Intellectual Ammunition

Home » Intellectual Ammunition

Libertarians Cheer New “Surveillance State Repeal Act”

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

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Two congressmen have introduced bold bipartisan legislation that will fully repeal the police-state 2001 U.S. PATRIOT Act and substantially roll back the U.S. surveillance state that has metastasized in recent years.

Repeal the Surveillance StateThe Surveillance State Repeal Act (H.R. 1466) was introduced on March 24 by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Thomas Massie (R-KY), and it offers a great opportunity for Americans to restore lost liberty and privacy in one swoop.

“The warrantless collection of millions of personal communications from innocent Americans is a direct violation of our constitutional right to privacy,” said Rep. Pocan. “Revelations about the NSA’s programs reveal the extraordinary extent to which the program has invaded Americans’ privacy.

“I reject the notion that we must sacrifice liberty for security — we can live in a secure nation which also upholds a strong commitment to civil liberties. This legislation ends the NSA’s dragnet surveillance practices, while putting provisions in place to protect the privacy of American citizens through real and lasting change.”

“The Patriot Act contains many provisions that violate the Fourth Amendment and have led to a dramatic expansion of our domestic surveillance state,” said Rep. Massie. “Our Founding Fathers fought and died to stop the kind of warrantless spying and searches that the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act authorize. It is long past time to repeal the Patriot Act and reassert the constitutional rights of all Americans.”

Libertarians and other defenders of civil liberties have cheered the bill.

The Surveillance State Repeal Act will:

  1. Repeal the 2001 U.S. PATRIOT Act, which among other things contains the telephone metadata harvesting provision by which the NSA has justified collecting phone information on millions of Americans.
  2. Repeal the FISA Amendments Act (which contains the email harvesting provision), with the exception of the provisions regarding FISA court reporting and WMD intelligence collection.
  3. Protect whistleblowers: Make retaliation against federal national security whistleblowers illegal and provide for the termination of individuals who engage in such retaliation.
  4. Ensure that any FISA collection against a U.S. Person takes place only pursuant to a valid warrant based on probable cause (which was the original FISA standard from 1978 to 2001).
  5. Retain the ability for government surveillance capabilities to be targeted against a specific natural person, regardless of the type of communications method(s) or device(s) being used by the subject of the surveillance.
  6. Retain provisions in current law dealing with the acquisition of intelligence information involving weapons of mass destruction from entities not composed primarily of U.S. Persons.
  7. Prohibit the government from mandating that electronic device or software manufacturers build in so-called “back doors” to allow the government to bypass encryption or other privacy technology built into said hardware and/or software.
  8. Increase the terms of judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) from seven to ten years and allows their reappointment.
  9. Mandate that the FISC utilize technologically competent Special Masters (technical and legal experts) to help determine the veracity of government claims about privacy, minimization and collection capabilities employed by the U.S. government in FISA applications.
  10. Mandate that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regularly monitor such domestic surveillance programs for compliance with the law, including responding to Member requests for investigations and whistleblower complaints of wrongdoing.
  11. Explicitly ban the use of Executive Order 12333 as a way of collecting bulk data, which pertains to the collection and storage of communications by U.S. Persons.

Make no mistake: The bill faces an uphill battle in Congress. FreedomWorks chair Matt Kibbe called upon its 6.9 million members to fight for the bill, and created a web page where supporters of the bill can easily email this message to their representatives.

Libertarian Party chair Nicholas Sarwark called on all Americans who love liberty to create a grassroots campaign to support the Surveillance State Repeal Act, to contact their congressmen and women and urge them to support H.R. 1466, and to spread this message through social media and whatever other means possible.

In fact, Sarwick’s only complaint was that the bill, sweeping though it is, doesn’t go far enough.

“The Libertarian Party would like to see all aspects of government mass surveillance ended, including complete elimination of the secret FISA court whose work issuing warrants for terrorist and criminal suspects can be easily assumed by existing federal courts,” said Sarwark. “But this bill is a good first step.”

Rutherford Institute: We’re Living in “Every Dystopian Sci-Fi Film We’ve Ever Seen”

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

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Dystopian Sci-Fi FilmDisturbing excerpts from “How DNA Is Turning Us Into a Nation of Suspects“ by Rutherford Institute president John W. Whitehead, with lots of startling links:

“Every dystopian sci-fi film we’ve ever seen is suddenly converging into this present moment in a dangerous trifecta between science, technology and a government that wants to be all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful.

“By tapping into your phone lines and cell phone communications, the government knows what you say. By uploading all of your emails, opening your mail, and reading your Facebook posts and text messages, the government knows what you write. By monitoring your movements with the use of license plate readers, surveillance cameras and other tracking devices, the government knows where you go.

