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Let’s Just Have A Computer Program Decide Everything

in From Me To You, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Philosophy by Brett Bittner Comments are off

“Let’s Just Have A Computer Program Decide Everything”

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

On my way to Las Vegas last week for FreedomFest, I had a revelation about “efficient government” and why it does not appeal to me. At least, it does not appeal in the same way a free society does.

WALL-EAs we’ve seen many times, candidates for office will promise to make government more efficient, eliminate waste, and reduce its size. While I appreciate the sentiment and pragmatism of that message, as a libertarian, I can’t take it seriously.

When we encounter those in favor of efficient government over the freedom a libertarian society offers, I suggest we offer the following suggestion: “Let’s just have a computer program decide everything.”

When it comes to efficiency, a computer program can make the decisions currently made by bureaucrats administering the myriad government programs that exist today. If you think about it, we could eliminate the waste, fraud, and abuse by making programming the decision-making to execute the laws and regulations on the books. The savings made by this automation would certainly make government operate cheaper, and there would be fewer people employed by government.

As we saw in Back to the Future II’s vision for 2015, the legal system moved much more swiftly after they abolished all lawyers. While this was certainly more efficient, it likely wasn’t effective when it came to justice and the preservation of liberty.

Is that what libertarians are really seeking?

So, if you really think about it…if we make government more efficient, will we be freer?

 

 

Airbnb to Collect Taxes from Los Angeles Users

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights, Taxes by Advocates HQ Comments are off

Airbnb to Collect Taxes from Los Angeles Users

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

Airbnb, the short-term rental app, has recently agreed to go along with officials in Los Angeles by requiring users to collect hotel taxes from their clients. The three-year agreement was signed early this week. And according to LA city officials, money collected by Airbnb in Los Angeles would bring $5.8 million in annual revenue.

ProtestThe agreement follows the city’s efforts to regulate Airbnb and similar companies locally.

As City Council members discussed what to do with Airbnb in the past few months, the company lobbied its users to stand up against suffocating regulations in a series of emails sent out regularly.

In one of these emails, Airbnb explained that the LA City Planning Commission was considering putting a 90 day cap on the number of nights Airbnb hosts can list their space, a rule Airbnb called “restrictive and arbitrary.” City officials were also considering limiting the number of listings hosts can have, which could affect users who have more than one room to rent, and instituting a registration procedure that would render the process of hosting through Airbnb difficult and expensive.

Another rule LA city officials had considered would also force Airbnb to turn over users’ personal information to the authorities, giving them information on how many nights a host books through the site and how much money renters make. Airbnb warned its users that the city did not detail how this information could be used.

Accusing property owners of evicting tenants to turn their properties into “commercial hotel and motel businesses,” Councilman Mike Bonin was one of the first in Los Angeles to propose Airbnb regulations. But while it is true, many users have, in fact, evicted their tenants in order to list their properties on Airbnb, that alone is not an excuse to regulate Airbnb out of existence. After all, the system works because it’s still affordable.

To tourists looking for an affordable accommodation option, the extra financial burden tied to the hotel tax could mean that renting through Airbnb might not be that affordable after all. To those who use the service as renters to make ends meet, being part of Airbnb may not be as appealing if rates are high because of the new rules.

In an article for US News, Mercatus Center’s Matthew Mitchell urges regulators to “deregulate traditional industries” if their goal is to help all industries and local businesses thrive. Instead of regulating the sharing economy and stifling competition, deregulation could also make it easier for visitors to stay and spend money locally.

Airbnb’s decision to go along with Los Angeles city officials may represent the company’s willingness to compromise, but a real solution to this dilemma will only be produced when lawmakers are honest about their goals.

After all, regulation will always makes things difficult for the consumer and the businessman, no matter how you slice it.

Don’t Be Fooled by the DOJ’s Proposed Legislation

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Don’t Be Fooled by the DOJ’s Proposed Legislation

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

Two years ago, Microsoft refused to comply with a warrant concerning information hosted in Ireland, and the case was brought to court where justices ruled against the tech giant. Recently, however, the 2nd Circuit appeals court ruled in favor of Microsoft, claiming that the US government warrants do not apply to data stored outside of the country.

DOJDespite the ruling, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is now proposing a piece of legislation that would affect Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs), allowing the US government to force companies like Microsoft to unlock a server abroad.

According to the proposed legislation documents, Assistant Attorney General Peter J. Kadzik claims that the ideas proposed by the DOJ would help the US government investigate foreigners suspected of being involved in terrorism, urging Vice President Joe Biden to consider having Congress look at the DOJ’s solution.

In a post crafted by a former DOJ lawyer, the proposed legislation would allow the US government to have access to communication from non-US citizens who are located in foreign countries. Pieces of communication subject to the proposed rules would only be available for what the DOJ calls “criminal investigations,” which legalists claim to be helpful, since this restriction could help prevent current MLATs from being used with the purpose of gathering intelligence. Despite the carefully crafted piece of legislation, concessions aren’t enough to cover up for the DOJ’s goals to expand the agency’s reach.

According to Tech Dirt, the DOJ is using this proposed legislation to target laws and statutes that the agency has been abusing for years. Is the DOJ trying to make its work easier?

Take the Wiretap Act for instance, a law that has been rendered toothless ever since the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) used a single state judge in California to build a massive wiretapping operation in the Los Angeles suburbs. If the DOJ’s proposed rules are considered and signed into law, remaining restrictions imposed by the Wiretap Act would be lifted for good, making incidents like the one that took place in California more common across the country.

But that’s not all, restrictions imposed by the Stored Communications Act, which was used by the DOJ in its fight against Microsoft, as well as the criminal Pen Register statute would also be lifted under the proposed rules, Tech Dirt reports.

