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Thank You, Taylor Swift!

in Economic 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.

Next week, Apple, already an innovator when it comes to how we listen to music, will launch Apple Music. Despite their marketing efforts, I was completely unaware, as I am not a part of what I affectionately call “The iCult.” Unaware until pop music princess Taylor Swift announced that she would not allow her wildly popular album, “1989,” to appear on the multinational technology company’s streaming service, that is.

Taylor SwiftI will admit that I am a fan of Taylor Swift. Her catchy songs, especially from the aforementioned album, get my toes tapping, and when I get to know the lyrics, I might even sing along in the car, while cutting the grass, or even when I’m out on a walk.

Music tastes aside, Taylor Swift did something that I wish more people would, when it comes to things with which they disagree. She withheld her wildly popular album, which is home to four chart-topping singles since its release eight months ago, and used her celebrity, popularity, and audience to affect change in her industry without getting her Congressman or Senator involved to have the government “do something.”

The issue at hand was about Apple’s plan not to pay royalties to artists during the initial 3-month trial they offer to new subscribers to the service, something that Swift found “shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company“. She points to “the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success” as the real beneficiaries of her action.

Far too often, we see individuals and groups running to Big Government to change something that they disagree with or are offended by. In both of the instances noted above, people voted with their feet, something I remember Clark Howard saying frequently on Atlanta radio when I grew up. They affected change, not by rallying a City Council to deny a proposed Wal-Mart’s building plan to stop construction or by getting a law enacted in their state that’s named after someone affected by an ultra-rare situation, but by using the power of markets.

I’m pleased to share that Apple reversed course, and all my libertarian Taylor Swift fans (and maybe some who want to listen to the artist that used markets over Big Government) will be able to stream “1989″ on Apple Music during the trial period and beyond.

I would be remiss not to mention that Taylor’s media blitz around this story brought up an interesting take on the contract she has photographers sign. There are some signs of change on the horizon here as well.

Imagine that. All of this was solved by peaceful, voluntary interaction, and NOT the intervention of Big Government

How Committed Are You?

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.

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Rachel Dolezal, the former President of the Spokane, Washington NAACP.

Regardless of one’s thoughts about her allegedly fabricated backstory, her accomplishments for the African-American community, the legal dispute with her family, and her questionable racial background, you have to admit that her commitment to a cause and the efforts she’s made are admirable.

As someone who’s worked with libertarian activists and volunteers for years, I wish I had come across JUST ONE that was half as committed to the libertarian movement as Ms. Dolezal is to the black community in Spokane.

That brings me to my original question.

commitmentHow committed are you to the libertarian movement?

Are you writing a letter to the editor every week about a libertarian position on an issue?

Are you utilizing social media to to advance the libertarian cause?

Are you reaching out to the people in your community with tools like anOperation Politically Homeless booth?

Now is the time for libertarians to seize the opportunities afforded us by so many finally seeing the problems with Big Government and its exponential growth. The government we see today has grown far beyond anything envisioned by Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Paine.

What are you going to do to stop that growth and help reverse course?

No one’s asking you to be as committed as Ms. Dolezal, but can you make a positive impact for your community in the same way she has hers?

House of Representatives Fails to Meet Its Most Important Constitutional Duty

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, Middle East, 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.

The House of Representatives, on Wednesday, blocked a resolution that would have required President Barack Obama to remove all United States armed forces operating in Iraq and Syria by the end of the year, at the latest.

It’s clear that the framers of the Constitution intended authorization or declarations of war come from Congress, rather than presidents. Article I, Section 8 of the nation’s foundational document, which lists the limited powers of the legislative branch, makes this quite clear.

The framers knew unchecked power in the hands of a president was dangerous. In Pacificus-Helvidius debate with Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, wrote: “In no part of the Constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department. Beside the objection to such a mixture to heterogeneous powers, the trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man; not such as nature may offer as the prodigy of many centuries, but such as may be expected in the ordinary successions of magistracy. War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement.”

H. Con. Res. 55 – introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and cosponsored by Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Walter Jones, R-N.C. – would have required President Obama, under Section 5 of the War Powers Resolution, to remove American troops in Iraq and Syria absent an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

In late May, McGovern and Jones sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to remind him of comments he gave to The New York Times late last summer. “Doing this with a whole group of members who are on their way out the door, I don’t think that is the right way to handle this,” said Boehner, who added that the issue should be discussed early in the new Congress, which came into session in January. President Obama asked for an AUMF in February.

“Since then, the House has failed to act on the President’s request [for an AUMF against ISIL], or any alternative,” McGovern and Jones wrote to Boehner. “No AUMF bill has been marked up in committee or debated on the House floor. As a result, the House has failed to asset its proper constitutional authority over declaring and authorizing war.”

Some Republicans have suggested that President Obama doesn’t necessarily need an AUMF to fight ISIL. Instead, they say, he can rely on the War Powers Resolution. This notion, however, is woefully inaccurate. Section 2 of the War Powers Resolution places limitations on executive branch, requiring a formal declaration of war, statutory authorization, or a national emergency due to an attack on the United States.The proposed resolution found bipartisan support. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., for example, urged the House to act.

“Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress, not the President, the power to declare war,” Massie said from the House floor. “War requires congressional authorization, and the American people deserve open debate by their elected officials.”

“If we are to send our brave young men and women into harm’s way overseas, then Congress must honor the Constitution, declare war, and fight to win. Anything else is illegal, unconstitutional, and likely to lead to horrific unintended consequences,” he added.

