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To Resist Tyranny, We Must Celebrate and Stand By Our Whistleblowers

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To Resist Tyranny, We Must Celebrate and Stand By Our Whistleblowers

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

The need for transparency was an important talking point during the 2008 presidential elections, but once the current administration had an opportunity to handle information leaked by whistleblowers such as former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in a constitutional manner, making sure that the National Security Agency’s disregard for privacy was investigated, the Barack Obama administration decided to, instead, start one of the most effective anti-whistleblower campaigns in the history of the United States.

SnowdenAccording to Tech Dirt, the current administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other administrations combined. And what the most recent case of official mishandling of another NSA whistleblower proves is that officials are oblivious of what due process is all about.

Recently, Foreign Policy reported, another NSA whistleblower attempted to “go through the proper channels” in order to report issues she felt that should be addressed by her superiors. Instead of investigating her complaints, the FBI raided her house.

According to Foreign Policy, the FBI suspended the whistleblower’s clearances without giving her any reason. The publication also explained that she “wasn’t allowed at work, and for two years, the NSA made her ‘call every day like a criminal, checking in every morning before 8.’”

The report continues:

“[Elham] Khorasani went to the agency only for interrogations, she says: eight or nine sessions that ran at least five hours each. She was asked about her family, her travel, and her contacts.”

According to Khorasani, the “special” treatment she received from the FBI only came after the NSA whistleblower set up a meeting with Thomas Drake, another whistleblower prosecuted by the current administration. She had decided to meet with Drake in order to learn more on how she should proceed to make an effective complaint regarding what she calls an unfair reassignment. Once she contacted Drake, he explained that too much time had already passed, and that her efforts would be fruitless from that point on.

He allegedly told her that she had “the bull’s-eyes on” her. “You’re done.”

Khorasani’s story may have been covered by Foreign Policy, but countless others haven’t been pursued. Unfortunately, she’s not the only one to have suffered increased scrutiny over her decision to pursue proper channels in order to have her complaints investigated. According to Foreign Policy’s James Bamford, people under suspicion of misconduct such as Khorasani are often given a special red badge, which replaces the blue card used by employees and contractors with access to secure facilities.

This sort of scarlet letter, Foreign Policy reports, often forces employees to live in “purgatory.” During the entire process, they are never told why they are under scrutiny. And in many cases, they are given jobs inside the gardening department or at the NSA’s museum.

To Tech Dirt, the United States doesn’t have enough whistleblowers because the “proper channels” simply don’t work, which is what the Khorasani case shows us.

If more people within the US government had more incentives to speak out and more often, we would be able to hold our officials accountable. “Unrestrained power may be many things,” Edward Snowden wrote recently, “but it’s not American… We, the people, are ultimately the strongest and most reliable check on the power of government.”

If resistance to tyranny is what we’re looking for, Snowden contends, “Change has to flow from the bottom to the top.”

Nurse Practitioners Want to Help Patients, but Stifling Rules Stand in the Way

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

Nurse Practitioners Want to Help Patients, but Stifling Rules Stand in the Way

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

The fight to serve Americans freely, offering low income patients the option of having access to affordable care, has been an important battle for nurses in certain states.

According to Watchdog.org, nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania are beginning to question the straining and oftentimes useless requirements they must meet in order to help their patients.

MedicIn many states, nurses with advanced degrees and special certifications are allowed to perform several functions primarily performed by physicians. While giving these nurse practitioners the freedom to help patients without access to expensive health insurance is important, many states limit their effectiveness by forcing nurses to seek the approval from doctors before being able to help patients in need.

To the thousands of patients who benefit from having access to nurse practitioners, the process may seem confusing. But they are not alone, healthcare providers also share their frustration.

To nurse Jerry Driscoll, a nurse practitioner running Primary Homecare, doctors “are signing paperwork on patients they’ve never seen,” making their job extremely difficult. After all, nurses like Driscoll “can order their insulin, but not their shoes” he said.

In an interview with Watchdog.org, Driscoll explained that issuing prescriptions or even ordering medical devices such a simple walker or orthopedic shoes is impossible for nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania, forcing organizations such as Primary Homecare to spend thousands of dollars yearly to maintain collaborative agreements with local physicians.

If Primary Homecare didn’t have to spend $25,000 a year due to the state’s laws, Driscoll explained, he would be able to give his patients much better care. Some of the pieces of equipment Driscoll’s company would be able to afford if laws were different include mobile imaging equipment and other technologies used for blood tests. On top of that, not having to spend so much on agreements with physicians could also lower the cost of care to patients, making access to direct healthcare much more affordable.

Last year, lawmakers in the state sought to put an end to this problem by introducing legislation that would have ended the mandatory collaborative agreements between physicians and nurse practitioners.

While the last attempt had failed in the previous session, the bills introduced in the State House and Senate last year are currently languishing in legislative committees. If at least one passes, Pennsylvania would be the 22nd state to allow “full practice” models, giving nurse practitioners the freedom to practice more broadly but still within the scope of their training.

But before nurses are able to obtain the freedom they require to better care for their patients, they must fight the crony capitalists at the Pennsylvania Medical Society, who are opposing the bills currently under review.

According to the medical association, physician oversight of nurse practitioners is essential. The idea that the arrangement between physicians and nurse practitioners is just a formality is far from the truth, said Karen Rizzo, the president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

But according to recent studies, the notion that patients get better care from nurse practitioners in contact with physicians is nothing but a myth.

Nurse practitioners, the five studies conclude, improve patient outcomes while also reducing healthcare costs by as much as 29 percent. One of the studies has also suggested that patients who have access to nurse practitioners have lower hospital admission rates.

As Pennsylvania struggles with 155 areas in which patients have little to no access to adequate health care, loosening nurse practitioner’s requirements could help to give more patients access to quality care at a lower price.

What are lawmakers waiting for?​

Take More Pictures

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

Take More Pictures

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

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” - attributed to Frederick R. Barnard

As libertarians, we have a lot to say. Often, it is presented as a wall of text… Page after page of words pieced together in a mess without any formatting and filled with footnotes.

We assume that those we convince to read it will see how much time and effort we put into it, as well as how smart we are, and BOOM! they’ll be convinced. While that may work with our fellow libertarians who generally value substance over style and presentation, those who are not libertarian yet are unlikely to be impressed.

taking picturesSo, what does this have to do with taking more pictures?

First, taking and sharing pictures require that you do something worthwhile or interesting to memorialize. Hopefully, we snap a photo of our hard work, highlighting our best examples of living a libertarian life. By sharing them, we show that we understand not only the words, but also the actions, necessary to bring about the change we advocate.