If the DOJ is lucky and Congress goes along with its plan, the dubious wording in the proposed rules would give officials authority to carry searches related to the “prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of serious crime, including terrorism.” Targets of investigations would have to be in countries that have executive agreements with the United States.

According to Tech Dirt, the proposal may superficially seem to cater to privacy advocates, but “The self-written loopholes allow for plenty of ‘search first, ask permission later’ action.” If Tech Dit’s assessment is correct, the proposal rules’ dubious wording could further entrap US citizens, helping the authorities to destroy even more of our liberties in the name of security, while targeting foreign servers in the meantime.

Self-Government Goes To Those Who Show Up

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

Self-Government Goes To Those Who Show Up

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

As libertarians, we understand that personal responsibility is the price we are to pay for individual liberty.

Show UpWe discuss it at length when persuading others about how liberty works. We talk about how we (yes, you and I) will be responsible for one another in the absence of government programs that currently attempt to act as a safety net. We offer examples of our charity and entrepreneurship to prove that our fellow man will not go hungry, sleep in the streets, or be unable to read and write.

We know that our ideas and principles are the right ones to lead to a prosperous, peaceful, and harmonious society, so why aren’t we there yet?

Because, like those we’re trying to persuade, we’ve outsourced responsibility. Except that we have not outsourced responsibility to government. We’ve outsourced our responsibility to other libertarians.

We’ve outsourced that responsibility to libertarian candidates for office, their staff and volunteers, thinking that it’s their “turn” to spread the message, not ours.

We’ve outsourced that responsibility to libertarian think tanks, who work to deliver quality research, and statistics, and facts necessary to equip us with the right information.

We’ve outsourced that responsibility to libertarian activists, as they wave signs, work outreach booths, and persuade their friends, family, and neighbors about the beauty of a free society.

We’ve outsourced that responsibility to libertarian entrepreneurs, toiling to create the next Uber, AirBnB, or PayPal.

The price of personal responsibility is set, it’s non-negotiable, and it’s due every day. That price is showing up. Whether it is supporting candidates for office, sharing the mountains of data offered by our friends in think tanks and organizations in the libertarian sphere, attending an event, or using the goods and services that meet our needs, we need to pay the price daily.

If we don’t pay it, we fall behind. When we fall behind, we have to pay even more to catch up. Authoritarians count on us missing a payment, because they have their solution ready to go. They have the latest cure for society’s ills, and that intervention is government.

We ALL have busy lives, families, and hobbies calling for our time, attention, and effort, but we have to take responsibility for what we want in our lives. Much like the authoritarian way of outsourcing responsibility to government, we’ve outsourced it to other libertarians with the hope that their efforts will make up for a lack of them on our part.

Accept the call and take responsibility for a free society. You can’t wait for someone else to give you the freedom you deserve. You have to stop outsourcing responsibility and show yourself and others that we can do it.

If you aren’t going to show up to stake a claim for your life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, who will?

It’s BOTH What You Say AND How You Say It

in Communicating Liberty, From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

It’s BOTH What You Say AND How You Say It

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

Over the weekend, I happened to interact with a young lady who complained about a couple in front of her at the grocery store using EBT, AKA food stamps, saying something to the effect of “Tonight, I bought my dinner at the grocery store and the couple in front of me used their EBT card, and they are eating better than my family. Sigh.”

UGH!

WordsAs a libertarian, I abhor the idea of a government-run “safety net” to help those who find themselves in need. I think that we can provide that safety net for our family, friends, and neighbors without the use of force by no longer outsourcing that responsibility to government and taking it on ourselves. After all, before The New Deal, that IS how we handled it. Why would we want to let a wasteful entity like government determine need, its distribution and method, and the administration and overhead necessary to make it happen?

The main issue I took with this approach to discussing a safety net program was that it attacked the individual recipients’ choices and lifestyle, which is not how you would win over those who may be on the fence about the program or the idea that government should administer “charity” through force. It gives an impression of envy, a lack of compassion, and an uninformed statement about the lives of those recipients.

Talking about this subject in terms of the individual program also hyper focuses the discussion on THAT program. Rather than discuss EBT specifically, you’ll likely be more persuasive by talking about the role government took in “charity.” Rather than get into the specifics and details of the program, talking about taking back the outsourced responsibility into our homes, neighborhoods, and communities has a far greater impact. We can discuss philosophy more broadly without getting caught up in a minute detail. It’s similar to how Governor Gary Johnson was pinned down to “baking the Nazi cake” by a fellow candidate seeking the Libertarian Party nomination, rather than focusing on the broader picture of freedom of association. 

We can also ask thought-provoking questions about why they find it more important to prolong, preserve, and protect a program founded on the use of government force. By focusing the conversation this way, we can discuss how to end government’s shoddy performance to actually address those in need, while taking from others to pay for it.

A more efficient government is not in our best interests. We know that individuals operating in a freed market and free society can better serve our community’s needs.

 

After Dallas, People Are Being Arrested for Posting Inflammatory Comments Online

in First Amendment, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Advocates HQ Comments are off

After Dallas, People Are Being Arrested for Posting Inflammatory Comments Online

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

Speech protections are being denied for those who harshly criticize law enforcement online, The Intercept has reported.

EarsIn Detroit, four men were arrested this past week after posting allegedly inflammatory and “threatening” comments online. While we know that in one of the tweets that led to an arrest, Micah Johnson, or the sniper who shot and killed Dallas police officers, was praised as a hero, the authorities have yet to release the names of the men who were arrested.

What’s troubling about these arrests, The Intercept report suggests, is that neither of the four men allegedly arrested over online posts were charged with a crime.

Without acknowledging whether his wishes contradict the arrestees’ First Amendment protections, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said that he wants the men his team arrested “charged with crimes. … I’ve directed my officers to prepare warrants for these four individuals, and we’ll see which venue is the best to pursue charges.”

