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Californians Continue to Flee as Public Pensions Eat Up 20 Percent of City Budgets

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

Californians Continue to Flee as Public Pensions Eat Up 20 Percent of City Budgets

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

California has, for a long period in American history, been the go-to place for entrepreneurs and seekers of fortune and fame. But as the regulatory burden grows, making it difficult for business owners to stay, they simply pack and move somewhere where the cost of doing business won’t be as overwhelming.

LuggageThat is a reality and it has been bad for quite some time.

According to CoreLogic’s recent analysis, for every home buyer coming into the Golden State, there are three Californians selling their property and flocking elsewhere.

What the study concluded, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic Sam Khater told reporters, is that the the current state of the California housing market shows that there’s a clear connection “between migration patterns and home prices.”

Since property costs in California have risen 71 percent since 2011, members of the middle and lower classes simply cannot afford to stay so they flee, taking their taxes with them. With local government’s worker pensions growing at a staggering rate — even after reforms were implemented — it isn’t farfetched to believe that, as young, hard-working people leave the state, local governments begin to face tough times, much like what happened in places like Detroit, Michigan.

In a state where the median home price is at $480,000 statewide due to the local and state government’s heavy-handed intervention in the real estate market, incomes aren’t keeping up with the home price increases, making it hard for young families to keep up with their expenses. Instead of opting for paying bills and taxes instead of spending on themselves, people are choosing to leave.

In cities like Los Angeles, taxpayers foot billionaire pension bills, which eventually added up to $1.04 billion in 2015, a sum that represents 20 percent of the city’s general fund. And despite the changes to the laws, city officials will continue to use up to 20 percent of the Los Angeles city budget just to cover pensions and retiree healthcare in the future.

But what about the tech industry? You might ask. Isn’t it making Californians rich?

While the tech industry in is, indeed, thriving, the wealth it creates helps to play into the hands of crony capitalism.

As wealthier tech giants become even more prosperous, they also become more influential among California and Washington politicians. But that’s not all. They also raise the overall cost of living for those around them.

With local governments eating into locals’ paychecks, only those who are powerful enough to influence policy will remain in California. And as history teaches us, this is bound to have a very bad ending.

Muslims Warming Up to the 2nd Amendment? One Can Only Hope

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

Muslims Warming Up to the 2nd Amendment? One Can Only Hope

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

The country has been on fire ever since the presidential election. But as speculation surrounding the President-elect’s picks for important positions within the new administration grows, Americans begin to worry about the potential ramifications of picking certain immigration and foreign policy hardliners.

MuslimAs the fear surrounding a possible “registry” of Muslims grows, however, individuals across the country who believe they could be singled out for their religion begin to look at their options.

To many, leaving the country is farfetched. After all, many of them are as American as apple pie. But to some, the solution is simple. All they have to do is to look at the U.S. Constitution.

Recently, a Pakistani satire newspaper mocked American Muslims who are now prepping up to live under the new administration, claiming Americans who subscribe to Islam are starting to warm up to firearm ownership.

But when it comes to individuals feeling pressure from the authority, the idea that self-defense becomes even more important is a reality.

It’s when we finally understand that centralized governments pose a threat to our liberties that the appreciation for the wisdom behind the 2nd Amendment settles in, bringing us closer to understanding that, no matter who gets to live in the White House for the next four years, nothing should stand between you and your right to stand up for yourself.

To the founder of the gay Los Angeles gun club Pink Pistols, hate crimes shouldn’t be on the rise just because a new president has been elected. Instead of sitting in a corner, asking for compassion, what the LGBT community should do to protect themselves is to “arm themselves.”

He told the Los Angeles Times that, while these crimes are “sickening to watch,” the LGBT community “should arm themselves in a way that’s legal to do so around the country.”

Nobody should believe they are too small to stand up and protect their own, but they should also not delude themselves into thinking that society as a whole owes them protection.

Whether you’re a Muslim, LGBT, Christian, or Jewish, your status as part of a minority group does not make you more or less special. It just makes you who you are, and believing that you’re vulnerable for being you is a fantasy.

So even if reports of Muslims warming up to the 2nd Amendment are nothing but a parody, we should at least consider the importance of embracing this rhetoric. After all, all individuals have a right to defend themselves, and in the United States, the federal government is restricted by the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing individuals are free to exercise their rights to own and bear arms with the peaceful pursuit of defending their property and life, and we should all be coming together to make sure it stays that way.

If You See Something, DO Something

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

If You See Something, DO Something

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

See Something DO SomethingThe Department of Homeland Security’s “If you see something, say something” campaign has become the unofficial slogan of post-9/11 America.

It’s been the butt of jokes by libertarians since its launch, and DHS re-launched the effort with new videos earlier this year.

This campaign is the epitome of Big Government “solutions.” It reinforces the idea that we should outsource responsibility to them, rather than looking out for ourselves. As libertarians, we understand that the price of individual liberty is the personal responsibility that comes with it.

