BLOGS - The Advocates for Self-Government

Home » BLOGS

How Self-Government Can Be the Change You Wish to See

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Mike Sertic Comments are off

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

I recently heard someone regurgitate the quote that is typically (and evidently, wrongly) attributed to Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  I sighed and found myself annoyed.  But why?

Change

It’s not as though it’s a bad piece of advice. It’s probably because I imagine the person saying it wearing lavender-tinted tea-shades and swaying back and for the sound of Lennon’s Imagine, all the while praising the virtues of socialist societies like Venezuela and Cuba.  (Obviously, that should shed some light on my own personal biases.)  

Upon reflection, though, it’s good advice, assuming the change you want to see in the world is more libertarian, less authoritarian.  And if you’re reading The Liberator Online, I’d say there’s a good chance that’s the case.

The other reason why we’re likely to roll our eyes at this mantra is that so few of us actually heed it.  The trick to taking this advice, I’m learning, is to understand two related but distinct concepts: locus of control, and sphere of influence.  Let’s focus on locus of control for now.

Locus of control (LOC) is a psychological term developed to assess an individual’s feeling or sense that they are empowered and in control of their own life outcomes.  Thus, a person with a strong internal LOC believes he mostly responsible for how good his health, wealth, status and overall well-being are.  It seems likely that people who adhere to this internal view of LOC share at least some libertarian values.  Conversely, those with a strong external LOC (like Germans, apparently) tend to hold more fatalistic, even nihilistic attitudes that can slowly chip away at the productive and moral capacity of a nation.  I’d be willing to bet there’s at least a moderate correlation between external LOC people and socialist economic policies.

So how does an understanding of LOC help libertarians to effect change in the world?  First, it reminds us that some people fundamentally do not view the world through our paradigm of freedom of choice and self-government.  We should remind these folks when possible of historical examples of the potential power each person is capable of in taking a stand and making a difference for themselves and countless others.

Second, work to practice self-government (defined in this sense as self-rule or self-mastery) in the aspects of life over which you have direct control, if you’re not already doing so.  For example, a while back a was frequently awakened in the middle of the night by a loud noise disturbance of private landscapers working nearby my home.  My initial thought, in my frustration, was to call government code enforcement and have them shut these landscapers down.  But that didn’t seem in concert with my libertarian values.  Instead, I contacted the owner of the landscaping company and we came to an agreement that satisfied both of us—he still fulfilled his contractual cleaning services, and I was able to sleep peacefully.  Such a resolutions weren’t guaranteed, of course, but how often do we think about settling such issues ourselves?

Through this encounter, I put the onus of responsibility on myself to see if I could achieve the desired outcome I was looking for without shifting it to a third-party agent who may ultimately have used threats of force of fines against the company.  That is one small example of self-government in action, and something that I need to remind myself of in situations involving social conflict.  To the degree we are able to tap into the strong internal LOC that we as libertarians tend to hold and not outsource decision rights and authority to third-party agents who hold a monopoly over the use of force, the more effective we will be in actualizing the change we want to see in the world.

Let us know about examples in which you have consciously abstained from involving third-party government agents to settle a dispute or solve a problem that you were able to accomplish yourself. We’d love to hear them.

What Kent State Teaches Us About Free Speech

in First Amendment, Freedom On Campus, Liberator Online by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

What Kent State Teaches Us About Free Speech

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

U.S. senators focused on free speech on college campuses on Tuesday as a panel questioned students, academics, and lawyers after high-profile speeches were canceled on campuses around the country this past year.

Kent State

Those students and academics questioned on the panel insisted the “golden rule” is for the speech to go on as long as violence can be prevented. They dismissed the idea of intolerance.

Eugene Volokh, a professor at the UCLA School of Law, said that a “heckler’s veto” should not be allowed.

“I think the answer is to make sure they don’t create a disturbance and to threaten them with punishment, meaningful punishment if they do create a disturbance,” Volokh said. “If thugs learn that all they need to do in order to suppress speech is to threaten violence, then there will be more such threats.”

But Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said that universities can’t always deal with the fallout when protestors respond to a speaker they oppose. She said the biggest threat of violence often comes from people who don’t attend the university and that colleges don’t always have the resources to deal with those types of situations.

“You don’t think we learned a lesson at Kent State way back when?” Feinstein said at one point.

In 1970, National Guardsmen opened fire on unarmed protesters of the Vietnam War at Kent State University in Ohio. Four students died and nine others were wounded.

Police charged that among the rioters they had spotted two militants just released from jail after serving six months on violent charges. The students denied this.

During these times on campuses across the country, it is imperative that elected officials and police understand the First Amendment in its entirety before any action is taken in the name of security. It’s also ridiculous to think that killings of those students would have been prevented if the government hadn’t allowed the protests in the first place.

The First Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Therefore, students are within their rights to peacefully protest or demonstrate. If, and only if, protests become violent is it the role of the government to intervene.

Free speech means that Americans have the undeniable right to say, write, publish, and think whatever they want. It also means that we have the right to protest any establishment we so choose, even if it is our university or government.

The events that surrounded the shootings at Kent State should teach us that no matter how controversial the topic, we are within our rights to publicly display our disagreement as long as it is done without violence.

New Law Ensures Maine Won’t Help Feds Restrict Gun Owners’ Freedoms

in Gun Rights, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

New Law Ensures Maine Won’t Help Feds Restrict Gun Owners’ Freedoms

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

Ever since the boom in state-led efforts to legalize or decriminalize marijuana, effectively rendering federal laws regarding the substance toothless, many decentralization advocates began urging locals to take up the fight against Washington, D.C., in more active ways. Now, groups across the country have added a series of other victories to their personal records by defying the state and crushing restrictive health care laws, freeing up education requirements in their states, and even making it safer to be a gun owner.