In the end, the House failed to meet its constitutional obligation. H. Con. Res. 55 failed by a vote of 139 to 288, meaning that an authorized war against ISIL will continue for as long as…well, who knows.

Bipartisan Senate Amendment Seeks to End Indefinite Detention of American Citizens

in Criminal Justice, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, Middle East, National Defense, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

An amendment to the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, would guarantee that no American citizen can be indefinitely detained by the federal government without charges being filed against them.

DetentionIn 2011, Congress passed the FY 2012 version of the NDAA, which contained a controversial provision that, read broadly, could be used to detain American citizens suspected of terrorism without charges or trail under the 2001 Authorization for Military Force against al-Qaeda. The Lee amendment – which is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of senators, including Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. – would resolve the controversy.

“America should never waiver in vigilantly pursuing those who would commit, or plot to commit, acts of treason against our country. But the federal government should not be allowed to indefinitely imprison any American on the mere accusation of treason without affording them the due process guaranteed by our Constitution,” Lee said in a statement released by his office. “By forbidding the government from detaining Americans without trial absent explicit congressional approval, the Due Process Guarantee amendment strikes the right balance between protecting our security and the civil liberties of each citizen.”

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution guarantee Americans the right to due process of law. The Sixth Amendment protects the right to “a speedy and public trial.”

The indefinite detention provision was inserted into the FY 2012 NDAA at the request of the White House, according to then-Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who complied with the administration’s wishes. A Senate amendment, which passed the upper chamber with strong bipartisan support, to clarify the language was dropped during negotiations to resolve differences between the House and Senate’s versions of the FY 2013 NDAA.

“The Constitution does not allow President Obama, or any President, to apprehend an American citizen, arrested on U.S. soil, and detain these citizens indefinitely without a trial,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, another cosponsor of the amendment. “The Due Process Guarantee amendment will prohibit the President’s ability to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens arrested on American soil without trial or due process.”

“While we must vigorously protect national security by pursuing violent terrorists and preventing acts of terror, we must also ensure our most basic rights as American citizens are protected,” Cruz added.

The Senate is currently debating the FY 2016 version of the NDAA. Votes on amendments will occur over the next few legislative days. The bill passed the House in mid-May by a vote of 269-151.

This Libertarian-Leaning Maine Republican is Someone We Can Learn From

in Gun Rights, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

At the young age of 26, Eric Brakey was elected to the Maine State Senate to serve a district in the southern part of the Pine Tree State. He hasn’t wasted any time since arriving in Portland for his first legislative session.

The Portland Press Herald profiled Brakey this week, noting that he’s already sponsored 28 bills, including a “constitutional carry” bill that passed the state Senate with bipartisan at the end of May. The bill cleared the state House last week, though with changes that need to be approved by the upper chamber before heading to the desk of Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican.

Brakey

“It’s great that we have finally gotten to a place where people understand the importance of this protection and are comfortable enough to let our Maine citizens exercise the same freedoms that the state of Vermont allows their citizens to exercise,” Brakey told the Bangor Daily News after the state House vote. Although it’s a progressive bastion, Vermont is known for its strong support of the Second Amendment.

But Brakey’s style as a legislator with strong libertarian leanings is earning him some fans in Portland. “He hasn’t ruffled feathers,” Lance Duston, a Republican strategist in the state, told the Portland Press Herald. “He’s successfully moved legislation and he’s done it in a productive and positive way. He has also helped move the party more toward the libertarian side. I’ve been a little surprised at his trajectory.”

Brakey, who is described as a “worker” by one of his Republican colleagues, came from a Republican household. He was born in Maine, but grew up and went to college in Ohio. He found himself drawn to former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, when he ran for president and worked on his 2012 campaign in Maine.

Not long after relocating to the state, Brakey decided to run for a seat occupied by a Democrat. Despite a gaffe unrelated to his actual campaign, he won the seat with over 56 percent of the vote.

Brakey has been careful to pick his battles, in his role as chairman of the state Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee. But his views on issues are libertarian to the core.

“There are two molds that a state legislator usually fits,” Duston said. “One is that their life story or their work is such that it leads them to service. The other is that someone represents a value system, and that’s where he fits in.”

“Also, he is fairly strident ideologically, but he approaches things moderately, which has served him well,” he added.

In addition to his strong support of the Second Amendment, Brakey has sponsored legislation supporting privacy rights by targeting the National Security Agency’s water supply. He’s also a supportive of medical marijuana, introducing legislation to allow patients to access their prescriptions at Maine hospitals.

Assuming he’s reelected every two years, Brakey will serve until he’s term-limited out of office in 2022. When’s not legislating, Brakey, who majored in theatre at Ohio University, spends his time acting.

New Poll Shows Libertarians Represent One-Fifth of Voters

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

In August, The New York Times ran a piece proclaiming that the United States’ political landscape was in the in the midst of a “libertarian moment.” The narrative may have focused some on Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and his strong libertarian leanings, but the story told was much deeper and, perhaps, a sign of a generational shift in American politics.

Still, some view the “libertarian moment” as a blip on radar. Old narratives, such as the stale left-right political paradigm, are repeated on television and talk radio shows by the pundit class, who are ignorant to changing attitudes and growing discontent with increasingly irrelevant political institutions.

