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The Coming Government Debt Explosion — and How to Deal with It

in Business and Economy, Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The U.S. ship of state is sailing full steam ahead — straight toward a massive debt iceberg. Debt Iceberg

Here are some genuinely shocking figures from “Medicare and Social Security Tabs Coming Due,” an article by Michael Tanner, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, in the March 2015 issue of Reason magazine:

  • The national debt recently reached $18 trillion — approximately 101 percent of the United States’ GDP.
  • The Congressional Budget Office projects the debt will rise to $27.3 trillion within the next decade. 
  • But those numbers are actually far too low — because they ignore Social Security and Medicare’s unfunded liabilities. Add those in, and the national debt hits $90.6 trillion.
  • Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are responsible for fully 47 percent — nearly half — of federal spending, and they continue to grow. 
  • Social Security has a $24.9 trillion shortfall, while Medicare has $48 trillion in unfunded liabilities. Should healthcare costs rise, the Medicare figure could soar to $88 trillion. 
  • Just this year, Social Security will have a $69 billion cash-flow deficit. Every year after, that shortfall will worsen. And Medicare is in even worse financial shape than Social Security.

In an article at Vice News last January, Tanner described the difficult choices we face:

“To pay all the benefits promised in the future, Social Security would have to increase the payroll tax by as much as half, or find that revenue elsewhere. The government can always cut benefits, but without a tax increase those benefits would have to eventually be slashed by 23 percent. That would be very hard for seniors who depend on the program to get by.”

What to do about these problems? You can read Cato’s proposals for reforming Social Security at their Social Security reform website.

Cato’s research and proposals for health care and welfare reform (including Medicare and Medicaid and Obamacare) can be found here.

Libertarian Party presidential candidate Harry Browne offered his plan for replacing Social Security with consumer-based choices in his 1996 book The Great Libertarian Offer. Though the numbers are a bit dated, his explanation of Social Security’s problems, and his solution, remain very relevant, elegant, and easy to read and understand.

For a quick overview of genuine market-based health care reform, see this short 2015 article “What True Health Care Reform Would Look Like“ by Matt Battaglioli, published by the Mises Institute.

Finally, see “How to Eliminate Social Security and Medicare“ by George Reisman (Mises Institute, 2011) for more reasons why these programs should be eliminated, and a plan to accomplish this.

Food Stamps Shocker

in Business and Economy, Liberator Online Archives, Welfare by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!

Exploding Cost of Food StampsSome startling numbers on the recent explosive growth of the food stamp program (aka SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), from journalist Ali Meyer of CNSNews.com:

  • The number of Americans receiving food stamps has topped 46,000,000 for 38 straight months, according to the Department of Agriculture. 
  • In 1969, the average participation in the SNAP program stood at 2,878,000. In 2014, the average participation grew to 46,536,000 — an increase of 1,516.96 percent. 
  • About 14.6 percent of the U.S. population — about one in seven Americans — receives food stamps. 
  • Just under 20 percent of the nation’s households — one in five households — receive food stamps. 
  • Food stamp recipients have exceeded 46 million every month since September 2011.
  • Rapid increase: in October 46,674,364 Americans were on food stamps — an increase of nearly a quarter-million people (214,434) in just one month. According to the conservative Heritage Foundation, the number of food stamp recipients grew by about 26.39 million people from 2003 to 2013.
  • The 46,674,364 people on food stamps in the United States in October 2014 exceeded the total populations of Columbia (46,245,297), Kenya (46,245,297), Ukraine (44,291,413) and Argentina (43,024,374), and is just less than the population of Spain (47,737,941).
  • Households on food stamps got an average benefit of $261.44 in October. 
  • In October alone the program cost taxpayers $5,978,320,593 — just under $6 billion. 

While food stamp (SNAP) enrollment and spending have both grown dramatically under President Obama, the Cato Institute notes that the explosion in food stamp use and SNAP eligibility actually began with conservative Republicans under the leadership of George Bush, via the 2002 and 2008 farm bills.

Libertarians Are Actually Less “Isolationist” Than Other Political Views

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 2 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Libertarians who advocate a foreign policy of peaceful non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations sometimes get labeled by critics as “isolationist.”

