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Would You Double Down on Big Government?

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Walk the Walk by Brett Bittner Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Last month, after serving mid to low-income neighborhoods for nearly 60 years, Double 8 Foods made the decision to close all five of their Indianapolis locations following many years of declining revenues. Immediately, community leaders turned to city government for an answer, asking the Mayor to find a workable solution. The “food desert” in areas that could not support the chain’s five locations quickly became an issue for candidates in this fall’s mayoral election.

double downRather than waiting the couple weeks it took to begin “talks” with Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, one prominent community leader took only a few days to mobilize a shuttle service to minimize the impact of the stores’ closures in the short-term. That leader is Senior Pastor of Barnes United Methodist Church on Indianapolis’ westside Charles R. Harrison.

Waiting for Big Government to come along to solve this problem is not an option for Harrison and the area churches in the communities that these stores served. They jumped into action by providing transportation with their church vans from the now-closed Double 8 stores to other grocery stores unreachable by foot and cumbersome to navigate by IndyGo, Indianapolis’ mass transit bus system.

Reverend Harrison also led by example, driving the shuttle himself while recruitment efforts for volunteers to handle the thrice-daily trips for the neighborhood bore fruit. Churches in the affected areas quickly followed suit, shuttling dozens of former Double 8 shoppers to Aldis, Safeways, and Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets just a few miles away.

One candidate for Indianapolis mayor identified it as a problem, pledging “to work with state, federal and local leaders to explore bringing more food options to the city,” while the other wants to use “economic incentives” to attract grocery retailers to these areas and use the tax dollars collected to fund neighborhood improvements. Both mayoral candidates clearly favor a slow-moving Big Government solution, while residents seek to meet the immediate need of stocking their pantries and refrigerators.

While Harrison’s efforts are clearly an interim measure to minimize the pain felt by area residents, it provides a bridge to what happens next in the city, in a peaceful and voluntary way. This week, donations to defray the costs of the shuttle service began to appear at the church and at the shuttle stops, so it’s possible this initiative may become a full-fledged program until new or existing grocers, co-ops, or community gardens fill the void.

Isn’t it awesome when people come together without coercion or force to do some good?

Now that you see how immediately someone can act to help the most vulnerable among us without outsourcing responsibility to Big Government, what can you do in your neighborhood or city to address an issue before government can step in and likely make things worse, like they did recently?

Just two years ago, Midwest retailer Meijer showed interest in building a superstore that included full grocery options just a mile and a half south of the closed Double 8 where Reverend Harrison’s shuttle meets riders daily. The store’s planned footprint would have required Meijer to purchase 35 area homes for demolition, many of which were already abandoned by their owners, but “not in my backyard activists” swarmed to have the city stop the proposed build, pushing Meijer out of the project and across town by almost six miles or nearly an hour by city bus.

In past messages I’ve asked that you no longer outsource responsibility to government to help those in need. In just over a week, there is an example that I can reference that is local.

Can you imagine the positive response you could elicit if you took on the challenge of solving an issue in your neighborhood or city?

As a former school board member, I can tell you that access to books is an issue in many neighborhoods, and a small book drive for families in your area or a Little Free Library would make a world of difference.

As someone who lives in an urban area, I can attest to the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in the “food deserts.” Some urban gardeners could teach valuable skills, while providing some fresh food alternatives to the processed and pre-packaged junk available in convenience stores and drive thrus.

As a firm believer in being a positive example for someone, I cannot begin to tell you how much just a couple hours a month as a mentor can change the life of someone who needs to know that there is more in their future than what they may have today.

Will you take a look and see how you can be a shining libertarian example and solve a problem without Big Government?

Should There Be Restrictions on the Supply of Antibiotics?

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 17 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Question: Should there be any restrictions on the supply of antibiotics? Do you believe that overuse and misuse of antibiotics accelerates the development of resistance to antibiotics in pathogens?antibiotics

My short answer: If by “restrictions,” you mean voluntary ones by medical professionals, I would say “yes.” When antibiotics first came out, they were used — like most new things — more frequently than was optimal. Germ resistance developed, making new antibiotics that worked in different ways necessary.

We are now running out of such options. Physicians and hospitals generally withhold the latest and greatest antibiotics unless the older ones fail. We’ve learned from our mistakes, for the most part.

If by “restrictions,” you mean federal regulations, my answer would be “no.” Regulations in this arena take life and deaths decisions out of the hands of doctors and into the hands of bureaucrats, who are more likely to show poor judgment since their knowledge of both the problems and the individual circumstances are limited.

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Got questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

National Service: Should Young Americans Be Forced To Serve the Government?

in Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)
National Service

QUESTION: I believe we shouldn’t be forced to participate in some kind of national service. However, some of my friends say we owe some duty to our country for being born here and living here. What about a citizen’s duty to country?

MY SHORT ANSWER: If “doing our duty” is equated to providing “service,” who decides what is service and what is not? If young Steve Jobs had been forced into some type of national service instead of being left alone to tinker in his garage, he might never have invented the personal computer. The resulting increases in everyone’s standard of living would have been lost or delayed because of a bureaucrat’s uninformed decision about what was good for the country.

Freedom is what is good for a nation, especially one that wants to help its poor. More freedom means more wealth creation and less poverty. Government interference, even well-intended, backfires. (For some examples and more detail, see my book, “Healing Our World.” The 1992 edition is available as a free download at www.ruwart.com. The updated 2003 edition is available at the Advocates online bookstore.)

Most people give generously of their time and money if this is the voluntary custom. For example, tipping is not mandatory, but almost everyone does it. Before government got involved in social welfare, almost everyone helped a less fortunate neighbor individually or as part of a formal organization because that was the custom. You were either a charity case or a provider of charity; few people wanted to be in the former group.

To return to this way of charitable thinking, the government should stop forcing people to “give at the office” through taxation and resist the temptation to force people into service. Doing so will only create resentment towards those in need, leaving little sympathy for the poor when their “help” disappears in the shifting political tides.

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for further reading on this topic from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

* “Shhh… Don’t call Obama’s national service scheme a ‘draft‘” by Jerome Tuccille. National service is seemingly off the front burner, but don’t let down your guard; the idea continues to circulate. This article, written in 2008 when the idea was being more strongly pushed by both Democrats and Republicans, points out the insidious nature of the concept.

EXCERPT: “Under Barack Obama’s plan, a refusal to participate in a national service program touted at the federal level will be punished by the withholding of high school diplomas by the school district in your town. And without that diploma, few colleges or employers will even bother to look at your application.

“It’s a softer sort of authoritarianism which requires no draft boards, muddles the identity of the ‘bad guy’ and produces no martyrs in handcuffs for the evening news. You just can’t get a job if you don’t do as you’re told.”

* “National Service? Puh-lease“ by Michael Kinsley, TIME, Sept. 04, 2007. Liberal journalist Kinsley does a great job of gutting the whole “national service” notion. Ignore the couple of paragraphs in the middle about democracy and taxation; the rest is brilliant and marvelously written.

EXCERPT: “Problem number one with grand schemes for universal voluntary public service is that they can’t be both universal and voluntary. If everybody has to do it, then it’s not voluntary, is it? And if it’s truly up to the individual, then it won’t be universal. What advocates of this sort of thing generally have in mind is using the pressures of social conformity and the powers of the state indirectly to remove as much freedom of choice as possible, while still being able to claim that everyone who signs up is a ‘volunteer.’”

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Short Answers to Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.