But to Bruce Schneier, a security technologist at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University who talked to The Intercept, “arresting people for speech is something we should be very careful about.”

In Connecticut, Facebook user Kurt Vanzuuk was arrested after writing a post claiming that the Dallas sniper was a hero. Vanzuuk allegedly called for the police to be killed. He was later charged with inciting injury to persons over his post.

Ronald Medina, a New Jersey resident, was charged with cyber harassment after allegedly posting that he would “destroy the Perth Amboy police headquarters” on an unidentified form of social media.

Jenesis Reynolds, another Facebook user from Illinois, was also arrested for writing that she would “have no problem shooting a cop for simple traffic stop [because] they’d have no problem doing it to me.” Officers charged Reynolds with “disorderly conduct.”

While “posting that kind of thing on social media is a bad thought,” professor Larry Dubin of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law said, “having a bad thought isn’t necessarily a crime.”

To professor of law at Northeastern University Daniel Medwed, “threats may seem more threatening to police officers around the country” after Dallas, which may cause law enforcement to go after inflammatory speech. “We might be seeing more arrests right now because the police will interpret that they have probable cause to make the arrest,” he continued, “But that doesn’t mean in the end that this will result in convictions.”

Whether social media posts are public or not, it’s hard to justify the arrest of an individual over offensive comments.

In an article for the Mises Institute, Andrew Syrios states that “when you’re popular, you don’t need freedom of speech.” He added that “resorting to the use of political force to silence adversaries is a sign of the weakness of one’s own position.”

If law enforcement leadership is serious about regaining the trust of the public, officers should act like the adults in this conversation. Resorting to force to restrain alleged enemies will only continue to hurt the reputation of US police. ​

Arizona Court Rules that Weed Smell Enough Justification for Search Warrant

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Arizona Court Rules that Weed Smell Enough Justification for Search Warrant

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

In current-day America, the Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government is nothing but a suggestion. In Arizona, the careless approach to the law of the land is now even backed by lady Justice.

WeedAccording to an NBC affiliate, a recent ruling supports that officers are allowed to have access to a warrant to search a person’s property over the smell of marijuana. The decision came after the state Supreme Court ruled that the enactment of the medical marijuana law does not eliminate a legal doctrine that supports that the smell of marijuana is sufficient to establish probable cause for a search.

The Arizona Supreme Court ruling added that only with the “person’s presentation of a valid [medical marijuana] registration card” attorneys would be able to challenge the legal foundation for a search based on the smell of marijuana alone.

The case that resulted in this ruling involved an officer who noticed the odor of marijuana while contacting an individual. The encounter led him and other officers to discover a marijuana operation that counted with hundreds of marijuana plants.

To medical marijuana users in the state, this ruling is concerning. Rebecca Calloway, a local dispensary worker and college graduate with a medical marijuana card, says that this ruling makes matters worse since “a lot of pedestrians [already] feel they are being harassed by cops with nothing better to do.”

To privacy advocates, the ruling gives officers a loophole, giving them the freedom to use smell as a reasonable cause for searches in different occasions.

Instead of looking at the Constitution for guidance, the Arizona justices decided to continue giving drug warriors legal justifications to send more non-violent “criminals” to taxpayer-funded prisons, managing to step on the 4th Amendment rights of citizens who do not happen to be marijuana users in the process. But this is not the first time Arizona justices stand with drug warriors.

In May, Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the state’s medical marijuana laws do not give physicians immunity against prosecution in case doctors claim to have reviewed a patient’s medical records from the previous 12 months before issuing a written statement allowing for the use of medical marijuana.

While the state has come a long way by passing a medical marijuana law that helps residents suffering from a series of conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, and others, anti-drug war advocates in the state are hoping to get an initiative added to the November ballot that would legalize marijuana for recreational use.

In early July, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted 258,582 signatures to secretary of state officials. To quality for Arizona’s statewide ballot, the campaign must have 150,642 valid signatures from registered voters.

If passed, the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act would legalize marijuana for recreational use and establish a network of licensed cannabis shops that would collect taxes on the sales of marijuana and marijuana-related products. The proposal resembles the model used in Colorado.

San Francisco Bans Pool Toys in the Name of Science

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San Francisco Bans Pool Toys in the Name of Science

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

The city of San Francisco has made history in many different, and often significant and terrifying ways.

CryingThe home of the nation’s largest Federal Reserve System bank by area and population has long served as a target for conservatives and libertarians, mostly due to the city’s passion for micromanaging the lives of its residents. So the latest political piece of news to come out of the Paris of the West might not come as a surprise to our readers.

According to Watchdog.org, San Francisco’s government has just passed the country’s most extensive ban on foam products, adding pool toys to the list of outlawed items. This move alone, Watchdog reported, is why the San Francisco’s ban goes one step further than any other of the country’s most progressive cities.

Other products impacted by the ban include packing peanuts, coffee cups, take-out trays, or anything made out of polystyrene foam.

According to the city, the ban is important because plastic foam is polluting San Francisco Bay, so keeping residents from using it could, perhaps, help to protect the environment. But the ban, ABC News noted, is unrealistic. Despite the new rules, the city is incapable of stopping anyone outside the city to ship products packed in foam containers, for instance.

But enforcement feasibility is not the only issue with this new ordinance.

Last year, a ban targeting take-out trays was overturned by a New York state judge who claimed to see the move as “arbitrary and capricious,” as well as “neither environmentally effective nor economically feasible.”

At the time, estimates showed that the alternatives to the non-recyclable take-out food trays would cost about $6,000 more per year to business owners. To multi-millionaire businesses, that sum doesn’t sound all that terrifying, but to the owners of small businesses, the added cost could mean higher prices, fewer employees, or perhaps both.

