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How Free Enterprise Saved the Pilgrims: A Thanksgiving Story

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 22 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Thanksgiving Day is a great time to remember, and share with others, the too-Pilgrimslittle-known story of how the Pilgrims discovered and embraced the power of individual incentives and private property — and how doing this saved them from looming starvation and death.

This story has been told in many different forms over the years, and some critics have challenged versions of it. Our thanks to the Cato Institute’s Daniel Griswold for sharing a definitive version of the story, from the work of one of America’s most respected and honored historians.

Historian Nathaniel Philbrick has won numerous prestigious awards for his books. His acclaimed 2007 book Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War was a New York Times Bestseller, a finalist for both the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in History and the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and was named one of the ten “Best Books of the Year” by the New York Times Book Review.

A passage from that book succinctly tells the story of how free enterprise principles and incentives saved the Pilgrims.

Writes Philbrick:

“The fall of 1623 marked the end of Plymouth’s debilitating food shortages. For the last two planting seasons, the Pilgrims had grown crops communally — the approach first used at Jamestown and other English settlements. But as the disastrous harvest of the previous fall had shown, something drastic needed to be done to increase the annual yield.

“In April, [Plymouth Colony governor William] Bradford had decided that each household should be assigned its own plot to cultivate, with the understanding that each family kept whatever it grew.

“The change in attitude was stunning. Families were now willing to work much harder than they had ever worked before. In previous years, the men had tended the fields while the women tended the children at home.

“‘The women now went willingly into the field,’ Bradford wrote, ‘and took their little ones with them to set corn.’”

Concludes Philbrick:

“The Pilgrims had stumbled on the power of capitalism. Although the fortunes of the colony still teetered precariously in the years ahead, the inhabitants never again starved.”

Governor Bradford tells the story himself in his book History of Plymouth Plantation, taken from his journals kept between 1630 and 1651, and recognized today as an American classic. Bradford describes the problems of the communal system (spelling has been modernized):

“For this community [of food and property] . . . was found to breed much confusion and discontentment, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort . . .

“For the young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. The strong . . . had no more in division . . . than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labors and victuals, clothes, etc . . . thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it.”

Bradford then describes the dramatic results of the shift to private plots and individual incentives:

“This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn, which before would allege weakness and inability, whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.”

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, we should remember that our great abundance today is based upon our system of private property rights and free enterprise. Principles that the Pilgrims discovered for themselves, in rudimentary form, and began putting into practice nearly four hundred years ago.

Those principles saved their lives. Eventually, they made America the freest and most abundant country in human history. Today they offer the promise of still greater blessings to come.

And that’s something to be very thankful for — this and every Thanksgiving.

Forbes Features Fascinating New Use of World’s Smallest Political Quiz

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 18 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“Have You Significantly Changed Your Political Views Since Age 18? If So, How?”World's Smallest Political Quiz

That the title of a fascinating article at Forbes.com featuring the World’s Smallest Political Quiz.

In it, economist Michael F. Cannon describes his intellectual journey from Big Government “socially conservative social democrat” in high school to socially conservative/free market-oriented university student… and finally, a few years later, to where he is today: a full-fledged libertarian, solidly in favor of civil liberties, free markets, and a non-interventionist foreign policy.

Indeed, Cannon not only became a libertarian — he has become a remarkably influential one. He is director of health policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. Though not a Republican, he served as a domestic policy analyst for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee, advising the Senate leadership on health, education, labor, welfare, and the Second Amendment. His work has been featured in many of America’s most influential newspapers and magazines, and he has appeared ABC, CBS, CNN, CNBC, C-SPAN, Fox News Channel and NPR.

To illustrate his personal ideological journey, Cannon uses… the World’s Smallest Political Quiz. He draws different Quiz scores on the Quiz to indicate how he would have scored at different times in his life, thus creating the striking visual map of his political awakening that I’ve reprinted in this column.

I’ve never seen this done before. But the Quiz is a perfect — and crystal-clear — way to document and illustrate this. Kudos to Cannon for thinking of this!

I know over the past few decades, as libertarian ideas have spread, many millions of people have made intellectual journeys very similar to Cannon’s. (And for millions of them, the Quiz itself has been an important part of their intellectual awakening.) Whether starting from the left or the right, more and more Americans are finding themselves drawn to the logic, consistency and compassion of libertarianism.

Check Cannon’s article out — and consider using the Quiz to document and share the story of your own journey.

