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Thank You, Libertarian Party!

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Party, News From the Advocates for Self-Government, Philosophy by Sharon Harris Comments are off
(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)
Last week at its national convention, the Libertarian Party awarded me the greatest honor of my career.I was awarded the party’s Thomas Paine Award. The Thomas Paine Award is given by the Libertarian Party every two years to the Libertarian Party member “who has been an outstanding communicator of Libertarian ideas, principles, and values through written, published, or spoken communications.”
As someone who has spent the last two decades teaching libertarians to successfully communicate the ideas of liberty, there can be no greater professional honor for me.
I am deeply moved to receive this award, and I cannot thank the Libertarian Party enough for this recognition. It will inspire me to work even harder for our great cause.
In 2012 Advocates Chairman of the Board Jim Lark was given this same award, driving home the vital role the Advocates plays in this important field.The Libertarian Party national awards program began in 1996 with the Samuel Adams Award (for outstanding activism), the Thomas Paine Award (for outstanding communication of libertarian ideas), and the Thomas Jefferson Award (for lifetime achievement through 2010; from 2012 henceforth, for outstanding leadership).I think it speaks very highly of the Advocates that so many people associated with this organization have received these awards.Since 1996, only three people have won at least two of the awards: Harry Browne (1998 Thomas Paine Award, 2006 Thomas Jefferson Award); Jim Lark (2004 Samuel Adams Award, 2008 Thomas Jefferson Award, 2012 Thomas Paine Award); and me (2012 Thomas Jefferson Award, 2014 Thomas Paine Award).Advocates Chair Jim Lark is the only person who has won all three.Other longtime Advocates friends and associates who have won these prestigious awards are David Bergland (1998 Thomas Jefferson Award), Michael Cloud (2000 Thomas Paine Award), and Mary Ruwart (2004 Thomas Paine Award).And I was deeply moved this year when Hardy Macia — an Advocates Board member and longtime Advocates supporter who died last May — received the 2014 Samuel Adams Award recognizing outstanding LP activism.

Also at this convention, Harry Browne and ballot access expert and activist Richard Winger were inducted into the Libertarian Party’s new Hall of Liberty. Harry was a great friend of the Advocates. He did communication workshops with us, gave us the honor of publishing his great book Liberty A-Z: 872 Soundbites You Can Use Right Now!, and delivered his last speech at our 20th Anniversary Celebration just a few months before his death.

Richard Winger has been a friend of the Advocates for many years, and I have long admired his unique and important work. He has also advised Liberator Online editor James W. Harris on articles on ballot access issues.

Advocates people stayed busy at this year’s convention fulfilling our mission: helping libertarians become great communicators of the ideas of liberty.

I conducted three workshops the week of the convention: a workshop on effective communication; a workshop on how learning about personality types can help libertarians successfully present the ideas of liberty to everyone; and a communication workshop for the Libertarian State Leadership Alliance (LSLA) at their candidate training the day before the convention. Thanks to everyone who attended!

Jim Lark conducted a campus organizing workshop along with Students For Liberty co-founder and president Alexander McCobin. Advocates Board member Emily Salvette was chair of the Credentials Committee at the convention, a position she has held on previous occasions and for which she has drawn great praise.

Finally, the Advocates booth, featuring a wide variety of communication books and other tools, as well as some fun convention specials, was a big draw and was kept busy throughout the convention. A big thanks to Advocates Program Services Coordinator Dagny Smith and Brett Bittner for making this booth a smashing success.

Again, thank you Libertarian Party for this great honor. This would not have been possible without the inspiration, teachings and personal examples of numerous mentors I have been blessed to have in the libertarian movement. I cannot begin to thank them all here, but I would like to single out my predecessors at the Advocates for Self-Government: our late founder Marshall Fritz and past Advocates president Carole Ann Rand. I am enormously grateful to them — and all who inspired and worked with them — for building this organization that has given me such a wonderful opportunity to serve the liberty movement.

The Advocates will continue to provide vital resources for libertarian activists — helping them to be successful in taking the libertarian message of individual liberty, abundance and peace to the world.

Thank you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you can join them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And remember the date: June 5th, 2014.

Harvard Study: Young Americans Want Far Less Interventionist Foreign Policy

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online Archives, Military, War by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Young Americans want a far less interventionist foreign policy, and they don’t trust the United Nations or the federal government in general. And they have strong libertarian leanings on other key issues.

Harvard UniversityThat’s according to the latest Harvard Public Opinion Project, a highly-respected national poll of America’s “Millennials”(18- to 29- year-olds) by Harvard’s Institute of Politics that has been conducted biannually since 2000.

The numbers are startlingly anti-interventionist. Fully 74 percent agreed with this statement: “The United States should let other countries and the United Nations take the lead in solving international crises and conflicts.” Only a fourth believed that the United States “should take the lead in solving international crises and conflicts.”

Fully 39 percent disagreed with the statement “it is sometimes necessary to attack potentially hostile countries, rather than waiting until we are attacked to respond.” Only a tiny 16 percent agreed with that statement.

Concerning specific recent foreign policy crises, 62 percent disapproved of the president’s handling of the Syria crisis, and 59 percent disapproved of the government’s policies towards Iran and Ukraine.

The same skepticism applies to international bodies. Fully two-thirds said they trusted the UN only “some of the time” or “never.” Only about a third of respondents said they trusted the United Nations all or most of the time.

This radical rejection of interventionism among the young is accompanied by other libertarian-friendly positions and a strong degree of skepticism towards government in general. Just three percent of Millennials reported trusting the federal government “all of the time,” while 80 percent said that they trusted it either only “some of the time” or “never.” Similarly, eighty-four percent of participants felt that they could trust Congress only “some of the time” or “never.” Just one-third trust the president “most” or “all of the time.”