The words “isolationist” and “isolationism” are smears. Further, they inaccurately describe what libertarians believe. I’ve written in the past on ways to respond to this charge.

Libertarian InternationalismLast month Simon Lester, a trade policy analyst with Cato Institute, wrote an excellent column entitled “Libertarian Internationalism” at Townhall.com in which he debunks the notion.

“[T]he reality is that libertarianism is among the most internationally minded philosophies,” he writes. “Examining several key areas of international relations makes this clear: International trade, diplomacy and the military, and institutions.”

Here are some of his arguments, which are helpful to anyone in discussing this issue.

1. International trade.

“The most obvious place where libertarians are internationalists is economic relations. True libertarians advocate the free flow of trade and investment, without government restrictions. This is about as international as you can get. For libertarians, the origin of a product or service is irrelevant. People around the world should be able to buy and sell from each other without government interference. …

“Unfortunately, in most countries today, there is a strong sentiment for favoring domestic economic actors over foreign ones. This feeling manifests itself in various forms, such as tariffs and Buy National procurement policies. Libertarians stand almost completely united against this nationalist feeling, believing that trade and other economic interaction with foreign actors benefits us all.”

2. Diplomacy and the military. 

“Diplomacy and the military is a more complicated policy area, involving a number of instances of potential relations between domestic and foreign. Here, though, there is a strong case that libertarians are more internationalist than most others. Of course, in part this depends on what one means by internationalism.

“Libertarians are most frequently accused of isolationism when they object to military intervention in foreign territories. That libertarians usually object to these interventions is not in doubt. However, use of the military cannot always credibly be called internationalist. Colonialism and conquest, although they do require contact with foreigners, are not generally a positive form of international relations. …

“Thus, for libertarians, war and government aid do not reflect true internationalism. To some extent, they are really about government bullying and condescension towards foreigners, the idea that we are superior to them and can use our power to re-make them in our image. In contrast, libertarians believe in treating citizens of other countries with respect and acting with humility.”

3. International institutions. 

“This is the area where libertarians are most likely to reject what is conventionally thought of as the internationalist position, as they worry about the power of these institutions. In reality, libertarians are not rejecting the idea of international institutions, but rather the specific policies pursued by some of these institutions. … If there were international institutions that supported balanced budgets (or protected property rights), for example, libertarians would likely be supportive. There is no fundamental libertarian objection to international cooperation through institutions; the only concern is on specific issues of substance.”

Finally, Lester argues that libertarianism is inherently internationalist, not isolationist.

“At a more conceptual level, the idea of limited government inherently pushes us away from nationalism and towards internationalism. As things stand now, most power is in the hands of national governments, who often use this power in ways that conflict with the interests of other governments. In other words, putting power in the hands of nation-states leads naturally to national conflict. By contrast, devolving power to local governments more closely connected with the people reduces the role of national governments and nationalism. It makes power more disbursed, and allows communities to connect with each other, regardless of the nation in which they are located.”

These are excellent points, and sharing them with critics can help refute and perhaps eventually bury the tiresome “isolationist” smear.

Read Lester’s complete argument at Townhall.com

Polls Show Growing Support for Non-Interventionist Foreign Policy

in Communicating Liberty, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online Archives, National Defense by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

David Boaz of the Cato Institute points out at the Huffington Post that support for a non-David Boazinterventionist, or at least far less interventionist, foreign policy is growing rapidly in America.

Refuting pundits who charge that such ideas have little popular support, Boaz cites some recent major polls.

“Perhaps most broadly,” writes Boaz, “a massive Pew Research Center survey in December 2013 found that 52% of respondents said the United States ‘should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.’ That was the most lopsided balance in favor of the U.S. ‘minding its own business’ in the nearly 50-year history of the measure.”

Boaz also cites a CBS News/New York Times poll  from June 2014 showing that fully 75% of Americans believe the result of the war in Iraq was not worth the loss of American lives and other costs of the invasion. Only 18% thought it worthwhile. The percentages were about the same whether those surveyed were Republicans, Democrats and independents. It’s hard to imagine a more thorough repudiation.