While this slogan is directed to guide us to act when faced with suspicious terrorism-related activity, we can slightly alter it to direct our own lives away from Big Government and toward a free society.

When we see something that needs to be addressed, something should be DONE about it.

When we see an area of need, there is no reason to push that responsibility toward someone else, especially toward Big Government. Rather than outsourcing to them, we can address them ourselves by working with one another to solve the problems we face, without using the force of government.

We can strengthen our connections with our neighbors as we work together to reach the best solutions, instead of pushing one another away by bringing in a bully. Not only can we cut out the intrusion of Big Government, but we will likely find ourselves in a better situation than if we invited them in.

By taking charge of our own lives and working with those around us, rather than asking for action (and often permission), we can show others what a free society looks like. We can show how we would operate, and most importantly, show the lack of a need for government involvement in our lives.

We reduce the government’s influence over others when we don’t get the government involved in the first place.

Try A Different Tack This Holiday Season

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

Try A Different Tack This Holiday Season

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

The 2016 holiday season is already upon us. We have Thanksgiving next week, and we have Hanukkah and Christmas next month.

These holidays mean that we’re going to have a lot of time with friends, family, and co-workers as you go to parties and gatherings.

Typically, what we see from a lot of libertarian groups, in an attempt to advance libertarianism and the ideas of liberty, is to use these audiences that you have as a way to talk about libertarianism. This year, I’m going to ask that you try something different.

I’m asking that you do not talk about politics AT ALL. Instead, I want you to do something that is going to give you an opportunity to have both peace and a way to learn about some of the beliefs that these people hold. The best way you can achieve that is to listen.

Don’t engage. Just listen.

What you’re going to be able to do as people talk about their own ideas, you’re going to get a better understanding of where they’re coming from. You’re also going to be able to use that later on to formulate the ideas that you’ll be able to communicate when you’re talking with them later. This way, you’ll already understand their positions and you’ll have time to build your response to the ideas they hold.

The beauty of this is that you’ll have a ton of peace because you’re not going to be arguing with anyone. There won’t be any screaming matches or uncomfortable situations about ideas.

Instead, you’ll be able to have a peaceful Thanksgiving dinner. You’ll be able to have a wonderful learning Christmas feast, and you’ll learn so much more about other people’s views.

Just stop… And listen.

Hamilton Fans, BEWARE: Anti-Scalpers Bill Will Hurt Concert Goers

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

Hamilton Fans, BEWARE: Anti-Scalpers Bill Will Hurt Concert Goers

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

Scalpers are often “greedy,” and widely known for their “malicious” ways, at least that what we constantly hear. But when concert goers forget to buy tickets to their favorite band’s concert, the reliable scalper is their best friend. So what’s up with monopolies such as Live Nation Entertainment attempting to put an end to scalping “bots?”

HamiltonAs any major corporation would do, Live Nation spent no time attempting to develop a system that would keep said “bots,” or rather the scout bot software, from purchasing tickets en masse and reselling them online. Instead, the company decided to lobby the government for “help.” As a result, Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced the BOTS Act in order to offer “equitable consumer access to tickets.”

In order to pressure the Senate to pass the bill, legislators are even using personal testimonies from fans who lost the opportunity to purchase cheap tickets to “Hamilton.”

But according to technology policy fellow at the R Street Institute, Anne Hobson and senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University Christopher Koopman, the legislation does not pass the smell test. Simply because the bill would not benefit fans as it promises.

What senators may call a solution, experts call a “solution in search of a problem.”

According to Koopman and Hobson, the problem is not a problem at all. Take Live Nation, for instance. The company’s Ticketmaster service sold over 147 million tickets in 2012. Even if bots acquired about 100,000 tickets a year, which hasn’t been proven since there isn’t enough data to support this claim, “that would still be significantly less than 1 percent of all tickets sold,” experts contend.

The company vows that 60 percent of its most desirable tickets are purchased by bots, but choose to ignore the fact that the company loses tickets by not selling them to the public directly.

By using a system such as Ticketmaster, Live Nation opens itself up to this type of issue.

On top of this problem, proponents of the BOTS Act ignore that by barring scalpers from operating the way they do today would help to push the price of tickets up, not down. Thus hurting the consumer.

By limiting the public’s access to tickets with the use of Ticketmaster, companies like Live Nation also help the cost of concert tickets to be artificially high by preselling or putting the majority of tickets on hold for artists and managers.

With artists and managers reselling these tickets to the highest bidders, they are also competing with scalpers. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why the industry is so concerned with this matter, willing to lobby Congress to act on it in such a dramatic fashion.

But if the goal is to create an “equitable consumer access to tickets,” government must step away from this fight.

But since my hint is that the goal is to just ensure the entertainment industry is protected from those “greedy” scalpers, I’m sure few in Congress will act with the consumer in mind.