On the re-legalization of marijuana, 25- to 29- year-olds support re-legalization by a large margin of 50 percent to 28 percent (21 percent unsure); among 18- to- 24- year-olds, 38 percent support, 39 percent oppose (22 percent unsure). Overall, 66 percent support re-legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.

On sexual tolerance, 61 percent say that “a friend’s sexual orientation is not important to me.”

Finally, Millennials are moving away from identifying with either of the two older parties, with increasing numbers identifying as Independents (38 percent) rather than Republicans (25 percent) or Democrats (37 percent).

Hey, Media: “Isolationist” Is an Insult and a Lie

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Stances on Issues, War by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“When tea party or libertarian Republicans oppose U.S. military intervention or aid in Ukraine, Syria or any other hot spot, they are regularly labeled ‘isolationist’ by mainstream media outlets. The same term is now commonly used to describe the growing number of war-weary Americans who believe the U.S. tries to do too much around the world militarily.”

So writes Jack Hunter, contributing editor at Rare.US, in a commentary entitled “Hey insult, pejorative termmedia, ‘isolationist’ is not an acceptable term.”

Hunter notes that the biggest hawks in America — liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican — immediately label as “isolationist” anyone who even dares suggest that the U.S. shouldn’t get involved in every local squabble around the world.

They’re deliberately using that term as a smear, Hunter points out. Which is wrong, but predictable.

But it’s far worse for the media to use such an inaccurate, pejorative and partisan term, he argues. Yet they’re doing it.

Hunter quotes conservative pundit and National Review editor-at-large Jonah Goldberg — who is definitely NOT a non-interventionist — from a perceptive piece Goldberg wrote last September:

“Some reporters say that they’re using ‘isolationist’ as a descriptive label, not as a pejorative term. This is nonsense. First of all, it simply is a pejorative term. But, if it’s not a pejorative term, how come nobody ever uses it to describe liberals who often want to intervene far less than conservatives do?”

Goldberg further notes that, all in all, libertarians are far less “isolationist” than most Americans:

“Why is isolationism only about military strikes? What about trade? Immigration? If you throw that stuff into the mix, libertarians are far less isolationist than most Americans, and yet libertarians are supposedly the heart of this new isolationism. How strange.”

Goldberg quotes Timothy Carney’s wonderful sarcastic Ambrose Bierce-ish definition: “Isolationist: n. Someone who, on occasion, opposes bombing foreigners.”

Then Goldberg reworks that a bit: “I’d phrase it slightly different. An isolationist is someone who doesn’t want to bomb foreigners when I do.”

So, yeah, isolationist is a smear, and that’s why the biggest Congressional interventionists use it. But the media shouldn’t let them get away with it.

It’s time to stop labeling opposition to 24-7 global warfare as “isolationism.” And it’s highly irresponsible of the media to use that term themselves, or to let hawks toss it around without challenge or comment.

Libertarians should constantly point this out. Advocates President Sharon Harris wrote a Liberty Minute column in 2011 on how to do this persuasively and effectively, and that column can be found in this issue.

Great News! The World Is Getting Better: HumanProgress.org

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

HumanProgress.orgThere is a large and growing body of evidence showing dramatic and remarkable improvements in human well-being in recent decades, especially in the developing world.

Unfortunately, this evidence is little-known and often overlooked. Bad news and predictions of doom and gloom are disproportionately reported. Many people, including the highly educated, simply have no idea of the great and ongoing progress in many crucial areas of human life around the world.

This exciting and uplifting news deserves far more attention. HumanProgress.org, a new website and research tool from the Cato Institute, hopes to accomplish that.

Many visitors who take the time to explore the site will be genuinely surprised by the well-documented major advances in world peace, living standards, environmental cleanliness, life spans, and much more. Crimes such as rape, hate crimes, deadly riots, and child abuse are all substantially down from the past. Around 5.1 billion people live in countries where incomes have more than doubled since 1960, and well over half the human race lives in countries where average incomes have tripled or more. Technologies unimaginable just a few years ago are now commonplace even among the world’s poor.

HumanProgress.org provides tools that let users see the many documented ways in which the world has become a far better place. Over 500 data sets of human development indicators from a variety of reliable sources allow visitors to compare indicators with one another, create and share graphics, and calculate differences in human well-being between different countries over time. Visitors can explore progress in categories including: Communications, Education, Energy, Environment, Food, Gender Equality, Happiness, Health, Housing, Transportation, Violence, and Wealth.

By putting together this comprehensive data in an accessible way, HumanProgress.org provides a fantastic documented resource for scholars, journalists, students, and the general public.

For a good graph-free overview of what it’s all about, go to the introductory essay “What is Human Progress?” which presents some downright startling figures and arguments and puts them in context.

And for an easy way to keep up with breaking good news about human progress — and to get a regular booster shot of reasons for rational optimism — you can like HumanProgress.org’s Facebook page.

Cato hopes that HumanProgress.org will lead to a greater appreciation of the improving state of the world. Things are getting better in many areas, to a remarkable degree, and largely due to progress in markets, civil liberties and peace. That’s great news! Let’s spread the word.

THEY SAID IT…

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

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

IN OPPOSITION: “I rise today to oppose the nomination of anyone who would argue that the Senator Rand Paulpresident has the power to kill American citizens not involved in combat. I rise today to say that there is no legal precedent for killing American citizens not directly involved in combat and that any nominee who rubber stamps and grants such power to a president is not worthy of being placed one step away from the Supreme Court. …Are we comfortable killing American citizens, no matter how awful or heinous the crime they’re accused of, are we comfortable killing them based on accusations that no jury has reviewed?” — Sen. Rand Paul on the Senate floor May 21, 2014, explaining his objections to nominating David Barron to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit.