A YouGov poll in March found, Boaz writes, that “the American public has little appetite for any involvement in Ukraine… Only 18% say that the U.S. has any responsibility to protect Ukraine.” Boaz further notes that “Republicans were barely more supportive: 28 percent yes, 46 percent no.”

In April, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found strong and deep support for less intervention, and almost no desire for further involvement in the internal affairs of foreign nations.

The Wall Street Journal summarized its poll’s findings: “Americans in large numbers want the U.S. to reduce its role in world affairs… In a marked change from past decades, nearly half of those surveyed want the U.S. to be less active on the global stage, with fewer than one-fifth calling for more active engagement — an anti-interventionist current that sweeps across party lines. …

“The poll findings, combined with the results of prior Journal/NBC surveys this year, portray a public weary of foreign entanglements and disenchanted with a U.S. economic system that many believe is stacked against them. The 47% of respondents who called for a less-active role in world affairs marked a larger share than in similar polling in 2001, 1997 and 1995.

Concludes Boaz:

“Americans, including Republicans, are getting tired of policing the world with endless wars. Support for the Iraq war is almost as low as approval of Congress. Interventionist sentiment ticked up in the summer of 2014 as Americans saw ISIS beheading journalists and aid workers on video. But even then most voters wanted air strikes, not more troops.

“Here’s a prediction: 13 months from now, when the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire begin voting for presidential candidates, Americans will be even more weary of nearly 15 years of war, and U.S. intervention will be even less popular than it is now.”

Boaz notes that only one potential major party presidential candidate thus far has rejected interventionism in favor of a far less interventionist policy: libertarian-leaning Republican Rand Paul (R-KY).

They Said It… With Doug Bandow, Judge Andrew Napolitano And More

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

(From the They Said It section in Volume 20, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

THE DRUG WAR GULAG: “The U.S. rate of incarceration, with nearly one of every 100 adults in prison or jail, is five to 10 times higher than the rates in Western Europe and other democracies… America puts people in prison for crimes that other nations don’t, mostly minor drug offenses, and keeps them in prison much longer. Yet these long sentences have had at best a marginal impact on crime reduction.” — former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin and Nicholas Turner, “The Steep Cost of America’s High Incarceration Rate,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 25, 2014.

DEATH BY FDA: “The paternalist FDA long has delayed the approval of life-saving drugs, thereby killing thousands of people, far more than the number likely saved by preventing the sale of dangerous medicines.” — Doug Bandow, Cato Institute, “Close the Government to Close Bad Government Programs,” Cato Blog, December 31, 2014.

POLICE WATCHING YOU ONLINE:
Scottish Police on Twitter“Please be aware that we will continue to monitor comments on social media & any offensive comments will be investigated.” — tweet by the Scottish police, Dec. 30. Such monitoring is on the rise in the UK, according to the UK Independent; about 20,000 people in Britain have been investigated in the past three years for comments made online, and some have been arrested and imprisoned.

Judge Andrew Napolitano

NAPOLITANO ON TORTURE: “All torture is criminal under all circumstances — under treaties to which the U.S. is a party, under the Constitution that governs the government wherever it goes, and under federal law. Torture degrades the victim and the perpetrator. It undermines the moral authority of a country whose government condones it. It destroys the rule of law. It exposes our own folks to the awful retaliatory beheadings we have all seen. It is slow, inefficient, morbid, and ineffective. It is a recruiting tool for those who have come to cause us harm. All human beings possess basic inalienable rights derived from the natural law and protected by the Constitution the CIA has sworn to uphold. Torture violates all of those rights.” — Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, “The CIA and Its Torturers,” syndicated column, Dec. 11, 2014.

100 YEARS OF THE WAR ON DRUGS:
Mark Thornton“The War on Drugs … kills thousands of people, destroys untold number of lives, and wastes hundreds of billions of dollars every year. … What has the War on Drugs accomplished? It has not reduced access to illegal drugs. It has not reduced illegal drug use or abuse. It has not reduced the rate of addiction. If anything, the rates of use, abuse, and addiction have increased over the past century. Prison population statistics clearly indicate that it has been used to suppress minorities.

