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Drug Lab Scandal Leads To Thousands Of Drug Case Dismissals, But What Does This Prove?

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

Drug Lab Scandal Leads To Thousands Of Drug Case Dismissals, But What Does This Prove?

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

On Tuesday, the biggest mass dismissal of wrongful convictions took place in a Boston courthouse. As a result, more than 23,000 low-level drug cases were dropped after it was proven that a rogue lab chemist had tainted evidence used to put these people in jail.

LabThis case doesn’t only showcase the tragic and perhaps inherently evil root of immoral laws such as the ones that comprise the U.S. anti-drug effort, it also helps us understand that even the illusion of unaccountability gives people enough incentives to produce poorly, no matter how damaging and nefarious their actions might be.

In this particular case, chemist Annie Dookhan — who worked for a private crime laboratory for ten years and whose co-workers always complained about — finally admitted to falsifying evidence tied to as many as 34,000 cases in 2013. But before then, she spent 10 years in that lab, helping prosecutors put innocent people in jail.

While the former chemist was arrested, she only spent three years in prison — a much shorter sentence than the ones handed to many of those she helped to convict.

But despite pressure to go over the cases impacted by Dookhan years earlier, prosecutors fought for a way to preserve the convictions. Thankfully, in this case, defense lawyers pressed on, helping to bring about 23,000 dismissals.

While Dookhan’s reasoning to have been involved in so many wrong convictions was never made clear, one can surely agree that prosecutors found no harm in accepting results from a chemist with a dubious track record. Why? Because their goal wasn’t to fight for justice but to uphold immoral laws.

When the state has the power to tell a consumer he or she isn’t allowed to do with their bodies what they will, the state also has the power to bend other rules. When not enough people are being convicted of drug-related charges, throwing caution to the wind and fabricating convictions out of thin air isn’t out of the question. With enablers such as Dookhan ready to please, it’s no wonder the number of drug convictions continues to rise, even as the number of overdoses also rise — because the state-sponsored war against drugs has nothing to do with safety but a lot to do with control.

So long as there’s a perverse incentive available, there’s always going to be a willing actor to take part in the show. After all, why would prosecutors go after the origin of the drug trade when they have so much low-hanging fruit at hand?

 

What The United Airlines Fiasco Teaches Us About Monopolies

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

What The United Airlines Fiasco Teaches Us About Monopolies

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

The United Airlines fiasco has been all over the news — for a good reason.

A passenger who had already been allowed to take his seat had his face bloodied as police officers were asked to physically remove the man from the plane. The incident had followed what many reported as being an issue with an overbooked flight but later, it was discovered that the man had been picked in a lottery to leave the full flight after United noticed it needed four seats for crew members.

United AirlinesThe passenger in question, David Dao, refused to leave the plane, even after the company offered $800 and a hotel stay to whoever accepted to relinquish their seat, and that’s when the police were called in to “help.”

Many have noted that legally speaking, Dao was in the right and United was in the wrong. But what many are ignoring in this story has to do with how we got to a point where a private organization needs the services of the state police to remove a customer who had not broken his contract.

If United had to compete for its customers in a free, open market, would they have treated any customer this way?

Ryan McMaken of the Mises Institute answers that question with an in-depth review of the U.S. airline industry. He explains that, in North America, the four top carriers enjoy 80 percent of the business, putting these four companies in a nearly total control of the domestic flying industry. But that occurs not because these firms form an official, government-backed cartel. Instead, government intervention is so heavy-handed that it provokes an artificial barrier to other airlines, making competition less likely to happen.

Take the U.S. ban on foreign carriers for instance. Because international airlines are not allowed to fly certain point-to-point destinations domestically, only domestic airlines have the privilege of doing so. Economically ignorant politicians defend this policy by saying that this protects American workers and consumers. Unfortunately, this particular protectionist policy has the exact opposite effect, as fewer companies mean fewer options for both job seekers and flyers.

Down the line, as competition is stifled and domestic companies enjoy an artificial monopoly over the industry, the consumer suffers greatly, as the top four carriers are allowed to act erratically and still have a virtual control of the market. With no options but to fly using one of these protected firms, these consumers are then forced to undergo severe mistreatment. In a free market, this type of incident could have destroyed United, but in an environment where protectionism rules, United will suffer for some time before it bounces back up as few companies are able to compete.

