BLOGS - Page 2 of 42 - The Advocates for Self-Government

Home » BLOGS

Science Is Too Important To Be Left To the State

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

Science Is Too Important To Be Left To the State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harvard Treads On Memes

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

Harvard Treads On Memes

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

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

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

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

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

Apparently, the decisions are final.

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

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

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

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

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

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

in Liberator Online by Alice Salles Comments are off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

jobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Embodiment of the American Dream

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism by Mike Sertic Comments are off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question:

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

wage

Answer:

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

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

Obama Era Rule Expansion Could Finally Kill The Fourth Amendment

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

Obama Era Rule Expansion Could Finally Kill The Fourth Amendment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Workers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cutting off the Nation to Spite the State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Libertarian USP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chronic Conditions and Big Government’s Unintended Consequences

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

Chronic Conditions and Big Government’s Unintended Consequences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

California Deputies Caught Selling Stolen Marijuana On The Side

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

California Deputies Caught Selling Stolen Marijuana On The Side

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What Aetna’s Decision To Leave Obamacare Proves

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

What Aetna’s Decision To Leave Obamacare Proves

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

When it comes to government policies, we seldom see initiatives looking into undoing what has been done.

AetnaAs the health care bill supported by President Donald Trump makes its way to the Senate after being passed by the House of Representatives, many remind the public that the bill isn’t ideal. Not because it doesn’t bring a complete end to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as we know it. But instead, critics suggest that the new proposals simply do not go far enough by not bringing an end to the federal government’s involvement with the health insurance business.

Government officials have, for the most part, created a rise in health care costs by trying to address the consequences of their policies by enacting more restrictions and regulations.

By selectively intervening in the health care market, government generates more unanticipated difficulties, as economist Ludwig von Mises once wrote. As politicians are pressed to “do something” to address the issues brought up by intervention, they come up with new interventionist policies, thus never bringing an end government’s involvement in the business of providing care.

A perfect example of an unintended consequence caused by further meddling with the health insurance industry is Aetna’s recent decision to pull out completely from the Obamacare individual market for 2018.

According to the company, its participation in the Obamacare exchange is costing them money. More precisely, the company is projected to lose around $225 million this year. In 2014 through 2016, Aetna lost $700 million from its exchange plan businesses.

Some of the issues that have been to blame for these losses include a poor balance between sick and healthy customers purchasing plans through the exchange. As a result, premium rates have gone up 25 percent this year, forcing more Americans to remain uninsured, proving that every time the government gets involved with health policy, it stifles choice, hurting those who need the care the most: the patient.

Another problem caused by government’s requirements concerning mandatory insurance purchase is the lack of access to actual care.

As the insured notice that it becomes ever more expensive to have access to doctors because of the high co-pays, they fail to seek the care they require.

Seeing this trend and feeling the pressure to see more patients for less cash, many doctors have decided to skip the nightmare altogether by leaving the insurance market and by offering personalized care instead. The movement has prompted a series of doctors to turn to direct primary care for the solution, offering patients care in privately-run clinics in exchange for a monthly payment that often pales in comparison to what an individual would pay an insurance company.

By saying no to insurers, these doctors and patients are also saying no to suffocating regulations.

Perhaps, if more of these businesses are launched, health insurance companies as we know them will become obsolete, forcing the government to finally step away from messing with healthcare policy altogether.

The Myth Of An Independent FBI Persists, Here’s Why It Matters

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

The Myth Of An Independent FBI Persists, Here’s Why It Matters

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

As the entire world talks about President Donald J. Trump having fired former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey, many call for the current administration and Congress to only allow for a new director who has no ties to either political party. In other words, a true free-thinker whose only concern is to uphold the law of the land.

FBIThey call for a truly “independent” bureau that will “restore public confidence in our law enforcement and government.”

But while they claim that the bureau is — or should be — an independent agency, it operates under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Justice, responding to both the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence. And whether you like it or not, these positions are filled by presidential appointments. Calling the bureau anything but a state agency that responds to those in power is but a feel-good fantasy.

Don’t believe me? So don’t take my word for it. Look at the history of this agency and see for yourself how blatantly ideological this particular law enforcement body has been over the decades.

Looking at the bureau’s inception as we currently know it, ask yourself: Has the bureau been run by individuals without any strong political affiliations and ideologies?

As its first director, the man who made the FBI what it is, J. Edgar Hoover, used the agency’s surveillance power to go after presidents he disliked, waging a war against Americans over their very thoughts. To him, keeping criminals at bay wasn’t enough, as he was determined to undermine the First Amendment to the Constitution at every turn.

Because of his obsession with his work and his vision of what law and order was, many believe he kept tabs on politicians so that he would have bargain power over them — that’s probably why he was never fired.

Does he seem like a trustworthy, independent man whose goal was to simply uphold the Constitution to you?

