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What Is the “Costberg” — and Why Should You Care?

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The CostbergI’m always delighted to find colorful, eye-opening words and phrases that libertarians can use to help people understand and embrace the ideas of liberty.

Here are some very useful terms for bringing attention to the little-known but astounding cost of government regulations.

Wayne Crews of the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has been following this issue for years. A recent CEI report, “Free to Prosper: A Pro-Growth Agenda for the 114th Congress,” estimates that, just in 2014 alone, an astounding 3,541 new federal regulations were enacted.

Crews admits that estimating the costs of regulation is difficult. In fact, the subtitle of “Tip of the Costberg,” his ongoing effort to do that, is “On the Invalidity of All Cost of Regulation Estimates and the Need to Compile Them Anyway.”) Yet someone’s got to do it — the federal government certainly won’t. Crews deserves great praise for his pioneering efforts.

By Crew’s best estimate, the burden of these regulations on American prosperity is staggering: around $1.882 trillion. The federal government will spend about $3.5 trillion this year. But this extra $1.882 trillion in unseen regulatory costs is, Crews says, the equivalent of an invisible 65% surcharge on your federal taxes, or nearly 12% of GDP.

“Regulation today is a hidden tax equivalent at least to half the amount of the fiscal budget itself,” Crews notes. “If federal regulations were a country, their cost would amount to the world’s 10th largest economy.”

This is an incredible drag on our economy, lowering our standard of living and slowing progress. Though most of us aren’t aware of it, it constitutes a sort of hidden tax that each and every American pays. In fact, Crews wonders if, as more data on the costs of regulation are compiled, we “may find taxation the lesser of the two components of governmental costs.”

This is a little-understood — though crucial — issue. But the terms we generally use to discuss it, like “excessive government regulations,” are…  kind of boring. And confusing. Listeners’ attention tends to wander.

So I like it that Crews occasionally spices up his discussion with some colorful and provocative terms that libertarians can use to help bring the issue to life for our listeners.

As noted, Crews calls this huge, ugly, dangerous mass of regulations and hidden costs the “costberg.” That’s clever, and creates a strong mental image of this “costberg” threatening to collide with and sink our ship of state, just like the iceberg that sank the Titanic.

And here’s another great term: “red tapeworm.” Last year Crews titled a blog post “Red Tapeworm 2014: Reckoning the Dollar Cost of Federal Regulation.” Red Tapeworm (as in “red tape,” slang for worthless and costly government regulation), is very useful, with a populist appeal. For example: “The red tapeworm is chewing up $1.882 trillion from the American economy — that’s money out of your pocket every year.”

Finally, you can simply refer to “the huge hidden tax of government regulation.” People understand the nature of taxes more than they do unseen regulation and mandates. Just pointing out that such things amount to hidden taxes — and massive taxes — can be eye-opening for your audience.

Try using these terms — along with facts and figures from CEI’s excellent reports — to spice up your discussions of this extremely important, but largely unrecognized, problem.

And for more on this topic, check out CEI’s “Ten Thousand Commandments” website, which regularly updates these figures and arguments.

A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Black History MonthI’ve often noted — especially in my One Minute Liberty Tip columns — that holidays and annual observances offer a great opportunity to present the ideas of liberty to family and friends.

Libertarians should consider collecting facts and stories to share on such occasions, when appropriate. That’s why we offer such information frequently in the Liberator Online.

February is Black History Month. This event, observed annually since 1976, potentially opens the door for discussions on issues key to libertarians.

If anyone should be receptive to the message of libertarianism it should be black Americans, who as a group have suffered from government oppression more than any other ethnic group in America, and whose historical and ongoing struggle for freedom is arguably the most dramatic one in our history.

And that story — the story of a people savagely oppressed by government power for centuries and bravely fighting to overcome that oppression — is one that Americans of all races would benefit from pondering.

Black History Month is an excellent time to show how government coercion was and is the chief engine of the oppression of black Americans, as well as Americans in general. Libertarians have a unique angle to bring to that discussion.

The Law Perverted: A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month,” an article by James Padilioni, Jr. of Students For Liberty, is a great place to start. It will stimulate your thinking on this issue and provides a seldom-heard historical and theoretical background.

For specific issues relating to black Americans and liberty, here are some excellent resources.

More and more people are — at long last — questioning the War on Drugs, which has been horrible for all Americans and from which blacks suffer disproportionately. Liberty-minded U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has won a lot of positive attention by taking a leadership role on this issue in Congress.

