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The Greatest Libertarian Accomplishment in History?

in Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

What is the most important libertarian accomplishment in history?

Not long ago David Boaz of the Cato Institute was asked that question.

His response? “The abolition of slavery.”

“The greatest libertarian crusade in history was the effort to abolish chattel slavery, culminating in the nineteenth-century abolitionist movement and the heroic Underground Railroad,” Boaz wrote recently at Huffington Post. “It’s no accident that abolitionism emerged out of the ferment of the Industrial Revolution and the American Revolution.

“How could Americans proclaim that ‘all men are created equal … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,’ without noticing that they themselves were holding other men and women in bondage? They could not, of course. The ideas of the American Revolution — individualism, natural rights and free markets — led logically to agitation for the extension of civil and political rights to those who had been excluded from liberty, as they were from power — notably slaves, serfs and women. …

“In the United States, the abolitionist movement was naturally led by libertarians. Leading abolitionists called slavery ‘man stealing,’ in that it sought to deny self-ownership and steal a man’s very self. Their arguments paralleled those of John Locke and the libertarian agitators known as the Levellers. William Lloyd Garrison wrote that his goal was not just the abolition of slavery but ‘the emancipation of our whole race from the dominion of man, from the thraldom of self, from the government of brute force.’”

That’s a great answer, just the kind you might expect from the editor of The Libertarian Reader, an The Libertarian Mindessential and delightful anthology of libertarian thought throughout history — 68 choice selections from the Bible and Lao-Tzu to Milton Friedman and Murray Rothbard, including selections from abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglas, Lysander Spooner, Angelina Grimke, Sarah Grimke and William Ellery Channing.

Boaz is also the author of a new book, The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom, which has just been released. It’s an updated version of his classic book Libertarianism: A Primer, one of the best examinations of libertarianism available, which gathered worldwide praise. I highly recommend it.

I also highly recommend the rest of Boaz’s article, “Black History Is American History.” Next year, when Black History Month comes around, I expect it will be high on my list of suggested resources for libertarians to read and share.

There’s No Such Thing as an “Unregulated Market”

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 4 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Unregulated MarketMany people fear that, without government regulation, there would be no way to insure the safety and reliability of the goods and services they rely upon every day.

They fear that a free market would be an “unregulated market” where consumers would be blind and helpless before deceptive, dangerous marketers out to take advantage of them.

This is a major deal-killer that keeps many people from fully embracing free markets and libertarianism.

Happily, there’s a great answer to this concern. The truth is, there’s no such thing as an “unregulated market.” Instead, there are two kinds of regulation: regulation by government command, and far more efficient regulation by markets and consumers.

A recent article in The Freeman by economist Howard Baetjer Jr. does a great job of explaining this — and of telling why this distinction is so crucial for libertarians to make.

The article is entitled “There’s No Such Thing as an Unregulated Market: It’s a choice between regulation by legislators or by consumers.”

Says Baetjer:

“A big economic problem the world faces is semantic. That is, ‘regulation’ has come to mean ‘government regulation.’ We don’t seem to be aware of the alternative: regulation by market forces. That’s a problem because it leads us to accept so much government meddling that we would be better off without.

“We want the aims of regulation — regularity and predictability in markets, decent quality and reasonable prices for the goods and services we buy — and thinking that government regulation is the only way to get those, we accept a vast array of unnecessary, wrongheaded, and usually counterproductive mandates and restrictions.

“But government regulation is not the only kind of regulation.

“To regulate is to make regular and orderly, to hold to a standard, to control according to rule, as a thermostat regulates the temperature in a building. Market forces do this continually as competing businesses offer what they hope will be a good value, then customers choose among the various offerings, then the competing businesses react to customers’ choices. That process is the market’s regulator.”

Baetjer explains how markets and consumer feedback regulate the quality of the goods and services we buy and how market and consumer feedback forces regulate prices, thus protecting consumers from higher-than-necessary prices.

Baetjer also explains the flip side of this: how government regulations that consumers think protect them actually hamper this crucial market and consumer regulation. How market/consumer regulation is weakened as markets become less free.

Finally, Baetjer sums up the problem — and opportunity — this realization offers free market advocates:

“We never face a choice between regulation and no regulation. We face a choice between kinds of regulation: regulation by legislatures and bureaucracies, or regulation by market forces — regulation by restriction of choice, or regulation by the exercise of choice.

“Government regulation is not the only kind of regulation; market forces also regulate. Recognizing this, communicating it to others, and getting the awareness into public discourse are key steps toward greater economic liberty.

“The benefit of this semantic change — opening up the meaning of ‘regulation’ to include regulation by market forces — is to raise the question, which works better? Regulation by market forces works better, but that’s another argument. The first step is to recognize that market forces regulate, too.”

