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This Libertarian-Leaning Maine Republican is Someone We Can Learn From

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This Libertarian-Leaning Maine Republican is Someone We Can Learn From

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

At the young age of 26, Eric Brakey was elected to the Maine State Senate to serve a district in the southern part of the Pine Tree State. He hasn’t wasted any time since arriving in Portland for his first legislative session.

The Portland Press Herald profiled Brakey this week, noting that he’s already sponsored 28 bills, including a “constitutional carry” bill that passed the state Senate with bipartisan at the end of May. The bill cleared the state House last week, though with changes that need to be approved by the upper chamber before heading to the desk of Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican.

Brakey

“It’s great that we have finally gotten to a place where people understand the importance of this protection and are comfortable enough to let our Maine citizens exercise the same freedoms that the state of Vermont allows their citizens to exercise,” Brakey told the Bangor Daily News after the state House vote. Although it’s a progressive bastion, Vermont is known for its strong support of the Second Amendment.

But Brakey’s style as a legislator with strong libertarian leanings is earning him some fans in Portland. “He hasn’t ruffled feathers,” Lance Duston, a Republican strategist in the state, told the Portland Press Herald. “He’s successfully moved legislation and he’s done it in a productive and positive way. He has also helped move the party more toward the libertarian side. I’ve been a little surprised at his trajectory.”

Brakey, who is described as a “worker” by one of his Republican colleagues, came from a Republican household. He was born in Maine, but grew up and went to college in Ohio. He found himself drawn to former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, when he ran for president and worked on his 2012 campaign in Maine.

Not long after relocating to the state, Brakey decided to run for a seat occupied by a Democrat. Despite a gaffe unrelated to his actual campaign, he won the seat with over 56 percent of the vote.

Brakey has been careful to pick his battles, in his role as chairman of the state Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee. But his views on issues are libertarian to the core.

“There are two molds that a state legislator usually fits,” Duston said. “One is that their life story or their work is such that it leads them to service. The other is that someone represents a value system, and that’s where he fits in.”

“Also, he is fairly strident ideologically, but he approaches things moderately, which has served him well,” he added.

In addition to his strong support of the Second Amendment, Brakey has sponsored legislation supporting privacy rights by targeting the National Security Agency’s water supply. He’s also a supportive of medical marijuana, introducing legislation to allow patients to access their prescriptions at Maine hospitals.

Assuming he’s reelected every two years, Brakey will serve until he’s term-limited out of office in 2022. When’s not legislating, Brakey, who majored in theatre at Ohio University, spends his time acting.

“You Libertarians Will Never Get Anywhere Until You Accept the Fact of Big Government…”

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

I was in a Starbucks, drinking coffee, and reviewing my notes in Libertarianism by Dr. John Hospers.
A 20-something guy walked in the door, glanced at the cover of my book, and walked over to my table.
“Are you a libertarian?”  he asked.
“Yeah, “ I answered.
big government“I don’t know you,” he said. “But I do know this: You libertarians will never get anywhere until you accept the fact of Big Government. Let me tell you why.”
“I’ll be glad to hear why…if you’ll just clarify a couple of things for me,” I said.
“Clarify what?” he asked.
“When you say we need to ‘accept the fact of Big Government’, exactly what do you mean?” I asked.  “Do you mean that we libertarians have to accept the fact that Big Government DOES EXIST? OR: Do you mean that we libertarians need to RESIGN OURSELVES to Big Government?”
“I mean that you need to come to terms with the fact that government is big and it’s going to stay big,” he said


“So you’re telling me that Big Government is inevitable – that it’s impossible to shrink today’s Big Government, to make it smaller?” I asked.

“Yes, I am,” he said.

“Well? What’s your evidence that it’s impossible for voters or libertarian officeholders to reduce the size, power, authority, taxes, and/or spending of today’s Big Government?”

“Look, I don’t want to get into a debate…” he said.

“Fine. But before you go, could you please tell me which facts and evidence tell us that Big Government is inevitable — and that the only sane thing for libertarians to do is surrender to Big Government?” I asked.

“Look, I’ve got to go,” he said as he headed for the exit.

“Okay. But remember, small government is beautiful. And individual liberty is possible.”

Use the Ruler as a Ruler

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

Use the Ruler as a Ruler

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

I talk with a LOT of people, libertarians and non-libertarians alike. If you are not doing the same, you are really missing out on finding new friends and learning about others and their lives.

Often, my job as Executive Director of the Advocates comes up in conversation. With the vast popularity of World’s Smallest Political Quiz, it’s often a connection I make with my new conversation partner.

rulerAfter all, it’s been taken over 22 million times online, as well as millions more at festivals, rallies, and campuses throughout the country. As happens with everyone with a connection to something as popular as the Quiz, people often have suggestions about how to improve it. They mean well, but I don’t know that that fully realize how much work goes into making this terrific outreach tool as effective as it is.