Poll

Over the last several years, polling firms have tried to make sense of the rise of libertarians. In 2006, David Boaz and David Kirby of the Cato Institute analyzed polling data and found that 9 percent to 14 percent of the voting public held libertarian views. These voters, the authors suggested, were fiercely independent, and frustrated by the growth of government under President George W. Bush.

Boaz and Kirby released follow-ups to their 2006 report in 2010 and 2012, with occasional analyses of polling data mixed in between. Kirby and Emily Ekins of the Reason Foundation also released a thoughtful look at the roots of the Tea Party movement in 2012, finding a strong libertarian streak.

Although there is no looming libertarian takeover of the United States, subscribers to the philosophy find themselves gaining more influence, according to a recently released Reuters survey. In particular, the data show millennials – those between the ages of 18 and 29 – more likely to label themselves as libertarians.

“One in five Americans consider themselves libertarian, with younger adults being the most likely to adopt the label,” Reuters noted. “Among adults aged 18 to 29, 32 percent consider themselves libertarian. Just 12 percent of Americans age 60 or older consider themselves libertarian.”

Surprisingly, 22 percent of self-identified libertarians are Democrats to only 19 percent are Republicans, while 25 percent are politically independent.

It may be too early to draw any conclusions about what the data suggest, but it’s becoming clear that libertarians are becoming a subset of the body politic that is difficult for the political class to ignore. Those who do may be doing so at their own peril.

For libertarians, it’s crucial not to misread this growing trend. Influencing policy debates through responsible activism and well-messaged education are the best courses of action, at least for now.

Supposedly Sick Coast Guard Members Took Taxpayer-Funded Trips to Vacation Hot Spots

in Economic Liberty, Issues, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Taxes by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Every fall, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) publishes an annual report, known as the Wastebook, highlighting dozens of the worst examples of wasteful spending by federal agencies.

Some of the items in the report may sound unbelievable, but this is the federal government, and one should never underestimate bureaucrats with tax dollars at their disposal. More ridiculous examples from the 2014 version of the report include the $387,000 the National Institutes of Health spent on Swedish massages for rabbits (yes, seriously) and the $200,000 the Department of Agriculture spent to help a New York-based brewer build a beer farm.

Coburn, who earned a reputation as a hardcore fiscal hawk, resigned from Congress last year after a second cancer diagnosis, leaving a need for transparency in federal spending. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is stepping up to fill the void left by Coburn’s departure.

On Wednesday, Paul rolled out a new feature on his official Senate homepage, dubbed The Waste Report. According to a press statement, the periodical report “will identify egregious examples of wasteful spending throughout the U.S. government.”

The inaugural edition of The Waste Report focuses on medical waste, specifically a little-known U.S. Coast Guard program that costs taxpayers $1.2 million each year. The Travel to Obtain Health Care Program pays for Coast Guard members stationed in locations where there are no providers to seek medical care elsewhere. The program is available to members in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, though the latter two account for 7 percent of cases.

The Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Homeland Security released an audit in February detailing the inefficiency and lack of oversight in the Travel to Obtain Health Care Program, which costs taxpayers $1.2 million annually.

“[T]he IG uncovered trips from Alaska to Vail, Colorado; Orlando, FL; Scottsdale, AZ; and Savannah, GA,” Paul’s report notes.

“Though a doctor’s referral is supposed to be required before travel is approved, only twelve percent of records had such notes. “

“In total, 94 percent of all records were missing key elements including travel requests, approval forms, cost estimates, and/or doctor’s notes,” the report continues. “This lack of basic documentation prevented the IG from substantiating whistleblower claims that trips – even to Anchorage – were more for shopping than medical care, while also preventing the IG from affirming the need for accompanying spouses (who also traveled at taxpayer expense) to assist patients.”

The Inspector General made three recommendations aimed at improving accountability and oversight in the program, including greater documentation requirements and training. But as The Waste Report explains, “one should not need special training to know that taxpayer funded medical travel should not be approved without a doctor’s note, especially if that travel is for couples’ trips to vacation hot spots.”

Don’t be surprised when Garland is used as an excuse to renew the Patriot Act

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, National Defense, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Supporters of the NSA’s domestic spying programs say that a vast data collection effort is needed more than ever to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States, but they are unable to point to any specific example of foiled terrorist plots through these unconstitutional, privacy-violating programs.

In June 2013, Gen. Keith Alexander, then the Director of the NSA, claimed that the spying programs prevented “potential terrorist events over 50 times since 9/11.” Testifying before a Senate committee in October of the same year, Alexander backtracked after Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) grilled him for misleading the American public.

Spy

“There is no evidence that [bulk] phone records collection helped to thwart dozens or even several terrorist plots,” said Leahy. “These weren’t all plots and they weren’t all foiled. Would you agree with that, yes or no?” he asked the NSA chief.

Alexander, realizing he had been put on the spot for peddling misinformation, simply replied, “Yes.”

Of course Alexander was more honest than his colleague, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who lied about the NSA domestic surveillance program in a March 2013 Senate hearing. He was accused of perjury, although the allegation went nowhere in a Congress filled with pro-surveillance members.

Two government panels – President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board – have since determined that NSA’s domestic spying programs have not played a role in thwarting terrorist attacks.

The attack on Sunday evening in Garland, Texas at the “Draw Muhammad” event hosted by an anti-Islam organization will undoubtedly be used as a reason to reauthorize a soon-to-expire provision, Section 215, of the USA PATRIOT Act by which the federal government claims the vast authority to spy on Americans.