Next, due to our increased activity, we’ll have less time to write those walls of text that inspired TL;DR (Too long; didn’t read). Can you imagine how many thousands of words on the page or screen we can replace with pictures?

Also, as social media continues to evolve, we see the impact that images have to make a “story” go viral. A picture of you speaking to a crowd at a rally or working at a soup kitchen not only exemplifies your commitment to your ideals; it can be inspiring to others to “get off the couch” and do something.

Finally, we can inspire others as we Walk the Walk. As we take and share pictures, we’ll inevitably be asked why we’re taking them. It will open the door to a conversation that we did not have to seek out, and we can share that we are looking to make a change in the world in which we live.

If you’re creating new libertarians passively by setting your example, all of those you persuade actively will have others to associate with. As we continue to grow the libertarian movement, we need more perspectives and routes to it to consider.

4/20 Weed Sales Prove the War on Drugs is Hindering Economic Development

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

4/20 Weed Sales Prove the War on Drugs is Hindering Economic Development

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

On April 20th, marijuana enthusiasts celebrate what they call a national holiday. With the sales of marijuana products exceeding the $37.5 million mark on this past 4/20, the ongoing efforts to put an end to the drug war and their lucrative consequences show that entrepreneurs have a lot to gain once the substance is rescheduled federally.

Woman_smoking_marijauana (1)Former aide to President Richard Nixon John Ehrlichman, who served time in prison over his involvement with the Watergate scandal, allegedly admitted that the drug war launched by the Nixon administration had two targets, “the antiwar left and black people.”

Ehrlichman allegedly told journalist Dan Baum that members of the Nixon White House “knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.”

As US states disrupt the ongoing federal effort to put an end to drug consumption in America by passing their own marijuana legalization laws, the drug war is finally unwinding, at least partially.

According to Fox News, marijuana retailers registered a 30 percent increase in retail transactions on 4/20. The report comes from a software company that provides global cannabis businesses seed-to-sale tracking systems known as MJ Freeway. The startup, which was launched in 2010, is able to sift through data from cannabis retailers, producing an accurate analysis of 40 percent of America’s cannabis market.

As more states join the legalization bandwagon by passing recreational marijuana bills, legal retail sales are estimated to reach $6.7 billion by the end of 2016. As entrepreneurs heap the benefits, the industry promotes economic growth by offering great employment opportunities for residents of the states where weed is legal.

On April 20, MJ Freeway has disclosed, legally-licensed cannabis retail locations across the country sold $10,822 worth of products on average. The days before and after 4/20 have also seen a boost in sales. According to MJ, legal weed retailers sold $6,208 on April 19 and $5,442 on April 18 also on average.

California saw the largest dollar amount sold on April 20, beating others like Colorado and Washington, where recreational weed is legal. Colorado ended up beating all other states by having higher sales on average on April 20th.

While these numbers seem promising, it’s hard to assess just how much wealthier the country would be if all drug laws put in place in the name of an undeclared war on immoral behavior were lifted.

While discussing the health consequences associated with drug use is important, the burden should be shared by local communities, where individuals have access to religious entities and other privately-organized groups that support addicts, not in the hands of law enforcement.

As the country becomes increasingly enamoured with the idea of bringing the drug war to a halt, libertarian advocates claim that even gun violence would suffer a major blow once laws criminalizing drug consumption and sales are dropped.

According to Cato Institute’s Adam Bates, the only “common sense” approach to the gun violence issue in America is to end the drug war. After all, more than 2,000 homicides a year are gang-related, the government estimates. What is Washington waiting for?

Man Accused of Stealing Tomatoes Sues Off-Duty Cop Over Unlawful Arrest, Brutality

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

Man Accused of Stealing Tomatoes Sues Off-Duty Cop Over Unlawful Arrest, Brutality

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

A man from Atlanta, Georgia is suing an off-duty police officer over an incident that left him with broken bones and a severed artery.

CarnegayThe October 2014 incident, which was caught on camera, shows the off-duty cop beating Tyrone Carnegay. The officer was working as a security guard for Walmart at the time. According to the lawsuit, Carnegay was accused of stealing a tomato by the store’s manager, which prompted the officer’s aggressive reaction. After the encounter, Carnegay was rushed to the hospital with a broken leg and severed artery where he was handcuffed to the bed. After receiving treatment, the victim was sent to jail, where he stayed for three days. Charges were eventually dropped and no evidence of theft was found.

Due to his injuries, Carnegay now walks with a limp because of the titanium rod in his leg.

In an interview to WSB-TV, Carnegay claimed that the officer gave him a command to “get on the ground” while beating him with his baton. According to the footage of the incident, the officer hit Carnegay’s leg at least seven times. The officer reportedly never asked him for a receipt before the attack, but once Carnegay was subdued and placed in handcuffs, the officer allegedly reached into his pockets where he found a receipt showing Carnegay had paid for the tomato.

According to Craig Jones, the victim’s attorney, this incident could have been avoided if the officer had asked Carnegay a simple question. Instead of asking the customer for a receipt, “the officer went into Robocop mode and beat the crap out of him,” Jones told news organizations.

The lawsuit names the store’s manager, the officer, and Walmart, but the Atlanta Police has not been involved.

This is not the only wrongful arrest story to have hit the news recently.

According to the Baltimore Sun, six men who were arrested during last year’s Baltimore protests against police brutality have recently filed a lawsuit against the Baltimore Police Department. The suit alleges the six men were wrongfully arrested in what the plaintiffs claim to be an unconstitutional violation of their protected speech rights.

While the circumstances under which these men were arrested are different from Carnegay’s, both cases showcase an issue prompted by the country’s ongoing overcriminalization efforts.

As the nation struggles to abandon its addiction to passing too many laws, law enforcement agents are trained to act as if civilians are the enemies in an undeclared war against the individual.

Unless we address this issue by helping others understand the importance of limiting government bodies, not individual liberties, the issue of police brutality will never be fully tackled.

In a column for Bloomberg, Yale Law School Professor Stephen Carter wrote that, on “the opening day of law school,” he always counsels his “first-year students never to support a law they are not willing to kill to enforce.”

Are they listening?

California Legislators Move to Ban Warrantless Drone Surveillance

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California Legislators Move to Ban Warrantless Drone Surveillance

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

Drones are all the rage again, for very good reasons.

dronesAccording to the Tenth Amendment Center, California legislators have taken an important pro-privacy stance by considering a bill that restricts warrantless drone surveillance in the Golden State. Assembly Bill 1820 would prohibit state and local law enforcement from using drones to spy on suspects without a warrant. The bill also helps to thwart federal surveillance, serving as what many like to call a nullification tool against the federal government’s intractable and unconstitutional thirst for control.

