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Immigration is Good for the Economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Can’t Force a Person to Learn Something

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

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

What Do You Think About the War on Drugs?

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

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Me (The Libertarian Homeschooler): What do you think about the war on drugs?
War on Drugs Is a War on UsYS (Young Statesman, 14): I think it’s none of the state’s business what we can or cannot put into our bodies and what we can or cannot do with our money.
Me: But a lot of people die from drug overdoses. For whatever reason you aren’t likely to do that, but shouldn’t other people be protected from drugs and drug overdoses? Should they just be thrown to the wolves? Don’t we care about them?
YS: You’ve made a emotional argument.
Me: How do you combat that?
YS: You could say, “Are you saying it is the responsibility of the state to protect people from making bad choices?”
Me: Right. That’s the argument that the state should protect people from bad choices wrapped in a veiled personal attack: “You don’t care about other people. You’re a bad person.” But there’s another argument. Who determines what goes into your body? Who owns your body? That’s the most compelling argument.
YS: Do you own you or does the state own you?
Me: Yes. I think that’s the most important argument. Property rights. Who owns you? That can get lost. Why did it become difficult when it became about you caring about other people?
YS: Because it became an emotional argument.
Me: How did it feel when it became an emotional argument?
YS: Oh, God. Not this again.
Me: It’s a trap.
YS: It makes your brain stop working as well.
Me: What do you have to do when faced with a emotional argument?
YS: Think about the argument that’s being given to you. You have to make it about property rights again.
Me: Is that because most arguments boil down to property rights?
YS: If you’re arguing about feels, it’s because the other person is trying to shut the argument down. Most arguments are actually about property. You have to remove the emotion. You can’t follow that trail. That’s not the real argument.
Me: Is it possible that the other person doesn’t know the real argument? They don’t know what’s at stake?
YS: Yeah. They think it’s about protecting people from a small danger but there’s a bigger danger. You are trying to show them the rest of the picture. Yes, it’s important for people not to overdose but property rights are more important.
Me: The denial of property rights, in my opinion, is the greatest evil. When we deny people their property rights we have to tell lies and create systems to justify the denial. Those lies and those systems lead to violence and slaughter.

No, Immigrants Don’t Make the U.S. Less Safe

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

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Immigration has been catapulted back into the national political discussion in recent weeks, thanks to the comments of a bloviating celebrity businessman who is desperately seeking relevance.

immigrant family

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” he said last month. “And some, I assume, are good people.”

While some justifiably cringed at the notion, immigration restrictionists have praised the comments, especially after the tragic death of Kate Steinle, who was murdered by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a rabidly anti-immigration group, declared, in the wake of Steinle’s murder, that the celebrity’s “widely mocked warnings of this very danger have been vindicated.”

Former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, who, in 2010 signed the toughest anti-immigration law in country, said the celebrity “is kind of telling it like it really, truly is.”

“I think that the people of Arizona realize that we picked up the tab for the majority of the violence that comes across our border in regards to the drug cartels, the smugglers, the drug houses,” Brewer said. “It has been horrendous.”

But is it true that immigrants bring crime to the United States? The answer may surprise you. Writing at Reason in July 2009, Radley Balko noted that despite its close proximity to Ciudad Juarez, which has been ravaged by Mexican drug cartels, El Paso, Texas “is among of the safest big cities in America.”

“There were just 18 murders in El Paso [in 2008], in a city of 736,000 people. To compare, Baltimore, with 637,000 residents, had 234 killings,” Balko explained. “In fact, since the beginning of 2008, there were nearly as many El Pasoans murdered while visiting Juarez (20) than there were murdered in their home town (23).”

“Numerous studies by independent researchers and government commissions over the past 100 years repeatedly and consistently have found that, in fact, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or to be behind bars than are the native-born. This is true for the nation as a whole, as well as for cities with large immigrant populations such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami, and cities along the U.S.-Mexico border such as San Diego and El Paso,” he added.

On Tuesday, Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy expert at the Cato Institute, further countered the argument that more immigrants mean more crime in the United States.

