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Without a National Government, Spaniards Have a Taste of Freedom

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

Without a National Government, Spaniards Have a Taste of Freedom

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

For the last ten months, Spain has had no official government in place. And apparently, Spaniards couldn’t be happier.

It all began when neither of Spain’s major parties was able to secure a majority of seats in the national legislature. Since these parties are also unable to agree on a coalition government out of disdain for their opponents, the country of 47 million people is being left with a caretaker government instead of an officially elected body.

SpainAccording to the New York times, locals are glad.

To Félix Pastor, a local language teacher, the situation has produced positive outcomes. After all, “no government, no thieves.” Ana Cancela, a civil servant, agrees. She adds that “[w]e already knew that politicians were corrupt, but now we also see that they can’t even make politics work.”

As Spain dealt with corruption and scandal throughout the last two administrations, the current situation is being welcomed by those who believe that powerful politicians do less harm when left out of power.

For the past 300 days, basic government services have continued to be funded, but in the meantime, no new legislation is being considered and infrastructure and other government-run projects are frozen. And, unlike pessimistic predictions, things are actually getting better, with interest and energy rates staying low, and the economic growth forecast showing a 2.9 percent increase by the end of 2016. According to the New York Times, that’s twice the 1.6 percent average for the eurozone expected by the European Commission.

According to the Mises Institute, this period has been important for Spaniards. Now, they are finally able to get a taste of how resilient a society can be when left alone, without the paternalistic presence of a higher body regulating every aspect of people’s lives.

Instead of chaos, the absence of a centralized power gave Spaniards economic growth, a strong tourism industry, and a safe haven for consumers, who are expected to reach Spanish shores in droves.

To libertarians, this experience should be celebrated — and shared — widely. Not just because Spain has been surviving remarkably well without a government in place, but because common Spaniards are also celebrating the current situation, instead of giving in to fear.

Speech Censorship Is Bad, Even If It Targets Terrorists

in First Amendment, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Speech Censorship Is Bad, Even If It Targets Terrorists

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

Censorship never works. Especially when it comes to speech that is considered offensive or criminal. Why? Because when individuals are given a platform where they may express themselves openly, they become more visible, giving others who disagree with their methods or philosophy an opportunity to spot them and stay out of their way.

TwitterBut when fear is at play, people tend to lose grasp of their emotions and what could have turned into a reasonable debate turns into a witch hunt.

As politicians and others urge companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter to crack down on users who identify as Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) fighters and sympathizers, encouraging these users to be banned from their platforms, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) admits that banning ISIS users from online platforms pushes them “to a place where they’re less able to proselytize broadly but more able to communicate in a secure way.” Meaning that, when users are blocked from Twitter, it makes it difficult for law enforcement to track them down.

Who would have thought?

According to Tech Dirt, intelligence officials are usually able to get good intelligence from paying attention to social media accounts from ISIS fighters. But in spite of what many consider to be a risk associated with how easily ISIS fighters are able to recruit by keeping active accounts on social media, Tech Dirt points out that nearly every single study on radicalization shows that online recruitment is not as effective as many would think.

Silencing users might help to keep social media websites “clean” from speech we find offensive, but instead of making us safe, it just pushes individuals who follow dreadful philosophies into the shadows, making it harder for us to spot them and keep an eye on what they are up to next.

When translated into enforcement, the banishment of users from online platforms only makes it hard for officials to track terrorists down.

As US officials continue to press private tech companies to open backdoors so that law enforcement is able to closely spy on American citizens, public pressure to ban offensive speech adds fuel to the fire, oftentimes giving officials reasons to lobby for the expansion of government’s spying powers.

Instead of allowing our feelings to speak louder than reason, we must always remember that what may seem as the best solution superficially might not produce the desired outcome. No matter how many times we implement the same policy.

In America, One Person is Arrested Over Pot Every 49 Seconds

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

In America, One Person is Arrested Over Pot Every 49 Seconds

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

While campaigning for president, then Senator Barack Obama claimed that the federal government should not use its resources to prosecute marijuana providers in states where the substance was legalized for medical use. But after promising to put an end to the previous administration’s raids on medical pot providers, the current administration went on a witch hunt, cracking down on medical cannabis providers so aggressively that it managed to outdo the George W. Bush’s administration’s war on pot.

PotCurrently, medical marijuana is legal in 25 states in America, but according to the FBI, 2015 saw 574,641 marijuana-related arrests, resulting in one pot arrest every 49 seconds. In nine out of ten cases, the arrests were carried out for possession, not production or distribution.

Accounting for 38.6 percent of the 1.5 million drug-related arrests in 2015, marijuana arrests happened more frequently than other drug-related arrests.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), only 19.9 percent of 2015 drug arrests were tied to heroin, and only 5.1 percent were tied to synthetic or manufactured drugs.

While the rate of marijuana-related arrests is still high, arrests have dropped 2.3 percent when compared to the data available 15 years ago, when 734,497 Americans were arrested “for marijuana offenses of which 646,042 (40.9 percent) were for possession alone,” the FBI reported.

Each year, taxpayers have to come up with $3.6 billion to enforce marijuana possession-related laws. And yet, ACLU reports, the drug war continues to be a failure.

Among many marijuana legalization advocates, the fact many states are gearing up to vote on recreational marijuana legalization is a major step forward. Nevertheless, the federal government is still reluctant to embrace the new trend, keeping marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance.

To Mises Institute’s Ryan McMaken, “state-level nullification efforts in the US within Colorado, Oregon, Washington State, and Alaska, have weakened the US’s ability to insist on prohibition,” allowing other states and foreign governments to begin looking at marijuana-related laws under a different light. Prior to this major state-level movement to legalize marijuana locally, the US government’s drug war had been the major igniting force behind the drug wars across other countries in the continent. As more states embrace freedom, the federal government — as well as other governments — may finally begin looking at legalization as a feasible policy.