Iowa Has Just Become More Gun-Friendly — Here’s Why It Matters

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

Iowa Has Just Become More Gun-Friendly — 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 libertarians, it’s often difficult to find reasons to be hopeful when looking at the political process and how state and federal governments often ignore the classical liberal cry for more freedom. But every now and then, small government advocates are able to get certain policies passed locally that help boost, not stifle, freedom. That’s the case with Iowa.

IowaGovernor Terry Branstad has just signed a bill into law making the Hawkeye State one of the friendliest for gun owners.

The new law allows citizens to use weapons if they believe their lives are threatened and to sue local government officials if they refuse to lift restrictions associated with what many call “gun-free zones.”

House File 517 is being called the most “monumental and sweeping piece of gun legislation” in the state’s history by making the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution fully recognized and protected by state officials.

But local Democrats who are also anti-gun advocates have already voiced their contrarian opinions, afraid that the “stand your ground” portion of the new law will result in more cases of gun-related homicides.

They are also concerned that the law essentially criminalizes the creation of gun-free zones, allowing locals to carry guns anywhere they please.

But as many of us know, many of the now infamous shooting sprees have taken place in areas where policies are in place to prevent law-abiding individuals from carrying weapons. As many have pointed out, those who follow the law aren’t the ones more likely to commit crimes. Instead, those who ignore or effectively defy these rules are the ones causing gun-related crimes.

Like many activists have explained after the deadly Orlando slaughter, vulnerable individuals are “sitting ducks” in zones where the Second Amendment doesn’t apply. With its new law in place, Iowa could mitigate the risks associated with gun-related incidents and help its own citizens by allowing law-abiding individuals carrying guns to serve as deterrents to crime.

Instead of the fearful rhetoric that usually follows any pro-gun right measure such as the new Iowa law, what this new development must be accompanied by is the support for the basic principles of self-defense and property rights. After all, even if Democrats had a point when they say that protecting the Second Amendment will lead to more gun deaths, nobody has a right to deter an individual from owning property and from pursuing the defense of their person and property as they see fit. Or are anti-gun advocates unaware that minorities are also entitled to their defense when cornered or threatened by bigots?

Extremism First? No Thanks!

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

Extremism First? No Thanks!

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

Barry Goldwater told us that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. I agree.

I’d like to suggest to you today, however, that perhaps we shouldn’t lead with the most extreme example. As we discussed recently in Hyperbole is NOT Your Friend, we have common everyday examples at our fingertips of government force, ineptitude, and roadblocks to freedom that are relatable and real. These examples don’t require that we take an extreme position or talk about some of the extreme ideas we may hold right away.

Freedom is dangerous. That’s one of my favorite points made by Thomas Jefferson. He preferred the danger of freedom to the peace of slavery.

When we begin a conversation about liberty in an extreme manner right away, we don’t have the opportunity to bring people in. We don’t get them to listen to what we have to say, because we’ve turned them off by leading with an extreme position.

My suggestion to you is to keep things relatable and real. Make it something that others can engage with you about, rather than something that is too far outside their comfort zone to really have a strong rapport and be able to embrace the ideas of liberty.

Where Will You Finish?

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

Where Will You Finish?

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

We’ve all seen the inspirational quote, “It isn’t where you start, it’s how you finish.”

While I think that it is important to finish well, I find that your starting point is important. For example, how will you know the route to your destination, if you don’t know where you’re starting. More important than either part of the quote though is THAT you finish and WHERE you finish.

Our destination is simply our goal. As many can attest, our journey can offer twists and turns along the way. If I’d not joined the Advocates 3 years ago, I would be ramping up my campaign for City Council in Marietta, GA, instead of writing this from my office in Indianapolis. I had a fully-formed plan of next steps in serving in elected office, and that can change.

As I look forward to my next endeavor, I’m reminded that we can often change course and re-define our path. For me, I’m looking to continue to share my love of liberty with others.

While I may no longer serve in elected office, I’ve been able to impact the lives of countless individuals through volunteering, activism, writing, and the outreach that my position allows.

I’ve seen many formerly active libertarians fade away, burn out, or turn their back on libertarianism completely, so I feel fortunate to still be involved in the movement, and I look forward to what the future holds.

finishI do know this: I intend to finish where I started, as an active, engaging lover of liberty, eager to share my views with others. I hope that I’ve inspired enough people to join me as such to make the world in which I live more libertarian than I found it. I also hope that they find themselves in the same place.

I’ve laid out my intent and my hope for you. Where will YOU finish?

