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Would Blackmail be Legal in a Libertarian Society?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

blackmailQuestion: How would a libertarian society deal with blackmail? Thinking of the blackmailer as a gossip offering the service of his silence for a fee, I cannot find any reason why it should be illegal in a libertarian society. Both parties receive something of value and the agreement is consensual.

My short answer: The criteria for illegality in a libertarian society would be: “Does it threaten first-strike force, fraud, or theft?” For example, if I pay blackmail to someone who would otherwise beat me, they are using the threat of first-strike force to take my money, very much like a thief does. This would clearly be against libertarian law.

If I pay blackmail to someone so that they won’t tell a true but embarrassing tale about me, I am not being threatened with first-strike force, fraud, or theft. Quite possibly, such “blackmail” might (depending upon the circumstances) be considered a private contract under libertarian law. If the blackmailer told his or her story anyway, I might be able to sue for contract violation!

If I pay blackmail to someone so that they won’t lie about me, the situation is not as clear. Many libertarians consider slander of a person’s reputation to be a violation of the non-aggression principle; others don’t.

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

* “Defending the Blackmailer“ by Walter Block. Walter Block has been writing about libertarianism and blackmail for decades. His collected writings on this topic are in his 2013 book Legalize Blackmail.

This provocative selection is a chapter from his classic 1976 book Defending the Undefendable, which you can download as a free ebook from the Mises Institute.

Excerpt: “What exactly is blackmail? Blackmail is the offer of trade. It is the offer to trade something, usually silence, for some other good, usually money. If the offer of the trade is accepted, the blackmailer then maintains his silence and the blackmailed pays the agreed-upon price.

“If the blackmail offer is rejected, the blackmailer may exercise his rights of free speech and publicize the secret. There is nothing amiss here. All that is happening is that an offer to maintain silence is being made. If the offer is rejected, the blackmailer does no more than exercise his right of free speech.”

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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.

Libertarianism and Racial Discrimination

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: Do libertarians support laws prohibiting racial discrimination by businesses?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, businesses could refuse service to individuals for any reason. However, they would be punished for racial discrimination by losing the profit they otherwise would have made. This feedback is so powerful that even in the post-Civil War South, segregation could only be maintained when governments made integration (serving blacks and whites in the same establishment) a crime.

If integration could only be stopped by outlawing it in the post-Civil War South, surely today it would take place readily without government mandates. If some individuals, black or white, wished to maintain some separateness, why should we force them together?

In a libertarian society, laws enforcing segregation could never have been passed in the first place. Slavery would never have been legal. In short, if the U.S. had been a totally libertarian society, Africans would never have been enslaved and given second-class status. Government creates conditions that foster racial prejudice, then creates backlash and further prejudice by forcing people together.

Want to learn more? I recommend black economist Walter Williams’ concise and hard-hitting book The State Against Blacks, which offers easy-to-read documentation on the real root of discrimination — government!

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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.

What 10 Federal Laws, Agencies or Rulings Would You Abolish?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: If you could repeal 10 federal laws, reverse 10 Supreme Court rulings or dismantle 10 federal agencies, which laws, rulings or agencies would you do away with? I guess what I’m looking for is the libertarian “hit list.”

TargetMY SHORT ANSWER: Each libertarian might answer this differently, so I can only give you my personal favorites. If I could magically change our government ten ways, I would end all taxation (1), confiscation (2), and eminent domain (3), effectively cutting off the government’s revenue. The borrowing powers of the government would be rescinded to prevent it from deficit spending in retaliation (4). Any outstanding obligations would be retired (5), as much as possible, from sales of government property (including about 42% of our country’s land mass).

Without the means to compel payment for government services, all government agencies would have to operate like any business by voluntary exchange with its customers. Agencies that failed to provide satisfactory service would have to shut their doors. Since some people would undoubtedly be willing to support a government that regulated in their favor, any initiation of force, by government or individuals, would be outlawed (6).

