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Afghan Soldier Uniforms That Didn’t Match The Terrain Cost Taxpayers $28 Million

in Liberator Online, Military, News You Can Use, Taxes by Alice Salles Comments are off

Afghan Soldier Uniforms That Didn’t Match The Terrain Cost Taxpayers $28 Million

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

Recently, Defense Secretary James Mattis was in the news for complaining about the Pentagon’s offhand spending habits.

While this may sound somewhat contradictory thanks to Mattis’ earlier claims indicating he would, indeed, love if defense had access to even more taxpayer money, his complaint brought light to yet another issue we often see happening with government.

uniforms

According to a recent Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report, the agency spent $28 million on camouflage uniforms for Afghan soldiers that, unfortunately, do not work well with Afghanistan’s terrain. This means that, the $28 million that was used to purchase forest-patterned uniforms should have never been spent this way.

The decision to purchase these uniforms was made after a former Afghan defense minister saw the model online and “liked” them. However, only two percent of the country’s terrain is woodland.

And who picked up the bill? The U.S. taxpayer.

In his response to the Department after this discovery was made, Mattis criticized officials who allowed this “cavalier” expenditure to take place, adding that this decision wasted taxpayer dollars “in an ineffective and wasteful manner.”

Claiming that this careless spending is an indicator of an “attitude that can affect any of us at the Pentagon or across the Department of Defense,” Mattis rightly pointed out that this makes the department lose focus on what matters.

But what Mattis may have missed is that government waste exists and is part of how government operates. It’s a feature, not a bug.

The Defense Department isn’t more or less likely to be wasteful than the Education Department or the Health and Human Services department. What makes any — and all — government agencies prone to waste is the very fact that these organizations aren’t worried about how they spend this money.

When you spend other people’s money, you’re more likely to abuse it. After all, only you know how better spend your own money.

But that’s not all.

Agencies often make huge mistakes when judging policies or particular approaches simply because they do not have the knowledge necessary to know what will work. Real-world consequences are often ignored because bureaucrats and officials make all the decisions, often basing their assessment on faulty or incomplete information.

Because knowledge is dispersed and difficult to access, governments are naturally incapable of acting with all variables in mind. As a result, they cannot ensure that the service in question will meet the demand.

Whether it’s Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria, government officials have repeatedly claimed to have the answer, leading the country into military campaigns that not only backfired but that will also cost several generations of Americans.

While Mattis is right to be worried, it would serve him and others in similar positions to remember that there’s little one can do to put an end to waste within the government that doesn’t involve stripping government from free, easy, and endless sources of revenue.

How can we solve America’s economic woes?

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

How can we solve America’s economic woes?

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

Question:

How can you balance the budget, pay off the debt, and slash spending without doing away with entitlements, like Social Security and Medicare, that people have paid into for decades?

economic

Answer:

We can only balance the budget by privatizing entitlements like Social Security and Medicare and ending foreign wars. The ONLY way we can keep the promises made to our seniors without massive inflation is to increase our rate of wealth creation. One way to do that is by deregulating business. Each regulator destroys about 150 private sector jobs each year, so each one fired is true economic stimulus.

Another way to increase wealth creation is to cut the tax rate and end tariffs and other barriers to importation. This drives domestic capital into efficient businesses, stimulating the economy further. Even at lower tax rates, a robust economy means more tax dollars collected to offset the entitlement programs, which should be privatized ASAP so that young people aren’t forced into these Ponzi schemes.

In New York, You Can’t Pet Sit Without The State’s Permission

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

In New York, You Can’t Pet Sit Without The State’s Permission

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

For pet owners and dog lovers, the app Rover is a gift sent from the heavens. It helps users find affordable, convenient, and accessible help with their pets when and where they need it the most, no matter how last minute the emergency may be. Like Uber or Airbnb, Rover allows people willing to take care of your dog to do so freely, making it also affordable for the pet owner. But in places like New York, people making cash by providing a service and users looking for reliable help with their pets through Rover are under attack.

pet

Recently, the New York Health Department announced that pet sitters using the Rover app are breaking the law across the state and that’s because in New York, you are not legally allowed to take care of pets unless you’re associated with a licensed kennel.