DR. OZ JUMPS ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA BANDWAGON:

Dr. Mehmet Oz

“I grew up like most of my generation believing that marijuana was something Satan was throwing at Americans, a communist plot. But I think most of us have come around to the believe that marijuana is hugely beneficial when used correctly for medicinal purposes.” — TV megastar Dr. Mehmet Oz on “Larry King Live,” May 14, 2014. Oz is hardly alone. Earlier this year a CBS News poll found a whopping 86 percent of Americans think doctors should be able to legally prescribe medical cannabis to patients suffering from serious illnesses. Numerous other polls indicate a majority of Americans favor re-legalization for recreational use as well.

LEGAL POT KILLS BLACK MARKETS: “It’s not worth it anymore. I wish the Americans would stop with this legalization.” — Rodrigo Silla, 50, a lifelong cannabis farmer in Mexico, quoted in the Washington Post. Silla, like other Mexican pot farmers, has stopped growing marijuana because the U.S. has re-legalized marijuana or allows it for medical use in 20 states and the District of Columbia. This has gutted the market and lowered prices by 3/4s — exactly as libertarians predicted. Unfortunately, but also predictably, Mexican drug cartels are now pushing heroin harder than ever to make up for their pot losses. Hmmm… how could we stop that?

DO-IT-YOURSELF: “In 2003, the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) spent $400,000 digitizing The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which was among the most widely read and influential papers in 19th century America. A decade later, the library was still raising money to finish the remaining 52 years of the Daily Eagle’s run. In the meantime, [Tom] Tryniski digitized all 115 years of the paper in about five months working alone.” — journalist Jim Epstein, “A Retiree Digitizes 27 Million Old Newspaper Pages in His Living Room (and Libraries Fight to Catch Up),” Reason blog, May 18, 2014.

GOV’T KILLING AMERICAN DREAM: “Dallas Mavericks owner Fox Business' John StosselMark Cuban left school with no money and no job prospects. He managed to become a billionaire by creating several businesses from scratch. I asked him if he could do it again today, and he said, ‘No … now there’s so much paperwork and regulation, so many things that you have to sign up for, that you have a better chance of getting in trouble than you do of being successful.’ That’s tragic. … Government mostly hinders us, and then brags that it is waiting to take charge when we fail.” — award-winning libertarian journalist John Stossel, “Regulating Away the American Dream,” April 30, 2014.

GOV’T PERMISSION REQUIRED TO WORK:

Antony Davies

“At the state level, government regulation has become so lucrative for crony-capitalists that today almost 40 percent of U.S. jobs require a government license versus about 5 percent a generation ago. Louisiana requires $2,000 plus 80 hours of study to become a florist, while Utah requires hair braiders to get a beautician license that costs $18,000 and 2,000 hours of study.” — economist Antony Davies, “Consumers Are the Best Regulators,” US News & World Report online, May 12, 2014.

RE-QUOTED AND NOTED

MILTON FRIEDMAN ON FOUR WAYS TO SPEND MONEY: “There are four ways in which you can Milton Friedmanspend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income.” — Milton Friedman, Fox News interview (May 2004), requoted by Mark D. Friedman in comments field of BleedingHeartsLibertarian.com article.

Are You Waiting for Our Libertarian Ship to Come In?

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

(From the Persuasion PowerPoint section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

big ship“Big Government is unsustainable,” said one libertarian. “It’ll collapse and that’s when we’ll get liberty.”

“I’m part of the Remnant,” said another. “Liberty is doomed…for now. My job is to quietly share libertarianism until the world is ready for liberty.”

“Our tax-burdened, regulation-strangled economy can’t last,” said a third. “When it falls apart, liberty will march in.”

Passive waiting is NOT a strategy. Nor even a good choice — if you want freedom in our lifetime.

You have to send out ships — if you want our ship to come in.

Do you know where the phrase “waiting for my ship to come in” came from?

In the 19th Century, English investors and entrepreneurs built huge sailing ships. It took months to build them, months to stock them with trading goods and provisions, and months to hire a good captain and crew.

Then these ships were launched to seek out foreign producers and traders. To exchange English goods for gold and silver and jewels, for silk and spices and other precious things.

Some of the ships hit reefs and sank. Others were destroyed by storms. Some were seized by pirates. Others mutinied — and went to Australia.

There were no shortwave radios. No telegraphs. No cell phones. No way to communicate with the ships until they returned to England.

“Waiting for my ship to come in” was coined by those who sent their ships out.

How many ships have you sent out? How many have you helped make ready to launch?

For our libertarian ships to come in, we must first send out many more seaworthy ships.

Have you acquired an Operation Politically Homeless (OPH) libertarian outreach kit for your local libertarian organization? OPH is a proven, tested way to discover new libertarian-leaning people and bring them into the liberty movement. That’s one ship sent out.

If you’re a student, the Advocates is giving OPH kits FREE to any campus libertarian organization that agrees to use them a minimum of three times in the coming year. Have you requested one for your campus group? That’s a second ship sent out.

Have you volunteered to work at an OPH booth? That’s a third ship sent out. (AND the most fun you can have with your clothes on.)

Have you forwarded thought-provoking articles from the Liberator Online to interested friends? That’s a fourth ship launched.

Have you bought an Advocates book or product — say, Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion — for libertarian friends and acquaintances? For their birthdays? Or just because? That’s a fifth ship. (And a handbook on “shipbuilding” for liberty.)

Work for liberty! Send out more and more ships. And you will stand a much better chance that YOUR libertarian ship will come in — and that you will have liberty in our lifetime.