Until then, however, the US involvement with the United Nations may help to slow down the worldwide legalization trend, mainly because of the UN’s 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which legitimizes the US drug war.

How Did We Get Here?

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

How Did We Get Here?

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

It’s 2016. We are 40 days from the Presidential election.

So, how did we get here?

As a country, we’ve abandoned hope, we’ve given in to fear, and we’re seemingly okay with it all.

CrossroadsA long time ago, the ideals of the American Dream went away. They were replaced by people “knowing what’s better.” They promised to fix the ills of society by giving them the ability to plan what you and I do.

As with any social change, it began with something small, limiting an act in the interest of “common sense,” or “safety,” or “the future.” Once empowered, they used fear to drive public opinion to their side, limiting more and more freedom. Those limits preserve power and control.

With each step “forward,” a little bit of freedom was lost. With each act by government, at the federal, state, and local levels, we lost a bit of the American ideal.

We’ve settled for asking for permission, rather than living our own lives as we see fit. When it comes to electoral politics, we’ve settled as well. We seek to be ruled by a “good king,” rather than finding someone who understands what freedom entails and only wishes for its acts to be to protect life, liberty, and property, leaving the rest for us to figure out ourselves, as individuals.

Today, you and I are more often asking for permission, instead of reaching solutions with and for ourselves.

On the bright side, no matter what happens in forty days, more people are looking for something different.

Every day, more are tiring of the same.

Every day, more people see what’s wrong with letting others plan their lives.

Every day, more people realize that freedom is easy.

We just have to act like it.

Do What You Say You’ll Do

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

Do What You Say You’ll Do

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

There are many approaches to summarizing libertarian philosophy, whether it’s “The Golden Rule,”rugged individualism, or the complete works of Ayn Rand.

doPersonally, I embrace Richard Maybury’s approach most, when he introduces two laws in “Whatever Happened to Justice?“:

  1. Do all you have agreed to do, and
  2. Do not encroach on other persons or their property.

I find that most libertarians handle the second of those laws quite well, as most of us subscribe to the non-aggression principle. Where we can ALL, libertarian and non-libertarian alike, use a bit of help is with the first.

Carl Jung is quoted as saying, “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”

What you do, or don’t do, is the foundation of your reputation to others. We’ve all heard that someone’s reputation precedes them, and a reputation can often tell others more about you that any words you may communicate. Keeping in mind that you might be the first libertarian someone has met, shouldn’t you be a shining example for who and what we are?

When we can’t live up to doing what we say we will do, we lose our credibility. Losing credibility is a deal breaker for someone trying to persuade others to examine libertarianism. It’s like putting a question mark at the end of every promise we make and every position we take. Would you really want to take a chance on losing that trust? We have many other things to overcome without having to rebuild credibility.

So, how can we make sure we live up to part of living a libertarian lifestyle and embracing #1 above?

First, don’t take on too much. Often, we see a void and we step up to fill it. As a former manager in the service industry, I realize that we often over promise and under deliver, but if we flip that, we can make sure we meet our commitments by setting reasonable expectations and wowing with our results. Switch to an “under promise, over deliver” approach and see the results of keeping things under control.

Next, honestly evaluate the level of effort or time necessary to do a good job meeting the commitments you make. Something may seem to be quick or easy on the surface, but it can really bite you when it’s more complex than you first thought. Being honest about what it will take, along with not taking on too much will help you to do what you say you’ll do.

Finally, when you can’t make things happen on the timeline you’ve set, make sure you you offer explanations, not excuses. Excuses are flimsy, and the real reason is often the better route, especially if it’s humbling.

Are you ready to do what you way you’ll do?

Pharmaceutical Industry Terrified Weed Legalization Will Put Them Out of Business

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

Pharmaceutical Industry Terrified Weed Legalization Will Put Them Out of Business

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

The opioid epidemic is a real issue in America. So much so that the U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch started telling young folks that marijuana isn’t really the problem. Instead, Lynch explained, legally prescribed medications are to blame for the increase in opioid abuse.

But while learning that the head of the United States Department of Justice has just argued that weed does not represent a real threat may sound promising, it’s important to remember that marijuana is still a Schedule I drug. Meaning that the federal government still sees marijuana as a substance “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

ManufacturingRecently, a group of marijuana legalization activists got an initiative known as Proposition 205 in the ballot in Arizona.

The initiative would allow Arizona residents who are older than 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in public. Prop 205 would also allow consumers to grow up to six plants at home, giving them the option to give other adults up to an ounce at a time of its produce “without remuneration.”

But with the good news came another discovery.

The group that, alone, donated $500,000 to the effort to oppose the Arizona marijuana legalization campaign, is a local pharmaceutical company known as Insys, and it produces oral sprays used in the delivery of an opioid painkiller known as fentanyl.

According to Reason, the same company is planning on marketing yet another device that would deliver dronabinol, a synthetic version of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC: The main mind-altering ingredient in cannabis.

When donating to kill the initiative, the company contended that its opposition to marijuana legalization is due to Prop 205’s “[failure] to to protect the safety of Arizona’s citizens, and particularly its children.” According to Reason’s Jacob Sullum, what Insys is truly worried about is “the impact that legalization might have on its bottom line, since marijuana could compete with its products.”

And why is Insys so concerned? Perhaps because a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health contends that, in states where marijuana use is legal to a certain extent, fatally injured drivers are “less likely to test positive for opioids.” Sullum adds that this finding, along with the results of other studies show that “making marijuana legally available to patients saves lives by reducing their consumption of more dangerous medications.”