Texas Could Soon ‘Nullify’ Federal Gun Control Measures

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

Texas Could Soon ‘Nullify’ Federal Gun Control Measures

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

This week, a Texas state representative took a step that could effectively nullify any past or future federal gun control measures.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, Representative Matthew Krause, (R-Ft. Worth) prefiled House Bill 110, which would prohibit the state of Texas to offer any resources in support of several federal gun control measures, whether they have already become law or haven’t yet been discussed by Washington D.C. legislators.

Open_Carry_March_Erika_Rich_03_1_jpg_800x1000_q100Since the federal government often relies on state governments to ensure its laws are being enforced, states that withdrawal their participation end up leaving the federal government empty-handed. As a result, enforcement is eliminated in practice.

HB 110’s text makes it clear that any “agency of this state or a political subdivision of this state, and a law enforcement officer or other person employed by an agency of this state or a political subdivision of this state” is not allowed to provide any assistance to “a federal agency or official” upholding a rule or regulation that targets firearms, gun owners, firearm accessory, or firearm ammunition. If the regulation “does not exist under the laws” of the state of Texas, local agencies and officials would be barred from assisting the federal government with enforcement.

As we all know, the federal government is running out of resources and nullification efforts explore this reality, making it difficult for federal officials to get their will imposed on states.

By passing laws that ensure states refuse to participate in tyrannical policies embraced by the federal government, states send a clear message to Washington, D.C., letting federal bureaucrats know that local governments are, in a way, more powerful than a centralized administration will ever be.

But this is not the only benefit of seeing similar efforts being embraced nationwide. Taxpayers are also spared millions, since state agencies will not have to bend backwards to follow the federal government’s orders.

While many believe that a Republican White House won’t attempt to pursue any restrictive gun control regulations anytime soon, Texas doesn’t have any assault weapon law. Locals are also allowed to own firearms without registering their guns, purchase them without a permit, and able to purchase magazines without having to worry about capacity restrictions and they like it that way.

Small CA City Employees Living Large, Making More Than Governors

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

Small CA City Employees Living Large, Making More Than Governors

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

Governments lack knowledge. And it’s what that axiom in mind that we can safely say that acting without knowledge is, even in the short run, a waste.

SantaMonicaIn the city of Santa Monica, California, local bureaucrats are making more than $300,000 a year. That’s $187,000 more than current Vice President elect Mike Pence made as Governor of Indiana the past year.

According to a local investigation, at least 105 Santa Monica employees make more than $300,000 a year, including Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Brooks, who makes $480,000 a year while public records show her base salary is at $306,000.

Overseeing 200 officers, Chief Brooks’ salary seems a bit unusual, especially when you compare it with next door’s Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who makes $344,000 while overseeing more than 9,000 officers.

Still in Santa Monica, an unnamed police sergeant raked in nearly $500,000 last year while his base pay was only $137,000. With overtime alone, he was paid about $179,000 extra but unused sick and vacation time were also added to the total, bringing the sergeant’s pay to the total of $475,000.

Others in the local force such as lieutenants, other sergeants, fire captains, and even a marshal made up to six figures by working overtime. According to the Santa Monica city manager, the high number of city employees working overtime is due to the fact that several positions are still unfilled. Currently, however, 18 new firefighters are training in the local academy. Other 18 positions are still waiting to be filled within the local Police Department.

As local transparency groups ask officials why they are having such a hard time filling positions while offering such good pay rates, they want more answers. And if public pressure grows, they may even be able to push for an audit.

As the taxpayer is forced to foot the bill, these watchdogs want city officials to be able to explain in detail why so many of its employees are making more than governors and, sometimes, even as much as the president.

Currently, Santa Monica has some of the highest taxes in the region. With the imminent increase in sales taxes projected to pass by popular vote, they will become even higher.

In other local cities such as Long Beach, watchdogs found 13 city employees making more than $300,000. The same number of overpaid employees was found in Newport Beach, but both cities have populations that are about five times that of Santa Monica.

While the figures are exorbitant, the real problem in this case is not only that government officials are clueless about what the labor market looks from outside of their offices. The bottom line is: When the money doesn’t come out of your own pocket, you do not have to be careful about how you spend it.

Seeing taxpayers as a bottomless pit of money, governments have enough incentives to keep on spending without being held accountable for how they are spending this money. In a free market where the price system is in place, the cost of labor is varied and competitive. Without the pricing mechanism, service providers are not aware of the demand, making them incapable of determining real value.

The only solution to this problem is to shrink the government. Even local ones.

Live In Peace

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

Live In Peace

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

Well, another election happened.

As we get further from Tuesday, we are going to see that the conversations and discussions that we were having just a week ago, driving our lives (and probably driving us crazy) are going to fade and become distant memories, if we remember them at all.

So, now what?

The election is over. The results are in.

We have an opportunity now to really focus. We can focus on ourselves. We can focus on our families. We can focus on what’s happening around us. We can take some time to focus on our hobbies.

The beauty of all of this is, we’re NOT focused on the government anymore.

Personally, I’m going to take some time to do the things that make me happy. We’ve discussed previously that I’m only involved in politics so that I don’t have to be.