In a conversation this week with someone familiar with the Quiz, it was suggested that we replace this question with another and to remove one question in particular. “It’ll make it easier for you to persuade people to be more libertarian,” they said. “If you just don’t talk about that, you will get more people to identify as libertarian.”

A highlight of my day is to discover a new libertarian, so I’m certainly interested in what is effective. In this instance, it seems my friend didn’t quite gather what the purpose of the Quiz is.

Thinking on it further after our conversation, I realized that he didn’t see that, like a ruler, the Quiz is a tool to measure political tendency. We use it to objectively measure a very subjective topic, political philosophy. The Quiz itself holds no preference, as it is a ruler by which we can measure a pretty accurate picture of one’s political philosophy. By seeing where someone falls on the Diamond Chart, we know where to start the journey of persuasion.

We carefully crafted the statements to identify the tendencies of each Quiz taker on a diverse set of issues, centered on issues of freedom. The beauty of the Quiz is that liberals find themselves in the “Liberal” area, conservatives end up in the “Conservative” area, and libertarians fall in the “Libertarian” area.

Do you use the Quiz as a ruler?

By knowing someone’s political tendencies, you know where to begin what I like to call “The Freedom Conversation.” You wouldn’t try to persuade a conservative on economic freedom issues where we agree, would you? Likewise, you wouldn’t try to convince a liberal to adopt a belief that they already hold on personal freedom issues, would you?

Where do you start “The Freedom Conversation”?

After giving the Quiz over 3000 times in person (and 1 “in panda”), that conversation starts with the measurements that the ruler indicates.

Are you ready to use that ruler like a ruler?

Oh, for the Love of Everything: CNN Poll Finds Bush with a Positive Favorability Rating

in Foreign Policy, Issues, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, War by Comments are off

Oh, for the Love of Everything: CNN Poll Finds Bush with a Positive Favorability Rating

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

Remember President George W. Bush? He’s the guy who ran huge budget deficits because of his addiction to spending, led the country into an unnecessary war in Iraq that led to the deaths of nearly 4,500 American soldiers, greatly expanded the powers of the executive, and bailed out Wall Street.

With a record like that, which only touches the surface of how bad of a president Bush was, one would think Americans wouldn’t think too fondly of him. Well, apparently, one would be wrong.

CNN

A new CNN poll finds that Bush, who left office in January 2009, actually view Bush positively. “According to the poll, 52% of adults had a favorable impression of George W. Bush, 43% unfavorable,” CNN reported on Wednesday. “When Bush left office in 2009, only about a third of Americans said they had a positive opinion of him.”

Amazingly, it’s not just Republicans and conservatives driving Bush’s numbers upwards. CNN notes that his favorability has grown even among those who opposed most of his policies.

“Bush remains broadly unpopular among groups that made up his main opponents during his time in office: Democrats (70% unfavorable), liberals (68% unfavorable) non-whites (54% unfavorable), and those under age 35 (53% unfavorable),” CNN explained. “But even among these groups, he’s gained some ground since leaving office. In February 2009, 85% of Democrats and 90% of liberals had a negative take on the president, as did 75% of non-whites and more than 6 in 10 young adults.”

Some would argue that President Barack Obama, who received an even split at 49%, is just that bad. Certainly, Obama hasn’t been an improvement over his predecessor and, in many ways, has been much worse. But the absence of Bush in the Oval Office doesn’t mean that voters should have a favorable view of him.

The tension in the Middle East over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) may be part of the reason why Bush is rising and Obama is falling. At the same time, voters should remember that Iraq and the rise of ISIL is a failure of the Bush administration.

Certainly, Obama’s foreign policy has been hawkish in some respects, such as Libya, and disastrous in others, like Ukraine, where tensions with Russia have boiled over. But that it doesn’t compare to the utter disgrace that was Bush’s foreign policy.

And again, it’s not just Bush’s foreign policy. He was bad on almost everything. It’s been said voters have a short-term memory; that they’re willing to forgive and move on. That may be true, but failing to remember the lessons of bad presidents means we’re doomed to repeat them again and again.

The Debate Over NSA Spying is Finished. Or is it?

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The Debate Over NSA Spying is Finished. Or is it?

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

On Tuesday, the United States Senate gave final passage to the USA Freedom Act, but not without drama on the floor of the upper chamber. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., offered three amendments that, if passed, would have weakened the bill.

With the support of hawks in the Senate Republican Conference, McConnell proposed amendments that would have increased the transition period from three to six months, removed essential transparency requirements, and required private companies to notify the federal government if they changed their data retention policies. Each of the amendments failed, falling short of the majority needed for passage.

After the USA Freedom Act passed with significant bipartisan support, a visibly irritated McConnell railed against the bill from the floor, lecturing his colleagues that the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” doesn’t cover phone records.

uncle-sam-watching-you-feature

“No content. No names. No listening to the phone calls of law-abiding citizens. We are talking about call data records,” said McConnell. “And these are the provider’s records, which is not what the Fourth Amendment speaks to. It speaks to: ‘The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects.’”