These are vital insights for those interested in spreading the ideas of liberty. Avoid the phrase “unregulated market” and others like it. Not only are such phrases scary to many people, it doesn’t at all accurately convey what we mean. Libertarians favor market and consumer regulation over inefficient, misleading, coercive and costly government regulation.

Learning to convince others that consumers and markets regulate — and do it marvelously well, and far better than government — will help you win people to libertarianism.

I highly recommend Baetjer’s article. Read it — and start sharing the good news about market and consumer regulation.

Ron Paul: My New Year’s Resolutions for Congress

in Liberator Online by Advocates HQ Comments are off

(From the Libertarian’s New Year’s Resolutions section in Volume 19, No. 27 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In late December 2012, as he approached retirement from Congress, Ron Paul presented some New Year’s resolutions for his fellow members of Congress to ponder. 

If anything, they’re more relevant today than ever, and we’re pleased to share them with you. 

* * *

Ron PaulAs I prepare to retire from Congress, I’d like to suggest a few New Year’s resolutions for my colleagues to consider. For the sake of liberty, peace, and prosperity I certainly hope more members of Congress consider the strict libertarian constitutional approach to government…

In just a few days, Congress will solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against ALL enemies, foreign and domestic.  They should reread Article 1 Section 8 and the Bill of Rights before taking such a serious oath. Most legislation violates key provisions of the Constitution in very basic ways, and if members can’t bring themselves to say no in the face of pressure from special interests, they have broken trust with their constituents and violated their oaths. Congress does not exist to serve special interests, it exists to protect the rule of law.

I also urge my colleagues to end unconstitutional wars overseas. Stop the drone strikes; stop the covert activities and meddling in the internal affairs of other nations. Strive to observe “good faith and justice towards all Nations” as George Washington admonished. We are only making more enemies, wasting lives, and bankrupting ourselves with the neoconservative, interventionist mindset that endorses pre-emptive war that now dominates both parties.

All foreign aid should end because it is blatantly unconstitutional. While it may be a relatively small part of our federal budget, for many countries it is a large part of theirs — and it creates perverse incentives for both our friends and enemies. There is no way members of Congress can know or understand the political, economic, legal, and social realities in the many nations to which they send taxpayer dollars.

Congress needs to stop accumulating more debt. U.S. debt, monetized by the Federal Reserve, is the true threat to our national security. Revisiting the parameters of Article 1 Section 8 would be a good start.

Congress should resolve to respect personal liberty and free markets. Learn more about the free market and how it regulates commerce and produces greater prosperity better than any legislation or regulation. Understand that economic freedom IS freedom. Resolve not to get in the way of voluntary contracts between consenting adults. Stop bailing out failed yet politically connected companies and industries. Stop forcing people to engage in commerce when they don’t want to, and stop prohibiting them from buying and selling when they do want to. Stop trying to legislate your ideas of fairness. Protect property rights. Protect the individual. That is enough.

There are many more resolutions I would like to see my colleagues in Congress adopt, but respect for the Constitution and the oath of office should be at the core of everything members of Congress do in 2013.

They Said It… With George Will, David Boaz, Judge Napolitano and More

in Communicating Liberty by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 22 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

George Will“The Agriculture Department . . . stresses sensitivity. A video of its ‘cultural sensitivity training’ shows employees being instructed to call the Pilgrims who created Thanksgiving ‘illegal aliens.’ Of course there were no immigration laws to make any one of the first Thanksgivings illegal — for which fact, give thanks. Someday, if there is no Agriculture Department, more thanks to be given.” — George Will, “Pardon These Turkeys,” Washington Post, November 27, 2013.

JUDGE NAPOLITANO ASKS WHAT IF: “What if Thanksgiving exposes the government?

“What if another Thanksgiving Day is upon us and because of the governmentJudge Andrew Napolitano we have less to be thankful for than we did at the last one? What if at every Thanksgiving liberty is weakened and the government is strengthened?

“What if Thanksgiving’s warm and breezy seduction of gratitude is just the government’s way of inducing us to think we should be grateful for it?

“What if we don’t owe the government any thanks for anything? What if the government owes us back all the freedom and property it has stolen from us? What if the government has produced nothing and owns nothing, save what it has coerced us to give it?” — opening of Judge Andrew P. Napolitano column, “What if Thanksgiving exposes the government?” November 28, 2013.

OPEN ON THANKSGIVING: “Some 200 retailers nationally opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day, and a lot of others did so at midnight. Shoes, jewelry, sporting goods, flat-screen TVs, fancy chocolate — if you wanted it, you could buy it before the football games were finished.

“This development provokes all sorts of laments. Family togetherness is getting short shrift. Commercialism has become an epidemic. The urge to buy has trampled more wholesome traditions.

