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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.

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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!

Great Libertarian Movie

in Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Movies by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“Still Mine” (2013) is one of the best libertarian-themed movies I’ve ever seen. It’s based on a true story. Still Mine movie posterIn 2007 Canadian Craig Morrison, 88 years old, set out to build a small home where he could care for his wife, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. He began building it himself, on his own land, with his own hands, using lumber he sawed himself — as he’d done other times in the past.

But this time he ran into trouble — from new restrictive building codes and oppressive bureaucrats who ultimately threatened to bulldoze his home and throw him into prison.

“I thought this was a free country, that we had liberties and freedoms like we used to have, but I was sadly mistaken,” Morrison told a local newspaper. “All I wanted to do is build a house, and I was treated as if I was some kind of outlaw.”

This film is based on that story. It’s a gripping tale of one fiercely independent man facing a soulless bureaucracy. It is more than a political story. It’s about families, about aging, about love, about responsibility.

“Still Mine” is marvelously done and has received rave reviews from critics. The Canadian Globe and Mail called it “a cautionary tale of the tremendous power of the state over the individual in an age of pervasive bureaucracy. It is, indeed, a profound parable of irretrievably lost independence and casually forgotten freedoms.”

“Still Mine” stars James Cromwell, renowned for decades as a character actor, in his first lead role. His performance is wonderful (as are the other performances in the film). I was curious if he had more than a passing interest in the politics in the story.

Turns out he did. Cromwell’s father, John Cromwell, was an award-winning actor and director — who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. That left a mark on his son. In the 1960s James Cromwell did guerrilla theatre protesting the Vietnam War and fought segregation in the South. He was part of the Committee To Defend The Black Panthers, which worked to free unjustly imprisoned members of that group.

In an interview at RogerEbert.com, Cromwell said the following about the political message of “Still Mine.”

“My watchword has always been ‘Resist Authority’ and I have been involved with radical politics since the sixties…

“Somebody wrote a review [of "Still Mine"] where they said ‘Somebody who does not obey the law cannot be a sympathetic character.’ What about Gandhi? What about Martin Luther King? What about the suffragettes or those for gay rights or the people who have always stood up to oppose unjust laws and regulations?

“They have always been our heroes and in that respect, I personally think that Craig [lead character in "Still Mine"] is a hero. It is on a small scale but he says that this does not stand and cannot stand. It is not human and it is not caring. Those are the politics of this film.”

Although in one interview a few years ago he said he was a libertarian, in another more recent one he described himself as a progressive. Whatever his politics, he’s always been an outspoken champion of the downtrodden and the underdog, and in interviews he frequently urges people to “question authority.”

“Still Mine” is a beautiful film in many ways, and watching it is like seeing one of those great Institute for Justice ads about citizens resisting unjust government come to life.

It’s on DVD. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, June 5, 2014: Online Liberty Campaign “Reset The Net”

in Business and Economy, Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Fed up with government surveillance spoiling the freedom and fun of the Internet? You’re not alone. And now there’s something you can do about it.

“Don’t ask for your privacy. Take it back.” Reset the Net - June 5, 2014

That’s the theme of Reset the Net — a new worldwide coalition of organizations, companies and tens of thousands of Internet users dedicated to preserving free speech and basic rights on the Internet.

They’re all pledging to “Reset The Net” on Thursday, June 5th, 2014 — the anniversary of the first NSA surveillance story revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden — by empowering Internet activists, companies and organizations to take simple steps to encrypt the web to shut out the government’s mass surveillance capabilities.

And you can join them.

Organizations — including some of the Internet’s largest and most influential — will participate by publicizing the effort, improving their own security and promoting free privacy tools to their followers.

Individual Internet users can act with Reset The Net in several important ways. Reset The Net will offer a free “privacy pack” of safe open-source software tools for easy encrypting of chat logs, email, phone calls and text messaging, as well as information on other ways to secure online life against intrusive surveillance.