* * * * * * * *
Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion by Michael CloudMichael Cloud’s latest book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively from the Advocates, along with his acclaimed earlier book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion.

In 2000, Michael was honored with the Thomas Paine Award as the Most Persuasive Libertarian Communicator in America.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Word Choices: Pro-Market, Not Pro-Business

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Libertarians enormously appreciate the positive contributions so many businesses have made to our

world.

Because of this, libertarians are sometimes labeled “pro-business.”

But this is incorrect — and misleading.

Libertarians are not “pro-business.” We are “pro-market” — a very different thing.

The distinction is a vital one.

Libertarians support a free market where businesses are free to enter a field and offer their goods and services, in competition with any and all others who wish to do the same.

The resulting competition brings ever-better goods and services. Lower prices. Innovation. More convenience and more choice.

The companies that succeed in this free market competition do so by doing the best job of pleasing customers. Those that fail to sufficiently please consumers go out of business. The consumer is king.

This is the market process that libertarians strongly support.

But being “pro-business” is an entirely different thing. Politicians, lobbyists, economists, pundits and others who are pro-business — or who favor a particular business entity — may lobby for special favors for a particular business or area of commerce.

This may be pro-business. But it is anti-market.

Many who are pro-business want government to help particular businesses or industries that are unable to compete effectively. Sometimes they want government to use political power and tax dollars to entice a business to locate in a particular area.

Pro-business forces may want to prop up a favored business with bailouts of tax dollars or with other tax grants. They often call for punitive taxes on competition that challenges the favored business (especially if that competition is foreign). They may offer special zoning privileges to favored businesses. They may call on the government to seize private property through eminent domain and give it to a favored business.

Pro-business forces may endorse licensing, education requirements, regulations and other obstacles that protect favored businesses from competition. It often surprises people to learn that many large businesses love government regulation because it limits their competition. But as Nobel Prize winning economist George Stigler wrote: “…as a rule, regulation is acquired by the industry and is designed and operated primarily for its benefit.”

Governments may declare a business is “too big to fail” and thus deserves a huge taxpayer bailout. Or that a field is crucial to the “public interest,” and thus deserving of subsidies and special treatment; agriculture is a prime example.

You get the picture. All of this is done by pro-business people. And all of it is deeply, profoundly, anti-market.

In an excellent article on this topic, “‘Free Market’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Pro-Business“ economist Art Carden quotes a great passage from the book The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley:

“I hold no brief for large corporations, whose inefficiencies, complacencies, and anti-competitive tendencies often drive me as crazy as the next man. Like Milton Friedman, I notice that ‘business corporations in general are not defenders of free enterprise. On the contrary, they are one of the chief sources of danger.’ They are addicted to corporate welfare, they love regulations that erect barriers to entry to their small competitors, they yearn for monopoly and they grow flabby and inefficient with age.”

The fruits of the pro-business mindset — taxes, unfairness, lack of competition and choice, over-priced goods and services, unemployment — are often the things that people hate most about our economic system. People naturally blame this on free enterprise, on the market system. Yet it is the pro-business mindset — not the market — that is responsible for these ills.

Let me give Art Carden the (almost) final word:

“In a free market, you are welcome, and indeed encouraged, to enter the mousetrap industry if you think you can build a better mousetrap or find a way to make similar mousetraps more efficiently. The other side of that coin is that you will be encouraged to leave the mousetrap industry if it turns out that your mousetraps are not better, but inferior.

“A ‘free market’ agenda is not the same thing as a ‘pro business’ agenda. Businesses should not be protected from competition, losses, and bankruptcy when they fail to deliver for the customer. All three are essential to truly free markets and free enterprise.”

Don’t use the label “pro-business.” And politely but firmly reject it if someone attempts to label you that way. Respond that you are pro-market, not pro-business. And explain the difference.

Grab Those Ideas — Before They Get Away!

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

I was enjoying a delightful lunch with Harry Browne and a few other libertarians. Harry was discussing an upcoming book project. As usual with Harry, it was fascinating, enlightening and fun listening.

Someone at the table commented on something Harry had said, adding a surprising fact and quote that backed up Harry’s argument.

Harry listened attentively to the first few words, and then — still listening carefully — he Write It Down!pulled out a pad and pen and jotted down the information. “What was the name of that congressman you quoted?” he asked. He wrote that down, too.

I was impressed. Harry — a prolific writer and New York Times bestselling author — had obviously learned to grab onto ideas and important information that came his way. And to write it down, not trust his memory.

It’s a great idea. Probably everyone has heard that advice. But, as author Chris Guillebeau — who writes several hundred thousand words a year —notes:

“You may have heard the advice about carrying a notebook everywhere and writing things down as you think of them. This advice falls into the category of ‘extremely helpful tips that almost no one follows.’ Trust me, it helps: I have my notebook when I ride my bike, when I go to a restaurant, and with me on the seat of two hundred airplanes a year. Never keep anything in your head — keep it in the notebook instead.”

Is this idea “simplistic?” Maybe. But sometimes when someone describes an idea as “simplistic,” that really means “something everyone knows is a great idea — but almost nobody actually does.”

What should you use?

Liberator Online editor James W. Harris uses 3 X 5 note cards, an idea suggested to him by a prominent journalist. He writes down one idea or thought or item per card, transfers them onto his computer or elsewhere later, and then tosses them. That keeps things organized — one card doesn’t get crammed with half a dozen unrelated notes. He carries a few dozen of these ridiculously inexpensive cards (a dollar or so for 300) in his pocket at all times, held together by a small black binder clip. (Several years ago this combination was given the unfortunate name of the Hipster PDA.)

Other people swear by small wirebound notebooks.

Write It Down!There are e-devices and apps that are useful, too, of course. You can speak into a recording device — a stand-alone recorder, or a pad or phone.