After Hoover, many other partisan hacks took over the bureau, such as Louis Freeh, a President Bill Clinton appointee who ran the bureau during some of the most controversial periods of its existence.

He was involved in a civil liberties suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that claimed the FBI had abused its power while investigating a short fictional film discussing riots and a military takeover of New York City. But before that in 1993, he was the head of the organization while an investigation into the deadly Waco, Texas compound incident prompted many to say the bureau was covering up evidence that incriminated the government.

Robert Mueller, the American lawyer who served as the FBI director between 2001 and 2013, may have been appointed by President George W. Bush, but he served both under the Republican and President Barack Obama when he tried to make it easier for the FBI to wiretap internet users.

Apparently oblivious of the Fourth Amendment, Mueller hoped to expand a 1994 law, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, that required “phone and broadband network access providers like Verizon and Comcast to make sure they can immediately comply when presented with a court wiretapping order,” the New York Times reported at the time. Mueller wasn’t satisfied with just presenting the proper legal justification for the takeover of a phone or computer, he was also pushing so that the Silicon Valley would be forced to design devices and backdoors that would give officials instant access to users’ technologies.

Needless to say, this man sounds like everything but a trustworthy, “independent” thinker whose only goal is to fight for the protection of common Americans.

Like all of them, Comey was also a partisan hack in the sense that he was never compelled to do the right thing.

As presidential candidate Hillary Clinton struggled to defend her lies regarding her private email server, Comey made himself seem as a Clinton stooge by dropping the investigation after then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch met with former president Clinton. But that’s not all, he also lied about U.S. mass surveillance to the American public. So whether you believe his firing was or not justified doesn’t make a difference. What matters is that, for as long as the agency is an arm of the federal government, there’s absolutely no chance that anyone involved with it will have an obligation to be an independent thinker who’s not pressured to meet the expectations of their superiors.

The very fact that Trump fired Comey shows that the FBI director must, in one way or another, please the state — and not the people. So the idea that it is possible for a government agency to achieve an independent status is, by definition, a lost cause.When will we finally realize that?

What Nicolas Cage Taught Me About Liberty

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

What Nicolas Cage Taught Me About Liberty

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

I’ll admit it: a Nicolas Cage film had a hand in inspiring me to take part in the Liberty movement.

LibertyIn the 2004 Disney film National Treasure, Cage plays Benjamin Gates, a man who is determined to clear his family name in the academic community for believing that treasure was hidden by Free Masons during the American Revolution.

Generations of the Gates family spent their lives chasing clues around the world only to be left defeated. Ben is the first in generations to make a major discovery towards the treasure of the Free Masons, which leads him to his next major clue: a map on the back of the Declaration of Independence.

 While discussing next steps with his team, Gates reminds them that one line is truly the heart of the Declaration:

 “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and provide new Guards for their future security.”

It means that if there is something wrong with the way our government is being run, it is up to those who can to take action or otherwise make a change as they see fit—much like the action our Founding Fathers took by declaring independence from Britain.

 More than 240 years since the Declaration of Independence was signed, the heart of it should be a constant reminder of the ideals of Liberty.

If one’s community, state, or country isn’t being run as it should, then who is stepping up to the plate to enact change, run for office, or organize concerned citizens to make said changes?

Liberty is not just a vocabulary word in a history textbook. Having active participants in the Liberty movement is crucial. Without them, the next generation won’t be inspired to do what is right in the name of freedom.

What have you done for Liberty today?

 

Boy Suspended After ‘Liking’ Instagram Post Of An Airsoft Gun

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

Boy Suspended After ‘Liking’ Instagram Post Of An Airsoft Gun

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

When the state — and not principles — steer the course of society, changes in predominant political ideologies will always end up leading the way, putting anyone who stands in opposition of the leading narrative in grave danger.

For a young boy in Ohio, that means that his freedom to simply “like” an Instagram photo of a gun made him a pariah.

GunAccording to Fox News, middle school student Zachary Bowling was suspended from Edgewood Middle School after the institution learned his tastes were unsavory according to the powers that be.

According to the suspension notice he received, the school admitted that he had been penalized for “[l]iking a post on social media that indicated potential school violence.”

But the image in question did not portray violence. As a matter of fact, the photograph of a weapon alone could mean a host of things — self-defense and freedom, for instance.

Regardless, Bowling hadn’t event hit the “Like” button to express his approval of an actual gun. Instead, he had liked the photo of an airsoft gun, which is used in a game that eliminates opponents by hitting each other with spherical non-metallic pellets.

Still, Bowling’s parents insist that the boy simply “liked” the picture. He didn’t even comment or recommend the image to anyone else on social media.

“I liked it, scrolling down Instagram at night about 7, 8 o’clock I liked it,” the boy said. “The next morning they called me down [to the office] patted me down and checked me for weapons.”