Sovereign immunity would be eliminated (7), making government officials subject to direct prosecution by their victims. For example, bureaucrats in the FDA, if they managed to survive the above reforms, could be held liable for deaths that they caused by denying the American consumer access to drugs of their choice or information about them.

Gold and silver would likely become legal tender, by simply ending the Federal Reserve’s monopoly on currency issue (8). I’d make a declaration of war by Congress necessary for sending troops overseas (9), taking away the president’s power to wage war by naming it something else.

Finally, I’d save my last “wish”‘ for something critical that I may have missed!

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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.

Is Spanking Your Child a Form of Aggression?

in Children's Rights, Liberator Online Archives, 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. 

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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.

National Service: Should Young Americans Be Forced To Serve the Government?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)
National Service

QUESTION: I believe we shouldn’t be forced to participate in some kind of national service. However, some of my friends say we owe some duty to our country for being born here and living here. What about a citizen’s duty to country?

MY SHORT ANSWER: If “doing our duty” is equated to providing “service,” who decides what is service and what is not? If young Steve Jobs had been forced into some type of national service instead of being left alone to tinker in his garage, he might never have invented the personal computer. The resulting increases in everyone’s standard of living would have been lost or delayed because of a bureaucrat’s uninformed decision about what was good for the country.

Freedom is what is good for a nation, especially one that wants to help its poor. More freedom means more wealth creation and less poverty. Government interference, even well-intended, backfires. (For some examples and more detail, see my book, “Healing Our World.” The 1992 edition is available as a free download at www.ruwart.com. The updated 2003 edition is available at the Advocates online bookstore.)

Most people give generously of their time and money if this is the voluntary custom. For example, tipping is not mandatory, but almost everyone does it. Before government got involved in social welfare, almost everyone helped a less fortunate neighbor individually or as part of a formal organization because that was the custom. You were either a charity case or a provider of charity; few people wanted to be in the former group.

To return to this way of charitable thinking, the government should stop forcing people to “give at the office” through taxation and resist the temptation to force people into service. Doing so will only create resentment towards those in need, leaving little sympathy for the poor when their “help” disappears in the shifting political tides.

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

* “Shhh… Don’t call Obama’s national service scheme a ‘draft‘” by Jerome Tuccille. National service is seemingly off the front burner, but don’t let down your guard; the idea continues to circulate. This article, written in 2008 when the idea was being more strongly pushed by both Democrats and Republicans, points out the insidious nature of the concept.

EXCERPT: “Under Barack Obama’s plan, a refusal to participate in a national service program touted at the federal level will be punished by the withholding of high school diplomas by the school district in your town. And without that diploma, few colleges or employers will even bother to look at your application.

“It’s a softer sort of authoritarianism which requires no draft boards, muddles the identity of the ‘bad guy’ and produces no martyrs in handcuffs for the evening news. You just can’t get a job if you don’t do as you’re told.”

* “National Service? Puh-lease“ by Michael Kinsley, TIME, Sept. 04, 2007. Liberal journalist Kinsley does a great job of gutting the whole “national service” notion. Ignore the couple of paragraphs in the middle about democracy and taxation; the rest is brilliant and marvelously written.

EXCERPT: “Problem number one with grand schemes for universal voluntary public service is that they can’t be both universal and voluntary. If everybody has to do it, then it’s not voluntary, is it? And if it’s truly up to the individual, then it won’t be universal. What advocates of this sort of thing generally have in mind is using the pressures of social conformity and the powers of the state indirectly to remove as much freedom of choice as possible, while still being able to claim that everyone who signs up is a ‘volunteer.’”

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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.

Ayn Rand and American Indians

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: How do libertarians feel about this Ayn Rand statement: “[The Native Americans] didn’t have any rights to the land and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using… [W]hat was it that they were fighting for, if they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence. Their right to keep part of the earth untouched, unused, and not even as property, but just keep everybody out, so that you can live practically like an animal, or maybe a few caves above it…. Any white person who could bring the element of civilization had the right to take over this country.”