Maine

That’s what Maine lawmakers have just accomplished.

Last week, a bill that prohibits state officials to gather information on firearms and their owners was signed into law by Gov. Paul LePage. Thanks to this piece of legislation, Maine gun owners’ privacy will be protected and kept from the sticky hands of the feds, who are always looking for a way to put a countrywide registry of gun owners together. Without a far reaching database of firearms and their owners, federal officials are unable to enforce any more restrictive new anti-gun ownership law Washington decides to enact in the future.

House Bill 9 was introduced by Rep. Patrick Corey, a Republican from Windham. But what was surprising to many is that the piece of legislation obtained wide support from both sides of the aisle. According to the bill’s wording, the creation of a state firearms registry is now prohibited.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a government agency of this State or a political subdivision of this State may not keep or cause to be kept a comprehensive registry of privately owned firearms and the owners of those firearms within its jurisdiction,” the law now states.

Passed by the state’s House by a 122-24 margin, the bill then headed to the Senate where it passed without any opposition. The piece of legislation was signed on June 12 and it’s scheduled to go into effect 90 days after the Maine legislative session is closed.

Since the federal government relies on information and resources made available by state officials and bureaucracies, passing this law means that the federal government won’t be able to obtain personal information on Maine gun owners anytime soon. By putting an end to any effort that would amount to a gun registry in the state, Maine is igniting a fire that could catch nationwide. In no time, the federal government would have its hands tied, forcing Washington to forego any new efforts to keep an eye on gun owners with the goal of restricting their freedom and violating their 2nd Amendment protections.

The Hoosier State Is About To Give Residents Enough Reasons To Flee

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

The Hoosier State Is About To Give Residents Enough Reasons To Flee

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

As lawmakers across many states of the union begin to understand that decentralization and less federal government control over their lives are important, other states make it easier for locals to simply pack and leave for greener pastures in neighboring states.

Hoosier

In Indiana, a Republican-controlled Assembly has been working with Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb to increase taxes and fees on everything from fuel to medical marijuana registration in a series of different bills. As these bills have already been signed into law, locals will soon realize that the most mundane things that would otherwise cost nothing or very little in an environment free of government intervention are now actually hurting their pockets.

With all bills signed into law in 2017 alone in Indiana, at least 45 different taxes and fees have either been instituted or gone up. But according to Holcomb, that’s not “a lot.” Instead, he told reporters, he thinks that “paying for what we need” is what matters.

As fuel cost in the state goes up 10 cents on the gallon, many drivers may think that going “green” is the answer. But beginning in 2018, electric and hybrid vehicle owners will see a considerable increase in their registration fees, with hybrid cars costing an extra $50 and electric cars costing $150 more just to be registered with the state.

Thanks to the new laws, if you are local and you have a treatment-resistant epilepsy condition, you will need to register with the state’s epileptic cannabidiol registry to obtain legal treatment. But just to get your name on their list you will have to gather an extra $50 for the privilege — if you do not want trouble with the law for pursuing a health treatment to which you and only you have the right to say yes or no.

If Hoosiers who are tired of their current employment situation decide to change careers, choosing to become massage therapists instead, they will also have to obtain a license from the state, which will cost them $100 just for an “OK” stamp from bureaucrats.

Are you a college student in Indiana? Well, then you will face mandatory immunization against meningitis, which will cost you between $100 and $150. As we all know. there will be a lot of broke college students out there having to take money from their loans to cover for that.

Other fees and taxes that are also rising include court recordkeeping fees, background checks for teachers, notary services, storage fees for abandoned vehicles, and even harsher income tax requirements for visiting athletes.

Are private schools unfair?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Education, Liberator Online by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Are private schools unfair?

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

Question

I live in England, where the private schools are derided by some, not because they are bad, but because they are thought of as unfairly benefiting the wealthy. I disagree. I believe that, because the offspring is an extension of the parent, he or she gains no unfair advantage — the school simply allows people to gain advantage from their own work. Do you agree?

schools

Answer

I would agree. However, all schools, whether public or private cost many times more in taxes or tuition than is necessary because of government regulations. Without these restrictions, ad-sponsored television programs like Sesame Street, special educational cable stations, Internet courses, and other advances we cannot yet envision could make high-quality education virtually free — for everyone! For details, see Chapter 10 of my book, “Healing Our World,” available from the Advocates for Self-Government.

Massachusetts Wants To Boost The Marijuana Black Market

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Massachusetts Wants To Boost The Marijuana Black Market

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

Massachusetts voters chose to legalize marijuana for recreational use in November, putting an end to more than a century of prohibition in the region. This Wednesday, the state’s House leaders are going directly against their constituents, advancing a bill that would set the tax on recreational pot to 28 percent, double the amount currently allowed. On top of that, the proposal would also give municipal officials — or bureaucrats — power over which shops and farms can be banned, taking this authority away from local voters.

marijuana

Claiming that this piece of legislation actually better serves voters by protecting public health, safety, and the “best interests of the state,” lawmakers supporting the bill seem to ignore that the measures adopted in its text would have very different real-world consequences.