But such claims should be met with a large dose of skepticism. One of the suspects involved in the attack had already come across the FBI’s radar. The United States’ top law enforcement agency began investigating him in 2006 on the suspicion that he wanted to join a terrorist group in Somalia.

The alleged attacker lied to federal authorities. He was convicted in 2010 of making false statements and sentenced to three years of probation. He was, however, able to avoid being placed on the “no-fly” list.

The alleged attackers in Garland are precisely are the needle for which the federal government claims that it needs the haystack, and intelligence and law enforcement officials failed to prevent what could have been a mass murder.

The NSA’s resources are spread too thin. Collecting the phone calls of virtually every American – the proverbial “haystack” – even if the people on the call are not suspected of any terrorist involvement, not only betrays the constitutionally protected rights defined by the Fourth Amendment, but also makes Americans less safe because intelligence agencies may not be able to connect the dots efficiently and effectively.

Rather than using the Garland attack as tool to further reauthorization of Section 215, which expires on June 1, lawmakers should seriously reexamine the approach to intelligence, requiring agencies like the NSA to focus on actual terrorism suspects as opposed to innocent Americans calling their families and friends.

I’m Retiring!

in Liberator Online, News From the Advocates for Self-Government by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

For the Advocates, some big changes and celebrations are coming up.

* It’s the 30th Anniversary for the Advocates.

* It’s my 20th Anniversary as Advocates president.

* And… I will be retiring as Advocates president at the end of the month.

Please note, I am not retiring as an active libertarian. I’m stepping down from the varied and time-consuming job of Advocates president and will be focusing my efforts on the activities I love most: writing and speaking about libertarianism and — my favorite topic — the most effective ways to communicate the ideas of liberty. I will also continue doing communication workshops on this topic — some of them in conjunction with the Advocates.

Being president of the Advocates for Self-Government has been the most wonderful and fulfilling job I could have ever imagined for myself!

It has been an incredible honor for me to follow in the footsteps of the previous two Advocates presidents: Advocates Founder Marshall Fritz and Carole Ann Rand.

Sharon Harris & Dagny SmithThey created a fantastic organization that has deeply affected the lives of millions of individuals. The Advocates has enormously increased the size and effectiveness of the libertarian movement, and has introduced tens of millions of people to libertarianism, first and foremost through the amazing World’s Smallest Political Quiz — the most popular outreach tool in the libertarian movement.

Of course there is much more to the Advocates than the Quiz. The original mission of the Advocates was to empower libertarians to become excellent and successful communicators of the ideas of liberty. This is a unique and vital contribution the Advocates has made to the movement in our 30 years.

As Advocates president, I’ve learned about libertarian communication from the best: Marshall, Carole Ann, Michael Cloud, Mary Ruwart, David Bergland, Harry Browne, and many more too numerous to name. We’ve helped tens of thousands of libertarians become far more persuasive and effective in their outreach. And that has enabled libertarians to successfully win others to our side, helping build a strong and growing movement for liberty.

It has been a joy teaching numerous libertarian communication classes and seminars for libertarian groups in almost every state in America. Last year alone I had the pleasure of speaking on successful communication to over 1,000 libertarians.

I look forward to continuing this — so please contact me when you want a libertarian communication workshop in your area!

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with some of the finest libertarians in the world — world-famous celebrities and people you may not have heard of who are making our world a freer and better place. What a privilege it has been! (I wouldn’t dream of trying to name them all — we’d fill this entire issue up, and still leave deserving people out. Thanks, everyone!)

Similarly, I’ve had the great pleasure of working with many of the very finest libertarian organizations. I must especially thank the Libertarian Party for the greatest honors of my professional career. The LP has honored me with two of its highest awards. In 2012, I received the Thomas Jefferson Award, “presented to the Libertarian Party member whose achievements merit our recognition of outstanding leadership, high character, and dedication to the principles and goals of the Party.” In 2014, I received the LP’s Thomas Paine Award for “outstanding communication of libertarian ideas, principles, and values.”

But most of all I’d like to thank YOU, my friends who read the Liberator Online, use Advocates tools and services, and support the Advocates’ work. You are the true heroes of the Advocates. You are building a successful movement for liberty that is changing our world.

I will miss connecting with you through the Advocates. I hope you will follow my new work and stay in touch with me. You can do this by “liking” me onFacebook — or emailing me. (Please do this right now, while it’s on your mind.)

I’d like to congratulate Brett Bittner, the Advocates’ new executive director! Brett has an outstanding record as a libertarian activist. He is a former executive director of the Libertarian Party of Georgia and a former Chairman of the Libertarian State Leadership Alliance. He has been working with the Advocates for the past year and will be taking the helm of the organization on May 1. You’ll be hearing more from Brett soon.

Finally, please read my President’s Column in the next issue. I’ll let you know more details about what’s ahead — including a special celebration of the Advocates’ and my anniversaries to take place in Atlanta on June 27. Hold that date on your calendar, and I hope to see you there!

New Poll: Millions of Voters Say They’re Libertarian

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

A new poll from YouGov brings exciting and unprecedented news for libertarians. Millenial Poll - Libertarian

Asked “Would you describe yourself as a libertarian or not?” fully one in five of likely millennial (ages 18-29) voters said yes — thus self-describing themselves as libertarians.

