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The Greatest Libertarian Accomplishment in History?

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

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

What is the most important libertarian accomplishment in history?

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

His response? “The abolition of slavery.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Libertarians Rock Washington D.C.

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The Advocates for Self-Government at #ISFLC15Last weekend in Washington D.C. you could see the future of liberty before your eyes. And, as the pictures here show, it’s a bright future indeed!

More than a thousand enthusiastic young libertarians from around the world poured into Washington for the 8th Annual International Students For Liberty Conference (ISFLC). They were there to network, hear and meet some of the world’s leading advocates of liberty, exchange ideas with fellow student libertarians, and have a great time. Total attendance (student and non-student) was a record-breaking 1700-plus.

The event — covered by news media including CNN, FOX, the BBC, and the Washington Post — featured renowned speakers including Ron Paul, Edward Snowden, Judge Andrew Napolitano, former President of Mexico Vicente Fox, Congressman Walter Jones and Congressman Justin Amash.

The Advocates was delighted to welcome hundreds of these students at our busy booth, manned The Advocates for Self-Government at #ISFLC15by a stellar Advocates team of Dagny Smith, Brett Bittner (left) and Kelsey Fritz (right).

If you’re a libertarian college student who didn’t attend or just didn’t get a chance to sign up for free outreach materials from the Advocates, do it now! Learn how your campus group can get a FREE OPH kit here, and learn how you can have an Advocates libertarian communication workshop on your campus here.

A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month – Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Millions Celebrate Education Choice

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 4 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Happy National School Choice Week! National School Choice Week

This week (January 25 to 31) is National School Choice Week, a non-partisan public awareness effort designed to “shine a positive spotlight on the need for effective education options for all children.”

I wasn’t aware of the scope of this project until just recently, but it is huge. And this year is its biggest, highest-profile celebration yet.

Millions of Americans in all 50 states will participate in more than 11,000 unique independently planned and independently funded events and activities celebrating school choice. These events will range from open houses and talent shows at schools to 5k runs and rallies on the steps of state capitols.

And there is growing political clout behind this diverse movement. This year the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to recognize January 25-31, 2015 as National School Choice Week. More than 100 U.S. governors, mayors and county leaders have issued proclamations recognizing National School Choice Week in their states and localities. I’m impressed!

National School Choice Week doesn’t focus on a single tactic or solution for increasing education choice and quality. Instead, it focuses on bringing public awareness to this issue and, in doing so, creating a mass movement for the broad goals of education choice and diversity.

As the group says: “Participants in National School Choice Week believe that parents should be empowered to choose the best educational environments for their children. Supporters plan events that highlight a variety of school choice options — from traditional public schools to public charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online learning, and homeschooling — while uniting with like-minded groups and individuals across the country.”

One of the resources that National School Choice Week offers is a national map that provides facts about school choice in each state. Click on a state on the map and discover the types of school choice available — and not available — to families in that state. Great resource! Check it out.

The growth of such a mass movement for liberty in education is heartening. And support is strong and growing fast, as this Beck Research national survey of likely 2016 voters proves:

“When asked, ‘Generally speaking, would you say you favor or oppose the concept of school choice? School choice gives parents the right to use the tax dollars associated with their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which better serves their needs,’ fully 69% support school choice, including 45% who strongly support it, while 27% oppose it. School choice support has strong support across partisan lines; 60% of Democrats, 67% of Independents and 81% of Republicans back it.”

That’s astounding progress.

Of course, the ultimate goal for libertarians is what Advocates Founder and education reform pioneer Marshall Fritz called “separation of school and state.”

I’ll finish by quoting from a recent column by Ron Paul inspired by National School Choice Week. As usual, Paul gets straight to the heart of the matter:

“If Congress was serious about improving education it would shut down the Department of Education. … So as long as federal education programs exist, school children will be used as guinea pigs for federal bureaucrats who think they are capable of creating a curriculum suitable for every child in the country. …

“It would also shut down all other unconstitutional bureaucracies, end our interventionist foreign policy, and reform monetary policy so parents would have the resources to provide their children with an education that fits their children’s unique needs.