If the goal here is to boost the illicit marijuana drug market, the mandatory high taxes are enough to do the trick, and if what legislators want is to allow local government officials to be influenced by certain entrepreneurs to keep competitors from establishing shops or farms in certain locations in order to boost their own business, this bill also seems to be the perfect fit. In other words, if what Massachusetts lawmakers see as a victory is nothing but to create an environment where only gangsters and monied pot entrepreneurs are able to succeed, then they have hit the jackpot.

To advocates who have been working to legalize marijuana in the state for years, this bill represents a refusal to embrace what voters have already chosen to see implemented in 2016. Furthermore, they add that increasing taxes on marijuana sales will rise the cost of the final product to the consumer, who may choose to obtain his or her supply of weed from elsewhere.

Knowing consumers won’t buy pot if the cost is too high, many entrepreneurs who already run medical marijuana dispensaries in the state are beginning to reconsider plans to expand their business now that recreational marijuana is legal. But if legitimate businesses are disincentivized from opening their doors, consumers will then be at greater risk of experiencing health issues as they may end up purchasing marijuana in the black market, where products are often moldy or even adulterated.

Instead of protecting voters, lawmakers are making the marijuana market in the state more dangerous by both raising the overall cost of doing business and giving bureaucrats the power to pick and choose who may or may not do business in the state.

Unless lawmakers completely reword the bill, it’s poised to be passed this week before it goes to the Senate. If passed by both chambers, this bill could be signed by Governor Charlie Baker by the end of the month, putting an end to what anti-drug war advocates fought so hard to achieve.

Science Is Too Important To Be Left To the State

in Liberator Online, Libertarian Stances on Issues, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Science Is Too Important To Be Left To the State

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

When the science funding debate is ignited by reports that lawmakers are considering a new cut, news outlets are quick to publish stories about the “anti-science” legislators roaming Washington, D.C. with their dangerous unscientific biases running the country.

science What a bunch of old religious nuts, reporters and left-leaning critics suggest. They want science to die along with the planet.

Unfortunately, the winning narrative is nothing but that, a narrative. And whenever it pops up, people take it seriously, often ignoring facts — particularly those that demonstrate lawmakers are never truly serious about putting an end to government-funded anything.

So let’s look at what matters here. If science and advancing science so that we have access to better health treatments, technologies, and more convenient consumer products is what’s at stake, why would we, thinking individuals, allow scientific research to be funded by a handful of bureaucrats who have zero incentives to make good use of taxpayer money?

In a Bloomberg column, Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason University Tyler Cowen explains that when scientific projects are funded in the private sector, actual projects get the cash, not overhead. What does that mean? It means that private organizations understand that funding funneled to overhead, meaning indirect costs that go to facilities and administration as opposed to equipment, lab supplies, researcher salaries, etc, are often wasted.

When governments redirect taxpayer-funded money to organizations working on scientific research, they are simply putting more money into the power structure of these universities and big conglomerates, strengthening administrators and already established scientists. Who loses? Young and motivated researchers who are willing to take on incredibly ground-breaking projects that may not require that much funding in the first place. If governments weren’t the sole provider of funds but the private sector, these researchers wouldn’t have to lobby universities for grants. Instead, they would have to simply prove their work is worth investing on in the open marketplace.

In an article for the Mises Institute, Dr. Michel Accad explains that once science became influenced by a “massive government stimulus program” in the 1970s, the funding inflation “greatly devalued the worth of individual papers.” Now, studies must be “peer-reviewed,” meaning they must be reevaluated by others in the same field and published in peer-review journals to be accepted.

But as we have learned with the Austrian theory of the business cycle, when access to funding (or credit) is easy, entrepreneurial malinvestment becomes a reality. When it comes to scientific research investment, inflated science funding may lead to “malscience,” or as Accad puts it, “scientific output that is not well coordinated to the needs of the scientific community, because this centralized funding cannot reflect the needs of those intended to ‘consume’ the product of the funded research.”

As you can see, if the advancement of sound science is what truly matters, then leaving it in the hands of governments means fueling malinvestment as opposed to allowing scientific research be carried out as a response to a real demand. If we do not allow this “boom” to wane, we will continue to see nothing but the strengthening of already established scientific hierarchies while denying researchers who are thirsty to make the world a better place a chance. Is that what we truly want?

Harvard Treads On Memes

in First Amendment, Freedom On Campus, Liberator Online by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

Harvard Treads On Memes

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

Prospective members of Harvard University’s Class of 2021 had their admissions offers rescinded after they shared offensive content on social media.

According to screenshots obtained by The Harvard Crimson, messages shared by the individuals in a private Facebook group chat mocked sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children. This group chat originally stemmed from the Harvard College Class of 2021 Facebook group as prospective students formed their own conversations with those who shared similar interests.

HarvardWhen the university’s admissions office became aware of the memes and images shared, they asked students involved to email pictures sent in the group chat for review. Then, Harvard’s administration revoked the students’ admissions offers.

“The Admissions Committee was disappointed to learn that several students in a private group chat for the Class of 2021 were sending messages that contained offensive messages and graphics,” according to an email obtained by The Crimson sent to students involved.

Apparently, the decisions are final.

I agree that the content these individuals shared was gross and offensive, but does that mean that they deserve to have their admissions revoked?

I think it’s important to note that these were teenagers who often don’t make the best decisions. Couldn’t the admissions use this as a teaching moment instead of completely revoking their admissions? After all, these were private conversations. It’s not like these students were speaking on behalf of the university by blasting these memes all over the Internet.

Harvard is a private institution and, ultimately, they can do what they want.

I just wonder if Harvard’s decision sets a negative precedent. Should faculty, current students, and anyone somehow associated with the institution start monitoring absolutely everything they say in private conversations? What does that say about Harvard’s respect for the First Amendment?