In a 2012 article for the Wall Street Journal, professor of economics Donald J. Boudreaux wrote that “Industrial capitalism is history’s greatest antipollutant,” adding that “the list of ways in which the developed world has been cleaned by capitalism is practically endless.” In a report for the Cato Institute, Sallie James, a policy analyst with Cato’s Center for Trade Policy Studies, concludes that a “freer, more prosperous economy is a more auspicious path to ensuring a more rapid spread of environmental technology and the global consensus needed to combat climate change.”

The imposition of restrictions that affect the poorest among us will only cause more unemployment while hurting consumers. If you are busy simply struggling to survive, helping to save the environment won’t be a top priority.

Since governments are notorious for their lack of knowledge regarding the allocation of resources, it’s easy to see how governments also lack the necessary knowledge to implement bans or restrictions that would ensure climate policy is operated effectively.

When free markets are in place and certain market elements fail to maximize the welfare of consumers, they fail. When governments run failed policies, they do not crash and burn; they remain in place. Regardless of these failed policies’ shortcomings or evident defeat. Why not give individuals a chance to find a solution without restrictions for a change?

Education Theater

in Conversations With My Boys, Education, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Philosophy by Advocates HQ Comments are off

Education Theater

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

I think education is a natural system that can’t be centrally planned. And yet, that’s exactly what we try to do with curriculum-and-textbook-based learning. Scope, sequence, grading children by age, all of that is done not for the sake of the child but for the sake of efficiently delivering lessons aimed at imparting skills and knowledge. We have the best intentions, but what is it getting us?

Theater-EducationWhat we’re finding is that we can throw skills and knowledge at them but unless it’s on the child’s timeline, when they’re interested, when it matters to them, it doesn’t stick. We’re wasting all kinds of time, effort, and patience re-teaching things that we taught when children weren’t interested or ready. We’re frustrating children and what we’re really teaching them is that education is an absurd, arbitrary exercise in memorizing what someone else deems worthy and promptly forgetting it once the test is over. This is a false efficiency. This is education theater.

Worse yet, perhaps, we ignore the individual’s strengths, genius, needs, desires, capacities, and dreams when we attempt to be efficient and to impose ‘education’ on them. What they’re really doing is creating themselves and I think in the best of all worlds the people who love them the most should be resources or facilitators or mentors in that process. Sometimes it seems to me that education is like a bad present. We’re shoved into the dreaded Christmas cardigan from Aunty Hortence and told to go thank her when what we really wanted, what we really needed, was the bike.

Big Government Killed Alton Sterling

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Big Government Killed Alton Sterling

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

Alton Sterling was known as the “CD man” in his neighborhood where Abdullah Muflahi allowed the 37-year-old black man to sell tunes and DVDs outside his convenience store.

SterlingThe owner of Triple S Food Mart told CNN he had known Sterling for six years. “Alton was out there selling CDs,” Edmond Jordan, an attorney representing Sterling’s family said, “trying to make a living.” According to the attorney, “he was doing it with the permission of the store owner, so he wasn’t trespassing or anything like that. He wasn’t involved in any criminal conduct,” yet earlier this week, two police officers pinned Sterling down then shot him as he lay on the ground, defenseless.

The incident sparked outrage online after the video depicting the altercation between Baton Rouge police officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II and the victim went viral. The footage, which was captured by a driver and his passenger, is hard to watch.

(UPDATE: Second video of Alton Sterling shooting by Baton Rouge police available here.)

It begins with the camera facing the dashboard but once you hear a pop, someone yells “get on the ground!” Once a second pop is heard, the camera pans up to the two officers confronting Sterling, who’s wearing a red shirt. That’s when one of the officers pulls Sterling over the hood then pins him to the ground. Once he’s down, both officers combine forces to keep the man restrained. Moments later, a voice shouts “he’s got a gun!” The video then shows the officer pulling something from his waist then yelling at the man on the ground while pointing at him. After some more yelling, two bangs are heard, which prompts the witnesses inside of the car to yell. After three more bangs follow, the woman in the vehicle begins to cry.

While it’s not yet clear why Sterling was targeted by the officers, the Baton Rouge police say they were called to the scene after an anonymous 911 caller reported being threatened by a man with a gun. But when CNN asked the shop owner about the incident, he said Sterling was a peaceful man. “They told him not to move,” Muflahi said, but once Sterling “[asked] them what he did wrong,” officers pulled a stun gun and used it on Sterling before the shots were fired.

According to Muflahi, one of the officers pulled out a gun from Sterling’s pockets after the shooting. Nevertheless, Muflahi told CNN, he wasn’t sure why the police were called since he hadn’t seen any confrontation involving Sterling before his death. “Just five minutes before,” Muflahi explained, “he walked into the store getting something to drink, joking around, (and we were) calling each other names.”

After the killing, the president of the NAACP’s local branch called for the mayor and police chief to resign. And while Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards says the US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is the leading agency behind this investigation, the state police, the FBI, and the US attorney’s office in Baton Rouge are also involved.

As local authorities are pressed to act, Baton Rouge police claim detectives are reviewing the cell phone video, but footage captured by the store’s cameras is yet to be released. According to Muflahi, officers took the video before the store owner had a chance to see it. The police also claim officers had body cameras at the time of the incident, but that during the altercation, the cameras fell off, failing to capture the shooting.

In current day America, we often hear about the death of due process, but we’re not completely aware of what that means until an incident like this happens.

Owning and carrying a gun shouldn’t be a crime. After all, the individual’s right to keep and bear arms is guaranteed by the US Constitution. Whether Sterling had a gun or not, he appears to have been confronted before having had a chance to know why he was being targeted, giving us reason to believe officers never told him why he was being stopped or asked not to move.

As bureaucrats and progressive politicians on both sides of the isle work together to add more crimes to the criminal code—making criminals out of us all—law enforcement agents are pressed to enforce these laws by any means necessary.

Instead of admitting government is inherently inefficient and acting accordingly, lawmakers add insult to injury by creating an environment ripe for conflict, not peace.