“Federal and state lawmakers must also repeal any laws that limit the education alternatives parents can choose for their children. The greater the options parents have and the greater the amount of control they exercise over education, the stronger the education system.

“These reforms would allow more parents access to education options such as private or religious schools, and also homeschooling.”

Let’s hope this week moves us further in that direction. Happy National School Choice Week!

I Wanted to Change the World…

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

I love this wonderful little reflection, attributed to “an unknown monk” writing around 1100 A.D.:

I Wanted to Change the World…
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I Wanted to Change the World
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. 
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family.
My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation… and I could indeed have changed the world.

Changing the world: that’s what we, as libertarian activists, want to do. As the wise monk points out, changing the world must begin with… changing ourselves. And that’s a lifelong process. How do we do that? Here are a few suggestions and some resources for this lifelong journey:

  • Keep developing your understanding of libertarianism. What does liberty mean to you? Why are you a libertarian? Commit yourself to a joyful lifetime of learning. Read books, watch videos, talk with knowledgeable people. Periodically return to the basics. Be open to learning new arguments for liberty. Stay up to date: follow quality libertarian blogs, magazines, podcasts and new books. Be able to speak knowledgeably on libertarian solutions to current problems. David Bergland’s Libertarianism in One Lesson, published by the Advocates, is widely hailed as the best short introduction to libertarianism available. The Ludwig von Mises Institute has created one of the great online libertarian treasures: they’ve made hundreds of classic, essential libertarian books available online, for free
  • Learn how to communicate the ideas of liberty effectively and persuasively. Here’s where the Advocates can be of great service to you! Successful libertarian communication has been a key part of our mission since our founding. Check out our online Liberty Store for books, CDs and DVDs on how to do this. Plus, every issue of the Liberator Online has new articles on the best ways to communicate libertarianism. If you want to learn to do public speaking for liberty, consider joining Toastmasters.  And call 800-932-1776 or email us to learn how you can have a fun, engaging and enlightening Advocates libertarian communication workshop in your area. 
  • Develop your personal skills. How you present yourself is critically important — and you’d be shocked at how often this crucial point is neglected. Be friendly. Dress appropriately. Listen respectfully to others. Be a good friend, family member, neighbor — people are far more likely to listen to your political ideas if they already like and respect you as a person. 
  • Be prepared to answer questions. Learn to answer in bite-sized soundbites. Be ready to persuasively answer the tough questions libertarians are commonly asked. 
  • Meet other liberty activists. Go to libertarian meetings. Join a campus or local libertarian group. Network with libertarians online. From these meetings may come the “family” in the monk’s story above that will help you change your community, your country… and the world. 
  • Use proven tools. The world-famous World’s Smallest Political Quiz was developed by the Advocates to make explaining liberty easy and fun. Millions of people have encountered libertarianism through this single tool. Our OPH (Operation Politically Homeless) kit gives you the ability to find dozens or even hundreds of libertarians and liberty-friendly people wherever people are gathered. 

When to begin your journey? I love this phrase, attributed to Anne Frank: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before beginning to improve the world.”

See You at the World’s Largest Gathering of Libertarian Students!

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 2 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Mark your calendar!

ISFLC 2015The 8th Annual International Students For Liberty Conference will be held in Washington, DC, Friday, February 13 through Sunday, February 15.

And it’s going to be an event to remember.

Students For Liberty describes the conference as “the premiere event of the year for students dedicated to liberty and advancing freedom on campus.” Last year’s conference featured over 1,200 attendees from 26 countries — and SFL expects this year’s to be bigger and better than ever before.

The Advocates will have a booth there, and we’re looking forward to meeting friends new and old and sharing Advocates tools and programs like Operation Politically Homeless (now FREE for campus groups) with students and other attendees.

The conference is opening with a bang — a Friday night conversation between Ron Paul and Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, moderated by Nick Gillespie, editor of Reason.com and Reason.tv.

