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HAIL Yes! You Can Win Others to Libertarianism

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, One Minute Liberty Tip, Philosophy by Sharon Harris Comments are off

HAIL Yes! You Can Win Others to Libertarianism

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

It’s not enough to speak about liberty. You want to be heard. Understood. Remembered. Appreciated. And you want your ideas, whenever possible, to be accepted.

HandsIn his TED talk “How to Speak So People Want to Listen,” renowned communication expert Julian Treasure talks about four pillars of communication that are essential for powerful outreach – particularly when your goal is to change the world.

It’s marvelous for libertarians. Here are his four pillars, along with a brief discussion of how they apply to communicating libertarian ideas:

1. Honesty. Honesty, of course, means telling the truth. The importance of this when sharing libertarian ideas cannot be overemphasized.

Being honest includes being sure of your facts. It can be tempting to use a “factoid” or meme just because it sounds good or is funny. But check the sources and verify that the information is true. (Remember this wisdom from George Washington’s First Inaugural Address: “Just because something is on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true.”) In addition, be aware that even if something is technically true, it can still be misleading – also a form of dishonesty.

Being honest also includes saying “I don’t know” instead of pretending you know something you don’t. Pretending knowledge can backfire badly. Admitting that you don’t know everything (in other words, that you’re a human being), and offering to follow up with additional information, wins friends and provides future opportunities for discussions.

Note that being honest doesn’t mean being cruel. You don’t need to share any negative feelings you may have about someone else’s ideas.

2. Authenticity. This is similar to honesty. The word means “being real or genuine, not copied or false.” To me, it means being yourself, being true to yourself. Authenticity is powerful.

In communicating your ideas, use your own words, ones that are comfortable and natural to you. This doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel: in the libertarian movement there are invaluable resources for soundbites and well-written answers to questions. (For example, be sure to read Harry Browne’s Liberty A-Z and Mary Ruwart’s Short Answers to the Tough Questions.) Many of these soundbites can be easily used just as they are — that’s what they’re for. But if they don’t sound like something you would say, rewrite them to fit your own style.

Being authentic also means sharing yourself with others. Don’t hesitate, while discussing libertarianism, to add to your discussion other things that interest you. You will have better conversations, and other people are more likely to also share with you in turn – increasing rapport and giving you a better opportunity to directly address their concerns.

3. Integrity. To have integrity means to be consistent with your principles and values.

To me this means not supporting or advocating policies that are counter to libertarian principles. It also means continually practicing and learning to effectively share and communicate the full libertarian vision, rather than a watered-down version, in ways that are appealing and inspiring.

Having integrity also means being true to your word, keeping your promises, admitting your mistakes. It means being trustworthy. Reliable. Showing up on time. Be aware that when speaking to non-libertarians you represent the libertarian movement and other libertarians. Be a good ambassador for the movement.

4. Love. We all know what love is, but we may not always practice it in our political discourse. When we include love, we enhance the three traits above. We show respect for others, we practice the Golden Rule. Mr. Treasure puts it nicely when he says that in loving communication we truly, genuinely wish the other person well. When we do, the other person knows it, and this makes all the difference.

Each of these four pillars are powerful separately. Together they create an awesome synergy.

You’ll notice that the four words create an acronym: HAIL. As Mr. Treasure points out, the word “hail” means “to greet or acclaim enthusiastically.”

What a great way to treat people! And since most people tend to treat others the way they are treated, the reaction you will get will most likely be a very friendly one.

And in the current political culture of anger, screaming, attacking and all-round incivility, what better way to show a marked contrast between politics-as-usual and the glorious message we libertarians have of real market solutions, civil liberties, and peace for all.

P.S. I go into these ideas in more depth in my book, How to Be a Super Communicator for Liberty.

The Solution to Detroit’s Corruption Scheme is Less Government

in Issues, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues, News You Can Use by Comments are off

The Solution to Detroit’s Corruption Scheme is Less Government

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

Certain municipalities in the United States look a lot like South America these days.

According to a CBS affiliate, the public school system in Detroit is facing bribery and fraud charges associated with some of its current and former principals.

DetroitTwo months ago, ex-principal Kenyetta Wilbourn Snapp—also from Detroit—pleaded guilty after being accused of pocketing a $58,050 bribe from a local vendor. She was sentenced to 46 months in prison. Paulette Horton, a 60-year-old consultant, also admitted to being part of the scheme. She allegedly played the part of the middleman between Snapp and other contractors and vendors seeking to seal deals with Detroit’s public schools.

The most recent corruption case involves 12 principals, a school district vendor, and an administrator. They are all being accused of participating in corruption schemes involving payments in exchange for exclusive contracts between businesses and public schools.

The legal charges were brought against the educators by the federal government. US Attorney Barbara McQuade, along with other FBI and IRS officials, made a public statement about the case on Tuesday. During the press conference, she claimed that the corruption case is a “punch in the gut.”

If the legal charges tied to the latest corruption case stick, suspects would be implicated in a nearly $1 million bribery and kickback scheme.

Detroit Free Press explains that the legal ordeal revolves around Norman Shy, a 74-year-old businessman who’s being accused of paying $908,500 in kickbacks and bribes to 12 Detroit Public School principals. These same schools used Shy as their school supply vendor for the last 13 years. The exclusivity deals with Shy helped him milk $2.7 million from Detroit’s public schools over the years. According to prosecutors, Shy kept the contracts going thanks to his personal transactions with school principals.

Recently, Michigan legislators passed a bill securing $48.7 million to the Detroit Public School (DPS) system, ensuring local schools wouldn’t run out of cash. To Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter, a Republican from Mt. Pleasant, the state should pass “strong financial and academic reforms” as “a part of any long-term solution to decades of DPS failures.” But unless the root of corruption is unmasked, and legislators finally admit that the very existence of government regulations is why corruption continues to take place, any reform will only lead to a momentary—and feeble—solution.

In a piece for Mises.org, David R. Henderson explains that “the reason so much corruption occurs in government is that government officials hand out so much in the form of subsidies, tax breaks, permits and regulatory exceptions.” Having power to make decisions for others while nobody’s watching makes corruption more likely to occur. To Henderson, this is the main reason why “private corruption often occurs in corporate purchasing departments.”

If federal prosecutors and Michigan legislators are serious about tackling this issue and putting an end to corruption, they must first focus on putting an end to favoritism. And the only day of accomplishing that is by reducing government grant giving.

Fixing Detroit’s corruption disease will involve a great deal of courage, especially when you consider that the government would have to relinquish control over the economy and education so the incentives are removed from the equation. As Henderson explained, the “sure cure for corruption is to reduce or even eliminate official power over the economy.”