The data analyzed by researchers comes from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). By looking at the data gathered from 18 states where 80 percent of drivers who died in auto crashes were drug-tested, researchers found that, between 1999 and 2013, drivers between the ages of 21 and 40 were half as likely to test positive for opioids where medical marijuana laws had been implemented.

In these same states, researchers found that painkiller prescriptions fell by 3,645 daily doses per physician. Researchers concluded that “the passage of the medical marijuana laws” are directly associated with “the observed shifts in prescribing patterns.”

As the industry begins to fear the consequences of ending the drug war, we begin to understand that their dominance over the market is mainly due to their rent-seeking practices, which keep their leaders close to lawmakers, helping the industry to exert enough influence to sway public policy in a way that benefits them.

Without the presence of a government body giving companies special protections while outlawing particular drug transactions, drug providers are able to compete freely and in the open, giving consumers better and safer options.

It’s time to finally put an end to the drug war and admit that, rent-seeking will never help the nation heal from all of the negative consequences of our country’s ongoing romance with crony capitalism.

How Egg Regulations Hurt the Environment — And Your Pocket!

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

How Egg Regulations Hurt the Environment — And Your Pocket!

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

Government has a way of making us all question our sanity. Especially when it comes to food regulations and its environmentally unsound consequences.

In many countries across the globe, the practice of washing eggs is seen as anti-hygienic. Because when egg producers wash fresh eggs, they also remove a layer of protein known as cuticle.

EggsThe cuticle is important because it prevents the egg shell from being porous. With a porous exterior, eggs are vulnerable to bacteria.

In the 1970s, regulators with the U.S. Department of Agriculture concluded that egg producers should invest in “fancy machines,” as NPR puts it, to shampoo eggs with soap and hot water. But once the eggs were washed, regulators added, producers should place them immediately in a refrigerator.

To justify the addition of yet another requirement for the egg industry, regulators claimed this step helped to avoid salmonella contamination. But washing the egg’s exterior does little to prevent contamination.

As NPR explains, the cuticle “is like a little safety vest for the egg, keeping water and oxygen in and bad bacteria out. Washing can damage that layer and ‘increase the chances for bacterial invasion’ into pores or hairline cracks in the shell, according to Yi Chen, a food scientist at Purdue University.”

Salmonella enteritidis often infects a chicken’s ovaries, which tends to impact the yolk before the shell hardens. The bacteria can be killed when consumers cook it. Washing the exterior of the egg does little to prevent contamination. As expected, salmonella continues to expose about 142,000 individuals to infections each year.

While many contend that washing the egg and refrigerating it or leaving the cuticle both work, only the method adopted by the United States government requires a great deal of electricity use to ensure the product’s safety. Considering only 10 percent of the total U.S. energy consumption comes from renewable sources, it’s hard to see why environmentalists are not urging government to nix this particular regulation.

But too much energy consumption is not the only negative consequence of egg-washing. The cost of purchasing an egg washing machine, the device’s maintenance, required labor, and the cost of electricity employed in maintaining the product shielded from contamination all add up, increasing the price of eggs and harming the consumer.

With reports showing just how salmonella is still a problem despite the regulatory requirements imposed on the egg industry, it’s hard to contend forcing all producers to wash their eggs is somehow productive. Especially when so much electricity is required to maintain the eggs refrigerated.

Why not try freedom for a change?

What Libertarians Can Learn from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism by Morgan Dean Comments are off

What Libertarians Can Learn from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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

Harry PotterAfter nine years, J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, decided she was not quite done with telling the story of ‘The Boy Who Lived.’ Released on July 31st, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child broke pre-order records for both Amazon and Barnes and Noble, the same year that we, as libertarians, are breaking records.

So, what can we learn as libertarians from the Harry Potter books? Gina Luttrell wrote at ThoughtsonLiberty.com an article discussing the overarching themes of libertarianism in the Harry Potter series as a whole, but with a new addition to the saga, there are new themes and ideas that we, as libertarians, can explore.

One of the main conflicts we see in the newest book is Harry’s son, Albus’ struggle to find where he truly belongs, both at school and in the world. He worries that the Sorting Hat will place him into Slytherin, instead of Gryffindor, the house of the rest of his family. Harry consoles him by pointing out that this doesn’t matter, that he will be loved regardless, and that The Sorting Hat will take his feelings into account.

This is similar to the struggle many of us have faced at least once, with a media telling us that there are only two political paths. Their aim is to push us to subscribe to one of their schools of thought, either a conservative or liberal viewpoint. It is important to remember there is more to politics than left and right.

Speaking as someone who formerly identified as a conservative from a conservative family, I can attest firsthand to the struggle of facing a change in philosophical identity after taking The World’s Smallest Political Quiz and realizing my values are different than I thought they were. I guess that is one way to find our “place”…The Quiz is almost like a Sorting Hat, huh?

As it has previously been discussed among libertarian scholars, Harry Potter is the perfect example of a libertarian. He values the ability to choose his own path, while fighting against the corruption within the Ministry of Magic. In previous books, the Ministry subscribed to similar ideas as the villains of the series, like ethnic cleansing, discrimination, violence, and secrecy. With a total lack of transparency, Big Government rules throughout the series.

In Harry Potter and the Cursed Child we see a very different Ministry of Magic, led by Hermione Granger, a character who has always been keen to follow the rules, but has proven time and time again that she is not afraid to deviate from them in cases of principle. We also see that Harry is serving as an Auror, or dark wizard catcher under Hermione.

So what can we take away from this shift as libertarians? Harry and his friends used to fight against the established government and their oppressive ideas, and now they ARE the government. Being a part of the libertarian movement means fighting corruption with freedom and openness, spreading the ideals of libertarianism as people become more open to it.

During this election year, I think we are experiencing a significant shift in the way people think. As people tire of the same two choices, and they get tired of Big Government ruling their lives, they are opening their eyes to libertarian ideals.