And that’s just the start. The conference has lined up a stellar list of speakers. Among them: John Stossel, Congressman Justin Amash, Cato’s David Boaz and Tom G. Palmer, Jeffrey Tucker of Liberty.me, Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks. Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Libertarian Party executive director Wes Benedict, The Freeman editor Max Borders, the Marijuana Policy Project’s Rob Kampia… and that’s just a few of the outstanding speakers you’ll have a chance to hear. See the whole list of speakers here.

In addition to main-stage speakers, the weekend will feature over 80 breakout sessions on topics such as the militarization of police, the War on Drugs, free speech, and Bitcoin. The conference will also have an ongoing liberty fair with over 60 sponsor organizations. Plus there are networking opportunities with potential employers, and socials where you’ll have a great chance to meet with fellow lovers of liberty.

PS: You don’t have to be a student to attend. SFL says that, while the conference (as with other SFL programs) is focused on students, everyone is welcome to attend no matter what your age or status as a student might be.

Learn more and register at the conference website.

Hope to see you there!

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.”

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.

Government Vs. Generosity

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 24 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

What a great time of the year! In the spirit of the season, charity and helping those in need are uppermost in the minds of many people.

This is wonderful. However, some people, in their commendable desire to help the unfortunate, are calling for government to play a larger and ever-greater role in this.

But such government involvement actually harms the needy, those who want to help, and the very organizations that do the most good.
Generosity

  1. Government aid greatly diminishes the role and influence of private charities and religious and spiritual organizations. Churches, temples, charities and similar organizations can do many vital things that government cannot. In addition to aid, they can offer community, spiritual growth, personal counseling and much more. However, when government becomes the primary provider of aid, these bedrock social institutions lose countless opportunities to encounter and influence others in life-changing ways. Indeed, they become increasingly seen as irrelevant and unimportant.
  2. Government programs rob the potential giver of the great benefits of giving. In many spiritual traditions, a charitable gift is just as important for the giver as it is for the receiver. Indeed, some might argue it is even more important. As the saying goes, “It is better to give than to receive.” Giving teaches crucial spiritual lessons and brings other wonderful benefits to the giver. Yet if money is simply seized from people to fund government welfare programs, potential givers may believe they have done their part and feel no need to do any actual giving. And a gift is not really a gift if it has to be compelled by force. Opportunities for personal and spiritual growth are lost.
  3. Government is remarkably, famously inefficient. Those who give want to know that their gift provides the maximum benefit for those they want to help. Wasteful, poorly operated, faceless, coldly bureaucratic government organizations are a poor choice to do this. Indeed, who, given the choice, would give their money to, say, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services instead of a local soup kitchen or an effective national private charity? Charities are constantly being evaluated, and are constantly motivated to innovate, improve, become ever more efficient. Tax funding of poorly run government programs robs spiritual and charitable organizations of precious funds that would otherwise be spent far more efficiently to help those in need.

 

It’s the season for giving. Give with love, give with joy, give in the most effective way you can.

December 5 is Repeal Day

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 23 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In 1929, Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas — author of the Eighteenth Amendment that created alcohol Prohibition, known as “the father of national Prohibition,” and the leading supporter of Prohibition in Congress — boasted:

“There is as much chance of repealing the Eighteenth Amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail.”

Just three years later, alcohol Prohibition was… repealed.

I love that quote. Those of us fighting to end the War on Drugs can take heart from it.

When Sen. Morris made his declaration, Prohibition had been a part of U.S. law for nearly a decade. It must have seemed to many to be a permanent fixture of American life.

Certainly no one could have guessed that the country was just a few years away from ending the disaster of Prohibition.

That makes me wonder. Are we perhaps closer today to ending today’s Prohibition — the War on Drugs — than we realize? Might an extra push from the growing liberty movement be all that is needed to accomplish this?

