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Reservations About Gay Marriage?

in Libertarian Answers on Issues, Marriage and Family by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Marriage EqualityQUESTION: I have some reservations on the issue of gay marriage. As a logician, I rely on well-defined terms to solve problems. While I do support civil unions, marriage has always been such a term (i.e., well-defined) historically. By making the definition more inclusive, the meaning of the term “marriage” loses its cultural significance. I fear the degeneration of such cultural structures will lead to further uncertainty and greater reliance on government. Not a good thing, in my view. What do you think?

MY SHORT ANSWER: I understand your concerns. However, marriage is not as well-defined as you might think.

For example, what are you actually agreeing to when you get married? You really don’t know until you get a divorce. The laws in each state differ as to child custody and how property is divided. In some states, everything owned by either party is divided equally; in others, anything brought to the marriage by one partner can be totally reclaimed during the divorce. If you are married in one state, but divorced in another, the marriage “contract” can be quite different from your understanding on the day that you tied the knot.

In some states, you are considered married by common law if you live with your partner for 7 years even if you don’t want to be; in others, cohabitation for decades isn’t recognized. In Texas, publicly claiming another as your spouse is presumably all it takes to become husband and wife.

Custom and culture are subject to change over time. The definition of marriage is one of those cultural norms that has indeed morphed over time and is likely to continue to do so. The question isn’t will it change, but rather, who decides how it changes. Libertarians generally agree that government shouldn’t be the decision maker.

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

 

What is the Libertarian Alternative to Zoning?

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(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

libertarian alternative to zoningQUESTION: I am a homeowner in a low-income neighborhood. I work hard to keep my property up, and my yard is beautiful. I am enraged by people who leave tires and garbage cans in front of their houses, don’t cut the grass, and scatter their garbage all over the street. They do not have the right to denigrate my quality of life.

How do I reconcile my libertarianism with the fact that I call the city on these offenders and advocate stricter laws regarding how one keeps the outside appearance of his property?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, when builders created a subdivision, they might choose to put deed restrictions on the homes. Prospective owners would need to accept these as a condition of purchase. Alternatively, property owners’ associations might be put in place with a starting set of restrictions, to be modified in time by the buyers into the subdivision. Such restrictions could include standards of upkeep. People who desired a well-kept neighborhood would likely buy in such communities.

People who would rather not be restricted would buy in communities or other areas where such standards were minimal or non-existent. In this way, everyone’s preference would be honored. Everyone wins!

Today, however, standards — even zoning — can fluctuate overnight with changes in city councils, zoning boards, or inspectors. Sometimes these standards are selectively enforced (e.g., a neighbor has to complain before action is taken). Buyers don’t always know what they are getting into and understandably become resentful when their neighbors use government to restrict them. Thus, unfortunately, today win-win solutions to these problems are rare.


Learn More: Liberator Online editor James W. Harris suggests the following articles for further reading on this topic:

  • How Zoning Rules Would Work in a Free Society“ by Ben O’Neill, Mises Institute, June 17, 2009. This short article shows what’s wrong with zoning, and why market alternatives are better and fairer. 

    Excerpt: “Contrary to the alleged necessity of zoning laws, there is ample scope for non-coercive solutions to zoning issues in the context of a free society of private-property ownership and nonaggression. In particular, private ownership of property allows for restrictive covenants to be agreed between the property owner and another party so that the allowable uses of land are limited according to the wishes of the parties. It follows that property owners within a given neighborhood may contractually agree to impose restrictions on themselves with respect to the allowable developments on their land or the allowable uses of their property.”

  • Zoning Laws Destroy Communities“ by Troy Camplin, Mises Institute, April 30, 2010. This short article discusses problems with zoning, including huge unintentional consequences that subvert zoning’s alleged goals of fostering and preserving communities.Excerpt: “Zoning laws are a violation of property rights. They destroy the sense of community in neighborhoods, increase crime, increase traffic congestion, contribute to urban and suburban air pollution, contribute to poverty, contribute to reliance on government — and, thus, reduce self-reliance — and contribute to the ruin of our schools. Most of our urban and suburban problems arose with zoning and other anti-property laws, to which welfare programs and public housing projects have contributed…”

What is the Difference Between Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and Libertarianism?