So, I’m going to focus on my happiness. I’m going to take this time to connect… Connect with myself, connect with my family, connect with my friends, many of whom were ignored over the last few weeks and months as politics consumed me. I’m also going to be able to connect more people, and new people.

As I connect with new people, I’m not going to let politics drive that conversation or that relationship. What I’m going to do is focus on learning more about them, their interests, and relate them, as we work to make a difference in each others’ lives. We can make a difference by making one another happy. We can make a difference, working to together to change someone else’s life.

What I’m going to do is that rather than at the end of my life, rather than resting in peace, that I spend the time here living in peace. I encourage you to do the same.

Go out and find what makes you happy and spend your time doing that. Meet some new people and experience new things, like we discussed just a couple weeks ago. You might find new things that make you happy.

Don’t focus on the endgame, where you will be resting in peace. Take this time to live in peace.

What We Can Learn About Choosing Liberty from Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”

in Liberator Online by Morgan Dean Comments are off

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

This election cycle forced Americans to make some tough decisions- tough decisions regarding candidates they simply aren’t comfortable supporting. This led Republicans to support Democrats, Democrats to support Republicans and a record breaking percentage of the population saying “we reject these two choices” and supporting a third party candidate.

It is important to remember that when we support policies and candidates influenced by political power and corruption, we get the same, tired results, instead of getting results that will benefit us.

So how do we navigate this corrupt political system? How do we make the right choice? The answer is fairly simple. Always choose liberty.

Road Not TakenRobert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken expresses a similar predicament. This poem is about choosing between two paths.  Neither path can be predicted, as it is impossible to see all the way down either.  However, one path looks as if it hasn’t been traveled nearly as much. The speaker knows he cannot remake whatever decision he makes.  This gives him pause.  He knows he cannot predict the future, and that he will never be able to travel the path that he does not take.

Frost understands the age-old predicament of choice, wanting both, but ultimately deciding.

We face decisions in our political lives, which have a direct affect on our personal and professional lives.  Every time we vote, engage in political discourse, or label ourselves as a certain ideology, we choose a path.

Today we face two paths, one being Big Government, the other being freedom and liberty. The first path is the easiest. 

It is easy to let the government take care of us, provide us with transportation, health insurance, housing, and food. But when does it stop? Where is the limit to government involvement?  The other path can be rough and rocky as it is one of self-reliance, independence, and liberty.  This path doesn’t allow us to rely on the government, but rather on ourselves. The latter path may be the harder one, but it is also the one that will give us freedom in the long run.

Frost notes in The Road Not Taken that he took the road less traveled “and that has made all the difference.”

Wouldn’t you like to know that you took the path that was less traveled, even though it was the harder one? That ultimately, you made a conscious decision everyday to choose liberty? Choosing liberty simply means supporting ideals, candidates, and policies that put freedom first.

So let’s not take the path that has been traveled so many times, let’s make a hard decision, and let’s make change happen.  After all, it was also Robert Frost who said “freedom lies in being bold.”

Yes, Corruption Cripples the Economy

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

Yes, Corruption Cripples the Economy

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

When analyzing the potential ramifications of picking one presidential candidate over the other, many prefer to overlook claims of corruption. On one hand, voters might not be exactly aware of what corruption may entail, but on the other, they might not be entirely sure of how corruption taking place in high levels of government will ever impact their personal finances. Unfortunately for those who do not seem to understand how corruption affects them, the consequences of rent-seeking and influence-peddling schemes go deeper than we expect.

corruptionIn Protectionism vs. Corruption: Which Is Worse for the Economy?, economist D.W. MacKenzie writes that while “an overwhelming majority of economists have agreed on the benefits of free trade since 1817,” many contemporary politicians believe that some trading restrictions help boost the U.S. economy.

But when it comes to analyzing the impact of corruption, few seem to take into consideration that political corruption “impairs economic efficiency and lowers living standards.”

Traditionally, corruption has always been treated as a legal affair, which might explain why the population’s attention is steered away from the real-world consequences of the practice.

According to MacKenzie, the problem with widespread corruption is that special interest groups take advantage of it, lobbying government elements directly to provide them with special treatment, therefore transferring wealth “from the general population into their pockets.” When analyzed closely, these special relationships between private industries and the government “make us all worse off” because the resources used to ensure these groups’ needs are being met could have been spared. In other words, taxpayer money spent on what many call corporate welfare could have stayed in the consumer’s pockets and then used for other purposes, getting that amount back into the economy and helping to make it grow.

Another aspect of political corruption that is often ignored is that free trade is the necessary condition for economic growth to occur, but in countries where markets thrive, their governments are often less impacted by corruption. Considering political corruption is inefficient and bad for growth, MacKenzie concludes, giving more power to politicians known for being corrupt will further damage the economy.

As voters cast their ballots for president, they must have in mind that the only policy that will bring economic growth and peace to America is the complete elimination of barriers to commerce, getting the government completely out of the business of picking winners. Unless the link between the government and the rent seeker is severed, there will be no room left for prosperity.

