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To the Death

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“Je ne suis pas d’accord avec ce que vous dites, mais je me battrai pour que vous ayez le droit de le dire.”

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

This magnificent declaration of free speech, tolerance, and liberty, attributed to the great 17th century French champion of liberty Voltaire, is now whirling around the globe in French and English, in print and online, in tweets, memes, newsfeeds and editorials.

The outcry over the murder of 12 people at Charlie Hebdo — killed for exercising their right to speak freely, killed for creating satire, killed for drawing cartoons — has thrust those words and the principle behind them into the minds of millions.

It is heartening to see such an overwhelming response in favor of freedom of speech, one of the most important and sacred of rights.

Freedom of speech has not always been tolerated well even here in America. Right up through the 1960s many novels, including books now considered masterpieces by authors like Henry Miller and William Burroughs, were illegal to sell. For most of America’s history, some words were unprintable, and writing about some ideas — birth control, for example — was forbidden. In the 1960s, Lenny Bruce, one of America’s greatest and most incisive comedians, was constantly harassed and arrested merely for using four-letter words in nightclubs; in despair, he died of a heroin overdose. Theater owners were arrested for showing sexually explicit films, convenience store clerks arrested for selling adult magazines.

Those who stood for freedom of expression in the past, even here in tolerant America, often fought a lonely and difficult struggle. All of us have benefited tremendously from their courage and passion.

Even today, even in America, those on the cutting edge of speech face threats. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders, Joe Randazzo, former editor of the satirical publication The Onion, wrote at MSNBC: “I’ve personally spoken on the phone with at least two individuals who threatened to rape me and kill my family” because of his writing.

Randazzo continues: “Satire must always accompany any free society. It is an absolute necessity. Even in the most repressive medieval kingdoms, they understood the need for the court jester, the one soul allowed to tell the truth through laughter. It is, in many ways, the most powerful form of free speech because it is aimed at those in power, or those whose ideas would spread hate. It is the canary in the coalmine, a cultural thermometer, and it always has to push, push, push the boundaries of society to see how much it’s grown.”

Around the world, crowds numbering in the thousands have gathered in defense of this most fundamental of freedoms, some waving pencils and pens, some holding signs reading “Je Suis Charlie” — “I Am Charlie.” Cartoonists worldwide have rallied to honor their fallen brothers-in-ink with an outpouring of creative and defiant tributes.

How glorious, how thrilling to see such passionate defense of free speech in response to those who would use violence to shut out views they disagree with.

Free speech is a value millions hold dearly. But that wasn’t always true. We believe so strongly in free speech today because of the centuries of political activism that won that freedom, defined it, argued for its value, and made it a central part of our lives.

As we libertarians build a consensus on other fundamental freedoms — peace, the right to control our bodies, the right to own and keep the fruits of our labors — we will see these ideas, too, embraced by the people of the world, and vigorously defended when attacked.

I’ll end with another quote from Voltaire, with a message I hope will be taken up one day soon with the same passion as the one at the beginning of this column:

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”

Ron Paul: My New Year’s Resolutions for Congress

in Liberator Online Archives 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… Rand Paul, John Hickenlooper, And More!

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

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Doug Sosnik

AMERICANS MAD AT GOV’T, WANT LESS OF IT: “It is difficult to overstate the depth of the anger and alienation that a majority of all Americans feel toward the federal government. A June 30, 2014, Gallup poll found that Americans’ level of confidence has dropped to near record lows for all three branches — the presidency (30 percent), Congress (7 percent) and the U.S. Supreme Court (29 percent). …the country’s diminishing faith in its institutions has translated into a desire for less government, not more.” — Democratic political strategist Doug Sosnik, former political director for President Clinton, “Blue Crush: How the Left Took Over the Democratic Party,” Politico Magazine, July 24, 2014.

ANGRY AMERICANS PART 2: 
John Hickenlooper“People are mad at Democrats. But they’re certainly not happy with Republicans. They’re mad at everything.” — Democratic governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper, quoted in the  New York Times, August 26, 2014.


John HaywardBURGER KING HAS IT THEIR WAY: “Three cheers for Burger King, I say! All of the whiny liberals racing to call them ‘unpatriotic’ for pursuing a deal to merge with the Canadian coffee shop Tim Horton and reincorporate north of the border, thus escaping the deranged American corporate tax system, are completely missing the point. Nothing is more patriotic, more quintessentially American, than voting with your feet and withdrawing your consent from an unhinged government. When CEOs start climbing over the walls to escape from greedy left-wing government, the problem is not insufficiently high walls.” — conservative writer John Hayward, “Burger King to escape U.S. corporate tax system,” Human Events, August 26, 2014.

RAND PAUL ON THE INTERVENTIONISTS: 
Senator Rand Paul“The let’s-intervene-and-consider-the-consequences-later crowd left us with more than 4,000 Americans dead, over 2 million refugees and trillions of dollars in debt. Anytime someone advocates sending our sons and daughters to war, questions about precise objectives, effective methods and an exit strategy must be thoughtfully answered. America deserves this.” — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), “Rick Perry Is Dead Wrong,” Politico.com, July 14, 2014.

Ron PaulRON PAUL ON HELPING ISIS RECRUIT: “A new U.S. military incursion will not end ISIS; it will provide them with the recruiting tool they most crave, while draining the U.S. treasury. Just what Osama bin Laden wanted!” — Ron Paul, “Obama Has No Middle East Strategy? Good!” Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, August 31, 2014.