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(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: What is the difference between Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and libertarianism?Ayn Rand's Objectivism

MY SHORT ANSWER: In my opinion, the differences are more cultural than real, in political matters. Both Objectivism and libertarianism are based on the non-aggression principle of honoring our neighbors’ choice (not initiating physical force, fraud or theft) and making things right with our victims if we don’t.

Objectivism is a comprehensive philosophy of life that includes not just political beliefs but strong and unified beliefs on virtually every aspect of human existence, including religion, art, romance, and so on. Libertarianism, in contrast, is a strictly political philosophy.

Rand believed that government’s proper role was protection of rights and that government should have a monopoly on defensive force to fulfill this role. Many libertarians agree with her. Others believe that governments are a poor protector of rights and that competition in this realm is right and proper.

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

Ironically, although Ayn Rand publicly disavowed libertarianism, she is unquestionably one of the most influential figures in the modern libertarian movement and is commonly identified today as a libertarian. And her political views are libertarian, by any common definition of the term.

Here are two short pieces that explore this seeming contradiction. Please note, this is a subject about which many people disagree.

* “What Is the Objectivist View of Libertarianism?“ an essay by David Kelley and William R. Thomas. David Kelley is Founder and Executive Director of the Atlas Society, which promotes Objectivism.

Excerpt: “If we exclude anarchism [that is, the kind of non-government libertarianism advocated by Murray N. Rothbard, David F. Friedman, and others, sometimes known as 'anarcho-capitalism' or 'market anarchism'], we can say that libertarianism is the Objectivist position in politics. But Objectivism includes more than politics. It is a systematic philosophy that also includes a specific view of reality, human nature, and the nature of knowledge. It includes a specific code of morality based on the requirements of life in this world. The Objectivist commitment to individual rights and a ban on the initiation of force is grounded in its view of nature, knowledge, and values. Its political conclusions thus stand on a firm and quite specific foundation …Philosophically, some libertarians are Objectivists, or would at least agree with the core elements in the Objectivist case for liberty, such as the individual’s need to act by means of reason in pursuing his life and happiness as ultimate values.”

* “Objectivism and Libertarianism“ by Nathaniel Branden. In this very short 1999 article Branden, at one time one of Rand’s closest associates, tells how Rand considered, and rejected, the label libertarian — and what that word now means in today’s political world.

Excerpt: “[T]oday libertarianism is part of our language and is commonly understood to mean the advocacy of minimal government. Ayn Rand is commonly referred to as ‘a libertarian philosopher.’ Folks, we are all libertarians now. Might as well get used to it.”

Shouldn’t We All Vaccinate So We Don’t Endanger Others?

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(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: Shouldn’t we all vaccinate so we don’t endanger others?Vaccination

MY SHORT ANSWER: My recent column “Should Vaccines Be Mandatory?” made a civil liberties argument for the right of people to make personal medical decisions like vaccination for themselves. Several readers expressed concern. They wondered whether people who didn’t vaccinate might endanger others with compromised immune systems who couldn’t vaccinate, such as the elderly or infants.

People with poor immune function are more likely to be exposed to the flu and/or pneumonia than measles from an unvaccinated person. Many thousands of Americans get the flu annually, while less than 200 people each year develop measles. The flu can lead to pneumonia also, making these two infections the 9th highest cause of death in the U.S.

The measures that compromised individuals take to protect themselves from these more common, deadly threats (e.g., avoiding crowds), would protect them from measles as well. These precautions are necessary, because the effectiveness of annual flu shots can be as low as 10%.

Contrary to popular opinion, the measles vaccine doesn’t always work, either. One-half of Canadian cases of measles come from vaccinated individuals; in the U.S., about one-third of people in a measles outbreak have received one or two doses of the vaccine.

Only about 25% of those vaccinated maintain measles immunity for 10 years or more; 75% of the vaccinated population loses their protection before that, although they often get a milder form of measles if infected.