When the perfect blog post title, a few lines of poetry, the perfect wording for a letter to the editor… whatever it is, when the right wording or the right idea comes to mind, jot it down.

Ideas have a tendency to pop into your mind at odd, unexpected moments. It’s your job to catch them. And the more you do this, the more the ideas seem to come.

It’s not just brilliant literary brainstorms that you want to record, of course. If someone says “Hey, can I have your email address?” you can dash it off and hand it to them. And vice-versa.

If you’re preparing a political meeting and you suddenly have to run to the store to pick up some essential last-minute items, jot them down — don’t rely on memory.

If you need directions, pull out your notepad. When you hear the name of a book or movie you want to check out… a great song on the radio… a new restaurant… write it down.

Get the idea?

Keep something to write on by your bed, too. Perhaps also a lighted pen.

As blogger and web developer Glen Stansberry advises:

“It almost always never fails. I’ll have a great idea, I’ll think about it for a while, and never remember it again. Why? I didn’t write it down. Half of having a good idea is actually writing it down. Writing it down gives you freedom to let your mind explore it even more, because it doesn’t have to work on actually remembering it. If paper isn’t your thing, use a voice recorder, your cell phone’s voicemail, a pda, a rock and chisel… anything so that you can file it somewhere other than your brain.”

And remember the advice of one famous writer (whose name I can’t recall — I should have written it down!): When you get a great idea, and you think, “I’ll never forget that — I’ll write it down later” — that’s the Devil speaking!

Should Anarcho-Capitalists Abandon Political Activism?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

AnCap FlagQUESTION: I now identify more with anarcho-capitalism and I want to disengage from political action. I further hope that politics will become increasingly irrelevant to people as liberty ideas spread. What do you think of this approach?

MY SHORT ANSWER: Everyone must follow their hearts. If you are called to something other than political action, that’s where you should put your energy. That is where you will be most passionate and successful and where you will find your next step, whatever that may be.

We need people in the liberty movement in politics, but we also need those who actualize the stateless society, as you’d like to do. In my opinion, running as a candidate provides a wonderful platform for teaching others about libertarianism. Taking political action at some point is probably necessary to change the system. However, when society is ready for liberty, it will look beyond politics to see what works. Each of these three activities takes people with different talents and attitudes; we need them all.

Enjoy your journey; feel free to share what you find!

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

Some libertarians have long pondered the question of the need, desirability and nature of political activity. Following are two articles from prominent anarcho-capitalists, one pro-political activism, one against. Both make great reading, regardless of one’s views on the subject.

The Anti-Party Mentality by Murray N. Rothbard, November 10, 1980. Arguably the father of anarcho-capitalism (often credited with creating the name), Rothbard strongly supported political activism. In this article, Rothbard criticizes fellow anarcho-capitalist Samuel Edward Konkin III’s anti-political booklet New Libertarian Manifesto and explains why he thinks political activism is necessary for liberty to triumph.

Excerpt: “I see no other conceivable strategy for the achievement of liberty than political action. Religious or philosophical conversion of each man and woman is simply not going to work; that strategy ignores the problem of power, the fact that millions of people have a vested interest in statism and are not likely to give it up… Education in liberty is of course vital, but it is not enough; action must also be taken to roll back the State…”

Voluntaryist Resistance by Carl Watner. The founder of the acclaimed Voluntaryist newsletter and website opposes political activity on both practical and moral grounds. He explains why in this 1983 essay.

Excerpt: “The Voluntaryists are advocates of non-political strategies to achieve a free society. We reject electoral politics, both in theory and practice, as incompatible with libertarian principles. Governments must cloak their actions in an aura of moral legitimacy in order to sustain their power, and political methods invariably strengthen that legitimacy. Voluntaryists seek instead to delegitimize the State through education, and we advocate withdrawal of the cooperation and tacit consent on which State power ultimately depends. Voluntaryists are exclusively committed to using nonviolent strategies to oppose the State. The purpose of this paper is to show why this commitment is a function of voluntaryism and how voluntaryist resistance differs from conventional nonviolence theory.”

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

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

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

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

They Said It

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

Chuck Schumer(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

DEMOCRATS TO VOTE AGAINST FIRST AMENDMENT: “The First Amendment is sacred, but the First Amendment is not absolute. By making it absolute, you make it less sacred to most Americans. We have to bring some balance to our political system.” — Sen.Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Apr 30, 2014, announcing that Democrats will vote this year on an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to override First Amendment protections of political speech and political activism by restricting the amount that individuals and groups can spend on such speech and activities.

SAVE THE FIRST AMENDMENT: “Displeased with recent legal victories in which free speech has prevailed over limitations on political speech imposed by Congress, Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), Mark Udall (D., Colo.), and other Senate Democrats have introduced a constitutional amendment that would not only set aside the Supreme Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence and invest Congress with virtually unlimited power to regulate the political activism of private citizens, alone or in groups, but would also give the federal government and the states the power to shut down newspapers, television stations, and radio networks that displease them. This is an all-out assault on the First Amendment and an act of vandalism against the Constitution.” — The editors of National Review, “Save the First Amendment,” May 2, 2014.

EVERYONE IS UNDER SURVEILLANCE NOW — SNOWDEN:

Edward Snowden

“[Surveillance] is no longer based on the traditional practice of targeted taps based on some individual suspicion of wrongdoing. It covers phone calls, emails, texts, search history, what you buy, who your friends are, where you go, who you love.” — NSA whistleblowerEdward Snowden, “Everyone is under surveillance now, says whistleblower Edward Snowden,” Associated Press, theguardian.com, May 3 2014.

