than $75,000 for “mental anguish and severe emotional distress,” caused by the article and its aftermath.

And in recent weeks, Alpha Pi sorority at the University of Alabama faced harsh backlash over a controversial recruitment video that some said lacked diversity and objectified women. The video was pulled from YouTube and has since been put back up.

Overall, these past two years have been difficult in the media for fraternities and sororities across the country.

Is ODU doing more harm than good by punishing the entire chapter of Sigma Nu over some dumb actions by a couple of members?

By punishing Sigma Nu, the university is teaching its students to not take responsibility for their own actions. If a student is made uncomfortable by any message, then it is up to the individual to choose not to associate with the organization or the individuals that share that message.

You Might Be the First…

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Recently, I attended an event with numerous political groups using that event to reach out to the community about their political party or movement.

While there, I witnessed some astonishing behavior posing as outreach, some of which I couldn’t believe. I offered some advice, though I’ll offer more here today.

firstThese days, my outreach activities are mostly internal, within the libertarian movement, though I do have significant experience “in the trenches.” Through that experience I took steps to learn how to improve the results, whether I was to persuading someone to re-examine their political home, convincing them to vote for my candidate, or introducing them to a new organization.

One of the best lessons I learned to improve my outreach was to constantly think to myself that “You might be the first libertarian this person has ever met.”

When you ARE that first libertarian contact, you are an ambassador to libertarianism.

You represent every libertarian in the movement at that point in time to that person. He or she will be left with a permanent impression, good or bad, about libertarians going forward.

First impressions matter.

If you leave a bad first impression, you’ve just made it that much harder for your fellow libertarians. They now have to overcome that negative impression to persuade that person to consider libertarian ideas. If you left a REALLY bad first impression, he or she might have told others about how terrible libertarians are.

Luckily, there are more libertarians today than ever. Since the Advocates’ founding in 1985, we’ve identified and recruited countless people to accept libertarian ideas, philosophy, and way of life. Even on college campuses, where freedom seems to be a dirty word, our partner organizations, Students for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty, have opened the door, as well as hearts and minds, to thousands that now yearn for a libertarian society.

Honestly, I hope that you are not the first libertarian contact. That is not because I think you will give a bad first impression. You’re clearly interested in being a better ambassador for libertarianism by keeping yourself informed about the libertarian movement and how you can be a better representative of the philosophy. I hope you are not the first libertarian contact because of the growth of the libertarian movement.

Whether or not you are the first, act like you are. I can guarantee the results are better when you do.

Freedom Is Indivisible

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Economic freedom. Civil freedom. Religious freedom. Sexual freedom. Personal freedom. Political freedom.

Freedom is popular.

freedomAs such, some attempt to position themselves as its champions, by defining which carefully-worded sliver of freedom they feel comfortable permitting you to exercise.

Libertarians believe that freedom, while formed from many components, is indivisible. 

While some may value their economic freedom over their political or civil freedom, without the political freedom to choose between candidates and ideas and civil liberties to ensure that government has not improperly imprisoned the dissidents, economic freedom cannot exist.

The freedom to live your religious convictions cannot survive in an environment without the freedom to choose your mate or to have the ability to support your church financially.

Essentially, each aspect of freedom is interdependent on the others, and when you try to dissect and distribute only parts of the whole, freedom does not really exist. When only slivers are permitted, none of us live free.

As documented in the Declaration of Independence, rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were paramount in the founding of America. Our freedom engenders our ability live our lives as we see fit without the force or coercion of others.

This week, our friends at The CATO Institute and the Fraser Institute released the Human Freedom Index, which “presents the state of human freedom in the world based on a broad measure that encompasses personal, civil, and economic freedom.”

As you will note, the United States is no longer the leading bastion of liberty we once were, falling to 20th out of 152 countries measured in the index. Expansion of the regulatory state, multiple “wars” (terror, drugs, poverty, etc.), and the victories of eminent domain and civil asset forfeiture over property rights all contribute to our loss of freedom. None of those factors is exclusively detrimental to one aspect of freedom, yet they all undermine our overall freedom.

So, the next time you hear someone espouse their love for their preferred aspect, remind them that freedom is indivisible, and that without all of it, none of us are truly free.

Immigration is Good for the Economy

in Immigration, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

The Republican presidential race has devolved into a contest about who can spew the most venom at immigrants. Make no mistake about it, the rhetoric on the campaign trail hasn’t been limited to illegal immigrants but even those who came to the United States through the legal process.

immigration at ellis islandMuch of the focus has been on the comments of Donald Trump, the businessman turned celebrity turned presidential candidate turned general annoyance of anyone who wants a serious discussion of the issues facing the United States.

Trump has already accused Mexico of “sending people that have lots of problems,” accusing immigrants from our neighbor to the south of being drug runners and criminals. Of course, that isn’t true. But Trump has continues to spout of this nonsense to appeal to a certain segment of the public that, simply put, just doesn’t like people of color.

On Tuesday evening, for example, Trump told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that he wants to eliminate citizenship for children who are born to immigrant parents in the United States. He actually said that Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to people “born or naturalized in the United States”, is “unconstitutional.”

“What happens is, they’re in Mexico, they’re going to have a baby, they move over here for a couple of days, they have the baby,” Trump said on The O’Reilly Factor. “It’s not going to hold up in court, it’s going to have to be tested.”

Yes, seriously. He said that, and it’s painfully ignorant of, you know, the Constitution – the “supreme law of the land.”