As one might expect, the immune system doesn’t respond as strongly to a vaccine as it does when it mounts a full scale response to an actual infection. Only people who have had measles as a child can expect a lifetime of protection.

I had measles before we had the vaccine. Back then, some people purposefully exposed children to make sure they had immunity to measles, mumps, and occasionally other childhood diseases. Parents wanted to be sure that their girl children especially had immunity, as getting measles while pregnant could be detrimental to the unborn child. The good news is that many of our seniors probably still have immunity to childhood diseases, even if they haven’t been able to vaccinate.

In conclusion, universal vaccination for measles is unlikely to significantly protect compromised individuals, not only because the vaccine has limitations, but because other infections (e.g., flu, pneumonia) are the real threat. If an immune-compromised individual alters their lifestyle to avoid those more common, deadly infections, they are likely to avoid the measles too.

Inexpensive Vitamin A is currently being studied as a treatment and preventative for infections, including measles. If my immune system became compromised, Vitamin A supplementation is something I’d likely explore.

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LEARN  MORE: Suggestions for additional reading, selected by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

* “Vaccine Controversy Shows Why We Need Markets, Not Mandates“ by Ron Paul, M.D., February 8, 2015. Excerpt: “If government can mandate that children receive vaccines, then why shouldn’t the government mandate that adults receive certain types of vaccines? And if it is the law that individuals must be vaccinated, then why shouldn’t police officers be empowered to physically force resisters to receive a vaccine? If the fear of infections from the unvaccinated justifies mandatory vaccine laws, then why shouldn’t police offices fine or arrest people who don’t wash their hands or cover their noses or mouths when they cough or sneeze in public? Why not force people to eat right and take vitamins in order to lower their risk of contracting an infectious disease? These proposals may seem outlandish, but they are no different in principle from the proposal that government force children to be vaccinated.”

Should Vaccines Be Mandatory?

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(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: Should vaccines be mandatory?Should Vaccines Be Mandatory?

MY SHORT ANSWER: With the new surge of measles cases, many people are calling for mandatory (forced) vaccination. At first glance, their arguments seem reasonable. Measles can kill and the vaccine is reportedly about 95% effective. Side effects are claimed to be minimal, although serious outcomes are reported on pp. 6-8 of the package insert that comes with the vaccine, including measles itself.

Even if the vaccine had zero side effects and 100% effectiveness, forcing it upon children would start us down the slippery slope of allowing bureaucrats and politicians to decide what medications we MUST ingest or be injected with. Today’s pharmaceuticals have the power to alter our thinking, libido, and even our desire to live. Some schools already diagnose boisterous children, bored with the one-size-fits-all curriculum, as having some type of disorder, and demand that they be given medications that have serious side effects.

Ultimately, each of us must weigh the risks and benefits of what we eat and how we medicate. Choose wisely, and good health to you and yours!

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for additional reading, selected by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

* “Vaccine Controversy Shows Why We Need Markets, Not Mandates“ by Ron Paul, M.D., February 8, 2015. Excerpt: “If government can mandate that children receive vaccines, then why shouldn’t the government mandate that adults receive certain types of vaccines? And if it is the law that individuals must be vaccinated, then why shouldn’t police officers be empowered to physically force resisters to receive a vaccine? If the fear of infections from the unvaccinated justifies mandatory vaccine laws, then why shouldn’t police officers fine or arrest people who don’t wash their hands or cover their noses or mouths when they cough or sneeze in public? Why not force people to eat right and take vitamins in order to lower their risk of contracting an infectious disease? These proposals may seem outlandish, but they are no different in principle from the proposal that government force children to be vaccinated.”

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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.

Won’t Big Businesses Abuse Their Power in a Free Market?

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(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: Won’t big businesses abuse their power in a free market? What if the only choices you have are bad businesses? For example, what if such companies grew so big that they could control the entire market?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In today’s society, you could indeed have a sector where all businesses are “bad,” because government lets some companies have a monopoly (e.g., local utilities, AT&T before deregulation, etc.) or a cartel (e.g., banks).