Part of the legal justification for bulk collection of Americans’ phone records is grounded in a little-known 1979 case, Smith v. Maryland, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the installation of the pen register on the phone of Michael Lee Smith without a warrant was not a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. But as Jim Harper of the Cato Institute has explained, this interpretation of the case is wildly misleading.

“It is not possible to argue honestly that the facts of Smith are anything like the NSA’s bulk data collection. The police had weighty evidence implicating one man. The telephone company voluntarily applied a pen register, collecting analog information about the use of one phone line by that one suspect,” Harper wrote in August 2013. “I can’t think of a factual situation that could be at a further extreme than NSA’s telephone calling surveillance program.”

Add to Harper’s point that Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act allowed only the collection of records related to specific investigation into terrorism. It didn’t permit the bulk collection of all phone records of every American, a fact that was noted recently by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Although several organizations and tech companies backed the USA Freedom Act, the bill wasn’t without opposition because it didn’t go far enough to protect Americans’ privacy. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., made his opposition clear because he wanted the ability to offer amendments to strengthen the bill.

Others, like Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., believe the USA Freedom Act merely shifts the method of bulk collection from the National Security Agency to private phone companies. The USA Freedom Act, Amash said after it passed the House of Representatives in mid-May, “actually expands the statutory basis for the large-scale collection of most data.”

But with debate on the USA Freedom Act now over, at least for now, President Barack Obama’s signature on the bill, some may be asking what’s next. The Guardian reported on Wednesday that the administration is seeking to restart the bulk collection program “temporarily” to transition “the domestic surveillance effort to the telephone companies that generate the so-called ‘call detail records’ the government seeks to access.”

So, just to be clear, the administration will, according to The Guardian, “argue it needs to restart the program in order to end it.” Add that one to the growing list of Orwellian statements from this administration, and put it right under “if you like your health plan, you can keep it” and “never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Your Favorite Distilled Beverage May Get a Little Cheaper

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Your Favorite Distilled Beverage May Get a Little Cheaper

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

A bipartisan bill was introduced recently that would lower the per gallon excise tax on distilled drinks, including whiskey and rum.

The Distillery Innovation and Excise Tax Reform Act, introduced by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), would relieve distilleries, especially newer ones, of some of the burdens they face when bringing products to market.

Currently, distilled drinks are taxed at $13.50 per proof gallon. Young’s bill seeks to lower the tax to $2.70 per proof gallon on the first 100,000 gallons produced by a distillery and $9 per proof thereafter.

Barrel

Rep. John Yarmuth (R-Ky.) has cosponsored the bill, which was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee on May 21. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) chairs the powerful tax-writing committee.

“All around southern Indiana, many new craft distilleries are popping up, creating jobs and adding to the tax base,” Young said in a release on Wednesday. “But there’s a lot of red tape involved in getting a new distillery off the ground, and this bill helps reduce that burden. In addition, we have many large, established distilleries in our region of the country, and this bill will help them, too.”

The bill has support from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA). “It is significant that the distillers of all sizes are united behind this important hospitality industry legislation,” Peter Cressy, CEO of DISCUS, said in a joint release with ACSA. “We thank the sponsors for recognizing the economic impact passage of this bill will have for our industry.”

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced a companion bill in the Senate. Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have signed on as cosponsors of the bill. Although the members represent states with a number of distilleries, the popularity of craft spirits has risen significantly and virtually every state now has distillery.

For the producers, the savings can mean expansion of their operations and more jobs for local communities.

“I started my distillery eight years ago to support Michigan jobs and prove that high quality spirits could be made right here in Michigan,” Rifino Valentine, founder of Valentine Distilling, said in a press release from Peters’ office. “While I’m proud to say we are expanding our facility, so many small distilleries are at a unique disadvantage as a result of the high federal excise tax.”

The bill may be common sense, but similar efforts to lower the excise tax on distilled spirits didn’t move out of committee in the previous Congress.

Free the Hops: Sin Taxes Drive Up the Cost of Beer

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

Free the Hops: Sin Taxes Drive Up the Cost of Beer

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

Your favorite frothy adult beverage would be a little cheaper if sin taxes were not part of the equation, according to a new report from the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan policy research center.

Each state taxes beer by the gallon, with the costs ranging from just 2 cents in Wyoming to $1.29 in Tennessee.

“State and local governments use a variety of formulas to tax beer,” Scott Drenkard writes at the Tax Foundation. “The rates can include fixed per-volume taxes; wholesale taxes that are often a percentage of a product’s wholesale price; distributor taxes (sometimes structured as license fees as a percentage of revenues); case or bottle fees (which can vary based on size of container); and additional sales taxes (note that this measure does not include general sales tax, only those in excess of the general rate).”

There is a trend to be found in the rates, as well. States in the Southeast tend to have the highest beer taxes. Seven of the top 10 states with the highest beer taxes are located in the area of the country known as the “Bible belt.” Northeastern states tend to have lower beer taxes.