“Both the Census-data driven studies and macro-level studies find that immigrants are less crime-prone than natives with some small potential exceptions. There are numerous reasons why immigrant criminality is lower than native criminality,” Nowrasteh wrote. “One explanation is that immigrants who commit crimes can be deported and thus are punished more for criminal behavior, making them less likely to break the law.”

“Another explanation is that immigrants self-select for those willing to work rather than those willing to commit crimes,” he added. “According to this “healthy immigrant thesis,” motivated and ambitious foreigners are more likely to immigrate and those folks are less likely to be criminals.”

None of this touches on the economic benefits of immigration or the dishonorable intentions of anti-immigration groups that drive the fear mongering. Those are topics, perhaps, for another day. But the fears about crime committed by immigrants are completely and utterly unfounded.

The Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Decision was Completely Avoidable

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

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On Friday, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to license marriages between two people of the same sex.

wedding couplesMost expected at least a narrow ruling in favor of same-sex couples that would require states with prohibit same-sex marriage to recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states. If a same-sex couple had gotten married in Massachusetts, for example, Georgia, which had one of the strongest bans on same-sex marriage by even refusing to recognize civil unions, would have been required to recognize the license, though still allowed to deny in-state licenses for same-sex marriages.

The logic behind this is because during oral arguments back in April, Justice Anthony Kennedy expressed concerns about extending marriage rights to same-sex couples because the definition of marriage – between one man and one woman – “has been with us for millennia.”

Still, Kennedy, who authored the majority opinions in Windsor (2013) and Lawrence (2003), has been seen as one of the Court’s biggest proponents of “gay rights.” So his opinion isn’t exactly a surprise, per se, though his dissent in Hollingsworth (2013) was a defense of voter-driven ballot initiatives, specifically California’s same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8. The majority on the Court held that the plaintiffs didn’t have standing to defend the initiative in the absence of the State of California, which refused to do so.

“In the end, what the Court fails to grasp or accept is the basic premise of the initiative process. And it is this. The essence of democracy is that the right to make law rests in the people and flows to the government, not the other way around,” Kennedy wrote in his dissent, which was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor. “Freedom resides first in the people without need of a grant from government.”

Nevertheless, Kennedy, whose opinion in Windsor laid the groundwork for Obergefell, made the connection that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to license same-sex marriages, despite states having voter-approved constitutional amendments or ballot measures prohibiting the practice.

“It is now clear that the challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and it must be further acknowledged that they abridge central precepts of equality. Here the marriage laws enforced by the respondents are in essence unequal: same-sex couples are denied all the benefits afforded to opposite-sex couples and are barred from exercising a fundamental right,” Kennedy wrote in Obergefell. “The imposition of this disability on gays and lesbians serves to disrespect and subordinate them. And the Equal Protection Clause, like the Due Process Clause, prohibits this unjustified infringement of the fundamental right to marry.”

Commentators, while philosophically correct, have criticized Kennedy’s opinion. Writing at The New Republic, Brian Beutler, a leftist journalist, called the opinion “a logical disaster.” Similarly, Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University who contributes to the libertarian-leaning Volokh Conspiracy, called the outcome “a great result, but based on dubious reasoning.”

“Ultimately, Kennedy does not clearly conclude that either the Due Process Clause or the Equal Protection Clause by itself creates a right to same-sex marriage,” Somin explained. “Rather, his claim is that the combination of the two somehow generates that result, even if neither can do so alone.”

“If a sufficiently important right (Due Process Clause) is denied for discriminatory reasons (Equal Protection), then the Fourteenth Amendment has been violated. However, both the criteria for what makes the right important enough, and the criteria for proving discrimination seem extremely vague. Thus, it is difficult to tell what – if, indeed, any – implications this ruling will have for future cases,” he added.

Somin, by the way, co-authored a brief to the Supreme Court urging justices to strike down state same-sex marriage bans.

The reaction to the ruling, as some might expect, has been predictable. Opponents of same-sex marriage (now accurately called “marriage,” without the qualifier) are calling for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as one man and one woman. Others, including many conservatives and libertarians, have wondered aloud about any government involvement in marriage.

“For thousands of years, marriage flourished without a universal definition and without government intervention. Then came licensing of marriage,” wrote Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.) in a Facebook post on Friday. “In recent decades, we’ve seen state legislatures and ballot initiatives define marriage, putting government improperly at the helm of this sacred institution.”