In a libertarian society, however, this would be much less likely. A sector with only “bad” businesses would soon be invaded by competitors who recognized that they could earn and retain customer loyalty (and profits) by being “good.”

In today’s society, many businesses are bigger than they would be in a libertarian one, because the high cost of regulation drives small firms out of business. For some examples, check out the cases of the small businesses that the libertarian Institute for Justice has tried to protect from over-regulation.

We are told, usually by government entities, that the free market creates monopolies, but actually it is the government that does so. For more on this subject, check out Chapter 7 in my book, Healing Our World (the 1992 edition is a free read on my website, www.ruwart.com).

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

Antitrust: The Case for Repeal by Dominick Armentano. This outstanding 100-page book — available as a FREE ebook from the Mises Institute — shows that anti-trust and anti-monopoly regulation, far from serving and protecting the public, is merely a tool used by powerful businesses against their competitors.

* “Federal Regulations Have Made You 75 Percent Poorer“ by Ronald Bailey, Reason magazine. This short and very readable 2013 article summarizes research by economists John Dawson and John Seater. The two compared U.S. economic growth with the growth in federal regulation since 1949, and calculated that federal regulations cost the average American household more than a quarter-million dollars in lost income — annually.



Short Answers to Tough Questions
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.

Two Questions on Blackmail

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(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

BlackmailQUESTION: I am concerned about the problem of blackmail. Some libertarians, as you recently discussed, consider blackmail simply an economic interaction involving the exchange of information that, however distasteful, does not involve direct use of force against others, and therefore should be legal. However, I am hard pressed to think of any instance of blackmail where no one is being harmed. As libertarians shouldn’t we base our actions upon sober observation of what is actually happening in a given situation, not on some abstract concept of free speech?

Please comment on these two examples:

EXAMPLE ONE: A gay man lives in a conservative neighborhood, but loves his community. His friends would not understand his orientation. I find out, and offer to not tell anyone — for a fee. Is it just a business interaction that I hold the threat of ruining his life over his head to coerce him into giving to me what belongs to him, when he has harmed no one?

MY SHORT ANSWER: I suspect that not all libertarians would have the same answer to this question. Here’s mine:

If you simply told this man’s friends that he was gay, you would only be saying what is true. It would be his so-called friends who harm him by shying away from him because of that truth. This very scenario undoubtedly happens a lot. The only reason that you would share this information is to disrupt this man’s life by revealing something he has kept private. While that’s certainly unkind, it isn’t legally actionable.

Sexual orientation is something that most of us would consider private, and not something that neighbors and friends should necessarily be privy to. But If the man wants to pay you not to reveal the truth to his friends, you aren’t coercing him.

Of course, someone could make a living discovering things about people that they wouldn’t want broadcast and suggesting that they pay him not to tell unsavory truths. That could backfire if one of his “clients” decided to share just how this person made his money, leaving few people excited about interacting with him.

EXAMPLE TWO: A young woman is assaulted and I know who did it. I offer to keep silent for a fee. Is it merely a business interaction if I allow a rapist to continue to prey on the community so I can get paid?

MY SHORT ANSWER: No. In this case, you know the identity of an aggressor. In today’s society, and most likely in a libertarian one, you would be considered an accomplice if you let the aggressor pay you to keep silent.

The principle here is not, in my opinion, free speech, but whether you are using first-strike force, fraud, or theft against your neighbor. In the case of accepting money from the rapist, you are colluding with an aggressor so that he can continue to perpetrate harm on others. That would make you, in most people’s eyes, an aggressor too.

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

* “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.”

* Anarchy, State and Utopia by Robert Nozick. Nozick was a libertarian and one of the premiere philosophers of the twentieth century, and Anarchy, State and Utopia is widely regarded as one of the most important philosophical books of the century. Nozick briefly discusses blackmail and the case for prohibiting it near the end of chapter four, but unfortunately I cannot find an excerpt online. You can read a summary of Nozick’s argument in “Blackmail, Extortion and Free Speech: A Reply to Posner, Epstein, Nozick and Lindgren“ by Walter Block and David Gordon, who disagree with it and offer opposing arguments.