“By churning through all of the detritus of your life — what you read, where you go, what you say — the government can predict what you will do.

By mapping the synapses in your brain, scientists — and in turn, the government —will soon know what you remember. And by accessing your DNA, the government will soon know everything else about you that they don’t already know: your family chart, your ancestry, what you look like, your health history, your inclination to follow orders or chart your own course, etc.

“Of course, none of these technologies are foolproof. Nor are they immune from tampering, hacking or user bias. Nevertheless, they have become a convenient tool in the hands of government agents to render null and void the Constitution’s requirements of privacy and its prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“Consequently, no longer are we ‘innocent until proven guilty’ in the face of DNA evidence that places us at the scene of a crime, behavior sensing technology that interprets our body temperature and facial tics as suspicious, and government surveillance devices that cross-check our biometricslicense plates and DNA against a growing database of unsolved crimes and potential criminals. …

“All 50 states now maintain their own DNA databases, although the protocols for collection differ from state to state. That DNA is also being collected in the FBI’s massive national DNA database, code-named CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), which was established as a way to identify and track convicted felons and has since become a de facto way to identify and track the American people from birth to death.

“Indeed, hospitals have gotten in on the game by taking and storing newborn babies’ DNA, often without their parents’ knowledge or consent. …

“What this means for those being born today is inclusion in a government database that contains intimate information about who they are, their ancestry, and what awaits them in the future, including their inclinations to be followers, leaders or troublemakers.

“If you haven’t yet connected the dots, let me point the way: Having already used surveillance technology to render the entire American populace potential suspects, DNA technology in the hands of government will complete our transition to a suspect society in which we are all merely waiting to be matched up with a crime.

“No longer can we consider ourselves innocent until proven guilty. … We are all suspects in a DNA lineup until circumstances and science say otherwise.”

Read the rest of John W. Whitehead’s article here.

Gallup: Support for GOP, Democrats Hits New Low: Both Parties “Floundering,” Favored by Less Than 40%

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

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

A new Gallup poll shows America’s two largest and oldest political parties both falling to a Gallup poll shows GOP and Dems "Floundering"new low in favor among the public.

Only 37% of Americans now view the Republican Party favorably; only 39% view the Democratic Party favorably. This is a significant drop for the GOP — fully five points — from the midterm elections this past fall in which the Republicans won control of both the U.S. House and Senate. And it’s a near-record low for the Democrats — their lowest score was 36%, after the 2014 midterm elections.

This is the lowest favorability rating for both parties together since Gallup began tracking this way (i.e., asking about both parties in one poll) in 1992.

It is also the first time that neither party has achieved at least 40% favorability in this comparison poll. And, according to Gallup, it marks a clear downward trend.

Says Gallup: “The descent to sub-40% ratings for both parties marks a new low in an already inauspicious trend. … Except for a brief spike to 51% for the Democrats after Obama was re-elected in 2012, both parties’ ratings have registered below 50% since 2010.

“Bottom line: For some time, numerous Gallup trends have been showing Americans largely displeased with government’s performance and leadership. Through it all, at least one political party was reviewed well, but now — perhaps because of the constant brinksmanship going on between Obama and the Republican Congress, but maybe for other reasons — both parties are floundering.”

Adds Richard Winger, America’s leading expert on ballot access laws: “If the United States had nondiscriminatory election laws and practices relating to ballot access, debates, and campaign finance, it is obvious that new parties would arise and gain substantial support, just as they have in Great Britain and Canada.”

Libertarian Party Mocks Tepid GOP Tax Plan, Calls Instead for Ending the Hated Income Tax

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

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The Libertarian Party has denounced the latest income tax reform proposal by “fiscal conservative” Libertarian PartySenators Marco Rubio (R- FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) as far too timid with little or no benefit to most taxpayers. Further, charges the Libertarian Party, the plan “leaves the federal tax burden dangerously high.”

“This is what leaders within the GOP — which now holds majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate — have to offer?” asked Nicholas Sarwark, Chair of the Libertarian National Committee. “The Republican plan would do nothing to reduce federal deficits or federal spending. It keeps the federal tax burden at over $3 trillion and climbing, up from the dangerously high level of $2.1 trillion when Obama took office.”

The irony of “fiscal conservatives” in control of both branches of Congress calling for taxes higher than when Obama came in, and adding trillions of dollars to the national debt, was not lost on the Libertarians.

There’s a far better way, the Libertarian Party said.

“How about doing what many Libertarian candidates propose instead: ending the federal income tax altogether, balancing the budget, and cutting trillions of dollars in wasteful federal spending,” suggested Sarwark.

The Libertarian Party noted the surprising fact that ending the federal income tax entirely — and replacing it with nothing — while also balancing the budget — only requires rolling back federal spending to the level of… 1998.