 

 

Woman Wrongfully Arrested By Sloppy Officer May Soon Get Justice

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

Woman Wrongfully Arrested By Sloppy Officer May Soon Get Justice

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

In 2009, a woman was forced to spend 80 days in jail after being arrested on bogus drug dealing charges. While the charges were eventually dropped, allowing her to enjoy her freedom once again, the damage had already been done. When she left the prison, she walked out of her jail cell a free woman without a job.

ArrestedThe officer involved in this incident might now have to pay the price for his mistakes — a dream come true for criminal justice reform advocates who believe that officers operate with all the wrong incentives in mind since they are allowed to continue to make mistakes by being granted immunity.

The chain of events leading to the wrongful arrest started in March of 2009 when officer Jason Munday conducted an undercover investigation using a confidential informant.

The informant was wired with video and audio recorders. Giving the man $60, the officer told him to go to 728 East Pine Street to purchase crack cocaine from two individuals. After the exchange, the informant walked back to the officer and told him that he had purchased the illicit drug from April Smith, a black woman.

Since the audio recorder used in this transaction wasn’t fitted with batteries prior to the whole incident, it didn’t work and produced no audio recordings. On top of that, the camera used by the informant was pointing in the wrong direction, making it impossible for the officer to recognize the drug dealer. Instead of filming the transaction, the footage simply showed an unidentified black woman sitting on a front porch, while two others stand.

All the officer had was hearsay and a name. A name that could have easily been fabricated by the drug dealer in an attempt to shield her identity.

Regardless, the lack of evidence didn’t bother the officer. Instead of discarding what he had obtained, he started scanning police databases for anyone fitting the bill. When he found a black woman with a criminal record named April Yvette Smith, he didn’t flinch. That was his dealer, he thought to himself.

She had been convicted of selling crack cocaine in 1993, 1997, and 2005, but she wasn’t the only one. He also found other two April Smiths with criminal records in the same county. Even though he had no reason to believe that the dealer he was going after had, indeed, a criminal record. He also had no reason to believe that the dealer was a resident of that county. Again, nothing stopped the officer. Instead of further investigating, Munday decided to apply for an arrest warrant, picking one of the April Smiths he had found.

Nine months later, the officer found Smith about eleven miles away from the site where the drug deal had taken place.

The woman spent the next 80 days in jail, afraid she would be prosecuted for a crime she hadn’t committed.

When Smith sought justice, the court granted the officer immunity by claiming that he had enough reason to believe she could have been the dealer involved in the transaction. Thankfully, the Appeals Court disagreed.

According to the court, the officer ignored the fact that having a name in common with a potential criminal is not enough to establish probable cause, meaning that what the officer did was wrong. Concluding that the officer did not have enough information to apply for a warrant, the Appeals Court called out on the officer for failing to perform any investigative work prior to the arrest. And as a result, Munday has now been stripped of his immunity, opening the way for a lawsuit.

Removing responsibility away from the individual’s hands allows him to operate without having the burden of responding to his actions. When officers are granted immunity in similar cases, they tend to forget that their actions have reactions. Unless we begin holding everyone accountable — regardless of employment status — we’ll never be able to see a change in the culture of abuse. Will this case help to change this environment for good?

Residents Leave Kansas In Search For Legal Medical Cannabis

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

Residents Leave Kansas In Search For Legal Medical Cannabis

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

A new bill under review by the Kansas legislature could help residents suffering from conditions that could benefit from medical marijuana. This piece of news is being met with enthusiasm by locals since many have been moving out of the state in order to obtain the help that they need elsewhere.

KansasAccording to the Kansas City senator who wrote the bill, the benefits of legalizing the plant “outweigh the detriments.” And he’s right. After all, what right does a bureaucrat have to tell a patient what drugs he or she are allowed to take?

According to local news sources, the bill being pushed through the senate could help residents like Tracy Marling, who left the state three years ago. Her move was ignited by her daughter’s rare form of epilepsy. Because the young girl wasn’t responding to traditional medicines, the mother decided to take her child elsewhere. Now that she can use cannabis, the child has been responding better, and the mom is now telling reporters how the lack of legal access to the plant forced her to leave the state.

In an interview, Marling told reporters that if there’s “something that helps somebody this much, there is no reason why they shouldn’t have access to it.”

In other 28 states, medical marijuana is already a possibility. And if Marling’s story is an indicator, many other families may be moving to one of these states in order to escape prohibitionist policies in their own homes.

Locals who believe that the choice should be up to the individual and not to a bureaucrat are being urged by former Kansas residents like Marling to contact their representative. Hopefully, lawmakers will finally understand the importance of giving the individual back the power to choose, giving locals more control over their own lives.