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.

Kids and Dangerous Houses: Should the Government Step In?

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(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: I favor liberty and minimal government intrusion. But I’m wrestling with the issue of dangerous housesprotection of children within the home. I’m struggling a little to find a happy medium between a total “hands off” approach that would balance my rights, as homeowner, to leave big nasty kitchen knives lying around, electrical sockets exposed with metal objects stuck in them, big holes in the ground, staircases with boards missing, etc. (I know some of those are silly/extreme examples but legislation typically makes no distinction between the sensible and the surreal), with the rights of children in the house.

Obviously an adult could see that such a place was a deathtrap and make an informed decision to visit or not. But what about children? What about my own children, who wouldn’t be able to make an informed decision whether to continue to live in the house because they wouldn’t know any different and wouldn’t have the freedom to leave anyway. And what about my children inviting their friends back to my house? Their friends wouldn’t necessarily understand the dangers or be able to make an informed decision whether to accept the risks.

MY SHORT ANSWER: You’re right: regulators can’t possibly know what a homeowner should do to child-proof a home. Nor would they have enough resources to inspect every place that houses children even if they did.

Keeping a child safe is part of parenting; some parents will do a better job of it than others. No parent can anticipate every safety hazard, but on average, they’ll do better than bureaucrats. Children of parents who are chronically drunk, high, or just plain neglectful will almost always have more accidents than children of attentive, sober ones. Neglectful parents will ignore regulations; attentive parents won’t need them, as they’ll be constantly trying to anticipate potential problems. As hard as it is to accept, we will never have a society where every child lives in an accident-free home; perfection just isn’t an option in human relations.

From a libertarian perspective, we might ask how we can have a society where fewer parents are neglectful, since regulations aren’t going to help much, if at all. In a society with less government interference in the marketplace, jobs would be more plentiful, the average paycheck would buy more, and people wouldn’t be kept from the work they prefer by regulations that shut them out.  People would be less frustrated and have more free time, so “drowning one’s sorrows” in booze or mind-altering drugs would be less attractive. (For details, see my book, Healing Our World; the 1992 edition can be read for free at ruwart.com).

Most of us can get a sense of this by asking our grandparents and great-grandparents how they were raised. Wealth creation was slower back then, times were harder, and children were expected to do dangerous jobs, like working on the farm with animals and machines. Spanking and even frank beating were thought to build character. On average, harsh conditions produce harsh childhoods, although there are exceptions. Long hours in the fields or factories left our elders too tired to be as attentive as they might have otherwise been.

Must we wait for government to subside before children can be protected in their homes? Not at all! If you feel moved to teach others how to child-proof a home, it’s easy to share such information on a personal blog, Facebook, etc.  First-time parents are especially eager to learn such things.

Although government is seldom, if ever, the answer, individual initiative almost always is.

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

* “Wage War on Poverty with Libertarianism“ by Jacob Hornberger. Poverty is not the only reason for unsafe housing. But higher incomes generally mean safer homes, better education, higher standards of living, and so forth. In this article the president of the Future of Freedom Foundation tells how libertarian policies could achieve that.

EXCERPT: “There are five libertarian keys to ending or greatly alleviating poverty. These keys apply not only to the United States but to every other nation in the world. If any nation wants to end poverty or at least to drastically reduce it, what follows is what it should do. Any nation that adopts the following five principles will, in both the short term and long term, achieve rising standards of living, especially for the poor.”

* “The Nanny State“ by Adam Young, Mises Daily, August 6, 2001. This short article explores how markets can provide better, more innovative safety for families than regulation.

EXCERPT: “Many calamities are preventable — not by bureaucratic means, but by simple attentive parenting and common sense — but nothing can take away the inherent risk of calamity that exists every day of our lives. An irrefutable fact of reality is the unpredictability of the future and all the accidents that result. The problem here is to balance risk of harm with the prospects of success, and that is something only the private sector does well. …

“If government regulations did not crowd out private testing and rating services, then rating guides, reports, and private-sector safety consultants would be more available, comprehensive, and affordable than they are now. State regulation breeds irresponsibility and blame shifting. Tangles of regulations impose costs that price competitors out of the market and prevent the invention of new designs and superior and cheaper products which, under the existing regulations, would become technically illegal.