YouGov found that young Americans are more likely than any other age group to accept the label libertarian — great news for a growing political movement. And there is room for this figure to grow significantly as libertarian ideas spread, because, in addition to the 20% who self-identify as libertarians, another 42% said they were “not sure.” Only 39% rejected the label.

Among older voters, 17% of 30- to 44-year-olds, 15% of 45- to 64-year-olds and 9% of those 65 and older say that the word “libertarian” described their views.

More great news: a majority Americans are, broadly, embracing libertarian ideas of limiting government. Fully 51% say they want to shrink the size of government. A whopping 30% of Americans even agree with the radical libertarian statement that “Taxation is theft.” (It probably didn’t hurt that the poll was conducted April 8-9 — a week before Tax Day.)

But what is most remarkable about the YouGov poll is that it has found so many millions of voters who accept the libertarian “brand” as a label for their political views — something inconceivable just a few years ago.

Nor are these self-described libertarians tied to either of the two older political parties. The libertarian vote is up for grabs to the candidate or party that appeals most to it. Writes YouGov: “There is little difference between partisans when it comes to identifying as libertarians. Republicans (13%) are essentially no more likely than Democrats (12%) to identify as libertarian, while 19% of Independents describe themselves as libertarian.”

Notes Reason.com’s Nick Gillespie: “Let’s be clear about a couple of things: First, the fact that YouGov and other groups are hunting down the number of libertarians afoot — Pew even went ‘In Search of Libertarians’ just last year — is itself a sign that something new and different is happening. When you start touting up the way many things are breaking in a libertarian direction — the energy surrounding Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012, majority acceptance of pot legalization and gay marriage, serious efforts at criminal justice reform, plummeting numbers for faith in government, the rise of school choice, embrace of a sharing economy that routes around old-style regulation, general acceptance of free trade and free speech as positive values, and much more — it’s fair to call attention to what we’ve dubbed here as ‘The Libertarian Moment.’”

For more excellent commentary on the YouGov poll see “Millennials Are More Likely to Identify as Libertarians” by Robby Soave, Reason.com.

A “Devil’s Dictionary” of Washingtonese

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

WashingtoneseLibertarian journalist James Bovard — author of a dozen outstanding and eye-opening books including Lost RightsThe Bush Betrayal, and most recently Attention Deficit Democracy — has done Americans yet another service.

In an editorial for USA Today Bovard put together a short dictionary of “Washingtonese” — the slippery lingo that politicians, bureaucrats and other such nefarious critters use to hide what they really mean.

Or, as Bovard puts it, the government’s “nebulous nomenclature [that] deters citizens from recognizing exactly how well their elected leaders serve them.”

Here’s a sampling:

  • Historic — different than last week
  • Unprecedented — different than last month
  • Emergency — the gift that keeps giving
  • Truth — whatever people will swallow
  • Legacy — any political boast that survives more than three 24-hour news cycles
  • Handout — a government benefit received primarily by the supporters of the other party
  • Mandate — whatever a winning politician can get away with
  • Honorable — any public figure who has not yet been indicted
  • Bill of Rights — (archaic) political invocation popular in 1790s
  • Fair play — any process in which politicians or bureaucrats pick winners and losers
  • Rule of Law — the latest edicts from a deputy assistant Labor Secretary or deputy assistant HUD Secretary
  • Patriotic — any appeal that keeps people paying and obeying
  • Waste — federal spending that fails to generate laudatory headlines, votes or campaign contributions
  • Freedom — whatever rulers have not yet benevolently prohibited
  • Election — when voters are permitted to freely consent to one of the two aspiring despots offered by the major parties
  • Cynic — anyone who expresses doubt about the latest bipartisan agreement to gradually eliminate the federal budget deficit over the next 117 years
  • Anarchist — anyone who advocates across-the-board spending cuts of more than 3.63%
  • Scurrilous — anyone who mentions previous federal failures when the president proposes glorious new programs

For much more Bovardian wit and wisdom, see his USA Today article.

No One “Pays” Taxes

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“You don’t ”pay’ taxes. The government TAKES them.” — comedian Chris Rock.Chris Rock

Not only is this quote funny (especially when you hear Chris Rock say it), it makes a profound point — one well worth remembering when talking about taxes and politics.

The word “pay,” in connection with taxes, is just government propaganda. Using it — saying we “pay taxes” or “paid our taxes” — hides and distorts the true nature of taxation. And that’s something libertarians shouldn’t do.

Here’s what I mean.

In common usage, the word “pay” strongly implies some kind of consensual agreement. If you’re selling apples and I want one, I pay you for it. If I don’t want the apple, I don’t have to pay. If someone else has a better deal on apples, I’m free to trade with him instead. Or I can skip apples altogether.

Similarly, if I borrow money from a loan company, I agree to pay it back with interest. If a competing company offers lower interest rates, I’m free to trade with them instead. I also of course have the option of not borrowing money at all.

Those are payments, voluntarily agreed to.

However, the word “pay” is inappropriate for a coerced exchange — like taxation.

As the great Lysander Spooner famously pointed out, if a criminal points a gun at you and demands all the money in your pocket, you aren’t “paying” the robber when you hand over your money. You didn’t “pay” — you were robbed!

If burglars enter your home at night and steal your valuables, you didn’t “pay” the burglar. He TOOK your money! You were robbed.

Libertarians view taxes as a form of coercion, no different in essence from robbery or theft. (By the way, a startlingly large number of Americans now agree with us on this. See the story “New Poll: Millions of Voters Say They’re Libertarian” above.)