To marijuana and anti-drug war advocates, the decentralization of policy making has been the best of gifts. As more states join the likes of California, Colorado, and Washington in nullifying the federal prohibition of marijuana, more families will have access to the plant, allowing patients who are suffering from maladies that could be treated with the help of the plant feel more comfortable with trying the treatment without fearing to be the target of law enforcement.

This move toward more freedom will also help medical research in the future, giving researchers the opportunity of exploring cannabis’ full potential. After all, when substances are illegal, even medical researchers have a hard time having access to the material.

In other words, when government prohibition is en vogue, medical innovation also pays a price. But who ultimately pays the cost is always the consumer.

You Disagree. Now What?

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

You Disagree. Now What?

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

When you come across a libertarian who you disagree with, what do you do?

As libertarians, you and I understand that individuals differ. We differ in how we choose to live our lives. We differ in the decisions we make about where our money goes. We also differ in what the proper role of government is.

Libertarians are no different. We came to libertarianism in many different ways. There are many libertarians who were authoritarians before realizing that freedom is the answer. We also have many who embraced libertarianism from the more conservative parts of the political spectrum or the more liberal parts. They may have been politically homeless or apathetic before their realization that libertarianism was the right political philosophy for their belief system.

Personally, I don’t like to see libertarians fight with one another. I don’t believe that it achieves anything in terms of persuasion. All it does is scare off those who might feel that they aren’t “pure” enough.

There’s nothing wrong with purity of beliefs, but there’s certainly no reason to fight with one another. In my opinion, we all have one common enemy, and that is the growth of the state.

We can always work out our differences in private, while we focus on persuading those who have yet to adopt a libertarian mindset. It’s okay for them to adopt a libertarian mindset that doesn’t align with yours 100 percent of the time on every issue. People will always think that their “brand” of libertarianism is THE brand of libertarianism.

It’s okay to think that because we all arrived here differently.

So, the next time you disagree with a fellow libertarian, what are you going to do?

Don’t Be Ugly To Others

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

Don’t Be Ugly To Others

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

The 1999 award-winning film, the Green Mile, tells the story of the lives of guards on death row who are affected by one of their charges: a large black man accused of heinous crimes against children.

uglyIn perhaps one of the most iconic scenes of the movie, John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) tells Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks), that he’s tired:

I’m tired, boss. Tired of bein’ on the road, lonely as a sparrow in the rain. Tired of not ever having me a buddy to be with, or tell me where we’re coming from or going to, or why.

Mostly I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world every day. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time. Can you understand?

Coffey’s famous line sums up how I’ve been feeling since the 2016 election: tired.
Tired of people being ugly to one another because they didn’t agree on their presidential vote, they did or didn’t march for something, because they just disagree.

In addition to countless social media arguments I’ve witnessed between friends and family, I’ve read stories about couples separating because of their disagreement about presidential picks. During inauguration weekend, I witnessed firsthand the destruction of private property. (Not to mention the names my friends and I were called just for attending the 58th inauguration.)

College campuses are also experiencing violent protests and seeing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage because their students don’t want someone on their campus who has different opinions than they do.

People obviously have the right to express themselves and end relationships as they see fit. But isn’t arguing about the election with your high school friends on Facebook kind of lame and petty? There’s a vast difference between having an open dialogue and downright, mean-spirited fighting.

People should be able to do what they want, so long as they can face the response to what they do.

Never is it acceptable to throw rocks, bricks or start fires in order to get one’s point across. These actions have a victim.

I, too, am tired of the fighting and of the ugliness. If we all took the time to breathe, a moment to truly listen to one another, then we might be able to eradicate some of the ugliness in this world.

Snowden’s Non-Profit Releases Tools To Protect Journalists, Whistleblowers

in First Amendment, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Snowden’s Non-Profit Releases Tools To Protect Journalists, Whistleblowers

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

Edward Snowden is the gift that keeps on giving. At least for us, libertarians.

Not only did he blow the whistle on the federal government’s lack of care for Americans’ privacy rights, but he did so responsibly. Now, after having been the victim of persecution for almost four years, he’s helping to continue the revolution he helped to ignite. By giving others the tools they need to remain safe when doing the same he had to do.

Non-profitAccording to Wired, Snowden’s non-profit Freedom of the Press Foundation is releasing a series of tools to help journalists and newsrooms to ensure their sources and communications are secure. This would shield whistleblowers like Snowden himself, giving them the incentives to report on wrongdoing committed by government employees and elected officials. An important task, considering the real threats journalists suffered in the past years while attempting to maintain their sources protected.