Creepy County Officials Stalk Grocery Shoppers in Search for Unlicensed Pets

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

Creepy County Officials Stalk Grocery Shoppers in Search for Unlicensed Pets

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

When collectivists get their way, life gets complicated. And over time, even expensive.

The movement to ensure pets are properly taken care of has created a nightmare to some residents in Seattle, Washington, to the point that their privacy is now at risk.

PetsAccording to Komo News, thousands of pet owners in the county are receiving letters from local officials telling them to license their pets. The letter adds that, if they do not comply, they could face a 250 fine.

For the last four years, King County officials have been using the data gathered by the company paying stores such as Safeway and QFC, a supermarket chain based in Bellevue, Washington, to have access to customer data registered in their system every time consumers use a reward swipe card. By having access to this data, King County officials have access to information on what these consumers are purchasing, making pet owners an easy target of local authorities.

When thousands of residents received this letter, many felt officials were “snooping around in a place where they shouldn’t be.”

But according to representatives from the local Animal Services, this is just a “standard marketing practice.”

But should government have access to this information?

To defend their actions, local officials claim residents are being made aware of the requirements and benefits associated with pet licensing. But to companies like Safeway, the county’s approach is wrong and in the long run, it might even cost them business considering the company promises its customers it does not give their data to third parties.

Last year, this sneaky practice helped county officials bring in $100,000 in new pet license revenue. But at what cost? Data on how much King County pays third parties for customer information doesn’t seem to be factored in, and with what pet owners pay the county yearly to keep their pets licensed, they could be instead investing in other much more necessary pet-related purchases.

As far as the privacy issue is concerned, the fact that a county official has access to your grocery list opens up your private life to further scrutiny. Instead of minding their own business, officials might soon be using this privilege to target you for other products you purchase regularly, going as far as using this access to help piece together criminal enterprises that never took place.

In the great haystack of data, officials end up targeting innocent individuals at time, wasting taxpayer-backed resources just like mass online surveillance does.

What Is Right Isn’t Always What Is Legal

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

What Is Right Isn’t Always What Is Legal

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

When discussing libertarianism with others, never forget that we have one of the best tools at our disposal at almost all times. We have the biggest recruiter to libertarian philosophy, and that is government.

One of the best ways that we can utilize that tool is that we can talk about the difference between what is right and what is legal.

Those two are NOT one in the same. On the one hand, we can talk about the things that are right. We can talk about the things that we know to be true. We can talk about the things that are the result of the decisions that you and I make about what is right for us.

On the other, we have what is legal. Those decisions aren’t necessarily something we were a party to. Many times these things were decided before we were even born, and often, they were decided hundreds or thousands of miles away from the situation at hand by people we’ve not met and we’ll never meet. They know nothing about our situation.

Do you honestly believe that we would see people that were arrested for feeding the homeless without a permit if we were focused on what is right vs. what is legal?

Do you think we would see people fined for growing their own food, instead of having a lawn? Or for having chickens in their backyard for fresh eggs? Or want to be more self-sustaining?

Would we see children suffering because they aren’t able to get the medicine that their doctor would otherwise prescribe if it were legal?

We can utilize these examples and many more as we talk about the difference between those two things, because we can then drive the discussion to be about how when we let others make our decisions, we’re at their mercy. We aren’t deciding for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. We outsource that morality to somebody else.

When you outsource that decision-making, when we outsource that morality to someone else, you’re at the mercy of what they believe to be right, good, and true, and not what is the best outcome for you and for me.

When we’re talking about libertarianism, we can really take an opportunity by focusing on the difference between right and legal. Again, they’re not the same, and we don’t need to let people think that they are.

 

DOJ’s Rule Risks Our Privacy, And It’s About to Become Law

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

DOJ’s Rule Risks Our Privacy, And It’s About to Become Law

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

The Department of Justice’s proposed Rule 41, which would allow U.S. judges to provide law enforcement with search warrants for devices outside of the DOJ’s and its agencies’ jurisdiction, could soon become law, unless Congress does something.

DOJWhile Rule 41 could make Americans less safe, putting their privacy at risk, that is not the only issue with the proposed change to the law. According to Tech Dirt, Rule 41 could also turn millions of computer users across the world into criminals, simply because they use privacy tools to communicate with one another.

“From journalists communicating with sources to victims of domestic violence seeking information on legal services, people worldwide depend on privacy tools for both safety and security,” wrote the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). But if the DOJ wins this battle, the reality is that the U.S. government will be given the power to access phones and computers remotely with little to no oversight.

By allowing law enforcement to seek warrants to computers or other devices equipped with privacy tools, many have argued, Rule 41 adds a presumption of guilt to an activity that is part of the daily lives of most innocent American technology users.

In order to make sure the DOJ is not successful in its battle against privacy, several congressmen and senators from both political parties sent a letter to the DOJ asking for clarification on how the agency seeks to interpret the proposed changes to the law.