Other Republicans contenders have made equally asinine comments. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon turned presidential candidate, said he wants to use militarized drones to police the southern border.

“We can use a whole series of things to do that, not just fences and walls but electronic surveillance, drones and many of the techniques that are used to keep people out of top secret places,” Carson told a crowd in Phoenix on Wednesday. “All of those things are available to us. We have the ability to do it; we just don’t have the will to do it. That will change when we have the right administration in place.”

“The reason that is so important—a lot of people think there are just people coming from the south of the border—there are radical global jihadists who want to destroy us and our way of life and we have to keep them out. We have to make it not easy for them to get in here. This is a matter of our own security,” he said. “Then once we have that border sealed, we have to turn off the spigot that dispenses the goodies. If there are no goodies, guess what? They won’t come. It won’t be worth trying to get through our borders if there are no goodies. That includes employment—we should make it illegal to employ people in this country who are not legally here.”

Carson’s nativist logic – which has been repeated by a handful of other Republican contenders – is baseless. Immigrants contribute to the economy. A 2006 study conducted by the Texas Comptroller found that immigrants contributed $17.7 billion to the state’s economy and paid $1.58 billion in taxes, more than the $1.16 billion they consumed in services.

On the whole, immigration, much like trade, is a net-benefit for the economy. This doesn’t mean that immigration reform proposals in previous congresses were worth passing, but as a general principle, immigration is a good thing. Republican candidates need to stop demagoguing this issue and propose serious policies to educate to the party’s base rather than appealing to the lowest common dominator of it.

A New Mandatory Minimum for Illegal Immigration is a Costly Bad Idea

in Criminal Justice, Immigration, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Senate Republicans plan to bring to legislation to the floor in September that will target so-called “sanctuary cities” that provide a safe haven for illegal immigrants. The bill, according to a Politico report last month, “would block funding for cities and other local governments that decline to cooperate with federal immigration officials.”

mandatory minimum  sentencingThere’s a recent wrinkle in that a) doesn’t make much sense and b) could undermine efforts in Congress to reform America’s criminal justice system. In response to the tragic murder of Kate Steinle at the hands of an illegal immigrant, some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, want this proposal attached to the sanctuary cities bill.

“Kate’s Law” would require a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for any immigrant who re-enters the United States illegally. Those who are lobbying for the measure, either professionally or through citizen activism, don’t seem to understand the costs associated with housing federal prisoners.

On average, the annual price tag for incarcerating a federal inmate is around $30,000. Multiplied by five years; that’s $150,000 to incarcerate someone who those pushing for the bill don’t want here, anyway.

Greg Newburn of Families Against Mandatory Minimums notes that this isn’t a small sum, given the number of people incarcerated for illegal re-entry in the most recent fiscal year for which data are available. “According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 16,556 offenders were sentenced for illegal reentry in FY 2014,” Newburn writes, ” 98.6% of those offenders were sentenced to prison; the average sentence was 17 months.”

“If they all received five-year mandatory minimums rather than the average sentences of 17 months, new incarceration costs would be $1.78 billion per year. That’s nearly $2 billion that could be spent on finding, arresting, and prosecuting violent undocumented immigrants that will instead have to be spent on incarcerating people [who’ve re-entered the United States illegally],” he added.

Not only does “Kate’s law” fail to make any fiscal sense, it could undermine movement on criminal justice reform, which is currently a topic of serious discussion in both chambers of Congress. Much of the logic behind this effort is that there are too many people in prison and mass incarceration is too expensive.

Although he’s been a reluctant participant, Grassley led discussions in the Senate Judiciary Committee to bring legislation that would include some mandatory minimum sentences, though the expansion of the federal safety valve, and prison reforms to reduce the likelihood that offenders will engage in recidivist behavior.

Enacting a new and very costly mandatory minimum sentence defeats the purpose of criminal justice reform. In fact, this is how mass incarceration in the United States really took off. Congress enacted harsh sentences, including mandatory minimum sentences, as a reaction to a problem. As well intended as these policies were, they haven’t been an effective deterrent to crime. This proposed mandatory sentence won’t be any different.