If we, as a nation, are serious about keeping communities and individuals safe, we must be ready to get back to the basics, looking at the Constitution for an example of how we must restrict rulers and enforcers—not ourselves.

The Silver Lining

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The Silver Lining

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

You may have seen a story about one of the presumptive nominees for President and her recent interactions with the FBI.

CuffedThe outcome is one that we can now point to, with regard to intent, when discussing the justice system.

Regardless of what happened and happens with this particular case, the FBI and the Department of Justice did not pursue charges due their view that the actions leading to the investigation did not include criminal intent.

THAT is our silver lining. Both FBI Director Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch pointed to a lack of intent to violate laws governing the handling of classified information.

In a common law jurisdictions like the United States, a general test of guilt is one that requires proof of fault, both in thought and action. The former requires mens rea, or “a guilty mind,” while the latter requires actus reus, or “a guilty act.” This principle is stated best by Edward Coke, who is considered to be the greatest jurist of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras in England who said, “an act does not make a person guilty unless (their) mind is also guilty.”

Today, far too many Americans find themselves arrested, in court, or behind bars lacking the “guilty mind,” the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes part of a crime, despite having acted in a way deemed unlawful.

We also see a vocal group perpetuating a popular notion that once arrested or encounters police, a person is already viewed as guilty, the antithesis of justice.

Further, this instance amplifies the difference between the political class and the rest of us. Did we really think that someone who has lived in the White House, served in the US Senate, and been appointed to serve in the Presidential cabinet would encounter justice in a similar manner as would happen if you or I were in the same situation?

Putting aside our personal feelings about the person in question, justice cannot be served without observing that some may “get off.” If we use this high-profile investigation to exemplify why many more should not be locked in a cage for an act in which they held no “guilty mind,” we can win many hearts and minds over to a sense of justice.

Libertarians hold justice in high regard. It’s the tiered system where some are “more equal than others” that we despise.

 

Jailing Journalists Over FOIA Requests Makes Government Less Accountable

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Jailing Journalists Over FOIA Requests Makes Government Less Accountable

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

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests are often treated like a cancer within federal government agencies. For obvious reasons.

LawInstead of handling them directly, federal agencies often stonewall or send them bills they cannot afford, all so that they may avoid releasing what requesters are after. Regardless of how they act, the law requires that federal agencies respond to the requests within 20 days, unless “unusual circumstances” arise.

Recently, federal agents went somewhat further, sending a requester from Georgia to jail.

According to Tech Dirt, Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason and his attorney, Russell Stookey, were arrested and charged with attempted identity fraud and identity fraud after filing a records request. The arrest was questioned after news reports claimed the pair had been going after a local judge and members of the court staff prior to the request, questioning the use of racial slur in the courtroom tracing back to Judge Brenda Weaver’s predecessor.

Thomason had acquired the copy of a transcript hoping it would show the district attorney and court deputies attaching the racial slur to the defendant’s name. To his surprise, the transcript had been modified. Once he asked for the audio recording of the hearing, his request was rejected, prompting him to write an article that questioned the court stenographer’s professionalism. That’s when things turned sour.

Once the article was published, the stenographer sued Thomason for defamation, but the suit was dropped, prompting the court employee to motion to recover legal fees, even after having received a check for $16,000 to cover her legal fees from then-Judge Roger Bradley. In order to show the current judge the stenographer had already recovered her legal fees, Thomason filed more requests, but the action backfired when Judge Weaver and the district attorney brought charges against the journalist and his lawyer, claiming that the information should not be made available so the pair wouldn’t “use the banking information on those checks for himself.”

According to Tech Dirt, the judge’s response was to accuse Thomason of seeking to take funds from the judge’s bank account without being able to prove intent. But while in two of the counts of the indictment Thomason and his lawyer are accused of identity fraud and attempted identity fraud, the third count is what causing free speech advocates to lose their minds.

“In short,” Tech Dirt writes, “Judge Weaver claims the requesters lied on their request,” hoping to shield courtroom employees from “what she apparently views as harassing behavior.” If this charge stands and Thomason and his lawyers lose this legal battle, Tech Dirt argues, other journalists might have a hard time seeking public records in the future.

Video Game Shows the Economic Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana

in Drugs, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Advocates HQ Comments are off

Video Game Shows the Economic Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana

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

In a truly free society, individuals would be able to provide the products consumers are after without having to deal with the restrictions imposed by bureaucrats.

Hemp IncWhen analyzed closely, private regulatory practices promoted within the marketplace are often much more efficient than regulations imposed by government officials who often are responding to potential threats instead of responding to legitimate market demands, putting a strain on job creators and consumers, who end up paying more—sometimes with their lives—for the product they want or need.

But as states begin to accelerate the process to legalize marijuana, the debate is finally shifting. Now, we’re finally talking more about the health and financial benefits of marijuana legalization than the legalization’s downside.

That’s why Hemp Inc. matters.

According to VICE News, the video game produced by HKA Digital Studios allows users to grow and sell weed while interacting with smokers, who sometimes happen to be celebrities. As a result of their economic ventures, these pot entrepreneurs are able to build marijuana empires. Unfortunately, that’s only currently—and legally—possible in real life if you move to states like Colorado and Washington.

The app was launched on April 26, but few news outlets covered the story.

Regardless of how popular the app becomes, the message it conveys is a powerful one. Despite the drug war, demands will always be met, no matter how many laws Congressmen pass. Once you lift barriers, however, industries flourish—including health industries—and consumer safety becomes a priority. Instead of assaulting people’s freedoms under the guise of safety, lawmakers are being increasingly reminded that they don’t know what is best for everyone. And that’s OK. Leaving it up to the individual is the only moral alternative.

