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Do You Prefer Cats, Dogs — Or Liberty?

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 2 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

As president of the organization that publishes the world’s first and most popular online political Quiz, I was naturally interested when TIME magazine posted an online political quiz this month in an article entitled “Your Personality Makes Your Politics.”

“Can TIME Predict Your Politics?” the article’s subhead asked.

Alas, for me — and, I suspect, many other readers — the answer was a resounding NO.

I took their quiz, and TIME’s description of my political views was wildly out of synch with what I believe. Not even remotely close. And I found some of the questions downright bewildering.

There are several reasons for this, which I’ll discuss in a moment.

But the main reason TIME got my position so very, very wrong is that my political view — libertarian — was not one of the possible answers.

Yes, that’s right. TIME’s quiz attempts to shoehorn every taker’s politics as some variant of liberal, conservative, or moderate.

TIME’s quiz uses the simplistic, inaccurate, discriminatory, discredited left-versus-right view of politics — which leaves out libertarians entirely.

And there’s simply no excuse for that.

Numerous recent surveys indicate that 15%-20% or more of Americans are more libertarian than either liberal or conservative. The 2012 Cato Institute book The Libertarian Vote: Swing Voters, Tea Parties, and the Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal Center explores these results at length, and concludes that 10 to 20 percent of Americans are fiscally conservative and socially liberal-libertarian.

In August 2000 the Rasmussen polling firm gave the Advocates’ World’s Smallest Political Quiz to nearly 1,000 representative American voters. Our Quiz is a far more rigorous test of one’s libertarian leanings than the looser definitions typically used by polling firms. Yet fully sixteen percent scored in the libertarian sector then — a figure roughly identical to Cato’s estimate.

And the numbers are growing fast. An August poll by FreedomWorks found that fully “78 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents self-identify as fiscally conservative and socially moderate.” Further: “Told that libertarians generally believe individuals should be free to do as they like as long as they don’t hurt others and that the government should keep out of people’s day-to-day lives, 58 percent of the full national sample said they agree.”

Any attempt to identify American’s political leanings that leaves out many of these millions of libertarians and libertarian-leaners is thus doomed to fail.

The inadequacies of the left-versus-right model of politics was the main reason David Nolan created his now-famous Nolan Chart back in 1971, the graphic foundation of the Advocates’ World’s Smallest Political Quiz.

By showing that there was more to politics than just left versus right, our Quiz has opened millions of minds to a more inclusive, more insightful political map.

This accuracy is one reason the Quiz rapidly became the world’s most popular political quiz. It’s been taken over 20 million times online. It’s been recommended by numerous major high school and college textbooks and is used in classrooms across America. It’s been translated into several languages and reprinted in newspapers and magazines with total circulations in the many millions.

All of this is because it works. Because it provides honest, essential, enlightening insights into politics. Because it realizes that no discussion of modern American politics makes sense without including the distinctive libertarian view (and its mirror-opposite, statism).

But back to the TIME quiz.

I have a lot of respect for the researcher behind TIME’s quiz. Jonathan Haidt is the author of the outstanding 2012 book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, which is carefully researched and rich in political insights. I recommend it.

That book shows Haidt has a solid understanding of libertarianism and, more than that, an appreciation of what libertarians believe. And I’m a strong proponent of Haidt’s goal of fostering more productive political discussions through a greater understanding of different viewpoints.

TIME’s quiz isn’t a traditional political quiz. It tries to identify your politics based on a number of seemingly non-political questions that have been found to correlate with a person’s political leanings. The first question, for instance is, “Do you prefer cats or dogs?”

This is an interesting line of research, but since libertarians apparently aren’t included in this — and since the overriding value of libertarians is political liberty across the board, trumping cultural or lifestyle matters — I would think it would be hard to identify libertarians in such a way (though I could be wrong). Perhaps the quiz’s lack of a libertarian score indicates this.

A few of the questions also suffer from ambiguity in wording, something libertarians are especially sensitive to. Like “Respect for authority is something all children need to learn.” What KIND of authority? Political? Family? School? Religion? Tell us more! For libertarians, the key political question is always: Is force being initiated?

By the way, Haidt himself acknowledges the problems with the left-right line. In the introduction to his TIME quiz, he notes: “many people can’t place themselves along the liberal-conservative dimension — such as libertarians, or people who find wisdom on both sides on different issues.” The results, he says, is that the TIME quiz has “moderate predictive power.”

Given this, TIME’s Quiz — like all efforts at political measurement based on the hopelessly inadequate left-versus-right model — is doomed to not work for millions of us — or to produce less than satisfying results overall.

Back to the drawing board, TIME! Meanwhile, why not offer the World’s Smallest Political Quiz to your readers — as the Washington Post, London Sunday Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Miami Herald and many other outstanding publications have done?

Quick and Easy E-Ways to Help Others Discover Liberty

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(President’s Corner by Sharon Harris from the Liberator Online Volume 18, No. 15. Subscribe here!)

judge_jim_gray_interview_37405be026f“What is your political philosophy? It is an interesting question that few people really give time to think about.”