Beer Tax

Beer Tax

The Beer Institute estimates that consumers pay $5.6 billion in federal and state excise taxes annually. “Surprisingly, taxes are the single most expensive ingredient in beer,” the beer centric think tank notes, “costing more than the labor and raw materials combined.”

Although the Tax Foundation report does not touch on the cost of federal and state regulation of beer, which adds to the cost of production, particular of micro-breweries and small craft beer producers.

In a June 2014 editorial at US News, Matthew Mitchell and Christopher Koopman, both research fellows at the Mercatus Center, explained that the excessive regulations, which are just another form of taxation, create burdensome barrier to entry for small brewers looking to take their product to market.

“Once in business, brewers face more hurdles. Among the least efficient regulations are the ‘franchise laws’ that restrict their ability to sell beer directly to consumers, instead mandating that they sell through distributors. These rules can even dictate how brewers may contract with distributors,” wrote Mitchell and Koopman. “For example, some grant distributors exclusive territories, and others limit the ability of a brewer to choose to work with someone else. A recent survey found that in most cases, these rules make consumers worse off.”

Beer taxes may be an easy target for lawmakers looking to raise revenue for big government programs and regulation may be a convenient way to protect big beer brewers, but these policies are keeping Americans from the frothy goodness that is their favorite brew. Raise a glass and tell your lawmakers to “free the hops!”

Are You Using Facebook to Advocate for Liberty?

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

Are You Using Facebook to Advocate for Liberty?

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

This week, a friend of mine blocked and unfriended someone they’ve known for years after years of arguing over issues that do not directly affect either of them, but get them fired up. I understand wanting to rid one’s self of negativity and people who drive that stress level up, UP, UP!, but what is accomplished by walling yourself off from someone with whom you disagree?

FacebookWhen you post political, economic, and social commentary on Facebook, you invite your “circle,” and possibly strangers (if your posts are public), to comment, debate, and engage in that topic. For me, this is an OPPORTUNITY to share libertarian ideas and possibly persuade others to join us in the libertarian movement.

Have you ever changed your mind about an issue or stance you hold after a major Facebook argument that ends a friendship, even one solely on a social network?

Me neither.

My views have only been changed when presented with newly-available information or by better understanding a principle that I had not previously. None of those would be possible if we shut the door on someone who holds a different opinion.

As an administrator of Facebook pages in addition to a personal profile, I have had the opportunity to share content and engage with millions of people. In just the last seven days, our Facebook page reached 1.1 million users.

Would that be possible if we walled ourselves off from those who disagree on some tenets of libertarian philosophy?

We continue to grow and reach more people with the seeds of Liberty we plant with each post, comment, and share. We also provide fellow libertarians with quality content to share with their networks to begin conversations about libertarian philosophy.

Will you do the same?

Happy Facebooking for Liberty!

Memorial Day Isn’t Just for Cookouts

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

Memorial Day Isn’t Just for Cookouts

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

For many, Monday is the last of a three-day holiday weekend. A mark of the beginning of summer, this weekend is likely to be filled with activities, cookouts, and even special retail sales.

Here in Indianapolis, this weekend is home to one of the biggest events in motorsports, the Indianapolis 500.

But the day off of work, the beginning of summer, the parades, and the hot dogs and hamburgers are not what Monday is about.

Memorial DayMemorial Day began three years after the Civil War as “Decoration Day” by a Union veterans organization, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), who wanted to adorn the graves of those killed in the war with flowers. They chose the date of May 30th, a day believed to allow every area of the country to have flowers in bloom.

The first large observance of Decoration Day occurred in 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from the nation’s capitol.

The most important takeaway is that Memorial Day is a time to remember the soldiers killed in action. As libertarians, we see that moving away from Washington’s interventionist foreign policy will result in fewer fallen soldiers needing to be memorialized.

This holiday weekend, let’s focus on remembering those who paid the ultimate price in the name of our country, while also focusing on the peace and non-interventionism that will reduce the number of our fellow Americans that expire as a result of war.

Let’s focus on peace!

All Millennials Have Known is a United States at War

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All Millennials Have Known is a United States at War

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

In September 2003, nearly two years to the date after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the New Jersey-based post-hardcore band, Thursday, released its second record, War All of the Time. The title track of the record could serve as an anthem for a generation.

“War all of the time. In the shadow of the New York skyline, we grew up too fast, falling apart like the ashes of American flags,” Geoff Rickly sings in his nasally tone. “They burn on and on like an oil field or a memory of what it felt like. To burn on and on and not just fade away all those nights in the basement, the kids are still screaming on and on and on and on.”

The Millennial generation – young Americans born who became adults in or around 2000 – have now spent much of their lives with the United States at war, according to Martha Raddatz, an ABC News journalist who recently gave a commencement speech at Kenyon College.