Back in October, the department reached out to DogVacay.com, the app now known as Rover, telling the company to require its users to get licenses. Siding with app users, the company refused to comply.

As the news broke that the health department was cracking down on illegal pet sitters, many started speaking out against the state’s rules.

Twenty-nine-year-old Chad Bacon is one of them. The Brooklyn pet sitter told NY Daily News the fact he’s considered a criminal is absurd.

“The laws are antiquated. If you’re qualified and able to provide a service, I don’t think you should be penalized,” he said. After all, if his customers are happy, why would he be targeted by officials?

Using the app, Bacon told reporters, helps him when he’s between jobs, making it easier for him to be able to pay bills. Now that he’s been working full time by only using the app, he’s afraid this could put him in a sticky situation.

To those behind Rover, this type of policy hurts the poor and disadvantaged by forcing them to go through an expensive and laborious process in order to be allowed to offer pet-sitting services. The crackdown also hurts middle class and low-income pet owners who simply cannot afford to put their pets under the care of licensed professionals.

“You [are telling] the middle class you can’t own dogs unless you can pop in your Range Rover and drive to Connecticut for a boarding facility,” Rover’s general counsel John Lapham said.

Still, the department refuses to let go of the fear mongering rhetoric, claiming that without a license, pet owners are putting their beloved furry best friends in danger.

The same rhetoric all U.S. regulatory agencies employ whenever their credibility — and efficacy — is questioned.

Stories like this help to illustrate just how indefensible government interference in the market is. And yet, many well-meaning people who sometimes do agree that cases similar to this are absurd will still advocate for more government involvement in other fields.

It’s time to admit that government officials know little about the big wide world out there. Time to stop giving them the power to dictate how we should live our lives.

How do you define a victimless crime?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

How do you define a victimless crime?

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

Question

I’m a Libertarian candidate for prosecuting attorney, and I’m seeking to craft short answers for my campaign. One of my campaign promises is that I will not seek to imprison persons accused of a victimless crime.

crime

How would you define ‘victimless crime’ when asked? Specifically, does that include negligent conduct that involves a risk of harming others? For example: driving through a red light, driving while intoxicated, and firing shots into the air.

Many types of negligent criminal conduct involve some risk of harming others. But often the risk is trivial. What is the dividing line between trivial risk and significant risk? There are no statistics on the risk of harm I know of.

Answer

A victim (by libertarian standards) is someone who is threatened with physical force, fraud, or theft. If there is no threat, there is no crime. A victimless crime, therefore, is one in which no one has been threatened with physical force, fraud, or theft.

After Obamacare, Let’s Repeal All Government Involvement In Health Care

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

After Obamacare, Let’s Repeal All Government Involvement In Health Care

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

Everyone is talking about health care.

If you consider yourself a conservative, you might have felt a spark of excitement when Congress motioned to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, only to be let down once you learned lawmakers fell short of putting an end to President Barack Obama’s signature law.

obamacare

But to those who are serious about free market principles, the entire debate revolving around the end of of ACA is somewhat frustrating. That’s why health care in the United States hasn’t been good for decades, and Obamacare just made it a tad worse.

By the mid-1960s, the United States started to experience what heavy-handed intervention in the market does to supply and demand of services, and how it inflates the costs of such services.

With the passage of Medicare and Medicaid and new regulations that artificially trimmed the supply of doctors and hospitals, Americans noticed an increase in health care prices that, according to Mike Holly, “responded at twice the rate of inflation.”

Over time, medical special interests continued to lobby government for more regulations, further restricting competition and making it harder for members of the medical profession to make their services available at a lower cost.

With government’s involvement, demand for medical services increased thanks to subsidies, but with the restrictive regulatory monster only growing stronger with each passing decade, the supply of physicians, clinics, hospitals, and pharmaceuticals was further restricted.

As consumers began reporting hardships having access to care thanks to government’s overbearing involvement, government decided to act once again, targeting high costs by “partnering,” once again, with well-connected service providers and offering even more subsidies.