“Those who care about liberty should not be satisfied with the current situation. Government intervention in marriage presents new threats to religious freedom and provides no advantages, for gay or straight couples, over unlicensed (i.e., traditional) marriage,” he continued, adding “we shouldn’t blame the Supreme Court for where things stand.”

Amash’s words are sobering, and perhaps he’s correct. Maybe government shouldn’t be involved in the marriage business. If only Republicans had realized that in 2004 rather than further meddling in people’s personal lives for political gain.

New House Bill Will Protect Your Freedom to Vape

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

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to expand its vast regulatory reach to e-cigarettes and vape products, but new language in an agriculture bill currently in the U.S. House of Representatives could throw a wrench into the machine.

vapeThe FDA plans to use a “deeming rule” to move forward on regulations that would treat e-cigarettes and vape products like tobacco. Though these products can contain nicotine, which is entirely up to the user, they don’t have tobacco. In fact, there is, according to the American Vaping Association, “no fire, no ash, [and] no smoke.”

Many people who use e-cigarettes or vape products do so to quit smoking, using high-nicotine e-juices and gradually lowering the dosage until they’ve kicked the habit. The FDA and public health advocacy groups claim that e-cigarette and vape products are dangerous and target minors through different flavors available on the market. Despite the concerns, studies have shown these products don’t emit significant amounts of toxins, especially when compared to real cigarettes.

“Does this mean e-cigarette vapor is about as safe as air? Not quite, since we don’t know the long-term respiratory effects of inhaling the glycerin or propylene glycol that delivers nicotine into vapers’ lungs,” Jacob Sullum wrote at Reason. “But whatever those effects are, it is safe to say they will not compare to the effects of smoking.”

Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., has introduced language to the agriculture appropriations bill currently working its way through committee that would reduce the impact of the awaited FDA regulations. The bill would prevent the FDA from reviewing products already available on the market, which, opponents say, could virtually put the industry out of business.

“Without action by Congress, the FDA’s proposed regulations threaten to ban 99 percent-plus of vape products currently available on the market,” said Gregory Conley, President of the American Vaping Association, of the bill’s introduction in the House. “This would be a disaster not only for thousands of small businesses, but also public health.”

“This proposal does not remove the FDA’s ability to regulate vape products. The FDA will retain the authority to immediately move forward with science-based product standards, disclosure requirements, and many other measures. Anyone who claims that this bill would somehow render the FDA toothless is either not familiar with the law or not being forthright,” he added.

While a ban on the sale of e-cigarette and vape products to minors may be appropriate – though most sellers already refuse to sell to anyone under the age of 18 – promulgating regulations that would subject this industry to extensive regulation is a bridge too far.

Interestingly, “Big Tobacco” is encouraging the FDA to implement the regulations. Some traditional cigarette makers are in the e-cigarette business. Reynolds American, for example, the maker of Newport and Camel cigarettes, owns Blu e-cigs. Conley believes Reynolds and other cigarette makers, which are already subject to the regulation and can easily absorb the cost, are trying to snuff out refillable vapor producers, which are typically small businesses.

The FDA regulations are due to be announced in the coming weeks, if not sooner. In the meantime, puff ‘em while you have ‘em, because your freedom to vape may not be around much longer.

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.

The Debate Over NSA Spying is Finished. Or is it?

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

On Tuesday, the United States Senate gave final passage to the USA Freedom Act, but not without drama on the floor of the upper chamber. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., offered three amendments that, if passed, would have weakened the bill.

With the support of hawks in the Senate Republican Conference, McConnell proposed amendments that would have increased the transition period from three to six months, removed essential transparency requirements, and required private companies to notify the federal government if they changed their data retention policies. Each of the amendments failed, falling short of the majority needed for passage.

After the USA Freedom Act passed with significant bipartisan support, a visibly irritated McConnell railed against the bill from the floor, lecturing his colleagues that the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” doesn’t cover phone records.

uncle-sam-watching-you-feature

“No content. No names. No listening to the phone calls of law-abiding citizens. We are talking about call data records,” said McConnell. “And these are the provider’s records, which is not what the Fourth Amendment speaks to. It speaks to: ‘The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects.’”