1998, of course, was near the end of the Clinton administration, routinely denounced by conservatives as epitomizing “Big Government.” Certainly no conservative leaders in 1998 worried that the federal government was too small or lacked funds to perform its constitutional duties. Even President Clinton himself acknowledged that government had become far too big, famously declaring that “the era of Big Government is over” (perhaps unaware that we would soon be in the era of Bigger and Even Bigger Government).

Yet simply returning to funding at the 1998 level, says the Libertarian Party, would not only allow the abolition of the hated income tax. It would allow “more than enough to provide a strong national defense — and dramatically more than enough to fulfill all constitutional functions of the federal government.”

“Ending the income tax, balancing the budget — eliminating wasteful, unneeded and destructive government programs, wars, and bureaucracies — and cutting total federal spending accordingly will put an average of $11,525 back into the budget of every American household,” said Sarwark. “It pours $1.4 trillion into the productive, private sector economy.

“That’s stimulus!” Sarwark said. “Vote Libertarian, end the income tax, and put money back into your budget.”

Texas Legislator Writes Best Marijuana Re-Legalization Law… Ever

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

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

David SimpsonDavid Simpson, a Texas Republican state representative who describes himself as a “constitutional conservative,” has introduced what is surely the best and most libertarian marijuana re-legalization bill yet.

His bill — introduced this month — would simply eliminate all references to marijuana in Texas law, presumably making marijuana as legal as rose bushes or pine trees.

And he justifies it as part of an overall personal and political philosophy based on Christian values, individual liberty and limited government.

Simpson explains his thinking in a remarkable op-ed in The Texas Tribune, entitled “The Christian Case for Drug Law Reform.” Excerpts:

As a Christian, I recognize the innate goodness of everything God made and humanity’s charge to be stewards of the same.

In fact, it’s for this reason that I’m especially cautious when it comes to laws banning plants. I don’t believe that when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix.

[...]

[O]ur current ‘War on Drugs’ policies, though well intended, [are] spurring a proliferation of ever-changing exotic designer drugs and a disregard for constitutional protections in the name of eliminating drugs at any cost. Just think of no-knock warrants, stop-and-frisk, civil asset forfeiture and billionaire drug lords …state and federal agents are empowered to enforce laws with little to no regard for constitutional protections of individual rights, the sanctity of one’s home or the right to travel freely.

The time has come for a thoughtful discussion of the prudence of the prohibition approach to drug abuse, the impact of prohibition enforcement on constitutionally protected liberties and the responsibilities that individuals must take for their own actions.

[...]

Should we be concerned for our friends and neighbors who abuse a substance or activity? Yes, we should help them through sincere and voluntary engagement, but not with force and violence.

Is there a place for prohibition? Yes, a prohibition of aggression (Romans 13). Our laws should prohibit and penalize violent acts. This is the jurisdiction of the magistrates under the new covenant — harm to one’s neighbor.

Civil government should value everything God made and leave people alone unless they meddle with their neighbor.

As Reason magazine notes, “This is not just a brief against marijuana prohibition, or even the War on Drugs in general. It is a brief against using force to stop peaceful, consensual activity. … We need more Republicans like David Simpson.”

Pew Poll: Young Republicans and Democrats Overwhelmingly Support Re-Legalizing Marijuana

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

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

A new Pew poll shows a solid majority of Americans — 52% — continues to support re-legalizing Marijuana Re-Legalization Generational marijuana. The poll also shows a major split between older “Reefer Madness”-thinking Republicans and more libertarian-inclined GOP Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996).

Young Americans support re-legalization overwhelmingly, and they are driving this issue. Fully 69% of Millennials surveyed favor making the use of marijuana legal.

The split between young and old is particularly striking in the Republican Party. Fully 63% of GOP Millennials say the use of marijuana should be made legal. That level of support is higher than that found among Republican Generation Xers (47%) and Baby Boomers (38%), and much higher than among GOP members of the Silent Generation (17%). (Pew defines Generation X as those born between 1965-1980; Baby Boomers, 1946-1964; the Silent Generation, 1928-1945.)

As Pew notes: “the age gap is… strikingly similar trend to what we’ve seen within the party when it comes to same-sex marriage.”

Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters are far more favorable across the board. A whopping 77% of Democratic Millennials favoring re-legalization of marijuana use, as well as 66% of Boomers, 61% of Gen Xers and 44% of Democratic members of the Silent Generation.

Accompanying this debate is a remarkable shift in how Americans now view marijuana use as a crime. A large majority of Americans of all political persuasions —76% — think that people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana should not have to serve time in jail.

Adam Dick of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Freedom notes: “These young Republicans are definitely at odds with the majority of Republicans in the United States House of Representatives who continue to vote ‘no’ on rollbacks of the U.S. government’s war on marijuana.