ACA, or Obamacare, is what happens when government tries to fix the problem by repeating its past mistakes.

With the passage of Obama’s signature health care law, the government ramped up subsidies, causing demand to continue to grow artificially while the supply was reduced thanks to the greater number of restrictions imposed on the market. As a result, powerful health care industry leaders grew into more powerful monopolies while entrepreneurs and independent physicians and clinics became overwhelmed and were forced to succumb to the system or get out of it completely.

So when Congress talks about repealing Obamacare as the only measure necessary to put an end to the incredibly maddening situation we find ourselves in today, don’t believe them.

For America to have a true free market system that will guarantee lower prices and increased supply of health care services to everyone, we must look beyond Obamacare. Or, as Mises Institute’s Ryan McMaken put it, we must “focus on repealing and undermining the edifice on which Obamacare was built: the highly regulated, subsidized, and manipulated healthcare markets that dominate today.”

Is Congress listening?

Massachusetts Moves To Put An End To Hair Braiding Licensing Requirements

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

Massachusetts Moves To Put An End To Hair Braiding Licensing Requirements

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

Some estimate that the practice of hair braiding is about 5,000 years old, making it a much more traditional and well-established practice than going to the state for permission to braid hair.

Still, hair braiders across the country are often forced to dedicate long hours of training and spend thousands of dollars on classes they shouldn’t be required to take to continue braiding hair professionally.

braiding

Thanks to state laws regulating the practice, many women found themselves in tough situations, being forced to stop making a living out of hair braiding out of fear they would end up having troubles with the law. As a result, the libertarian-leaning Institute for Justice filed several lawsuits across several states on behalf of these hair braiders.

Now, many states exempt hair braiders from having to follow licensing laws. Still, the most populous state in the New England region remains in the dark ages, requiring anyone who wants to braid hair for a living to log in 1,500 hours of training and spending up to $20,000 just so they may obtain a cosmetology license.

Because these licensing laws often impact women of color and immigrants, it’s hard to ignore the impact on these communities, especially when we consider that hair braiding poses no threat to public safety.

In order to address this issue statewide, Republican Massachusetts Senator Ryan Fattman proposed legislation that would ensure hair braiders would be exempt from cosmetology licensing laws. If this bill passes, it could help countless women who are predominantly black and immigrant to get back into the workforce without fear of being driven out of the market by the law.

When defending his bill, Fattman explained that licensing laws keep people from turning their talent into a fulfilling profession. “It’s an ethnic vocation that people have learned in their upbringing and they do it, and they do it without realizing they have to be licensed,” Fattman explained. “We wanted to basically lower the barriers to entry for people who make a living this way.”

As it stands, the bill is being reviewed by the Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, but a hearing about the piece of legislation won’t be held until this fall.

While forcing hair braiders to obtain licenses to perform their duties is usually seen as nonsensical by most, many seem unable to think the same way about other professions and commercial endeavors, failing to see how regulation actually hurts professionals and consumers across the board by imposing barriers to entry in the market that will eventually inflate the cost of doing business. Still, it’s encouraging to see that yet another state is working on abolishing licensing requirements for hair braiders.

What’s the difference between leaders and law-followers?

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism by Advocates HQ Comments are off

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

You hear it time and time again, “Don’t like the law? Well, change it then.” Or, “America was built on the rule of law; we must obey it in order to keep civility in society and maintain the structure and security which the law provides.”  This mentality of obeying the law has cost tens of millions of humans their lives; and ruined the lives of millions more. Before the question of how mindlessly obeying the law resulted in millions of unnecessary deaths is answered. Let’s consider the obvious historical cases. How many millions of people did Hitler kill? How about Mao Zedong or Joseph Stalin?

law

A quick Internet search will tell you that Hitler killed 30 million, Joseph Stalin killed 40 million and Mao Zedong killed 60 million. That’s a lot of people to die at the hands of three madmen, is it not? How is it that 130 million people perished at the hands of three men? The truth is Hitler, Stalin and Mao did not kill 130 million people. It was young men who were carrying out direct, legal orders and murdering millions of innocent young men, women and children. It was the countless bureaucrats and their enforcing agents with guns following orders, instead of following principles of morality and justice, which they were most likely raised to follow and which teaches to not kill.