MY SHORT ANSWER: I’ve never seen this comment before; thanks for sharing! Most libertarians — myself included — would disagree with it.

Native Americans did conceive of, and recognize, property rights for scarce resources, such as Naturefishing rights in rivers, which were generally held and passed down in families. Land property wasn’t usually scarce; property rights usually aren’t well-defined when a resource is abundant, since there is no competition for it. Consequently, Native Americans often did not establish land boundaries, homestead particular parcels, or recognize land claims. Some exceptions included an individual or family’s farmed fields and tribal hunting grounds.

Although by European standards, the Native American existence might be considered primitive, the land wasn’t untouched or unused. Native Americans used the land primarily to hunt, to fish, and to farm, but used sustainable practices to insure future sources of food. Natives living in our rainforests today are in a similar position as Native Americans were; libertarians often donate to a legal fund so that they can litigate for recognition of their homesteading claims.

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

* “The most ignorant thing Ayn Rand ever said?“ by Timothy Sandefur. Sandefur , a Pacific Legal Foundation attorney, Cato Institute adjunct scholar, author of several books, and Objectivist, thoughtfully examines the quote, Rand’s fallacies on this issue, and the context of her remarks.

SequoyahEXCERPT: “I consider myself an Objectivist; I think Ayn Rand’s philosophical and political arguments are basically correct, and I enjoy her literature tremendously. But I think it’s important for Objectivists to acknowledge when Rand was wrong about something, and there can be no doubt she was wrong [in this quote]… The Cherokee had property rights, as well as a written constitution, newspapers, a formal government, schools, and a capital city. Other tribes had similar institutions… I think it’s safe to say that Ayn Rand knew virtually nothing about the history of American Indians. In part this is no fault of hers, since historiography and cultural anthropology at that time was pretty shabby, and because that was a period when the silly leftist romanticization of Indians was first reaching a height which is only now diminishing.”

* “Dances With Myths“ by Terry L. Anderson, Reason Magazine, February 1997. Anderson is executive director of the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) and a leading free market environmentalist. In this article he gives numerous examples of how, at times, American Indians established and defended property rights.

EXCERPT: “American Indian tribes produced and sustained abundant wealth because they had clear property rights to land, fishing and hunting territories, and personal property. Pre-Columbian Indian history is replete with examples of property rights conditioning humans’ relations with the natural environment.”

Who’s to Blame for Dangerous Prescription Drugs: The FDA or Big Pharma?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: The pharmaceutical company is sometimes caught pressuring the FDA to approve drugs with dangerous prescription drugsside effects and the FDA does so. Who is the prime mover of aggression here, the FDA or the pharmaceutical cartel?

MY SHORT ANSWER: It’s the karmic circle. The American public allowed the FDA to regulate the pharmaceutical companies under the largely erroneous assumption that they were nefarious. In the beginning, the primary loss to the American public was fewer life-saving drugs, since more money had to be spent on development instead of discovering new drugs.

The regulations reshaped the industry in a way that encouraged graft, as the regulations got more onerous. The industry “fought back” with the Prescription Drug User Fee Act which lets companies pay about $1 million for a faster review. This co-opted the regulators, since about half of their budget now comes from such fees.

In addition to losing many life-saving drugs, the drugs that we get now are less safe. The biggest safety problem with drugs on the market today is that they are meant for long-term use, which amplifies side effects. That’s because only drugs for long-term use can recover the high cost of development that regulations have produced. Even with the high prices of drugs, only 3/10 recover their costs.

This is a lose-lose situation for the American public, the industry itself (which has become close to unsustainable), and even the regulators, who will one day die or watch their loved ones die from diseases that might have been cured without regulations.

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

* “Abolishing the FDA: FDA Policies Keep People Sick and Create a False Sense of Security“ by Larry Van Heerden The Freeman, March 1, 2007.