“The trend reflected in the Pew poll results suggests that American politicians will, with each passing year, face electorates increasingly supportive of marijuana legalization — including in Republican primaries. A major shift in marijuana public opinions and policy is ongoing in America. Many politicians will be caught off guard by the major changes yet to come.

“Expect voters to boot out more drug warrior politicians because of those politicians’ increasingly discordant views regarding marijuana. Also watch for politicians to increasingly shift their positions so they publicly support rollbacks in the war on marijuana.”

Four Great FREE EBOOKS on Liberty

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

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Students For Liberty (SFL), in partnership with the Atlas Network, has published four outstanding libertarian books — great reading for student and non-student libertarians alike.

And you can download them for FREE as e-books or PDFs, or purchase paperback copies. (Note: if you’re not a student, ignore the “Expected year of college graduation” form box when downloading a PDF.)

Here’s what SFL offers:

The Economics of FreedomThe Economics of Freedom: Selected Works of Frédéric Bastiat features a truly delightful and enlightening collection of essays. Atlas scholar Tom Palmer notes that Bastiat is “the clearest, most sensible economist who ever wrote. Bastiat can be understood by a Nobel Prize winner, a taxi driver, a student, an entrepreneur… even a politician! Read this book and get set for a life-changing experience.”

The Morality of CapitalismThe Morality of Capitalism edited by Tom G. Palmer: Outstanding short pieces by a fantastic line-up of philosophers, economists, Nobel Prize winners, and entrepreneurs, all making the case that not only are markets highly effective, a true free market system is a prerequisite for a just, prosperous, and cooperative society.

Why LibertyWhy Liberty edited by Tom G. Palmer: A great collection of articles that focuses not just on political theory but also on liberty through the lens of culture, entrepreneurship, health, art, technology, philosophy, and the transformative power of freedom. The book features articles from experts in the fields of policy, academia, business, media, and student organizing. This collection makes it clear that liberty is a dynamic and liberating force with the power to change the world for the better.

Peace, Love, & LibertyPeace, Love, & Liberty edited by Tom G. Palmer: Shows that libertarianism is the philosophy of peace — and how libertarian ideas are making the world a safer place. Drawing on the disciplines of history, philosophy, poetry, literature, and psychology, Peace, Love, & Liberty shows that peace is possible — and shows how we can achieve it.

These books can also be purchased, either individual copies or in packs of 100 copies at very low cost, making them great for outreach. Thanks, SFL!

Why Did Our Ancestors Approve the Constitution?

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

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

United States Constitution

Here’s a provocative thought experiment from Jacob G. Hornberger, president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. In a recent article “Why Did Our Ancestors Approve the Constitution?“ Hornberger poses this question:

“Suppose our American ancestors in 1787 had been told that the proposed Constitution, which they were being asked to approve, was going to bring into existence a federal government that would have the following powers:

  • The power to tax people’s incomes in any amount government officials deemed appropriate.
  • The power to regulate people’s economic activities.
  • The power to incarcerate and fine people for ingesting harmful substances.
  • The power to round people up and incarcerate them indefinitely without trial by jury and due process of law.
  • The power to torture people.
  • The power to assassinate people.
  • The power to invade foreign countries and wage wars of aggression against them.
  • The power to establish military bases in foreign countries.
  • The power to take money from people and give it to others.
  • The power to secretly spy on people and monitor their activities.
  • The power to incarcerate and fine people for spending money in other countries.
  • The power to make paper money the official money of the United States.
  • The power to control and regulate gun ownership.

“Imagine, also, that the American people were told that the Constitution was going to bring into existence a vast, permanent military establishment as well as a secretive governmental agency (i.e., the CIA) with the omnipotent powers to kidnap people, conduct medical experiments on them without their consent, torture people, and assassinate people.

“Imagine, also, that they were told that a vast welfare state was going to be brought into existence, with the federal government charged with the task of taking care of people with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, foreign aid to dictators, and the like.

“One thing is beyond dispute: If our American ancestors had believed that the Constitution was going to bring into existence that type of federal government — the type of federal government we have today — they never would have approved it.”

There’s much more provocative reading in the rest of “Why Did Our Ancestors Approve the Constitution?

Vince Vaughn: I’m a Libertarian

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

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Vince VaughnVince Vaughn is one of the world’s most successful actors, screenwriters and producers. Since his breakthrough in the acclaimed 1993 independent comedy Swingers he’s become famous for his roles in some of the most popular comedies of the past decade, including The Wedding Crashers, The Break-Up, Starsky & Hutch, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Couples Retreat, and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. The versatile Vaughn has also played everything from romantic leads to action heroes and psychotic villains.

Vaughn’s sympathy for libertarian ideas has been well-known for several years. In particular he’s been a strong and vocal supporter of Ron Paul.