According to EFF, if Rule 41 becomes law, “anyone who is using any technological means to safeguard their location privacy could find themselves suddenly in the jurisdiction of a prosecutor-friendly or technically-naïve judge, anywhere in the country.” In their letter to the DOJ, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), and several others argue that Rule 41 would give law enforcement the power to hack into any device, expanding the scope of the DOJ’s authority, and risking our safety and privacy as a result.

Tech Dirt argues that while the DOJ claims that Rule 41 would not interfere with current laws, which already establish the need to demonstrate probable cause before the warrant is produced, judges have already been caught signing on warrants that exceeded existing jurisdiction limits.

Claiming that Rule 41 would keep those safeguards in place, Tech Dirt adds, is simply dishonest.

Unless Congress acts fast, Rule 41 will become the law by December 31st. Unfortunately for privacy, all the media seems to be talking about is the presidential election. Is anyone even paying attention?

Americans Starting to Lose Faith in Centralized Power

in Elections and Politics, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Americans Starting to Lose Faith in Centralized Power

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

If you are mostly accustomed to getting your news from established TV and news sources, you might not know that a new poll suggests that most Americans have lost faith in how the media covers politics in the country. But if you have been paying attention, you probably agree with them.

PeopleA poll carried out by Suffolk University and the USA Today asked individuals “who do you think the media, including major newspapers and TV stations, would like to see elected president: Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?” While the question itself could have been presented differently, taking into consideration the fact that, traditionally, the job of the news reporter is to be unbiased and faithful to facts, the fact 75.9 percent of respondents said they believe the established media wants to see the Democratic candidate win proves they know that cronyism has taken over.

According to the poll, most of those who responded believe that the media is overwhelmingly in favor of one presidential candidate, discarding not only the choice of the second most established party, but also both the Libertarian Party and the Green Party candidates.

That brings us to the realization that, as individuals begin to notice the subjects playing a role in the U.S. presidential elections are also partly responsible for influencing our decisions, they also realize that our central government is filled with individuals who have made their way to the top under far from ideal circumstances.

Instead of living by principles and the idea that they represent those who have elected them, these politicians only hold promises to those who have bankrolled their campaigns.

The “pay to play” scheme, after all, is not only a reality among clusters of politicians who are being eviscerated by those paying attention. It’s also a reality wherever a centralized form of government is in place.

Centralization of power is, at the end of the day, the right environment for corruption to thrive.

In Human Action, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises writes that “there is no such thing as a just and fair method of exercising the tremendous power that interventionism puts into the hands of the legislature and the executive,” explaining that, in “many fields of the administration of interventionist measures, favoritism simply cannot be avoided.”

As interventionism remains an innate part of governing, what we, libertarians, can take away from this recent poll is that the access to information provided by an open wide web of ideas, such as the Internet, has helped us understand these powerful alliances, seeing their result right before our eyes on a regular basis.

People are no longer going along quietly. And that’s why we should be celebrating.

As CA Moves to Legalize Recreational Weed, Startups Work Hard to Meet the Demand

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

As CA Moves to Legalize Recreational Weed, Startups Work Hard to Meet the Demand

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

California could soon be legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

If Proposition 64 passes this November, recreational marijuana would be legal in the Golden State for individuals aged 21 or older. Taxes would be established and then used to back government-run drug law enforcement, research, and what the architects of Prop 64 call “environmental restoration, cleanup, and enforcement efforts” resulting from illegal marijuana production.

PotWhile the initiative allows the state to profit from legalization, helping to boost the militaristic approach to the war on drugs locally, the law could benefit individual users and business owners who commercialize weed. And that’s what the startup community living in the heart of the American tech revolution is celebrating.

According to some reports, Silicon Valley’s class of pot entrepreneurs can’t wait until the votes have been all counted. Instead of sitting and waiting to see how things play out, they are already putting a “signature Valley spin on the age-old practice of selling marijuana,” using what they have learned from the social media explosion in order to prepare the market for consumers dying to use their smartphones to order some ounces of girl scout cookies, Bruce Banner, or perhaps sour diesel.

But they are not stopping there. They are also eager to develop software for growers and dispensaries, helping to “blow open the doors to innovation on the technology side of the cannabis industry,” says Chris Walsh, editorial director of Denver-based Marijuana Business Daily.

While this enthusiasm shows the importance of allowing markets to let consumers make all decisions, it is also a risky business, considering marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

During the upcoming months and even years, many states will be joining the list of states legalizing marijuana, but federal regulators will, most likely, be the last ones to embrace the trend.

Estimates suggest that by 2020, marijuana sales in America will exceed $22 billion. While there’s a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs to join the industry, barriers lifted by the very laws removing the criminal element and regulating the sale and use of weed may make it difficult for those who aren’t already established or well-connected to succeed.

To those who are already in the business or getting ready to cash in, there’s still an issue with the financial aspect of the marijuana industry, considering the fact that most investment firms will steer away from marijuana entrepreneurs due to federal pressure. But companies like Snoop Dogg’s Casa Verde Capital have already thought of that, offering startups the means to get going with their ideas without having to worry about convincing powerful, well-connected men in suits their business plan will work despite all odds.

