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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

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

It’s no secret that, 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?

Goldman Sachs’ CEO: Regulations Help Us Grow, Keeping Competitors at Bay

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Economics by Alice Salles Comments are off

Goldman Sachs’ CEO: Regulations Help Us Grow, Keeping Competitors at Bay

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

Crony capitalism continues to expand big government’s grip, extending the realm under government’s control in ways we once thought impossible. As businesses and employees hurt due to government’s increasing control over all business fields, so does the economy.

GoldmanWhile this issue is inherently a government problem, big business has a lot to do with the growing regulatory burden. Instead of downplaying their role, libertarians should be pointing out how both parties are to blame, and how even big businesses understand this reality and often use it to their advantage.

In a 2015 interview, Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein explained how regulations help to protect large, established firms, keeping smaller competitors from having access to the market.

In his own words, he gave the reporter an outline of what happens when a large firm like his is afraid of its competitors, and what’s funny is that few news outlets caught on to the CEO’s unabashed honesty, choosing to never reproduce his comments or downplay their importance.

When talking about how upstart tech companies and the threat they pose to Goldman, Blankfein said that while “all industries are being disrupted to some extent by new entrants coming in from technology,” regulations have been a friend of Goldman mostly because “there are some parts of [Goldman] business, where it’s very hard for outside entrants to come in, disrupt our business, simply because we’re so regulated.”

The burden of regulation, Blankfein added, is a serious issue for “people in our industry,” but, “in some cases,” Blankfein continued, “the burdensome regulation acts as a bit of a moat around our business.”

As you can see, Goldman Sachs’ own CEO refers to regulations as moats. In other words, the regulatory burden can be heavy and Goldman executives agree, but as long as the rules keep competitors from getting anywhere near the Goldman castle, the company doesn’t see a problem with complying.

According to Bill Anderson, a professor of economics at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Maryland, America truly embraced regulations during the Progressive era, following the lead of progressive leaders such as Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, and Woodrow Wilson who believed that “the federal system of delegated powers was archaic and out of date for a ‘modern, progressive’ society.”

To these politicians, stripping “powers from state and local governments and transferring them to Washington, DC” and “convincing members of Congress to give up their own constitutionally-designated powers” were essential steps in making America a truly progressive nation. How did they manage to go about putting their plan in practice? By “crafting of regulatory agencies,” all of which are part of the executive branch.

So next time you see a Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton supporter go on and on about how government and big business should not be involved in any way, remind them of what has enabled this cozy relationship.

College Kids Don’t Understand the First Amendment, Hate It Anyway

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

College Kids Don’t Understand the First Amendment, Hate It Anyway

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

Last spring, I wrote about college students hating free speech. At the time, I didn’t have a good answer to explain why 22 percent of college students believe that “colleges should prohibit biased or offensive speech in the furtherance of a positive learning environment.” Students are done a disservice when administrators promote “safe spaces” and systems to report microaggressions for situations where students face speech they don’t like or can’t handle.

the_worst_thing_about_censorship-4ea871c-introBut now, I think that that 22% of American students just don’t understand the freedoms protected by the First Amendment – and they hate it because it’s the cool thing to do.

If you haven’t seen the news coverage, countless protests have taken place around the country that are, essentially, against free speech. The irony abounds.

Most recently, Jake Goldberg, a Tufts University sophomore, proposing a sweeping free speech resolution to the campus community, was viciously attacked and maligned on social media by peers who suggest he’s only lobbying for free speech so he can be free to say racist and oppressive things. This is often the tactic taken by those looking to limit freedom. They take the most vile example to become the argument that those advocating for freedom are fighting for.

Tufts University has some of the most restrictive free speech policies in the country, and Goldberg’s resolution calls for an end to campus anti-free speech rules. These rules include vague administrative provisos that crack down on the “use of nicknames,” “hurtful words,” “bias-fueled jokes,” “comments on an individual’s body or appearance,” “innuendos of a sexual nature,” and “gender bias.”

Goldberg created the resolution on behalf of a new organization he co-created called Students Advocating for Students. But many students reacted to the resolution in fits of online rage. Using social media and campus email, students called him every NSFW/K name imaginable.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, ensuring that there is no prohibition on the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.

How can these students not understand the concept of free speech, and how it’s protected by the First Amendment, when they immediately “peacefully assemble,” or protest, when they’re met with ideas that they don’t like?