This “follow the law” mentality is responsible for hundreds of millions of lost lives, yet which individual is responsible? When the soldier is given an order to kill, does he feel morally responsible for the life he took? After all, if he didn’t pull the trigger another soldier following the same order would’ve pulled the trigger. How about the commanding officer who issues the order? Does he feel the moral responsibility of murder? Why would he, since he didn’t pull the trigger. Hundreds of millions of mothers, fathers, brothers, and other loved ones, have died because soldiers are trained to follow laws and orders. But the bigger symptom that has allowed for these atrocities, is society’s acceptance of the idea that police officers and military personnel are simply doing their job. It’s not the police officers job to do what’s ethical, his job is to enforce the law, and that’s it.

The law is not justice and morality, it’s a collection of arbitrary rules put in place by politicians and bureaucrats. In order to live in a society which promotes harmony and justice, morality and peaceful transactions must shape society not politicians and their laws. America’s culture needs to change from one of obedience to politicians and their rules (laws), to one which fosters peace and justice. The truth is FDR didn’t put 120,000 innocent Japanese Americans in enslavement camps, I doubt he locked the gate on one person. It was American soldiers who put their moral judgment aside and stripped innocent humans of their livelihood, property and freedom. Is this the type of world we want to live in? A world where bureaucrats with guns follow the orders of officials regardless of the outcome of those orders.

This mentality which has killed hundreds of millions is evident in everyday society and no one realizes it. The officer arresting someone for smoking weed and ruining that person’s life, is exemplifying the same follow the law mentality as the American soldier who followed orders to put 120,000 innocent people in enslavement camps. The officer who gives someone a tinted window ticket, exemplifies the same lack of property respect as the Russian soldiers who stripped Ukrainians of their land under Stalin’s rule (resulting in wide spread famine). The IRS agent who takes your money with the threat of imprisonment exemplifies the same mentality as the old school gangster that demands protection money or else. The uncomfortable truth is that leaders don’t kill millions, followers of the law do. Which one are you?

 

Trump Flips On Libya, Seems Set To Continue Obama’s Policy

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

Trump Flips On Libya, Seems Set To Continue Obama’s Policy

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

Buried in the news, somewhere under the tons of reports covering Donald Trump Jr.’s email exchange with Russians promising him damaging information on Hillary Clinton, was a report nearly ignored regarding Libya. The same Libya that was destabilized to utter ruin thanks to the policies implemented by President Barack Obama and his then Secretary of State Clinton.

After having claimed that he saw no role for the United States in Libya, U.S. officials are now saying that the President Donald Trump administration will soon announce a dramatic shift in policy, looking into not only appointing a new U.S. ambassador, but also putting more American boots in the country.

Libya

So what happened? After Clinton and Obama toppled Muammar Gaddafi, a power vacuum transformed Libya in fertile ground for constant conflict, despair, and misery. Now, Trump’s America wants to help, sending in boots to secure the “unity government” in Tripoli.

Adding more fuel to the fire, the operation would also send troops to Benghazi where a rival faction has taken over. With these ingredients in the mix, it’s hard to see how the U.S. ramped up involvement in the region won’t translate into more direct involvement, pitting U.S. forces against militants and terrorists in the region in the name of Libya’s new “official” government, which is the same faction that was once backed by Obama.

While the former administration offered the unity government the same support, helping them to fight off ISIS, the victory did nothing for Libya’s new government concoction. As a result, the country is divided and run by different powers, with Tripoli still under the care of the unity government.

If the current administration is serious about increasing its presence in the region, the U.S. may end up becoming a staple in the country, just like it did with Iraq. As such, whomever ends up taking the government of the country will also end up being a client of the United States.

Proving that Trump was never up to truly challenging Obama’s policies where it truly matters, the president is now doing the exact opposite of what he promised during his campaign.