Prohibition - H. L. MenckenFriday, December 5 is a great time to ponder such thoughts. It’s the 81st anniversary of Repeal Day, the glorious day America ridded itself of the disastrous failure of alcohol Prohibition. Repeal Day should be publicized and celebrated by libertarians and other friends of freedom every year.

Like the War on Drugs, alcohol Prohibition was supported by many people for the highest motives and with great confidence in the government’s ability to successfully shape and mold society and individuals. The abuse of alcohol was (and remains today) a serious problem. Banning alcohol seemed, to millions, a reasonable way to handle this problem.

Prohibition began on January 16, 1920. America’s most famous evangelist, Dr. Billy Sunday, boldly proclaimed:

“The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be only a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs. Men will walk upright now, women will smile and the children will laugh. Hell will be forever for rent.”

Some communities even shut down their jails, confident that they would no longer be needed.

Of course, it didn’t work out that way.

In a Cato Institute study (highly recommended) entitled “Alcohol Prohibition Was a Failure” economist Mark Thornton sums up the bitter fruit of this disastrous policy:

“Although consumption of alcohol fell at the beginning of Prohibition, it subsequently increased. Alcohol became more dangerous to consume; crime increased and became ‘organized’; the court and prison systems were stretched to the breaking point; and corruption of public officials was rampant. No measurable gains were made in productivity or reduced absenteeism. Prohibition removed a significant source of tax revenue and greatly increased government spending. It led many drinkers to switch to opium, marijuana, patent medicines, cocaine, and other dangerous substances that they would have been unlikely to encounter in the absence of Prohibition.”

And what about crime? “According to a study of 30 major U.S. cities, the number of crimes increased 24 percent between 1920 and 1921. …thefts and burglaries increased 9 percent, while homicides and incidents of assault and battery increased 13 percent. … violent crimes against persons and property continued to increase throughout Prohibition.”

Prohibition also created a massive prison state. “By 1932 the number of federal convicts had increased 561 percent, to 26,589, and the federal prison population had increased 366 percent. … Two-thirds of all prisoners received in 1930 had been convicted of alcohol and drug offenses, and that figure rises to 75 percent of violators if other commercial prohibitions are included.”

Sound familiar? Alcohol Prohibition offers a powerful, profound and easily understood example of the dangers of government social engineering. It’s a lesson Americans need to hear.

Celebrate and publicize Repeal Day this week. Some day — perhaps sooner than we dare think — we’ll have another Repeal to add to the celebration.

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!

Three Caterpillars, a Butterfly… and Liberty

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 21 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Three caterpillars — a conservative, a liberal, and a libertarian — looked up and saw a butterfly. butterfly

The conservative caterpillar said, “That should be illegal. Why, it’s blasphemous! If God had meant for caterpillars to fly, he would have given us wings.”

The liberal caterpillar said, “That looks incredibly dangerous! Who’s in charge of it? What’s going to happen to the crawling industry if this catches on? This needs to be stopped until the government can investigate it and set up inspection and regulation to make sure it’s safe.”

The libertarian caterpillar said, “One day we’ll all fly together, and we’ll wonder why we ever feared the freedom of flight.”


 

People have always feared the innovation and choice that liberty brings. Liberty shakes up the status quo. Liberty constantly creates new opportunities and replaces old industries and institutions with new and better ones.

This wonderful process is scary and threatening for many people. That’s understandable.

Yet the history of the progress of the human race is the history of removing government control of our personal and economic lives.

Religious liberty made both religion and the state more humane. Economic liberty — lessening government control over the economy — brought us incredible abundance and saved billions of lives. Ending alcohol Prohibition in America ended the crime and loss of civil liberties that misguided policy provoked.

Time and time again, we see that personal and economic liberty create harmony and abundance.

Yet in each of the examples above, and many more, good people from across the political spectrum feared and opposed the changes that ultimately proved to be so beneficial.

Today our liberal and conservative friends are on our side on these once-contentious issues. No one yearns for subsidies to prop up the horse and buggy industry. No one wants to return to slavery, or alcohol Prohibition, or compulsory state religion.