Introduced by Assemblyman Bill Quirk, a Democrat from California’s 20th district, AB 1820 unanimously passed a second Assembly committee last week. If signed into law, the piece of legislation would prohibit law enforcement from making use of drone surveillance over private property without a warrant while also establishing that, in some cases, the property owner must give officers express permission before the drone is launched. Weaponized drones could also be banned from the Golden State if AB 1820 were to pass.

While privacy advocates have reason to celebrate and hope for the best in this case, Tenth Amendment Center’s advocates are particularly excited about the bill’s impact on the federal surveillance state.

According to the organization’s blog, AB 1820 thwarts the federal government’s surveillance plans by keeping California from being tempted by the federal government’s perverse incentives.

Currently, funding for drones comes from the federal government. Once the handouts are transferred to state officials and drones are used in local investigations, information gathered by local officials is fed into fusion centers used in a federal program known as the Information Sharing Environment, which was created in 2004 as part of the country’s fruitless War on Terror. The information scored by ISE is then shared with other agencies. The fact some of this information is extracted in an unconstitutional and illegal fashion is never taken into consideration.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, the federal government “encourages and funds a network of drones at the state and local level across the U.S.,” making the passage of this bill a step toward breaking the federal government’s influx of Californians’ personal data.

With the restrictions proposed by AB 1820, data available to the feds is limited, forcing them to attempt to get the data they need on their own. Without the resources from the states, the federal government is hit with a burdensome blow, effectively hurting the surveillance state and helping to protect your right to privacy.

While the bill is a step in the right direction, Tenth Amendment Center reports that it does allow for certain exceptions involving warrant requirements in emergency situations in which the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle could prevent immediate danger of death or injury to individuals. The bill also establishes that drones can be deployed over private properties in the event of natural disasters.

The Assembly Committee on Public Safety passed AB 1820 without a single nay while California’s Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection passed the proposal 6-5. Now, the bill is expected to move to the Appropriations committee, where lawmakers will review the legislation.

The “Most Important Election of Our Lifetime” Fallacy

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

The “Most Important Election of Our Lifetime” Fallacy

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

As libertarians, we’ve no doubt heard with every election that THIS one is the “most important election of our lifetime.” Even those who’ve decided to no longer participate in voting and elections are not immune.

Typically, it’s a hyper-partisan individual who is heavily invested in one side of the “horse race” for President, Governor, or Congress making the statement, and they have a litany of reasons why their candidate is “The One.”

To many of us, it’s a broken record. Whether it’s the appointment of Supreme Court justices, ending pointless wars, staving off economic collapse, or fighting back socialism, the refrain from both sides is essentially the same each time it’s shared. It’s been the same since I started paying attention to elections in 1992 and neither George H.W. Bush nor Bill Clinton really spoke to me as they campaigned for President.

The idea that THIS YEAR will be what changes everything is an extension of a societal desire for immediate gratification…like the J. G. Wentworth commercials: “I WANT IT NOW!”

While a sense of urgency is necessary, things do not change overnight, nor will they even over a politician’s term. Patience and hard work bring the change we seek.

The slogan and rhetoric from the 2008 Obama campaign, “Change We Can Believe In,” tapped into the desire for immediate overhaul. What we saw over the last eight years wasn’t much change. It was a continuation of the same. The wars didn’t end. The cronies still got their goodies. Even Guantanamo Bay remains open and operational today.

Actual, sustainable change takes time. It is the result of many in their efforts to win over hearts and minds. It is not achieved in a single election, a new law, or a Supreme Court decision.

slow and steadyAs in the story I recounted in the Tell More Stories article a couple of weeks ago, slow and steady wins the race. That goes for growth as well, whether for an entire philosophy or certain aspects.

I’ve been on the inside as an elected official, and bureaucracy does move with the speed of molasses. In the winter. Uphill. Unless there is a manufactured urgency to DO SOMETHING, when a the square peg will be shoved into a round hole.

We haven’t won over the hearts and minds yet though. We have a long way to go in that regard. When large numbers of people begin to value freedom the same way that you and I do, we can focus our conversations there and on our path to electoral successes, if they are even necessary.

There is no silver bullet. We are building a movement for Liberty, and that growth doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s happening faster with each passing day.

Remember, politicians and laws don’t change hearts and minds, and we don’t win anything without those.

The Financial Burden Tied to Nonviolent Crimes is Destroying Poor Communities

in Capital Punishment, Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Comments are off

The Financial Burden Tied to Nonviolent Crimes is Destroying Poor Communities

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

A terribly tragic incident involving a man from Texas is receiving little attention from the media.

According to Yahoo! News, Patrick Joseph Brown, a 46-year-old man accused of stealing a guitar, was booked on a misdemeanor theft charge on April 3. Forty-eight hours after failing to post bail, Brown was found beaten to a pulp in the cell he shared with several other men, including three men who had been charged with aggravated assault causing serious bodily harm. He was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

PrisonWhile authorities in Harris County aren’t aware of what prompted the violent act, Brown was placed in a cell with violent suspects due to his failure to come up with $3,000. Brown’s teenage son is devastated.

To proponents of a comprehensive criminal justice reform, the financial burden tied to minor or drug-related crimes has become a reason of concern.

The drug war, for instance, has had a real impact on the poor across the United States. But the financial burden tied to other non-violent crimes has also been affecting low-income communities across the board.

Harriet Cleveland, a 49-year-old mother of three in Alabama, was arrested after not being able to pay a series of traffic tickets. She had accumulated a number of citations because she had been driving without a license for some time. She also had no insurance.

While Cleveland says she knew what she was doing “was wrong,” she had no choice. She had just found a job after some time, a part-time gig that paid her $7.25 per hour, and her son had to be taken to school. She felt that the tickets could wait. Unfortunately, the police didn’t agree.

After she was arrested, the judge sentenced her to two years of probation with Judicial Correction Services, a private probation company. Cleveland had to pay JCS $200 a month, the judge ordered. While Cleveland was able to make her payments throughout the first year, gathering whatever she could find to put the money together, she eventually fell behind on payments. After losing her part-time job, Cleveland had to turn in all of her income-tax rebate to JCS instead of fixing the holes in her bedroom walls. By summer of 2012, “the total court costs and fines had soared from hundreds of dollars incurred by the initial tickets to $4,713, including more than a thousand dollars in private-probation fees.”