That’s right. The school was so paranoid that a boy who had liked an airsoft gun could be violent that they even checked him for weapons the next day.

On the same day, parents received an email from the school saying that “school officials were made aware of an alleged threat of a student bringing a gun to school,” which forced them to act. “This morning,” the email continued, “the alleged threat was addressed and we can assure you that all students at Edgewood Middle School are safe and school will continue as normal.”

Claiming that its “zero tolerance” of violent or intimidating behavior by its students as the reason behind the suspension, the school defended its actions when questioned by reporters. Still, they have been unable to explain how “liking” a post of a non-lethal weapon at 7 p.m. while scrolling down your social media counts as intimidating behavior.

What country is this again?

What attracted you to the liberty movement?

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism by Mike Sertic Comments are off

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

This is a question I enjoy asking people, for several reasons. One, it’s an ice breaker when meeting new folks at libertarian events, and people usually like to tell their story to other libertarians. Another is that I learn something about the person with whom I’m speaking. For me, their story is another data point that informs me how I might more effectively persuade others to become libertarian.

liberty Like many Gen Y libertarians, my view of how the world operates was fundamentally and irrevocably altered by Congressman Ron Paul following his 2008 presidential campaign and the Campaign For Liberty. It is likely that I would never have been exposed to the libertarian ideas he was presenting were it not for the internet—specifically Youtube and social media.

After watching every “Ron Paul destroys…” Youtube video I could find, I decided to take action and seek out some real-life libertarians in Sacramento. My online search connected me with Dr. Jim Lark, who was listed as the national LP’s student outreach contact. It so happens that Dr. Lark was also serving as Chairman of the Advocates for Self-Government. He graciously helped connect me with other libertarians in my community and also introduced me to Sharon Harris, the Advocates’ former and longest serving president.

Upon deciding to start a Students For Liberty club on my college campus at CSU Sacramento, it was not long before my Operation Politically Homeless kit from the Advocates arrived in the mail. With the help of a few student volunteers I had already recruited, we proceeded to conduct several on campus OPH events over the next two years and further identified and recruited many more libertarians.

I have heard it said that libertarians are not community-oriented and lack empathy and concern for their fellow citizens and neighbors. My experience coming into the movement and since has run completely counter to this narrative, and I attribute my sustained activism and commitment to libertarian principles over the last eight years to people like Dr. Lark, Sharon Harris, and the countless other passionate and caring people I have since met in the liberty movement.

Social movements are as much about advancing political ideals and policies as they are about attraction to the people who promote them. In hindsight, it was the personal integrity to his political philosophy that initially attracted me to Dr. Paul—something that I had not seen from a politician before. It is an honor for me to able to work to attract and persuade people to embrace libertarian principles and to empower libertarians to be highly successful at presenting the ideas of liberty to the world.

So, what attracted you to the liberty movement? Please write as and let us know at liberator@theadvocates.org. We’d love to hear from you.

California Kicks the Corpse of Free Association in Airbnb Investigation

in Economic Liberty, Issues, Liberator Online by Erik Andresen Comments are off

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

California has decided you must allow anyone into your home, at least if you rent it on a short term basis. Department of Fair Employment and Housing had filed a complaint against Airbnb over alleged incidents of hosts discriminating against users on the basis of race. Airbnb has agreed to let DFEH conduct “testing,” similar to testing applied to landlords.

AirbnbThe problem DFEH is looking to solve: it seems some Airbnb hosts reject users based on their race. It reminds me of dating site OKCupid’s “discovery” that race plays heavily into how users select prospective matches.

That’s the trouble with freedom; sometimes people use it in ways we don’t like. Sometimes the results are unpleasant. But libertarianism isn’t about making perfect people. That’s what Progressivism wants to do: remake mankind. Libertarians see the world as it is, and we endeavor to act – messy as it can be – in harmony with human nature, not against it. Our goal is maximum happiness and prosperity for all but without the threat of force from the state.

Many libertarians have hailed the disruption that the “sharing economy” has unleashed on tired and over-regulated business, from taxis to hotels.  But we should not be surprised that those established industries and bureaucrats are fighting back however they can. And in this instance, they have found a chink in the armor; the sharing economy may not survive it. Airbnb and similar services are troubling for regulators and elected officials (beyond protecting established industries and maintaining tax revenue).  Peer-to-peer dealings, especially those involving your car and your home, are prone to reveal individuals’ personal preferences.

Then the mask slips – regulators like to regulate “business” – putting the boot to someone who wants to rent their spare room for extra cash looks too heavy-handed (and it is). A government official would never say that we must allow every stranger who knocks on our doors must be allowed in. But that is exactly what DFEH is saying the moment you and that stranger exchange cash.

Libertarians favor free association and dissociation. Private deals between two individuals are no business of the state. But California doesn’t see it that way; bureaucrats want to decide for you who you may let into your home.

 

Page 2 of 4212345...102030...Last »