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Thank You, Libertarian Party!

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Party, News From the Advocates for Self-Government, Philosophy by Sharon Harris Comments are off
(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)
Last week at its national convention, the Libertarian Party awarded me the greatest honor of my career.I was awarded the party’s Thomas Paine Award. The Thomas Paine Award is given by the Libertarian Party every two years to the Libertarian Party member “who has been an outstanding communicator of Libertarian ideas, principles, and values through written, published, or spoken communications.”
As someone who has spent the last two decades teaching libertarians to successfully communicate the ideas of liberty, there can be no greater professional honor for me.
I am deeply moved to receive this award, and I cannot thank the Libertarian Party enough for this recognition. It will inspire me to work even harder for our great cause.
In 2012 Advocates Chairman of the Board Jim Lark was given this same award, driving home the vital role the Advocates plays in this important field.The Libertarian Party national awards program began in 1996 with the Samuel Adams Award (for outstanding activism), the Thomas Paine Award (for outstanding communication of libertarian ideas), and the Thomas Jefferson Award (for lifetime achievement through 2010; from 2012 henceforth, for outstanding leadership).I think it speaks very highly of the Advocates that so many people associated with this organization have received these awards.Since 1996, only three people have won at least two of the awards: Harry Browne (1998 Thomas Paine Award, 2006 Thomas Jefferson Award); Jim Lark (2004 Samuel Adams Award, 2008 Thomas Jefferson Award, 2012 Thomas Paine Award); and me (2012 Thomas Jefferson Award, 2014 Thomas Paine Award).Advocates Chair Jim Lark is the only person who has won all three.Other longtime Advocates friends and associates who have won these prestigious awards are David Bergland (1998 Thomas Jefferson Award), Michael Cloud (2000 Thomas Paine Award), and Mary Ruwart (2004 Thomas Paine Award).And I was deeply moved this year when Hardy Macia — an Advocates Board member and longtime Advocates supporter who died last May — received the 2014 Samuel Adams Award recognizing outstanding LP activism.

Also at this convention, Harry Browne and ballot access expert and activist Richard Winger were inducted into the Libertarian Party’s new Hall of Liberty. Harry was a great friend of the Advocates. He did communication workshops with us, gave us the honor of publishing his great book Liberty A-Z: 872 Soundbites You Can Use Right Now!, and delivered his last speech at our 20th Anniversary Celebration just a few months before his death.

Richard Winger has been a friend of the Advocates for many years, and I have long admired his unique and important work. He has also advised Liberator Online editor James W. Harris on articles on ballot access issues.

Advocates people stayed busy at this year’s convention fulfilling our mission: helping libertarians become great communicators of the ideas of liberty.

I conducted three workshops the week of the convention: a workshop on effective communication; a workshop on how learning about personality types can help libertarians successfully present the ideas of liberty to everyone; and a communication workshop for the Libertarian State Leadership Alliance (LSLA) at their candidate training the day before the convention. Thanks to everyone who attended!

Jim Lark conducted a campus organizing workshop along with Students For Liberty co-founder and president Alexander McCobin. Advocates Board member Emily Salvette was chair of the Credentials Committee at the convention, a position she has held on previous occasions and for which she has drawn great praise.

Finally, the Advocates booth, featuring a wide variety of communication books and other tools, as well as some fun convention specials, was a big draw and was kept busy throughout the convention. A big thanks to Advocates Program Services Coordinator Dagny Smith and Brett Bittner for making this booth a smashing success.

Again, thank you Libertarian Party for this great honor. This would not have been possible without the inspiration, teachings and personal examples of numerous mentors I have been blessed to have in the libertarian movement. I cannot begin to thank them all here, but I would like to single out my predecessors at the Advocates for Self-Government: our late founder Marshall Fritz and past Advocates president Carole Ann Rand. I am enormously grateful to them — and all who inspired and worked with them — for building this organization that has given me such a wonderful opportunity to serve the liberty movement.