Now, in a new Playboy magazine interview, Vaughn makes his libertarianism explicit, as these excerpts make clear:

“I would use the term libertarian to describe my politics.

“I’m a very big fan [of Ron Paul]. Ron Paul woke a lot of people up to the fact that government can’t handle everything for you. Once you start playing that game, where does it stop? I like the way it was until 1913 [when the 16th Amendment was ratified, legalizing a federal income tax], when locally you had sales taxes and property taxes. That seems ethical to me, because I can move to a different neighborhood or area if I like the services they provide. To this day, your police department and your fire department are paid for with local taxes, and that makes sense, because you might use those. But the federal government looking into your books to decide what to take from you, that feels wrong.

“Trusting the federal government to know what we need and to run things well feels like a bad idea. You see that in the foreign policy of force, where the United States decides to go into another country to make things turn out a certain way. It doesn’t work. It causes more problems. … I don’t agree with a foreign policy that says you can send troops places without declaring a war and without having a plan to win the war. I would think you would look at Vietnam and suggest it wasn’t the best-laid plan.

“I feel the same way domestically. … [Adults] should be allowed to decide what’s in their interest, what makes sense for them, unless they commit fraud or physical force or take someone’s property. …

“I think history has proven without a doubt that the proper role of government is to protect individuals’ rights and liberties. That has always been the most prosperous, freest society for people to live in. And when government gets too involved, society turns into a place that gets very, very ugly. …

“America today is not capitalistic. The problem is corporatism. The government has too much authority, and it’s dangerous. It stifles productivity and freedom and prosperity and peace. …

“The Patriot Act? Let’s get rid of it. Undeclared wars, doing away with personal liberties — let’s understand how that has worked out historically to see that it has led to some horrible things. Once our personal liberties are gone, when an American citizen can be pulled out of his house and detained for six months without a trial, where is our country? Once those rights are gone, how do you get them back?”

Read the rest of the interview for more.

Report: U.S. Losing Freedom of the Press

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

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Each year the respected international organization Reporters Without Borders issues a World Press Freedom of the PressFreedom Index that explores and ranks freedom of the press in the countries of the world. According to the organization, the Index reflects “the degree of freedom that journalists, news organizations and netizens enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for this freedom.”

In this year’s report the United States is ranked a sad 49th out of 180 countries. This is the second-lowest ranking for the U.S. since the rankings began in 2002. (The lowest was in 2006, when the U.S. was ranked 53rd). Ranking immediately ahead of the U.S. are Malta, Niger, Burkino Faso, El Salvador, Tonga, Chile and Botswana.

Americans accustomed to the U.S.’s reputation as the bastion of a constitutionally protected free press may be surprised by the rankings. Reporters Without Borders cites incidents it considered in its rankings, including:

  • The U.S. government’s years-long effort to force two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter James Risen to reveal sources for his 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration.
  • The U.S. continued war against WikiLeaks and similar whistleblower organizations and individuals like Edward Snowden. 
  • The arrests of at least 15 journalists covering the police protests in Ferguson, Missouri. 

Journalists definitely feel a chill in post-9/11 America. As the Liberator Online reported last year, the PEN American Center, an organization of professional writers whose membership includes some of America’s most distinguished writers, surveyed its members and found:

“73% of writers have never been as worried about privacy rights and freedom of the press as they are today. Writers are self-censoring their work and their online activity due to their fears that commenting on, researching, or writing about certain issues will cause them harm. The fear of surveillance — and doubt over the way in which the government intends to use the data it gathers — has prompted PEN writers to change their behavior in numerous ways that curtail their freedom of expression and restrict the free flow of information.”

It’s not just the U.S. facing such problems. Press freedom is in decline around the world, says Reporters Without Borders. They say it is “incontestable” that “there was a drastic decline in [worldwide] freedom of information in 2014. Two-thirds of the 180 countries surveyed for the 2015 World Press Freedom Index performed less well than in the previous year. …

Beset by wars, the growing threat from non-state operatives, violence during demonstrations and the economic crisis, media freedom is in retreat on all five continents. … All warring parties without exception waged a fearsome information war. The media, used for propaganda purposes or starved of information, became strategic targets and were attacked, or even silenced.”

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.

The Great Libertarian Idea in President Obama’s 2015 Budget

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

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

 Surprise! There’s at least one great — and solidly libertarian — idea in President Barac

Occupational LicensingObama’s 2015 budget: cutting back the plague of occupational licensing.

In an item entitled “Reducing Unnecessary Occupational Licensing Requirements” Obama announces plans to “reduce occupational licensing barriers that keep people from doing the jobs they have the skills to do,” noting that occupational licensing is “putting in place unnecessary training and high fees” in many fields.