You Can’t Force a Person to Learn Something

in Conversations With My Boys, Education, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Me: Can I force you to learn something?
The Young Statesman (then 12): No. You can not.
Me: So, if I sat you down and did chemistry lessons with you and threatened to….
You can't force someone to learnYS: Take something away?
Me: Yes. Take something away. If I threaten to take something away if you don’t do well on a chemistry test I give you will that make you learn it?
YS: I’ll learn it, I’ll spit it out, and then I’ll forget it.
Me: Isn’t that learning?
YS: No. That isn’t learning. That’s wasting time.
Me: What if I gave you an incentive to do well on a chemistry test. Will that make you learn it?
YS: If I don’t want to learn it, I won’t learn it. I’ll just memorize it, spit it back out at you, and forget it.
Me: What about subjects that are important?
YS: Important to whom?
Me: To many adults.
YS: Does that mean it’s important to me? If I don’t want to learn it, I will not learn it.
Me: Some people say if you don’t learn a thing when you’re young then that field will be closed to you when you’re older.
YS: Like what?
Me: We could say science. If you aren’t exposed to science when you’re young….
YS: You won’t be exposed to it again? You weren’t exposed to libertarian thought and Austrian economics when you were young and look at you. You’re running a page with over 25 thousand likes.
Me: What you’re saying is that I’m teaching people about liberty and Austrian economics and I wasn’t exposed to it as a child.
YS: Right. You were never exposed to that when you were little. Just because you weren’t exposed to it then doesn’t mean you won’t be great at it later.
Me: You’ve watched me teach myself, haven’t you?
YS: I have. I’ve watched you teach yourself a lot. I’ve watched you teach other people, too.
Me: You’ve watched me tutor. You’ve been in the room with me when I’ve tutored. What have you learned by watching students struggle with subjects they’ve been told are “important” but aren’t aren’t important to them?
YS: They want to make their teachers happy but the subjects aren’t important to them so they aren’t going to excel. Daisy was an artist. They were trying to cram all sorts of other stuff into her.
Me: What did that do to her?
YS: You had to re-school her.
Me: What do you think was the most important thing for her?
YS: Art. She was a wonderful artist. You let her focus on that.
Me: Someone had told her it was more important that she be a mediocre, miserable student than a fantastic artist. One would have to be blind to miss that she was an artist.
YS: She was told doing what she was good at wasn’t as important as what the teachers thought was important.
Me: And what did the teachers think was important?
YS: Everyone being the same was important. Following the curriculum was important. Art wasn’t important.
Me: It’s like a factory isn’t it? It makes one product.
YS: No variations. All the same thing.
Me: Does that work with people? Who does it reward?
YS: The state gets a nice new batch of uniform people.
Me: What happens to people like Daisy who are brilliant in something the school doesn’t value?
YS: Their talent gets squashed. I’ve noticed that you tutor the brilliant people. It’s the creative people who don’t do well in the school system.
Me: I would say that every child I’ve tutored had a burning passion that was being neglected or misdirected or devalued. I don’t think there’s one child I’ve worked with who wasn’t obviously being sold short. Can you imagine being a fantastic artist and having to sit in classes that bored you, that you weren’t interested in, that you actively hated and that you were failing every day of your life?
YS: I can not imagine how bad that would be. That would basically be the first eighteen years of your life thrown away.
Me: It would be worse than wasting it. It would be eighteen years of being told that you weren’t good enough. It would be a daily attack. We were talking about whether or not you can force a person to learn something.
YS: You can’t force a person to learn something.
Me: I was required to teach Daisy certain subjects. Do you think they stuck?
YS: No. She probably forgot them. It was probably a big waste of her time and your time.
Me: What do you think she remembered?
YS: That you let her do what she loved to do. That you understood what her talent was.
Me: I wish we had spent more time on art with her.
YS: She was a lot happier here than in school.

More Fit Than Fat

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Recently, I saw an example that made me think about this piece I wrote a while back about how we test, punish, and exclude new people in our circles.

It is a new year, and like every January that I remember, many of us make resolutions to improve an aspect or two of our lives. Some of us want to spend more of our time and attention with loved ones. Others want to improve our health by kicking a bad habit, watching what we eat, or increasing the frequency with which we exercise.

I love seeing people make positive changes in their lives. It’s exciting. Lately though, I have noticed something of a trend among the more fitness-focused in my network. I do not mean the folks who joined a gym the last week of December or were “waiting until after the holidays” to start working on attaining a six-pack before swimsuit season. I mean the guys and gals who are pumping iron, taking a spin class, or running treadmill marathons every day (or so it seems).

fitThe trend I see is a tendency to begrudge having all these new bodies at the gym. I see tweets complaining about full parking lots that will be “back to normal by February,” Instagram photos of a rookie misusing equipment, and Facebook posts poking fun at someone who just began their quest to be more fit than fat.

This trend is recent, but feels very familiar. The familiarity I feel comes from some within the libertarian movement, who challenge, ridicule, and belittle new and prospective libertarians. My hope is that this is not being done intentionally.

I am sure you have seen a “seasoned” libertarian speaking to someone whose interest in freedom is relatively young. They are pontificating about the fundamentals of natural rights and natural law, quoting long passages from Mises’ Human Action, or challenging a new libertarian’s view on a principle or issue of which they have yet to consider or examine the “proper” libertarian position. Perhaps you have seen another longtime libertarian list all of the “essential” books on their bookshelf, intimating that until they have been read, no ounce of libertarianism resides within this n00b. Possibly, you have borne witness to a game I like to call “The Biggest Libertarian in the Room,” where the “winner” is a jerk who made everyone else feel like they are not libertarian enough to even remain there. Noted libertarian communicator Michael Cloud would probably classify each of these as examples of the “Libertarian Macho Flash.”

If you identify as having done any of the above or variants thereof, I ask that you think back to the time when you first found that thirst for liberty. You may not have protested the Federal Reserve on the first day after you realized your newfound political lifestyle. You may not have committed the entire e-book collection of the Mises Institute to memory during your first month as a new libertarian. You may not have begun to look for the unintended consequences in every new governmental proposal or program.

I admit that I am probably guilty of some variation of those dastardly deeds outlined above in the past, and, for that, I ask forgiveness. Today, however, is a new day where I know better than to run off the newly-interested while flexing my libertarian muscles and showing off my libertarian bonafides. I hope this opened your eyes to some of these behaviors, and you will join me in welcoming these new eyes, ears, hearts, and minds to the beauty of our philosophy.

The Risky Business of Communicating Liberty

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, One Minute Liberty Tip by Sharon Harris Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Nobel Prize-winning libertarian economist Milton Friedman was one of the earliest prominent public advocates of ending the War on Drugs.