So we should never use language like “pay taxes” or “paid taxes.” Saying so legitimizes taxation. It implies that taxation is just another form of legitimate exchange, like paying for goods and services you voluntarily purchased.

PickpocketInstead, when someone else uses that term, we should, if appropriate, gently disagree. And respond with something like: “Actually, I didn’t ‘pay’ taxes. No one PAYS taxes. The government just seizes money from you. There’s a big difference. Payments are voluntary. Taxes are coercive. Like… theft.”

Your wording, of course, will depend on who you’re speaking with and where. But one thing’s certain — you’ll have trouble improving on Chris Rock’s monologue:

“The messed-up thing about taxes is you don’t ‘pay’ taxes. The government TAKES them. You get your check and money is GONE! It was not an option! That ain’t a payment — that’s a JACK! I been TAX JACKED!”

Classic “Bad Attitude” Anti-Tax Verse — and Hope for Ending the Income Tax

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

April 15, Tax Day, is nearly here.

It’s a grim subject — so how about some comic relief? And some inspiration, some hope, for change?

First, the comic relief.

I’ve had a lot of fun over the years with the following two classic anti-tax poems. The authors are unknown, but some versions seem to date from at least the 1930s.

It’s a good reminder that a lot of Americans have always had a “bad attitude” about taxes. (Just ask King George!)

Income TaxI hope they’ll give you a good laugh — and I hope you’ll keep working with the Advocates and other libertarians to create a movement that will make income taxes as much a thing of the past as slavery, alcohol Prohibition, and the Divine Right of Kings!

Don’t forget: following the poems, some inspiration and hope for change.

* * *

The Tax Collector’s Creed

Now he’s a common, common man
So tax him, tax him, all you can.
Tax his house, Tax his bed;
Tax the bald spot on his head.
Tax his drink, Tax his meat,
Tax the shoes right off his feet.
Tax his cow, Tax his goat;
Tax his pants, Tax his coat;
Tax his crop, Tax his work;
Tax his ties, Tax his shirt;
Tax his chew, Tax his smoke,
Teach him taxing is no joke.
Tax his tractor, Tax his mule;
Tell him: “Taxing is the rule!”
Tax his oil, Tax his gas,
Tax his notes, Tax his cash.
Tax him good and let him know
That after taxes, he has no dough.
If he hollers, Tax him more;
Tax him till he’s good and sore.
Tax his coffin, Tax his grave,
Tax the sod in which he’s laid.
Put these words upon his tomb,
“Taxes drove him to his doom.”
Even when he’s gone, we won’t relax —
We’ll still collect inheritance tax.

* * *

The Taxpayer’s Lament

Sit down my friends and just relax,
It’s time to pay your income tax.
For whether we are great or small,
They tax us one, they tax us all.
They tax the hobo and the queen,
They tax the bull and tax his ring.
They tax the gas that runs your car
And even tax the big cigar.
They tax your whiskey and home brew,
They tax the Bible and your pew.
They tax the wristwatch on your arm
And tax the rat trap on your farm.
They tax the baby in his crib, and
Tax his shirt and tax his bib.
They tax the crib that he sleeps in,
And don’t consider that a sin.
Then they go from bad to worse
And tax the doctor and tax the nurse.
They tax the dentist and his drill
And he just adds it to your bill.
Whenever you leave this world behind
They will be there to steal you blind.
Before you reach the Golden Gate
They’ll slap a tax on your estate.
They tax the hearse on your last ride,
And shed some tears because you died.
The reason for their deep distress?
You left them with no address.

* * *

Love ‘em!

And now the inspiration. Last year I wrote an article entitled “Making the Case for Ending the Income Tax.”

It suggests 11 ways to persuade others that abolishing the hated income tax — and replacing it with nothing — is not only extremely desirable, it is realistic and politically possible.

Check it out and consider using some (or all) of them. Recently we’ve seen once-radical libertarian ideas — for example, re-legalization of marijuana, marriage choice, and a non-interventionist foreign policy — leap into the mainstream. Let’s put ending the income tax —  and replacing it with… nothing — on that list!

The Libertarian Vote: How Big Is It?

in Elections and Politics, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Now that Rand Paul has officially announced he is seeking the presidency, attention is being focused on the libertarian voting bloc. Just how big is it? How many libertarian-minded voters are out there?

The answer may surprise you.

First, it’s important to note that “libertarian voter” doesn’t necessarily mean a voter who meets the stricter definition of a libertarian, i.e., someone who consistently opposes the initiation of force. Rather, it refers to someone who would be inclined to vote for a libertarian candidate in an election. Someone who is more supportive of libertarian ideas than liberal, conservative, statist or centrist ideas.

Different organizations have used different methods to determine the size of this libertarian bloc. And they’ve come up with some pretty consistent estimates.

* For 20 years Gallup’s annual Governance Survey has divided voters into liberal, conservative, libertarian, or populist, based on their answers to two questions:

  1. “Some people think the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Others think that government should do more to solve our country’s problems. Which comes closer to your own view?”
  2. “Some people think the government should promote traditional values in our society. Others think the government should not favor any particular set of values. Which comes closer to your own view?”


In their 2014 survey Gallup classified 24% of respondents as libertarian (with 27% conservative, 21% liberal, and 18% populist). This is hardly a rigorous political litmus test, but it may well help single out voters who might be sympathetic to libertarianism.