Lawmaker Targets Burner Phones Over Terrorism, Ignores Unintended Consequences Tied to New Restrictions

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

Lawmaker Targets Burner Phones Over Terrorism, Ignores Unintended Consequences Tied to New Restrictions

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

As politicians in Washington DC continue to wage what the late author Gore Vidal called an “idiotic” and “eternal” war on terror, more lawmakers refer to anti-liberty measures to crack down on potential terrorists at home.

Phone A bill known as Closing the Pre-Paid Mobile Device Security Gap Act of 2016 seeks to require consumers looking into buying prepaid burner phones to register and provide identification. Requirements would make it impossible for consumers to purchase the so-called burner phones without providing personal information upon purchase. According to Tech Dirt, the bill’s timing may have something to do with reports claiming that burner phones used by Islamist extremists helped them to evade law enforcement.

Democratic congresswoman Jackie Speier, the same lawmaker who introduced the proposal in Congress, called the prepaid phone “loophole” an “egregious gap in our legal framework.” According to the lawmaker and others who support the bill, allowing consumers to purchase anonymous phones helps terrorists and criminals.

This is not the first time Washington DC has targeted regular consumers in their fight against an abstract enemy. Recently, legislators targeted encrypted phones after reports claimed terrorists had used encryption to evade law enforcement. The encryption reports were later debunked.

According to Tech Dirt, the current proposal doesn’t provide a great deal of information on how legislators want to tackle the burner phone issue. But while the bill’s text remains a secret, the proposal has already been referred to three House committees.

If Speier’s proposal is passed by both the House and the Senate and it ends up making it to the president’s desk, customers would have to always provide their personal details to retailers whenever they purchase a burner phone. But what Tech Dirt writers claim is that, even if the law were to pass, it would do little to keep terrorists or criminals from providing their personal information. Instead, Tech Dirt argues, criminals would continue doing what they have already done in the past by using straw purchases or buying directly from resellers.

Much like the debate about background checks for gun purchases, the idea of forcing retailers to request extra information from prepaid phone consumers is likely to backfire, pushing criminals further into the dark. Another potential consequence of passing this law would be that the poor will be the first to suffer.

Too often, low income consumers choose to purchase burner phones because of credit issues or simply because they do not have the identification requirements needed to open an account with a phone service provider. A burner phone law change would end up inflicting further difficulties on those who are already suffering greatly. Furthermore, boosting restrictions could also push the price of these affordable phones up, which will also end up hurting the poor.

If lawmakers are serious about spotting criminals and targeting them—not common and innocent Americans who may not feel comfortable releasing their personal information in exchange for a cheap cell phone—this bill should be tossed. Quickly.

America’s Ally is Decimating the Yemeni Population, What’s Behind the Silence?

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

America’s Ally is Decimating the Yemeni Population, What’s Behind the Silence?

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

Saudi Arabia, a United States ally in the Middle East, has been leading a heavily interventionist policy in Yemen for the past year. The war between factions claiming to represent the Yemeni people has led to a “catastrophic” crisis in the region, but Saudi Arabia, along with America, have played important roles.

Airstrike So far, over two million people have been displaced from their homes while countless others lack access to basic services and necessities such as water and food. According to The American Conservative’s Daniel Larison, most of the damage caused by war over the last year in Yemen is due to Saudi Arabia and their allies.

Prior to the military intervention, most Yemenis depended on humanitarian aid. As the war deepened, their needs have only grown. As aid groups struggle to help in any way, they are also faced with challenges brought about the blockades placed and enforced by Saudi Arabia since 2015. While both the United States and the United Kingdom governments have allegedly attempted to persuade the Saudis by urging them to change their tactics, Saudi officials continue to have access to American weapons.

In 2015, the United States sold $33 billion in weapons to Gulf allies, including Saudi Arabia. According to the State Department, the deal between the US government and Saudi Arabia allows Saudi officials to purchase everything from attack helicopters to ballistic missile defense systems, despite the fact Saudi Arabia continues to uphold a blockade that is effectively decimating the Yemeni population.

At the moment, about 19 million people in Yemen lack access to water and sanitation while over 14 million Yemenis also require urgent health services. Out of the 14 million Yemenis requiring medical attention, at least 2 million are children, pregnant, and lactating women who are also malnourished.

As Saudi Arabia continues to uphold the blockade while targeting insurgents, Yemen slips into a much greater crisis. In the meantime, America remains complicit. Not only because it has been virtually silent over the past 12 months, but also because it continues to sell heavy weaponry to the Gulf state.

As the same administration that claimed to have a “responsibility” to protect Libyans turns a blind eye to the crisis in Yemen, the Saudis are effectively starving Yemenis to death.

In an article for the Cato Institute, A. Trevor Thrall and John Glaser argue that America should distance itself from Saudi Arabia, especially after the Yemen civil war began. “Yemen,” the authors begin the article, “is the latest U.S. foreign policy disaster.”

According to the Cato report, Saudi Arabia’s “ruthless” military campaign in Yemen has been enabled by the United States from the get-go.

The initial conflict started when Ali Abdullah Saleh, a long-time US-Saudi ally, was overthrown. Following the deposition, Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi became the president of the transitional government. Hadi was the only candidate on the ballot and he counted with the support of both the United States and Saudi Arabia. In 2014, however, Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels launched an insurgency, taking control of the capital city, Sanaa. Once Saudi Arabia started a bombing campaign in March of 2015 to contain the Houthis, Glaser and Thrall write, the civil war “morphed into an intractable proxy war.”

Since the Saudis see the Houthis as Iran proxies, the United States’ nuclear deal with Iran may seem as stab in the back to Saudi Arabia. According to the Cato scholars, “U.S. officials have apparently felt obliged to reassure Saudi Arabia by supporting its war in Yemen.” In light of these issues, we must ask ourselves: Why is America still supporting Saudi Arabia while also calling for the removal of Bashar al-Assad in Syria?

What Makes Sense?

in Conversations With My Boys, Education, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty by Comments are off

What Makes Sense?

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

Editors Note: If not for homeschooling, BA would most likely not get the individualized attention that he needs in a regular, public school.

BA (9) is on a quest for full-on literacy: reading, writing, spelling, grammar, vocabulary. He won’t get there like YS (14) did. He’s been trying that way around for almost five years now.

WritingHe’s constantly working on sequencing, motor planning, working memory, motor coordination, timing, pacing, and all the procedural learning strengthening activities he can juggle. All day long. Crossing the mid-line, agility ladder, strengthening his core and upper body, piano for finger strength, writing over top of my writing to get the motions into his muscles, metronome work with large muscles and singing and reading. Drilling letter pairs, faster, faster, faster.