Essentially, what should be considered a ‘private’ or ‘public’ conversation? I’d like to know.

‘War Machine:’ A Lesson In Intervention All Libertarians Must Cherish

in Liberator Online by Alice Salles Comments are off

‘War Machine:’ A Lesson In Intervention All Libertarians Must Cherish

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

United States Army General Stanley McChrystal became infamous for resigning in shame after a report on Rolling Stone depicted him and his staff as highly critical of President Barack Obama. In the Netflix movie War Machine, McChrystal’s story becomes a tale of government folly abroad, where military men with views of grandeur attempt to mess with the lives of Afghans who want them out — no matter what.

warIn a post on his Facebook page, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) says the movie should be “mandatory for Congress to watch, particularly legislators hell bent on continuing/restarting the war in Afghanistan.” Without providing any spoilers, Paul touched on the very core subject of the movie.

Hiding behind a satirical rendition of McChrystal, the two-hour long flick is able to demonstrate, with visceral accuracy, just how utterly unproductive and destructive U.S. government’s interventions abroad can quickly become. By showing the viewer the demoralizing effect of a war against “common people” who don’t look or act like “insurgents,” the movie helps the public to have a better idea of what their tax dollars have been paying for since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

As many estimates claim both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars cost $4 trillion and $6 trillion, it’s difficult to watch War Machine and not ask ourselves why we were there in the first place.

As U.S. Marine Aaron O’Connell, the editor of Our Latest Longest War: Losing Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan, once stated, Americans spent a great deal of money “rebuilding” Afghanistan, only to have these efforts wasted in a short period of time.

During an interview with NPR, O’Connell gave a simple example of this phenomena:

“So we’ve spent billions building roads in Afghanistan, but we then turned the roads over to the Afghans in 2013. We trained up a maintenance unit so that it could provide for road maintenance, and nothing has happened since then. Now, today, more than half of the roads are deemed unfit for heavy traffic. And as one taxi driver put it in 2014 – things have gotten so much worse, now if we drive too fast, everyone in the car dies.”

When it comes to foreign policy, government intervention is very similar to intervention in domestic policies.

Government bureaucrats sit and think up a plan to “change” something or “make something better.” Then they pass legislation or simply pull some strings to get their views implemented. Unfortunately, their plan often backfires, simply because not one nor 100 bureaucrats have the knowledge that people on the ground, living those problems daily, have. As a result, the intervention turns into a mess that ends up harming more than it helps — no matter how well-intentioned.

As Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek once elaborated, “allocating scarce resources requires knowledge dispersed among many people.” Because access to this knowledge is impossible to any government body, interventions of any kind are bound to be disastrous.

In Afghanistan, we learned that much, except bureaucrats, are at it again, trying to revive the war sentiment even in Afghanistan.

As Paul stated, it might serve them well to watch War Machine, but not for the comedy alone. Instead of seeing the movie as satire, they must remember that what is depicted in the Brad Pitt-produced film is as far away from fiction as they can possibly imagine.

‘Old-Timey’ Jobs Are Back, And Gentrification Has Nothing To Do With It

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

 ‘Old-Timey’ Jobs Are Back, And Gentrification Has Nothing To Do With It

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

The Wall Street Journal published a piece stating that certain forgotten and despised professions are making a comeback in urban centers like Portland, Brooklyn, and Pittsburgh.

According to the WSJ, “gentrification” is causing young, educated workers to choose to take on jobs that had been seen as low-status, semi-manual professions, turning them into what sociologist Richard Ocejo calls “glamorous occupations.”

jobs

As young men and women leave college to work as butchers, craft brewers, bookbinders, furniture makers, and bartenders, Ocejo argues that young people are drawn to these jobs as a reaction to “the ephemerality of the digital age.” But what Ocejo seems to forget is that, as the education industry is inflated with an artificial demand mostly ignited by government-backed grants and easy loans, young people who were told they should go to college no matter what often leave universities absolutely unsure of what they will be doing next.

Sometimes, they look for jobs in their fields but a lack of success makes them desperate. Sometimes, they abandon what they studied for years in a heartbeat, choosing to do odd jobs and then settle, doing something that is both accessible and financially sustainable, but not overly complicated.

That’s why there are so many restaurant workers with college degrees. So many bartenders, baristas, and fishmongers who never even glanced at their credential again. Not because they may have been born to take on those occupations, but because they wouldn’t have gone to college if they hadn’t been told they should have.

When the government adopts policies that offer individuals extra incentives to take on a particular task, eliminating the upfront cost to obtain a certain degree, it eliminates the individual’s willingness to establish him or herself as their own person, fighting and working hard for whatever it is they wish to do or be.

By facilitating college education to the point that anyone can have a degree, no matter how low their performance might be, governments are harming these individuals. After all, not everyone truly wants a college education, but they might not be compelled to go find out for their own because who would turn down “free” money?

Just like not all of us were born to be doctors, many of us prefer occupations that involve skills better learned at an apprenticeship program or in a trade school. Others learn their craft entirely on their own, by watching online classes or studying at their own pace at home.

By inflating the demand for college degrees, bureaucrats are doing nothing but to inflate the cost of a college education while forcing young men and women into a life of debt. Instead of serving as a guide, college becomes a burden, putting the young and the educated in despair mode. Many move back with their parents while others choose to change their lives completely, taking on jobs they would have never imagined taking.