  • The Cato Institute’s David Boaz has done a lot of work on this over the years, including an important 2012 book (with David Kirby Emily Ekins) that summarizes numerous polls by Cato and others on the topic: The Libertarian Vote: Swing Voters, Tea Parties, and the Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal Center.
    They conclude that, depending on the criteria used, roughly 15-18% of voters can be classified as “libertarian voters.”
  • A 2006 Zogby poll, commissioned by Cato, found surprising results. Zogby asked half of a group of 1,012 people who had voted in the 2006 election: “Would you describe yourself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal?” Fully 59% of the respondents said “yes.”
    Zogby asked the other half a more challenging question: “Would you describe yourself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, also known as libertarian?” A surprising 44% of respondents — representing 100 million Americans — answered “yes” to that question, thus self-identifying as libertarians. This is obviously higher than the number of true libertarians in America, but certainly it at least indicates that millions of people are open to these ideas and this label.
  • Finally, here’s an often-overlooked but remarkable finding — based on the Advocates’ World’s Smallest Political Quiz. In August 2000 Rasmussen gave the World’s Smallest Political Quiz to nearly 1,000 representative American voters. The Quiz is a far more rigorous test of one’s libertarian leanings than “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” or other looser definitions used by polling firms. Yet fully 16% scored in the libertarian sector then — a figure closely matching to the other estimates we’ve cited.

What can we conclude? While the numbers and the criteria in these studies vary, at the very least there is broad agreement on a figure between 15% to 20%. That’s 30 to 40 million voters — a huge, and growing, voting bloc that could easily swing an election.

Add to this the additional millions on the left, right, and center who may vote for a libertarian-leaning candidate who stresses issues of great importance to them — such as a more peaceful foreign policy, marijuana re-legalization, slashing taxes, and reforming the out-of-control surveillance state.

Which brings us back to Rand Paul’s presidential run announcement. Rand Paul doesn’t claim to be a libertarian. He has described himself as “libertarian-ish” and in 2013 told Sean Hannity “I use the term constitutional conservative, but I also use the term libertarian conservative. … I accept all of those terms if they mean they believe in limited government and more individual liberty.”

But he is certainly the most libertarian-inclined presidential candidate — outside the Libertarian Party — in memory. Cato’s Boaz notes in TIME what may well be the most important thing to come out of a Rand Paul campaign:

“One result of his campaign will be to help those tens of millions of libertarian-leaning Americans to discover that their political attitudes have a name, which will make for a stronger and more influential political faction. … Libertarianism is the framework for a future of freedom, growth, and progress, and it may be on the verge of a political breakout.”

New Poll: Voters in Three Key Swing States Solidly for Re-Legalization

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Since 1960 no candidate has won the presidential race without taking at least two of these three states: Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

And that makes a new Quinnipiac University poll on marijuana re-legalization so fascinating.

The poll, released April 6, finds voters in all three critical swing states solidly supporting re-legalization of marijuana for recreational use. More than 1,000 voters in each state were surveyed.

Further, voters in all three states favor legalization of medical marijuana by astounding margins — 5 to 1 or more.

Support for allowing adults “to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use” is 55% – 42% in Florida, 52% - 44% in Ohio and 51% - 45% in Pennsylvania.

And support for medical marijuana is near-universal. The numbers are remarkable: 84% in Florida, 84% in Ohio and 88% in Pennsylvania. You have to wonder: Why isn’t every politician jumping on this issue?

Also important: voters in these states overwhelmingly say they don’t plan to use marijuana themselves.

81% of Florida voters say they “definitely” or “probably” would not use it;  84% of Ohio voters say they “definitely” or “probably” would not use it; and 83% of Pennsylvania voters say they “definitely” or “probably” would not.

This indicates they favor legalization because the consequences of marijuana prohibition make the policy undesirable. And it indicates that one of the key arguments of prohibitionists — that re-legalizing marijuana would lead vast numbers of people to start using it — may just be dead wrong.

They Said It With Scott Eastwood, Ron Paul and More…

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 20, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

CORPORATE WELFARE, A LOVE STORY:  “Michael Moore made a movie criticizing corporate welfare called ‘Capitalism: A Love Story’ and received $845,145 in corporate welfare from the Michigan Film Office.” — Michigan Capitol Confidential website, “The Irony of Michigan’s Film Incentive Program,” April 2, 2015. (Hat tip to Carpe Diem blog)

Scott EastwoodCLINT EASTWOOD’S SON ON GAY MARRIAGE AND LIBERTARIANISM: “I support gay marriage… I think everybody should be able to be with who they want to be with. My dad is the same way. He’s a total libertarian — everyone leave everyone alone. Everyone live their own private life.” — Scott Eastwood, interviewed by PrideSource.com, March 31, 2015.

WHO’S ON FIRST: “Our military is fighting in a tacit alliance with Iranian proxies in Iraq, even as it assists in a campaign against Iranian-backed forces in Yemen. We are formally committed to regime change in Syria, but we’re intervening against the regime’s Islamist enemies. Our strongest allies, officially, are still Israel and Saudi Arabia, but we’re busy alienating them by pushing for détente with Iran. And please don’t mention Libya or Al Qaeda — you’ll confuse everyone even more.” — New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, “The Method to Obama’s Middle East Mess,” March 28, 2015.