The Advocates will continue to provide vital resources for libertarian activists — helping them to be successful in taking the libertarian message of individual liberty, abundance and peace to the world.

Thank you!

Making the Case for Ending the Income Tax

in Communicating Liberty, Taxes by Sharon Harris Comments are off

Ending the personal income tax would be a great blessing for America. And it would achieve many libertarian goals in one single swoop.

However, to most Americans — even those who hate the income tax — the idea currently seems unrealistic and breathtakingly radical.

Can we persuade others to accept this idea — and eventually propel it into the mainstream political discussion?

Libertarians are already doing this with many issues, including drug re-legalization, ending the Federal Reserve, privatization, a non-interventionist and many more.

Why shouldn’t we add ending the personal income tax to that list? The potential pay-off is incredible.

Here are some ways to present this bold libertarian idea as sensible, desirable and realistic.

ONE: Use the popularity of Ron Paul. If you’re discussing this issue with a Ron Paul admirer and there are millions of them then the battle is already at least half won. Just tell the person that Paul has long supported ending the personal income tax, and several times he has introduced legislation, the Liberty Amendment, to do this, most recently on April 30, 2009.

In fact, even if your listener isn’t a Ron Paul fan, the mere fact that legislation has been introduced in Congress to end the personal income tax will make the idea seem more real, more possible.

TWO: If appropriate, explain your position with dramatic language along these lines:

“I want to end the income tax — and replace it with… nothing.”

This makes it clear that you’re calling for bold change, not just a reshuffling of the status quo. This is powerful and provocative phrasing. The pause, then the unexpected “nothing” at the end surprises your listener — and makes him eager to hear what you’ll say next.

THREE: The natural question you’ll be asked is: “But how will we fund the government without the income tax? How can we fund essential services?”

Happily, there’s a great and persuasive answer. On November 20, 2008 Ron Paul said in a New York Times interview:

“About 45 percent of all federal revenue comes from the personal income tax. That means that about 55 percent — over half of all revenue — comes from other sources, like excise taxes, fees, and corporate taxes.

“We could eliminate the income tax, replace it with nothing, and still fund the same level of big government we had in the late 1990s. We don’t need to ‘replace’ the income tax at all.

That is remarkable and eye-opening: to think that we could adapt a budget from roughly ten years ago (or, more precisely, cut spending back to the still extremely high levels of just ten years ago) — and no longer be plagued by the personal income tax.

You’ll want to update the numbers, if possible, or at least qualify the statement by saying something to the effect of In 2008, Ron Paul pointed out

FOUR: Having made this striking point, you can de-radicalize the issue by adding: “So perhaps this idea isn’t so radical after all.”

FIVE: Strengthen point number three by adding something along these lines: “By the way, in the late 1990s, when Bill Clinton was president, I don’t remember many people complaining that government wasn’t big enough, or complaining we had too little government.”

Ask your listener if he would be willing to reduce the federal government to the size it was in the last years of the Clinton administration — if it meant we could abolish outright the personal income tax.

Many people will respond by saying that we need more reduction than that. Congratulations — you’ve just turned a radical-sounding idea into something that doesn’t sound radical enough!

SIX: Now it’s time to make the point that history is on your side. Tell your listener that America didn’t have an income tax until well into the 20th century — and without an income tax we quickly rose from a struggling ex-colony to become the most abundant nation in history.

Ron Paul, who has done more than any other elected official to advance this issue, made this point beautifully in 2001. Use his language to shape your own response:

“Could America exist without an income tax? The idea seems radical, yet in truth America did just fine without a federal income tax for the first 126 years of its history. Prior to 1913, the government operated with revenues raised through tariffs, excise taxes, and property taxes, without ever touching a worker’s paycheck.”

SEVEN: You may be asked: “But what about the Fair Tax (or the Flat Tax, or some other income tax reform plan)?”