” These super-easy encryption tools let you talk, chat, and text with pretty strong privacy,” says Reset The Net. “If everyone used them, that would go a long way to shutting down mass surveillance. So, be the first. And tell your friends. In the end, beating the NSA could be that simple.”

Reset The Net will offer supporters a splash screen they can run at their websites on June 5. These screens will reach millions with a call for privacy and a link to the privacy tools pack. You can also join the worldwide #ResetTheNet Twitter brigade to publicize the effort.

Information on these and other activities is at the Reset The Net website. Watch the short video on the home page to learn more.

“The NSA is exploiting weak links in Internet security to spy on the entire world, twisting the Internet we love into something it was never meant to be,” says Reset The Net. “We can’t stop targeted attacks, but we can stop mass surveillance, by building proven security into the everyday Internet.”

For more information — and more ideas on what you can do — watch the short ResetTheNet.org campaign video and visit ResetTheNet.org.

And remember the date: June 5th, 2014.

Surveillance, Safety… and Rabbit Hunting

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

For the past year or so liberty-loving Americans have been appalled by the revelations of Rabbit HuntingEdward Snowden and others about the secret and unconstitutional spying programs the federal government is engaged in.

Ironically, we’ve also learned that the programs have been spectacularly ineffective. As the federal Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board said earlier this year:

“We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation. Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.”

And that reminds me of a story…

Federal Rabbit Hunting

The NSA, the CIA and the FBI were fighting among themselves, each arguing that they were the best and most qualified at apprehending terrorists.

Finally the president decided to settle the argument with a simple test. He would release a rabbit into a forest, and give each agency a chance to find and capture it.

The NSA went first. They placed cameras throughout the forest. They eavesdropped on every animal, plant and mineral. NSA drones circled the forest, filming every leaf on every tree. After three months of extensive investigations the NSA concluded that there was no rabbit in the forest at all. But they warned the president that 300 other kinds of animals and insects were behaving strangely and the whole forest needed round-the-clock surveillance.

Then the CIA went in. They captured numerous innocent animals and questioned them harshly, but got no information. After two weeks with no leads they burned the forest to the ground, killing everything in it. “The rabbit had it coming,” one agent said. (Later, the NSA sent the president a classified tape showing the rabbit hopping away from the forest just before it was destroyed.)

Finally the FBI had their chance. They went into another forest chosen by the president. Just two hours later they proudly emerged — holding a ruffled, badly frightened raccoon. The raccoon shouted: “Okay! Okay! I’m a rabbit! I’m a rabbit!”

* * *
Tired of the surveillance state? See this issue’s Intellectual Ammunition column to learn about “Reset The Net,” a worldwide effort to preserve free speech and liberty on the Internet by taking simple steps to shut off the government’s mass surveillance capabilities. You’re invited to take part.

Can We Abolish the Income Tax?

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In this issue‘s Intellectual Ammunition section you will find some truly shocking facts about the federal income tax.

It’s enough to make you mad — and, I hope, ready to do something about it.

In recent years libertarian arguments in many areas have made remarkable Abolish the IRSprogress. The re-legalization of marijuana and other drugs has moved from a theoretical possibility to legislative reality. We’ve seen the elimination of centuries-old anti-gay laws. In foreign policy, the ideas of non-intervention are catching on so fast it’s scaring the political establishment. And the idea of libertarianism itself has gone from being an obscure, little-understood political philosophy to being the hottest idea in politics today.

None of this happened by accident. It came about because libertarians and others who favored liberty on these issues spent years challenging the status quo, opening minds, and bringing the libertarian position into public debate.

I think it’s high time we added abolishing the income tax to that list.

A few years ago I wrote a series of articles on how to argue for eliminating the income tax and replacing it with nothing.

I’ve combined those into one article, which you can read here. I hope it helps you in the crucial work of pushing the “abolish the income tax and replace it with… nothing” meme into mainstream American politics.