NEW IRS ATTACK ON FREE SPEECH:
Dr. Ron Paul“The IRS is drafting a new regulation that would empower the agency to revoke an organization’s tax-exempt status if that organization sends out a communication to its members or the general public mentioning a candidate for office by name sixty days before an election or thirty days before a primary. By preventing groups from telling their members where candidates stand on issues like Audit the Fed and repeal of the PATRIOT Act, this anti-First Amendment regulation benefits those politicians who wish to hide their beliefs from the voters.” — Ron Paul, “The IRS and Congress Both Hold Our Liberty in Contempt,” Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, April 5, 2015.

THEY’D NEVER DO THAT: “If you’ve used a landline to call an abortion clinic, a gun store, a suicide hotline, a therapist, an oncologist, a phone sex operator, an investigative journalist, or a union organizer, odds are the government has logged a record of the call. If your Congressional representative has a spouse or child who has made an embarrassing phone call, the executive branch may well possess the ability to document it, though government apologists insist that they’d never do so and are strangely confident that future governments composed of unknown people won’t either.” — journalist Conor Friedersdorf, “When Will the NSA Stop Spying on Innocent Americans?”, TheAtlantic.com., April 2, 2015
.

Spotlight the EXCITEMENT of Liberty!

in Liberator Online by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion Powerpoint section in Volume 20, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“Michael, most people aren’t very interested in liberty,” a 10-year libertarian told me.Spotlight

“Really?” I asked. “Would you like to find out why?”

“Yes,” he said.

“What are 3 fascinating things about freedom?” I asked.

“Well, there are lots of interesting things,” he said.

“Could you give me 3 exciting examples?” I asked.

He hemmed and hawed. But he couldn’t come up with even 3 “Wow!!!” things that liberty gives us.

Why? Because he’d never asked himself questions like these:

* “What are 3 or 4 or 5 huge, immediate, direct benefits that liberty would give us in this area?”

* “What are 2 or 4 exciting things that will happen when we abolish the federal income tax — and return every dollar every year to the men and women it was taken from?”

* “What are 3 or 5 terrific things that will happen when we end the War on Drugs and free every peaceful drug offender in prison?”

* “What are a few of the most thrilling things about giving people dramatically more freedom than we have today?”

Showcase, celebrate, sing the praises of, beat the drum for, and shout out the most exciting, engaging, jazzy things that freedom will bring the person you’re talking with — and his family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, too.

If you repeatedly and relentlessly do this in all your libertarian conversations you’ll find that people are indeed interested in liberty — and you’ll bring in dozens and dozens of new, excited libertarians.

What Is the “Costberg” — and Why Should You Care?

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The CostbergI’m always delighted to find colorful, eye-opening words and phrases that libertarians can use to help people understand and embrace the ideas of liberty.

Here are some very useful terms for bringing attention to the little-known but astounding cost of government regulations.

Wayne Crews of the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has been following this issue for years. A recent CEI report, “Free to Prosper: A Pro-Growth Agenda for the 114th Congress,” estimates that, just in 2014 alone, an astounding 3,541 new federal regulations were enacted.

Crews admits that estimating the costs of regulation is difficult. In fact, the subtitle of “Tip of the Costberg,” his ongoing effort to do that, is “On the Invalidity of All Cost of Regulation Estimates and the Need to Compile Them Anyway.”) Yet someone’s got to do it — the federal government certainly won’t. Crews deserves great praise for his pioneering efforts.

By Crew’s best estimate, the burden of these regulations on American prosperity is staggering: around $1.882 trillion. The federal government will spend about $3.5 trillion this year. But this extra $1.882 trillion in unseen regulatory costs is, Crews says, the equivalent of an invisible 65% surcharge on your federal taxes, or nearly 12% of GDP.

“Regulation today is a hidden tax equivalent at least to half the amount of the fiscal budget itself,” Crews notes. “If federal regulations were a country, their cost would amount to the world’s 10th largest economy.”

This is an incredible drag on our economy, lowering our standard of living and slowing progress. Though most of us aren’t aware of it, it constitutes a sort of hidden tax that each and every American pays. In fact, Crews wonders if, as more data on the costs of regulation are compiled, we “may find taxation the lesser of the two components of governmental costs.”

This is a little-understood — though crucial — issue. But the terms we generally use to discuss it, like “excessive government regulations,” are…  kind of boring. And confusing. Listeners’ attention tends to wander.

So I like it that Crews occasionally spices up his discussion with some colorful and provocative terms that libertarians can use to help bring the issue to life for our listeners.

As noted, Crews calls this huge, ugly, dangerous mass of regulations and hidden costs the “costberg.” That’s clever, and creates a strong mental image of this “costberg” threatening to collide with and sink our ship of state, just like the iceberg that sank the Titanic.

And here’s another great term: “red tapeworm.” Last year Crews titled a blog post “Red Tapeworm 2014: Reckoning the Dollar Cost of Federal Regulation.” Red Tapeworm (as in “red tape,” slang for worthless and costly government regulation), is very useful, with a populist appeal. For example: “The red tapeworm is chewing up $1.882 trillion from the American economy — that’s money out of your pocket every year.”

Finally, you can simply refer to “the huge hidden tax of government regulation.” People understand the nature of taxes more than they do unseen regulation and mandates. Just pointing out that such things amount to hidden taxes — and massive taxes — can be eye-opening for your audience.

Try using these terms — along with facts and figures from CEI’s excellent reports — to spice up your discussions of this extremely important, but largely unrecognized, problem.

And for more on this topic, check out CEI’s “Ten Thousand Commandments” website, which regularly updates these figures and arguments.

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