In an age where censorship is running rampant on college campuses, students need to realize that it’s their freedom that is at stake – the freedom to say, write and think what they want.

Putting Freedom First

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

Putting Freedom First

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

On Tuesday evening, I had the opportunity to attend a debate between the candidates for U.S. Senate, here in Indianapolis.

It went about as I expected. We had one candidate who was the walking embodiment of the television commercials we see during every commercial break. We had a second who was an emotionless robot, who spent the entire debate ducking and dodging the charges that were aimed at him. Luckily, we had a third candidate who was there as well, and is a passionate advocate for liberty. She talked about the issues that are actually important to me, and I believe, are important to those voting on November 8th.

The beauty of her message is that she actually got noticed, while the other two spent the entire hour slinging mud at one another, from the introductions to the very end of the debate.

In the end, headline coverage focused on those two and the “politics as usual,” as well as the games that they play, using their focus grouped talking points and all the things that tested really well. Coverage that included the third candidate actually pointed out that she, because of her authenticity and the way that she was talking about issues that were no only important to her, but connecting to the people who watched that debate, she came out the winner.

In the past, we’ve talked about the “Most Important Election of our Lifetime,” and what a fallacy that can be, because we both know that liberty isn’t gained or lost with one vote, one election, or with one issue. What we have is an opportunity that we need to seize. We need to take advantage of the attention and the focus that’s placed on what’s happening before us.

This is our opportunity to live a libertarian life… To be that shining example of what libertarianism offers, as we work toward a freer society.

We also need to support others who do the same. Our support for them will also have them supporting us.

And, when we find that there is a candidate for office that we CAN vote for, we SHOULD, because we have an opportunity to do the most important thing that we can as libertarians to change hearts and minds…

And that’s putting freedom first.

ACLU: Police Use of Face-Recognition Tech is ‘Violating Americans’ Civil Rights’

in Liberator Online by Alice Salles Comments are off

ACLU: Police Use of Face-Recognition Tech is ‘Violating Americans’ Civil Rights’

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

The American Civil Liberties Union, along the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, sent a letter to the Justice Department expressing concerns over federal, state, and local police use of facial recognition technology.

FaceThe letter claims that a recent study carried out by the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law shows that “law enforcement use of face recognition technology is having a disparate impact on communities of color, potentially exacerbating and entrenching existing policing disparities.”

Adding that said systems are powerful, the letter explained that a Federal Bureau of Investigation study from 2012 shows that the technology is “5 to 10 percent less accurate on African Americans than Caucasians.” By reaching out to the Justice Department, the ACLU plus over 50 other groups are asking the government to investigate police practices associated with the technology because of the system’s inaccuracies.

While the ACLU has not argued for an end to the use of the technology, the organization’s legislative counsel, Singh Guliani, said that, unless “meaningful safeguards are in place,” the use of the technology could be putting the privacy of Americans at risk.

Mentioning the fact that half of all U.S. adults are in government face recognition databases, Guliani added that allowing law enforcement to use these technologies without clear policies may lead to abuse.

According to the Georgetown report mentioned by the ACLU, abuse may come in different shapes and sizes.

Because many law enforcement agencies employ the technology in a continuous fashion, scanning individuals on real-time, researchers believe that this type of approach may violate people’s privacy simply because law enforcement is collecting footage of law-abiding citizens without seeking a warrant beforehand. In the report, the Center on Privacy & Technology team explains that this type of use is “generalized and invisible.” In many instances, the research team adds, abuse may lead to stifling of free speech.

Out of the 52 agencies using the system, the research team found at least one department using the face recognition tool to track individuals engaged in political, religious, or other type of “protected free speech.” But because of the lack of oversight, many departments do not have access to data on the use of the technology, making it difficult for researchers to identify other instances of abuse.

All of these problems are “unprecedented and highly problematic,” researchers added in the report.

In the group’s letter, the ACLU argued that the problems raised by the Georgetown study are “particularly disturbing” when we consider that federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies have been using these technologies for routine investigations without any oversight.

Considering law enforcement has been under heavy scrutiny recently over the use and abuse of “voodoo science,”  it’s easy to see how the ACLU has reason to mistrust law enforcement with the use of such a powerful tool.