“You have spent more than half your lives with this country at war. And yet the huge majority of you, and those your age, the huge majority of all people in this country have not been affected by these conflicts,” Raddatz told the graduates. “I can imagine all of you as 9- or 10-year-old children, huddled with your parents on 9/11, scared or just confused. Your parents surely thinking, as I did, that our lives would never be the same, your lives would never be the same.”

The Washington Post took a look at Raddatz’s statement an eye-opening revelation: “The percentage is almost certainly much higher than that.”

A young American born in 1980, for example, has lived 44.4 percent of their life while the United States was at war. The wars include only the first Gulf War and the War on Terror. The Washington Post didn’t count minor overseas interventions, such as the conflict in Kosovo.

“Anyone born after 1984 has likely seen America at war for at least half of his or her life,” Philip Bump wrote for the Washington Post. “And that’s a lot of Americans.”

If this isn’t concerning enough, that an entire generation has spent close to, if not most of their lives, with the United States at war, one should begin to wonder when the wars will end. Younger Americans, those born after the year 2000, have known nothing but their country at war. A 14-year-old has spent their entire life in this circumstance.

Just as important are the costs of war. Millennials may know war all too well, but it’s their children that will bear the costs. A recent estimate by the Watson Institute at Brown University concluded that the United States has spent and is committed to $4.4 trillion related to the War on Terrorism.

The question one should be asking themselves is, when will it end?

Paradise, AKA Las Vegas

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

Paradise, AKA Las Vegas

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

This month, I will be visiting Las Vegas, one of my favorite cities in this country, again.

I cannot count how many times I’ve traveled there, both for business and for vacation. To me, there is something very libertarian about that town and about the state of Nevada. Perhaps it’s the availability to do nearly anything at any hour of the day or night.

There is also the awesome history about Paradise, an unincorporated area of Clark County, that is home to most of the famous Las Vegas Strip. It also happens to be, as this video notes, a “city-sized tax dodge,” specifically fighting annexation by the city of Las Vegas to prevent an increase in their tax liability in the 1950s, while remaining the main attraction in the Nevada desert.

How cool is that?

Paradise

As if I need an excuse to go to Vegas…

Earlier this year, I accepted an invitation to speak at LPEX, the Libertarian Political Expo, a major non-partisan conference created to connect people, organizations, technology and ideas, providing vital leadership training in the form of workshops, panelists and speakers. In other words, this event is an ideal place to find The Advocates for Self-Government.

This is the first year of what promises to be an exciting annual event, and they chose to kick things off with quite an offering of training by some of the most respected organizations in the country. The Leadership Institute and American Majority offer some of the best activism training in the political world, and they tailored their training presentations for the hundreds of libertarians expected to attend.

I invite you to join me at the end of this month in Paradise, as we identify and equip the newest leaders in the libertarian movement.

Most Effective Outreach? Lead By Example

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

Most Effective Outreach? Lead By Example

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

I’m often asked what I find to be the most effective ways to share libertarian ideas.

My answer? Lead by example.

Don’t worry about word choice, which book to recommend, or how you will answer a tough question. Start by being a shining example of what a libertarian is.

lead by exampleWhen you live your life in a way that exemplifies your beliefs, your actions display to others what you believe. This means getting involved in your community, volunteering for charity activities, and networking. What does it say to you when someone constantly talks about gardening should be, but you never see their tomatoes or roses? Is your mind questioning those supposed skills? The same goes for libertarian ideas. If you talk ALL DAY LONG about the wonders of free markets, voluntary cooperation, and how private charity outperforms government welfare programs in every way, but if no one sees you “gardening,” how much weight do your words carry?

Finding activities like maintaining a notoriously littered part of your community, starting a neighborhood tool library, or keeping the lawn trimmed of an infirm, elderly neighbor, are ways to show how individuals can make a difference in the community. As you perform these tasks, you inspire others to join you or to also do something that will also benefit those around you without looking to the government to pay someone to pick up litter or to send scary notices to your neighbor when their grass exceeds the mandated height for the city or county. Additionally, you will become known for your efforts to improve the quality of life in your community, which opens the door for others to seek you out.

Now that your neighbors seek you out, you have an amazing opportunity. You will get to hear about their concerns and the issues that are important to them. The key to this activity is NOT to talk, but to LISTEN. The most important to be done is to hear what they have to say, letting them lead the conversation. This will help you to build rapport by finding common ground with which you begin to converse.

Because libertarianism is such a broad philosophy, you will likely find that you have similar concerns and desire the same outcomes, but the person to whom you are speaking may not be considering how libertarian principles and ideals could solve a problem. THIS is your opportunity to speak.

You listened, identified a problem, heard their desired outcome. Now, you can effectively offer a libertarian solution. Whether it is helping the homeless via shelters, soup kitchens, and health and employment services in the community or offering answers to the area’s poor education results by NOT relying on a government “solution,” you have credibility because you took it upon yourself to address a tangible issue that others noticed.