* “How the War on Drugs Is Destroying Black America,” by John McWhorter, a prescient 2011 Cato Institute essay, provides a short, powerful argument that the Drug War is the major source of racial hostility today. Excerpt: “If the War on Drugs were terminated, the main factor keeping race-based resentment a core element in the American social fabric would no longer exist.”

* “Race and Prison“ from drugwarfacts.org provides some astonishing figures. Excerpt: “In the late 1990s, nearly one in three African-American men aged 20-29 were under criminal justice supervision, while more than two out of five had been incarcerated — orders of magnitudes higher than that for the general population. … In some areas, a large majority of African-American men — 55 percent in Chicago, for example — are labeled felons for life, and, as a result, may be prevented from voting…”

Strongly related to the War on Drugs’ disproportionate effect on black Americans is the militarization of police — another issue on which Rand Paul (“We Must Demilitarize the Police,” TIME magazine, Aug. 14, 2014) and libertarians have been leading the national debate.

* The best book on the subject is libertarian Randy Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.

* You can read a lengthy excerpt from Rise of the Warrior Cop for free, courtesy of the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal website.

A look at black champions of liberty is certainly appropriate for Black History Month. Here’s a great collection of videos of black libertarians and classical liberals, past and present, speaking on liberty. They’re suitable for any time of year, of course, but Black History Month is a perfect time to share them online.

Cuba Part of Trend: Liberty Sweeping the World

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 25 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

What exciting news to hear that — after fifty years — the U.S. is restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba and easing restrictions on trade!

It’s yet another example of how the ideas of liberty are sweeping the world.

It reminds me of one of the greatest moments in the history of liberty: the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Cubans will now have the opportunity to enjoy far more liberty. Economist Douglas A. Irwin points out the crucial connection between trade and liberty in a Wall Street Journal piece entitled “Trade Will Lead to Freedom”:

“The trade ban has been in effect for more than 50 years. It has been a complete failure to I'll See You in Cubapromote any positive change in the country. Instead, it has strengthened the Castros’ grip on the country by giving them a ready-made excuse for their disastrous economic policies.

“Restoring trade ties and expanding commerce would revolutionize the Cuban economy and transform Cuban society. It would spur the growth of a business class, creating competing pockets of power and new, wealthy groups that would challenge the ruling Communist Party. It would give Cuban citizens access to more information, and information about the outside world destabilizes any repressive regime.

“What would happen if every Cuban citizen had access to a smartphone, could organize protests via Twitter, and spread the word about government outrages? …

“Trade will unleash winds of change that will upset the status quo … there is nothing more unsettling to repressive regimes than allowing the exchange of goods and people, ideas and information, to flow freely between countries. Commerce is a conduit for this exchange and can upend the balance of power in closed societies.”

Ron Paul has long been an opponent of the embargo, and in a new op-ed he welcomes the change.

Paul also makes a great point that many people have overlooked:

“What is particularly encouraging about this move is that the 50 year freeze in U.S./Cuba relations was thawed by a simple telephone call between President Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro. I have opposed the isolationist policies of sanctions and embargoes and have encouraged U.S. presidents to simply use diplomacy — even a simple telephone call — to clear up differences. There is a lesson in this for similarly tense U.S. relations with Iran, Russia, Syria, and others.”

Indeed. Once again, Ron Paul has been proven a prophet. And once again, he’s helped us see that rapid and major change for liberty is possible, even through something so simple as a phone call.

The move to normalize relations with Cuba is just the latest example of the growing acceptance of libertarian ideas. In recent issues of the Liberator Online we’ve covered many of them: the growing protests against militarized police, the majority support for re-legalizing marijuana, victories for marriage equality, the new majority support for gun rights, the remarkable growth in both numbers and influence of the libertarian movement, the media’s growing awareness of libertarianism… and perhaps most encouraging of all, the growth of libertarianism among young people — our hope for tomorrow.

Yes, there are many challenges ahead. But our ideas are winning victory after victory. It’s a great time for liberty! I hope you share my excitement.

I’m Thankful for…

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 22 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Give the Quiz at your local university!Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reflect on the blessings of the past year and give thanks for all we’re grateful for.

At the very top of my list is… YOU!

As a Liberator Online reader, you are part of a vibrant community that is literally changing the world: activists, scholars, and other libertarian leaders who are immersed in the ideas of liberty, are learning and refining techniques for effective libertarian communication, and becoming influential ambassadors for liberty.