As libertarians, an important part of our job is to reassure our fearful friends on the left and the right that liberty works, and the more liberty we have, the better off we will be. On every issue.

Eventually, just as they did on the issues above, they will come to see the benefits of liberty on the remaining issues as well, and they will join with us on them.

As the libertarian caterpillar said, “One day we’ll all fly together, and we’ll wonder why we ever feared the freedom of flight.”

(Thanks to that most prolific of authors, A. Nonymous, for the original version of this fable that I encountered on the web.)

“Food tastes better, the sky is bluer…”

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

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

Recently I came across a 1952 poem by the renowned San Francisco poet and leftwing anarchist Kenneth Rexroth. Entitled “For Eli Jacobson,” it is a eulogy for an old friend and fellow political activist.

“For Eli Jacobson” wonderfully captures the glory of being an activist in a great cause. In particular, these lines:

We were comrades
Together, we believed we
Would see with our own eyes the new
World where man was no longer
Wolf to man, but men and women
Were all brothers and lovers
Together. We will not see it.
We will not see it, none of us.Kenneth Rexroth
It is farther off than we thought….

It does not matter.
We were comrades together.
Life was good for us. It is
Good to be brave — nothing is
Better. Food tastes better. Wine
Is more brilliant. Girls are more
Beautiful. The sky is bluer
For the brave…
Our lives were the best. We were the
Happiest men alive in our day.

I especially love those last lines. “Food taste better…” “Our lives were the best…” and the rest.

They beautifully capture the heightened awareness, the excitement and anticipation, that comes with working for a great cause. The way that such activism brings spice, meaning, and joy to life.

I also love Rexroth’s celebration of friendship forged in activism. That, too, is a key benefit of working for a great cause. In the liberty movement I have met so many wonderful people, made so many lifelong friends.

One more thing. In lines that follow those above, Rexroth says he and his friend once thought that young people would emerge to take up their socialist/anarchist struggle. But, he notes with sadness, they did not:

In our young days we believed
That as we grew old and fell
Out of rank, new recruits, young
And with the wisdom of youth,
Would take our places and they
Surely would grow old in the
Golden Age. They have not come.
They will not come. There are not
Many of us left.

For libertarians, happily, it is a very different story. Those of us who have been in the liberty movement for a long time have been blessed to see the emergence of a new generation of young libertarian activists.

We have watched our movement grow by leaps and bounds in recent years, infused by the energy and enthusiasm of young people determined to make liberty a burning issue in American politics.

What a wonderful thing to see!

I hope Rexroth’s words remind you of the privilege and the joys of being part of a great cause. I hope your personal involvement in the liberty movement makes your life richer, more meaningful, and more fun.

Go out and have fun — and change the world.

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

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 18 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“Have You Significantly Changed Your Political Views Since Age 18? If So, How?”World's Smallest Political Quiz

That the title of a fascinating article at Forbes.com featuring the World’s Smallest Political Quiz.

In it, economist Michael F. Cannon describes his intellectual journey from Big Government “socially conservative social democrat” in high school to socially conservative/free market-oriented university student… and finally, a few years later, to where he is today: a full-fledged libertarian, solidly in favor of civil liberties, free markets, and a non-interventionist foreign policy.

Indeed, Cannon not only became a libertarian — he has become a remarkably influential one. He is director of health policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. Though not a Republican, he served as a domestic policy analyst for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee, advising the Senate leadership on health, education, labor, welfare, and the Second Amendment. His work has been featured in many of America’s most influential newspapers and magazines, and he has appeared ABC, CBS, CNN, CNBC, C-SPAN, Fox News Channel and NPR.

To illustrate his personal ideological journey, Cannon uses… the World’s Smallest Political Quiz. He draws different Quiz scores on the Quiz to indicate how he would have scored at different times in his life, thus creating the striking visual map of his political awakening that I’ve reprinted in this column.