Instead of gentrification, what has been driving these young men and women into “unwanted” professions” is nothing but circumstance, as they leave college with little to no professional experience and no idea of what they are going to do to pay their student loans. In other words, they are being driven toward anything they can do thanks in part to government’s involvement with the higher education business.

 

The Embodiment of the American Dream

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism by Mike Sertic Comments are off

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

A fellow libertarian recently forwarded me a link to a quiz that he suggested I take. Since I’m always up for a good political survey (and easily distracted), I decided to give it a try.  With claims that it could predict “what factors were working in [my] favor and what [I] had to overcome to get where [I am] today,” I was curious to find out how I scored on on someone’s American Dream quiz.

dreamBefore I go any further, I’ll state outright that I scored 60, meaning that I have been fairly fortunate and had more factors working in my favor than against me.  I have to say that I enjoyed taking the quiz, even though I find both the assumptions and purported research backing it to be biased.

The rhetoric is that of the “it takes a village” and “you didn’t build that…” mentality, which is subtly inferable and reveals itself in the results content.  The results section is quick to provide links to material propagating various socio-economic myths, such as the systemic gender pay gap (which is far more nuanced an issue when all factors are considered).

I have become accustomed to seeing this narrative pushed by various nonprofit organizations, marketing firms, and media outlets.  It is my perception that I am responsible for my successes and my failures, and I think this idea (related to locus of control) is a significant factor in determining an individual’s character and the amount of ultimate success (whatever success means for that person).

I couldn’t help but wonder how libertarians as a group would score on the American Dream survey.  If I were forced to hazard a guess, I would bet that more libertarians would score on my side of the scale, meaning that they’ve been luckier and had fewer obstacles.  I base this both on my social interactions with other libertarians and on the unfortunate stereotype that we are callous toward the plight of the less fortunate (a stereotype with which I happen to mostly disagree).  I also don’t know many libertarians who have received government benefits (or at least many who like to talk about it).

The embodiment of the American Dream is the age-old “rags-to-riches” stories in which a struggling but capable go-getter is able to shape his own destiny through hard work, resilience, and moxie.  Only until relatively recently did the phrase “equal opportunity” worm its way into the American lexicon and become associated with the American Dream. Libertarians (should) recognize that equal opportunity is a mythical construct as unnatural as equal outcomes.  And rather than continue to coercively intervene into the lives of American citizens in a foolhardy attempt to impose equality, we should seek to roll back the countless state interventions that negatively impact the very people they are trying to help.

So go ahead and check out their survey—I’m curious to learn how libertarians score.  And speaking of politics quizzes, there really aren’t any better than the WSPQ!

What will happen to people with low incomes if minimum wage is done away with?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

What will happen to people with low incomes if minimum wage is done away with?

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

Question:

If you take away minimum wages, businesses can pay whatever small amount they want and keep the rest for profit. What about those who will only make $3.00 per hour?

wage

Answer:

If businesses can pay what they want, why do 90-95 percent of today’s workers in the U.S. make more than the minimum wage? The answer: supply and demand applies to employees as well as products. If a business doesn’t pay a person what he or she is worth, they go to a new employer or start their own business. In a libertarian society, with its expanding economy, such moves will be much easier than they are today.

Minimum wage laws actually destroy entry-level positions for the unskilled. Black economist Walter Williams believes that the minimum wage laws are the single most important factor in keeping young blacks out of the job market. The next time Congress considers raising the minimum wage, look in your newspaper for an estimate of the number of jobs that will be lost – potential training jobs for the disadvantaged.

Obama Era Rule Expansion Could Finally Kill The Fourth Amendment

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Obama Era Rule Expansion Could Finally Kill The Fourth Amendment

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

Just before President Barack Obama left office, his administration gave President Donald Trump’s administration the best parting gift a power thirsty official could have asked for: More access to innocent Americans’ private information.

Fourth AmendmentAfter Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) was spying on innocent Americans without due process, the country — and the world — learned that the U.S. government prefers to collect the haystack before looking for the needle. As the debate surrounding privacy rights heated up due to this revelation, others dismissed the reports, saying that those who have nothing to hide should have nothing to fear.

As a counterargument, privacy advocates pointed out that officials don’t need to do their jobs correctly to bust someone for a crime they didn’t commit if they have data.

With data, these advocates would explain, officials can tell a story, even if you had nothing to do with a certain crime.

Now, the Trump administration has the power to make use of the data collected by the NSA even more widely, since Obama gave sixteen federal agencies access to the agency’s database.

These agencies include the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

While the government says that the collected communications available via the NSA are “masked” to protect the identity of innocent Americans, several government officials have the authority to demand unrestricted access. And what’s worse, Congress is now working hard to expand this information sharing system with a series of other agencies.

Thanks to Rep. John Katko (R-NY), HR 2169, or the Improving Fusion Centers’ Access to Information Act, may change the rules so that more agencies under the DHS control have the same access to NSA’s database, such as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). If flying hadn’t been made nearly unbearable thanks to the sexual harassment that comes along with going through airport security, the TSA is about to get even more invasive by combing through information provided by the NSA and doing what it pleases with it — unless HR 2169 gets booted.

To privacy advocates, this bill would only do more damage to America’s already fragile civil liberties protections. Instead of keeping government officials and workers from having more reasons to abuse their power, this new rule expansion would put more Americans at risk of having their rights violated for entirely new reasons.

If the Fourth Amendment still means anything in this country, it might as well die an agonizing and definite death if Katko’s bill gets to the president’s desk. Are we ready for more TSA and ICE scandals?