In a 1991 interview on “America’s Drug Forum,” a national PBS public affairs talk show, Friedman made this excellent point:

risky business“The case for prohibiting drugs is exactly as strong and as weak as the case for prohibiting people from overeating.

“We all know that overeating causes more deaths than drugs do. If it’s in principle OK for the government to say you must not consume drugs because they’ll do you harm, why isn’t it all right to say you must not eat too much because you’ll do harm?

“Why isn’t it all right to say you must not try to go in for skydiving because you’re likely to die? Why isn’t it all right to say, ‘Oh, skiing, that’s no good, that’s a very dangerous sport, you’ll hurt yourself’? Where do you draw the line?”

This is a powerful argument for persuading others of the unfairness of the War on Drugs.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Overweight and obesity are leading risks for global deaths. Around 3.4 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, being overweight or obese “substantially increase[s] the risk of morbidity from hypertension, dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, and sleep apnea and respiratory problems, as well as cancers of the endometrium, breast, prostate, and colon. Higher body weights are also associated with an increase in mortality from all causes.”

Scary stuff! Yet no one — well, almost no one — would support a violent War on Eating Too Much Food, with armed Food Police breaking into fast food joints and homes to stop people from overeating. Few would support outlawing common foods associated with obesity, despite the documented dangers and huge social costs.

And what about swimming?

According to the Center for Disease Control, about 3,600 people — many of them children — die annually from accidental drowning, the fifth largest cause of accidental death in the United States. Yet we allow adults and children complete freedom to swim.

Disturbing research finds that football, boxing, hockey and other contact sports can cause severe and permanent brain damage. Yet millions of Americans still support and participate in these sports.

There are countless other risky activities we casually accept. Bungee jumping looks crazy to me, riding a motorcycle isn’t my thing, and I won’t be gazing down at the world from atop Mount Everest. But I strongly support and defend the right of others to engage in these things – along with the great majority of Americans.

Indeed, the freedom to make risky choices in such personal matters is a bedrock American value. Most people today make exceptions to this value only in certain narrow areas — most notably drugs. (And just some drugs, of course — not, for instance, liquor and tobacco, to bring up another wild inconsistency.)

When you use comparisons and concrete examples like the ones above, you help your listeners grasp the unfairness, injustice and inconsistency of the War on Drugs. It can be very effective to have specific numbers and reliable sources when making these comparisons, as I’ve done here, but just citing any risky but legal activity can open minds.

Try it — the risk is yours to take!

Thanks to Carpe Diem, Mark Perry’s outstanding economic blog, for recently mentioning Milton Friedman’s interview, which can be read in its entirety here.

That interview is also in the superb book Friedman & Szasz On Liberty and Drugs: Essays on the Free Market and Prohibition (1992), which features essays by Friedman and the great libertarian psychiatrist Thomas Szasz.

381 Million Taxpayer Dollars Turned to Sludge

in Environment and Energy, Issues, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

On Aug. 5, a team of workers contracted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spilled 3 million gallons of orange-colored waste from the Gold King Mine into the Animas River in Colorado. The pollutants flowed into New Mexico where it merged into the San Juan River, a critical source of water for Navajo communities.

Local citizens and lawmakers alike are outraged by the lack of transparency from the EPA for the spill and now, the amount of tax dollars given to the firm responsible.

Colorado and New Mexico are now in a state of emergency because of the accident.

RiverNew Mexico governor Susana Martinez said in a press release that she is “concerned about the EPA’s lack of communication and inability to provide accurate information.” Stating that, “one day the spill is 1 million gallons, the next day, 3 million.”

Part of the frustration is the EPA’s failure to disclose the name of the contractor responsible to law makers and media outlets.

However, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that a Missouri-based firm, Environmental Restoration LLC (ER), was the “contractor whose work caused a mine spill in Colorado that released an estimated 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into a major river system.”

According to a WSJ review of data, ER received $381 million in government contracts since October 2007, approximately $364 million from the EPA and $37 million from work performed in Colorado.

That $381 million is a large chunk of change for taxpayers to spend to have pollutants that were carried to the Shiprock community on the Navajo reservation.

Despite preliminary tests showing minimum adverse health effects, Shiprock Chapter President Duane “Chili” Yazzie told CNN that he is waiting for a definitive all-clear before using river water on crops.

“Our community here, the very critical nature of our predicament is that we are a river-based community and we’re a strong agricultural community and the impact is very, very tremendous,” Yazzie said.

Around 750 families rely on the river to grow melons, corn and other crops.

According to CNN, the Navajo Nation is the first to announce legal action against the federal government. Yazzie said the EPA didn’t alert them about the spill until 24 hours after the incident, placing tribe members’ health at risk.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye told CNN that the spill will have a “destructive impact on the ecosystems…that the Navajo culture depends on.” Begaye also said that the Navajo Nation intends to “recover every dollar it spends on cleaning up up this mess and every dollar it loses as a result of injuries to our natural resources.”

Beyond the obvious economic impact, it is the cultural and traditional impact on the community that is the most agonizing.

The river represents a spiritual element that is the basis of the tradition of the Navajo religion and for it to be harmed is spiritually, emotionally and psychologically very difficult, Yazzie said.

Libertarianism in Pop Culture

in Communicating Liberty, From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

There is no shortage of “libertarian books,” whether you mean fiction works like Orwell’s 1984Huxley’s Brave New World, and any of Heinlein’s sci-fi, or more academic non-fiction texts like Hazlitt’s Economics in One LessonMises’ Human Action, or Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom.