“The free market would encourage entrepreneurs to create rating and safety systems that would perform the dual role so claimed, but never actually delivered on, by the government — namely, providing consumer safety and respecting consumer choice. Only products tested by the market can find the right balance. Anyone who has looked through baby-product catalogs knows that safety is extremely important in this market.

“If safety, as arbitrarily and remotely defined by bureaucrats in Washington, is to be imposed regardless of the cost, then why not take the next step? Parents themselves should be trained and licensed by the government, all in pursuit of the ideal of ‘safety.’ Forget the Nanny State; we need a full-time Parental State. It may sound absurd and dangerous to liberty, but one wonders how many politicians and bureaucrats today could marshal arguments against the idea.”


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.

Children, Parents, and Obligations

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(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 24 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Question: In his book The Ethics of Liberty, libertarian economist Murray Rothbard says: “A parent does not have the right to aggress against his children, but also … should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate his children, since such obligations would entail positive acts coerced upon the parent and depriving the parent of his rights. The parent therefore may not murder or mutilate his child, and the law properly outlaws a parent from doing so. But the parent should have the legal right not to feed the child, i.e., to allow it to die.” This sounds barbaric. How do you respond?

My Short Answer: Children’s rights are perhaps the most contentious part of the libertarian philosophy; not everyone agrees how to apply the non-aggression principle to issues involving children. Feel free to join the debate!

Some libertarians believe that bringing a helpless child into the world obligates the parents to support it. Libertarians who hold this position don’t always agree on what this means, although generally they expect that the child will be responsible for itself when it becomes an adult. Libertarians who believe that parents have an obligation don’t always agree on specifically where it starts and ends.

Some libertarians, like Rothbard, do believe that giving the gift of life does not obligate the parents to maintain that life. However, in my opinion, in a libertarian society, that would not mean that the child would be allowed to starve; in fact, it would probably have a better chance at survival than it does today. Although the parents might not want to feed the child, other adults almost certainly would, especially since so many parents want to adopt, even if the infant is impaired in some way.

Since the child is not parental property, but a separate person, if there is someone who will feed and protect it, the parents have no right to prevent its champions from nurturing it. Since an infant is helpless, concerned care-givers could certainly claim to represent the child and gain custody. This is likely to be much easier than in today’s society, which often acts as if children are “property” of their parents.

Indeed, the non-aggression principle, in allowing us to defend our rights, does not allow us to harm others, even aggressors, beyond what is necessary. In other words, if you threaten me with a weapon and I disarm you, I have protected my rights. If I then go beyond that, to maim or kill you simply to satisfy my thirst for vengeance, I am now an aggressor too.

Similarly, if parents stop others from feeding a child that they don’t wish to care for, they would be considered aggressors, as there is no need to starve the child to protect the parents’ right not to provide support.

Just as today many women choose to give up their baby for adoption, so too would parents be able to give up their baby in a libertarian society if they didn’t want to nurture it. A baby with parents who don’t care enough to feed it is going to be much better off being adopted than staying with parents forced by law to support it.

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

* “Defending the Non-Aggression Principle: A Reply to Matt Zwolinski Part 4” by George H. Smith. The distinguished libertarian philosopher looks at Murray Rothbard’s controversial argument, while also explaining why he thinks Rothbard is wrong on some key points; most importantly, Smith argues that parents have an obligation not to harm children and, if they do not wish to care for them, to find someone who will.

Excerpt: “No guardian can legitimately claim, ‘This infant is mine, and I will do with it as I please.’ All persons have the enforceable duty not to aggress against an infant by harming it physically, etc., but a guardian voluntarily takes on the additional positive duty of sustaining the life of her ward — first, because it is only the helpless nature of an infant — its need for a guardian to survive — that generates guardianship rights in the first place; and, second, because a guardian cannot claim the right to exclude third parties unless she accepts the positive duty of sustaining the life of an infant.”