Libertarianism is more than just politics, yet we are seeing a shift in what drives people to throw their support behind a candidate. We have Gary Johnson and Bill Weld on the main stage, and although neither is perfect, they are representing new ideas that have never gained so much attention. Every day, we are changing the way people think.

So, let’s make sure we don’t forget that there is more than two options in politics. Let’s remember to stand strong on issues of morality. Let’s fight against an oppressive government.

Political discourse is changing.

Just like the beloved Harry Potter characters did, could we be experiencing a shift in the ‘political status quo?’ Let’s hope so.

Police Caught Framing Open Carry Activist at DUI Checkpoint

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

Police Caught Framing Open Carry Activist at DUI Checkpoint

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

As America discusses yet another deadly police shooting, the name Terence Crutcher becomes a “viral” hashtag. And as many argue that yet another hashtag won’t make a dent in helping to put an end to the systemic violence associated with law enforcement, Washington Post’s Radley Balko continues to report on all kinds of police abuse cases, bringing certain stories to light that seldom get any air time due to their less than dramatic developments.

open carry

According to Balko, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Connecticut filed a lawsuit against the local police on behalf of Michael Picard, an open carry gun rights activist.

Picard was targeted by the local police while he was protesting a DUI checkpoint in September of 2015. He positioned himself ahead of the checkpoint, holding up a sign that read “cops ahead, remain silent.”

ACLU of Connecticut Legal Director Dan Barrett explained that, as soon as the police was made aware of Picard’s silent and legal protest, state officers working the checkpoint approached the protester and proceeded to slap the camera out of his hand. As the officer carries on, believing the camera had been broken, Picard is searched.

As an open carry activist, Picard had been carrying a gun in plain sight all along, making it easy for officers to find it immediately. Nevertheless, the officer in question announces he found a gun as loud as possible. As the officers check his permit and run a check on his records, Picard picks up his camera, prompting the officer to say “taking my picture is illegal.”

Nonsense, Barett says.

As Picard debates the officer over his constitutional rights, the officer “snatches” the camera from Picard’s hands and places it on top of the police cruiser.

Thankfully, the camera was still recording.

What happens next is why Picard is now suing the Connecticut police.

According to the footage, three troopers are caught talking about what they should do next. As they see Picard’s permit is valid, they say “oh crap. … we gotta punch a number on this guy.” Meaning they should “open an investigation in the police database.” The officer then says, “we really gotta cover our a*ses.”

They proceed, discussing what to do about Picard without facts to back their story. During at least eight minutes, they attempt to get to a conclusion as to how better they will “cover their” butts.

At no time, Balko explains, did the cops think of giving Picard his camera back and telling him he was free to go.

Toward the end of this ordeal, the officers get to the conclusion of charging Picard with two criminal infractions: “reckless use of a highway by a pedestrian,” and “creating a public disturbance.”

Thanks to Picard’s camera, we know the officers discuss how to support the public disturbance charge until a supervisor comes up with a plan.

“What we say,” he tells the other officers, “is that multiple motorists stopped to complain about a guy waving a gun around, but none of them wanted to stop and make a statement.”

After filing a complaint that led to nowhere, the ACLU took on the case.

Regardless of where Americans stand on gun rights or law enforcement, Picard’s right to protest the checkpoint in peace while carrying a weapon should always be upheld.

The same way pulling over and reaching out to the police with your arms raised should not give officers an excuse to practice target shooting over your helpless body.

Change We Can Believe In

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

Change We Can Believe In

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

Obviously, we’re not talking about the campaign slogan from eight years ago.

We are at a point where the dynamics of media are changing. More media outlets, bloggers, instant LIVE broadcasts, and social media drive conversations outside the tightly controlled messaging we’ve seen in the past. Because of the “always on” nature of many of these developments, the way news is presented is changing… For the better.

ChangeWith the ability to break news at any time, how people interact is changing. Today, we know more about what’s happening throughout the world, rather than a narrative that can be controlled.

The Arab Spring probably would not have made the news stateside, had it not been for the images, thoughts, and reporting performed by those on the ground, with the American audience demanding to know more. The dynamics of media are changing, and while the established corporate media tries to hang onto everything they can control, alternative media continues to grow in influence.

These changes also mean that ideas are spreading faster and with a farther reach. Even in some of the most remote areas of the world, a couple touches of a smartphone screen or clicks of a mouse can bring you up to speed on the latest happenings in minutes.

Because of how easy it is to get information, we now see a shift in how ideas spread, with virality, openness, and trust overcoming traditional advertising avenues and the power of vast sums of money. The dynamic is shifting, and greater exposure causes that shift to occur faster.

What does this change mean for libertarians? In this new decentralized dynamic, our voice can be just as prominent. The walls that stopped us before are crumbling, as we now have nearly equal footing.

So, let’s take advantage of this opportunity. The more we discuss our ideas, the moral case for freedom, and what a free society looks like, the greater influence we have on the direction our world moves. We can truly work to change hearts and minds without meeting the barriers of the past.

Knowing this, what will you do for liberty?

Surprise! Black Families Love Choice, Too

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

Surprise! Black Families Love Choice, Too

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

In case you were wondering, school choice is popular. Especially among those who need it most.

choiceAccording to a survey released by North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, 56 percent of local black voters favor public charter schools, while only 24 percent oppose them. At least 59 percent of those who participated also claimed that they support the expansion of the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program. Twenty-three percent do not want to see the program’s expansion.

Traditional schools, which are burdened with the heavy weight of union-backed demands, often tend to perform poorly, especially when compared to the majority of charter schools and other institutions that are not government-run.

In The Origins of the Public School, Austrian economist Robert P. Murphy explains that traditional schools became widely popular once “inefficient ‘firms’” sought to influence public school leadership in order to “hinder competitors.”