Ron Paul provides a friendly and supportive response to this question. From the New York Times, Nov. 20, 2008:

“I see a consumption tax as being a little better than the personal income tax, and I would vote for the Fair Tax if it came up in the House of Representatives, but it is not my goal. We can do better. … We could eliminate the income tax, replace it with nothing, and still fund the same level of big government we had in the late 1990s. We don’t need to ‘replace’ the income tax at all.”

You can also point out that it is hard work to build support for any form of bold tax reform, including the Flat Tax and Fair Tax. We may get just one shot at major tax reform in our lifetimes. So why not put our effort into building a movement for change that would dramatically limit government and increase freedom? As the old saying goes, if you don’t ask for what you really want, you’ll never get it; but if you do ask, you might just get it all.

EIGHT: Make the benefits of abolition come alive for your listeners! Do what every good salesperson — and political persuader — must do: sell the benefits of the idea.

Help your listeners feel the desirability of income tax abolition. Make them feel in their pockets the extra money that would be theirs. Help them envision spending it. Create for them a vivid mental picture of what they would do, and how they would feel, when freed of the awful burden of the personal income tax. Help them see the better America that would emerge from this change. Make the dream come alive!

No one was better at doing this than the late Harry Browne, two-time Libertarian Party presidential candidate and one of the best libertarian communicators of all time.

Here is how Browne presented this:

“Imagine what would happen if we repealed all forms of federal income tax — including the personal income tax, the corporate income tax, Social Security, the estate tax, and the gift tax. A world of benefits would quickly come in the wake of repealing these taxes.

“The first benefit is the most obvious: all the money you’re paying in income taxes will be yours — to spend, to save, to give away as you see fit, not as the politicians think is best for you…

“When we repeal the income tax, all that you pay now in income and Social Security taxes will be yours at last — to do with as you see fit.

“If yours is the average American family, that means over $10,000 dollars a year that’s been going to the politicians that will stay in your hands.

“Every dollar you earn will be yours — to spend, to save, to give away as you see fit…

“So what will you do with that money when they no longer take it away from you?

“Will you put your children in private schools — where you could get exactly the kind of education you believe best for them? …

“Will you start that business you’ve always dreamed of?

*Will you move into a better neighborhood, take your family on a better vacation, arrange a much more comfortable and much more secure retirement?

“Will you help your church or your favorite cause or charity in a way you’ve never been able to do before?

“What will you do with that money?

“At last, it will all be yours — and the government will no longer have a claim on it.” …

“There will be a similar increase in take-home pay for everyone you do business with — your customers or your employer — meaning that people will have more money to spend on what you have to offer.

“A similar increase in take-home pay will occur throughout America, unleashing the biggest boost in prosperity that America has ever seen. There will be a job for everyone who can work and charity for everyone who can’t.

“Your life will be your own again: an end to government snooping into your finances, an end to keeping books for the IRS, an end to fear of an audit, an end to rearranging your financial life to minimize your tax burden.”

Wow! Harry really gives flesh and bones to this abstract political idea.

Notice, too, that he doesn’t just appeal to narrow self-interest. He realizes that many people want to keep more of their own money so they can help others — by giving to churches and charities, improving education, and so forth.

That excerpt is from Harry’s great 2003 article “Freedom from the Income Tax.” You can read the entire article here.

Use this example to create your own way to make your listeners feel, at a deep emotional level, the benefits of being completely free from the income tax.

NINE: Know your audience so you can show them specifically how ending the income tax will make a big difference on the issues most important to them.

Are they concerned about poverty and joblessness? Ending the income tax will put hundreds of billions of dollars every year back into the hands of those who earn it. It will dramatically stimulate economic growth. It will unleash, as Harry Browne said, “the biggest boost in prosperity that America has ever seen. There will be a job for everyone who can work and charity for everyone who can’t.”

Are your listeners concerned about education and strong families? Without the burden of an income tax, private education will flourish. Parents will be able to afford the education they think best for their children. Families where both parents are now forced to work fulltime will be able to afford, if they wish, to let one parent stay home and devote their time to their children. Nothing will do more to strengthen family values than ending the income tax.