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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.

Won’t Big Businesses Abuse Their Power in a Free Market?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 21 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Big BusinessQUESTION: If you free big businesses from government regulations, how do you keep these same businesses from becoming an aristocracy and turning America into a feudal state?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, you, the consumer, control businesses by voting to buy or not buy their products. You vote to keep them in business or shut them down. You eliminate the “bad guys” by purchasing only from the “good guys.”

In today’s society, government regulates some companies out of business, leaving a monopoly (like most local utility companies) or a cartel (like the banking industry). Limiting your choices limits your control.

Government doesn’t keep big business in check; government keeps big business big.

Business only has two ways to get big: by serving customers better than the competition or by getting Big Brother to regulate their competition out of business. Keeping government out of the marketplace keeps business in its true service role.

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

* “Big Business and Big Government“ by Tim Carney, Cato Institute Policy Report, July/August 2006.

EXCERPT: “The history of big business is the history of big government. As the federal government has progressively become larger over the decades, every significant introduction of government regulation, taxation, and spending has been to the benefit of some big business. …big business and big government prosper from the perception that they are rivals instead of partners (in plunder). The history of big business is one of cooperation with big government. Most noteworthy expansions of government power are to the liking of, and at the request of, big business.”

* “The Only Way to Get Money Out of Politics“ by Sheldon Richman, Future of Freedom Foundation.

EXCERPT: “It’s a great myth that businesses, especially big prominent corporations, want less government intervention in the economy. On the contrary, they love government power because it provides things they can’t achieve in a freely competitive marketplace where force and fraud are barred. Corporations support and lobby for interventions that benefit themselves by hampering their competitors, both foreign and domestic. You often find companies asking for tariffs and other restrictions on imports that compete too effectively with their products. Agribusinesses welcome government (taxpayer) help in selling their products abroad; they also love subsidies, price supports, and acreage allotments. … In American history big companies were behind virtually ever advancement of the regulatory state.”


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 is the non-aggression principle?

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. 19 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: What is the libertarian non-aggression principle?

MY SHORT ANSWER: Libertarianism is based on a single ideal, the non-aggression Keep Calm And Be Non-Aggressiveprinciple.

Libertarians oppose the initiation of force to achieve social or political goals. They reject “first-strike” force, fraud or theft against others; they only use force in self-defense. Those who violate this “non-aggression principle” are expected to make their victims whole as much as possible, via restitution.

This “Good Neighbor Policy” is what most of us were taught as children. We were told not to lie, cheat, steal, or strike our playmates, except if they hit us first. If we broke a friend’s toy, we were expected to replace it.

Most of us still practice what we learned as children with other individuals, but we have grown accustomed to letting government aggress against others when we think we benefit. Consequently, our world is full of poverty and strife, instead of the harmony and abundance that freedom (i.e., freedom from aggression) brings.

Simply put, libertarians take the non-aggression principle that most people implicitly follow in their interactions with other individuals, and apply it to group actions, including government actions, as well.

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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.

Should There Be Restrictions on the Supply of Antibiotics?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 17 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Question: Should there be any restrictions on the supply of antibiotics? Do you believe that overuse and misuse of antibiotics accelerates the development of resistance to antibiotics in pathogens?antibiotics

My short answer: If by “restrictions,” you mean voluntary ones by medical professionals, I would say “yes.” When antibiotics first came out, they were used — like most new things — more frequently than was optimal. Germ resistance developed, making new antibiotics that worked in different ways necessary.

We are now running out of such options. Physicians and hospitals generally withhold the latest and greatest antibiotics unless the older ones fail. We’ve learned from our mistakes, for the most part.

If by “restrictions,” you mean federal regulations, my answer would be “no.” Regulations in this arena take life and deaths decisions out of the hands of doctors and into the hands of bureaucrats, who are more likely to show poor judgment since their knowledge of both the problems and the individual circumstances are limited.

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

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.

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