We’re seeing changes in a lot of areas. But not in writing. We’re using a lovely font that worked beautifully for our older son and me. BA has been at it for two relentless months.

No change. None.

He still writes bottom to top, his curves and connections are still highly problematic. He has to use too much of his attention creating the letters to focus on anything else. He can’t take notes this way. He can’t write a paper this way. He can’t write a letter this way.

Me: Do you think the writing is working?
BA: No. It’s not any easier.
Me: (Showing him an impromptu drafting-style lettering.) What about this?
BA: (Immediate relief in his voice.) That looks much easier. That’s how I would write. Look, see? (Writes me his alphabet.) That’s how I want to make letters. The other way doesn’t make sense.
Me: We’re not going to do the other way again. We’re going to use letters that look like this. Upper case will be big and lower case will be small.
And that. Is that.

Innocent Grandma In Hospital After Botched Police Raid

in Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Comments are off

Innocent Grandma In Hospital After Botched Police Raid

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

In what may as well be the hundredth time this type of incident happens, a grandmother from Chicago, Illinois went through the scariest moments of her life when a police officer broke down her door unexpectedly while searching for someone else.

The 82-year-old ended up in the hospital after the scare.

GrandmaAccording to Washington Post’s Radley Balko, the great-grandmother from Chicago claims police raided her home while searching for a man she wasn’t acquainted with. In an interview for ABC News, the 82-year-old Elizabeth Harrison said the police “were there with the guns drawn: ‘Put your hands up! Put your hands up! Put your hands up!’” They asked for a “young man that they were looking for. And they would not take no for an answer that I didn’t know him.”

As officers explained Harrison and her family they could file a claim to have the poor old lady’s door fixed, the man officers had been looking for walked right up to them, telling the inefficient policemen that he lived at 126, not 136, Harrison’s address.

Despite finally catching the suspect, officers didn’t even take him into custody, claiming there wasn’t enough evidence for an arrest.

After the incident, the elderly woman was rushed to the hospital where a doctor is now monitoring her heart due to the frightening encounter.

In his article, Balko claims that this is not the first time this type of accident happens.

In 2014, a botched New Hampshire drug raid resulted in the shooting of another grandmother. No charges were brought against the federal agent and the victim survived. In 2010, another grandmother was surprised by federal agents in another botched drug raid. She survived the encounter, but her dog wasn’t as lucky.

During a 2014 police raid in Virginia, a 75-year-old grandmother was restrained, even as she told officers she had nothing to do with their investigation. Officers initially broke down her door and accused her of selling drugs. Despite the fact investigators never found anything on her, the grandmother said officers never apologized for what they did.

While these examples all involve botched raids that did not result in fatalities, the story of a 57-year-old grandmother from Harlem doesn’t have the same happy ending. In 2003, the New York Times reported that a botched raid in Harlem resulted in the death of Alberta Spruill. She had done nothing wrong and the city later paid her family $1.6 million for the mistaken raid.

From the New York Times piece:

“The settlement was notable not so much for the amount as for the speed with which it was reached. It came a mere five and a half months after Ms. Spruill, a longtime city employee, died of a heart attack induced by the use of the grenade in a no-knock raid on her apartment, which the police had been told was used by a drug dealer. At the time, the drug dealer was already in custody.”

The family of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston was also paid millions after their grandmother was killed in a botched November 2006 drug raid but the family of an 84-year-old grandma from Texas whose life was also taken during a police raid, weren’t as lucky.

What House of Cards Gets (Very) Wrong

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Taxes, Trade & Tarrifs by Comments are off

What House of Cards Gets (Very) Wrong

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

Sandy Ikeda, a professor of economics at Purchase College, SUNY, and the author of The Dynamics of the Mixed Economy: Toward a Theory of Interventionism, wrote about why everyone’s favorite TV show is wrong on its portrayal of an economic crisis. In his article for the Foundation for Economic Education, Ikeda argues that, while House of Cards is a major hit among political animals, whether they are progressive, conservative, or libertarian, its portrayal of welfare policies and shortages is extremely unrealistically.

Gas CrisisIn the third season of House of Cards, ficticious president Frank Underwood proposed a major policy program known as “America Works,” a policy that intended to “create” millions of jobs. Despite the superhuman goals tied to the policy, the real-world consequences of such endeavor were never even questioned, leaving a lot to the imagination.

But as Americans binge-watch season four, Ikeda points out to another faulty portrayal of public policy and its consequences. This time around, the show’s writers failed to grasp what a gas crisis actually looks like.

During the fourth season, the show introduces the audience to Underwood’s America, where an ongoing oil crisis threatens Underwood’s popularity among voters. The audience is told to believe that gas prices have soared, nearing the $7 a gallon mark. Yet any “astute first-year econ student” will tell you that this is very unlikely, at least in a country in which price controls haven’t been enacted—yet.

According to Ikeda, if buyers and sellers are free to adjust prices, gas stations all selling gas for $7 a gallon is a fabrication. “In the absence of price controls,” Ikeda writes, “the quantity demanded and supplied will tend to be equal.” That means that markets won’t have any unexpected inventory accumulation, since most of the oil will be sold, but it will also suffer no shortages, since consumers who are scared by the high prices will simply walk away, empty-handed.

To Ikeda, the scenes depicting long lines of angry drivers waiting at gas stations while these same stations are shown running out of gas are completely unlikely to occur in a real world scenario.

Ikeda adds that, the only thing that could actually cause America to experience something similar is the implementation of a price ceiling, making it illegal for gas stations to sell gas above a certain price.

In the 1970s, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) flexed their monopolistic muscle by pushing oil prices up dramatically. The long lines and rationing in America that followed OPEC’s actions weren’t caused by the artificial price increase. Instead, price control policies that affected gasoline and diesel fuel prices led to the consequences often tied to what we now call the “oil crisis.” Many ignore the fact that President Richard Nixon had imposed wage and price controls on the American economy prior to the incident, and what followed was chronic shortage everywhere, not only at the pump.

While Underwood’s line about the government having “all the men with guns” may be of great inspiration to liberty advocates everywhere, the show’s ignorant remarks on economics may disappoint some viewers.

Why didn’t Netflix use an economic consultant?

US Gov’t Targets Public Employees With ‘Whistleblower-Like’ Characteristics

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

US Gov’t Targets Public Employees With ‘Whistleblower-Like’ Characteristics

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

The United States government may be looking for the “next Chelsea Manning,” a report from The Guardian argues.

ManningAccording to documents obtained by the UK newspaper, disgruntled employees, egomaniacs, and the office “door mat” are all potential whistleblowers under the ever watchful eyes of the US government.