“It has also greatly increased the powers of law enforcement and the legal system and reduced the legal rights and protections of citizens under the tradition of the rule of law. It has greatly increased the militarization of the police and the use of the military in police work. It has also led to a significant increase in U.S. political and military intervention in foreign nations, particularly in the drug supply nations of Central and South America. … it is the number one cause of crime, corruption, and violence in the United States, as well as many of the countries of Central and South America.” — economist Mark Thornton, “The War on Drugs Was Born 100 Years Ago,” Mises Daily, December 17, 2014.

New Study: Minimum Wage Hurts Low-Skilled Workers

in Business and Economy, Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 25 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

A new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research brings new weight to the argument that significant minimum wage increases hurt the very people they are intended to help — low-skilled workers, especially teens and minority workers.

minimum wageEconomists Jeffrey Clemens and Michael Wither examine the effects of the minimum wage increases in 2007, 2008 and 2009. They find that minimum wage increases have three devastating effects upon low-skilled workers: “minimum wage increases reduced the employment, average income, and income growth of low-skilled workers over short and medium-run time horizons.”

The study indicates that the minimum wage can keep low-skilled workers from moving up to a middle class income; such workers experience “significant declines in economic mobility.” Charles Hughes of the Cato Institute explains:

“Many of the people affected by minimum wage increases are on one of the first rungs of the economic ladder, low on marketable skills and experience. Working in these entry level jobs will eventually allow them to move up the economic ladder. By making it harder for these low-skilled workers to get on the first rung of the ladder, minimum wage increases could actually lower their chances of reaching the middle class.”

Adding weight to these findings is a report earlier this year by the non-partisan federal Congressional Budget Office estimating that a three-year phase in of a $10.10 federal minimum wage option would reduce total employment by a stunning 500,000 workers.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor, nicely summed up at MarketWatch the massive problems created for low-skill workers by the minimum wage:

“Minimum-wage laws criminalize low-skill work. Imagine being forbidden to work. That is the case for people with skills under $8.25 an hour. The federal hourly minimum wage is $7.25, and additional costs, such as Social Security, unemployment insurance, and workers compensation bring the cost of employment closer to $8.25. The minimum wage is one reason why the teen unemployment rate is 18%, the youth (20 to 24) unemployment rate is 11%, and the African-American teen unemployment rate is 28%. Those groups have markedly lower skills than average. …

“When the minimum wage is set above someone’s skill level, that person is left on the sidelines. If people cannot get their first job, how can they get their second or third? People who take minimum-wage jobs gain entry to the professional world. Once they are in, they can keep rising.”

A short, highly readable summary of the negative effects of the minimum wage is the 2004 booklet “Minimum Wage, Maximum Damage: How the Minimum Wage Law Destroys Jobs, Perpetuates Poverty, and Erodes Freedom” by Jim Cox, published by the Advocates and available at our online Liberty Store.

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.

U.S. Taxpayers Pay Billions — to Subsidize the Military of Wealthy Foreign Nations (Video)

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 18, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

It’s just one minute long, but this Cato Institute video offers powerful intellectual ammunition for those wanting to lower taxes and reduce U.S. involvement abroad.

Beleaguered American taxpayers are being forced to pay to subsidize the military in wealthy allied nations that can (and should) defend themselves — while these nations in turn spend the money they save on economic growth and propping up their massive welfare states.

See the staggering amounts the U.S. spends on military matters in comparison to the rest of the world.

As Cato elsewhere says:

“The average American spends $2,300 on the military, based on the latest data available. That is roughly four and a half times more than what the average person in other NATO countries spends. These countries boast a collective GDP of approximately $19 trillion, 25 percent higher than the U.S. They obviously can afford to spend more. So why don’t they? Because Uncle Sucker picks up nearly the entire tab.

“Looked at another way, U.S. alliances constitute a massive wealth transfer from U.S. taxpayers (and their Chinese creditors) to bloated European welfare states and technologically-advanced Asian nations.”

Should struggling American taxpayers be forced to pay for the defense of wealthy developed foreign nations? Should foreign welfare programs be subsidized by your tax dollars?

Share this short informative video with your friends, family and colleagues, and see what they think.