I’ve never seen this done before. But the Quiz is a perfect — and crystal-clear — way to document and illustrate this. Kudos to Cannon for thinking of this!

I know over the past few decades, as libertarian ideas have spread, many millions of people have made intellectual journeys very similar to Cannon’s. (And for millions of them, the Quiz itself has been an important part of their intellectual awakening.) Whether starting from the left or the right, more and more Americans are finding themselves drawn to the logic, consistency and compassion of libertarianism.

Check Cannon’s article out — and consider using the Quiz to document and share the story of your own journey.

Worth A Thousand Words…

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

I’ve written thousands of words over the years about OPH (Operation Politically Homeless) — the classic Advocates outreach tool.

World's Smallest Political Quiz #itookthequizIf a picture is worth a thousand words… well, here’s a photo that pretty much says it all about OPH.

I came across it at the Facebook page of the National Organization of Libertarian Women. The happy and enthusiastic woman pointing to the OPH chart is Laura Pate, Libertarian Party of Alabama Director of Outreach, candidate for the Jefferson County Tax Collector, and nominee for “Libertarian Woman of the Month.”

The OPH was conducted by the Alabama LP at the 23rd annual Irondale Alabama Whistle Stop Festival on Saturday September 27, 2014. Crowds filled the streets to enjoy artists, crafters, food vendors and musicians from all over the Southeast. How great that OPH was there, too! And you can see by the dots at the top of the OPH chart that the Alabama LP found quite a few libertarian-leaning folks there. Congratulations!

This picture perfectly illustrates what libertarians have been saying for years about this fantastic tool.

OPH is fun. OPH draws crowds. OPH lets just two or more libertarians find lots of libertarian-leaning people wherever people are gathered — and helps you easily recruit them into your organization.

OPH can be done by newcomers and old hands alike. It’s a great way to take the ideas of liberty to your community or campus.

Learn more about how YOU can put the awesome proven power of OPH to work for your organization.

Students: Learn how your campus organization can get a FREE OPH kit — and join the hundreds of libertarian campus groups using OPH to find thousands of new libertarians.

Is Liberty Doomed — or Inevitable?

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

I’ve heard both of these arguments for many years:

1.) “The libertarian cause is doomed. People will never understand liberty; even those who do understand it don’t want it. So why should I waste my time in such a futile cause?”

and:

2.) “Libertarianism is certain to succeed. The state cannot out-compete the marketplace. Given time, the superiority of the market will inevitably lead to a libertarian society. So why should I spend my time working on what will come about inevitably anyway?”

Ironically, both arguments lead many people to stop working for liberty, to stop supporting libertarian causes, to turn their back on the freedom movement.

I think both arguments are wrong.

I certainly believe that liberty is winning — in fact, our ideas are spreading at an incredible pace. I speak from experience. I’ve been in the libertarian movement since the early 1970s, when almost no one believed these ideas — when the joke used to be: “How many libertarians can fit into a phone booth? Answer: all of them.”

Today no one would even understand that joke. Libertarians are everywhere, and libertarianism is constantly discussed in the media. It’s nothing less than a sea change — a true rEVOLution.

Sure, I wish things were moving even faster. But the logic of our ideas is winning us converts daily, while the Big Government left and right are increasingly seen as bankrupt.

But liberty is NOT inevitable. Our ideas are fighting other powerful ideas and movements in the marketplace of ideas. There’s no guarantee those ideas won’t defeat our own. Their proponents are certainty trying hard to make that happen. Have you noticed the many attacks on libertarianism recently, by scholars, journalists, pundits, politicians, and other influential people?

A major reason libertarianism has seen such great success in recent years is because untold thousands of people have worked so hard, and contributed so much, to bring us to this point.

You yourself learned about liberty from someone. Maybe someone gave you a copy of the #libertyWorld’s Smallest Political Quiz.

Maybe you heard a libertarian candidate or speaker on television or radio.

Maybe you read a book or article written by a libertarian writer.

However you learned about libertarianism, it was because someone, in some way, reached out to you. That person, too, learned from someone else.