“The critics may be right. But what is most obvious in the expanding store hours is an item of good news: In America, the consumer is king. …

“It’s all proof that a free-market economy serves the interests of ordinary people. Stores don’t open on Thanksgiving because they want to; they open because shoppers reward those that do, at the expense of those that don’t. For consumers, it may be a reason to abbreviate the holiday festivities, but it’s also grounds for gratitude.” — syndicated columnist Steve Chapman, “How the Consumer Became King: Capitalism Empowers Ordinary People” November 29, 2012.

SO MUCH TO BE THANKFUL FOR: “A Kenyan boy who managed to get to the United States told a reporter for Woman’s World magazine that America is ‘heaven.’ Compared to countries that lack the rule of law, equality, property rights, free markets, and freedom of speech and worship, it certainly is. A good point to keep in mind this Thanksgiving Day.” — Cato Institute Executive Vice President David Boaz, “What to Be Thankful For,” Washington Times, November 25, 2004.

The Greatest Achievement in Human History?

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 20 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Despite the best efforts of government to restrict or sometimes even outlaw free markets, free enterprise has brought us perhaps the greatest achievement in history: the largest and fastest reduction in worldwide poverty ever.

This good news comes from economist Douglas A. Irwin’s November 2 Wall Street Journal piece “The Ultimate Global Antipoverty Program.”

The subhead gives the essence of the story: “Extreme poverty fell to 15% in 2011, from 36% in 1990. Credit goes to the spread of capitalism.”

Writes Irwin:

The World Bank reported on Oct. 9 that the share of the world population living in extreme poverty had fallen to 15% in 2011 from 36% in 1990. Earlier this year, the International Labor Office reported that the number of workers in the world earning less than $1.25 a day has fallen to 375 million 2013 from 811 million in 1991. …

The economic progress of China and India, which are home to more than 35% of the world’s population, explains much of the global poverty decline. But many other countries, from Colombia to Vietnam, have enacted their own reforms. …

Such stunning news seems to have escaped public notice, but it means something extraordinary: The past 25 years have witnessed the greatest reduction in global poverty in the history of the world.

And free enterprise deserves the credit, Irwin emphasizes:

“To what should this be attributed? Official organizations noting the trend have tended to waffle, but let’s be blunt: The credit goes to the spread of capitalism. Over the past few decades, developing countries have embraced economic-policy reforms that have cleared the way for private enterprise.”

In contrast, “The poorest parts of the world are precisely those that are cut off from the world of markets and commerce, often because of government policies.”

Why haven’t we heard more about this? Why isn’t the world cheering?

Says Irwin: “The reduction in world poverty has attracted little attention because it runs against the narrative pushed by those hostile to capitalism. The Michael Moores of the world portray capitalism as a degrading system in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Yet thanks to growth in the developing world, world-wide income inequality — measured across countries and individual people — is falling, not rising, as Branco Milanovic of City University of New York and other researchers have shown.”

We have often said that spreading the ideas of liberty is “the great Cause that makes all other great causes possible,” and that liberty is literally a life-and-death matter for the people of the world. Here is proof of that.

Everyone working in our great Cause can take encouragement from this extraordinary leap forward — and redouble our efforts to remove the shackles of poverty and oppression from all the people of the world.

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

in Liberator Online 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 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.

Free Markets Nurture Empathy

in Communicating Liberty, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online by Michael Cloud Comments are off

Free markets(From the Persuasion Powerpoint section in Volume 19, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Would you like to live in a world where empathy is both virtuous and profitable?

A world where it pays to meet the wants and needs of others?

Look for it in the private sector. Private enterprises. Free markets.

Without empathy, private businesses and free markets wither and die. With empathy, they survive and thrive.

Each business must be guided by empathy for their customers’ wants and needs and budgets.

Or the customers will seek out and patronize a business that does.

Every retail business faces this truth each day.

What would attract customers to our store?

How do our shoppers want to be greeted and treated?

What store layout and merchandising would appeal most to our customers?

What kind of employees would our customers be most comfortable with?

What do our shoppers expect from our employees? Information? Guidance? Courtesy? Close assistance, or room to roam?

What prices and terms make it easiest for our customers to buy?

What do our shoppers think? What do they know? What do they need to know? What do they want? What are they looking for — that no one else has offered them?

Empathy guides businesses toward the right solutions. The answers that open the wallets and purses of their customers.

Private enterprises instill a deep and abiding empathy in each of us who work there.

Free markets nurture empathy.

Word Choices: “Free Enterprise” Instead of Capitalism?

in Communicating Liberty by Sharon Harris Comments are off

Word choices are very important. Two words might mean the same thing to you. But to your audience, one word may be far more meaningful and positive than another — and may get your point across not just more favorably, but more accurately.