So instead of logical arguments alone, anti-drug war advocates now have a new tool that demonstrates just how easily individuals are able to benefit themselves while benefitting others once marijuana is legal.

Instead of violent, bloody wars between gangs over street territory, the relationship between marijuana producers, sellers, and consumers is slowly becoming more like the relationship between the farmer, grocer, and the consumer—and that’s a positive development.

Unlike a real war, the drug war is an effort that targets a behavior seen as immoral, not a real enemy. But we have a modern historical example of how that type of war doesn’t lead us anywhere. Why are we still hesitant to put an end to this madness?

What do libertarians think about government banning medical marijuana and gun violence research?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarianism, Philosophy by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

What do libertarians think about government banning medical marijuana and gun violence research?

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Dr. Ruwart’s website

The only way that research on gun violence can be “banned” is to have government use guns—and gun violence, if necessary—to stop it. Libertarians Researchrecognize the inherent contradiction in letting government use gun violence to ban research on it!

Research on medical marijuana is banned for fear that the results wouldn’t support the Schedule I rating (high potential for abuse, no medical utility) on cannabis. This ban is reminiscent of the Catholic Church’s persecution of Galileo for pointing out that the earth revolves around the sun!

Libertarians don’t support bans, which stop people—at gunpoint, if necessary—from doing enlightening research. Banning the growth of knowledge is a form of thought control.

There Is Hope! – How to Safeguard Free Speech On Campus

in First Amendment, Freedom On Campus, Liberator Online by Advocates HQ Comments are off

There Is Hope! – How to Safeguard Free Speech On Campus

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

For the last year, I’ve written more than a dozen articles about free speech on college campuses. From safe spaces, to microaggression reporting systems, and multiple campus protests that received national attention, it is clear that our nation’s universities are doing its students a disservice when administrators create nonsensical consequences for forms of speech that they don’t like.

UCAlthough it seems like the First Amendment is a fading part of campus life, there is hope, and a few simple ways to safeguard free speech at colleges and universities.

On Tuesday, a professor at the University of Chicago wrote an opinion piece for RealClearPolitics, outlining a five-point plan for reversing the trend of restricting potentially offensive speech.

In it, Charles Lipson argues that free speech on college campuses is on the verge of becoming extinct, and that administrators are largely to blame for the increased censorship.

“Today, dean-of-students offices are devoted to comforting delicate snowflakes and soothing their feelings. If that means stamping out others’ speech, too bad.”

His solution? It starts with communication at all levels. Step one, he says, is to make sure that the board of trustees “demands to know if free speech is protected on their campuses, in principle and in practice.” Then, he says that university presidents and top administrators should be held accountable for those results.

Second, he says that college acceptance letters should stress that, “our school believes in free speech, open debate, and diverse opinions. You will hear different views on controversial topics. You are urged to read, write, and develop your own views, but you may not suppress others.”

Lipson points out that students who are afraid of intellectual challenges should go to school elsewhere.

Third, he argues that one administrator should be appointed strictly to monitor free speech activities and to make sure that open debate happens on campus. Next, he demands that, “student affairs offices stop suppressing basic academic freedoms and start supporting them.” Lipson mentions that the office of student affairs shouldn’t exist to shield students from uncomfortable ideas or to suppress their speech.

Finally, Lipson wants students to know that they have every right to protest peacefully, but they have no right to disrupt others, and they will be punished if they do. He expresses that administrators who “coddle rabble-rousers” often ignore their corrosive effects.

Similarly, administrators at Gettysburg College created a new speech policy in April, which stresses the college’s commitment to free expression – even when forms of expression are seen as offensive. This comes after some student groups became upset about pro-life posters on campus.

The policy reads in part:

“Any effort by members of the College community to limit openness in this academic community is a matter of serious concern and militates against the freedom of expression and the discovery of truth. Each member of the community is therefore free to express their point of view on, or opposition to, any issue of public interest within reasonable restrictions of time, place and manner. Each member of the community is also expected to help guarantee the ability of other community members to express themselves freely. No group or individual has the right to interfere with the legitimate activity of other authorized persons and groups as interference with expression compromises the College’s goal of creating an environment where issues can be openly discussed.”

Although some of the steps proposed may seem small, they could do wonders for free speech on college campuses if implemented by administrators.

Bill Targeting Climate Change Skepticism Withdrawn, But Fight Against Dissent Continues

in Economic Liberty, Environment and Energy, Issues, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Advocates HQ Comments are off

Bill Targeting Climate Change Skepticism Withdrawn, But Fight Against Dissent Continues

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

Due to what many call California’s state religion, a Senate bill scheduled for floor action this past week could have put Golden State businesses in legal trouble for questioning climate change. Thankfully, the ill-conceived piece of legislation has been scrubbed. For now.

Polar BearSenate Bill 1161, also known as California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act of 2016, hoped to undermine Californians’ 1st Amendment protections by allowing state and local prosecutors to pursue claims against groups expressing skepticism when it comes to climate change. According to the state Senate Rules Committee, the bill would have given district attorneys and the Attorney General the power to pursue Unfair Competition Law claims against businesses or organizations that have “directly or indirectly engaged in unfair competition with respect to scientific evidence regarding the existence, extent, or current or future impacts of anthropogenic induced climate change.”

To Sacramento Bee’s Ben Boychuck, if the bill had turned into law, it “would have been demolished on First Amendment grounds,” prompting many to believe that Senators behind this bill withdrew SB 1161 from consideration out of fear for the long term ramifications.

Fairly recently, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch claimed she was considering the possibility of pursuing civil actions against climate change skepticism, by saying that she had referred to the FBI to “consider whether or not it meets the criteria for which we could take action.” Former congressman Dr. Ron Paul responded to her comments shortly after, saying that “Defending speech we do not agree with is necessary to effectively protect the speech we support.”

But logic has no place in emotional discussions.