In what many call a witch-hunt, the US government is allegedly placing all public employees under surveillance in order to spot individuals with characteristics that match Chelsea Manning’s profile. According to the government’s own standards, individuals with motives of greed, too much ego, or who experience financial difficulties may become whistleblowers. Employees who are “disgruntled,” or who appear to have “an ideology,” or a “divided loyalty” are also potential risks to the government.

According to Manning’s article, even employees with “any family/personal issues” should be closely watched for potential problems.

As Manning pointed out, anybody holding a security clearance may, at some point, be labeled as a potential threat if officials are trained to single out individuals by looking for the characteristics listed above.

The 31-page document reviewed by The Guardian was originally obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request placed by Chelsea Manning, the former United States Army soldier-turned whistleblower who became famous for leaking information on the US government’s actions in Iraq.

A video leaked by Manning and released by WikiLeaks in 2010 shows two American helicopters firing on a group of ten men, including two Reuters employees who had ben photographing an American Humvee under attack. The footage also shows helicopters firing at a van that had stopped to help the victims of the previous attack. Children inside the van were injured while their father was killed.

Months after Manning was arrested over violations of the Espionage Act, the National Insider Threat Task Force was created, and officials involved with the agency were given the task of deterring threats to national security by anyone “who misuses or betrays, wittingly or unwittingly, his or her authorized access to any US Government resource.” According to Manning, this gives the task force broad powers, resulting in “total surveillance.”

The 2011 “Insider Threat” program that followed Manning’s arrest, or what many call “modern-day McCarthyism,” also teaches officers to spy employees presenting what they believe to be deviations of sexual orientation and gender identity, characteristics that match the government’s profile of Manning.

As the country watches in horror what is now unfolding in Brussels after the deadly terrorist attack that killed over 30 innocent civilians, this report gets buried by the news cycle. With both Republican and Democrat candidates competing to show the county who’s the toughest on foreign policy, liberty advocates like former congressman Ron Paul argue that the American voter will be much more likely to urge government to do more after the Brussels attack, putting both of our safety and liberty in jeopardy.

Under a hawkish administration whose plans include expanding our presence in the Middle East, programs like the “Insider Threat” will be the norm. But can increased surveillance bring us safety?

History shows that the answer is no.

Make America Kind Again

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

Make America Kind Again

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

We’ve all seen the slogan by a certain Presidential candidate, telling us that voting for him will make America great again.

I’m not particularly interested in the America he’s described in debates, rallies, and in the media.

Make America Kind AgainI’m more interested in being kind to others. I’m more interested in others being kind in turn. I’m most interested in the proliferation of kindness.

What if we were more friendly, generous, and considerate? Would we find ourselves to be easily achieving the libertarian ideals of peace, prosperity, and harmony?

More importantly, would we be happier? Thomas Jefferson recognized that we have “certain unalienable Rights,” Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Wouldn’t we be the ones to set the example?

To continue interacting, whether in the marketplace or in personal relationships, all parties would have to benefit from that interaction. Peaceful, voluntary interactions enshrined in libertarian philosophy go hand in hand with being kind. After all, who wants to deal with someone who isn’t?

How likely would you be to continue to patron a business where everyone was unpleasant or unkind? Would you willingly submit to being treated in an unfriendly, stingy, or inconsiderate manner?

Think about who needs force and protection to stick around. It’s the business that can’t earn your patronage without regulations or protection of their monopoly. How do you think Comcast is still around?

Would those who sought to segregate people by ethnicity fifty years ago or more have been able to do so without the government enforcing Jim Crow laws?

Let’s take this moment in time to pair our libertarian activism, outreach, and persuasion with being kind and see where that takes us. We will certainly set ourselves apart from those wishing to use force to proliferate their ideas, and we’ll have more pleasant conversations and relationships as we do it.

Kindness doesn’t cost a thing, so sprinkle it everywhere.

College Holiday Party? Better Skip the Props

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

College Holiday Party? Better Skip the Props

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

Ah, today is St. Patrick’s Day. In college towns across America, students are probably skipping class to drink and attend parties while dressed in every green piece of clothing they own.

SombreroShamrock glasses and “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” tee shirts are usually the norm for St. Patrick’s Day party goers. But, as holidays come and go, traditional shirts and accessories could be another opportunity for college administrators and perpetually offended student protesters alike to bypass free expression rights as part of a misguided effort to prevent offense and hurt feelings.

Case in point, a tequila-themed birthday party at Bowdoin College caused quite the uproar a few weeks ago due to guests wearing…tiny sombreros.

When photos appeared on social media of the party and its guests, the entire campus took action.

Bowdoin administrators sent multiple school wide emails notifying the students about an “investigation” into a possible “act of ethnic stereotyping.”

A few days later, the Bowdoin Student Government unanimously adopted a “statement of solidarity” to “[stand] by all students who were injured and affected by the incident,” and recommend that administrators “create a space for those students who have been or feel specifically targeted.” The statement deemed the party an act of “cultural appropriation,” one that “creates an environment where students of color, particularly Latino, and especially Mexican, students feel unsafe.”

A week later, BSG introduced articles of impeachment against two student representatives that attended the party. However, impeachment proceedings were postponed until further notice by the BSG President, Danny Mejia-Cruz, and then later rescinded.

As for the rest of the others? According to The Bowdoin Orient:

“They will participate in an educational program facilitated by a faculty member, attend Active Bystander training and write a letter or paper on these experiences—other aspects of their punishment seem arbitrary. They were forced to move out of their room in Stowe Hall and relocate to doubles in Chamberlain Hall and they are banned from Ivies and Spring Gala.”

However, on the very same night of the “tequila party,” Bowdoin held its annual, administration-sanctioned “Cold War” party. Students wore fur hats and coats to represent Soviet culture and one referred to herself as “Stalin,” making light of a particularly painful era in Slavic history.

What makes one party deserving of school sponsorship while participation in the other will get you kicked out of your dorm room? The mixed messages are even more troubling considering an event last year in which the university provided students and alumni with sombreros and other hats and props for a photo booth. Those photos are still available on the school’s public Facebook page.

It is concerning that Bowdoin can argue that these “tequila party” attendees should have known better than to treat sombreros as silly props if the administration itself didn’t either.

23 Million!

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

23 Million!

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

Add Friday, March 11, 2016 to the history books!

23 Million!The World’s Smallest Political Quiz broke the 23 million mark for the number of times it’s been taken online since its placement on the Internet in 1995.

While the Quiz has seen many iterations, both analog and digital, it is still the best tool out there to quickly and accurately examine the political tendency of its takers. The results give you a great place to start discussing issues as you work to persuade them to embrace a more libertarian philosophy and outlook.