An example is the word “capitalism” to describe the economic system libertarians believe in.

In a past column, I described some of the positive and negative reactions some audiences have to “capitalism,” and suggested some alternatives that are better in some circumstances.

You can read that column here.

Now we have some fascinating information to add.

A January 2010 Gallup poll makes a very good case for using “free enterprise” in many situations.

This January 2010 poll asked a representative sampling of Americans whether their top-of-mind reactions to several political terms were positive or negative. Respondents were not given explanations or descriptions of the terms.

Two of those terms were “capitalism” and “free enterprise.”

Both words, of course, essentially mean the same thing in typical, common usage.

However, they drew considerably different approval ratings.

First, the word “capitalism.”

Says Gallup: “Americans are more positive than negative on ‘capitalism,’ the word typically used to describe the United States’ prevailing economic system.

“‘Capitalism’ generates positive ratings from a majority of Americans, with a third saying their reaction is negative [61% versus 33%].

Ellis Island“Republicans are significantly more positive than Democrats in their reactions to ‘capitalism,’ although majorities of both groups have favorable opinions.

“Conservatives have the highest positive image [for the word "capitalism"], followed by liberals. Moderates have somewhat lower positive ratings than either of these groups.”

Now consider reaction to the term “free enterprise.”

According to Gallup:

“Americans are almost uniformly positive in their reactions to… ‘free enterprise.’”

“Eighty-six percent of respondents rated the term ‘free enterprise’ positively, giving it substantially more positive ratings than ‘capitalism.’ Although in theory these two concepts are not precisely the same, they are in many ways functional equivalents.

“Yet, underscoring the conventional wisdom that words matter, the public clearly reacts differently to the two terms. Free enterprise as a concept rings more positively to the average American than does the term capitalism.

“Strongly positive ratings of free enterprise are generally uniform across both partisan groups [Democrats and Republicans], and across the three ideological groups [liberals, conservatives, moderates].”

Gallup sums up with a lesson effective libertarian communicators cannot ignore:

“Bottom line: As most politicians and many in business have learned, the choice of words to describe a concept or a policy can often make a substantial difference in the public’s reaction. The current research confirms that assumption.

“It is apparent that ‘free enterprise’ evokes more positive responses than ‘capitalism,’ despite the apparent similarity between the two terms.”

NOTE: The same Gallup report I link to above also offers a very useful analysis by Gallup that breaks the popularity of these phrases down further, by political ideology (conservative, liberal, and “moderate”), by party, and so on. I highly recommend this short analysis to anyone seriously interested in using these terms effectively.

The Original Internet Political Quiz Gets a New Home

in News From the Advocates for Self-Government by Advocates HQ Comments are off

The Advocates for Self-Government is pleased to launch its revamped website as a new hub for all libertarian activists and for anyone who would like to learn more about libertarianism.

The libertarian non-profit that created the world-famous World’s Smallest Political Quiz is launching as a center for numerous new resources, including “Libertarian Answers,” a searchable database of carefully-crafted responses to questions libertarians face day-to-day; tools, tips and techniques for successful outreach; links to liberty movement organizations; and more.

The new website has been designed to help both experienced and new activists share the libertarian philosophy with friends, family and peers.

The centerpiece of the site will be the World’s Smallest Political Quiz, which is taken several thousand times per day and has so far been taken almost 20 million times online. The renowned Quiz has been featured in numerous books and newspapers, and it is used by educators in high school and college classrooms. It is also currently being used by students in hundreds of college libertarian organizations to help their fellow students better understand the American political spectrum.

The World’s Smallest Political Quiz is often a person’s introduction to libertarianism and to how libertarians differ from liberals and conservatives. The Quiz is based on the Nolan Chart, which measures political preferences on two axes — economic issues and personal issues. This new political map more accurately reflects the diversity of U.S. political views than does the older but inadequate left-right line.

“The Quiz makes it possible for people to quickly and easily discover where they truly fit in the world of politics,” said Sharon Harris, President of the Advocates for Self-Government. “Our new website will also showcase the many Advocates programs that teach libertarians how to successfully communicate the ideas of liberty.”

Rupert Boneham, star of the popular TV show “Survivor” and 2012 Indiana gubernatorial candidate, said the Quiz first introduced him to the political philosophy which best fits his beliefs and values.

“I am a proud libertarian. It took most of my life to figure out that I had been living and teaching the libertarian philosophy for years,” Boneham said. “It was when I first took the World’s Smallest Political Quiz that I discovered there was a political party and philosophy that I truly aligned with.”

The Advocates for Self-Government is a nonprofit libertarian educational organization that has been working for the libertarian ideals of individual liberty, free markets, and peace since 1985.