Murphy notes that this incident is “common to all expansions of state power.” Adding that the defense of standardization of curricula and centralization of “the disbursement of public funds” toward public schooling originally came from those who “would benefit financially from such policies,” including trade unions, he argues that protectionism—not education—is what drives teachers to unionize and burden school systems with their demands, sacrificing productivity for wages.

By becoming closer to the business of policymaking, teachers unions saw the removal of children from the labor market and the elimination of potential competition in the education industry as the only way to secure their position. By targeting poorer families who could not afford to put their children in private institutions, these groups succeeded greatly, demanding government to have more influence in the education of American children.

Murphy continues:

The Protestant schools were losing ‘market share’, and turned to government to pad their budgets and restrict the actions of their chief competitors, the Catholic schools. In other arenas, people can quickly see through such self-interested ‘altruism’. When a corporation clamors for an import restriction on foreign competition, most observers agree that it is acting to increase its own profits, not to protect the public from ‘dumping’. Why then do most people accept at face value the humanitarian justifications offered by the advocates of state education when such a bureaucracy confers immense wealth and power in the hands of an elite?

The idea of school choice is often attacked by groups claiming to speak on behalf of the oppressed and undereducated, and yet evidence shows that choice is what makes it possible for families in underprivileged situations to achieve greatness.

Whether you agree or not about the amplification of school choice through the charter or voucher systems, the fact minorities are benefiting from the addition of private elements to the schooling system is important. Unlike prohibitionists, families who struggle to provide their children with proper education see value in school choice because they live it.

If the education business hadn’t become a government business, choice would be the norm. Until freedom is restored in full, let’s celebrate those who have discovered—on their own—that freedom is always the best choice.

Drug Prices Are High Because Government Protects Monopolies

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

Drug Prices Are High Because Government Protects Monopolies

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

Ever since the EpiPen scandal hit the public like a ton of bricks, many outlets contended that greed, not cronyism, was to blame.

pillsBut when looked closely, EpiPen is just another example of corporate influence and lobbying shaping public policy. The ones who benefit are always the same individuals who pressed for changes in the first place.

In an article for the Fiscal Times, Mercatus Center’s Marc Joffe contended that the drug price problem could be fixed by targeting the Food and Drug Administration. But not by giving the agency more regulatory power. Instead, Joffe argues that, stripping the agency of its power would do America a world of good.

In the article, Joffe tells the story of how the FDA obtained its power, noting that it was a morning sickness pill that prompted the nationwide support for the Kefauver Harris Amendment, which “gave the [FDA] most of the power it now exerts in regulating drugs.”

As the FDA expanded its power, regulating every single piece of medication in America, drug prices increased considerably, while access to many life-saving drugs remains restricted. To Joffe, the “drug crisis” we now face as a nation has everything to do with the empowerment of the FDA, prompting the scholar to urge lawmakers to look at the free market for a solution if what they are truly after is to lower drug prices.

In a competitive market, Joffe writes, “price equals the marginal cost of production.” But even in an imperfect world, he contends that, when “prices [are] well above production costs,” firms see an incentive to compete. But if markets are restricted and companies are granted exclusive rights to produce and sell certain drugs, firms are unable to compete. Without competition, monopolies set the rules, making way to high costs and low effectiveness.

In his article, Joffe argues that, if Congress is serious about helping patients from all walks of life, they must stop considering the idea of passing laws to expedite the FDA’s approvals for new drugs. Instead, Joffe writes, “[allowing] multiple organizations to approve drugs, providing competition to the FDA … [or allowing] pharmaceutical companies sell whichever medications they believe to be safe and effective — with the understanding that patients can win large judgments if the companies fail to produce and market their treatments responsibly,” would both be better options that would deliver better, and more effective results.

Freedom, after all, is the answer to most of our problems. And that’s why governments often contend the opposite.

What Would It Take To Make You Leave Everything Behind?

in From Me To You, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Brett Bittner Comments are off

What Would It Take To Make You Leave Everything Behind?

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The actions that could lead one to leave everything behind is the central theme discussed by Oliver Stone’s newest film, “Snowden.”

Framed by the June 2013 release of information to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewan MacAskill, along with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, the film takes us on a course of a young man enlisting in the Army Reserves, being discharged after an injury, and moving on to a series of information security positions both inside and contracted by the CIA and the NSA.

LeavePrior to the screening, a special message from Oliver Stone spoke to the danger to privacy that our smartphones create, a theme made quite prominent in the film. Stylistically, Stone really drives home the point by including the privacy invasion in his directorial vision to depict the dragnet being run on the entire world by the American government.

Those of us who know the story of the whistleblower/dissident/patriot/traitor will appreciate the way in which the film chronicles his journey through the CIA, as an NSA contractor, and finally, as the person who exposed the extent to which the American government collects data both domestically and abroad. More importantly, the story will offer those who aren’t as aware of what occurred a dramatic look at his story, especially the “why” behind his actions to expose the federal government’s actions.

A theme present throughout the film was about how the surveillance and data collection did not present as a means to safety or security, rather an opportunity to exert control, both economically and socially. Whether in his time in Geneva in the CIA, or as a contractor for any of the other alphabet agencies, the use (and misuse) of access and authority passed by legislation exemplifies the danger of giving authority over from one’s self to another.

Ultimately, the connections we make with others when we communicate our thoughts, actions, and even our deepest secrets are what can be held against us, should the time come that we are to be a pawn. The merging and sharing we do make us feeling, connected, empathetic human beings. We crave the attention, as well as to give it.

In real life, Snowden exposed that we, through our lives, thoughts, and actions, are simply sitting in a database somewhere in a rack inside a data center, waiting to be looked at, manipulated, and controlled. In the film, Stone helps explain that to an audience that may not understand the full extent that exposure affects us all, whether libertarian, conservative, liberal, centrist, or even authoritarian.