Part of the legal justification for bulk collection of Americans’ phone records is grounded in a little-known 1979 case, Smith v. Maryland, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the installation of the pen register on the phone of Michael Lee Smith without a warrant was not a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. But as Jim Harper of the Cato Institute has explained, this interpretation of the case is wildly misleading.

“It is not possible to argue honestly that the facts of Smith are anything like the NSA’s bulk data collection. The police had weighty evidence implicating one man. The telephone company voluntarily applied a pen register, collecting analog information about the use of one phone line by that one suspect,” Harper wrote in August 2013. “I can’t think of a factual situation that could be at a further extreme than NSA’s telephone calling surveillance program.”

Add to Harper’s point that Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act allowed only the collection of records related to specific investigation into terrorism. It didn’t permit the bulk collection of all phone records of every American, a fact that was noted recently by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Although several organizations and tech companies backed the USA Freedom Act, the bill wasn’t without opposition because it didn’t go far enough to protect Americans’ privacy. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., made his opposition clear because he wanted the ability to offer amendments to strengthen the bill.

Others, like Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., believe the USA Freedom Act merely shifts the method of bulk collection from the National Security Agency to private phone companies. The USA Freedom Act, Amash said after it passed the House of Representatives in mid-May, “actually expands the statutory basis for the large-scale collection of most data.”

But with debate on the USA Freedom Act now over, at least for now, President Barack Obama’s signature on the bill, some may be asking what’s next. The Guardian reported on Wednesday that the administration is seeking to restart the bulk collection program “temporarily” to transition “the domestic surveillance effort to the telephone companies that generate the so-called ‘call detail records’ the government seeks to access.”

So, just to be clear, the administration will, according to The Guardian, “argue it needs to restart the program in order to end it.” Add that one to the growing list of Orwellian statements from this administration, and put it right under “if you like your health plan, you can keep it” and “never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Free the Hops: Sin Taxes Drive Up the Cost of Beer

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

Your favorite frothy adult beverage would be a little cheaper if sin taxes were not part of the equation, according to a new report from the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan policy research center.

Each state taxes beer by the gallon, with the costs ranging from just 2 cents in Wyoming to $1.29 in Tennessee.

“State and local governments use a variety of formulas to tax beer,” Scott Drenkard writes at the Tax Foundation. “The rates can include fixed per-volume taxes; wholesale taxes that are often a percentage of a product’s wholesale price; distributor taxes (sometimes structured as license fees as a percentage of revenues); case or bottle fees (which can vary based on size of container); and additional sales taxes (note that this measure does not include general sales tax, only those in excess of the general rate).”

There is a trend to be found in the rates, as well. States in the Southeast tend to have the highest beer taxes. Seven of the top 10 states with the highest beer taxes are located in the area of the country known as the “Bible belt.” Northeastern states tend to have lower beer taxes.

Beer Tax

Beer Tax

The Beer Institute estimates that consumers pay $5.6 billion in federal and state excise taxes annually. “Surprisingly, taxes are the single most expensive ingredient in beer,” the beer centric think tank notes, “costing more than the labor and raw materials combined.”

Although the Tax Foundation report does not touch on the cost of federal and state regulation of beer, which adds to the cost of production, particular of micro-breweries and small craft beer producers.

In a June 2014 editorial at US News, Matthew Mitchell and Christopher Koopman, both research fellows at the Mercatus Center, explained that the excessive regulations, which are just another form of taxation, create burdensome barrier to entry for small brewers looking to take their product to market.

“Once in business, brewers face more hurdles. Among the least efficient regulations are the ‘franchise laws’ that restrict their ability to sell beer directly to consumers, instead mandating that they sell through distributors. These rules can even dictate how brewers may contract with distributors,” wrote Mitchell and Koopman. “For example, some grant distributors exclusive territories, and others limit the ability of a brewer to choose to work with someone else. A recent survey found that in most cases, these rules make consumers worse off.”

Beer taxes may be an easy target for lawmakers looking to raise revenue for big government programs and regulation may be a convenient way to protect big beer brewers, but these policies are keeping Americans from the frothy goodness that is their favorite brew. Raise a glass and tell your lawmakers to “free the hops!”