A bit of history about the Quiz:

  • 1969 – David Nolan created the “Nolan Chart,” at the time, a new look at the political spectrum beyond the “Left–Right” line, which measures political thought along a one-dimensional line, into a two-dimensional graph, measuring degrees of economic and personal freedom.
  • 1971 - Nolan introduced the chart in an article for the January issue of The Individualist entitled “Classifying and Analyzing Politico-Economic Systems.”
  • 1987 – Advocates founder, Marshall Fritz, designed the 10 question quiz to accompany the Nolan Chart, along with other refinements. The Quiz originally appeared in card form, and is still available in that form today.
  • 1993 - Brian Towey produced a full-color, instant-scoring computer Quiz on disk, for DOS and Windows. Shortly thereafter, programmer Jon Kalb created a similar version for Macs.
  • 1995 – Our first website Self-Gov.org, hits the Internet, with an interactive version of the World’s Smallest Political Quiz. To our knowledge, this is the first political quiz online.
  • 2004 – Printed versions of the Quiz topped 7 million.
  • 2013 – The Quiz reached 20 million online administrations.

 

Do you have a favorite aspect of the Quiz? Have you done something neat with it (Did you know I once gave it to a panda?)? Share your outreach and Quiz stories with us.

 

Want to Fight Income Inequality? Enact Extensive Regulatory Reforms

in Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, Monetary Policy, News You Can Use by Comments are off

Want to Fight Income Inequality? Enact Extensive Regulatory Reforms

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Many praised Vice President Joe Biden for talking about the “enormous concentration of wealth” in the hands of “a small group of people,” but to Mercatus Center’s economists and researchers Patrick A. McLaughlin and Laura Stanley, the comments seem out of touch.

BarberWhile politicians from both major political parties often refer to income inequality as an issue that must be combatted, anti-poverty policies are mostly ineffective. In order to further their agenda, many of the politicians who promise to “do something” about the inequality problem often resort to higher tax rates and higher minimum wage policies once they get elected, making it even harder for uneducated and inexperienced individuals to make a living.

Being oblivious about the unintended consequences tied to minimum wage policies and higher taxes, researchers and economists from the Mercatus Center say, is what keeps our economy growth sluggish, and our poor from lifting themselves out of poverty.

Instead of repeating the same mistakes by passing more inefficient policies, free market advocates believe that there’s only one policy that will solve the so-called “inequality” problem for good: regulatory reform.

According to a Mercatus study released recently, regulation can be related to income inequality.

Researches argue that erecting barriers to entry ends up discouraging entrepreneurs at the bottom rungs of the income ladder to start a business. What researchers also found is that countries with more restricting entry regulations have higher levels of measured income inequality. Restrictions to entry makes the higher share of income go directly to the top 10 percent of earners, which is why regulatory reform is so important.

Occupational licensing and other policies that prolong the permitting processes are great examples of barriers that increase the cost of doing business. As a result of the enactment of these policies, low-income earners find it hard to join the market.

According to another recent study, the quality of service provided in many areas seldom changes when licensing is introduced. Currently, all states require licenses from truck drivers, pest control applicators, and even cosmetologists, making it harder for individuals to enter the market without a permit. In some states, even florists need a license to do business. With so many barriers, it’s no wonder low-income individuals prefer to steer away from these occupations, mostly because the cost of entering the market is too high.

While workers in the United States face fewer restrictions to enter the market when compared to several other countries, the regulatory cost of doing business is still too high. If America is serious about putting an end to income inequality, researchers argue, we must put an end to entry regulations that keep entrepreneurs from entering the market legally, not enact more barriers whose unintended consequences are bound to create even more inequality.

Utah Resolution Claims Pornography is a ‘Health Crisis’ — Lawmakers Want to Handle it Like Tobacco

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Utah Resolution Claims Pornography is a ‘Health Crisis’ — Lawmakers Want to Handle it Like Tobacco

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Small government and libertarian advocates often like to poke fun at the nanny state. Now, it just got easier. According to Fox News, the Utah House of Representatives has just passed a resolution that declares pornography a “public health crisis.” The resolution is causing quite the uproar, especially among people who are concerned about the potential ramifications.

CigarettesAccording to S.C.R. 9, “pornography is a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and social harms.” Representatives who authored the resolution state in the document that there’s a “need for education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level,” which must address the “pornography epidemic that is harming the citizens of Utah and the nation.”

While the resolution is nonbinding and is incapable of effectively banning the production or consumption of pornographic material, the fact lawmakers came together to bring this to light seems somewhat unsavory. Especially when you consider the limited role the legislature should have in the private lives of citizens.

“Society must see this evil like the epidemic it is,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a supporter of the resolution and member of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “We do need to see this [pornography] like avian flu, cholera, diphtheria or polio, … It needs to be eradicated.”

To Sen. Todd Weiler, a sponsor of the resolution, pornography is “a serious issue.” To the legislator, we must not “pretend that this has no impact on our values and on our society and culture.”

His goal with this resolution is “to start a national movement to do the same thing with pornography—not to ban it, but to protect our children from it.” Seeing Internet providers change their policies in order to adopt an opt-in solution to the pornography issue—much like Great Britain providers already do due to government pressure—is one of the ideas Sen. Weisler would like to see implemented in America. So shouldn’t this pressure come from consumers instead?

While claiming pornography is a public health crisis may seem odd to many of our readers, this isn’t the first time prominent groups make such claims.

In November of 2015, the US Bishops’ Conference condemned the damage of pornograpy during the group’s Fall General Assembly, calling it a public health crisis. While leaders of the Catholic church appear to agree with Sen. Weiler in character, their actions were never interpreted as an effort that could lead to a legal ban or restriction.

According to an article on Utah Political Capitol, what Utah lawmakers may be trying to do in the long run is to restrict pronography through the development of policies that would make pornographic material less accessible to consumers. In other words, handle pornography the same way we handle other “vices.”

“We recognized as a nation a couple of decades ago that tobacco was addictive and it was harmful,” Sen. Weiler told the House Health and Human Services Committee last week. “We didn’t ban tobacco. What we did instead was we changed our approach in order to try to protect children from tobacco,” an effort that Weiler wants to repeat by urging lawmakers to deal with “pornography … more like tobacco and alcohol.”

According to Heartland Institute, “sin taxes” and other efforts to discourage individuals from consuming products deemed “harmful” are discriminatory, and often represent a disproportionate burden to lower- and middle-income people. If Utah decides to take that path, effectively applying “sin taxes” to pornography, history shows us that consumers will end up relying more on the black market for their needs.