As you converse about the issue you both identified as an issue in need of a solution, keep the conversation in a friendly tone, using everyday language. The use of unnecessarily scholarly verbiage or political jargon and buzzwords may turn off your new friend. This is just a conversation between two people about everyday issues, not a debate. As tempting as it is, there is no “win” in making him or her feel like your intellectual inferior.

We libertarians are a diverse lot, and not everyone can bring new people around to the ideas and principles of libertarian philosophy, and that is OK.

By being a great example of libertarianism, you can be active and bring more people into the movement, but if you are uncomfortable with the whole “walk the walk” concept, please find another way you can help the libertarian movement. There are candidates, campaigns, and organizations who need your assistance in other ways. It may be that your lifestyle allows you to finance activities, your skills can bring a professional website to them, or your “best fit” is to be someone who can distribute hundreds of flyers that affect an electoral outcome. The key is to find and do what you do well.

New Poll Shows Libertarians Represent One-Fifth of Voters

in Elections and Politics, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, News You Can Use by Comments are off

New Poll Shows Libertarians Represent One-Fifth of Voters

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

In August, The New York Times ran a piece proclaiming that the United States’ political landscape was in the in the midst of a “libertarian moment.” The narrative may have focused some on Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and his strong libertarian leanings, but the story told was much deeper and, perhaps, a sign of a generational shift in American politics.

Still, some view the “libertarian moment” as a blip on radar. Old narratives, such as the stale left-right political paradigm, are repeated on television and talk radio shows by the pundit class, who are ignorant to changing attitudes and growing discontent with increasingly irrelevant political institutions.

Poll

Over the last several years, polling firms have tried to make sense of the rise of libertarians. In 2006, David Boaz and David Kirby of the Cato Institute analyzed polling data and found that 9 percent to 14 percent of the voting public held libertarian views. These voters, the authors suggested, were fiercely independent, and frustrated by the growth of government under President George W. Bush.

Boaz and Kirby released follow-ups to their 2006 report in 2010 and 2012, with occasional analyses of polling data mixed in between. Kirby and Emily Ekins of the Reason Foundation also released a thoughtful look at the roots of the Tea Party movement in 2012, finding a strong libertarian streak.

Although there is no looming libertarian takeover of the United States, subscribers to the philosophy find themselves gaining more influence, according to a recently released Reuters survey. In particular, the data show millennials – those between the ages of 18 and 29 – more likely to label themselves as libertarians.

“One in five Americans consider themselves libertarian, with younger adults being the most likely to adopt the label,” Reuters noted. “Among adults aged 18 to 29, 32 percent consider themselves libertarian. Just 12 percent of Americans age 60 or older consider themselves libertarian.”

Surprisingly, 22 percent of self-identified libertarians are Democrats to only 19 percent are Republicans, while 25 percent are politically independent.

It may be too early to draw any conclusions about what the data suggest, but it’s becoming clear that libertarians are becoming a subset of the body politic that is difficult for the political class to ignore. Those who do may be doing so at their own peril.

For libertarians, it’s crucial not to misread this growing trend. Influencing policy debates through responsible activism and well-messaged education are the best courses of action, at least for now.

Which Libertarian Are You?

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

Which Libertarian Are You?

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

As libertarian philosophy gains popularity in response to the repeated failures of government, we need to define which type of libertarians we want to be. Our numbers are growing, and as we reach critical mass, we need to start to specialize our activities. In my mind, there are three kinds of libertarians: the candidates, the leadership, and the activists.

division of laborLibertarians will likely recognize this specialization as division of labor. Previously, libertarians had to “wear many hats,” because of how few our numbers were. Today, that is not the case.

Have you ever waved signs at a rally or a busy intersection for your favorite candidate or issue? Have you ever made statements to the press, defining an organization’s position on an issue? Have you ever run for office?

Chances are, most libertarians can answer “yes” to the first two questions, with a smaller number answering affirmatively about the third one.

Activists

Our hard-working activists are recruiting new libertarians through their efforts “on the ground,” working outreach booths, attending rallies, going door to door, passing out literature, and writing op-eds and letters to the editor about libertarian issues. These are often thankless jobs that happen in extreme weather, on nights and weekends, and bring attention to our philosophy at the actual grassroots level.

Many who “get off the couch” and get involved in politics for the first time start here, but it is not just for beginners. There is an art (and a LOT of effort) to a successful event or outreach activity, and there are some who find their niche here.

Leadership

Real leaders are the fewest in number in our movement, because they really need to be able to manage a lot of “chiefs” and far fewer “braves.” They need a thick skin and the ability to build bridges in an environment wrought with the wreckage from many burned ones.

Their focus is to grow the cause, party, or organization they represent, while serving the needs of those already on board. The effective ones have a vision for the organization, a plan for achieving it, and the skills to sell that to existing and prospective members. These are not easy tasks, but a real leader will excel here.