Excerpt: “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started out as a bulwark against snake-oil peddling. It has since swung back and forth between hostility and subservience to the drug industry. The FDA seems indifferent to the many deaths its own intransigence has caused and imperious when forced to defend its actions in court, resulting in a system that withholds life-saving drugs from the market, approves dangerous drugs, and denies everyone freedom of choice. The time has come to seriously consider abolishing the FDA.”

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.

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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.

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!

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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.”

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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.

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.

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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.

Would Religious References Be Removed from Money, Courts and Schools in a Libertarian Society?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: I want to see the removal of all references to a god from money, courts, and schools, as I believe these are a violation of the separation of church and state. What is the libertarian stance on this?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, all schools would be private. You could send your children to a school that catered to your tastes (i.e., no references to a deity or religion) and religious people could send their children to a school devoted to Him (or Her as the case might be).

Competition in currency, which would be most likely in a libertarian society, would probably result in some private currencies without a religious reference and others with one.

Some libertarians believe that courts should compete as well; others want a monopolistic system like we have today. Since a libertarian society’s code would be ‘honoring our neighbor’s choice,’ it’s likely that courts would offer both Bible-based oaths and secular ones.

It’s a matter of choice. You choose what you want; others choose what they want. The market gives multiple choice; the government usually gives a one-size-fits-all monopoly.

If someone wants to use government to outlaw religious references, he can only do so by giving the government power to impose religious references. Rather than advocating such a win-lose situation, libertarians promote the win-win options that occur when we honor our neighbor’s choice, rather than imposing our own.

(For a more detailed explanation of what the phrase “honoring our neighbor’s choice” entails, see my book, Healing Our World, available from the Advocates. The earlier 1992 edition can be read online free at my website.)

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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.

Will Libertarianism Only Work if People are Rational and Reasonable?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: I’m not sure libertarianism can work unless people are rational and reasonable. And I’ve encountered at least as many irrational, unreasonable folks in my life as I have rational and reasonable ones. I’d like to know: how does libertarian philosophy address that issue?

MY SHORT ANSWER: The ideal political system is one which teaches people to be rational and reasonable. Only libertarianism does this by rewarding responsibility and penalizing irresponsibility.

Conversely, our current system usually does just the opposite.

You’d probably have run into fewer irrational, unreasonable folks if the 20th century had been more libertarian!

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

Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences-winning libertarian economist Gary Becker addresses this question briefly in his essay “Libertarian Paternalism: A Critique.

The relevant excerpts:

“Libertarians believe that individuals should be allowed to pursue their own interests, unless their behavior impacts the interests of others, especially if it negatively impacts others. So individuals should be allowed, according to this view, to buy the food they want, whereas drunk drivers should be constrained because they harm others, and chemical producers should be prevented from polluting as much as they would choose because their pollution hurts children and adults. …

“Classical arguments for libertarianism do not assume that adults never make mistakes, always know their interests, or even are able always to act on their interests when they know them. Rather, it assumes that adults very typically know their own interests better than government officials, professors, or anyone else…

“In addition, the classical libertarian case partly rests on a presumption that being able to make mistakes through having the right to make one’s own choices leads in the long run to more self-reliant, competent, and independent individuals. It has been observed, for example, that prisoners often lose the ability to make choices for themselves after spending many years in prison where life is rigidly regulated.

“In effect, the libertarian claim is that the ‘process’ of making choices leads to individuals who are more capable of making good choices.”

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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.

The FDA Vs. the Health and Safety of Americans

in Communicating Liberty, Healthcare, Liberator Online Archives by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

QUESTION: Which problem is the greatest: the FDA’s approving unsafe drugs, or the FDA’s delaying the approval of life-saving ones?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In 1992, Congress passed the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), allowing drug companies to voluntarily pay about $100,000 to get a speedier review. The money went to hire new reviewers.