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.

Government Recording Your Driving Habits, Tracking Your Phone Calls, and Looking Through the Walls of Your House

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

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

The federal government is gathering information about your driving habits — when, where and why you drive. Government Recording Your Driving Habits, Tracking Your Phone Calls, and Looking Through the Walls of Your House

That’s the latest in a seemingly endless flood of revelations about secret, sinister, invasive government spy programs conducted against innocent American citizens, often without court approval, suspicion, or oversight.

Reports the Wall Street Journal, in an article by Devlin Barrett entitled “Justice Department Spying on ‘Millions of Drivers’”:

“The Justice Department has been building a national database to track in real time the movement of vehicles around the U.S., a secret domestic intelligence-gathering program that scans and stores hundreds of millions of records about motorists, according to current and former officials and government documents.

“The primary goal of the license-plate tracking program, run by the Drug Enforcement Administration, is to seize cars, cash and other assets to combat drug trafficking, according to one government document. But the database’s use has expanded to hunt for vehicles associated with numerous other potential crimes, from kidnappings to killings to rape suspects, say people familiar with the matter. …

“What hasn’t been previously disclosed is that the DEA has spent years working to expand the database ‘throughout the United States,’ according to one email reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. …

“The database raises new questions about privacy and the scope of government surveillance. … It is unclear if any court oversees or approves the intelligence-gathering.

“The DEA program collects data about vehicle movements, including time, direction and location, from high-tech cameras placed strategically on major highways. Many devices also record visual images of drivers and passengers, which are sometimes clear enough for investigators to confirm identities, according to DEA documents and people familiar with the program.

“The documents show that the DEA also uses license-plate readers operated by state, local and federal law-enforcement agencies to feed into its own network and create a far-reaching, constantly updating database of electronic eyes scanning traffic on the roads to steer police toward suspects. …

The DEA database, named EPIC, “allows any police agency that participates to quickly search records of many states for information about a vehicle. One May 2010 redacted email says: ‘Anyone can request information from our [license-plate reader] program, federal, state, or local, just need to be a vetted EPIC user.…’”

The Wall Street Journal notes that is just the latest in a stream of such revelations.

In November 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. Marshals Service planes carried devices that mimicked cellphone towers, enabling them to scan the identifying information of Americans’ phones.

Earlier this month the DEA revealed that for nearly 15 years it had created and operated a secret law enforcement database that collected virtually all data relating to Americans’ outbound overseas telephone calls, without judicial oversight, which was sifted to search for possible drug law violators. Astoundingly, according to Reuters, federal agents were trained to conceal the role of the database when presenting cases to defense lawyers, prosecutors, and judges.

And on January 15, USA TODAY wrote: “At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance. Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used.”

Renowned libertarian Judge Andrew P. Napolitano says of this crisis:

“None of these flagrant violations of privacy, dignity and basic American constitutional values was enacted by a majority vote of any representative body of lawmakers — and yet none has been stopped by those lawmakers. That’s because we have a deep state system in American government, whereby certain law enforcement, military, intelligence and diplomatic personnel can do as they wish, no matter which party controls the legislative and executive branches and in hair-splitting defiance of the courts. … Who will keep us safe from the government? Who will keep our personal liberties safe? What representative government splits hairs in order to defy the Constitution, rather than complying with its oath to protect it?”

Robbery With a Badge: Shocking New Report

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

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

Asset forfeiture is a dull name for a shocking little-known legal device Civil Asset Forfeiturethat allows law enforcement officials to take your cash and property — without a warrant or criminal charges of any kind — and keep most of the proceeds.

That’s right: they can do this even if you have not committed a crime. Even if you’ve never been charged with one.

The only way you can get back your money or property is to go through an exhaustive legal process to prove that your property was legally acquired. Yes, in essence, you must prove to the government that you are not guilty. And the process is so difficult, time-consuming and expensive that most don’t attempt it.

Even if you think you know about this vile practice, a new report by the Washington Post entitled “Stop and seize: Aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes” has uncovered new information that will shock you.