In the past three decades, the size of America’s incarcerated population quadrupled. The overcriminalization of America has been, along with the drug war, partially to blame for this phenomena.

With federal agencies and state governments attaching jail time to otherwise non-criminal behavior, even private companies that rely on the criminal justice system like Judicial Correction Services saw an opportunity to fill in the gaps by offering the state the services public law enforcement agencies are supposed to offer but are unable to. Instead of looking at the laws for an answer to this problem—identifying what kind of laws should be scraped, and what kind of behavior should be spared jail time—many justice activists believe that the solution is to put an end to what they call “policing for profit.”

But whether non-violent arrestees are trapped in a cycle of debt and incarceration because of mounting court debt or because of other probation company fees, we must look deeper into this matter by identifying ways of only arresting those who have committed crimes worthy of jail time.

Jail is not the best place for a mother of three who’s struggling to make ends meet but nor is it a safe place for a non-violent arrestee taken into custody for allegedly stealing a guitar. If criminal justice reformers are serious about their goals, tackling the overcriminalization problem in the United States is the only solution.

It’s About Liberty, Not Technology

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

It’s About Liberty, Not Technology

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

Last month actor Mark Hamill, an advocate of gun control, posted this tweet to his nearly one million followers:

“Don’t get me wrong, as a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment [sic]—I believe in every American’s right to own a musket.”

right-to-bear-musketsIn doing so, Hamill was repeating an anti-gun argument that’s frequently heard and is surprisingly widespread.

This argument says that the Second Amendment was written over two centuries ago, before today’s modern firearms had been invented. Therefore, the Second Amendment only protects a right to keep and bear muskets and other primitive firearms common at the time.

You might think that this is a satirical remark, more snarky than a real argument.

Yet many opponents of the right to keep and bear arms actually intend this as a serious argument. Even those who use it half-jokingly often believe it makes a legitimate point.

For example, journalist Piers Morgan tweeted this in 2012:

“The 2nd amendment was devised with muskets in mind, not high-powered handguns & assault rifles. Fact.”

I could cite many more. Versions of this argument are circulating on the Internet.

How might libertarians effectively respond to this? One obvious way is to apply the same logic to other amendments.

The First Amendment, which defends freedom of speech and freedom of the press, was written before the Internet, television, radio, DVDs, cell phones and other forms of personal and mass communication.

Yet most Americans, especially liberals and progressives who favor gun control, certainly recognize that the First Amendment protects such modern communication as well.

No First Amendment activist would argue that a newspaper must be printed on 18th century technology to have First Amendment protection. What could be sillier?

Similarly, most reasonable people see that the Fourth Amendment protection of privacy clearly applies to modern technology such as cellphones, laptops, and so on.

In some circumstances, it may also be useful to point out that this issue has already been settled — and quite forcefully — by the Supreme Court.

In fact, in the landmark 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision, the Court declared this argument was “bordering on the frivolous.”

Wrote the Court:

“Some have made the argument, bordering on the frivolous, that only those arms in existence in the 18th century are protected by the Second Amendment. We do not interpret constitutional rights that way. Just as the First Amendment protects modern forms of communications… and the Fourth Amendment applies to modern forms of search… the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”

The Supreme Court drove the point home just last month in Caetano v. Massachusetts, which concerned a woman who carried a stun gun for self defense:

“While stun guns were not in existence at the end of the 18th century, the same is true for the weapons most commonly used today for self-defense, namely, revolvers and semiautomatic pistols. Revolvers were virtually unknown until well into the 19th century, and semiautomatic pistols were not invented until near the end of that century. Electronic stun guns are no more exempt from the Second Amendment’s protections, simply because they were unknown to the First Congress, than electronic communications are exempt from the First Amendment, or electronic imaging devices are exempt from the Fourth Amendment.”

These are powerful, even devastating, arguments from logic, history and authority that pretty much lay waste to the argument that the Second Amendment is limited to protecting our right to black powder muskets. But… there’s one more important point to make.

We should always remember our purpose as communicators. In most communications and conversations, we should seek to win others to our side, not just to win arguments.

So, rather than just responding with the powerful arguments above, take a moment first to listen to those making these arguments and try to uncover their genuine concerns. Are they worried about our society becoming more violent? Are they fearful of more children being victims of mass shootings? Are they advocates of nonviolence who have adopted an anti-gun position?

These are all legitimate, admirable, understandable concerns. Let your listeners know that you share their concerns (if you do) and then point out that there are libertarian answers — solutions — to all of them. By identifying and addressing the underlying concerns, you can try to win them to our side, or at least to a better and more sympathetic understanding of our views. That’s a lot better than merely winning an argument, but making a permanent enemy.

If the conversation allows it, you could go even further and point out that, to many libertarians, the right to keep and bear arms is rooted in the fundamental libertarian idea that people should be free to do anything they wish as long as they don’t harm others. A conversation that reaches this level can be very rewarding.

There are specific communication methods you can use to respond in such effective ways, and I have compiled many of the best of them in my book How to Be a Super Communicator for Liberty: Successfully Sharing Libertarian Ideas.

Please check it out.

California Senate Passes Powdered Alcohol Ban, Proving Everything is Terrible

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

California Senate Passes Powdered Alcohol Ban, Proving Everything is Terrible

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

Government’s busybodies are always trying to find new issues so they may be blown out of proportion in the hopes the population will agree. And as it so often happens, these issues are frequently turned into threats that must be contained. By all means necessary.

AlcoholIn California, a state often mocked due to its anti-entrepreneurial regulations, legislators have just passed a new ban that will certainly make residents of the Golden State 100 percent safe.

Just kidding.

According to local news sources, the California Senate has just passed a new bill that officially bans powdered alcohol. The piece of legislation was defended by legislators who were concerned that teens could be using the powdered alcohol in “dangerous ways.”

SB 819 was approved in a unanimous vote this past Monday and it’s now on its way to the state Assembly. The product under threat here, which is often referred to as Palcohol, has been banned in several other states. If the CA state assembly approves the measure, it will make the Golden State the 28th state to have ignored the fact government should not get involved with an individual’s personal choices.

Introduced by Senate Minority Leader Emeritus Bob Huff, a Republican from San Dimas, the bill states that Palcohol sales would be forbidden across the state. The product, which is a freeze dried alcohol that comes in a small pouch, was approved for sale by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau in the United States in March of 2015. Ever since then, states have been debating whether the sale of these products should be barred. According to Palcohol creator Mark Phillips, the fact federal and state governments are attempting to deny “millions of responsible adults and hundreds of businesses a chance to use this legal, safe and revolutionary new product” is concerning. But California Senate legislators won’t have any of it.