Arizona Business Pushing for More Prohibition Gets a Taste of Free Market Consequences

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

Arizona Business Pushing for More Prohibition Gets a Taste of Free Market Consequences

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

In The Economics of Prohibition, Austrian economist Mark Thorton explains that the “search for privilege and personal gain through the political process” embraced by major corporations and their lobbying minions are responsible for “any net losses to society produced by government policies.” Adding that, throughout history, we are able to see countless examples of prohibitionist policies being enacted due to this marriage of convenience.

boycottAs information is more readily available due to the widespread growth of the Internet, we now live in an era in which people are often made aware of how companies use their political influence to push for certain policies.

In Phoenix, a company whose political activities have been associated with marijuana prohibition is getting a taste of how the free market deals with unwanted subjects.

According to The Phoenix New Times, a Discount Tire Company is facing a growing boycott movement after its billionaire owner made a $1 million donation to help defeat the ballot initiative crafted with the goal of legalizing marijuana in the Grand Canyon state.

The boycott was first launched by local immigrant-rights groups following the company’s decision to hang a “Re-Elect Sheriff Joe Arpaio” sign in their windows. More recently, however, the company donated money to defeat marijuana legalization in the state, and the boycott movement grew.

The reaction did not come as a surprise, considering that the pro-legalization sentiment in Arizona is growing strong.

Prop 205, the initiative Discount Tires has invested money against, would legalize the use of cannabis for adults who are 21 or older. Individuals would be allowed to possess up to an ounce of the product. If Prop 205 wins, weed sales would also be legalized, and individuals would be allowed to grow the plant for personal use.

Possession of more than an ounce up to 2.5 ounces would be considered a non-arrestable civil offense. Nevertheless, the individual caught with more than one ounce of weed would have to pay a fine.

Despite the restrictions proposed by Prop 205, the law would help locals, offering a solution to an aspect of the drug war that continues to put countless of non-violent young men and women in jail.

In addition to Discount Tires’ donation, other groups have invested heavily in the campaign against the pro-marijuana legalization initiative.

Some of the groups behind the effort include the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Insys Therapeutics, a synthetic THC-maker, Larry Van Tuyl, whose family’s string of car dealerships was sold to Warren Buffett in 2014, Bennett Dorrance, a local resident who’s the heir to the Campbell Soup fortune, Tucson real estate mogul Donald R. Diamond, Foster Friess of Wyoming, who’s known as a “Republican mega-donor,” Empire Southwest LLC, which sells, rents, and services machinery and power generation equipment to contractors, and the Arizona Republican Party.

As long as the boycotts are peaceful, the effort is a perfect example of how free individuals are able to show their preferences in a freer market setting, letting service providers know where they stand and thus, forcing company owners to cater to their clientele in a way they deem acceptable if they are willing to survive their competition.

I’m A Libertarian… And I Vote

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

I’m A Libertarian… And I Vote

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

Thanks for the feedback on last week’s “experiment.” It looks like we’ll keep it up for a while. We have added text to the bottom for those who would rather read than watch. You’ll get the basis for my video below.

It’s less than a month until election day.

Here, there are yard signs EVERYWHERE. Pop-ups and banner ads screaming for my attention on nearly every website I visit. My Facebook feed is filled with political posts. Every commercial break has at least one ad telling me about how bad “the other guy” is, and that he’s the wrong choice. Sometimes, they’ll follow that up with “the other guy” saying the same thing. I agree with them both.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret you may not know about me… I’m a libertarian, and I vote.

I vote for candidates that believe in freedom… Freedom for all.

Not only do I vote, I’ve done just about everything there is to do in electoral politics, from the online slacktivism of posting on Facebook to running for office… TWICE.

Here’s what might shock you though. I DESPISE politics. It divides us. It ends friendships. It’s dirty and disgusting.

But I’m involved in politics so that, one day, I don’t have to be. I love freedom more than I hate politics, and I work in every avenue I can to change hearts and minds to focus on freedom.

Yesterday, I voted.

While I can’t tell you who to vote for, I’m going to tell you what I did. I cast a ballot for more freedom in self-defense against all of those ballot for less. I looked for the people that I believe will put liberty ahead of tyranny. I supported them with my time, effort, money, AND my vote, investing in my defense against authoritarians.

I cast a ballot on the first day I could here in Indiana. While I skipped some races, because I couldn’t find someone I thought would put freedom first, I did cast several votes for those I believe in. I also cast votes for people I call friends. Interestingly, they happen to be the people I believe will put freedom where it belongs… With us.

Oh, in case you’re curious, I voted for Gary Johnson.

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