President Obama proposes a $15 million in grants to states for “identifying, exploring, and addressing areas where occupational licensing requirements create an unnecessary barrier to labor market entry or labor mobility…”

This is yet another example of a libertarian/free market idea bursting into the mainstream.

Libertarians at the Institute for Justice, the Reason Foundation and elsewhere have long pointed out the harm of occupational licensing requirements.

For example:

  • Occupational licensing laws — found in all 50 states — restrict entry into over 1,100 different occupations.
  • They have grown explosively. In the 1950s, less than five percent of American workers were required to obtain a government license to do their job. But today, that number has passed an incredible 30 percent — meaning one in three Americans must obtain permission from the government to pursue their chosen profession. 
  • The cost of these laws to consumers is astonishing. One 2011 study estimated that occupational licensing laws increase costs to consumers by a whopping $203 billion per year. As a result, some people are not able to afford some services, including crucial ones like dental care. A 2009 study found that states allowing dental hygienists to provide routine dental care had fewer adults with missing teeth than those that did not.
  • Occupational licensing laws destroy millions of American jobs — by one estimate, a whopping 2.85 million jobs. They make it prohibitively expensive or too difficult for newcomers to enter fields in which they have competency but can’t afford costly and unnecessary training and licensing. 
  • Occupational licensing laws slow or even halt innovation. One recent example is the use of licensing regulations for taxi drivers to halt new, highly competitive app-based services such as Uber.
  • Among the occupations in which entry is restricted by licensing laws: interior decorators, hair braiders, foot massagers, animal breeders, bartenders, funeral attendants, upholsterers, shampooers, music therapists, auctioneers, talent agents, and ballroom dance teachers. 

Of course, supporters of occupational licensing argue it is needed to protect the public from unscrupulous or incompetent practitioners.

However, reports the Institute for Justice: “Research to date — on occupations as diverse as school teachers, interior designers, mortgage brokers, dentists, physicians and others — provides little evidence that government licenses protect public health and safety or improve the quality of products or services.”

Astute Liberator Online readers can probably guess the real reason these laws exist.

“These laws are created under the guise of ‘helping’ consumers,” wrote Adam B. Summers of the Reason Foundation in a 2007 study. “In reality, the laws are helping existing businesses keep out competition, restricting consumer choice, destroying entrepreneurship, and driving up prices.”

Further, many of these occupations are in fields where, in the past, the poor, immigrants and other challenged workers — those with the least resources — have been able to get a toehold in the economy.

To learn more, check out these resources:

Writing at National Review Online, economist Veronique de Rugy sums up the problem nicely:

“People who want to work, start businesses and make a living shouldn’t have to ask the government for permission to do so. Consumers can take care of themselves, especially with our sharing economy and the easy feedback mechanisms it offers. …

“Many of the licensed occupations have traditionally provided low-income Americans with a path to self-sufficiency and upward mobility. By erecting barriers to entry to these occupations, we erect barriers to entry to the American dream.”

Government Regulation to Cost Americans $1.882 Trillion This Year

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

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Free to ProsperA new report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) estimates that government regulation will cost the American economy a staggering $1.882 trillion in 2015.

This is larger than the entire GDP of all but 11 countries in the entire world — including major developed nations like Australia and South Korea.

Further, the regulatory burden is constantly growing. In 2014 alone, 3,541 new regulations hit the books. Complying with regulations will take an estimated 9 billion hours of paperwork. CEI contends such regulation drives up the cost of goods and services, destroys jobs and damages the economy in other ways. They also point out this huge expense is largely out of control — unmonitored and unaccountable. Many regulations are inefficient, unnecessary, destructive, and would be far better handled by market mechanisms.

The report, “Free to Prosper: A Pro-Growth Agenda for the 114th Congress,” can be read for free and includes CEI’s suggestions for reform.

Obama: U.S. Currently Fighting Wars in 14 Countries

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

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 2 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The War Powers Resolution requires the President to report twice a year to Congress on U.S. military operations being conducted overseas without a congressional declaration of war.

President Obama filed his latest such report on December 11.

The report went virtually unmentioned in the mainstream press. Yet in it, Obama reports the startling, little-known fact that “the United States has deployed U.S. combat-equipped forces” in no less than… 14 countries.

As Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity summarizes: “In other words, the U.S. government is at war in 14 countries!”

Here’s the list:

  • Afghanistan
  • Troops Around the GlobeIraq
  • Syria
  • Somalia
  • Yemen
  • Cuba
  • Niger
  • Chad
  • Uganda
  • Egypt
  • Jordan
  • Kosovo
  • Central African Republic
  • Tunisia

The list does not include countries in which the U.S. is engaged in covert activities, or where U.S. troops are stationed in non-combat positions, or where the U.S. has participated in joint exercises with military allies, which, together, would probably include most countries in the world.