The fee has grown steadily; it’s now over one million dollars per drug. The part of the FDA that reviews drug applications now receives about 50% of its funding from drug companies. FDA employees (e.g., Dr. David Graham, the whistleblower on Vioxx) have reported being told by supervisors that the drug companies — not the American public — are the FDA’s clients. This should be expected, as he who pays the bills makes the rules.

Does this mean that the FDA now approves unsafe drugs? It depends on how you look at it. Withdrawal rates (the percent of approved drugs removed from the market) from 1962-1992 and 1993-2013 are virtually identical at about 3%. As time goes on, however, more drugs approved during 1993-2013 are likely to be withdrawn. The differences may be small, though, as most withdrawals occur quickly. On the other hand, Vioxx, approved post-PDUFA, was by far the biggest drug disaster in history.

Does the FDA still delay approval of life-saving drugs? Yes! It does so by demanding that companies perform studies taking an average of 13-plus years. Prior to 1962, the average time was about 4 years. I suspect that these delays are still more costly, in terms of lives lost, than approvals of unsafe drugs.

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Buy It Now!Got questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

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

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

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

Libertarianism and Forced Testimony in Courts

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: In a libertarian society, when marriage becomes a private institution, what will happen to the right of a person not to be forced to testify against their spouse in a court of law?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, no peaceful person could be forced to do anything, including testify against another. Today’s government simply threatens people with prison and fines unless they give information, often at great cost to themselves (e.g., missing work).

Does this mean if you were charged with murder that the witness who could save you wouldn’t testify? Probably not. Witnesses could be reimbursed for lost work and other expenses for testifying, so their cost would be minimal. Withholding crucial information would likely be considered socially unacceptable. Few people would want to be embarrassed by a public announcement that they had done so — and caused an innocent person to suffer.

Even today, it’s almost impossible to force someone to testify truthfully. Witnesses lie to protect themselves and others, even under oath. That’s probably the real reason that spouses can’t be forced to testify today: they are the ones most likely to twist the truth for the benefit of their loved ones.

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

Free or Compulsory Speech“ by Murray N. Rothbard. The great libertarian thinker Murray Rothbard explores this issue with his characteristic vigor and consistency in this article, which first appeared in Libertarian Review in November 1978.

Excerpt: “The most flagrant example of continuing compulsory speech takes place in every courtroom in our land: the compulsory bearing of witness. Now surely each person is the absolute owner of his or her own body; as the owner of his own body, only the individual should decide on whether or not to speak in any given situation, and there should be no compulsion upon him to talk or not to talk. And yet in every court, witnesses are dragged in by force (the subpoena power) and compelled to bear witness for or against other people.”

Should Libertarians Work Within the Libertarian Party?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: I’m very disappointed in the Libertarian Party (LP). It doesn’t elect many libertarians. Shouldn’t we just try to take over the GOP and work within that party instead?

MY SHORT ANSWER: Some individuals feel called to do that, but it’s tough. After Congressman Ron Paul qualified to be nominated for president in 2012, the GOP changed the rules at the last minute to exclude him.

The LP has had great success at rolling back Big Government without electing anyone. When the city of Kalamazoo tried to take some land by eminent domain shortly after my run for city commission, an elderly gentleman came up to me and put $200 cash into my hand.

“Dr. Ruwart,” he said, “the city wants to take my bicycle shop. I know your employer, Upjohn, is going to benefit, but YOU are a Libertarian, so I know you are on my side. Take this money and fight them for me!”

Clearly, I had a conflict of interest, but this gentleman trusted me because the LP candidates had made principle their campaign focal point. The local LP joined the fight — and stopped the land grab.

This is what the LP does best. It stops eminent domain, tax hikes, etc. at the local level, even without ever electing anyone.

The LP does this at the state and national level too. LP member Steve Kubby and the California LP were key players in getting the first medical marijuana bill passed. Many states now have medical marijuana laws and a couple have decriminalized it.  Big Government was rolled back without ever electing anyone.