Are they concerned about intrusive Big Government? Ending the income tax will limit government power and force government to act with far more restraint and responsibility.

Whatever the issue, ending the income tax will benefit them. Help them see this.

TEN: Point out to your liberty-minded friends that ending the income tax will win numerous victories for limited-government advocates — at once. Currently freedom activists must address so many issues. But the abolition of the personal income tax would win many of these victories in a single stroke!

This is a powerful argument that supporters of the Liberty Amendment have made for years. For examples of how the Liberty Amendment would dramatically shrink government in many ways at once, see this article.

ELEVEN: Some will say that such dramatic reform is impossible, that it is simply too big a change to hope for. One way you can address this is point out specific, concrete examples of enormous political change that happened quickly.

Examples: It became illegal to sell liquor in 1920 — a gigantic change in American life. Further, that seemingly permanent law was repealed just as dramatically in 1932, after the failures of Prohibition became obvious. Women secured the right to vote in America in 1920 — after nearly a century and a half of being denied this. The Berlin Wall, once seemingly as permanent as the Great Pyramids, fell suddenly in a matter of days in 1989. Government-imposed segregation in the South was halted after being the norm for a century.

Have examples like this at your fingertips. They can help your listener see, understand — and most importantly, feel — that bold libertarian change like abolishing the income tax is indeed possible.

When enough Americans understand the case for ending the income tax, and demand it be done, it will disappear. Help them see, understand, and feel this. Its hard to think of much else that could so quickly and dramatically benefit our country and the world.

Resources:

Read Ron Paul’s comments on introducing the Liberty Amendment:

Read the wording of the Liberty Amendment.

The Original Internet Quiz Gets a New Home

in News From the Advocates for Self-Government by Advocates HQ Comments are off

The Advocates for Self-Government is pleased to launch its revamped website as a new hub for all libertarian activists and for anyone who would like to learn more about libertarianism.

The libertarian non-profit that created the world-famous World’s Smallest Political Quiz is launching www.TheAdvocates.org as a center for numerous new resources, including “Libertarian Answers,” a searchable database of carefully-crafted responses to questions libertarians face day-to-day; tools, tips and techniques for successful outreach; links to liberty movement organizations; and more.

The new website has been designed to help both experienced and new activists share the libertarian philosophy with friends, family and peers.

The centerpiece of the site will be the World’s Smallest Political Quiz, which is taken several thousand times per day and has so far been taken almost 20 million times online. The renowned Quiz has been featured in numerous books and newspapers, and it is used by educators in high school and college classrooms. It is also currently being used by students in hundreds of college libertarian organizations to help their fellow students better understand the American political spectrum.

The World’s Smallest Political Quiz is often a person’s introduction to libertarianism and to how libertarians differ from liberals and conservatives. The Quiz is based on the Nolan Chart, which measures political preferences on two axes — economic issues and personal issues. This new political map more accurately reflects the diversity of U.S. political views than does the older but inadequate left-right line.

“The Quiz makes it possible for people to quickly and easily discover where they truly fit in the world of politics,” said Sharon Harris, President of the Advocates for Self-Government. “Our new website will also showcase the many Advocates programs that teach libertarians how to successfully communicate the ideas of liberty.”

Rupert Boneham, star of the popular TV show “Survivor” and 2012 Indiana gubernatorial candidate, said the Quiz first introduced him to the political philosophy which best fits his beliefs and values.

“I am a proud libertarian. It took most of my life to figure out that I had been living and teaching the libertarian philosophy for years,” Boneham said. “It was when I first took the World’s Smallest Political Quiz that I discovered there was a political party and philosophy that I truly aligned with.”

The Advocates for Self-Government is a nonprofit libertarian educational organization that has been working for the libertarian ideals of individual liberty, free markets, and peace since 1985.