He isn’t erasing the former president’s legacy, after all. Instead, he’s simply building on it, pursuing policies that repeat the same mistakes and rely on the same old and failed tactics.

With the U.S. continued involvement in Libya, resentment associated with our involvement in the country will only grow, giving terrorist cells in the broader region enough recruitment tools to continue growing their power over the region. If Trump wants to grow groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda-linked terrorist cells, he’s doing precisely what he should. In the process, he’s also sucking the taxpayer dry. Not the most austere — or prudent — of combos.

Thank A Bureaucrat: Baby Boomers Aren’t Leaving The Labor Force, Millennials Can’t Find Jobs

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

Thank A Bureaucrat: Baby Boomers Aren’t Leaving The Labor Force, Millennials Can’t Find Jobs

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

Early in 2017, the New York Times reported that the workforce is growing slowly as more baby boomers retire. Recently, economist Janet Yellen, otherwise known as the Federal Reserve System’s Chair, stated that another economic crisis is unlikely “in our lifetime.” Still, reports show that now more than ever, Americans of retiring age are choosing to forego retirement altogether. As these older Americans notice that Social Security and the meager savings they have accumulated over the years won’t be enough, they continue working.

boomer

But as young Americans leave college and find themselves stuck in part-time jobs that don’t even cover their student loans, baby boomers remain active. So, as a matter of fact, labor force participation hasn’t been falling thanks to older Americans finally retiring. Instead, young, fully capable and educated men and women are the ones who aren’t being able to find suitable work.

Don’t trust me? Look at the numbers.

Last quarter, Bloomberg reports, 19 percent of 70- to 74-year-olds were still working. In the same period in 1994, only 11 percent of people in that age group were still in the labor force.

Also, this past quarter, 32 percent of Americans between the age of 65 and 69 were employed. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 36 percent of people in this age group will be working by 2024. A huge increase from 22 percent of Americans aged 65 to 69 who were active in the labor force in 1994.

 If these numbers aren’t enough, consider that in a survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 79 percent of respondents said they expected to go into retirement while continuing to work. Workers aren’t even relying on retirement anymore as they struggle to save throughout life due to the high cost of living, high debt, and knowledge that Social Security alone just won’t do.

As you’ve read previously here at The Advocates, many young, educated Americans have already chosen to completely ignore their diplomas, going for occupations that are often available only to the low-skilled and poorly educated. As older Americans find it increasingly hard to leave the labor force altogether, expect an even greater number of young Americans failing to find gainful employment, especially in their areas. But instead of blaming baby boomers alone, remember what policies have paved the way for these discrepancies and who champions them.

 More government-backed student loans and easier access to loans and grants, ensuring everyone has a higher education, has always been a staple of the progressive agenda. One that has been thoroughly supported by… yes, Millennials.

As a result of the implementation of this kind of policy, the government created an inflated, artificial demand for a college education that would not be the norm if the state hadn’t decided that college is for everyone. Students, who are often just influenced by peer pressure, were led to believe that any degree was enough, and that they shouldn’t be taking a good look at the labor market before making a decision. The result? Too many Americans with useless degrees who will eventually settle for occupations that have nothing to do with their “calling.”

Unless government is removed entirely from the picture, this trend will only worsen.

Shouldn’t we intervene in other countries if we could save lives?

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

Shouldn’t we intervene in other countries if we could save lives?

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

Question

If we have the power to save lives by intervening internationally, which is the greater evil: imposing our will on others or the destruction of lives? Yes, it is correct that we tend to ignore civil strife in areas where we would either get bloodied or areas we don’t care about (like Rwanda), but should we intervene where we can do so at little physical cost if a net balance of lives can be gained?

lives

Answer

Ah, the age old question, ‘Can the ends justify the means?’ I’ve come to the conclusion that when we use bad means to obtain good ends, our efforts backfire every time. Rather than supporting a war funded with taxes, I chose to help the refugees.

Naturally, when you, as an individual, feel that you can do good by supporting a fight, you should follow your conscience by supplying your own time, money, and effort. If you force your neighbor who feels differently to participate, however, you’ll jeopardize your cause. After all, by using taxes to support the fight, you are first attacking your peaceful neighbors to save others from tyranny. You become the tyrant in order to save others from oppression. The contradiction should be obvious.