Good Cop Fails to Kill Innocent Man, Gets Fired

in Capital Punishment, Criminal Justice, Issues, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Good Cop Fails to Kill Innocent Man, Gets Fired

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

Police abuse is a real issue. Not because all police officers are corrupt, but because government institutions and its members respond to incentives. Just like us.

If an officer is given blanket authority to act only with his best interest in mind while under the guise of public security, personal responsibility is no longer part of the job. Without personal responsibility at play, individuals are no longer worried about the consequences of their actions.

Police CarWhile the cases of misbehavior among officers are often more popular in the media, cases of officers actually acting responsibly seldom make it to the front pages. But a story on The Washington Post has just changed this picture.

According to the publication, the police chief in Weirton, West Virginia has fired an officer for not killing someone.

The report originally comes from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. And according to the original news story, the incident that led to the officer’s employment termination happened on May 6th.

Then-Weirton police officer Stephen Mader was called to respond to a domestic incident. While attempting to handle the situation responsibly, Mader found that the man he was confronting was armed. Mader, who had been trained as a Marine, made the decision to look at the “whole person” in order to decide what to do next. Instead of shooting, Mader decided to use a calmer tone, noticing that the armed man was not pointing his gun at him.

The officer then proceeded to ask the man to put his gun down, but instead of doing so, the man answered by saying: “Just shoot me.” When the officer said “I am not going to shoot you, brother,” the man started flicking his wrist. According to the officer, he thinks he did that to get him to react.

He knew then that the man didn’t want to hurt anyone. Instead, he wanted to commit suicide.

When responding to the call, Mader learned that the man’s girlfriend had reached to the police, claiming that the man was attempting to kill himself.

According to Radley Balko, the writer of the Washington Post article, Mader’s reaction was “a lot braver course of action than simply opening fire when the suspect doesn’t immediately disarm.” When in crisis, he added, this is the type of attitude you expect to see coming from an officer. The trigger-happy trend, after all, is not the type of attitude that comes from a person who is thinking about the consequences of their actions.

In his article, Balko stated that what Mader did is exactly the type of work officers claim to experience on a daily basis: Putting their lives in danger to save lives.

And yet, as Mader was handling the situation safely, two other officers showed up at the scene, and ended up shooting the man dead as a result.

After the tragic killing, officers found that the victim’s gun wasn’t loaded. And while officers were not able to know that for a fact before the shooting, it proved that Mader had done the right thing by using what he learned from his training. The victim hadn’t been a threat to anybody, except himself. The situation Mader encountered was, indeed, a suicide-by-cop situation, but instead of following Mader’s lead, the other officers didn’t think twice before putting an end to the man’s life.

Once it was all said and done, the Weirton police department put an investigator to look into the shooting. According to Mader, when he tried to return to work on May 17 after following protocol and taking some time off due to his involvement in the shooting, he was asked to talk to Weirton Police Chief Rob Alexander. But instead of being honored for his efforts, Alexander told him that he would be placed on administrative leave.

The reason why? He had put two other officers in danger, despite the fact that he had assessed the situation correctly, unlike his colleagues.

On June 7, he received a termination letter that stated that the fact he had failed to shoot the victim meant he had “failed to eliminate a threat.” That was why he was being let go.

Unfortunately for Mader, he won’t be getting his pension, even though he didn’t hurt anybody. Meanwhile, countless others who are under investigation for actually killing innocents continue to receive their pensions, even after being dismissed from the force.

After looking for legal help, he noticed that his fight against the city wouldn’t produce any desirable outcomes, since he was a probationary employe in an “at-will” state, meaning that he could be fired for any given reason.

While many officers who are considered “bad apples” are able to quickly find work at other agencies, Mader hasn’t been able to find employment in his area. The Afghanistan veteran has two small sons and is now studying to get a commercial truck driving license to support his family. He told reporters that he would still take a job in law enforcement, the problem is that nobody seems to want to hire him. ​

How Regulations Helped to Kill the Blackcurrant Berry Market in America

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

How Regulations Helped to Kill the Blackcurrant Berry Market in America

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

It’s no secret that regulations are used as tools by rent-seeking firms in order to keep competitors off the market. But when US regulations restrict the production of items for long periods of time and for no apparent reason, it’s often hard to bring the same items back into particular communities.

FruitThis happened with the blackcurrant berry, which has impacted Skittles, the fruit-flavored sweets that are both produced and marketed by the Wrigley Company.

In the United States, the purple Skittle tastes like grape. But anywhere else, including the United Kingdom and Australia, the company uses blackcurrant to produce these pesky purple pieces of candy. Outside of the country, everyone knows what blackcurrant is. But in America, many haven’t even heard of the powerful fruit.

What many also don’t know is that blackcurrant berry is not widely known in America because of a regulatory black hole.

For many years, growing the sweet and tart berry in the United States was outlawed. Since the early 1990s, farmers were forced to drop the production, but it wasn’t because there wasn’t a demand. Instead, the policy was embraced after legislators learned that the berry bushes could act as a vector for white pine blister rust, which could destroy the wood. That was a problem for lumber producers, and the berry was outlawed.

While in the 1960s the federal government loosened restrictions, allowing states to set their own rules, a few have kept the ban in place. Nevertheless, most states now allow farmers to grow the berry. Regardless of the policy change, the decades of obscurity made Americans remain unaware of the very existence of blackcurrant berry. The fruit, which is widely popular in Europe, is seldom found anywhere in the United States.

One man’s journey to formally decriminalize the fruit in New York started in Germany, where he ran a restaurant in the Bavaria region. Coming back to New York, Greg Quinn lobbied local lawmakers, helping overturn the ban on growing the fruit. Ever since 2003, Quinn has been growing blackcurrants in Hudson Valley, and now counts with at least 10,000 bushes in his backyard.