In 2015, for instance, it was revealed that British spies had had access to emails from most major newspapers and wire services in the country. In late 2016, Montreal police had tracked phone calls made by a reporter in order to identify his sources. Unsurprisingly, the target of the investigation had been critical of the law enforcement agency.

More recently, the current US president Donald Trump called on Congress to investigate leaks made to NBC news.

As the Freedom of the Press Foundation’s phone continues to ring off the hook for information on how to stay protected, the organization has launched a list of features and tools such as SecureDrop. The tool that functions through Tor, and that allows whistleblowers to make secure uploads of documents or leaked materials.

Sunder is another tool Snowden is helping to popularize. It was built as a coder for Signal, and because it requires passwords from multiple individuals so that the encrypted data is available, it will also keep sources secure.

Aside from these two tools, Snowden also helped to design an iPhone case that alerts the user if phone’s data is being transmitted without his knowledge, as well as a new version of Jitsi, an encrypted chat software that would be designed for newsrooms use.

While privacy advocates cannot fix the surveillance problem overnight, Snowden said about his organization’s goals, building a shield that will help to protect whistleblowers may do the trick.

Instead of sitting on his hands, watching the surveillance state grow massively with each new administration, Snowden took matters into his own hands. Developing his own solutions while supporting those who do the same. Living freely, in spite of government overreach.

Arizona Bill Could Be A Win For Sound Money

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

Arizona Bill Could Be A Win For Sound Money

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

A bill being considered by the Arizona legislature could be the park of a sound money revolution. Much like the marijuana legalization movement ignited by anti-drug war advocates across the states, this new movement could help strike the root of all of our economic woes.

MoneyAccording to the Tenth Amendment Center, House Bill 2014 would initiate the sound money revolution by eliminating state capital gains taxes on gold and silver specie. Thus encouraging individuals to use the metals as currency. The bill, which passed the House on the 13th, will need a final approval from the Senate. And if approved, the legislation would then initiate a movement that could help put an end to the Federal Reserve’s monopoly on money.

By removing the burden of applying state capital gains taxes on income “derived from the exchange of one kind of legal tender for another kind of legal tender” and redefining legal tender as ““a medium of exchange, including specie, that is authorized by the United States Constitution or Congress for the payment of debts, public charges, taxes and dues,” coins having precious metal content could become, once again, a legal form of currency.

By passing this bill, the Arizona legislature would be allowing silver and gold specie to be treated as money, essentially “legalizing the constitution.”

Currently, Arizona law requires individuals to pay capital gains taxes whenever they use gold and silver in transactions or any time they want to exchange the metal for Federal Reserve notes. Due to inflation, the purchasing power of fiat money decreases, which then causes the metal’s nominal value to rise. Thus the “gain” taxes. Even if they are fictional. The result is obviously unfair because it penalizes those using gold and silver as money.

By passing HB 2014, Arizonans would not have to add the amount of any net capital gain tied to the exchange of different kinds of legal tender, freeing the consumer from being subject to state taxes.

This could open up currency competition in Arizona, causing other states to perhaps do the same once they realize competition will help to bring the government monopoly over the currency down.

To advocates of states’ rights like Tenth Amendment founder Michael Boldin, this piece of legislation in Arizona is a great first step to “end the fed’s monetary monopoly,” even if it won’t put an end to it overnight. By giving the individual Arizona resident his freedom to trade freely, he will be securing the purchasing power of his money as a result.

Hyperbole Is NOT Your Friend

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

Hyperbole Is NOT Your Friend

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

How many times have you been listening to a policy discussion or debate and you hear a stat, fact, figure, or talking point that just seems completely unbelievable? You go home afterward and find out after some research that it’s actually false or misrepresented.

As libertarians, you and I don’t need to be doing things like that. We don’t need to embellish or exaggerate the facts. Today, government gives us so many real, yet unbelievable, examples to prove our point, that exaggeration and embellishment are completely unnecessary. We see things that happen daily that we never thought were possible, but they actually happen. Government is the cause.

If we do things to exaggerate, embellish, or use hyperbole to make our point, we erode trust with those we talk to. This can ruin our chances at future persuasion, not only in conversations you’ll be having with them, but also when other libertarians do as well. That lessens your credibility, as well as anyone else they encounter that identifies as a libertarian.

The bottom line is, if the REAL every day horrors brought about by government don’t persuade, hyperbole, histrionics, and exaggeration aren’t going to change someone’s mind, you may as well move on to a different approach to try to bring them to embrace a libertarian perspective.