Many people applaud our entry into World War II as an example of how good (e.g., defeating Hitler) can come out of bad (e.g., taxes and the draft). With the advantage of historical hindsight, let’s see if this is an accurate description of what happened.

Hitler offered to let the Jews leave Germany if other countries would accept them. Few nations would alter their immigration quotas, however. If you visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., you can see a picture of a shipload of Jews being turned away from U.S. shores. They eventually had to return to Europe, where most of them were killed. Without the aggression of immigration laws, we could have saved the Jews without spilling the blood of our young men.

Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor probably wouldn’t have occurred without the aggression of a U.S. oil embargo, saving the lives of our servicemen there.

Hitler’s finest were already trying to assassinate him by the time the U.S. entered the war and probably would have succeeded eventually. Instead, the U.S. entered the war, took Stalin as an ally, and gave Stalin most of Eastern Europe. Stalin proceeded to kill millions, without offering to let them migrate elsewhere, making Hitler look benevolent in comparison. Those who survived these purges were forced to live in constant fear, poverty, and strife. Did our aggression against our own neighbors make war on tyrants save lives or take them? The body count suggests that our aggression cost more lives than it saved.

California May Soon Put An End To Unchecked Police Surveillance

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

California May Soon Put An End To Unchecked Police Surveillance

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

A bill introduced in the California Senate earlier this year that requires law enforcement agencies in the Golden State must get local government approval before deploying surveillance technology has just passed California Assembly’s Public Safety Committee. Now, it must pass the Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection by a majority vote.

surveillance

If this bill remains favorable among California lawmakers and it becomes law, it could mark the beginning of a new era for privacy advocates since privacy advocates in other states might be inspired by seeing advocates targeting law enforcement agencies that abuse their power in the local level.

The bill, SB 21, mandates that law enforcement follows a Surveillance Use Policy for surveillance technologies available for use. This document would also cover the type of information these technologies collect. Once agencies develop their own operational policy, they would then have to submit these documents to a local governing body for approval. A hearing that would be open to the public would then be scheduled, and if the agency’s plan isn’t adopted then officials would be barred from using that particular surveillance technology within 30 days.

The proposed legislation would also ensure that civilians have the ability to sue a particular law enforcement agency if officers violate the legislation.

Officials would also have to amend policies related to any new surveillance technology they acquire in the future, forcing agencies to subject the new system to the same approval requirements.

While so far the bill seems promising, one of the risks associated with having this piece of legislation go through yet another committee is the fact lawmakers may feel compelled to amend the bill enough as to make some provisions in it toothless. Since this move would make law enforcement agencies fighting this bill quite happy, it’s important that SB 21 passes as is for it to be effective.

In order to help push the bill through the California legislature in a clean fashion, Media Alliance, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California, and the Tenth Amendment Center are all pushing legislators to focus on the end goal, ignoring calls for watering down the bill coming from law enforcement interests.

As it stands, officials are allowed access to an enormous amount of access to a series of surveillance equipment without any significant oversight. As officials notice access to these tools may be restricted, forcing them to do actual investigative work to do their jobs, pressure mounts. So it’s no wonder that law enforcement unions and their lobbyists aren’t willing to give up on this fight so easily.

As agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) show they are willing to let criminals go so their surveillance methods are challenged in court, we can only hope this legislative effort remains strong, producing the end goal desired so that Californians’ privacy is protected.

Credit Union Wins Small Victory In Fight Against Federal Marijuana Prohibition

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

Credit Union Wins Small Victory In Fight Against Federal Marijuana Prohibition

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

Marijuana was legalized in the state of Colorado, nullifying the federal prohibitive rules regarding the substance, in 2012. But as the pot industry grew tremendously over a short period of time in the state, the feds found yet another way to restrict marijuana entrepreneurs.

marijuana

Since marijuana is still an illicit drug according to federal law, the banking industry found itself unable to provide services to marijuana businessmen and women. As a result, many entrepreneurs found it hard to have access to loans or even bank accounts to better manage their business.