PULLED OVER FOR DRIVING WHILE HUMAN: “Driving stiffly, having tinted windows, slowing down when seeing law enforcement, and driving in an out-of-the-way area may be innocent conduct by themselves. But when taken together along with driving a vehicle with out-of-state plates in a mountainous smuggling corridor 40-45 miles away from the border, we conclude Agent Semmerling had reasonable suspicion Ms. Westhoven was involved in smuggling activity.” — Federal Judge Scott M. Matheson, Jr., writing in US v. Westhoven (US Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, April 24, 2014). Also cited by the judge as reasonable cause for suspicion: acne, nervousness, driving with hands on the steering wheel in the 10-2 position.

Jimmy KimmelEARTH DAY GIFTS: “I never know what to get the Earth for Earth Day. So I just bought it an iTunes gift card and buried it.” — Jimmy Kimmel April 23, 2014.

FOREIGN AID:

Jimmy Fallon

“Joe Biden said the U.S. will help Ukraine with financial aid as long as the leaders tackle corruption. Because if anything stops corruption, it’s bribing someone to stop corruption.” — Jimmy Fallon April 22, 2014.

NOT IN AMERICA: “Donald Sterling’s girlfriend said she’s ‘going to be president of the United States’ one day. Yeah, like we’re going to elect someone who secretly records people’s private phone calls and conversations.” — Jimmy Fallon May 1, 2014.

RE-QUOTED AND NOTED

MISES ON POLITICAL ACTIVISM: “No one can find a safe way out for himself if society is Ludwig von Misessweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result.” — Ludwig von Mises from his 1922 classic Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, quoted by Jim Powell in his investment newsletter Global Changes and Opportunities Report, April 2014. You can read Socialism by Mises in its entirety online here or download it as a free ebook from the Mises Institute here.

The Piketty Challenge to Capitalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Poll: Americans Want A More Libertarian Foreign Policy

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

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

Nearly half of the public, and a strong plurality, say the United States government should intervene less in the internal affairs of other nations, as libertarians have long urged.

That’s the finding of a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted April 23 to 27 and released May 1.

Fully forty-seven percent said the U.S. should “become less active in world affairs.” Only 19 percent — less than one in five — said it should be more active, and just 30 percent said it should remain at the current level.

This is consistent with a Pew Research Center poll we reported on last year, which found a record 52 percent of Americans agreeing that the United States “should mind its own business internationally.” That figure is a 40-year low.

Notes the political newspaper The Hill: “The latest numbers are a stark contrast from public opinion WSJ and NBC News recorded just after 9/11, when 40 percent of people wanted the U.S. to engage more of the world and only 14 percent wanted it to be less active.”

The WSJ/NBC poll also found support for President Obama’s interventionist foreign policy extremely low. Only a bit over a third approved of his handling of foreign policy. Just 37 percent said they approve of Obama’s handling of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

The entire poll can be seen here.

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

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

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

Sick of government surveillance spoiling the freedom and fun of the Internet?

Reset The NetYou’re not alone. And now there’s something you can do about it.

On June 5th, 2014 — the anniversary of the first NSA surveillance story revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden — a worldwide coalition of tens of thousands of Internet users, companies and organizations is pledging to “Reset The Net.”

Reset The Net is a day of global action to secure and encrypt the web to shut out the government’s mass surveillance capabilities. Tens of thousands of Internet activists, companies and organizations — from across the political spectrum and across the technology industry — have committed to preserve free speech and basic rights on the Internet by taking simple steps to shut off the government’s mass surveillance capabilities. And you can join them.

Participating organizations, sites and companies include the Libertarian Party, Fight For The Future (who initiated the campaign), reddit, CREDO Mobile, Namecheap, Imgur, Greenpeace, FireDogLake, Thunderclap, DuckDuckGo, Disconnect.Me, Demand Progress, Access, Free Press, Restore the Fourth, AIDS Policy Project, PolitiHacks, OpenMedia, Free Software Foundation, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Code Pink, Popular Resistance, Participatory Politics Foundation, BoingBoing, Public Knowledge, Amicus, New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Student Net Alliance, and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

These and other organizations will participate by publicizing the effort and by improving their own security and/or promoting privacy tools to their followers.

Individual Internet users can act with Reset The Net in several important ways. They can get and install a free “privacy pack” of safe open-source software tools that make end-to-end encryption easy, as well as learning other ways to secure their online life against intrusive surveillance. Information on how to do this will be available from Reset The Net.

Individuals are also invited to sign a petition supporting online freedom and pledging to participate in the campaign. So far nearly 20,000 people have done so. Reset The Net hopes to have at least 50,000 signatures by the June 5 kick-off date.

Reset The Net will offer supporters a splash screen they can run at their web sites on June 5. These screens will potentially reach millions with a call for privacy and a link to the privacy tools pack.

Twitter users can join the #ResetTheNet Twitter brigade to further publicize the idea. Still more suggestions are at the Reset The Net website.

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

For more information watch the short ResetTheNet.org campaign video and visit ResetTheNet.org.

“The Libertarian Party enthusiastically joins Reset the Net,” said Carla Howell, Political Director for the Libertarian National Committee. “Over thirty Libertarian candidates running for federal office this year have pledged to shut down the NSA and invite Edward Snowden to return home a free man. He should be granted an immediate presidential pardon, awarded the American Medal of Freedom, and applauded for blowing the whistle on the NSA’s abuse of the Constitution.”

“Freedom to be yourself is everything. No government can take that away from us, so we’re going to use the power we have to take it back,” said Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future. “Now that we know how mass surveillance works, we know how to stop it. That’s why people all over the world are going to work together to use encryption everywhere and make it too hard for any government to conduct mass surveillance. There are moments in history where people and organizations must choose whether to stand on the side of freedom or tyranny. On June 5th, the Internet will show which side it’s on.”