How many of you became libertarians because someone handed you a book to read?

I didn’t. I don’t remember when a “libertarian switch” turned on, but I do remember when former talk-radio host Neal Boortz shared that my political philosophy had a name… libertarian.

Libertarians recognize that every individual is different. To me, that means that what opens one person’s mind to libertarianism may not work with another. Each individual’s path to libertarianism is different, and I think that many can be reached by the “normalization” of libertarianism and libertarians in popular culture.

As with any change to the status quo, a political change happens behind the wave of change in popular opinion. Popular culture plays a large role in that, and we are on track to have libertarian thought remain a part of that conversation.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss EverdeenThere is a wave of anti-authoritarian messaging in many popular teen novels that became blockbuster movies like The Hunger Games and Divergent series with strong female leads like Katniss and Tris exercising independent will and standing up to tyrannical central authorities. We see similar messaging in animated films like The LEGO Movie (which I LOVE) and The Nut Job for younger audiences.

Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson was a libertarian hero for many, and Community’s Jeff Winger and Californication’s Hank Moody both self-identified as libertarians. One of the longest running and most consistent libertarian television shows began my senior year of high school, South Park. On a recent flight, I even read this book about the libertarian lessons the show contains, which begins its 19th season next month.

The stand-up comedy world also features Doug Stanhope and Joe Rogan, while actors like Vince Vaughn, Dax Shepard, and Glenn Jacobs recently “came out” as libertarian thinkers. Recently, musicians Big Boi (from the hip hop group, OutKast), country music singer Kacey Musgraves, and Aimee Allen released songs with strong libertarian messages. Former MTV VJs Kennedy and Kurt Loder mix pop culture and political leanings for Reason and Fox Business, respectively.

We’ve collected quite a few libertarian celebrities here, and we plan to update that list shortly with many new additions this fall.

It’s a start, and we have a long way to go, but there’s hope still with all of the non-political avenues noted above that we can reach and recruit new libertarians. Let’s make sure we support the artists and commentators that share our views to keep them in the public eye.

Will you commit to that with me?

Audit the Fed Could Come Up for a Vote in the Senate

in Audit the Fed, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, Monetary Policy, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced on Tuesday several amendments that he plans to offer to the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), a controversial bill that could come up for a final vote in the upper chamber later this week. While most of the amendments are privacy-focused, one of them would require an audit of the Federal Reserve.

audit the fedPaul picked up the “audit the Fed” cause from his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, after his exit from Congress in January 2013. The amendment appears to be the exact same language of Paul’s Federal Reserve Transparency Act, S. 264, which was introduced in January. To date, the bill has 32 cosponsors. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., has introduced companion legislation in the House, H.R. 24, which is co-sponsored by 184 of his colleagues.

The amendment Paul plans to offer – that is, if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., doesn’t use procedural tactics to block them – would require the Federal Reserve to give information – such as discussion between the central bank the Treasury Department and transactions with foreign banks – currently excluded from audits conducted by Government Accountability Office under 31 U.S. Code § 714(b).

“A complete and thorough audit of the Fed will finally allow the American people to know exactly how their money is being spent by Washington. The Fed currently operates under a cloak of secrecy and it has gone on for too long,” Paul said in a release on Tuesday. “The American people have a right to know what the Federal Reserve is doing with our nation’s money supply, and the time to act is now.”

The House, in July 2012 and September 2014, passed iterations of the Federal Reserve Transparency Act by strong, bipartisan margins. The Senate, then controlled by Democrats, never took the bills up for a vote.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has firmly stated her opposition to transparency at the central bank, claiming that it would threaten its independence. “Back in 1978 Congress explicitly passed legislation to ensure that there would be no GAO audits of monetary policy decision-making, namely policy audits,” Yellen said in December. “I certainly hope that will continue, and I will try to forcefully make the case for why that’s important.”

Any attempt at an real audit of the Federal Reserve would face challenges should Congress actually pass it. The White House, in February, announced its opposition to the bill, calling the measure “dangerous.”

Created by an act of Congress in 1913, perhaps one of the worst years for liberty, the Federal Reserve holds a tremendous amount of influence over the economy. Despite the arguments against stronger audits, the power the central bank holds means more transparency is necessary. The American people have a right to know what the Fed is up to.

Would You Double Down on Big Government?

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Walk the Walk by Brett Bittner Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Last month, after serving mid to low-income neighborhoods for nearly 60 years, Double 8 Foods made the decision to close all five of their Indianapolis locations following many years of declining revenues. Immediately, community leaders turned to city government for an answer, asking the Mayor to find a workable solution. The “food desert” in areas that could not support the chain’s five locations quickly became an issue for candidates in this fall’s mayoral election.

double downRather than waiting the couple weeks it took to begin “talks” with Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, one prominent community leader took only a few days to mobilize a shuttle service to minimize the impact of the stores’ closures in the short-term. That leader is Senior Pastor of Barnes United Methodist Church on Indianapolis’ westside Charles R. Harrison.

Waiting for Big Government to come along to solve this problem is not an option for Harrison and the area churches in the communities that these stores served. They jumped into action by providing transportation with their church vans from the now-closed Double 8 stores to other grocery stores unreachable by foot and cumbersome to navigate by IndyGo, Indianapolis’ mass transit bus system.