Recently, a marijuana credit union was able to win a small but significant victory in the fight against the federal government’s control over drug policy.

Fourth Corner Credit Union had been barred from having access to certain services due to its willingness to do business with marijuana-related businesses. As a result, the institution was not allowed to open a Federal Reserve master account so it could provide banking services to customers. Now, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has annulled this decision.

Thanks to this move, the institution is now free to re-apply for the account. And, if denied once again, Fourth Corner may take the case to court once more.

While this isn’t necessarily a victory in the sense that it allows banking institutions to provide services to whomever they wish, it’s the first step in a long process to ensure that Colorado’s marijuana laws aren’t undermined by the federal government’s insistence in upholding laws that effectively impact Americans’ right to self-ownership.

As it stands, Colorado’s pot industry has functioned mostly on cash transactions. This causes problems for both consumers and entrepreneurs as many of these companies may feel that saving and managing their money is more difficult without having access to a banking account.

But Colorado isn’t the only state running into major banking problems thanks to the federal government. Business in Washington and Oregon are also facing problems as feds are the ones that regulate the banking industry.

Perhaps, if freedom and true liberty advocates are willing to take up the fight, the next step anti-drug war advocates should take is to embark on a new nullification effort that might help to decentralize banking in the United States. By default, if this effort is eventually successful, states could continue passing their own drug-related pieces of legislation, allowing entrepreneurs to have access to a world of banking options not available to them until then. Of course, any such fight wouldn’t be easy. But decentralization is key in promoting liberty.

As more states become freer than others on diverse fronts, Americans see incentives in moving. This is how “voting with our feet” happens.

 

Are We Really the Land of the Free?

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism by Advocates HQ Comments are off

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

If America was a corporation, its company slogan would most likely be “land of the free and home of the brave.” It seems every time a politician gets on stage he or she can’t help but mention how America is prosperous because it embodies this slogan. There’s constant talk about freedom, yet everywhere I look, I see a society that has to pay government permit fees in order to do…almost anything. Here are some common examples:

free

- In most states, it’s illegal to own a house unless you pay the government property tax every year

- It’s illegal to own a car unless you pay the government vehicle licensing fee every year

- It’s illegal to drive a car unless you take a government test and pay for a government license permit

- It’s illegal to have a passenger drinking alcohol in your car while you drive unless you pay yearly permit fees in order to have a government permitted transportation company (like a limo or executive transportation company)

- It’s illegal to educate yourself and become a lawyer unless you pay a fee and pass a government certified test

- It’s illegal to start a company and try to better your life unless you inform the city, county, and state in which you live of your business intentions and pay their yearly permit fees

- It’s illegal in California to cut hair for a living unless you pay for government permission and certification

- It’s illegal to get married unless you pay for a government marriage permit

- It’s illegal to hire someone to work for you unless you pay them at or above a government-set wage

- It’s illegal to build a house from the ground up unless you pay your local government permit fee’s which can (in California) easily add $50,000-$80,000 cost to your new home

- It’s illegal to replace the roof on your home unless you pay for a government permit

Is America truly the “land of the free,” or is everyone so used to permits that they don’t realize that the government is stealing our rights and selling them back to us?

Government Facial Scans Are Here, Here’s Why You Should Worry

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

Government Facial Scans Are Here, Here’s Why You Should Worry

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

What starts as “common sense” legislation often ends up opening up the gates for more government intrusion, putting the freedom and privacy of Americans at grave risk.

That’s what’s happening now as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s “Biometric Exit” program is starting to be used at airports in certain parts of the country.

government

Congress, decades ago, passed legislation pushing federal officials to take steps to track down foreign nationals as they entered and left the United States. The idea, born out of a perceived necessity to keep track of foreigners who overstayed their visas, soon became the basis for yet another idea. That’s when the thought of creating a database filled with scans of American faces came to life.