Surveillance, Safety… and Rabbit Hunting

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

For the past year or so liberty-loving Americans have been appalled by the revelations of Rabbit HuntingEdward Snowden and others about the secret and unconstitutional spying programs the federal government is engaged in.

Ironically, we’ve also learned that the programs have been spectacularly ineffective. As the federal Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board said earlier this year:

“We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation. Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.”

And that reminds me of a story…

Federal Rabbit Hunting

The NSA, the CIA and the FBI were fighting among themselves, each arguing that they were the best and most qualified at apprehending terrorists.

Finally the president decided to settle the argument with a simple test. He would release a rabbit into a forest, and give each agency a chance to find and capture it.

The NSA went first. They placed cameras throughout the forest. They eavesdropped on every animal, plant and mineral. NSA drones circled the forest, filming every leaf on every tree. After three months of extensive investigations the NSA concluded that there was no rabbit in the forest at all. But they warned the president that 300 other kinds of animals and insects were behaving strangely and the whole forest needed round-the-clock surveillance.

Then the CIA went in. They captured numerous innocent animals and questioned them harshly, but got no information. After two weeks with no leads they burned the forest to the ground, killing everything in it. “The rabbit had it coming,” one agent said. (Later, the NSA sent the president a classified tape showing the rabbit hopping away from the forest just before it was destroyed.)

Finally the FBI had their chance. They went into another forest chosen by the president. Just two hours later they proudly emerged — holding a ruffled, badly frightened raccoon. The raccoon shouted: “Okay! Okay! I’m a rabbit! I’m a rabbit!”

* * *
Tired of the surveillance state? See this issue’s Intellectual Ammunition column to learn about “Reset The Net,” a worldwide effort to preserve free speech and liberty on the Internet by taking simple steps to shut off the government’s mass surveillance capabilities. You’re invited to take part.

Raising the Overton Window

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In the 1990s I had the great pleasure of meeting the late Joseph P. Overton at a leadership seminar at the free-market Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Joe was senior vice president of Mackinac. He was brilliant, charismatic, inspiring and fun to be with. The liberty movement lost a great leader when he died in a plane crash on June 30, 2003.

One of Joe’s many contributions to liberty was the popularizing of a vital concept that now bears his name: the Overton Window.

Overton Window: A Model of Policy Change
The Overton Window is explained by Mackinac this way:

“Joseph Overton observed that in a given public policy area… only a relatively narrow range of potential policies will be considered politically acceptable.”

“This ‘window’ of politically acceptable options is primarily defined not by what politicians prefer, but rather by what they believe they can support and still win re-election.”

“In general, then, the window shifts to include different policy options not when ideas change among politicians, but when ideas change in the society that elects them.”

This is a powerful concept. You can see it clearly when you illustrate it, as Joe did, by lining up possible positions on a political issue in order from more free to less free.

Let’s do this with drug policy. Here are a few positions on this issue, lined up (starting from the bottom) from most oppressive to least oppressive:

All drugs are legal for adults to buy, sell, and consume
“Hard drugs” legal but only with doctor’s prescription
Some other drugs in addition to marijuana also legal; other still illegal
—————————————————————————
Marijuana legal to own, grow, sell with permission from government
Marijuana legal to buy but not sell
Marijuana legal for medical purposes only, with doctor’s prescription
Marijuana illegal but only minimal punishment
All drugs illegal with stiff penalties
—————————————————————————
Mandatory drug tests for all Americans
Harsh punishment for drug use
Death penalty for drug use, possession, sale

See the two lines I made in the middle of that list? Those lines show the area of today’s most politically-acceptable options. That’s an approximation of where we are right now.

Those lines show the top and the bottom of the Overton Window at this time.

Those policies inside the Overton Window are politically acceptable. It doesn’t mean they are right, universally agreed on, or that they are law. It just means that people holding or seeking political office can say they support them, and still get elected.

In contrast, the policies outside the Overton Window are not very politically acceptable. It is far harder to advocate them and get elected. Not impossible, but more difficult.

The Overton Window makes our goal as libertarians clear: to raise the window. To push it ever higher. To make currently unpopular libertarian positions acceptable. To bring those positions into the mainstream political debate.

As we do so, we also raise the bottom part of the window, so that previous authoritarian solutions are no longer acceptable.

How do we do this? Surprisingly, not by electing politicians, according to the Mackinac Center:

“Many believe that politicians move the window, but that’s actually rare. In our understanding, politicians typically don’t determine what is politically acceptable; more often they react to it and validate it. Generally speaking, policy change follows political change, which itself follows social change. The most durable policy changes are those that are undergirded by strong social movements.”

Politicians are lagging indicators; that is, they usually reflect what is acceptable, rather than making radical political change.

The Overton Window model gives us some major insights into how we can effectively change government policy. Rather than just hoping to elect the “right people” to office, it suggests that the most powerful way to changing government policy lies in changing the views of the public as to what is acceptable.

Do this, and the politicians will follow. Witness the growing popularity of the movement to relegalize marijuana. It’s not a movement that was brought about by politicians. Rather, politicians are reluctantly accepting it because of the years of work by liberty activists to educate the public to demand reform.

That means our job as libertarian communicators is to constantly be pushing the window up — gently but persuasively — in the direction of liberty. In our discussions with people, in our outreach efforts, in our casual conversations.

When, for example, relegalizing medical marijuana is politically possible, we support that — but we also argue that marijuana should be legal across the board, for everyone. And as that idea begins to win, our job is to push it further, until we reach the full libertarian ideal: adults are free to use whatever substances they wish.