New York’s ‘Worker Protection’ Laws Will Only Hurt Workers

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

New York’s ‘Worker Protection’ Laws Will Only Hurt Workers

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

Politicians cannot create value, and neither can governments. Still, voters are often the first ones to admit they chose a particular candidate because he or she promised to “create jobs.” With both conservative-leaning and progressive-leaning Americans making the case for government-sponsored programs that create more jobs, it’s easy to ignore the role of basic economics. After all, knowing economics in depth means that you understand that you cannot create jobs out of thin air. What you can create instead is value, and the only way to do so is by having government get out of the way completely.

Workers

In an environment where individuals are free to start businesses by basing their decisions on the demands of consumers, jobs are created out of a real necessity. By responding to an actual market need, employers then offer potential employees the opportunity to trade their labor for wages, which in turn will help them better their standard of living. As Robert Fellner wrote for the Mises Institute, “wages spring directly from, and are proportional to, the degree in which a job creates wealth by helping to satisfy an unmet need.” Or in other words, wages are the product of the wealth creation process triggered by a service or product created to meet the market’s demands.

When government attempts to “create jobs” and stipulate wages artificially by passing minimum wage laws, they are neither creating these positions out of a real necessity to meet a market demand nor raising standards of living by creating value. Instead, government-sponsored job creation is often the result of taxpayer-backed projects, which are in turn managed by central planners with little to no knowledge of market demands. And by increasing restrictions on the productive sector of the economy with minimum wage laws or other restrictive policies, the government takes the businessman’s freedom to give low-skilled individuals a chance at being employed, learning a trade and perhaps going on to take jobs in the future that offer higher wages.

 The new law also stipulates that workers may not work without breaks of at least 11 hours between shifts.

Needless to say, this new law will only hurt workers who are often the first to take on extra shifts and are willing to cover for colleagues due to an abrupt schedule change — not the employer. These individuals will be forced to take on extra side gigs to make ends meet instead of simply working more hours for their current employers.

If anti-poverty advocates were honest about helping those in need, they wouldn’t demand government do “something” about creating new jobs or raising wages artificially. Instead, they would look at the only viable way of actually helping the greatest number of people possible: the free market.

Why Won’t The U.S. Ever End Its Cozy Relationship With Saudi Arabia?

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, Middle East, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Why Won’t The U.S. Ever End Its Cozy Relationship With Saudi Arabia?

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

Saudi Arabia has been in the news a lot lately. It was in the oil-rich kingdom that President Donald Trump started his Middle East trip and it was in the country’s capital, Riyadh, that the president urged the Muslim nations to unite against terrorism.

Saudi Arabia But as the president condemned Iran for its sponsorship of terrorism, vowing to stand by our ally, Saudi Arabia, not one mention of the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Saudi kingdom was uttered. The president was also mum about the kingdom’s well-documented support for terrorism.

But even more importantly, the president failed to mention what has, over the years, kept the United States and the Saudi kingdom so closely connected. As a man who prides himself on being a nationalist, he should know that this relationship has disproportionately helped the Saudis while all the U.S. has gotten in return is that the oil-rich nation and Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) member continues to sell its petroleum in dollars.

In a 2014 piece, the founder and president of the Carl Menger Center Paul-Martin Foss explained that President Richard Nixon’s 1971 decision to cancel the convertibility of the U.S. dollar to gold brought the president to the Saudi kingdom for a very important meeting.

During his stay, Nixon and the House of Saud struck a deal, making the Middle East nation the “anchor of the petrodollar system.” For as long as Saudi Arabia would make its deals in dollars, America would promise to protect the nation militarily.

As it turned out, Nixon appears to have been afraid that closing the gold window would devalue the dollar — and he was right! But he figured that as long as the dollar was being used by nations purchasing and selling oil internationally, its core value would remain strong. With this deal, Nixon guaranteed America would continue experimenting with inflation without care while giving Saudi Arabia a strong military ally.

Fast forward to 2017: As Trump stands before the Saudi kingdom and the press, telling them how devoted he is to remain their partner, he promises to cut taxes like never before at home while increasing defense spending.

Will Trump, or any other president for that matter, ever recognize Nixon’s deal as the very reason why the U.S. remains blindly devoted to a country with such a terrible reputation? Probably not. Is it shameful that mainstream news outlets never report on this obscure piece of history? You bet.

Trump Praises Drug Warrior Duterte, Becoming The First US President To Be Honest About The Drug War’s Perverted Roots

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Trump Praises Drug Warrior Duterte, Becoming The First US President To Be Honest About The Drug War’s Perverted Roots

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

Before becoming the president, candidate Donald Trump gave anti-drug war activists a sliver of hope.

DuterteWhen Merry Jane magazine ran an article saying the business mogul was more likely to help legalization advocates, in the long run, it based its argument on his past interviews.

Before running for president, Trump heroically attacked the drug war as a whole, Merry Jane reminded its readers, saying that to win the war, we should put an end to it. Unfortunately, President Trump seems to disagree with business mogul Trump — at least that’s what a recent conversation between him and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte suggests.

During the phone call, Trump allegedly congratulated Duterte on the “unbelievable job on the drug problem.” Furthermore, he said, “many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing.”

Unlike the business mogul, President Trump seems taken by excitement with the idea that a country like the Philippines isn’t just slaughtering anyone suspected of being involved in the commerce of drugs. Inspired by their president’s encouragement, many vigilantes and police officers are simply gunning down users and addicts in the streets, sometimes in front of the whole neighborhood and with no due process.