That’s how Judge Jim Gray — retired Orange County Superior Court judge and 2012 Libertarian Party vice presidential candidate — began a recent column in the Daily Pilot, a newspaper published by the Los Angeles Times which serves Newport Beach and Costa Mesa in Orange County, California.

After an amusing and enlightening comparison of sports to politics, Gray got down to the essentials.

He described “the libertarian values of both financial responsibility and social acceptance” and then asked the reader: “Are those your values too?”

He concluded by offering readers a way to find their place on the political spectrum: take the World’s Smallest Political Quiz.

“I think you will find the results to be quite revealing,” he concluded.

Thanks, Judge Gray!

Judge Gray’s article offered nearly 100,000 Daily Pilot readers the chance to take the Quiz. Many of those who do will discover — perhaps for the very first time — that they are libertarians, or at least libertarian-leaning.

I know that most of you reading this don’t write newspaper columns or run for vice president of the United States.

But you, too, can quickly and easily help lots of other people encounter the eye-opening, enlightening power of the Quiz.

Here are two simple ways.

1) Share the Quiz on Facebook and through other social media. Take the Quiz online and right-click on the graphic that shows your results. Save the image and post it on Facebook and other sites. Add a caption along these lines:

“Here’s how I scored on the World’s Smallest Political Quiz. Try it and see which political group agrees with YOU the most in the world of politics!”

Fast, easy, and guaranteed to stimulate interesting comments!

2) Put the Quiz as a signature in your emails. You’re probably familiar with signatures. These are the little quotes or sayings or personal notes seen at the bottom of email messages and online forum posts. Most email programs can be configured to generate them automatically. Signatures have been described as “email bumper stickers.”

Here are some suggested wordings for signatures featuring the Quiz:

  • Are you liberal, conservative, libertarian — or other? It only takes a minute to find out! Try the world-famous World’s Smallest Political Quiz online at: www.theadvocates.org/quiz
  • Fun! Fast! Revealing! Try the world-famous World’s Smallest Political Quiz at: www.theadvocates.org/quiz
  • Who agrees with you in the world of politics? Find out by taking The World’s Smallest Political Quiz at: www.theadvocates.org/quiz
  • Discover your real political identity in minutes — take the world-famous World’s Smallest Political Quiz online at: www.theadvocates.org/quiz

Prepare different signatures for different audiences. Most email programs allow you to have a variety of prepared signatures ready. Make sure the signature you choose is appropriate for the person(s) who’ll be reading it. Also, variety is the spice of liberty — switch messages frequently so you won’t bore your regular correspondents.

If you email regularly, you can effortlessly and effectively reach a lot of people with these “email bumperstickers” for liberty.

~ ~ ~

How many people you reach with these two fast and easy e-methods depends on you, of course. How often you email. How many people you interact with on social media.

But you might be surprised by the numbers. And the Quiz is so intriguing and fun that many of the people you share it with will in turn pass it on to their friends, family and colleagues.

Even if you reach only a few people, you can make a huge difference. Many liberty activists got their introduction to libertarianism by a chance encounter with the Quiz — and they went from there to bring the ideas of liberty to many thousands of people.

If everyone receiving this article used these two easy and simple ideas, and reached just a few dozen people over the course of a year… that would add up to over a million people reached with the Quiz and the ideas of liberty.

And that doesn’t even count the ripple effect — the outreach that some of those you reach would in turn engage in.

Not bad for a few minute’s investment!

Upcoming Advocates Libertarian Communication Workshops

I’ll be conducting libertarian communication workshops at these upcoming events:

  • September 21: Texas State University, sponsored by Students of Liberty
  • September 28: Cobb County (Georgia) Library, sponsored by Liberty on the Rocks and America’s Future Foundation
  • November 16: Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah), sponsored by Students for Liberty

Attendees will learn how to dramatically increase their effectiveness at communicating the ideas of liberty.

I hope you’ll join me at one or more of these events! Email me if you want additional information on them sent to you as soon as it becomes available.

In liberty,

Sharon
sharon@theadvocates.org

* * *
The purpose of the Liberator Online is to build a stronger movement for liberty. We do this by providing information about the libertarian movement and how to best communicate the ideas of liberty. Thank you for being a part of this!

Learn more about the Advocates and our work for liberty.

Learn more about libertarianism – the philosophy of liberty.

President’s Corner: New Libertarian Science Fiction Film Features the Quiz!

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

Dear friends,

I’m excited to report a new milestone for the World’s Smallest Political Quiz.

As you probably know, the Quiz has been reprinted in books, textbooks, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and many other places.

Now it’s broken into a new medium: for the first time to my knowledge, the Quiz is appearing in a feature-length movie!

Appropriately enough, it’s a libertarian movie with a hard-hitting libertarian message: Alongside Night.

Alongside Night began life as a novel by J. Neil Schulman. First published in 1979, it is one of the most acclaimed libertarian novels of all time. It’s been praised by the likes of Ron Paul, Milton Friedman, Anthony Burgess, Walter Block, Thomas Szasz, F. Paul Wilson, Poul Anderson, Robert Anton Wilson, Thomas Woods, Publisher’s Weekly, the Los Angeles Times Book Review… and we could go on and on.