Among the Post’s findings:

* Asset forfeiture has risen dramatically in the past decade. Thousands of Americans have had billions of dollars stolen by police — again, without being charged or convicted of a crime.

* The federal government has given millions of dollars to non-government organizations to train police officers in aggressive use of asset forfeiture. An estimated 50,000-plus police officers have had such training in the last decade.

* Says the Post: “Behind the rise in seizures is a little-known cottage industry of private police-training firms that teach the techniques of ‘highway interdiction’ to departments across the country.

“One of those firms created a private intelligence network known as Black Asphalt Electronic Networking & Notification System that enabled police nationwide to share detailed reports about American motorists — criminals and the innocent alike — including their Social Security numbers, addresses and identifying tattoos, as well as hunches about which drivers to stop. …

“A thriving subculture of road officers on the network now competes to see who can seize the most cash and contraband, describing their exploits in the network’s chat rooms and sharing ‘trophy shots’ of money and drugs…”

* “Some police advocate highway interdiction as a way of raising revenue for cash-strapped municipalities. ‘All of our home towns are sitting on a tax-liberating gold mine,’ Deputy Ron Hain of Kane County, Ill., wrote in a self-published book under a pseudonym. Hain is a marketing specialist for Desert Snow, a leading interdiction training firm based in Guthrie, Okla., whose founders also created Black Asphalt. Hain’s book calls for ‘turning our police forces into present-day Robin Hoods.’”

There’s much more in the Washington Post’s multi-part series, now online.

Try This Brilliant Argument Against the War on Drugs

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

One of the most powerful arguments I’ve ever heard against the very concept of Our Right to Drugsthe War on Drugs was made by Thomas Szasz, the great libertarian psychiatrist.

In the introduction to his wonderful book Our Right to Drugs, Szasz wrote:

“Casting a ballot is an important act, emblematic of our role as citizens. But eating and drinking are much more important acts. If given a choice between the freedom to choose what to ingest and what politician to vote for, few if any would pick the latter. Indeed, why would anyone be so foolish as to sell his natural birthright to consume what he chooses in return for the mess of pottage of being allowed to register his preference for a political candidate?”

and:

“The right to chew or smoke a plant that grows wild in nature, such as hemp (marijuana), is anterior to and more basic than the right to vote.”

This contrast — between the right to vote and the right to choose what substances we ingest — is brilliant, powerful and mind-opening.

Americans treasure our right to vote as a symbol of our liberty and self-governance. Epic struggles have been fought to extend the vote to women and disenfranchised minorities. Fights still wage today over voting issues. In troubled countries around the world people are willing to risk their lives to vote. The right to vote is widely considered sacred.

Yet the right to choose what we put into our own bodies is obviously a more fundamental freedom, a freedom rooted in our very nature as self-controlling adult human beings. In comparison to this freedom, voting is abstract and distant. Voting gives us only one small voice among many. The right to decide what we ingest is far more personal and basic. Indeed, without the ability to exercise that right, the very idea of self-governance is meaningless.

When you think about it, what could be a more fundamental freedom than the right to decide what plants we can consume? How can we consider ourselves free at all if we can’t make this most basic of choices?

Shouldn’t we, then, argue strongly for this right — at least as strongly as we argue for the right to vote?

Thomas Szasz’s powerful analogy can open minds on this difficult subject.

Libertarian Candidates Pledge: Abolish the Income Tax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Click here to read the next article from this issue.

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Rand Paul, Others: Demilitarize the Police

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“We Must Demilitarize the Police” is the title of a bold article by Sen. Cartoon Militarized Police OfficerRand Paul at TIME.com.

Written as the troubles in riot-torn Ferguson, Missouri were escalating, Paul says:

“The outrage in Ferguson is understandable — though there is never an excuse for rioting or looting. There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.

“The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action. …

“There is a systemic problem with today’s law enforcement. Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies — where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.

“This is usually done in the name of fighting the War on Drugs or terrorism. …

“When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury — national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture — we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.

“Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.”

Paul quoted others who share these concerns:

Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit): “Soldiers and police are supposed to be different. … But nowadays, police are looking, and acting, more like soldiers than cops, with bad consequences. And those who suffer the consequences are usually innocent civilians.”