At the end of the day, let’s remember that hyperbole is NOT your friend.

The Importance of Being Self-Taught

in Education, Liberator Online, Philosophy by Morgan Dean Comments are off

Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Education Secretary this week. This was one of the most contentious and controversial confirmations in history. Those opposing her nomination cited a lack of experience in public education as a reason why she was unfit to serve.

taughtWith all the controversy, it’s important to consider another argument. It really shouldn’t matter who the Education Secretary is. The position shouldn’t exist. There should be no federal Department of Education, simply because it is impossible for one person to know how to meet the needs of every student in America.

Individually, standards set by the government regarding education don’t impact us as much as we think. This is because we should be setting our own individual standards. We should be striving to teach ourselves what we haven’t been taught in school.

Once students leave school, are they properly equipped to thrive in the post-secondary world? Probably not. This is why it is crucial that we strive to be self-taught.

Practical experience is the first facet of this. We learn by doing. I am a result of a public education in both high school and now college. However, I have learned more from the work I’ve done in my career than from my public schooling.

The second facet of being self-taught is reading. I am of the belief that reading for fun is just as important as educational reading, so long as you are doing both. Educational reading doesn’t always have to involve textbooks, though. Reading a book that you wouldn’t normally pick up is educational, as is reading a book on a subject you want to know more about.

The beauty of being self-taught is that you can learn absolutely anything with practice. You can become fluent in a foreign language, learn the customs of another country, or even pick up a new hobby or job skills, all from reading and doing.

I’m not saying that a public education is useless, not by a long shot. I recognize the benefits of it, but I do know that my love for reading comes from me teaching myself to read Shakespeare as a sixth grader.

So take a minute and realize that YOU have the power. You have the power to educate your children at home, and you have the power to learn anything you want by reading and then doing. Embrace that you are never too young or too old to become self-taught.

Oh, and If you love to read awesome books about libertarian principles maybe check out our book deal too.

Who Owns Jobs: The Government or the Employer?

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

Who Owns Jobs: The Government or the Employer?

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

Reuters has reported that the Donald Trump administration’s pick for head of the U.S. Labor Department has admitted to hiring undocumented immigrants in the past. More specifically, he admitted to employing a foreigner who wasn’t legally allowed to work in the United States as a house cleaner.

EmployerThe pick, who serves as the chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc, made the revelation on Monday, adding that the employment had taken place for a few years. The statement he released also claimed that he and his wife were unaware that the worker wasn’t allowed to seek employment, but that once they were made aware they terminated her, offering her help to obtain legal status.

This piece of news is sure to be explosive, considering the scrutiny the current administration’s picks for cabinet positions have been receiving in the past months. Nevertheless, this story matters for a much more important reason. After all, who owns the job, the government or the employer?

While countries have boundaries by default due to the state’s need to set rules and impose restrictions on everything from migration to commerce, it is important to remember that only the individual employer owns the job he or she is creating.

Regardless of where you stand on immigration, it is up to the job owner to determine whether a particular individual is fit — or not — to perform the duties available in exchange for what the employer is willing to pay. It is also the employee’s right to accept the offer, whether or not the federal government has wage restrictions imposed. After all, if an unskilled mother of five who has just lost her husband is willing to take a job for $9 per hour, what authority does a lawmaker have to tell her she can only find a job that pays $15?

Employers willing to pay that much will undoubtedly hire someone with skills, leaving this poor individual out of the workforce and, what’s worse, in the hands of the welfare state.

When it comes to immigration, racism and security concerns aren’t what’s at stake. Instead, we must understand the basic principle of economics: supply and demand. If there’s a demand for workers willing to take on certain jobs and a supply of workers willing to do them, it will happen. Whether the government allows it or not.

Allowing individual job creators to take on the burden of understanding this risk makes them better employers, which also helps the country, by making sure that only hard workers who keep their promises and follow local rules are getting employed. When government imposes restrictions, workers are forced into the shadows. Putting their lives, the lives of their children, and employers at risk.

How about handing the burden back to the individuals involved in the transaction? It saves us money, boosts the economy, and helps us weed out those who aren’t serious about their intentions.

Why It Matters That Vizio Collected Personal Data For Years

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

Why It Matters That Vizio Collected Personal Data For Years

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

In the age of smartphones and mass Internet communication, it isn’t a surprise to learn that smart TV makers like Vizio and Samsung have been gathering and storing personal user data for years. What’s surprising is to know that some continued doing so without letting its customers know anything about it.

vizioWhile this action alone is grounds for a lawsuit, going to the courts won’t guarantee government agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA) won’t explore this privacy breach. And that is the problem.