As more states join the legalization movement, opportunities will be made available. It’s up to those willing to take the risk of going against the feds to embrace them.

What is the Non-Aggression Principle?

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

What is the Non-Aggression Principle?

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

QUESTION: What is the libertarian “non-aggression principle” (or “non-aggression axiom”)?

FistsMY SHORT ANSWER: Libertarianism is based on a single ideal, the non-aggression principle, so libertarian rhetoric tends to be remarkably consistent. Libertarians oppose the initiation of force to achieve social or political goals. They reject “first-strike” force, fraud or theft against others; they only use force in self-defense. Those who violate this “non-aggression principle” are expected to make their victims whole as much as possible. This “Good Neighbor Policy” is what most of us were taught as children. We were told not to lie, cheat, steal, not to strike our playmates unless they hit us first. If we broke a friend’s toy, we were expected to replace it.

Most of us still practice what we learned as children with other individuals, but we have grown accustomed to letting government aggress against others when we think we benefit. Consequently, our world is full of poverty and strife, instead of the harmony and abundance that freedom (i.e., freedom from aggression) brings.

Simply put, libertarians take the non-aggression principle that most people implicitly follow in their interactions with other individuals, and apply it to group actions, including government actions, as well.

You might have heard the Libertarian Party (LP) referred to as the “Party of Principle.” This is because the LP bases its programs and policy positions on the non-aggression principle.

Experience New Things Experience New People

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

Experience New Things Experience New People

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

So, you’ve likely noticed that this week’s From Me to You is going to be a little bit different.

I’m not in my office. There’s not a bookshelf full of books behind me. In fact, it’s a little chilly, definitely overcast, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to rain on me at any second.

But this different experience is what we’re talking about today. We’re talking about experiencing new things, experiencing new people, as we become more effective communicators of libertarian ideas and libertarian philosophy.

I believe that you experiences determine the decisions that you make. Those decisions drive the actions that you take. Those actions lead to outcomes, whether good or bad.

As a libertarian, I want you to make those decisions for yourself, rather than having them centrally-planned from hundreds or thousands of miles away. I believe that YOU are going to make the best decision for yourself.

How am I going to know that though? I really only have my own experiences to draw from.

If I’m not out there experiencing what others are, and not experiencing what others struggle with, or how they succeed, how am I really going to be a proper advocate for making decisions for ourselves?

Libertarianism is not only about freedom and liberty for me, but it’s about freedom and liberty for everyone.

If I’m not experiencing what other people do, and I’m not able to empathize with their situations, how can I really be a proper advocate for liberty?

So, what I’m suggesting to you is that you go out and experience new things. Experience new people.

Find a different perspective. Step outside of your comfort zone.

We have an opportunity to really make a difference, as we learn about others, and they learn about us.

As you’re experiencing what other people have, and you’re finding out more about their lives and their stories, you’re going to be able to build rapport. You’ll then be able to influence their lives in a more libertarian way.

They may adopt some of the ideas and philosophy that we hold.

So, what’s going to be your first new experience?

What Paradise Lost Can Teach Us About Being Human

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

What Paradise Lost Can Teach Us About Being Human

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It’s no secret that, politically, this year has been unprecedented. Electoral politics have dominated every media source for over a year, making it impossible not to notice the ideological divide that has separated each of the political parties.

This has made one thing clear, our system is broken. This has created animosity on the national political stage that we have never seen before. With everything happening around us, sometimes we forget that we can make a difference, as humans, and that we don’t have to accept our broken political system.

Paradise LostIn Paradise Lost John Milton retells the Christian creation story of Adam and Eve. It is considered to be the story of “man’s first disobedience.” However, what is most important to consider is what that disobedience causes.

Milton writes that without Adam and Eve’s classic example of disobedience, God would never have been able to show his grace and love, creating a better outcome than if they hadn’t disobeyed him. We have this opportunity every day. As humans we are flawed, but this doesn’t mean we have to accept the flaws of our world, or even our broken political system. This means that we are given the opportunity to turn the negative into positive.

We can even see traits of humanity within Satan’s character. He went off on his own and created his own army, only to have nostalgic feelings for Heaven, asking himself why he couldn’t just be content in the presence of God.

In our world we have both good and evil. It is unavoidable, and as long as one exists, so will the other. We live in a world of contraries and we see that play out every day in politics. Peace vs. war. Love vs. hate. We must ask ourselves which side we want to fall on, then we must act.

What Paradise Lost teaches us is that it is a beautiful thing to be human and know both good and evil. As much pain as evil brings about, it also gives meaning to good. The difference between the two help us understand what we should seek, and what we must certainly should avoid.

Whether you believe that humans are innately good or evil, there is importance in remembering that we are all still human.. We must remember to first be good humans, THEN be good libertarians, but also remember that those two things can go hand in hand.