About 80% of the visible critics of ClintonCare (myself included) were libertarians. Although Libertarians haven’t taken credit for it, they were the prime movers in stopping ClintonCare. Big Government was thwarted — for a while, at least — without ever electing anyone.

Maybe the LP should run candidates so that people know where to turn when Big Government comes knocking at their door. Rolling back Big Government is something the LP can do, whether or not it elects candidates.

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

* “7 Vital Reasons to Join the Libertarian Party Now.” In this short piece the Libertarian Party makes its case for why it is essential in the fight for liberty.

Libertarians Save Taxpayers Billions: “Libertarian Party Successes” by “Critto” is an informal forum post at the website of the Free State Project. It lists a number of major anti-tax efforts initiated by, led by, or joined by, the Libertarian Party. It argues persuasively that the Libertarian Party has helped save taxpayers literally billions of dollars. No doubt this list, which is ten years old, could be enormously expanded. Further, similar lists could be created showing how the LP has helped defeat other oppressive legislation.

(Note, this information is provided for educational purposes. The Advocates does not, and cannot, endorse parties or candidates.)

Should slander be protected as free speech?

in Liberator Online Archives by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(By Dr. Mary Ruwart from Ask Dr. Ruwart, Volume 18, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here.)

QUESTION: I have questions about a past column of yours on the topic of blackmail. You wrote: “Many libertarians consider slander of a person’s reputation to be a violation of the non-aggression principle; others don’t.”

I’m confused. It seems to me that slander should be protected as free speech in a libertarian society. There’s no aggression involved. So what’s the problem?

MY SHORT ANSWER: Not all libertarians agree on whether or not a lie constitutes aggression. A lie does not necessarily affect only one’s reputation. For example, a service provider could be put out of business by a well-publicized lie and lose all their assets before they were able to set the record straight. I have actually seen this happen to a publically-traded company, where stockholders lost their investments and the employees lost their jobs.

Does a person have the right to free speech? Of course! Must they take responsibility for the consequences of their speech? That is the real question.

For example, if a person purposely yells “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, and people are killed in the stampede, is he or she guilty of manslaughter if there was no fire? The person yelling “Fire!” has the right to free speech, certainly. Must that person pay restitution to those who are injured or the survivors of those killed?

What if the person thought they smelled smoke and truly believed that there was a fire? They were trying to help people and didn’t lie, but the result was the same. Are they responsible for the dead and injured?

This is where libertarians disagree over this issue. Some libertarians would agree with you that the only consequences that a liar should have to face is damage to his or her reputation, regardless of the consequences of that lie. Others believe that a liar is responsible for the resulting damage.

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

As Mary Ruwart notes, libertarians disagree on these issues. Below are examples of differing views.

* Ayn Rand on libel and slander: In the book Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q & A, Rand answers the question “What do you think of libel and slander laws?” in this way:

“They are appropriate laws, because the freedom of ideas does not permit you to lie about a person. Under the older interpretation of the courts, truth was your defense. If you know something defamatory about someone, and it’s true, then you have the right to say it. But today, you can practically say anything, so long as you’re supposedly not motivated by malice. There are some standards, but they are unclear and impractical.

“This type of law is strictly to protect specific individuals; it has nothing to do with ideas. It’s an issue of whether or not you lied about someone, and caused him damage.”

* Murray Rothbard on libel and slander: In his book The Ethics of Liberty Rothbard argues that libel and slander, while immoral, should not be illegal:

EXCERPT: “Smith has a property right to the ideas or opinions in his own head; he also has a property right to print anything he wants and disseminate it. He has a property right to say that Jones is a ‘thief’ even if he knows it to be false, and to print and sell that statement.

“The counter-view, and the current basis for holding libel and slander (especially of false statements) to be illegal is that every man has a ‘property right’ in his own reputation, that Smith’s falsehoods damage that reputation, and that therefore Smith’s libels are invasions of Jones’s property right in his reputation and should be illegal.