Candidates/Elected Officials

If there is one area that I wish saw more development in the libertarian movement, it is this one. Standard bearers on the ballot might have the most difficult job among the three I outline here.

Candidates represent the platform and beliefs of their party, while trying to communicate a message that attracts those not necessarily supportive of those beliefs. They are also meeting thousands of people, raising money to fund their campaign efforts, and trying to stay “on message.” In the age of YouTube, smartphones with amazing features, and “gotcha” journalism, they also need to watch everything they say and do, no matter who is around.

All the while, they need to be real and genuine in every interaction. It really IS a tough job.

So, are you an activist, a leader, or a candidate (and for Liberty’s sake, an elected official)? Which one best fits your skill set and aspirations?

Focus your efforts on being just one, and be a great one of those.

Supposedly Sick Coast Guard Members Took Taxpayer-Funded Trips to Vacation Hot Spots

in Economic Liberty, Issues, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Taxes by Comments are off

Supposedly Sick Coast Guard Members Took Taxpayer-Funded Trips to Vacation Hot Spots

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

Every fall, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) publishes an annual report, known as the Wastebook, highlighting dozens of the worst examples of wasteful spending by federal agencies.

Some of the items in the report may sound unbelievable, but this is the federal government, and one should never underestimate bureaucrats with tax dollars at their disposal. More ridiculous examples from the 2014 version of the report include the $387,000 the National Institutes of Health spent on Swedish massages for rabbits (yes, seriously) and the $200,000 the Department of Agriculture spent to help a New York-based brewer build a beer farm.

Coburn, who earned a reputation as a hardcore fiscal hawk, resigned from Congress last year after a second cancer diagnosis, leaving a need for transparency in federal spending. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is stepping up to fill the void left by Coburn’s departure.

On Wednesday, Paul rolled out a new feature on his official Senate homepage, dubbed The Waste Report. According to a press statement, the periodical report “will identify egregious examples of wasteful spending throughout the U.S. government.”

The inaugural edition of The Waste Report focuses on medical waste, specifically a little-known U.S. Coast Guard program that costs taxpayers $1.2 million each year. The Travel to Obtain Health Care Program pays for Coast Guard members stationed in locations where there are no providers to seek medical care elsewhere. The program is available to members in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, though the latter two account for 7 percent of cases.

The Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Homeland Security released an audit in February detailing the inefficiency and lack of oversight in the Travel to Obtain Health Care Program, which costs taxpayers $1.2 million annually.

“[T]he IG uncovered trips from Alaska to Vail, Colorado; Orlando, FL; Scottsdale, AZ; and Savannah, GA,” Paul’s report notes.

“Though a doctor’s referral is supposed to be required before travel is approved, only twelve percent of records had such notes. “

“In total, 94 percent of all records were missing key elements including travel requests, approval forms, cost estimates, and/or doctor’s notes,” the report continues. “This lack of basic documentation prevented the IG from substantiating whistleblower claims that trips – even to Anchorage – were more for shopping than medical care, while also preventing the IG from affirming the need for accompanying spouses (who also traveled at taxpayer expense) to assist patients.”

The Inspector General made three recommendations aimed at improving accountability and oversight in the program, including greater documentation requirements and training. But as The Waste Report explains, “one should not need special training to know that taxpayer funded medical travel should not be approved without a doctor’s note, especially if that travel is for couples’ trips to vacation hot spots.”

Don’t be surprised when Garland is used as an excuse to renew the Patriot Act

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, National Defense, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Comments are off

Don’t be surprised when Garland is used as an excuse to renew the Patriot Act

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

Supporters of the NSA’s domestic spying programs say that a vast data collection effort is needed more than ever to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States, but they are unable to point to any specific example of foiled terrorist plots through these unconstitutional, privacy-violating programs.

In June 2013, Gen. Keith Alexander, then the Director of the NSA, claimed that the spying programs prevented “potential terrorist events over 50 times since 9/11.” Testifying before a Senate committee in October of the same year, Alexander backtracked after Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) grilled him for misleading the American public.

Spy

“There is no evidence that [bulk] phone records collection helped to thwart dozens or even several terrorist plots,” said Leahy. “These weren’t all plots and they weren’t all foiled. Would you agree with that, yes or no?” he asked the NSA chief.

Alexander, realizing he had been put on the spot for peddling misinformation, simply replied, “Yes.”

Of course Alexander was more honest than his colleague, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who lied about the NSA domestic surveillance program in a March 2013 Senate hearing. He was accused of perjury, although the allegation went nowhere in a Congress filled with pro-surveillance members.

Two government panels – President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board – have since determined that NSA’s domestic spying programs have not played a role in thwarting terrorist attacks.

The attack on Sunday evening in Garland, Texas at the “Draw Muhammad” event hosted by an anti-Islam organization will undoubtedly be used as a reason to reauthorize a soon-to-expire provision, Section 215, of the USA PATRIOT Act by which the federal government claims the vast authority to spy on Americans.