Officially, only a little over 2,000 people in the Philippines have been gunned down by cops this way, but vigilantes appear to also be doing the dirty work so that nobody keeps count. And it’s this type of horrific approach to the drug “problem” that got the U.S. president overjoyed.

In America, killings aren’t happening as often, but thanks to U.S. laws targeting use and commerce of drugs, many otherwise non-violent and productive individuals are wasting their lives away in jail. Perhaps, when Trump shows praise for Duterte, he is only being honest; a  first for a U.S. president ever since the drug war was officially launched by President Richard Nixon.

At the time, the administration claimed the drug war was about an ongoing public health crisis. Later, the crusade became much more violent, with presidents and advocates saying it was all about public safety. As this war became militarized, with surplus equipment from U.S. interventions abroad falling in the hands of local police departments, it also became bloodier. But as these same presidents stood there, defending the war on drugs, they also condemned brutal shows of violence abroad.

As they intervene in foreign countries’ affairs in the name of democracy, they even impose sanctions on countries that impose brutal sentences on alleged criminals. But not once has any of these elected presidents admitted how absolutely immoral, bloody, and insane U.S. drug war truly is.

When Trump congratulates Duterte for doing what we see happening in America fairly regularly, he’s at least showing how sickly perverted politicians and their policies are instead of trying to dress up the anti-drug crusade as a quixotic pursuit for health and safety for all. And for that, Trump deserves praise.

But not his policies or Duterte’s, though. After all, individuals own their bodies and only they have a say in what they will put in it — not bureaucrats or police officers.

 

Cutting off the Nation to Spite the State

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Philosophy by Erik Andresen Comments are off

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

Is libertarianism compatible with a more nationalist politics? Is it possible to have a free society that is largely closed to outsiders? The short answer is yes, but the way in which we (Americans specifically) conceive of the nation-state makes that question a little more complicated. Our rhetoric often revolves around the theme of shrinking (or eliminating) the State. But what of the Nation? What is the difference between a nation and a state?

StateThese two words are often combined into “nation-state.” A quick search of Google Ngram suggests that this compound is relatively new. This construction is not helpful in understanding these distinct concepts. A nation is a people, irrespective of location: Cherokee, Swede, Palestinian. A state is a government. A nation may form a state, but a state cannot create a nation, at least not a true nation. There is numerous example in which states have attempted to draw boundaries that did not accurately reflect real national territories, and war usually follows. In some cases, you may have multiple nations creating the state; Canada is a good example. The English, Inuit, and Québécois show that nations precede the state. A government too is just people. The point is that common governance has never been sufficient to create a nation.

If we do not understand this aspect of the current dialogue, libertarians risk losing the opportunity to message. Libertarianism (correctly) reduces many policy questions to interactions between individuals; we tend to shy away from discussing groups and tribes. Unfortunately for libertarians, most people tend to think in terms of group and tribal identities.

Our perspective doesn’t typically square with the current dialogue. Trump, Brexit (UK), Geert Wilders (the Netherlands), Marine Le Pen (France), Viktor Orban (Hungary), and Lega Nord (Northern Italy) are examples of nationalist candidates in the West whose campaigns and parties have performed historically well in recent elections. Their rhetoric is not very libertarian. They have opened wider the Overton Window, with national sovereignty, protectionism, cultural diversity, and mass immigration suddenly back on the table for discussion. Many writers have commented on the nationalist sentiment that seems to be sweeping much of the world. Depending on the writer, it is nearly always framed as either: open society vs. isolationist, or as globalism vs. nationalism.

How are we to persuade when most of our rhetoric only looks at individuals, with little room for larger, national conflicts? Let’s begin by listening to our friends. Are their positions based in fear? If so, do not dismiss their fears as insignificant. Why should they care about what we have had to say if we wholly reject their concerns or worldview? How can we hope to change hearts and minds if we don’t speak the same language? How can we reframe the conversation if we are not meaningfully involved in the discussion, to begin with? If we wish to influence, we must meet our friends and neighbors where they are at now.

 

The Libertarian USP

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Philosophy by Mike Sertic Comments are off

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

As I mentioned in a recent issue of The Liberator Online, the Advocates finished its move from Indianapolis to Sacramento last month.  A colleague of mine was sorting through the treasure-trove of materials and resources that the Advocates has collected over the decades and stumbled upon something he then passed along for me to read.

USPWhat he shared was a powerful essay in the form of a pamphlet entitled “Persuasion versus Force” written by Mark Skousen in 1991.  In it, Skousen quotes an excerpt from the rather obscure book Adventures of Ideas written by Harvard professor and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead:

The creation of the world—said Plato—is the victory of persuasion over force…Civilization is the maintenance of social order, by its own inherent persuasiveness as embodying the nobler alternative.  The recourse to force, however unavoidable, is a disclosure of the failure of civilization, either in the general society or in a remnant of individuals…

Now the intercourse between individuals and between social groups takes one of these two forms: force or persuasion.  Commerce is the great example of intercourse by way of persuasion.  War, slavery and governmental compulsion exemplify the reign of force.

Skousen proceeds to acknowledge a truth all libertarians will recognize: “The triumph of persuasion over force is the sign of a civilized society.”  But, he adds, it is also a principle with which most citizens will agree, regardless of their liberal or conservative tendencies.

My friends on the left and the right will not dispute that persuasion is preferable to violence and force.  If they did, I would likely reevaluate our friendship.  However, it seems that only libertarians consistently view socio-political events from the persuasion-force perspective, and it is only libertarians who reject wholesale the use of force to promote one social agenda over another (through politics or otherwise).