Asks the Ron Paul Institute’s McAdams:

“Where else would the neocons have the U.S. military deployed for the next half-year report? Iran? Ukraine? Russia? North Korea? We can only imagine their wish list. Meanwhile, the $1 trillion spent annually on the military is quickly bankrupting the country, making us new enemies every day, and as a result making us less, not more, safe.”

New York Times: Should We Abolish the CIA?

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

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

It’s exciting news when a bold libertarian idea moves into the mainstream. We’ve seen this again and again in recent years.

Now the New York Times — the very definition of mainstream, Establishment opinion — has asked a critical and timely question in the “Room for Debate” section of its Opinion Pages:

Abolish the CIA?“Do We Need the C.I.A.? Would the security needs of the United States be better served if the agency were dismantled?”

Writes the Times:

“Since Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan introduced bills in 1991 and 1995 to abolish the Central Intelligence Agency and transfer its powers to the State Department, many have continued to share his concerns about the agency’s competence and performance. The Senate intelligence committee’s report on the use of torture is the latest example of the agency’s controversies. …

“Would the security needs of the United States be better served if the C.I.A. were dismantled?”

That such a question is being asked and debated is great news, says Jacob Hornberger, president of the libertarian Future of Freedom Foundation:

“That is a remarkable development. When was the last time you read that question being asked by anyone in the mainstream press? Wouldn’t we ordinarily see the question posed in the following manner: ‘Is It Time to Reform the CIA?’ …

“Libertarians have long called for the abolition, not the reform, of the CIA… The fact that the Times even asks the question is a testament to the importance of hewing to libertarian principles rather settling for reform proposals. Over time, ideas on liberty percolate and find their way into the minds of others. And suddenly there are prominent people in mainstream American life asking, ‘Why not abolish the CIA?’”

Hornberger gives his own answer to the New York Times’ question.

“The existence of an agency like the CIA is totally contrary to the principles of a free society. … It’s not just the post-9/11 torture scandal. The CIA has been engaged in evil, immoral, dark-side activities since its inception, all guided by the mindset of ‘patriots’ who were protecting ‘national security’ from the communists and, later, from the drug dealers, the ‘terrorists,’ and anyone else who could be used to scare Americans into keeping quiet about the CIA’s steady acquisition of secret, omnipotent power.

“The CIA knowingly employed Nazis, including ones who had participated in the Holocaust, all the while keeping it secret from the American people.

“The CIA destroyed democratic regimes all the over the world and installed brutal and tyrannical dictatorships in their stead.

“The CIA initiated horrendous medical experiments on unsuspecting Americans in its MKULTRA program and then destroyed its records so that the American people would not discover the full details of what they had done. …

“The CIA initiated a formal program of assassination and, in fact, participated in the assassination or execution of people around the world…

“The CIA has engaged in assassination and torture since at least the 1950s… At the risk of belaboring the obvious, it continues to assassinate people in different parts of the world…

“From its inception, the CIA has meddled in the affairs of other countries and continues to do so. It is without a doubt the world’s biggest troublemaker, and it is the American people who are bearing the brunt of all the trouble.

“Where in the Constitution does it authorize an agency like the CIA? The fact is that the very existence of the CIA has converted the original concept of limited government into unlimited government. For as long as one part of the government has unlimited powers, that automatically means that the federal government has unlimited powers. …

“So, New York Times, the answer to your question is: Yes, most definitely, the time for abolishing the CIA is long past due. It’s a key to restoring a free, prosperous, and secure society to our land. Thanks for asking the question because it will almost certainly cause others to ponder it.”

Ron Paul: You’d Love My Government Shutdown

in 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!)

“The political class breathed a sigh of relief Saturday when the U.S. Senate averted a Ron Paulgovernment shutdown by passing the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill,” notes Ron Paul in a column at CNBC.

“This year’s omnibus resembles omnibuses of Christmas past in that it was drafted in secret, was full of special interest deals and disguised spending increases, and was voted on before most members could read it.”

That’s pathetic, Paul says.

“Instead of panicking over a limited shutdown, a true pro-liberty Congress would be eagerly drawing up plans to permanently close most of the federal government.”

“What would I shut down if given the opportunity for it to have any meaning?” he mused at Voices of Liberty.com.

“First, the Fed. No more welfare for the rich.

“Second, the IRS. Let the people keep all of their earnings and spend their money in their own interest.

“Third, abolish the NSA, the TSA, the CIA and all spying on American citizens.

“Spending would stop, no federal printing presses and no stolen money from the people would end entitlements, which mostly go to the rich.

“And all of our wars — we would come home from the 150 countries where we have troops stationed.

Concludes Paul: “Now that’s a government shutdown that would not go unnoticed and something to be proud of!”