When Satan says that it is “better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven” is he right? It is better to pursue the existing evils for the sake of winning instead of turning the bad into good, reaching across party lines and working together to create long-term solutions?

What This School District in Pakistan Teaches the World About Choice

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

What This School District in Pakistan Teaches the World About Choice

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

According to Al Jazeera, the most literate district in Pakistan is not heavily subsidized by the Pakistani government.

HunzaKnown for being a success story in a country torn apart by war and poverty, Hunza Valley beats all other Pakistani school districts, boasting 95 percent literacy rates among both genders. Meanwhile, districts across the country have some of the lowest literacy rates in the world, with the average adult literacy rate at 55 percent and female adult literacy rate at 42 percent.

When analyzed closely, Hunza Valley’s uniqueness is easy to identify. After all, their schools are not run by the government. Instead of waiting for government to do something, the local community decided to take matters into their own hands in the 1980’s, starting their own independent community school system.

What started as a way to fill in the gap left by government turned into a success story, thanks to the private initiative of villagers.

Muhammad Ibrahim, the chairman of the local Ismaili Community, says that village residents “all joined hands to start a community school [that would] produce students who can compete with the challenges of the modern world,” giving birth to the most successful education story coming from Pakistan in the past years.

The plan worked so well that currently, parents will power through any kind of struggle or difficulty to ensure their children are attending a community-run school.

“Education is the top priority” for Hunza residents, Hunza Public School principal Mehraban Karim told Al Jazeera. And to ensure their children are educated, “they have and will eat grass but will not compromise on their kids’ education. That’s the reason we have 95% literacy rate,” Karim added.

In Pakistan, education is free and mandatory up to secondary school. While classes start at a young age and the enrollments are high, the community-run schools in Hunza are much more popular, outnumbering government-run schools.

According to a World Bank study from 2014, another mountain district five hours away from Hunza Valley has a 5 percent female literacy rate. A huge difference when compared to Hunza, where local communities work together to educate their young without the help of government.

While infrastructure-wise, Hunza Valley cannot be compared to many — if any — school districts in the United States, the results of Hunza residents’ efforts are tangible.

That’s what happens when parents, educators, and community leaders come together to ensure their children have an option. When government fails, individuals step up, doing a much better job at educating children so they won’t become dependent on government assistance throughout their early years and even long into their adulthood.

Hopefully, parents in America can learn a thing or two from these Pakistani parents, becoming more involved and more interested in learning more about how they should go about amplifying school choice nationwide.

ACA’s Medicaid Expansion: Not Good for Your Health

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

ACA’s Medicaid Expansion: Not Good for Your Health

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

In 2010, just a few weeks before Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama said that taxpayers “end up subsidizing the uninsured when they’re forced to go to the emergency room for care…. You can’t get … savings if those people are still going to the emergency room.”

healthcarePart of what the current administration’s signature health law was supposed to do was to increase cost savings so visits to the ER weren’t as common. After helping to pass the law, then-Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi claimed that “the uninsured will get coverage [so they are] no longer [being] left to the emergency room for medical care.”

Six years have passed since those who supported ACA and its main provisions promised to bring the number of ER visits down and yet, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that assuming ACA would lower the number of ER visits was a mistake.

With the expansion of Medicaid in states like Oregon, ER visits increased. But the increase is not the only consequence of Medicaid expansion. When compared to 2015, this year’s Medicaid expansion spending is 49 percent higher per enrollee than what government had expected.

In order to expand Medicaid in Oregon, officials used lottery to expand Medicaid benefits to a limited number of lower income, non-disabled adults.

According to the study’s authors, “Medicaid’s value to recipients is lower than the government’s costs of the program, and usually substantially below,” perhaps because, researchers found, expanded Medicaid coverage “resulted in significantly more outpatient visits, hospitalizations, prescription medications, and emergency department visits.”

When it comes to how Medicaid expansion pushed individuals to the ER, researchers explain that, during the past 15 months, Medicaid increased ER visits by 40 percent.

Researchers found that even if patients have Medicaid, there’s “no evidence that Medicaid coverage makes use of the physician’s office and use of ERs substitutes for one another.”

What many choose to forget is that Medicaid expansion was made possible because of ACA. And according to the government’s own projections, each Medicaid enrollee cost the taxpayer roughly $6.366 in 2015, 49 percent higher than past predictions. This cost spike is mostly due to the fact the federal government reimburses 100 percent of state spending on enrollees who were added after the expansion was launched.

When ACA became law, states were given enough incentives to pay insurance companies high payment rates so new enrollees were cared for, but the high payment rates could only be covered by the federal taxpayer. Since many physicians are leaving the system altogether, preferring to not accept new Medicaid enrollees due to lower rates, patients continued to use ER at a high rate, even higher than years past. So coverage, in this case specifically, did nothing to help patients in need. The result is higher cost to the taxpayer. Instead of making people healthier and helping individuals who are unable to afford medical care, researchers found that the result has been the exact opposite, invalidating ACA apologists.

Will they continue to ignore these results?

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