“Yet, again, on closer analysis this is a fallacious view. For everyone, as we have stated, owns his own body; he has a property right in his own head and person. But since every man owns his own mind, he cannot therefore own the minds of anyone else. And yet Jones’s ‘reputation’ is neither a physical entity nor is it something contained within or on his own person. Jones’s ‘reputation’ is purely a function of the subjective attitudes and beliefs about him contained in the minds of other people. But since these are beliefs in the minds of others, Jones can in no way legitimately own or control them. Jones can have no property right in the beliefs and minds of other people.”

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Got questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR “tough questions” on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

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

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

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

Ask Dr. Mary Ruwart: Does Australia disprove arguments against the minimum wage?

in Liberator Online Archives by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Dr. Mary Ruwart is a leading expert in libertarian communication. In this column she offers short answers to real questions about libertarianism. To submit questions to Dr. Ruwart, see end of column.

Does Australia disprove arguments against the minimum wage?

QUESTION: A recent graphic going around Facebook asserts that Australia’s employment situation disproves the notion that a high minimum wage leads to higher unemployment. The graphic says the Australian minimum wage is the equivalent of $16.43 and their unemployment rate is 5.3%. Does this refute arguments about the minimum wage?

MY SHORT ANSWER: The real question is “Without the minimum wage, would employment be higher than it is now?” Almost all of the research suggests that the answer would be a resounding “yes.”

However, another aspect of raising the minimum wage is the destruction of jobs of our most disadvantaged workers (minorities, undereducated, etc.). As minimum wage rises, flipping hamburgers (for example) becomes more attractive to college students, teens saving for college, etc. Minorities without a high school diploma become less necessary to employers; as a result, the disadvantaged often end up with no job at all because they have few other options. Their primary bargaining chip is their willingness to take a little less pay than their advantaged counterparts. Read more

Ask Dr. Mary Ruwart: How effective is government welfare compared to private charity?

in Liberator Online Archives by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Dr. Mary Ruwart is a leading expert in libertarian communication. In this column she offers short answers to real questions about libertarianism. To submit questions to Dr. Ruwart, see end of column.

QUESTION: Recently in the Liberator Online you answered a question with the following supporting argument:

“For example, about 75% of the tax dollars that are targeted to welfare programs actually go to the middle-class administrators rather than the needy. In contrast, private programs give about 75% of donated dollars to the poor. Thus, the poor get more when charitable giving is private.”

I am interested in where you got your statistics. I want to share this argument with friends, but I like to provide references. Could you do so? Read more

Ask Dr. Mary Ruwart: What’s stopping the the private sector from offering better and cheaper education than the government?

in Liberator Online Archives by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Dr. Mary Ruwart is a leading expert in libertarian communication. In this column she offers short answers to real questions about libertarianism. To submit questions to Dr. Ruwart, see end of column.

QUESTION: If the private sector can provide education better and cheaper than the government, why aren’t they doing it? Nothing is stopping private industry from providing better service than government schools to poor children. They can do this right now and it is 100% legal. So why don’t they?

MY SHORT ANSWER: Actually, providing education to poor or even middle-class children is NOT 100% legal. Parents who send their children to school are required by law to utilize schools that meet specific requirements, such as certified teachers, accreditation, and specific types of curricula.

Even home-schoolers must abide by regulations, which differ from state to state. If parents don’t follow these regulations, their children can be taken from them by Social Services, even if the children can ace every standardized test.

In spite of these hurdles, the private sector already does provides better education for many poor and disadvantaged. The typical Catholic inner-city school takes 88% of all applicants, many of whom are not even Catholic. About 20% of Catholic schools accept students expelled from public schools. Even after adjusting for race, family background, and social class, the average Catholic high school student gained three years of learning above that of the average public school student. The educational gap between minorities and whites narrows for minorities in Catholic schools. Read more