Reverend Harrison also led by example, driving the shuttle himself while recruitment efforts for volunteers to handle the thrice-daily trips for the neighborhood bore fruit. Churches in the affected areas quickly followed suit, shuttling dozens of former Double 8 shoppers to Aldis, Safeways, and Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets just a few miles away.

One candidate for Indianapolis mayor identified it as a problem, pledging “to work with state, federal and local leaders to explore bringing more food options to the city,” while the other wants to use “economic incentives” to attract grocery retailers to these areas and use the tax dollars collected to fund neighborhood improvements. Both mayoral candidates clearly favor a slow-moving Big Government solution, while residents seek to meet the immediate need of stocking their pantries and refrigerators.

While Harrison’s efforts are clearly an interim measure to minimize the pain felt by area residents, it provides a bridge to what happens next in the city, in a peaceful and voluntary way. This week, donations to defray the costs of the shuttle service began to appear at the church and at the shuttle stops, so it’s possible this initiative may become a full-fledged program until new or existing grocers, co-ops, or community gardens fill the void.

Isn’t it awesome when people come together without coercion or force to do some good?

Now that you see how immediately someone can act to help the most vulnerable among us without outsourcing responsibility to Big Government, what can you do in your neighborhood or city to address an issue before government can step in and likely make things worse, like they did recently?

Just two years ago, Midwest retailer Meijer showed interest in building a superstore that included full grocery options just a mile and a half south of the closed Double 8 where Reverend Harrison’s shuttle meets riders daily. The store’s planned footprint would have required Meijer to purchase 35 area homes for demolition, many of which were already abandoned by their owners, but “not in my backyard activists” swarmed to have the city stop the proposed build, pushing Meijer out of the project and across town by almost six miles or nearly an hour by city bus.

In past messages I’ve asked that you no longer outsource responsibility to government to help those in need. In just over a week, there is an example that I can reference that is local.

Can you imagine the positive response you could elicit if you took on the challenge of solving an issue in your neighborhood or city?

As a former school board member, I can tell you that access to books is an issue in many neighborhoods, and a small book drive for families in your area or a Little Free Library would make a world of difference.

As someone who lives in an urban area, I can attest to the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in the “food deserts.” Some urban gardeners could teach valuable skills, while providing some fresh food alternatives to the processed and pre-packaged junk available in convenience stores and drive thrus.

As a firm believer in being a positive example for someone, I cannot begin to tell you how much just a couple hours a month as a mentor can change the life of someone who needs to know that there is more in their future than what they may have today.

Will you take a look and see how you can be a shining libertarian example and solve a problem without Big Government?

Your Electricity Rates May Necessarily Skyrocket

in Economic Liberty, Environment and Energy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Back in 2007, during his initial run for the presidency, Barack Obama, then the junior senator from Illinois, said that his energy proposals would “bankrupt” a company looking to build a new coal plant. For consumers, he said, “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”

As President, Obama has sought to implement those policies through legislation, though he has been largely unsuccessful. Since Obama can’t get his agenda through Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has, at the direction of the White House, promulgated regulations to clamp down on emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants.

The EPA rule, which was formally rolled out on Monday, directs these plants to reduce their carbon emissions by 32 percent of 2005 levels over the next 25 years. “We only get one home. We only get one planet. There is no plan B,” Obama said in a speech hailing the new rule. “I don’t want my grandkids to not be able to swim in Hawaii, or not to be able to climb a mountain and see a glacier, because we didn’t do something about it.”

The alarmist rhetoric may be a nice touch, but the rule is going to have negative consequences that will lead to job losses. In April, the American Action Forum noted that 93 power plants, representing some 80,000 jobs, would be in jeopardy because of the rule.

“As we predicted, EPA’s proposed federal implementation (FIP) entails two emissions trading schemes. Of course, Congress has expressly and repeatedly rejected such ‘cap and trade’ schemes, which raises an obvious question: Why is it appropriate for EPA to impose major policies that were refused by Congress? In practice, emissions are virtually synonymous with energy use, and, as a result, EPA’s FIP is not inaccurately labeled an energy rationing program,” said William Yeatman, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Talk about mission creep!”

Consumers, too, will feel the impact. Take, for example, the “clean coal” power plant in Kemper County, Mississippi. The $6.2 billion (originally $4.7 billion) plant, owned by the Southern Company, has been the hailed as example of what the administration hopes to see in the future. But the plant has been plagued by significant cost overruns, which were initially passed onto consumers in the form of a 15 percent rate hike. The Mississippi Supreme Court intervened in the matter and ordered refunds.

Consumers exposed to the EPA’s new climate rule may not be so lucky. It’s expected to cost as much as $479 billion between 2017 and 2031, and there’s no guarantee that it will have any measurable impact. Of course, this rule isn’t about climate change; it’s about controlling Americans who have no choice but to spend more of their money because of regulations that will boost favored businesses selling their products to plants hoping to comply with rules created by the fourth branch of the federal government.

Why Are Libertarians Different? Intent Vs. Outcome

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Libertarians… We are certainly a different breed.

We may look the same. We may use the same language. We put our pants on one leg at a time… Most of us, anyway.

We certainly have a unique way of thinking though.

Of course, our first instinct is not to suggest that “there ought to be a law.” That is the beginning of how we differ from non-libertarians.