Ever since the very first moment he learned about the berry, he knew he alone had to help reintroduce the flavor back to the American palate.

As his brand of juices and concentrates start to slowly hit the market, many cocktail bars and restaurants appear to like the products, but the flavor is so foreign to Americans that the product is often seen as a tough sell.

Until blackcurrant berries are popular in America again, one can only hope that this story will help others to think twice before supporting more restrictions in the future.

What are rights?

in Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

What are rights?

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

Editor’s Note: This was written to introduce the idea of rights to the Young Statesman.

What are rights? There are two types or rights: Negative rights and positive rights. If you’ve ever heard the Ten Commandments, you’re familiar with Negative Rights. Thou shalt not…. Negative rights make you refrain from encroaching on the person or property of another.

RightsThou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Or as Libertarians like to say: Do not encroach upon the person or property of another. Simple, no? These rights don’t require you to Do anything. Only to refrain. A negative right essentially protects you from the encroachment of another person, a group, and the State. The negative right tells you that you can expect not to be subject to violence or coercion.

Negative rights are based on the idea of ownership. You own yourself and you own your property. No one has the right to infringe upon your life or your liberty or your property because they properly belong to you. For a negative right to be violated, one person, group, or State must encroach upon another. (Thou shalt not kill apparently doesn’t apply to tornadoes or earthquakes so if you’re killed by a tornado we don’t say that your rights have been violated.)

If you’ve ever heard someone argue that all people have the right to healthcare, education, food, shelter, or clothing they were making an argument for Positive rights. Positive rights make everyone responsible for providing one another with goods, services, and resources. Positive rights negate the principle of ownership. Every single argument for Positive rights without exception, no matter how kindly intended or reasonable, is an attack on self ownership and property.

Positive rights are based on the principle that we do Not own ourselves nor do we own our property. Therefore access to the property and person of another without their consent–theft and servitude–is fair and reasonable.

Positive rights require that you Do something. This is a violation of the principle of self-ownership. If I own myself, I am not required to Do anything at the behest of another. A Positive right guarantees the encroachment of another person, a group, and the State against your person and property. You will be subject to violence and coercion if you violate the right of another to your labor and property.

Constitutionally, the preservation of Negative rights is the purview of the State. Negative rights are ancient and history has shown that despots violate them first by claiming the ‘general welfare’ or ‘common good’ is being served and after establishing that the people will tolerate their breach they will do away with them in all but name.

Learn By Doing

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

Learn By Doing

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

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

He’s right! The best way to learn is to get involved, and just do it.

learnWhile reading books, watching videos, and listening to speeches can deliver a positive learning experience, I learn best by doing.

On top of that, there is nothing more motivating than my being told that I can’t do something. In that, I’m sure that I’m not alone.

Ten years ago, I’d never stuffed envelopes for a candidate or a political organization, let alone run for office (or won re-election). The majority of what I learned didn’t come from books, videos, speeches, or seminars. It came from “getting my hands dirty” in the actual work necessary to achieve something in the political realm.

Whether we’re talking about planning outreach events, executing political rallies, strategizing for campaigns, or general knowledge about politics beyond where to vote, I found the most useful knowledge came when I followed Nike’s advice and just did it.

Were there stumbles along the way? Sure.

Real-world experience, however, trumped anything I’d read, seen or heard, because I was learning by doing. I didn’t have the biases and handicaps of others, because as I worked to forge my own way, I researched best practices from a variety of sources. Often, those best practices found themselves at odds, depending on the source, so examining them without the distortion of a lens helped me find the best path.

As libertarians, we are often hear that we can’t win an election, influence public policy, or that we’ll move society in a libertarian direction. When I hear things like that, I’m motivated to prove them wrong. Thus far, I’ve done all three.

What can you accomplish if you just do it?

We Are Changing Lives

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

We Are Changing Lives

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

Not to exaggerate things, but life-changing moments happen every day. With every interaction, we act in a way that can change someone’s life. We have the potential to use this for a variety of outcomes, whether positive, negative, or neutral. The best part is WE influence the outcome.

When we consider that we might be the first libertarian those we encounter ever meet, we have an opportunity to make an awesome first impression.

ChangingAs libertarians, we should embrace the opportunity to change people’s lives for the better. We can open others’ eyes to a world where peace, prosperity, and liberty thrive, rather than living in the shadow of a government that dictates to us our lives and actions. Do you remember how your life changed when you embraced libertarianism?

So, how can we share that experience with everyone?

We can change lives by making a positive impact on everyone we meet, and this doesn’t happen strictly at outreach booths. It isn’t even hard to accomplish. The key is being aware that every interaction is potentially life-changing and acting accordingly to make each of them positive for others.

When we adopt a mindset that we are ambassadors to libertarianism with everyone we meet, we are always “on.” That mindset shift to make a positive impact attracts people to you, and you can be a shining example to them of what it means to be a libertarian.

This approach not only augments our outreach beyond scheduled events, we create other ambassadors for our actions as they are attracted to us. By building relationships with those we attract, we can also add the fun of fellowship to the mix. A fun-loving, positive group of people engage others and bring more into their circle. That growth breeds further growth, and a cohesive, attractive group of people will continue to grow in their size and influence.

As our peer groups grow in this manner, we’ll continue to add more libertarians to the fold. In turn, that means a more libertarian mindset as we continue toward the critical mass necessary to impact society as whole, going beyond our pockets here and there. We’ve built quite a movement, and we need to continue it’s growth, winning over hearts and minds to bring about a freer society.

As we’ve discussed before, libertarianism won’t suddenly catch on, taking hold all at once, with one election or one law being passed, like you might flip on a light switch. While the light of liberty shines bright for you and me, there are many for whom it’s quite dim.