Is that an effective way to keep our children away from products deemed “unhealthy?”

Snowden: Bulk Data Collection is Ineffective, Promotes Insecurity and Oppression

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Snowden: Bulk Data Collection is Ineffective, Promotes Insecurity and Oppression

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As the country watches the battle between the FBI and Apple unfold, former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden uses his notoriety to bring attention to the surveillance problem publicly.

During an interview with the Spanish TV channel Sexta, Snowden gave his two cents on the subject, extending his commentary to the realm of bulk data collection and why it never works.

SnowdenDuring the interview, Snowden claimed that what Washington D.C. believes to be the most effective way to deter terrorists doesn’t pass the smell test.

“In the wake of the revelations of mass surveillance,” Snowden explained, “[US] President [Barack Obama] appointed two independent commissions to review the efficiency of these [surveillance] programs, what they really did and what effect they had in combating terrorism.” What they found, Snowden continued, was that none of the surveillance programs carried out by Washington “stopped a single terrorist attack and never made a concrete difference in a terrorist investigation.”

When looking into how the CIA and NSA have violated the US Constitution for ten years by snooping on Americans’ private communications without ever producing warrants, Snowden continued, “we must ask ourselves: Was it ever worth it?”

With news showing surveillance programs are used for purposes other than fighting terrorism, it’s difficult to ignore the whistleblower’s claims. Especially since the current administration seems unwilling to put an end to its ineffective programs.

Nowadays, bulk data collection is “more aggressive and invasive” than ever before, Snowden told Sexta. “Law enforcement and intelligence structures do not any longer bother to pick up a suspect and hack his cell phone, they cut into all lines and communications” instead. To the whistleblower, this is a clear violation of innocent people’s rights, since federal agents attack the “heart of the society” instead of following tangible evidence.

The debate revolving around privacy and bulk data collection often misses the importance of privacy in a free society. Something that Snowden likes to revisit often. During the interview, he explained this angle of the debate by reminding the reporter that “it is no different from saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say, … There are rights that provide value to you even if you’re not actively engaged in them in that moment.”

Currently, Americans are struggling to identify exactly what is and isn’t the best way to go about the surveillance subject. As the public is bombarded with divisive, autocratic rhetoric tied to the presidential campaign, many become oblivious, ignoring their surveillance-related concerns.

Understanding that existing tools like the Internet will always be abused by criminals, and that the federal government is incapable of keeping tabs on what citizens are doing at all times is all part of the problem. Famed economist F. A. Hayek talked extensively about the knowledge problem, explaining that the importance of knowledge of individual circumstances is often minimized by state officials, and the results are often bad to freedom since central planners like to claim they know just what they need to do to solve whatever problem is at hand.

Much like economic problems, which often become much worse as government intervention gets a boost, more surveillance has the same effect, forcing criminals to take part in even more obscure communication methods in order to remain untraceable. The unintended consequences are seldom discussed, but it’s the American individual who pays the price.

If Snowden and many other privacy advocates are right, the federal government’s efforts against terrorism could benefit greatly from a privacy-centered policy. After all, sacrificing freedom in the name of a false sense of security makes us both less safe and less free.

Wouldn’t It Be Nice…

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

Wouldn’t It Be Nice…

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Last Friday, I had surgery for the first time.

Don’t worry… It’s nothing major, and I’m back at work already. Kinda.

The pain from the incisions and the stitches, both internal and external, is the worst part. To help me manage it, I was prescribed a narcotic painkiller.

In addition to pain management, I was warned about the nausea that often follows anesthesia. The opiates did nothing for me in that regard, and I spent virtually the whole trip home with my head out the window to combat the nausea I experienced.

Unfortunately, I live in Indiana, where legislators are slow to accept that cannabidiol, a compound found in marijuana, can be used to alleviate pain in place of opiate narcotics, as I was prescribed.

Cannabidiol can also alleviate nausea. With the prospect of vomiting being among the worst things that could happen after abdominal surgery, it would have been great not to worry about it.

The side effects of the opiate I was prescribed include lightheadedness, dizziness, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, drowsiness, constipation, headache, mood changes, blurred vision, ringing in your ears, dry mouth, and difficulty urinating. My biggest struggles are with concentration and train of thought.

When I take them, I don’t have the ability to follow the plot of a sitcom. Seriously, I wanted to binge-watch the 4th season of House of Cards during my downtime, but I wasn’t able to concentrate on the 6 episodes of Fuller House (and mindless sitcoms backed up on my DVR) that I watched instead. I’ve also found that I am likely to be trying to have a conversation, only to trail off mid-sentence and be unable to complete the thought or return to it.

Wouldn’t it be nice if my doctor and I could find the BEST way to manage my post-op pain and nausea without the concentration issues that may have made this post unintelligible?

Do You Think for Yourself?

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Do You Think for Yourself?

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Me: What time did you wake up this morning?
The Young Statesman (13): 5:30
Me: People are going to be interested in knowing what it is that causes a thirteen-year-old to wake at 5:30 in the morning. Can you tell me about that?
YS: If I get up that early I can go to the gym and I can practice the organ. Those are two things I want to do every day and we do that every day. It’s done and I don’t have to worry about it. When I wake up early I can get that done early.
Me: You didn’t just wake yourself up, did you?
BubbleYS: I woke The Baby Anarchist (8).
Me: How did you do that?
YS: I tuned on the light and woke him and gave him his clothes. While he brushed his teeth I made his bed. Then I went to my room, made my bed, tidied up, put away my laundry, brushed my teeth, and went downstairs. I let the dog out, I fed her, I filled up the water bottles for the gym, I got the breakfast cooler together, and we went to the gym.
Me: Did your brother need help with his shoes?
YS: Yeah. The shoe laces aren’t that good so I helped him.
Me: Why do you help your brother?
YS: One day I’m going to want his help. I’d might as well be nice to him.
Me: Did I tell you to do these things?
YS: No. You said you were going to the gym at 6 in the morning and if I got up early I could join you. Then you asked BA if he wanted to come so now all of us go.
Me: You’re a pretty independent kid, aren’t you?
YS: I don’t like to be told what to do.
Me: If I started pestering you to do things, what would be your reaction?
YS: I’d wonder if you’d been hit in the head.
Me: If I were insisting that you do these things would you be as willing as you are?
YS: Nope.
Me: Why not?
YS: Because when I’m being told to do things that puts me in a passive frame of mind. And it makes me not like you if you’re bossing me around.
Me: Tell me about being passive.
YS: If I try to take the initiative, I’m going to end up butting up against you. I’m living off of you and what you’re telling me to do. I stop thinking.
Me: At that point you’re just being directed.
YS: I stop thinking. I’m just in brainless mode. I’m like a dog.
Me: How long can you stand to be in that mode?
YS: Not very long. If you’re in that mode for very long, you rebel.
Me: So you act rebelliously?
YS: Yes. In response to not being allowed to think for yourself you make stupid decisions. You don’t even think before you act.
Me: So your actions aren’t so much your own decisions as they are reactions against authority. I don’t think that’s just what adolescents do. Anyone who is being dominated and doesn’t think it’s legitimate is going to do that.
YS: You’ve taught me to think. Not to obey. You don’t tell me what to do. You give advice. I can take it or not.
Me: Would there be a problem if you didn’t take my advice?
YS: No.
Me: You’d just have a different experience. I notice that you take my advice more often than not. Why?
YS: Because when I haven’t taken your advice I’ve gotten hurt. Remember when you told me not to run in flip flops and I didn’t listen and I scraped my face across the road?
Me: That was so awful.
YS: I was trying to take something back to a neighbor. It really hurt. I’ve never run in flip flops since. Do you remember when you told me not to shriek and cry about everything because you wouldn’t know when I was really hurt? And then when we were at the swamp and I broke my arm and I was screaming and crying and you didn’t come because I screamed and cried at everything. That was a learning experience. And when dad told me not to run the chisel towards my hand and I did it anyway and we ended up in the ER for five hours. Or when he told me not to shove sharp things and I was in the ER again. I’m learning. Slowly. And painfully. But if you had stopped me, I wouldn’t have learned to listen.
Me: We would have stopped you from getting hurt if we could have. Do you think the injuries were worth it?
YS: I do.