But such claims should be met with a large dose of skepticism. One of the suspects involved in the attack had already come across the FBI’s radar. The United States’ top law enforcement agency began investigating him in 2006 on the suspicion that he wanted to join a terrorist group in Somalia.

The alleged attacker lied to federal authorities. He was convicted in 2010 of making false statements and sentenced to three years of probation. He was, however, able to avoid being placed on the “no-fly” list.

The alleged attackers in Garland are precisely are the needle for which the federal government claims that it needs the haystack, and intelligence and law enforcement officials failed to prevent what could have been a mass murder.

The NSA’s resources are spread too thin. Collecting the phone calls of virtually every American – the proverbial “haystack” – even if the people on the call are not suspected of any terrorist involvement, not only betrays the constitutionally protected rights defined by the Fourth Amendment, but also makes Americans less safe because intelligence agencies may not be able to connect the dots efficiently and effectively.

Rather than using the Garland attack as tool to further reauthorization of Section 215, which expires on June 1, lawmakers should seriously reexamine the approach to intelligence, requiring agencies like the NSA to focus on actual terrorism suspects as opposed to innocent Americans calling their families and friends.

I’m Retiring!

in Liberator Online, News From the Advocates for Self-Government by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

For the Advocates, some big changes and celebrations are coming up.

* It’s the 30th Anniversary for the Advocates.

* It’s my 20th Anniversary as Advocates president.

* And… I will be retiring as Advocates president at the end of the month.

Please note, I am not retiring as an active libertarian. I’m stepping down from the varied and time-consuming job of Advocates president and will be focusing my efforts on the activities I love most: writing and speaking about libertarianism and — my favorite topic — the most effective ways to communicate the ideas of liberty. I will also continue doing communication workshops on this topic — some of them in conjunction with the Advocates.

Being president of the Advocates for Self-Government has been the most wonderful and fulfilling job I could have ever imagined for myself!

It has been an incredible honor for me to follow in the footsteps of the previous two Advocates presidents: Advocates Founder Marshall Fritz and Carole Ann Rand.

Sharon Harris & Dagny SmithThey created a fantastic organization that has deeply affected the lives of millions of individuals. The Advocates has enormously increased the size and effectiveness of the libertarian movement, and has introduced tens of millions of people to libertarianism, first and foremost through the amazing World’s Smallest Political Quiz — the most popular outreach tool in the libertarian movement.

Of course there is much more to the Advocates than the Quiz. The original mission of the Advocates was to empower libertarians to become excellent and successful communicators of the ideas of liberty. This is a unique and vital contribution the Advocates has made to the movement in our 30 years.

As Advocates president, I’ve learned about libertarian communication from the best: Marshall, Carole Ann, Michael Cloud, Mary Ruwart, David Bergland, Harry Browne, and many more too numerous to name. We’ve helped tens of thousands of libertarians become far more persuasive and effective in their outreach. And that has enabled libertarians to successfully win others to our side, helping build a strong and growing movement for liberty.

It has been a joy teaching numerous libertarian communication classes and seminars for libertarian groups in almost every state in America. Last year alone I had the pleasure of speaking on successful communication to over 1,000 libertarians.

I look forward to continuing this — so please contact me when you want a libertarian communication workshop in your area!

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with some of the finest libertarians in the world — world-famous celebrities and people you may not have heard of who are making our world a freer and better place. What a privilege it has been! (I wouldn’t dream of trying to name them all — we’d fill this entire issue up, and still leave deserving people out. Thanks, everyone!)

Similarly, I’ve had the great pleasure of working with many of the very finest libertarian organizations. I must especially thank the Libertarian Party for the greatest honors of my professional career. The LP has honored me with two of its highest awards. In 2012, I received the Thomas Jefferson Award, “presented to the Libertarian Party member whose achievements merit our recognition of outstanding leadership, high character, and dedication to the principles and goals of the Party.” In 2014, I received the LP’s Thomas Paine Award for “outstanding communication of libertarian ideas, principles, and values.”

But most of all I’d like to thank YOU, my friends who read the Liberator Online, use Advocates tools and services, and support the Advocates’ work. You are the true heroes of the Advocates. You are building a successful movement for liberty that is changing our world.

I will miss connecting with you through the Advocates. I hope you will follow my new work and stay in touch with me. You can do this by “liking” me onFacebook — or emailing me. (Please do this right now, while it’s on your mind.)

I’d like to congratulate Brett Bittner, the Advocates’ new executive director! Brett has an outstanding record as a libertarian activist. He is a former executive director of the Libertarian Party of Georgia and a former Chairman of the Libertarian State Leadership Alliance. He has been working with the Advocates for the past year and will be taking the helm of the organization on May 1. You’ll be hearing more from Brett soon.

Finally, please read my President’s Column in the next issue. I’ll let you know more details about what’s ahead — including a special celebration of the Advocates’ and my anniversaries to take place in Atlanta on June 27. Hold that date on your calendar, and I hope to see you there!

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