In my Liberty Minute column in this issue, I discuss the concept of the Overton Window, a very useful model for advancing the ideas of liberty. One of our major goals as liberty advocates is to raise the Overton Window to include ever-bolder libertarian ideas.

Can we do this with the idea of ending the income tax? Can we make that a part of the national political debate? You bet we can. It’s what Hollywood describes as “high concept”: it makes sense, it is exciting, and it is easy to grasp. Ron Paul’s longtime support for this issue is another big benefit. Paul’s millions of influential and active followers have the manpower to bring this idea alive for the mainstream.

Perhaps, not so long from now, the income tax will go the way of censorship, sodomy laws, Jim Crow, and other discredited and vanished tyrannies liberty lovers have sent into oblivion.

Remembering Tonie Nathan, 1923-2014: Libertarian Pioneer and Advocates Friend

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In 1972 I walked into a Georgia voting booth to proudly cast my vote for the presidential ticket of my John Hospers Tonie Nathanchoice.

My candidates weren’t on the ballot, though. I had to write their names in by hand:

John Hospers, Libertarian Party, President
Tonie Nathan, Libertarian Party, Vice President

Did I feel good about that vote? You bet! And I still do. It was the start of a revolution in American politics still going on today.

Alas, both of those two political pioneers are no longer with us.

John Hospers passed away on June 12, 2011.

And on March 20, 2014 Tonie Nathan died at the age of 91.

She was a charter member of the national Libertarian Party, which was founded in 1971. At their first presidential nominating convention in 1972, the LP nominated her as Hospers’ running mate.  

Tonie achieved a unique and permanent place in American history during that 1972 race: she became the first woman in U.S. history to receive an electoral vote in the Electoral College – many years before the far more highly publicized 1984 campaign of Democrat Geraldine Ferraro.How did that remarkable event come about?The brand-new Libertarian Party was only on the ballot in two states, Colorado and Washington State, though Hospers and Nathan actively campaigned in major cities and on college campuses, taking the libertarian message to large audiences.

Enter Roger MacBride, a Republican elector in Virginia who had libertarian views. MacBride was so fed up with the statist GOP Nixon and Agnew ticket that he decided to support Hospers and Nathan instead – thus giving Nathan that historic electoral vote.

MacBride later joined the Libertarian Party and became the party’s 1976 Libertarian presidential candidate.

Tonie remained active with the Libertarian Party, running as a Libertarian for federal and state offices from the 1970s right through the 1990s. She also served as a vice chair of the Libertarian Party.

She was active in other organizations as well. She was a founding member and former president of the Association of Libertarian Feminists. In 1977, Congresswoman Bella Abzug appointed her as a delegate-at-large to the National Conference of Women.

Tonie Nathan with Dagny SmithShe was a good friend of the Advocates from the early days of our founding, as the quote at the top of this issue of the Liberator Online indicates. She understood and appreciated the importance of the Advocates’ mission of helping libertarians become successful and effective communicators of the ideas of liberty.

She was a speaker at the 2012 Libertarian National Convention, where a large crowd honored her for her many contributions to the Libertarian Party and the liberty movement. Many young people came up to her to thank her and to ask her advice. Friends of hers tell me that experience tickled her pink!

At that convention she was among the very first people inducted into the LP’s new “Hall of Liberty” program honoring “lifetime or significant achievement that has made a lasting effect on the Libertarian Party and/or libertarian movement.”

Also at that convention she presented Gary Johnson as the 2012 Libertarian Party presidential nominee.

As I’ve written before, it’s vital for our movement to remember, respect and honor our libertarian heroes, our founding fathers, those who came before us. I think the LP’s Hall of Liberty is a fantastic idea, and I urge other organizations to consider similar programs.

Forty-two years later I am still proud of my 1972 vote. I had the great honor and pleasure of meeting and talking with Tonie numerous times over the years. Hers was a life well lived, and she leaves a rich legacy well worth celebrating.

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