The basis of not defaulting to government intervention lies a bit deeper than instinct. We want a lot of the same results: a well-educated society, an end to homelessness, peace with our neighbors, and the freedom to live our lives.

unintended consequencesWe also like to point out unintended consequences of policy decisions. Inevitably, every government policy idea devised sought to solve a problem, but not everyone follows where that policy idea takes us beyond the policymaker’s intent.

Libertarians recognize intent for what it is. We recognize that someone, somewhere intended their idea to fix an existing problem, prevent a future problem, or make lives better. We also see past intent to look at what happens when this intended solution gets implemented. We see whether it, or something similar, worked in the past. We also examine what we describe as unintended consequences that are likely to occur if the policymakers enact the proposed solution.

We focus on outcome.

We look at policies beyond intent, by focusing looking deeper than the surface, talking points, and smooth sales pitches. We look at people individually, rather than as statistics and metrics that can be manipulated. We examine individual decisions on their own, rather than as part of the aggregate. Put simply, we are looking out for the smallest minority there is… The individual.

Central planners will never be able to do so, because people are just data points. To them, they believe that they can predict what MOST of us will do when faced with a specific decision. The rest do not matter. Those individuals are statistically insignificant.

Are you insignificant?

Libertarians do not believe that you are, and we look at the unintended consequences, incentives, and individual decision-making to fully examine the outcome of a proposed policy or idea, rather than sweeping you, the individual, aside because you do not fit the model they prepared.

Today, ideas are judged by their intent, rather than their outcome. All too often, that means that the “solution” makes a larger or different problem.

To whom is that insignificant?

Really, Almost Most Everyone in Congress Should be Thrown Out of Office

in Elections and Politics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

On Tuesday, surprisingly, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., filed a resolution to declare the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives vacant, which, he said, is meant to serve an expression of dissatisfaction with Republican leadership in the lower chamber.

Congress“It’s really more about trying to have a conversation about making this place work,” Meadows said, “where everybody’s voice matters, where it’s not a punitive culture.”

H. Res. 385, which is non-privileged, has absolutely no chance of passage in the normal legislative process. It would never get out of committee, for example. Republican leaders would never allow that to happen. Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, against whom the resolution is directed, dismissed the tactic at a press conference on Wednesday.

There is another way, however. Meadows or any other member of the House could make a privileged motion from the floor, however, which would require a vote within 48 hours. Considering that 29 Republicans voted against Boehner in the election for Speaker in January, it’s quite possible that a few defections, provided the original group sticks together, could throw House Republicans in turmoil.

H. Res. 385 is a strongly worded condemnation of Boehner’s tenure as Speaker, which began in January 2011, listening several infractions that necessitate removal. “Whereas the Speaker has, through inaction, caused the power of Congress to atrophy, thereby making Congress subservient to the executive and judicial branches, diminishing the voice of the American people,” the resolution states. “Whereas the Speaker uses the power of the office to punish Members who vote according to their conscience instead of the will of the Speaker.”

“Whereas the Speaker uses the legislative calendar to create crises for the American people, in order to compel Members to vote for legislation,” the resolution continues. “Whereas the Speaker does not comply with the spirit of the rules of the House of Representatives, which provide that Members shall have three days to review legislation before voting,” it adds before declaring the office of the Speaker vacant.

Still, the resolution, whatever Meadows meant by it, does make one think. Boehner’s lack of respect for process or the strong-arming of members may bother the North Carolina Republican, but let’s go further. Most on Capitol Hill, regardless of party, have little regard for the rules and limitations on the federal government defined in the Constitution or the individual liberties protected by the Bill of Rights.

Really, why stop at Boehner? That’s not a knock against Meadows. His complaints are about the process by which the House is run, and they are entirely valid and worthy of discussion.

Looking at the bigger picture, there may be a handful of members who’ve stayed true to their oaths of office. Others have passed laws to spy on Americans, expand government to impose mandates on states and the American people, created a fourth branch of government – the regulatory state – that promulgated rules that were never approved by lawmakers, and plunged the nation further and further into debt by doling out money for programs that are blatantly unconstitutional.

For too long, Americans have allowed politicians to scare us with crises – including the Great Depression, World War II, and the War on Terror. “Don’t just stand there, do something!” we cry, while the great document that protects or liberties from government is erased word by word. We’ve signed our liberties away in favor of purported economic and national security.

Of course, no member of Congress is going to thrown his or herself out of office, but we do have a serious problem in the United States. It doesn’t begin or end with Boehner. Ultimately, it begins with “We the People.” It’s truly a sad state of affairs.

The Federal Government is Subsidizing Wealthy Families Who Live in Public Housing

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) spends $104.4 million annually to subsidize wealthy families who live in public housing, according to Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY.

Over the past several weeks, Paul’s office has published unusual examples of misguided spending by federal agencies. The Kentucky Republican calls it The Waste Report. The latest edition focuses on a recent report from the HUD inspector general that uncovered more than 25,000 families make too much money to live in public housing. Rep. David Roe, R-TN, requested the report.

government housing“Public housing authorities provided public housing assistance to as many as 25,226 families whose income exceeded HUD’s 2014 eligibility income limits. Of these 25,226 families, 17,761 had earned more than the qualifying amount for more than 1 year,” David Kasperowicz, HUD’s regional inspector general in Philadelphia, wrote in his findings. “HUD regulations require families to meet eligibility income limits only when they are admitted to the public housing program. The regulations do not limit the length of time that families may reside in public housing.”