According to Sen. Huff, powdered alcohol must be banned because it may be snorted or added to drinks that already come with alcohol, making them potential dangers to teenagers.

But the sale of alcohol to minors is already banned in California.

According to state law, the sale of alcohol to minors is illegal. But the sale itself is not the only issue. Holding parties and offering alcohol to minors is also illegal. Allowing an underage person to drink from a glass or pitcher belonging to an adult is also against state law.

If the sale of alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 across the state was already prohibited, was it really necessary to ban powdered altogether, keeping responsible adults away from the product over concerns that individuals may abuse it?

To libertarian scholars like Cato Institute’s Michael D. Tanner, “legislators at all levels of government try to make everything their business.” But instead of helping, legislators often create more problems.

Why not try freedom instead and allow people to make their own decisions for themselves?

America’s Founding Fathers complained that King George III had “erected a Multitude of New Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their Substance.” By releasing the country from Great Britain’s grip, they hoped to create a culture of skepticism toward governments claiming to have a say on everything Americans did.

Have they lost this battle?

Why Rhetoric Should be Celebrated

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

Why Rhetoric Should be Celebrated

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

We often hear that persuasion is an obstacle to freedom. “Rhetoric,” they say, is why we’re in such trouble. After all, voters would make better decisions if they had been better educated about the issues facing the nation.

To Deirdre McCloskey, the celebrated Professor of Economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, people who scapegoat persuasion are misguided.

PersuasionIn a video for the Learn Liberty series, McCloskey argues that while many people with different points of view on politics all agree that free speech is “sacred,” few agree that persuasion is just as important, if not a feature of a free society.

“Rhetoric,” she tells the viewer, “sounds like a bad word.” Media outlets are the first ones to accuse politicians and key figures of indulging in rhetoric, and never getting to the point. But McCloskey believes that this approach to persuasion is superficial, especially when considering the alternative.

She explains that, persuasion would be bad if the alternative to “sweet-talking” people into believing something or siding with someone wasn’t persuasion through force.

Because we are humans, McCloskey adds, we depend on language. But if we cannot use language, there is another way of persuading people into taking a particular stance: Violence. If I have a gun in hands while telling you to believe in economics and stop arguing with me if you want to stay alive, you will most certainly choose to agree with me, just so you may avoid getting shot in the head. But if there aren’t any guns involved, all we can do to make our point stick is to try to persuade folks by selling our idea the best way we can.

“In a society of free choice, free ideas, free consumption,” McCloskey adds, “you have persuasion as the only alternative to violence.”

Henry David Thoreau once said that “thaw, with her gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor, with his hammer.” The late, prolific author Gore Vidal once said that advertising is the only art form ever invented in the United States of America. To McCloskey, “a free society is an advertising society,” after all, a free society is where people debate and persuade, rather than threaten others into going along with their ideas. Americans should be proud of this very American tradition.

Instead of demonizing rhetoric by complaining that propaganda alone is the root of our problems, McCloskey seems to argue, we should celebrate the “speaking, rather than violent, society,” and take part in the activity, rather than decry it as the root of all evil.

What are the Hidden Costs of Sending Children to Government Schools?

in Children's Rights, Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online, Marriage and Family, Personal Liberty by Advocates HQ Comments are off

What are the Hidden Costs of Sending Children to Government Schools?

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

Editor’s Note: Although this isn’t strictly a conversation, it’s something to think about when weighing the educational options for one’s children. 

School If I took a blow to the head and decided to go to a 9-5 j.o.b. and tried to provide something close to what the boys get at home now I’d have to pay for the following:

–Private school
–Hidden costs associated with school (projects, parties, fund raisers, etc.)
–Someone to run them to activities
–Additional medical due to increased sickness in self and children
–Sick child care
–Testing for BA
–OT for auditory processing/sequencing (I wouldn’t have time)
–Tutoring for reading (I wouldn’t have time)
–Sports for both boys
–Sports equipment
–Professional wardrobe for me
–Uniforms for boys
–Dry cleaning
–Additional meals out
–Housekeeper
–Help in the shop–boys do this now
–Help with yard maintenance –boys do this now

That’s just off the top of my head. The private schooling, the nanny/child care, OT, tutoring, and sports alone would eat anything I brought in. And that’s just the money.

I suspect if they were in school there would be a fair amount of despair in the life of my oldest who is independent and sets his own path. Despair in the life of an adolescent who lives big is usually expensive. Emotionally expensive and monetarily expensive. I’ve seen it end in therapy for anger. I’ve seen it end in a trip to the hospital for a child who was acting out. There’s worse. Best not to go there.

I can’t imagine what would happen to BA in the hands of even the most caring teachers. He’s, frankly, our child to raise. There is no outsourcing him and keeping him whole. That’s all there is to say about that.

Raising and educating our sons takes up a lot of room in my head. Room that would be taken up by work if I were going to a 9-5. I wouldn’t be able to devote as much time to observing them and figuring out what was really happening developmentally, intellectually, emotionally, physically. I couldn’t set up independent studies, mentoring, apprenticing. There simply wouldn’t be as much time for me to be the expert on our sons. That’s work that can’t be sent out.

That’s my work to do. Besides their dad, there’s no one in the world who has as much skin in the game as I have.

Sometimes the parent who stays with the children wonders what it would be like if they worked a 9-5 j.o.b.. If you do that, make sure you put everything on the scales. Being away from your children will have hidden costs and unintended consequences, good and bad.

Why Do College Students Hate Free Speech?

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

Why Do College Students Hate Free Speech?

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I had the opportunity to spend some vacation time in Washington D.C. this month. The cherry blossoms were beautiful, the food was excellent, and I found a new favorite museum: the Newseum.

Opinion For a complete news junkie like me, it was the perfect place to spend two consecutive days. Exhibits ranged from interactive media ethics games to every Pulitzer Prize-winning photo since the award was established in 1917. The most interesting exhibits, in my opinion, were centered around free speech around the world and on college campuses.

A giant world map showed which countries had the greatest amount of freedom of the press. A green-colored country meant the most, yellow was somewhat, and red was least to none at all. It was no surprise that the U.S. was green, some of Europe was yellow, and almost all of the Middle East was red.

The other side of the exhibit held interactive multimedia displays that showcased the history of free speech on campus. Highlights included the Civil Rights movement, protests at Kent State and Columbia University, and an ethics game about college newspapers.