Rand Paul, Others: Demilitarize the Police

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul quoted others who share these concerns:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buckley for Senate

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

John BuckleyOne of the most famous family names in American political history is once again on the ballot and in the national news.

John Buckley — cousin of the renowned late conservative icon William F. Buckley and former U.S. Senator James L. Buckley — is running an active campaign as Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Senate in West Virginia.

And he’s already drawing significant national attention. The Washington Post recently described his campaign as one of seven U.S. senate races in which a Libertarian Party candidate could win enough votes to affect the outcome of the election, thus forcing the campaigns of both older party candidates to seriously consider supporting libertarian positions if they want to win.

Said the Washington Post: “John Buckley knows something about winning political races. He’s a former state legislator in Virginia, and a former employee at the American Conservative Union, the Cato Institute and the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University.” He’s also a past National Chairman of Young Americans for Freedom and has worked for the Institute for Humane Studies and the National Tax Limitation Committee.

At his campaign website he sums this up: “All through my life, I’ve worked to promote freedom and prosperity.” His lifetime of political experience, he says, soured him on the Republican Party as a vehicle for liberty and led him to the Libertarian Party.

Buckley tells more about his background and beliefs at his Facebook page:

“I turned 60 in 2013 and, with what I see happening under the presidency of Barack Obama (and even the astonishing growth of government under President George Bush), I want to do my part to try to turn America around. We need less government, not more!

“I have also realized that principles of limited government should be applied across the board, not just as to taxes, spending, and economic regulation, but to personal, ‘lifestyle’ decisions as well. Thus, I favor drastically lowering the level of federal government taxes and spending, embracing Second Amendment gun ownership rights, and respecting private property;

“I also support the legalization of marijuana (common sense tells us it’s time to end the ruinously expensive, counterproductive, and failed ‘War on Drugs’), same-sex marriage, and ending Big Brother’s snooping and spying on American citizens.

“Most Americans don’t like being told what to do and don’t relish telling others what to do, either. The American way is ‘live and let live.’ We may not like the decisions our friends and neighbors make, but we express our moral suasion voluntarily (through churches and family and other peaceful expressions of community standards), not through laws and dictates.

“We certainly don’t like politicians, and especially not Congress or whoever is president, telling us what to do. Whether it’s fluorescent light bulbs, ‘Big Gulp’ sodas, how we run our businesses, how we choose to meet the moral obligation to help our neighbors in need, the curriculum of our children’s schools, our right to keep and bear arms, what we smoke or drink, who we can love or the terms of our health-care.

“I am in favor of liberty — that’s what ‘Libertarian’ means, favoring liberty. It’s the American way of life, but I’m afraid the principles of liberty have been largely abandoned under mainstream Republicans and Democrats. Let’s reclaim the greatness of the American system of limited government. I’ll hope you’ll join me in this campaign.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIDEO: Get Rid of the U.S. Department of Un-Education

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“The Department of Education should be closed and its programs terminated,”says the Cato Institute. “Federal intervention into the nation’s schools has consumed great deals of taxpayer money and created large bureaucracies to administer the funding and regulations. It has produced little, if any, improvement in academic results.”

Shutting down the Dept. of Un-Ed would also cut a whopping $50 billion badly-spent dollars annually off the federal budget. That’s about $400 per household – every year. Most people can probably find something better to do with that money.

In just two minutes and 20 seconds, this video from the Cato Institute provides some genuinely shocking figures about the U.S. Department of Un-Education, and introduces the powerful case for eliminating it altogether.

Share it with friends. Open some minds.

And if they (or you) want more info, Cato’s got it right here.

Should the US intervene in Syria?

in The Feed by Chris Spangle Comments are off

This is the one year anniversary of the Obama “red line” comments in which the President stated that the military should intervene if Assad used chemical weapons. Sadly, it is clear that the Syrian government did. Now the President now has a choice: intervene or let his words ring hollow.

In a video post on June 8, 2013, Doug Bandow explains why intervention is the wrong approach for Americans and Syrians.

Video Description:

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, specializing in foreign policy and civil liberties. He worked as special assistant to President Reagan and editor of the political magazine Inquiry. He writes regularly for leading publications such as Fortune magazine, National Interest, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Times. Bandow speaks frequently at academic conferences, on college campuses, and to business groups. Bandow has been a regular commentator on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC. He holds a J.D. from Stanford University. Video produced by Caleb O. Brown and Austin Bragg.