“The 15 housing authorities that we contacted choose to allow overincome families to reside in public housing. HUD did not encourage them to require overincome families to find housing in the unassisted market. As a result, HUD did not assist as many low-income families in need of housing as it could have,” he added.

Kasperowicz, in his report, offered examples of wealthy families who live in public housing. A four-person New York City family lived in public housing since 1988. Although the family may have qualified when it first entered the system, they’ve “been overincome since at least 2009.” In 2013, the family’s income came in just under $498,000. The head of the household also had rental properties that produced more than $790,000.

An individual living in public housing in Nebraska since 2005 had been overincome for several years. “As of April 2014, the single-member household’s annual income was $65,007, while the low-income threshold was $33,500,” Kasperowicz noted. “Also, this tenant had total assets valued at nearly $1.6 million, which included stock valued at $623,685, real estate valued at $470,600, a checking account with a balance of $334,637, and an individual retirement account with a balance of $123,445. As of April 2014, the tenant paid a flat rent of $300 monthly for the public housing unit.”

Apparently, HUD objected to the audit, according to the report, “on the grounds that the governing statute and regulations require that public housing authorities not deter overincome families from residing in public housing.” Common sense, it seems, is lacking at HUD.

Let’s put this one in the “Only Government Can Be This Absurdly Wasteful” file.

Do Libertarian Ideas Go Too Far?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Communicating Liberty, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Taxes by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Question:

Ron SwansonI am coming around to libertarian ideas, but so many libertarian policies, while moving in the right direction, seem to go way too far. For instance, the idea of no taxation, only user fees, seems great. But it seems that some taxation would be necessary to pay government workers, maintain ambassadors and embassies to other nations, host state visits from other nations, and (a necessary evil) pay lawyers to defend the government against lawsuits, as well as a host of other little things that there couldn’t be a user fee for. Can zero taxation really stand up to reason?

Answer:

Yes!

Government workers would be paid by those individuals or groups that made their employment necessary. Lawyers defending the government in lawsuits, for example, would be paid for by the guilty party. Since government officials would not enjoy sovereign immunity in a libertarian society, they could be liable for attorney fees and damages for any wrongdoing. In other answers posted on the Web site, I’ve detailed the mechanism by which restitution could be made.

Since a libertarian government would not be restricting trade between nations, establishing embargoes, setting tariffs, handing out taxpayer guaranteed loans, etc., our top officials would not be wining and dining dignitaries from other countries as they do today. Naturally, heads of state from other countries could visit the U.S. at their own expense. Without the ability to pick the U.S. taxpayer’s pocket, however, few would bother.

If embassies were maintained in foreign nations, they would be supported by fees from travelers or others who might utilize their services.

Today, those who are too poor to travel pay taxes to support services for people who can afford to see the world. Taxes are one way in which government makes the poor poorer and the rich richer.


Editor’s Note: As former Advocates President Sharon Harris notes in this article from a past edition of the Liberator Online, making the case for ending the income tax is not a difficult task. One thing to consider when discussing libertarian ideas is the concept of the Overton window, which can be raised with a little help from this post from that same issue.

 

#TRUMPED

in Elections and Politics, From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

He leads the polls among Republicans seeking the 2016 Presidential nomination.

He insulted a previous Republican nominee for that office and refused to apologize.

He even gave out another candidate’s personal cell phone number at a rally in that candidate’s home state.

To whom am I referring?

Donald TrumpDonald Trump. A businessman, a real estate mogul, a television personality, and, right now, the man who is DOMINATING the political news with his “boisterous personality.”

He made inflammatory statements about our southern neighbors and Mexican immigrants. He flaunted his immense wealth in a complaint about financial reporting. One national news outlet publicly relegated their coverage of him to the Entertainment section, rather than Politics.

His campaign style can only be described as a brash, insulting spectacle.

Trump is also a political enigma that stymies the traditional candidates, as they ponder whether to rush to be more like him to get their faces on television or to distance themselves from him.

Regardless of these things and his political positions (or lack thereof), Trump captivates the American public today.

He does that on style alone.

In an era where word choice, tone, and even tie color are polled and run by focus groups, he is the opposite. He is a candidate that seems to have no filter.

Americans are DESPERATE for something different from the traditionally bland selection of Governors, Senators, and Congressmen that seek the Presidency. Take a look at the campaigns of Herman Cain (2012), Dr. Ben Carson (2016), and Carly Fiorina (2016), none of whom brought with them any prior political experience in elected office.

Today, voters get that with Donald Trump. They also get flamboyance, cash, and a penchant for saying things that others would never dare say. Couple that with the desperation for something DIFFERENT, and he easily pushed to the front of a crowded field of Republicans.

Does he talk about meaningful issues? Or are people just enamored by his celebrity, his insults, and his ability to grab their attention?

Is he really a part of the debate? Or is the spectacle just something to watch?

What happens when people take a closer look? I think we all remember the media scrutiny with the also-rans in 2012 after their moment in the sun.

Do the voters really want another wealthy elite, albeit from the beneficiary side of Big Government, in charge? Maybe a better question is, will Trump’s still undefined political positions resonate with voters once the shine of his splashy entrance dulls and fades?

Maybe one of these days, someone who isn’t part of “the club” will get a chance to talk about the real issues we face and how freedom, rather that Big Government, is the catalyst to our return to peace, prosperity, and the republic the Founders envisioned.

I look forward to that day.

Page 1 of 2112345...1020...Last »