In other words, it is within this framework that libertarianism’s unique selling proposition (USP) lies.  While it isn’t wrong to tout the fact that libertarians advocate for free markets, limited government, and peace, from a marketing perspective it leaves something to be desired.  After all, liberals and conservatives will, from time to time, pitch policy positions that align with the libertarian position—but not because they fundamentally reject force.  Unfortunately, Democrats and Republicans regularly embrace force over persuasion whenever it is deemed politically expedient to do so.

In my experience, the disconnect between people saying they reject force and then employing it through the political system is largely due to the fact that most people 1) do not recognize most forms of political coercion as being such (e.g. voting for and enforcement of bad laws), and 2) rationalize political coercion either as a defense mechanism against previous aggression (e.g. the “But he started it!” retaliation  argument), or as the only option (building roads).  It is our job as Advocates to continue to shine a light on these problems.

To me, anyone who consistently rejects force and employs persuasion in their personal, social and political relationships is acting as a libertarian.  I am unaware of any contemporary competing ideologies or political movements in America that embrace and advocate for the “nobler alternative” of peaceful, voluntary persuasion.  This is the libertarian USP.

Have your own take on libertarianism’s USP?  Write me at mike@theadvocates.org.  I’d like to hear about it.

Chronic Conditions and Big Government’s Unintended Consequences

in Drugs, Freedom On Campus, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

Chronic Conditions and Big Government’s Unintended Consequences

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

Starring Jennifer Aniston, Cake is a film that follows the life of a woman after a car accident took the life of her young son and left her with debilitating, chronic pain.

chronic Aniston’s character lives with visible scars, insomnia, and pain so intense that she can barely sit without help. The movie shows her daily struggles with herself and those around her while she tries to come to terms with her new ‘normal.’

One scene sticks out to me as an all-too-familiar example of how big government makes decisions for us in the name of “helping.”

Because Aniston’s pain is constant, she goes through prescription pain pills faster than her refill dates will allow her to get more. And because of the stigma that surrounds chronic pain patients, Aniston’s local pharmacy won’t provide her with her medicine out of the fear that she is misusing her prescriptions to sell them on the street.

Taking matters into her own hands, she convinces her housekeeper to drive her across the border into Mexico to obtain the medication she needs. Because she doesn’t have the prescription needed to claim the medicine at the border, she smuggles it through a false compartment in a statue of St. Jude.

In essence, she’s willing to break the law in order to enhance her quality of life.

Starting this year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will be enforcing new rules that limit the accessibility of almost every Schedule II opioid pain medication manufactured in the U.S. by 25 percent or more. This eliminates phone-in refills and mandates a check-in with a doctor every 90 days for a refill in an effort to curb opioid drug abuse and addiction.

In the United States, Schedule III and IV drugs, (like Xanax, Suboxone, etc.) are treated similarly. Moreover, a government ID must be presented in order to obtain things like cold medicine which could potentially be used to make Schedule I drugs like methamphetamine, heroin, etc.

If I were to buy nasal decongestant in my home state of Indiana, not only would I need to present my driver’s license to the pharmacist, but my name, address, license number, and other personal information must be reported to the Indiana State Police and the Indiana Meth Investigation System.

In an effort to continue the failed war on drugs, lawmakers are pushing regulations that have unintended consequences, specifically for those who suffer from chronic conditions. More regulations mean more time and money spent on unnecessary doctors visits. And for many, it means making those trips up to 12 times a year or more.

Wouldn’t we be better off if we were able to make our own health decisions with our doctors rather than letting the government make them for us?

California Deputies Caught Selling Stolen Marijuana On The Side

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

California Deputies Caught Selling Stolen Marijuana On The Side

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

The drug war is a disaster on many levels, especially because it ignores the most basic principle there is, that the individual owns his body and only he has the right to do with it as he pleases.

marijuanaBut the drug war is also a failure when it comes to helping bring an end to violent crime, which stems from the black market created precisely because of the existence of restrictive laws concerning drug commerce and use in the first place.

And as it turns out, the disastrous war on drugs has also failed law enforcement, by giving officers incentives to be corrupt.

In California, two former Kern County deputies pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute. What’s worse, they did so by abusing their positions within the law enforcement agency.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Logan August, 30, and Derrick Penney, 34, conspired with an informant for the police to steal marijuana that had been seized during investigations.

Once stolen marijuana was in their hands, August and Penney would then trim it then deliver it to one of their confidential informants who would then sell the stolen property. The proceeds were shared with August and Penney, along with another accomplice.

The instances involving theft and the distribution of marijuana happened more often, officials found, as an additional 25 pounds of marijuana had been stolen by the deputies.

The fact August served as a “peace officer” assigned to a narcotics unit helped, as he spent the period between March and December 2014 participating in marijuana-related operations.

According to the DOJ, he stole marijuana on at least ten separate occasions.

After this embarrassment to Kern County, officers involved in this scheme will spend only 5 years in jail for selling marijuana — not for stealing private property.

When laws meant to make us “safer” end up creating incentives for law enforcers to become criminals, you bet that they are also creating a lot of perverted incentives to those being hunted down by the police.

When government pushes a particular practice or substance into the shadows, they are also giving individuals incentives to distort the markets. Instead of working to beat the competition by providing better services and goods, they resort to simply killing their competitors, literally or figuratively by sabotaging their business. Corrupt law enforcement agents like the two deputies in Kern County saw a way to benefit from it, despite the fact they had sworn to uphold the law at all costs.

Ending the war on drugs is the only way to put an end to this vicious cycle.

 

Page 1 of 4212345...102030...Last »