Similarly, on taxation, our goal right now might be a particular tax cut or reducing the tax burden. But we also want to argue for something that’s now outside the Window — like ending the income tax, for example — in order to introduce that idea into the debate and thus raise the Overton Window. And as that idea gains traction, we discuss more seriously the libertarian ideal: ending all taxes.

Important: This does NOT mean that we should deliberately pursue gradualism or avoid discussing long-range and ultimate libertarian goals. We don’t have to move one small step up the Overton Window at a time. I strongly agree with the great abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison: “Gradualism in theory is perpetuity in practice.” I strongly believe we should be ready and happy to argue persuasively for the full libertarian position any time. Indeed, doing so is part of raising the Overton Window.

However, during a political discussion in which there is general agreement on a particular libertarian reform, there is often a great opportunity for us to push the discussion a bit further — to raise the Overton Window higher. Be alert for such opportunities.

This also suggests that, for most of us, using effective and persuasive communication methods, such as those taught by the Advocates, is crucial. While we need our Menckenish curmudgeons and pundits, most of us can’t do that well. We can be most effective by winning the trust of our neighbors and community members, bringing them to our side.

Ultimately it is public opinion, not political power, that changes society. Which means we have in our hands the ability to make bold political change. Which means the more successfully and persuasively we can communicate our ideas, the greater our chance for victory.

So let’s use that power to push the Overton Window up, up, up until it’s wide-open — and we welcome in the fresh air of liberty.

*  *  *

More on the Overton Window can be found at this website: The Overton Window, A Model of Policy Change by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. This web page has several short essays on the Overton Window, illustrations of the Window in action, videos, thoughts on how to move the Window up, and more. Essential.

Also of interest: Murray Rothbard challenges gradualism in his essay “The Case for Radical Idealism.

Do Libertarians Support a National Sales Tax?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Ron Paul told the New York Times in 2008: “I see a consumption tax as being a little better than the personal income tax, and I would vote for the Fair Tax if it came up in the House of Representatives, but it is not my goal. We can do better. … We could eliminate the income tax, replace it with nothing, and still fund the same level of big government we had in the late 1990s. We don’t need to ‘replace’ the income tax at all.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Short Essays Attract More Readers

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

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

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

They write long essays and long books.Writing

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

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

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

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

Write a short, short piece. 300 words.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *
Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian PersuasionMichael Cloud’s latest book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively from the Advocates, along with his acclaimed earlier book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion.

In 2000, Michael was honored with the Thomas Paine Award as the Most Persuasive Libertarian Communicator in America.

They Said It…

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

(From the They Said It… section in Volume 19, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

THE MOST LIBERTARIAN GENERATION EVER: 

Alexander McCobin

“Today’s youth is the most libertarian generation that has ever existed. Today’s youth have grown up socially tolerant, but at the same time skeptical of government intervention in the economy. And we’re fed up with excessive military intervention in foreign affairs by the U.S. government, not to mention we’ve seen the failed presidential administration of both a big-government Republican and a big-government Democrat.” — Alexander McCobin, founder of Students for Liberty, at the Libertarian Party of Texas state convention, April 12, 2014.

LIBERTARIANISM “ON THE RISE”: Libertarianism [is] on the rise. There is,Chris Cillizza without question, an expanding libertarian streak within the Republican party — particularly among younger voters. The ideas of limiting foreign entanglements, spending less time cracking down on marijuana use and being OK with same-sex marriage are all growing in terms of their mindshare within the GOP. Need evidence? Six in ten young Republicans — defined as between 18-30 years of age — are in favor of same-sex marriage in new Pew data.” — award-winning journalist Chris Cillizza, “It’s time to start taking Rand Paul seriously,” Washington Post blogs, March 17, 2014.

NY TIMES EDITOR — OBAMA VS. JOURNALISM:

Jill Abramson

“The Obama years are a benchmark for a new level of secrecy and control. …Collectively [the Obama administration's criminal leak investigations] have really, I think, put a chill on reporting about national security issues in Washington. Sources who want to come forward with important stories that they feel the public needs to know are just scared to death that they’re going to be prosecuted. Reporters fear that they will find themselves subpoenaed in this atmosphere.” — Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, interviewed at The Takeaway.org, April 10, 2014.

RAND PAUL GOES FOR THE PRIVACY VOTE: “[Young voters] have all got a Senator Rand Paulcell phone and they all think the government shouldn’t be looking at their cell phone or listening to their cell phone without a warrant. We get to the young people with privacy. It’s not a conservative or Republican issue. It’s an area where we can connect with people who haven’t been connecting. Obama won the youth vote 3 to 1 but he’s losing them now. Hillary Clinton’s as bad or worse on all of these issues. It’s a way we can transform and make the party bigger or even win again, but we’ve got to be as proud of the Fourth Amendment as we are the Second Amendment.” —Rand Paul at an NH GOP rally at the Cottage by the Bay in Dover, N.H, April 11, 2014.


CAPTAIN AMERICA MEETS CAPTAIN CHINA:

Conan O'Brien

“‘Captain America’ is currently the No. 1 movie in China. The Chinese say their favorite part is when Captain America asks Captain China for a $17 trillion loan.” — Conan O’Brien, April 9, 2014.

THANKS A LOT, OBAMA: “The White House just releasedJimmy FallonPresident Obama’s tax returns, which show that he and Michelle paid $98,000 dollars in taxes last year. When he saw that, even Obama said, ‘Thanks, Obama.’” — Jimmy Fallon, April 11, 2014.

RE-QUOTED AND NOTED

AYN RAND ON RACISM:

Ayn Rand

“Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage — the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.” — Ayn Rand, quoted by Sheldon Richman of the Future of Freedom Foundation in his article “In Praise of ‘Thick’ Libertarianism.” See Rand’s full quote here.

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