Your support helps us expand and reach ever more liberty-minded individuals.

Thank you!

As you’re thinking about your year-end donations, I hope you will consider making a donation to the Advocates.

Take a look at the special gifts we’ve reserved for you as an additional thank you for your support — and remember that your donation is tax-deductible.

Your support makes it possible for us continue the unique and vital work of the Advocates. Thank you so much!

A Testimonial and Thank You to My Fellow Advocates

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

(From the Persuasion Power Point section in Volume 19, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Michael Cloud at the Advocates 20th Anniversary CelebrationFifteen years ago — in 1999 — the Liberator Online published my first Persuasion Point Column.

I had been researching and developing, designing and refining, testing and correcting the Art of Libertarian Persuasion since the mid-1970s — and had published and taught what I had learned at Libertarian Party state conventions and many other libertarian events.

But it was not until I partnered with the Advocates for Self-Government that my work really broke through and caught fire in the libertarian movement.

We were made for each other. And for our fellow Advocates.

Advocates Presidents Marshall Fritz, Carole Ann Rand, and Sharon Harris built an organization rooted in courtesy and civility — while advancing and advocating 24 carat gold, undiluted, uncompromised libertarianism.

Jimmy Harris put together the FUN libertarian e-newsletter: the Liberator Online — featuring writers such as Mary Ruwart, David Bergland, Advocates’ President Sharon Harris, and me… Michael Cloud. Under his editorship we created a libertarian ezine that’s filled with life, love, liberty… and laughter. A publication that takes the ideas of liberty and the best ways to communicate them to tens of thousands of libertarian activists.

It’s been a pleasure and an honor writing and working with these shining stars for 15 years. And I look forward to another 15 years of writing Persuasion Power Points.

But I’m mainly writing for YOU, gentle reader, fellow Advocate… friend.

Because you may be the next Tom Paine or George Washington or Patrick Henry.

You may be the next Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, or Ludwig von Mises.

You may be the next Henry Hazlitt or Harry Browne, Marshall Fritz or Dave Nolan.

You could set in motion the largest political change since the American Revolution.

OR — you could reach and teach the person who will be.

Are you the one? Are you the individual who will take freedom to the Tipping Point?

You give me hope. You and those you talk to about libertarianism.

Thank you for choosing liberty.

* * * * * * * *
Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian PersuasionMichael Cloud’s latest book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively from the Advocates, along with his acclaimed earlier book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion.In 2000, Michael was honored with the Thomas Paine Award as the Most Persuasive Libertarian Communicator in America.

You’re on Candid Camera!

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

Here’s a surefire tool that will get you off to a great start in any conversation about the ideas of liberty.

Start off with a

Simple
Movement
Into
Libertarian
Engagement

…better known as a SMILE! (Check out the first letters of that phrase.)

Yes, SMILE!

Scientists have been studying the power and benefits of smiling since the 1800s. Today there’s a great deal of science arguing for the social and personal benefits of smiling.

A smile is one of the best shields against hostility and one of the best ways to assure that the other person is open to hearing what you have to say.

A smile is contagious! People respond to smiles. The other person will often smile back, making the conversation much more pleasant.

The act of smiling affects your body chemistry in ways science is still trying to understand. But scientists agree that, for whatever reasons, smiling makes you feel good. And when your audience responds with a smile, they, too, feel good. Indeed, MRI studies indicate that seeing a smile activates the part of the brain that processes rewards. Thus a smiling person may be perceived as more attractive.

“Simply using the same muscles as smiling will put you in a happier mood,” says Dr Michael Lewis, psychologist at Cardiff University. “That’s because use of those muscles is part of how the brain evaluates mood.” Your listeners, too, will pick up on this.

Smiling can actually reduce stress and help you feel better in stressful conditions — like, for example, public speaking.

It’s important that your smile be genuine, not fake. Happily, when you talk about liberty, you’ve got something to smile about. You’re sharing the good news of liberty — ideas that can change lives and change the world in the most wonderful ways. It may help you to take a moment before speaking to reflect on the positive and beneficial nature of what you’re about to speak on. This can help you to make your smile genuine.

Like many seemingly simple communication techniques, smiling doesn’t always come naturally. You need to practice at it, and remember to use it, especially in political discussions.

That’s why I created this acronym. Use it to remind yourself to start your political discussions with this potent weapon: the Simple Movement Into Libertarian Engagement. Aka the SMILE!