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A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month – Part 2

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Recently, we examined some resources for Black History Month, a time which opens the door for discussions on issues key to libertarians.

This week I’m concluding with some more issue-oriented Black History Month resources and talking points.

First, a look at state-created poverty and unemployment affecting black Americans.

  • Race and Economics,” a short column by economist Walter Williams, examines this often-ignored point. Excerpt: “Some might find it puzzling that during times of gross racial discrimination, black unemployment was lower and blacks were more active in the labor force than they are today. … During the 1930s, there were a number of federal government interventions that changed the black employment picture.”
  • Walter Williams looks at the racist outcomes of the minimum wage more closely in “Minimum Wage’s Discriminatory Effects.” Excerpt: “Minimum wage laws have massive political support, including that of black politicians. That means that many young black males will remain a part of America’s permanent underclass with crime, drugs and prison as their future.”
  • Walter Williams’ outstanding 1982 short book The State Against Blacks (long out of print — check your library) — shows how numerous government programs, supposedly enacted to help blacks and the poor, have caused enormous harm to blacks (and others). 
  • In his 2004 column “A Painful Anniversary“ economist Thomas Sowell argues that the 1960s Great Society / War on Poverty programs helped destroy black families. Excerpt: “The black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state that subsidized unwed pregnancy and changed welfare from an emergency rescue to a way of life.”

Government’s role in protecting slavery and enforcing Jim Crow laws is often ignored. Yet of course it was government that created and defended such abominable and unlibertarian practices.

Still another fascinating topic tailor-made for Black History Month is the little-known history of how gun rights helped protect civil rights activists and advance the civil rights movement.

  • For starters, check out “Yes, Guns Are Dangerous. But They Also Save Lives and Secure Civil Rights“ by Damon W. Root of Reason magazine.
  • Also see this excellent review of the 2004 book The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement by Lance Hill, from The Nation magazine. This book tells the remarkable story of the Deacons for Defense, who at their peak had several hundred members and twenty-one chapters in the South. 
  • Black Open Carry: Why Gun Rights and Civil Rights Need Each Other” is a provocative new Reason TV video. It examines the little-known long, intertwined history of the gun rights and civil rights movements, from slave revolts to Reconstruction-era armed resistance to the Black Panther Party. “One of the great untold stories about the civil rights movement was that it required violent resistance from blacks to be effective,” says historian Thaddeus Russell. Seven eye-opening minutes in length. 

Survey: “Stunning Turnaround” in Support for Gun Rights

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

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 24 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Good news for the Second Amendment: support for gun rights is higher than it’s been in decades, Constitutionaccording to a new survey from the respected Pew Research Center.

The Washington Times describes the findings as “a stunning turnaround in how Americans feel about the issue just two years after the [2012] Newtown school shooting.”

The Pew survey found that fully 52% of Americans say protecting gun rights is more important than gun control — the highest support found by Pew in two decades, the first time they’ve found a majority championing gun rights over gun control, and a rise of seven points in just two years.

Further, nearly six-in-ten Americans (57%) say gun ownership does more to protect people from crime that put them at risk.

The numbers are helped by a huge increase in support for gun rights among black Americans. Fifty-four percent of blacks now say firearms protect people from crimes, nearly double the percentage saying this just two years ago. Thirty-four percent of blacks support gun rights over gun control, a rise of 50% from 2012′s 24%.

Some statist limitations on gun rights still have significant support, such as universal background checks (favored by 90%) and limits on various rifles and ammunition magazines (around 50%).

But overall this is a rousing show of growing support for one of the most basic and fundamental rights.

The Missing Ingredient in Your Fact-Based Arguments for Liberty

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Facts are essential to making the case for liberty. But you can make dry facts come alive to your listeners — by using the mind-changing power of stories.

Stories — both true and fictional — have a special power. The greatest teachers have Memorable Storiesalways used stories: think of the parables of Jesus, the fables of Aesop, the witty tales of the Taoist Chuang-Tzu. Nearly every culture uses stories both to entertain and to convey vital lessons.

Now we have scientific evidence that stories are extraordinarily effective. Bestselling author Carmine Gallo, in his book Talk Like TED, cites Princeton University research which used MRIs to study how the brains of audience members reacted to stories. The studies showed that stories actually activate all areas of the brain.

Says Gallo: “Brain scans reveal that stories stimulate and engage the human brain, helping the speaker connect with the audience and making it much more likely that the audience will agree with the speaker’s point of view.”

Obviously, if we want to successfully persuade others, we should be telling lots of stories.

When you can combine a story with your facts and figures, your audience listens. They identify. They are moved. They feel, as well as calculate. Further, while it’s hard to remember facts and figures, people remember stories — and eagerly share them.

Let’s take as an example the issue of medical marijuana. There are many logical, fact-based arguments that can — and should — be used in persuading others on this issue. But consider this story, a version of which was published in the Pittsburgh Press in the early 1990s, before liberty activists begin to have success in getting states to re-legalize marijuana for medical purposes:

James Burton, a former Kentuckian, is living literally in exile in the Netherlands. Burton, a Vietnam War vet and master electrical technician, suffers from a rare form of hereditary glaucoma. All males on his mother’s side of his family had the disease. Several of them are blind.

Burton found that marijuana could hold back, and perhaps halt, the glaucoma. So he began growing marijuana for his own use and smoking it.

Kentucky State Police raided his 90-acre farm and found 138 marijuana plants and two pounds of raw marijuana. At his 1988 trial, North Carolina ophthalmologist Dr. John Merrit — at that time the only physician in America allowed by the government to test marijuana in the treatment of glaucoma — testified that marijuana was “the only medication” that could keep Burton from going blind.

Nevertheless, Burton was found guilty of simple possession for personal use and was sentenced to one year in a federal maximum security prison, with no parole. The government also seized his house and his farm, valued at around $70,000. Under forfeiture laws, there was no defense he could raise against the seizure of his farm. No witnesses on behalf of the defense, not even a statement from the Burtons, were allowed at the hearing.

After release, Burton and his wife moved to the Netherlands, where he could legally purchase marijuana to stave off his blindness. Instead of a sprawling farm, they now live in a tiny apartment.

They say they would love to return to America — but not at the cost of Burton going blind.

See how that puts a human face on the medical marijuana issue?

There are equally moving, equally appalling stories about taxation, utility monopolies, First Amendment issues, gun rights, licensing laws, war… virtually any issue. Anywhere the government has committed aggression against individuals, there is a story to be told.

A great place to find such stories is the website of the Institute for Justice (IJ), a libertarian legal defense organization. IJ has done a wonderful job of collecting stories of heroic individuals fighting to defend their lives and property against oppressive government.

Whenever you come across heart-rending, powerful stories of victims of government, or people overcoming oppression, collect them for future use.

Most people decide what they believe not just on bare facts but also on feelings and emotions. Give them stories to hang your facts on, memorable stories that make your facts come alive, and you will be far more effective in your political persuasion.