Science Fiction Review described it as “Probably the best libertarian novel since Atlas Shrugged.”

A special free anniversary edition of the novel was recently downloaded an incredible 350,000-plus times.

Now Schulman – who has written many other highly-praised books, fiction and non-fiction, and is a leading libertarian activist – has turned his award-winning novel into a feature film, with himself as writer and director.

Starring in Alongside Night is Kevin Sorbo, one of the most popular actors in the world today. Sorbo gained fame playing Hercules in five TV movies in 1994, which led to the continuing series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1995-1999) — the #1 rated show worldwide. Sorbo gained additional fame and fans from his starring role of Captain Dylan Hunt on the 2001-2005 series Andromeda. His many films include Meet the Spartans, Kull the Conqueror, and An American Carol.

Here’s a summary of the plot of Alongside Night, courtesy of Schulman: “The American economy is in freefall. Markets are crashing. Inflation is soaring. Bankruptcies, foreclosures and unemployment are up, and even defense contracts are going overseas. The United States military is threatening to go on strike. Foreigners are buying up everything in America at firesale prices while gloating over the fall of a once great nation. Homeless people and gangs own the streets. Smugglers use the latest technology to operate bold enterprises that the government is powerless to stop, even with totalitarian spying on private communications. Anyone declared a terrorist by the administration is being sent to a secret federal prison where constitutional rights don’t exist.

“And caught in the middle of it all are the brilliant teenage son of a missing Nobel-Prize-winning economist, his best friend from prep school whose uncle was once an Israeli commando, and the beautiful but mysterious teenage girl he meets in a secret underground … a girl who carries a pistol with a silencer.”

Exciting stuff!

Sneak previews for Alongside Night have already been held at a few festivals and libertarian events, and as I write this column the film is playing at the huge FreedomFest liberty bash in Las Vegas.

To learn more about Alongside Night, including future showings, visit the movie’s Facebook page and the official movie website.

And now… let’s look at the Quiz in it’s first-ever film appearance!

Here’s the for Alongside Night. At about 40 seconds, look to your right.

Yes, there it is: the Quiz chart, on the wall.

How did it get there? What’s happening in that room? What next?

See Alongside Night and find out!

In liberty,
Sharon
sharon@theadvocates.org

President’s Corner: What Are You Waiting For?

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment to improve the world.” — Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl, 1952.

 I love that quote. I believe it has a powerful message for those of us who want to make our world a freer place.

It’s easy to feel that you must be wealthy, brilliant, part of a huge organization or team, or a cog in someone else’s master plan before you can take a meaningful action for liberty.

It’s easy to think that, sometime in the future, you’ll be able to do something significant for freedom — after you’ve stashed away a lot more money, or learned more about the intricacies of libertarian thought, or read a stack of books on economics, or listened to that album of outreach CDs, or cleared up enough time to run for office… someday,
sometime, eventually…

But the truth is, you don’t have to wait a single moment.

Right now, you are already doing something to, as Anne Frank says, “improve the world” just by your commitment to read the Liberator Online — a publication designed to, among other things, help you become a highly successful communicator of the ideas of liberty.

When you’re finished reading, you can immediately begin to “improve the world” — in dozens of different ways.

You can (to name just a very few possibilities): Read more

President’s Corner: Thomas Jefferson’s Final Fourth of July

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

The Fourth of July — Independence Day — is almost here. Like most libertarians, the Fourth means far more to me than just picnics and fireworks.

The Fourth of July meant a lot to Thomas Jefferson, too.

In 1826, when he was 86 years old, Jefferson was invited by the mayor of Washington, D.C. to join in a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. However, the grand old man of liberty was too ill to make the journey.

So he sent a letter reluctantly declining, written with his typical eloquence and passion. It turned out to be his last political statement, as Jefferson died ten days later — on the Fourth of July.

Here is what he wrote: Read more

President’s Corner: Hardy Macia (1969-2013) – A Life for Liberty

in Liberator Online Archives, News From the Advocates for Self-Government by Sharon Harris Comments are off

The world has lost a true champion of liberty with the untimely death of Hardy Macia, who died from Hodgkin’s lymphoma on May 13 at the age of 43.

Hardy Macia was my hero — a modern-day Paul Revere, a true light of liberty, a good man, a kind and gentle spirit.

Hardy made invaluable contributions to the entire libertarian movement. He was active in the Libertarian Party, where he served as an officer in the national party and ran for office several times. He was a member of the Free State Project who made the move to New Hampshire to advance the libertarian cause.

Hardy was a big fan of the Advocates for Self-Government, and he served this organization in many ways: as a donor, a member of our Board of Directors, and the creator of the famous mobile app for the World’s Smallest Political Quiz.

Hardy was a father and a successful businessman, the founder and president of his own software company, Catamount Software. He had a passion for liberty and he spent much of his life working for this cause, right up to the very end.

Hardy was running for Congress as a Libertarian when he got his cancer diagnosis — and he continued that run, hoping to wake a few more people up to the cause of freedom. He even fought zombies in this funny ad from his campaign: Read more