And that outreach was backed up by a network of libertarian organizations that have worked for decades to create a powerful movement ready with information and opportunities for people who want to make a difference in the world.

Those organizations didn’t spring up out of the ground by magic. They were only possible because someone — someone like you — years ago decided that this cause was so important they wanted to make sure these organizations existed, so that people like you could learn about liberty and the liberty movement.

For almost thirty years the Advocates has been a vital part of the libertarian movement. Our mission is a unique one. We help people encounter and learn about the ideas of liberty — and we provide them with the best methods and tools to help them, in turn, take those ideas to others.

The Advocates has helped millions of people encounter, evaluate and embrace the ideas of liberty. And we’ve helped countless libertarians become highly successful in convincing others to accept these ideas.

Our World’s Smallest Political Quiz has been taken online over 22 million times. Thousands of people take it each month, learning more about their political views and discovering libertarianism.

The Quiz has reached additional millions through newspapers, magazines, OPH booths, over 10 million card copies, textbooks, talk radio, and many other ways.

The Liberator Online — you’re reading it right now — takes information about liberty, the liberty movement, and the best ways to communicate libertarian ideas to over 30,000 subscribers.

We reach out in many other ways, too. New technology offers incredible opportunities. I recently did an online communication seminar from my office in Georgia with a group of libertarian students in Arizona. That would have been inconceivable just a few years ago.

But it still comes down to you. You — your activism, your donations, your outreach to friends, neighbors, families and others — make the work of the Advocates, and the growth of the liberty movement, possible.

Your participation is vital. The future of liberty — for yourself, your family, the world — will be shaped by the actions of the libertarians of today.

This is incredibly important. Liberty matters. The lives and well-being of millions of people are at stake.

Your efforts make a difference. Your participation in the struggle is essential.

As the great libertarian economist Ludwig von Mises said:

“No one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result.”

Victory is NOT inevitable. But our ideas are moving forward, and there is great reason for optimism.

When you contribute to the work of the Advocates — or other worthy libertarian organizations — you are helping move the world in the right direction. You are making a real difference.

DonateJust as someone, once, did for you.

Click here to read the next article from this issue.

Click here to return to the newsletter.

Celebrating 30,000!

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Hooray! The Advocates Facebook page just reached a new milestone: we’ve crossed the 30,000 mark for “Likes” on our page.
Facebook
If you were one of these fans, THANK YOU!

If you haven’t yet liked our page, please check it out. I think you’ll really… “like” it. (Sorry — couldn’t resist!)

Looking closer at these numbers shows why this is such good news for liberty. Some of our original content has reached over half a million people on Facebook with a single post.

Weekly, we reach an average of over 300,000 people with entertaining and thought-provoking commentary, memes and other posts.

So our Facebook outreach is getting the word of liberty out there to lots of people eager for these ideas.

Please note: all this is due to our Facebook supporters who “Comment” on, “Like,” and “Share” our posts. I invite you to join them.

Take a moment right now to connect with us on Facebook — and also on Twitter, and Instagram, if you use those forums — to enjoy and share the great libertarian content you will find there, and to keep up with the latest Advocates news and activities.

Many thanks to Brett Bittner, former Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Georgia, who is in charge of our social media. Great job, Brett!

Read the next article from this issue here.

Go back to the full issue here.

Cosmic Bowling, Gutterballs and Liberty

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

A couple of weeks ago I found myself giving bowling lessons — of a sort — to a Sharon Harris - Bowlinggroup of bright young libertarians.

More specifically, I demonstrated to them the fine art of… throwing gutterballs. Over and over. Right and left. How embarrassing!

Thankfully, I wasn’t there to teach these young libertarians bowling. The bowling event — “Cosmic Bowling” — was just a fun extracurricular evening activity at the Foundation for Economic Education’s “Communicating Liberty 2014: Advanced Training” seminar in Atlanta. This great event brought libertarian communication ideas to some of the brightest young minds in the liberty movement.