FREEDOM OR EMPIRE:
Robert Murphy“If Americans want a free society at home, then they must convince the U.S. government to give up its global empire. The militarized police recently on display in Ferguson was no freak coincidence: Antiwar activists and other civil libertarians have been warning for decades that an aggressive U.S. foreign policy would eventually destroy domestic liberties. Americans can’t ask their government to subjugate foreigners with bombs but bow to their own wishes at the ballot box.” — Robert P. Murphy, “A free society must give up empire,” Antiwar.com, August. 30, 2014.


LABOR DAY, OBAMA ERA:
 “It’s Labor Day weekend. Labor Day, of course, is a David Lettermanholiday where people take three days off from being unemployed.” — David Letterman, August 28, 2014.

NOTED AND REQUOTED
CANDIDATE OBAMA VS PRESIDENT OBAMA:

President Barack Obama

“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” — Sen. Barack Obama, interviewed by the Boston Globe while running for president in 2008, quoted by Conor Friedersdorf at Atlantic.com.

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.

Best Libertarian Science Fiction/Fantasy of the Year Announced

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Cory Doctorow's Homeland

Want some great libertarian-oriented reading? The Libertarian Futurist Society has some new recommendations for you.

For more than three decades, the Libertarian Futurist Society has given its coveted annual Prometheus Awards, which celebrate outstanding current and classic works of science fiction and fantasy that stress the importance of liberty as the foundation for civilization, peace, prosperity, progress and justice.

This year’s Best Novel Award was a tie: Homeland by Cory Doctorow and Nexus by Ramez Naam.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Cory Doctorow has generously allowed readers to download Homeland — and some of his other works — for free here.

Homeland, the sequel to Doctorow’s 2009 Prometheus winner Little Brother, follows the continuing adventures of a government-brutalized young leader of a movement of tech-savvy hackers — who must decide whether to release an incendiary Wikileaks-style exposé of massive government abuse and corruption as part of a struggle against the invasive national-security state.

This is Doctorow’s third Prometheus Award for Best Novel. He won last year for his Pirate Cinema. All three are young-adult novels with strong libertarian themes.

Nexus by Ramez Naam is described as “a gripping exploration of politics and new extremes of both freedom and tyranny in a near future where emerging technology opens up unprecedented possibilities for mind control or personal liberation and interpersonal connection.”

The other finalists:

* A Few Good Men by Sarah Hoyt
* Crux by Ramez Naam (sequel to his Best Novel-winning Nexus)
* Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

The Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) winner is Falling Free, a 1988 novel by Lois McMaster Bujold that explores free will and self-ownership by considering the legal and ethical implications of human genetic engineering.

The other 2014 Hall of Fame finalists: “As Easy as A.B.C.,” a 1912 short story by Rudyard Kipling; “Sam Hall,” a 1953 short story by Poul Anderson; “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” a 1965 short story by Harlan Ellison; and Courtship Rite, a 1982 novel by Donald M. Kingsbury.

In a separate awards ceremony, four-time-Prometheus Award-winning author Vernor Vinge will receive a Special Prometheus Lifetime Achievement Award.

Author-filksinger Leslie Fish — according to Prometheus “perhaps the most popular filk song writer of the past three decades and one who often includes pro-freedom themes in her songs” — will receive a Special Prometheus Award in 2014 for the combination of her 2013 libertarian-themed novella “Tower of Horses” and her related filk song, “The Horsetamer’s Daughter.” (No, that’s not a misspelling. Filk songs are songs created from within science fiction and fantasy fandom, usually dealing with related subject matter.)

The Prometheus Award will be presented in a ceremony during the 2014 World Science Fiction Convention, to be held in London, England August 14-18, 2014.

For further great libertarian fiction reading recommendations, see the list of past Prometheus Award winners and nominees.

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 www.TheAdvocates.org 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.

Woody Harrelson: People Would Do Fine Without Government

in Communicating Liberty by Brett Bittner Comments are off

Woody HarrelsonWoody Harrelson is one of the world’s most famous and respected film stars. He’s also well known as an outspoken activist for causes including civil liberties, peace, environmental issues and relegalizing marijuana.

In an interview in the June / July 2013 Issue of Details magazine Harrelson expands on his political views — revealing a strong skepticism about politics and politicians and declaring, among other things, that he’s an anarchist who thinks people would get along just fine without the State.

Excerpts: 

WOODY HARRELSON: I tend to not like politicians, because it’s a subtle form of prostitution. Or maybe not so subtle.

DETAILS: So you dislike Democrats as much as you dislike the GOP?

WOODY HARRELSON: It’s all synchronized swimming to me. They all kneel and kiss the ring. Who’s going to take on the oil industry or the medical industry? People compare Obama to Lyndon Johnson, but I think a better comparison is between Obama and Nixon. Because Nixon came into office saying he was going to pull out of Vietnam, and then he escalated the war. A lot of us were led to believe that Obama was the peace president, but there are still, I think, 70,000 troops in Afghanistan.

DETAILS: You’re an advocate for legalizing marijuana. Do you think recent events make it more likely?

WOODY HARRELSON: I can’t imagine that it’s going to happen, no. The deeper issue is, what does it mean to live in a free country? In the U.S., something like 80 percent of people in prison are there for “consensual crimes.”

DETAILS: Do you want to get more involved in politics?

WOODY HARRELSON: No. I don’t believe in politics. I’m an anarchist, I guess you could say. I think people could be just fine looking after themselves.