One board in particular intrigued me. It asked: “Should college campuses limit free speech to protect students from hateful comments?” Attendees could take a sticker and put it on the “Yes” or “No” side to cast their vote.

I watched two college-aged girls look at the board, pause for a moment, and put their stickers on the “Yes” side.

Although the majority of stickers disagreed with the statement, I really wanted to ask these two why they thought that way. Here they are surrounded, literally, by maps of the most oppressive places in the world for journalists, and they believe that colleges should censor student speech.

It was a little baffling.

So, why do college students hate free speech?

According to a Gallup Poll released on Monday, college students want free speech on their campuses but want administrators to intervene when it turns into hate speech. However, they disagree on whether college campuses are open environments and on how the media should cover campus protests.

Roughly 78 percent of students surveyed said that colleges should allow “all types of speech and viewpoints,” while 22 percent noted that “colleges should prohibit biased or offensive speech in the furtherance of a positive learning environment.”

The survey’s organizers wrote that, “Students do appear to distinguish controversial views from what they see as hate speech — and they believe colleges should be allowed to establish policies restricting language and certain behavior that are intentionally offensive to certain groups.”

However, 54 percent of students said that “the climate on campus prevents some people from saying what they believe because others might find it offensive.”

Along with the Knight Foundation and the Newseum Institute, Gallup conducted another similar survey of college students and found that they are highly distrustful of the press. Students believe that universities should be able to bar the press from campus in some instances. Lastly, they think that schools should be able to restrict students from wearing costumes that stereotype certain racial or ethnic groups.

Although I’m not entirely sure why college students hate free speech, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of them are done a disservice when administrators create “safe spaces” and microaggression reporting systems when they are faced with speech they don’t like. Students would be better served if their campuses truly had open discussions that exposed them to opinions other than their own and that challenged their viewpoints.

LA County Wants to Spend $425 Million Just to Connect Bike Paths (Not Build Them)

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

LA County Wants to Spend $425 Million Just to Connect Bike Paths (Not Build Them)

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

In November, Los Angeles County residents will be asked to vote on a new half-cent sales tax increase that would add $120 billion to the county’s public transit fund. The hike would extend the current sales tax for 18 years and raise its rate for four decades. Just the type of tax hike Californians do not need right now.

bikepathlaWhile the proposal was met with enthusiasm by the LA River Revitalization Corporation, a group that hopes to see an “unbroken 51-mile river spine, giving Los Angeles a ‘linear central park,’” the idea of using $425 million of that money to simply connect existing bicycle paths and provide access to the river—which is often mocked over the absence of water—is somewhat hard to process, even for some of the most pro-big government members of California’s media.

While the goal of the proposal is to use the $120 billion to double LA’s existing rail network, LA Weekly focused on the proposal’s goal of linking the bike paths and questioned county officials, asking whether these bike paths would “be paved with gold,” “[l]ined with tuxedo-wearing attendants serving riders hot cocoa,” or perhaps “speakers carefully hidden behind the shrubbery” will be made to play soft jazz throughout the day and that’s why the plan is so expensive.

In an official statement, Metro spokeswoman Pauletta Tonilas responded to the concerns claiming that since the LA river is “constrained by urban development,” and its roads, freeways, and rail provide a great deal of over-crossings, “bike path requires heavy civil construction.”

According to Tonilas, a complete “LA River Bike Path” will function “as the backbone of biking and walking infrastructure for densest parts of” the county.

Even bicycle activists like Joe Linton, who serves as the editor of StreetsblogLA, believe that the county is spending too much on the project. After all, LA Weekly reports, the goal is to “connect the existing paths,” not build new ones.

According to research from 2013, bike paths cost an average $133,000 per mile. The most costly paths can cost about $537,000 per mile. With those figures in mind, LA Weekly claims that the construction of an entirely new, 51-mile bike path should cost Angelenos anything between $7 million and $27 million. So why is the proposal’s estimated cost so high?

While the answer to that question may not be that easy to answer, this is not the first time we hear about bike path proposals carrying hefty price tags. In 2012, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo planned to spend $400 million on a 3-mile bike lane that would have realistically cost about $40 million.

At the federal level, the US government is often targeted by its own watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office, for wasting billions in improper payments. In 2008 alone, GAO reports, the federal government wasted $72 billion on improper payments. While this particular report is associated with a series of agencies and doesn’t touch on transportation expenditure, it’s a great example of how easy it is for governments to misuse taxpayer money.

In an article for Heritage Foundation, Brian M. Riedl provides us with 50 examples of government waste. And while bike paths haven’t made the list then, it would be incredible to see the overblown expenses tied to the LA County’s bike bath plan getting audited. But first, Angelenos must agree with the proposal in the November ballot.

Brewery Forced to Drop ‘LSD’ From Label—In America!

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

Brewery Forced to Drop ‘LSD’ From Label—In America!

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The war on drugs has finally gone too far.

LSDAleIndeed Brewing, a Minneapolis-based brewery, was recently forced to change the name of their LSD Ale after federal regulators thought it sounded too offensive.

Everything had been going alright for Indeed Brewing while it was only selling its products in Minnesota. But the moment the company decided to start selling LSD Ale across state lines, things went sour.

Once the company started working on the licenses needed to expand and start selling outside of the state, federal regulators realized the beer presented a “threat.” The result? Indeed Brewing had to drop the name or stop expansion.

In an attempt to comply without having to drop the product’s name altogether, Indeed Brewing decided to try different hippie-themed labels that kept the beer’s name somewhat under the radar. That didn’t work.

“Unfortunately,” Indeed Brewing co-founder Thomas Whisenand said, “we sell a regulated product and there’s not much you can do when the feds say no.”

To appease federal regulators, the company had to change the ale’s name to Lavender, Sunflower Honey, Date Honey, dropping the terrifying LSD from its labels.

While the name may sound terrifying to some, it does not indicate that the beer is indeed made with LSD. Watchdog.org reports that, if the beer was, indeed, made with LSD, federal regulators would be concerned with things other than the ale’s name. So why are the feds so invested in how the manufacturers chose to advertise the beer?

In the past, multiple states banned the sale of Founders Brewery’s Oatmeal Breakfast Stout because of the baby that appears on the label. According to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, the advertisement of alcoholic beverages “shall not depict or make reference in any manner to minors,” which prompted the state to ban the sale of the product locally. But what exactly is Indeed Brewery doing wrong?

Nothing, really.