The security breach was unveiled after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) struck a $1.2 million settlement with the smart TV vendor Vizio. The agency alleged Vizio had used its smart television sets to track user behavior starting in 2014. While this action isn’t uncommon, Vizio failed to disclose this information to consumers and potential consumers. For years, the company advertised its “Smart Interactivity” feature by claiming it was designed to “program offers and suggestions.” Nevertheless, suggestions were never made. Instead, the company collected a great variety of consumer data, such as IP addresses, metadata, and much more using its interactivity feature. And without alerting consumers.

According to the FTC complaint, the company was so good at collecting data that it was able to “[append] specific demographic information to the viewing data, such as sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and household value,” selling this information to third party organizations. These organizations then used the info to target advertising to certain consumers. Of course this was the only issue brought up by the FTC. And not the fact that law enforcement agencies could have explored this breach in order to boost its surveillance of households across the country without using due process or respecting the U.S. Constitution.

But as a consumer, the individual has the power to sue a company or service provider that broke its contractual obligations. As a citizen, the American or resident has no power to keep law enforcement from spying on his every move.

Thanks to whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, we now know that agencies like the NSA went far and beyond to obtain access to data that would have been otherwise unreachable without a warrant — and not a mass warrant covering countless of innocent individuals at home and abroad.

While we’re grateful the FTC made this discovery, it’s time to complain about this type of action over why it matters. Because we are still powerless before a big, out of control government but we aren’t powerless as consumers.

We Ignore Freedom

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

We Ignore Freedom

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

If we don’t have freedom of movement, do we really have freedom at all? If you or I can’t escape war, poverty, and oppression in search of a better life or more opportunity for ourselves, our families, our children and our grandchildren, what good are the freedoms that remain?

Does it really matter if you’re free to spend the money you earn as you wish? Does it really matter if you’re free to grow the food that would provide your family sustenance? Does it really matter if you’re free to live your life as you see fit, if you aren’t able to escape some of the worst atrocities known to man?

What we see today is a political divide that is the essence of politics as usual. We’re seeing how easy it is to divide us over one or two issues, as we fight about nuance and detail, justifying actions because this person did it previously and a precedent has been set, or by looking back at everything that’s occurred in this country, there is this tiny thing that does make what’s happening now okay.

But when we focus on the politics, nuance, and detail, we ignore the larger question.

We ignore what’s right.

We ignore what’s wrong.

Unfortunately, it also means that we ignore what really matters. It means that we ignore freedom.

Montana to Remove Middle Man, Liberating the Market from Obamacare

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

Montana to Remove Middle Man, Liberating the Market from Obamacare

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

Health care has been a hot button issue for years. Ever since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — also known as Obamacare — a greater number of doctors have been opting to exit the system altogether, while patients have increasingly run away from insurance providers, opting to join health sharing ministries instead. While many hoped for a reversal of the law once a Republican president took office, any reform could take months and perhaps even years to be completed. Instead of waiting for the federal government to remove hurdles so that the healthcare market can promote competition, thus making care affordable and available to all, some states are acting unilaterally, attempting to pass their own laws nullifying the federal control over the healthcare market.

ObamacareIn early January, Montana’s Sen. Cary Smith, a Republican from Billings, introduced Senate Bill 100. The bill establishes that primary care agreements would not be considered insurance in the state, allowing doctors and patients to set their own agreements and freeing them from meeting onerous demands and regulations.

With this bill, patients would be able to have the care they need without paying through the nose with insurance. Considering monthly premiums have been increasingly dramatically over the past few years due to the burdensome regulations imposed by federal law, this could help countless low-income Montana residents to stay healthy without having to break the bank.

If the bill is signed into law, it would also create a structure that would allow the state government to regulate direct primary care provider agreements.

While this particular move isn’t exactly “freeing,” the first portion of the bill allowing doctors and patients to set up their own agreement could help to undermine federal control over health care law, giving locals a much needed break from costly insurance deals.

Furthermore, this bill would minimize costs for the doctors, since the third party payer would be removed from the equation. Allowing the medical retainer agreement deal to come to fruition would also allow the patient to pay the physician directly for routine exams and care monthly. Through their agreement, exams or treatments would cost nothing extra. Without an insurance company standing between the patient and the doctor, the patient would also have access to better care, since the relationship between the two parties would be more personal. An issue that has been damaging the quality of care across the board.