More Members of the Law Enforcement Community Join the Fight Against Tough Marijuana Laws

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More Members of the Law Enforcement Community Join the Fight Against Tough Marijuana Laws

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Ever since the state of Colorado decided to set an example to the nation by practically nullifying the federal ban on the commerce of marijuana, legislators in many other states also acted on the marijuana ban locally. But as more and more lawmakers embrace a more humane approach to marijuana laws, and several states show signs that the times are changing, it’s even more interesting to see that members of the law enforcement community are also giving in to the “trend.”

PoliceWith the help of organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), two groups working alongside free marketers, marijuana researchers, freedom advocates, and Tenth Amendment champions, a greater number of states now have policies that lessen the consequences of the nationwide drug war, granting marijuana users and sellers the guarantee that their transactions won’t be targeted by law enforcement under certain circumstances.

According to PennLive.com, Harrisburg Police Chief Thomas Carter has shown signs that he supports some pro-marijuana advocates in Pennsylvania by urging local policymakers to reduce the penalties for marijuana possession. While Carter believes young people should avoid marijuana, he also believes that individuals caught using marijuana should not go to jail. Instead, Carter wants to treat the offense as a traffic ticket.

“We can turn our heads and deny we have a marijuana problem among our youth or we can proactively take action,” Carter told reporters. Instead of putting these kids in jail and ruining their lives, “I want to give kids a chance, an opportunity to make something better of their lives.”

The comment may have shocked many who were expecting to hear a tough on crime approach to what Carter calls a “marijuana problem,” only to be pleasantly surprised.

Last Tuesday, Carter appeared with other Harrisburg officials at a news conference to discuss the city’s efforts to lower the number of marijuana possession charges. This meeting follows the introduction of a proposal sponsored by Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse, who hopes to reduce the level of crime for possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana to a summary offense. As it stands, possession is handled as a misdemeanor locally.

But to critics of Papenfuse’s proposal, the new policy would force poor residents to pay steep fines. Currently, residents in the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburg pay a $25 fine for a first marijuana possession offense. But in Harrisburg, residents caught with pot would have to pay $100 for their first offense if the proposal becomes an ordinance.

Regardless of whether the proposal becomes an ordinance, the fact the law enforcement community in various areas across the country are joining anti-drug war advocates is important, and shouldn’t be ignored.

No, the FBI Does Not Want to Simply Break Into a Terrorist’s Phone

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No, the FBI Does Not Want to Simply Break Into a Terrorist’s Phone

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

The case involving the FBI and Apple continues to draw immense media attention. But what many outlets have chosen to mostly ignore is the fact that one of the most important claims made by the FBI is actually fraudulent.

At least that’s what the American Civil Liberties Union is claiming.

Phone In the FBI’s court order handed to Apple, the federal agency claims that it requires Apple’s assistance to unlock the iPhone 5c that belonged to the San Bernardino shooter. Syed Rizwan Farook is tied to the December terrorist attack against government workers in San Bernardino, California that left 14 people dead, and the FBI has his phone in their possession for investigative purposes.

One of the most pressing demands made by the FBI involved Apple disabling the iPhone’s “auto-erase” security feature, an action that would render Apple’s security features vulnerable to future attacks.

The auto-erase system works by protecting user data from hackers, not destroying it. By wiping the key to the phone data after ten failed passcode attempts, the system keeps would-be snoopers from having immediate access to the phone’s information. And the FBI claimed it was afraid of losing the information contained in the San Bernardino shooter’s phone in case Apple chose not to comply.

According to ACLU’s Daniel Kahn Gillmor, however, the FBI’s concern isn’t warranted. Instead of referring to Apple for assistance, Gillmor explains, the FBI should simply back up part of the phone before attempting to guess the passcode. Instead of taking that step, however, the FBI decided to press Apple, urging the tech giant to “bypass or disable the auto-erase function whether or not it has been enabled.”

In his post for ACLU’s website, Gillmor claims the FBI already knows how to bypass the security system. He also claims that a close look at how the FBI claims the auto-erase feature works may offer important clues as to what the agency actually wants with this request.

Before Apple’s Tim Cook issued a formal statement explaining why he refused to comply with the FBI’s requests and just a few days before the court order was issued, the government issued a strongly worded motion to compel. In this motion, the FBI explains what the auto-erase feature does.

The document reads:

“The FBI has been unable to make attempts to determine the passcode to access the SUBJECT DEVICE because Apple has written, or ‘coded,’ its operating systems with a user-enabled ‘auto-erase function’ that would, if enabled, result in the permanent destruction of the required encryption key material after 10 failed attempts at the [sic] entering the correct passcode (meaning that, after 10 failed attempts, the information on the device becomes permanently inaccessible)…”

By using the “permanently inaccessible” term, Gillmor explains, the FBI may be attempting to add urgency to its request, causing Apple to panic before the order. But there’s a problem with how the government explains how the feature works, which means that the FBI may not be disclosing its intentions.