According to research carried out by the Mercatus Center, barriers raised by the federal and state governments are hurting small breweries more than ever, which hurts consumers as a result. Even if the problem is not drug-related, governments will always find something to pick on. It might be a drug-sounding name, or that you do not have a hood for a food oven in your brewery, even though you do not produce food. Or perhaps the fact that your small craft brewery does not have the equipment to handle raw chicken, even though poultry is not an ingredient to any of your products.

According to Mercatus researchers, brewers often face high costs and long waiting times when attempting to obtain a seal of approval from state and federal governments. As associated costs also rise, brewers are often barred from entering the market simply because they cannot afford to meet the unreasonable standards provided by regulators.

In Virginia, for instance, regulators are authorized to deny a small brewer a license because he or she is “physically unable to carry on the business,” or is incapable of speaking, understanding, reading, and writing “the English language in a reasonably satisfactory manner.”

What that even means is beyond reason.

Did the Government Offer a Contract to New Balance in Exchange for TPP Support?

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Trade & Tarrifs by Comments are off

Did the Government Offer a Contract to New Balance in Exchange for TPP Support?

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Government has a way of selling incredibly bad economic deals by calling them free trade agreements. Haven’t you noticed?

ShoesThe Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is a trade agreement between Pacific Rim countries, including the United States, that hopes to “promote economic growth; support the creation and retention of jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness; raise living standards; reduce poverty in our countries; and promote transparency, good governance, and enhanced labor and environmental protections.” But according to information released by WikiLeaks, only five of TPP’s 29 sections deal with trade.

At the time, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange claimed that many of the other sections dealt with Internet regulations, which includes details on what specific type of information Internet service providers will be required to collect once TPP is enacted.

To former congressman Ron Paul, TPP is dangerous because of the several items listed in its sections that benefit special interest groups. Instead of opening up the market, Paul argues, TPP would boost “world government,” meaning that international nations would unite for all the wrong reasons, such as spying on its citizens. Opening up the trade among individuals in different parts of the globe, Paul explains, has little to do with the effort.

To folks at Tech Dirt, TPP has always been bad, mostly because of the issues mentioned previously. But as reports claiming the US government has allegedly pressured a shoe company to back TPP in exchange for exclusive contracts hit the news, we learn that power players behind the TPP might be just as corrupt as the politicians under fire in South America over one of Brazil’s largest embezzlement schemes in recent history.

According to New Balance, an American footwear company from Boston, Massachusetts, the US government allegedly promised the shoe company would get a “big government contract” if the company stood by TPP.

Unfortunately for New Balance, the deal never came through.

According to the Boston Globe story, It wasn’t until 2015 that New Balance chose to stop criticizing the deal. Until then, the company resisted supporting the pact for years. If what New Balance now alleges is true, executives only chose to change their tune after the Department of Defense claimed it would consider choosing New Balance for a contract to outfit recruits.

So far, New Balance hasn’t received any official contract proposal, and New Balance now say Pentagon officials are intentionally delaying the purchase.

While the US government claims that the contract problem is not associated with TPP in any way, the company is now renewing its battle against the TPP. For all the wrong reasons.

According to Tech Dirt, New Balance claims that while most of the uniform purchased for the military is made in the United States, sneakers are the exception. With that in mind, New Balance decided to offer its products to the government, hoping to obtain a contract. That’s when a representative for the current administration “more or less” asked New Balance to accept a compromise version of the trade deal in exchange for a pledge of help in pressuring the Department of Defense to expedite the government’s purchase of American-made shoes.

According to the Defense Department, New Balance didn’t get the contract because its sneakers aren’t durable or inexpensive enough. Regardless of what the government alleges, Tech Dirt claims, the idea that the government may have offered the company deal if it sided with its trade deal is “highly questionable.”

Be Effective More Than Efficient

in Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

Be Effective More Than Efficient

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

I love efficiency. I like to see people work to make things better, faster, and more appealing.

Innovation is exciting!

Where I get lost is when their fascination with making something easier paralyzes them to the point of stagnation. They will spend more time working to find a better, faster, or easier solution than it would take to just do the work of the existing options.

We are most effective when we work to persuade at the one-on-one level. When having individual conversations, we:

  • Are able to see body language and interpret those cues
  • Get to hear non-verbal auditory cues, like tone, as we listen attentively
  • Display a passion for Liberty 
  • Get immediate feedback on our efforts

While these conversations are not particularly easy, especially at first, they are effective.

efficientAs someone who is rather technologically adept, while also appreciating innovation, I understand the desire to automate and digitize things. The key for us is to balance the “old” and “new,” as we reach different audiences, who have different preferences.

Many “old ways” involve a bit of a personalized attention, like hand-written letters and notes, a telephone call, or following up with a thank you. While we may find e-mail blasts, mass texting, and smartphone apps more efficient for us to broadcast a message, keep in mind that those methods aren’t as effective as actual person-to-person interaction. They also will not reach everyone, even those you target with your message. We all find a reason to archive or delete an e-mail, ignore a text, and turn off the notifications for an app.

As those looking to persuade work to develop the “next big thing,” keep in mind that the time you spend on innovation is time not spent being a shining example of libertarianism, living a libertarian lifestyle, or having those conversations. By seeking to “reinvent the wheel,” many forsake the tried and true methods, rather than working on getting their message out and lose valuable time.

This compounds when we assume one “touch” carries the same weight as another. An in-person conversation holds more value than receiving an e-mail blast. A personal phone call outweighs a direct mail piece. A handwritten thank you note shows you care more than an automated response e-mail.

None of that should be taken to mean that we shouldn’t utilize some of the more innovative, efficient methods of communicating Liberty. Rather, we should incorporate them as part of a comprehensive strategy to be as effective as possible, rather than focusing on just the most efficient, and often less effective, modes.

Tell More Stories

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

Tell More Stories

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

As we lead by example, we continue to demonstrate the principles we espouse.

By showing before we tell, we add credibility to our words.

When we listen, we understand the issues and outcomes important to those with whom we speak.

Now that we’ve demonstrated our principles, made ourselves credible, and understand the issues and outcomes, we can talk about our love of liberty.

It is very easy to jump to facts, figures, and studies to make the case for libertarianism. Reason, logic, and a philosophical principles are what likely grabbed our attention, but they are not particularly persuasive to those who are not yet libertarian in their thinking. So, how can we reach them?

telling storiesA very effective way to convey your message persuasively is to tell a story that offers a libertarian solution in action.

Telling stories helps connect the listener to details, important points, and outcomes that are not found in citing statistics and studies.

Think about the last time you went to an event where there was an in-depth Powerpoint presentation with lots of slides, filled with statistics, facts, and figures. You likely took copious notes to keep up with every last shred of data.