To many who consider themselves progressives, chanting “science” to any dissenting argument may suffice. But once the issue begins prompting legislation that protects one group from the other, however, things get messy.

While SB 1161 has been withdrawn for now, nothing keeps climate change advocates from pushing for similar laws in different states or at the federal level. But believing that an argument has been proven correct isn’t enough to silence an individual.

While commenting on the possibility of having the FBI pursuing civil actions against climate change skeptics, Paul asked the audience if it would be OK to silence Keynesian economist Paul Krugman because Austrian economists believe “the argument over whether we should audit, and then end, the Federal Reserve is settled.”

The obvious answer is no.

But the Democratic Party is still convinced that the best line of action is to continue to call for more government action when it comes to energy, releasing the final draft of the organization’s official platform pushing for a petroleum-free America by mid-century.

While assuming that the government has a say in how the energy market should organize itself, politicians line up behind the climate change cause. Often ignoring the fact oil-rich nations with terrible humanitarian records such as Saudi Arabia often fund efforts to undermine competing industries in America.

Maybe over time, we will be able to learn whether there’s a link between the explosion of the popularity of the climate change cause and the increasing involvement of Middle East nations in US politics.

Better Economic Prospects, Not Incarceration, Behind US Crime Decline

in Criminal Justice, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Taxes by Advocates HQ Comments are off

Better Economic Prospects, Not Incarceration, Behind US Crime Decline

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

For the past two decades, crime in the United States has declined considerably. Compared to the crime rate of the early 1990s, US crime rates have fallen about half while violent crime has fallen by 51 percent. Between 1991 and now, property crime has fallen by 43 percent.

Sign But while many understand that better economic prospects tend to help keep the crime rate low, many tend to attribute the considerable reduction to a series of factors that, when closely reviewed, have little to do with safety.

Some of the most common arguments brought up by experts include the expansion of enforcement agencies, “tough on crime” policies, and increasing incarceration rates. Some have even gone as far as claiming that legalized abortions had helped to boost safety, ignoring the fact that abortion rates have declined over the past decades.

But according to research on the subject by New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, socio-economic factors, not mass incarceration, has helped reduce the crime rates across the country.

According to the paper, increasing incarceration has had no effect on the drop in crime rates since 2000. When it comes to violent crime, the rate is also close to zero. States like Texas, California, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York have all seen a drop in crime as incarceration rates have also dropped.

Between 2000 and 2013, the study concludes, growth in income and decreased alcohol consumption have been the top factors responsible for the drop in crime, along with a boost in consumer confidence. Between 1990 and 1999, factors that helped to push crime rates down included decreased unemployment, growth in income, decreased alcohol consumption, and increased incarceration and police numbers.

But as the number of police officers increases, the number of low-level offenders behind bars shoots up. According to Brennan Center for Justice, the fact we have more low-level offenders in jail now than before impacts the crime reduction effect.

From the study:

“The incarceration rate jumped by more than 60 percent from 1990 to 1999, while the rate of violent crime dropped by 28 percent. In the next decade, the rate of incarceration increased by just 1 percent, while the violent crime rate fell by 27 percent.”

During a recent justice reform event organized by the grassroots organization FreedomWorks, Molly M. Gill, a former prosecutor who’s now the Director of Federal Legislative Affairs for Families Against Mandatory Minimums Foundation (FAMM), pointed out that “very few violent offenders end up in federal prisons.” Instead of violent criminals, federal prisons hold a great number of non-violent drug offenders, who account for more than 25 percent of the federal budget every year. Instead of rehabilitating them once they are inside the system, U.S. Justice Action Network Deputy Director Jenna Moll told attendees, prisons are often seen as the easy way out. During the FreedomWorks event, Moll also talked to attendees. She pointed out that a “national survey found prisoners prefer one year in prison versus five years probation,” adding that “if even prisoners know” prison is “the easy way out,” it proves that the system is not working.

In a 2000 article for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), economics professor Bruce Benson explained that, while few studies on the matter have been carried out, “Private security employment has accelerated since 1970,” leading him to believe that the “private security market … the second fastest growing industry in the United States” may have something to do with the drop in crime rates. To the economist, private-sector responses to crime should be studied as a major factor behind crime decline.

After Brexit, Is Amexit Next? This ​Libertarian Congressman Says Yes

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, Monetary Policy, News You Can Use by Advocates HQ Comments are off

After Brexit, Is Amexit Next? This Libertarian Congressman Says Yes

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

After Britons voted to leave the European Union on June 23, libertarian-leaning Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) decided to lead the charge to get the United States out of the United Nations, attaching the term “Amexit” to the endeavor.

ThomasMassieIn a post on his official Facebook page, Massie shared the full text of HR 1205, the American Sovereignty Restoration Act, which was introduced in 2013 but died in the previous Congress.

The bill was cosponsored by Massie, and according to the congressman, it would effectively keep the United States from spending taxpayer money on the organization, prevent US Armed Forces from serving under UN command, put an end to diplomatic immunity for foreign UN members in the country, close the UN headquarters in New York, and terminate the country’s membership with other organizations such as UNESCO and WHO. The bill would also repeal the United Nations Environment Program Participation Act.

​Mentioning the fact many of the countries involved with the UN are run by dictators, Massie said that binding US citizens to decisions made by tyrants goes against the US Constitution, which is the “supreme law” of the land.

Massie went on to say that the UN gives “cover to corrupt governments” while preventing “citizens from owning guns.” In the “best case,” Massie responded in a comment, “the UN is a bureaucratic waste of American taxpayers’ money.”

Dr. Ron Paul has recently written a column for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity calling for a US exit from NATO.

According to the former congressman, NATO is a “Cold War relic” that “survives only by stirring up conflict and then selling itself as the only option to confront the conflict it churned up.”

Shortly after the Brexit vote, the head of the Texas Nationalist Movement used Twitter to call on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asking him to schedule a statewide referendum on the independence of the Lone Star state.