Instead of making the data “permanently inaccessible,” Gillmor explains, the system built into the iPhone to protect the user’s data works by protecting the data from immediate access when a hacker or snooper attempts to guess the passcode ten times. Instead of destroying the data, the system actually destroys one of the keys that protects the data, making that particular data unreadable. What is erased is the “file system key,” which is stored in what Apple calls “Effaceable Storage,” a part of the phone’s flash memory. But the destruction is not exactly a serious issue. According to Apple’s iOS Security Guide, the key is designed to be “erased on demand (by the user, with the ‘Erase all content and settings’ option, or by a user or administrator issuing a remote wipe command…” So what the feature concerning the FBI really protects is a key, not the actual data.

According to Gillmor, the FBI is scared of losing access to the system key, not the data, and yet its officials wrote a request that made a very different claim.

“All the FBI needs to do to avoid any irreversible auto erase,” Gillmor explains, “is simply to copy that flash memory (which includes the Effaceable Storage) before it tries 10 passcode attempts.”

Then, officials will have the ability to re-try guessing the passcode as many times as it is necessary for them to break the code. Once they have access, they can restore the data from its backup copy.

Gillmor closes his article by claiming that what the FBI wants to do is to “weaken the ecosystem we all depend on for maintenance of our all-too-vulnerable devices.” So if the federal agents are so concerned about our security, how come they are so invested in rendering the systems that protect us useless?

Suffocating Regulations Keep the Poor Out of the Housing Market

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Suffocating Regulations Keep the Poor Out of the Housing Market

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

When discussing the lack of affordable housing, many are quick to refer to the government to ask for help.

Housing Affordable home advocates often urge officials to take on more projects—and create more laws—in order to aid those who cannot afford their own homes, but often ignore the root of the problem altogether.

A recent piece of research carried out by Mercatus Center’s Sanford Ikeda and Emily Washington shows that instead of urging officials to take on new projects, what is truly needed to make housing more affordable across the board is to simply remove regulatory obstacles.

Across the United States, land use and development is mostly regulated by local government bodies. These regulations include zoning rules, density restrictions, and even policies known as “smart growth” initiatives, which are often designed to limit urban sprawl.

Researchers claim that while on the surface these rules appear to promote positive outcomes, they often add restrictions to the mix that hurt the housing supply. The result is the inflation of housing prices, and a great deal of individuals who are locked out of the housing market simply because their income is too modest.

The creation of the first zoning regulations in 1916 in New York City made the regulatory model popular, and in no time municipalities across the country were passing similar zoning rules. In many cases, zoning rules price particular demographics out of certain neighborhoods, making said areas inaccessible to low- or middle-income consumers. According to the Mercatus Center research, “Well-intentioned regulation often represents the preferences of the wealthy by regulating otherwise negligible risks.” By artificially driving the cost of living in a certain neighborhood up, government regulations have “disproportionately negative or regressive effects on the poor.”

The research paper explains that these regulations often focus on risk-reduction strategies that target low risks. Just the kind of low risk that many people in the low- and middle-income brackets would accept handling on their own if it wasn’t for government’s interference.

Over time, constructors and companies in the housing industry are forced to handle the costly burden tied to the mitigation of low risks, and the prices tied to housing go up. Dramatically.

Here’s an example from Mercatus Center’s research:

“For example, a sales tax on staple goods has regressive effects because people with low incomes spend a greater proportion of their incomes on such goods. …

Compared to potential private risk-reduction strategies, regulation tends to target low risks that are extremely expensive to mitigate. Such regulations, therefore, represent the preferences of the wealthy and come at the expense of low-income households.”

As housing becomes inaccessible to a greater number of people as a result of older policies, local governments adopt new policies requiring builders to develop a portion of new constructions for low income residents, forcing companies to sell or rent these units below the market price. While the “inclusionary zoning” policies are often adopted with good intentions in mind, researchers found that they also restrict the supply of housing.

The result of these policies is similar to the result of the implementation of rent-controlled rules, meaning that the “price-controlled portion of such developments” will lead to shortages and even “discouragement of production.”

If companies aren’t willing to build because they will lose money in the long run, there will be an even more scarce supply of houses in the market, and the poor are the first ones to suffer.

To fix this issue, many experts mentioned in the research paper claim, policymakers must remove obstacles, which would eventually offer builders the extra incentive to develop more affordable houses. With a greater supply, the market will be able to provide a greater number of lower-cost housing units, and the regressive effects of restrictive policies will be finally reduced over time.

Idaho Legislators Defy the FDA, Houses Passes Right to Try Legislation

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Idaho Legislators Defy the FDA, Houses Passes Right to Try Legislation

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

The US Food and Drug Administration and its very foundation have been on the receiving end of heavy criticism for quite some time, and yet the agency’s power appears to never be brought into question in a significant way.

IdahoFrustration, however, is often the best incentive. With that in mind, a group of Idaho lawmakers decided to join several other states by defying the FDA’s powers by proposing a piece of legislation that would practically nullify some of the agency’s rules prohibiting terminally ill patients from having access to experimental treatments. The bill would allow Idaho residents to have access to these experimental treatments, regardless of what the FDA has to say on the matter.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, the House of Delegates Health and Welfare Committee introduced House Bill 481 on February 12. On February 29, the bill passed the House by an overwhelming margin.

Access to experimental drugs and treatments is restricted under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. While the law keeps the general public from having access to experimental drugs and treatments, a provision known as 21 U.S.C. 360bbb gives patients with serious or life-threatening diseases access to experimental drugs that have been approved by the FDA. Drugs that haven’t been approved by the agency, however, remain out of reach.

If HB 481 passes, the FDA’s rules would not apply to Idaho residents seeking access to experimental drugs. Instead, state laws would protect manufacturers and physicians involved in aiding the terminally ill. By protecting all parties involved from liabilities for their participation, the state may effectively nullify the FDA’s rules locally.

The bill states that eligible patients may “request, and a manufacturer may make available to an eligible patient under the supervision of the patient’s treating physician, the manufacturer’s investigational drug … which shall be clearly labeled as investigational; provided however, that this chapter does not require that a manufacturer make available an investigational drug to … an eligible patient.” With this piece of legislation in place, health care providers that agree to participate, whether by administering the treatment or by giving the patient the resources necessary to carry on with the experimental treatment, will be protected from possible legal actions. By protecting providers and physicians from sanctions, license troubles, or lawsuits, the state of Idaho joins other 24 states that have passed the “Right to Try” legislation in their states.

To the Tenth Amendment Center, this rapid evolution indicates that Americans of all walks of life are coming together to put an end to rules that put individuals in danger and that undermine their liberties.

HB 481 should move to the Idaho Senate for further consideration before the piece of legislation heads to the desk of Governor Butch Otter.

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