When you left the presentation, how much did you retain without those notes? And six months later? A year later? A decade later?

Very few adults are blessed with an eidetic memory, like Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory, so recalling these details does not come naturally.

What’s something we all remember?

The stories we learned at a young age. Fables from Aesop, movies by Disney, and silly rhyming books by Dr. Seuss. Why do we remember, sometimes in amazing detail, we heard, read, or watched last twenty, thirty, forty or more years ago?

When did you last read or hear the story, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” one of Aesop’s fables?

If asked for a synopsis, we could easily give an accurate retelling of how the hare was beyond confident in his abilities to defeat the tortoise in a foot race. He was so confident that he sped off to an early lead and took a nap. When he awoke and hopped to the finish line, he found that the tortoise had beaten him by staying the course.

The lesson that we can all recite in unison? “Slow and steady wins the race.”

It’s probably been twenty years or more since I’ve heard that fable, but I remember what occurred due to the structure of the plot, characters, climax, and resolution involved in storytelling.

Twenty years ago, I would likely have been sitting in Chemistry class, but I don’t know that I could tell you what Avogadro’s number is or why it’s important, despite its repeated use.

If you’re interested in the science behind why storytelling is effective, here is an article about how stories activate our brains.

So, how many stories are you going to have in your repertoire?

The War on ‘Unwanted Behavior’ Hits the Sidewalks

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

The War on ‘Unwanted Behavior’ Hits the Sidewalks

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

Distracted driving has been this age’s boogeyman for quite sometime. Once the public campaign against the behavior gained traction, it ended up prompting state lawmakers across the country to pass distracted law bills and ordinances throughout most of the United States. But as studies prove that restrictive laws tied to phone use behind the wheel are actually making roads less safe, many carry on with the belief that things will only get better when we start passing even more laws.

Phone In New Jersey, Democratic State Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt has been under the spotlight for trying to penalize pedestrians who walk while looking at their phones. The ban on texting while walking would reportedly cost pedestrians $50 per citation. Offenders could also be required to attend classes on highway safety.

Since the proposal was allegedly mocked by several publications in the state, Watchdog.org reports, Assemblywoman Lampitt was forced to pull the bill from consideration. The backlash was so powerful that it’s nearly impossible to find anything official on the bill in the state legislature’s website. But according to Watchdog, if the bill had seen the light of day, repeating offenders could end up in jail.

In a statement reproduced by NJ.com, Assemblywoman Lampitt is quoted as saying that “like distracted drivers,” distracted walkers are endangering the lives of other drivers. But what is catching the attention of many skeptics, is how proponents of such ban believe that, because distracted walking presents a danger to those using their phones while walking, the enactment of a ban is justified. Is that good enough?

To Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at Cato Institute, US lawmakers have embraced the tyranny of good intentions, creating generations of Americans who are dependent on the government for their every need. To Bandow, “emotion and intention seem to have become principal determinants of government policy,” and the results are tragic.

When politicians claim to be acting for the public good, Bandow wrote, they often ignore the consequences. But “consequences are critical.” Ignoring how certain laws written to criminalize particular behaviors have unwanted consequences won’t make the potentially negative ramifications go away.

Instead of creating a situation in which lawmakers have to address the negative consequences of bad policies down the road, politicians should focus on taking a closer look at how their current proposals may affect people in the long run before pushing new bills.

Thankfully, laws targeting pedestrians with smartphones don’t seem popular in New Jersey. But such restrictions could become popular elsewhere over time, and the trend to push other states to join the prohibitionist mass will only increase.

Being proactive about our safety doesn’t equal lobbying the government for further restrictions. Instead, responsible drivers and pedestrians must lead by example, showing others that they have chosen to put safety first. Passing laws against phone use will only force people to find new way of doing what they are already doing so law enforcers won’t catch them.

Are we really willing to pretend we care by simply leaving it all up to the government and walking away, or are we willing to prove that only personal responsibility—and vigilance—will keep us safe by standing against this type of policy?

Why Florida’s Asset Forfeiture Reforms Don’t Go Far Enough

in Economic Liberty, Issues, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Comments are off

Why Florida’s Asset Forfeiture Reforms Don’t Go Far Enough

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

If you only got your news from major publications such as the Huffington Post, you wouldn’t have learned that Senate Bill 1044, which was signed into law by Florida Governor Rick Scott this past Friday, does nothing to help Floridians protect their property from unlawful seizures from law enforcement agencies.

According to Tenth Amendment’s Mike Maharrey, the bill was a step in the right direction. But while the new law attempts to do the right thing, it doesn’t go far enough. It also fails to close the federal loophole that renders state reforms meaningless.

Florida According to SB 1044’s text, prosecutors have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that property being targeted for seizure is linked to a crime before forfeiture is justified.

The bill also states that suspects must be formally prosecuted and convicted of a crime before asset forfeiture can be implemented. But due to the committee hearing process, Maharrey explains, the bill was somewhat diluted before the final text was sent to the governor’s desk.

Instead of applying the conviction requirements evenly, amendments added to the bill ended up trimming said requirements. Now, all that the law requires is an arrest before most assets are seized. To Maharrey, the fact the bill got a great deal of support from politicians from both sides of the aisles is proof that “reforms didn’t go as far as needed.”

But what the bill does get right can be easily neutralized by federal law.

The fact SB 1044 only restricts state agencies, Maharrey argues, gives local law enforcement officials and prosecutors a choice. Instead of taking on asset forfeiture by using their own resources, Florida can simply hand the case over to the federal government, rendering reforms passed into law toothless when it comes to protecting Floridians’ property from government abuse.

The Department of Justice has seized more than $4.5 billion from property owners across the country, which now sits in the agency’s civil asset forfeiture fund. According to the Institute for Justice, that represents a 4,700 percent increase over the last generation. When added to the Treasury Department’s civil asset forfeiture fund, the numbers are even more staggering. According to Cato Institute, the government took more than $5 billion from Americans in 2014 alone, making this the first time in history that the government has seized more money than burglars stole from private citizens.

According to Tenth Amendment’s Maharrey, the federal government is fighting hard to keep civil asset forfeiture laws in place because “the feds recognize paying state and local police agencies directly in cash for handling their enforcement would reveal their weakness.” Unless the federal government’s Equitable Sharing Program, which the Department of Justice has just launched once again, is slashed for good, state and local police will always have incentives to take part in the practice of seizing private property.

Until then, efforts like Florida’s must be celebrated, but not considered our only way out. State reforms will only be effective if they keep local agencies from having access to the stolen gifts presented by the federal government’s poorly written laws.

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