Walter Olson (Cato Institute): “Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb? Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors? Why are the authorities in Ferguson, Mo. so given to quasi-martial crowd control methods (such as bans on walking on the street) and, per the reporting of Riverfront Times, the firing of tear gas at people in their own yards? … Why would someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment that ‘We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone’?”

Evan Bernick (Heritage Foundation): “The Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armored vehicles, guns, armor, aircraft, and other equipment. … federal agencies of all stripes, as well as local police departments in towns with populations less than 14,000, come equipped with SWAT teams and heavy artillery. …

“Bossier Parish, Louisiana, has a .50 caliber gun mounted on an armored vehicle. The Pentagon gives away millions of pieces of military equipment to police departments across the country — tanks included.”

Concludes Sen. Paul: “The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm. … Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security. This has been a cause I have championed for years, and one that is at a near-crisis point in our country.”

For more libertarian critiques on Ferguson, see “Where Are the Libertarians on Ferguson? Here, LMGTFY,” by Elizabeth Nolan Brown, The Dish, Aug. 14, 2014.

Radley Balko, a libertarian journalist who writes for the Washington Post, has a great recent book on the dangers of U.S. police militarization, Rise of the Warrior Cop. You can read a lengthy excerpt from it here.

Is Spanking Your Child a Form of Aggression?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: It seems to me that spanking your child is a form of aggression. Would libertarians agree?

SpankingMY SHORT ANSWER: Many do, but some do not. I personally see spanking as an utter last resort, only suitable for situations where the child might otherwise be greatly harmed or do great harm to another. For example, with a child who keeps running out in traffic, despite taking away TV privileges or using other deterrents, physical censure might save his or her life. Most of the time, though, a parent has better options; for example, keeping a child inside until he or she recognizes the dangers of traffic.

When we spank or beat a child, we are teaching that might makes right. We are also teaching that hurting someone smaller and weaker can be a “loving” gesture. Surely, as parents, we should be able to come up with a better teaching tool almost all of the time. Some psychologists — rightly, I believe — fear that any kind of physical punishment can create grave problems later (see for example, http://alice-miller.com/video.php). Punishing a child with verbal abuse creates problems too.

Libertarians believe in making victims whole, not punishing the aggressor. If children hit a sibling, a better method of correction might be having the offender do something special for the one who was struck. Responsibility and discipline are important lessons for children to have, but it’s best to teach them as gently as possible. A correction with an overlay of aggression, belittling, or hostility, will eventually come back to haunt, not only the child, but those with whom he or she interacts.

SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING ON THIS TOPIC by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

* “Does Spanking Violate the Non-Aggression Principle?“ by Stefan Molyneux. Molyneux goes into lengthy analysis of this question in a thoughtful and provocative article worth reading no matter what your position.

EXCERPT: “It is only within the last few decades that serious moral and scientific objections to spanking have spread within society, and patience and persistence is the key to convincing others of this essential and actionable moral reality.

“That having been said, however, now that you have read this essay, you need to refute these arguments and disprove the science, or stop spanking. If you lacked knowledge and clarity before, you deserve sympathy. If you cannot refute these arguments, and continue to spank, you have no excuse anymore.”

* “The Natural Rights of Children“ by Walter E. Block, Ed Smith, and Jordan Reel.

Libertarian theorist Block and his co-authors explore this topic: “What does libertarian theory, Murray Rothbard’s theory in particular, tell us about the rights of children? The two foundational principles of Rothbardian libertarianism are the sanctity of private property and the rule of non-aggression. Persons, including children, are ‘self-owners’. Yet children, at a young age, are not yet capable of functioning fully as ‘self-owners.’” Spanking, and a number of other issues, are examined.

EXCERPT: “But children are different than adults. They are not (yet) full rights bearing entities. If we leave an adult to his own devices, he is presumably able to run his own life, at least to his own satisfaction. But if a child is not cared for, for example, a three-year old, he must perish, since he cannot (yet) care for himself. Paternalism is not justified for adults, but it is for such youngsters.”

VIDEO: Does Spanking Violate the Non-Aggression Principle?  Walter Block Debates Stefan Molyneux.” The authors of the above two papers debate in this one-hour video. 

* * *
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.

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