Last year, the Texas Republican Party rejected an initiative that would give voters the opportunity to vote to leave the union. If the measure had become a non-binding ballot initiative, it would have stated that the state of Texas would “reassert the prior status as an independent nation” if “the federal government continues to disregard the Constitution.”

When talking secession in his book Omnipotent Government, economist and philosopher Ludwig von Mises said that a nation doesn’t have the right to tell a province that it belongs to a large body of power. “A province consists of its inhabitants. If anybody has a right to be heard in this case it is these inhabitants,” he added. “Boundary disputes should be settled by plebiscite.”

In the book Liberalism, Mises goes further, stating that if there’s a way to grant the individual with the right of self-determination, “it would have to be done.”

What Do Libertarians Stand For?

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

What Do Libertarians Stand For?

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

As a fellow libertarian, that question is rhetorical. We stand for individuality – we believe that individuals can make the best decisions for themselves, governing their own lives.

It is, however, something I hear from many who are not yet libertarian in their thinking. They assume that politics and philosophy only revolve around what they hear and see taking place in Washington DC and state capitals across the country. When viewed through that lens, the perception is that libertarians are opposed to everything.

againstYou and I know that the opposition “to everything” is due to the actions of the body in question, likely increasing the size and scope of government and infringing on the life, liberty, or property of the individual. Unfortunately, the aforementioned lens prevents much more than the support/oppose lever on the issue discussed.

How can we best refocus the lens toward our views and away from being “against everything”?

Three ways:

  1. Rather than fall into the trap of the issue du jour and the lever imposed on us by others, we can divert the conversation away from the support/oppose lever and focus on why a freedom-focused solution is the actual answer. Your success will lie in listening to find the desired outcome of your conversation partner and offering how the libertarian solution is the best way to arrive there. 
  2. Use your voice to promote libertarian ideas without being influenced by the issue of the day. Rather than being driven by the news cycle, your focus should be all the great things that are and can be possible in a libertarian society. If you choose 3-5 issues, you can rotate your focus, so as not to burn yourself (and those you communicate with) out.
  3. Re-frame questions that lead others to see that when you make decisions for yourself, the outcomes are better than the “one size fits all,” centrally-planned government solutions. Rather than jump straight into a dialogue that pits one side against each other, you can attract people to the ideas you support by offering questions that cause them to think beyond the either/or lens. Recently, a friend asked me about whether or not I thought it was OK for a parent to misrepresent their address to allow their child access to a better education in a district other than the one in which they were drawn. I responded with, “is it OK allow your child to go to a sub-par school when your tax dollars are funding one that meets your child’s needs better than the one ‘the powers that be’ deem appropriate for him/her based on their address?”

 

As is often shared by libertarians, there is more to color than black and white, and there is more to politics than left or right.

Let’s focus on opening eyes to color and thoughts beyond the left and right.

Should Women Be Drafted?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, Military, National Defense, War by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Should Women Be Drafted?

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Dr. Ruwart’s website

My short answer is that no one should be drafted. After all, our Constitution prohibits involuntary servitude, which is exactly what the draft is. Our young men—and possibly women—will be forced—at gunpoint, if necessary—to take up arms and kill other people.

DraftExcept for a few psychopaths, taking up arms with the intention to kill others day after day is difficult, even when our nation is truly threatened. It’s a rare individual who remains unscathed by killing others and being a target, which is why so many return home with post-traumatic stress disorder or serious mental illnesses. Going to war should always be the last resort, since the cost in lives, money, and disabilities is so high. In recent times, however, sending troops overseas seems to be a knee-jerk response to any provocation.

When our young people perceive that a war is not just or not warranted, they become unwilling to risk their lives or kill for it. In Vietnam, a war I remember well, this is exactly what happened. Although young men enlisted early in the war, they soon concluded that Vietnam was not a threat to the United States, and resisted the draft overtly or covertly.

Today, not enough of our young men are enlisting to sustain the conflicts in the Middle East. Our troops look forward to going home after their tours are up, only to be forcibly reenlisted under the stop-loss fine print in their contracts. We claim to have a volunteer army, but in fact those who enlist can be drafted for another deployment. This discourages further enlistment, as new recruits start to understand that they are actually signing an open-ended contract.
Clearly, the government believes it will need a draft in the not-so-distant future to maintain its chosen military action. We are told that without a draft, our young people will not step forward when our country is threatened. This is patently false. After 9/11, volunteers flooded to sign up for the anticipated military action. Now they no longer do, as they perceive their government is embarked on never-ending wars.

If our nation is truly threatened, our young people step forward willingly; if it isn’t truly threatened, why should they risk life and limb? We can’t keep killing people overseas because maybe, someday, they might try to harm us. There are simply too many people who “might” try to hurt us. A better strategy is to make sure our domestic security is strong enough that those who would do us harm will be thwarted in their attempt.

If we engage in overseas wars that are not truly defensive ones, and may even be primarily in the service of special interests, our young people should refuse to go. These young adults become the canaries in the coal mine, warning us that the war we wish to fight might not be so right.
Killing is difficult enough when it is perceived as a necessary evil, but it’s even more difficult without the motivation to protect our homes and loved ones. The draft isn’t only involuntary servitude; its slavery of the worst kind as it asks the draftees to do things they find morally repugnant. How are we to spread freedom abroad by taking it away from our young people at home?

Women have a major role to play in discussions about the draft. They should indeed talk about equal rights—for both men and women. Self-determination, the decision whether or not we are willing to go out and kill others, is a right that belongs to both sexes. Instead of insisting that their own rights should be violated, as the rights of men are today, women should be lobbying for an end of the draft. Our great, great-grandmothers fought to end the slavery of black people; today, we honor their memories by fighting to end the slavery of the draft.

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