According to Tenth Amendment’s Mike Maharrey, this solution provides the type of cost control promised by the past administration with the passage of ACA. While the health care law failed to deliver on its promises, Montana residents could finally see the cost control they want if this bill is signed into law.

SB100 is now set to move to the House for consideration, where a committee will have to pass it by a majority vote before the full House can vote on the measure.

Maryland Lawmakers Closer to Legalizing Recreational Weed

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

Maryland Lawmakers Closer to Legalizing Recreational Weed

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

Maryland could soon join the group of states putting an end to the federal ban on marijuana by passing a piece of legislation that would legalize the substance for recreational use. The bill would allow the state to regulate the sales and add a tax to recreational marijuana-related transactions.

RecreationalAccording to legislators behind the effort, adults ages 21 and older would be allowed to possess and even grow limited amounts of the plant if two pieces of legislation under consideration by the state legislature pass.

The goal, one of the legislators behind the effort told the press, is to end the failed policy of cannabis prohibition across the state, establishing what they call a sensible system. The pieces of legislation are based on the “lessons learned from other states,” which goes to show how important the nullification movement has been to the anti-drug war movement.

If the bills are approved by both chambers, marijuana retail stores would be regulated, requiring entrepreneurs to have a license to open a business. Local manufacturers, as well as testing and cultivating facilities, would also be subject to regulation. The state would also establish a 9 percent sales tax on retail marijuana while cultivators would have to pay an excise tax of $30 per ounce. Revenue created by the taxation of the industry locally would be used to back community school and workforce development programs, public education, and substance-abuse treatment and prevention.

If the One Line State chooses to pass these bills, the system that will be put in place will be similar to what is currently in use in Colorado. Maryland would then be joining others such as the states where voters have approved liberating marijuana for recreational use. They include California, Alaska, Oregon, Maine, Washington, Massachusetts, and Nevada.

Unlike other states, Maryland could be the first to approve the legalization of recreational weed on their own, without having to rely on the public to vote for a measure. But if legislators aren’t successful, a “Plan B” bill is also being considered, which would allow voters to decide whether the state constitution should be amended to legalize the plant for recreational use.

In 2013, Maryland approved marijuana for medical use, decriminalizing the possession of small amounts one year later. Despite the growing support for legalization even then, lawmakers killed a measure in the Maryland legislature in 2014 that would have legalized recreational marijuana.

Only time can tell whether this year’s measure will see the light of day.

 

How would roads be operated and financed in the ideal libertarian world?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Business and Economy, Economic Liberty by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

How would roads be operated and financed in the ideal libertarian world?

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

Question: How would roads be operated and financed in the ideal libertarian world? How would traffic violations, actions which may be victimless crimes but would be very likely to harm others if they were allowed to continue unchecked, be handled?

RoadsAnswer: Roads would probably be operated by companies which would finance them through tolls (highways), subscription fees (local roads), or measures similar to condominium dues (neighborhood streets). Even today, some communities finance almost half of their roadways through these alternatives, saving themselves up to 50% when compared to government-run alternatives.

Road owners would set the standards for drivers’ conduct (e.g. speed limits, alcohol load, etc.). Reckless drivers, regardless of whether they were under the influence of mind-altering substances, would probably be banned by road owners so that customer safety could be maintained.

Libertarians believe that defensive force can be used against those who initiate or THREATEN to initiate force against others. Prohibiting reckless driving could certainly fall into that category.

Go Around

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

Go Around

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

Frequently, I hear from libertarians about some of the issues they face when performing outreach activities or communicating libertarian ideas. Often, they come to roadblocks that they can’t seem to get past.

In the marketplace, you and I both know what happens when you face an obstacle or a tough situation. We innovate. We bypass the roadblocks that we find.

Take a look at what Uber did to revolutionize the transportation industry. Or how Airbnb transformed how we travel and find accommodations. Bitcoin is doing something similar in the currency space, just as PayPal did with digital currency decades before. Amazon has completely changed retail shopping, as we order things online or from our phone instead of going to a brick and mortar store, having it delivered to our doorstep just a few days after placing the order.

We have the opportunity to exemplify our beliefs and show that we can back up our rhetoric, by innovating in the marketplace of ideas. Exemplifying those beliefs is going to give us credibility with others, as we can show that no only can we talk the talk, but we can also walk the walk.

When we’re innovative, it gives us an advantage, as we’re the “first to market” by utilizing the ideas that we put forth. We’re going about things in a different way and we’re revolutionizing the way we communicate libertarian ideas.

So, in short, just go around.

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