Forty outstanding student alumni of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) summer programs attended the invitation-only event. Without exception, the students I met and talked with were smart, articulate, and enthusiastic proponents of the ideas of liberty. What a joy it was to meet them!

Communication Training - AtlantaI had the pleasure of giving a libertarian communication workshop — sharing the very best tools, techniques and tips on communicating the ideas of liberty. The students were eager to learn and practice the libertarian communication essentials I presented.

FEE brought together a truly outstanding combination of student leaders and libertarian communicators. Speakers included Bob Ewing of the Mercatus Center, Anna Ridge of the Charles Koch Institute, and of course Lawrence Reed, president of FEE and one of the finest spokesmen for liberty of our time.

I left the event humbled by my bowling abilities — but excited about the future of liberty in America. With such gifted and enthusiastic young people gearing up to be the liberty leaders of the next generation, the future looks bright indeed!

FEE is doing outstanding work with its outreach to young people, and I was proud to be a part of this great program. FEE is the oldest libertarian think tank in America — it is impossible to imagine today’s libertarian movement without its pioneering work — and it continues to do cutting-edge essential work in educating the public and reaching out to rising young libertarian leaders to prepare them to be ambassadors for liberty.

I strongly recommend that Liberator Online readers learn more about the great things FEE is doing.

To learn more about Advocates libertarian communication workshops, visit here.

How He Did It: Two Hundred New Libertarian Students Recruited — in One Semester

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Michael Melendez and OPH at LDS Business College

I was delighted to get this email from Michael Melendez, Young Americans for Liberty State Chair in Utah:

In one semester, I recruited more than 200 students on campuses all over the state of Utah.

There is no tool more effective for a campus liberty activist than the Operation Politically Homeless (OPH) kit.

I just ordered another OPH kit. Thank you!

Thank you, Michael!

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael at the November 2013 Utah Student Liberty Forum, where I conducted a libertarian communication workshop. Currently a student at Brigham Young University (BYU), Michael has been active locally with Campaign for Liberty since 2009. He was chief-of-staff for Senator Howard Stephenson in the Utah State Senate during the 2014 legislative session. Michael founded a Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter at BYU in 2011 and was made a YAL chair for the state of Utah in January of 2013. He also served as a Campus Coordinator for Students For Liberty (SFL) during the 2013-2014 school year. Whew!

Michael is a great example of the new generation of libertarian activists who are making liberty once again a burning issue in American politics.

And — as his quote indicates — he’s using the Advocates’ OPH to find hundreds more young people to join in this great crusade.

OPH is the Advocates’ acclaimed “event in a kit” that enables libertarian groups to quickly and efficiently discover dozens or even hundreds of libertarian-leaning people in their communities or on their campuses — and get their contact information and sign them up!

William Jergins opening minds with OPH at Southern Utah UniversityOPH is one of the great success stories of the libertarian movement. Hundreds of thousands of people have encountered the ideas of liberty through OPH. And millions more people are out there, just waiting for someone — maybe you? — to introduce them to libertarianism.

OPH works like magic. Wherever people are gathered, OPH will attract them. It turns an ordinary (yawn) ho-hum outreach booth into a crowd-drawing fun event! Bonus: it’s fun!

FREE OPH KITS for libertarian student groups: The Advocates is giving OPH outreach kits free to student libertarian groups. All we ask is that you use them at least three times during the next year and send us photos documenting your OPH activity. OPH normally sells for $50.00 plus shipping. Learn how campus libertarian groups are doubling and tripling their membership with OPH here.

Right now is a great time to do OPH! As students return to school, as freshman begin exploring ideas and organizations on campus, use OPH to open their minds to liberty and welcome them to your campus liberty organization.

Could your libertarian group benefit from dozens — or even hundreds — of new sign-ups? How much stronger would the liberty movement be if hundreds of OPHs were conducted across America this year — discovering thousands of eager new libertarian activists, supporters, donors and voters?

It’s up to you! Start now by learning more about OPH!

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