Without going to Congress or consulting the public, the DHS launched the Biometric Exit program. Slowly, the agency started implementing the scanning initiative, making American citizens and green card holders, as well as foreigners, have their faces scanned before embarking on certain international flights from both New York and Atlanta.

To kickstart this program, DHS partnered with Delta in Atlanta and New York and with JeBlue in Boston, making these face recognition scans mandatory when run by Delta and voluntary when run by JetBlue.

To those going through JetBlue, the company gives passengers the option of ditching the physical ticket altogether for a face scan.

Despite the different approaches, both of the systems already in use are just the start of something larger that could soon turn into a nationwide launch of Biometric Exit. As a result, everyone, both foreign and American, would be subject to having their faces scanned and their details added or matched to a federal database.

If this system becomes mandatory, the issues associated with errors could be a major headache for individuals on the receiving end of the extra scrutiny. With government goons taking the facial recognition tool much too seriously, a case of mistaken identity could put an absolutely innocent person at risk of being detained, while other, smaller mistakes, could cause passengers to miss their flights or spend extra hours at secondary screenings.

Aside from these potential issues, the very idea that the federal government would be collecting this information from anyone leaving the country raises questions regarding the constitutionality of these scans. After all, does the collection of information on innocent Americans without a warrant pass the Fourth Amendment test?

Many legal scholars say that it wouldn’t. So why is the DHS putting this in motion without Congress’ approval?

Well, quite frankly, because they can. As government grows larger and more intrusive, it also grows more certain it may operate outside existing laws that theoretically restrict them from infringing on people’s most basic rights. And that is the problem that must be addressed.

GOP Will Fail To Bring ACA Down Because Lawmakers Don’t Understand Economics

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

GOP Will Fail To Bring ACA Down Because Lawmakers Don’t Understand Economics

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

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has been slowly falling apart from day one. With President Donald Trump promising to repeal and replace the health care legislation once in office, he pressed both the House and Senate to pass legislation that “fixed” what was wrong with President Barack Obama’s signature legislation. But perhaps, that’s the problem: The idea that a piece of law can be fixed simply by passing more legislation addressing the same issues is nothing but a sham.

GOP

Access to health care can only be expanded, helping those among us with the most meager of means to be able to obtain the care they require, once all laws regulating health care and insurance are abolished, not reformed. Unfortunately, neither the Senate nor the House GOP’s health care bill goes as far as necessary to allow the health care market to heal completely from the failures brought about heavy-handed government intervention.

According to Senior Research Fellow and health care scholar at the Mercatus Center Robert Graboyes, the latest version of the GOP’s health care bill does nothing to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. As a matter of fact, he writes on Real Clear Health, the bill simply alters the law. Calling the changes proposed by the bill “arcane,” Graboyes says neither of the GOP’s last attempts at tackling Obamacare dismantle the law’s structure. Instead, he explains, the only thing both the Senate and the House versions of health care reform are able to eliminate is the individual mandate, lifting requirements that force all Americans to obtain health insurance or else pay a penalty to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Still, the Senate version of health care reform legislation is just as dependent on government spending as Obamacare, ignoring that access to care will only be widened once the private sector isn’t restricted by regulations brought about the very marriage of Washington, D.C., politics and health industry heavyweights.

Instead of trying to tackle the health care problems that were provoked by health legislation in the first place with more laws, it’s time lawmakers recognize that the only way people will obtain better and more affordable care is by allowing the market to heal. And for that to happen, legislators must get out of the way completely, letting the private sector come up with the answers.

As Ron Johnson writes for the New York Times, the private sector relies on root-cause analysis to pursue improvement and offer better solutions to consumers without losing sight of the “KISS” principle (“keep it simple, stupid”). Without getting out of the way, health care providers will not be able to adapt and patients will continue to suffer to obtain basic care amidst health insurance skyrocketing premiums. Is that what we want?

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

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

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

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

Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Kent State Teaches Us About Free Speech

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

What Kent State Teaches Us About Free Speech

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

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

Kent State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The First Amendment states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maine

That’s what Maine lawmakers have just accomplished.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hoosier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are private schools unfair?

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

Are private schools unfair?

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

Question

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

schools

Answer

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

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