Let’s turn up the dimmer switch to brighten their lives too.

Former Felons Could Benefit from Free Markets Too

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

Former Inmates Could Benefit from Free Markets Too

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

For too many former convicts, life after prison is hard. Oftentimes, quite impossible. That’s why most of those who are given a second chance end up going back to jail.

But to this 35-year-old, his second chance came in the form of a local restaurant manager who was not scared of government’s formal tagging of felons.

Applebee'sAfter his release in 2011, Marcellus Benbow was struggling to find a job. He told reporters that, at the time, he was doing odd jobs, hoping to avoid going back to a life of crime while looking for a full-time opportunity. As he struggled to find a steady occupation in order to gain custody of his two oldest daughters, he also found no sympathy from potential employers.

That all changed when he answered an ad on Craigslist.

As soon as he met with the general manager at Apple-Metro, the New York franchisee of Applebee’s, both men hit off. That was it. Benbow had finally scored full-time employment with the company as a broiler cook.

“Applebee’s saved my life,” he said.

Now, Benbow is an assistant kitchen manager at Applebee’s Fordham Road location in the Bronx. He could soon be getting a promotion, taking the role of kitchen manager. He was lucky that his current employer was not afraid of his past, but many in his position aren’t as lucky.

In America, felons are required to disclose whether they have spent time in jail. But even if they don’t disclose this information, background checks help potential employers learn more. In many cases, non-violent felons are seen as a threat by employers who prefer to hire someone else, spurring a wave of discrimination suits against business owners.

The result is quite concerning.

The estimated unemployment rates among ex-prisoners are between 25 and 40 percent, despite the federal incentives some get by hiring felons. But laws that have helped to create so many non-violent criminals are still in effect. Instead of urging Congress to review some of these laws, namely the drug war and other pieces of legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act, many advocates for equal employment opportunities blame companies alone for their refusal to hire felons.

Recently, the often feared tycoons known as the Koch brothers announced they would stop asking potential employees about their criminal record. According to Koch Industries’ general counsel, Mark Holden, and Charles Koch, the decision came about after leadership noticed that overcriminalization had been affecting “us all but most profoundly harms our disadvantaged citizens.”

At the time of the announcement, both men penned an op-ed that asked the question: “If ex-offenders can’t get a job, education or housing, how can we possibly expect them to have a productive life?”

Instead of forcing employers to change, advocates could see a real change in the country’s employment environment by just pushing Washington to focus on real criminal justice reform.

Drug War: CO Residents Treated as Criminals in Neighboring States

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

Drug War: CO Residents Treated as Criminals in Neighboring States

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

Colorado was the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana. But while freer drug markets have also helped to boost other aspects of Colorado’s economy, issues associated with other state-run agencies were never fully addressed, mainly how law enforcement’s long-lasting love affair with targeting drug users and dealers hasn’t really changed.

Traffic StopEver since recreational marijuana was made legal, Tech Dirt reports, law enforcement agencies in neighboring states inched closer, considering any road coming out of Colorado a “drug corridor.”

Due to this approach to drug-related law enforcement, several unconstitutional stops and seizures have been taking place at the borders surrounding Colorado.

Recently, one of the incidents in which out of state officers attempted to send innocent travelers to jail turned sour—for the Kansas police.

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a traffic stop carried out in Kansas was unconstitutional because the driver involved did not commit a crime by traveling from a state where marijuana is legal. After all, Tech Dirt adds, “it isn’t against the law to conspire to perform an act that is legal in another state.”

The incident that prompted the court’s decision involves Peter Vasquez. Originally, Kansas Highway Patrol officers claimed they pulled him over because his vehicle’s temporary tag was unreadable. But moments after his tag was verified, officers launched an expedition to find out whether the Colorado resident had any illegal substances in his vehicle.

While Vasquez was in the car, one of the officers told the second agent that Vasquez was “notably nervous,” urging the officer to “get a feel for him” to see “how nervous” he was. Once the second Kansas officer returned, he allegedly said Vasquez was “scared to death.” After checking Vasquez’s insurance and noticing he had added two new cars to his policy, one of the officers assumed Vasquez had been transporting illegal drugs. That’s when the K-9 unit was called.

During a quick interrogation, officers learned Vasquez owned a boutique, and that the newer car he had bought was given to his girlfriend. Once Vasquez told the officers he was moving to Maryland, they urged the driver to disclose the location of his belongings. Vasquez answered that he had already moved most of his belongings.

After issuing Vasquez a warning, officers continued to pressure him to give them consent to search the vehicle. But the attempts were fruitless. As a result, the officers decided to consider his stand was enough to prove Vasquez had something to hide.

Because one of the officers believed Vasquez was “probably involved in a little criminal activity,” they arrested him.

Once the dog was summoned, it failed to bark at anything in the vehicle. Nevertheless, cops went further, searching the vehicle on their own anyway. They also found nothing.

After the ordeal was finally over, Vasquez sued the Kansas Highway Patrol officers over their illegal search.

In their defense, officers involved claimed that the fact Vasquez was driving alone at night in a “known drug corridor” made him a suspect of taking part in illegal drug activities. Officers also claimed that, the fact Vasquez’s back seat “did not contain items” the law enforcement duo expected to see “in the car of someone moving across the country,” and the fact he seemed nervous, where all reasons for them to arrest him.

Thankfully for Vasquez, the judge ruled the officers’ conduct unreasonable and unconstitutional.

While this is a victory for this one individual, it’s disturbing to learn that law enforcement agencies see residents of a state where marijuana is legal as “instant criminals.”

When looking for what the drug war has accomplished over the years, look no further. Officers now consider anyone from Colorado a potential suspect. Even if drugs aren’t involved. That, and that alone, is what the drug war has produced.

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