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.

Yale Professor: Every Law Has a Death Penalty

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!)

Stephen Carter, a distinguished Yale law professor and author of 12 acclaimed books, says he startles his new law students with a vital but little-understood truth about law and government:

“On the opening day of law school, I always counsel my first-year students never to support a law they are not willing to kill to enforce,” he writes at Bloomberg View.

“Usually they greet this advice with something between skepticism and puzzlement, until I remind them that the police go armed to enforce the will of the state, and if you resist, they might kill you.

“I wish this caution were only theoretical. It isn’t. Whatever your view on the refusal of a New York City grand jury to indict the police officer whose chokehold apparently led to the death of Eric Garner, it’s useful to remember the crime that Garner is alleged to have committed: He was selling individual cigarettes, or loosies, in violation of New York law. …

“Libertarians argue that we have far too many laws, and the Garner case offers evidence that they’re right.”

Libertarian Party: Shut Down CIA, Prosecute Torturers

in Communicating Liberty by James W. Harris Comments are off

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

The Libertarian Party says there’s only one way to deal with the new revelations of CIA torture and the tortureagency’s long history of other crimes: shut down the CIA and other rogue, out-of-control spy agencies.

Says Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas J. Sarwark:

“The CIA’s practice of torture confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Report released on December 9 shows the agency engaged in reprehensible and illegal behaviors that were, in effect, war crimes.

“The CIA and politicians redacted the bulk of the government’s report, which remains withheld from public view. One can only speculate as to the additional horrors that lie within the rest of the report, given the gravity of what was revealed.

“These acts of torture were immoral, disgusting, and un-American. And… they were ineffective.

“Yet the CIA and the Department of Justice, which sanctioned the torture, claim that it was legal and exhibit a shocking lack of remorse for the brutality inflicted on its victims.

“Whether it’s choking a man to death for selling loose cigarettes in New York or torturing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, the government refuses to prosecute government employees who brutalize the vulnerable. When the government investigates itself, it almost always clears itself of any wrongdoing.

“This is why we must shut down the CIA.”

Sarwark points out that the 70-year history of the CIA is ” littered with episodes of human rights violations, illegal activities, and deception,” including:

  • Targeted killings and assassinations
  • Overthrowing democratically elected governments
  • Human experimentation, including giving the hallucinogenic drug LSD to U.S. and Canadian citizens without their knowledge
  • Dealing heroin in Asia
  • Spying on Americans, members of congress, and foreign leaders
  • Shipping war prisoners to foreign countries where torture is permissible (“extraordinary rendition”)
  • Lying to Congress

“Government-sanctioned torture is bipartisan,” Sarwark adds, noting that Republican President George W. Bush authorized the torture revealed in the Senate report, and President Barack Obama granted him full immunity. Torturers still hold high positions in government.

“Famed journalist Glenn Greenwald said ‘The Obama administration’s aggressive, full-scale whitewashing of the ‘War on Terror’ crimes committed by Bush officials is now complete.’

“Whereas Democrats and Republicans have continually funded and encouraged CIA war crimes, the Libertarian Party has consistently and strongly opposed the use of torture, mass surveillance, and human rights violations by the U.S. government throughout the party’s 43-year history.

“The Libertarian Party calls for real accountability, including prosecuting all of those who authorized and performed these brutal acts.”

New Ayn Rand Novel to Be Published

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 23 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

A never-before-published novel by Ayn Rand will be hitting the bookstores in a few months — the first Ayn IdealRand novel to be published in over 50 years.

According to the publisher the short novel, entitled Ideal, “tells the story of beautiful but tormented actress Kay Gonda. Accused of murder, she is on the run, and she turns for help to six fans who have written letters to her, each telling her that she represents their ideal — a respectable family man, a far-left activist, a cynical artist, an evangelist, a playboy, and a lost soul. Each reacts to her plight in his own way, their reactions a glimpse into their secret selves and their true values…”

Rand wrote Ideal in 1934, when she was in her late 20s. Unhappy with it, she put it aside and turned it into a play, which was never performed in her lifetime and went unpublished until the 1986 collection The Early Ayn Rand, edited by Leonard Peikoff of the Ayn Rand Institute. Peikoff described the play as a “philosophical murder mystery.”

The novel remained buried in the archives at the Ayn Rand Institute until 2012, when it was rediscovered while Rand’s papers were being digitized.

New American Library will publish both the novel (135 pages) and the play together on July 7, 2015.

Ayn Rand, who died in 1982, is of course most famous for her enormously influential bestseller Atlas Shrugged, which helped set off the modern libertarian movement and has, incredibly, remained in hardback since its first publication in 1957. Together her novels, including The Fountainhead and We The Living, have sold over 25 million copies.

Page 1 of 512345