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How to Prove the Drug War Is Futile and Self-Defeating

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

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“The Iron Law of Prohibition” offers you a powerful argument to help persuade others of the dangers of the War on Drugs.

white lightning (moonshine)The term was first used by Richard Cowan, longtime libertarian activist and former director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Cowan introduced the term and the concept behind it in a 1986 cover article for the conservative magazine National Review.

The idea is simple and powerful — and it undermines some of the major arguments for drug prohibition.

In a nutshell, the Iron Law of Prohibition says that the economics of black markets inevitably creates strong incentives for dealers to sell ever-stronger, ever-more-dangerous drugs. (I’ll explain that further in a moment.) So prohibition, rather than protecting the public, actually makes drugs ever more potent and ever more dangerous for drug users, the public, and law enforcement. Prohibition is thus extremely counterproductive — even by many of the stated goals of those who favor it.

As Cowan wrote in National Review: “The Iron Law of Drug Prohibition is that the more intense the law enforcement, the more potent the drugs will become.”

Why does this happen? It’s simple economics. When drugs are prohibited, they will continue to be produced and sold in black markets. And drug smugglers and drug sellers will invariably move to sell the drugs in the most concentrated and powerful forms possible. That’s because the more potent and concentrated forms use much less space to store and smuggle, and they sell for far more money, pound-for-pound.

It’s really just common sense. If alcohol is prohibited, bootleggers can smuggle bulky low potency beer, which sells for a low price, or high potency hard liquor, which takes up no more space than beer but sells for much more. Which do you think they will choose?

History confirms it. During alcohol Prohibition there was a huge shift from beer to hard liquor, as bootleggers began focusing on the higher profits of hard liquor — exactly as you would expect, given the Iron Law of Prohibition. Even hard liquor became “harder,” more potent. After Prohibition, consumers were again free to choose among competing products, and they resumed their pre-Prohibition move towards less potent (and less dangerous) drinks.

You can see The Iron Law of Prohibition at work in the War on Drugs. When bulky opium was made illegal around the turn of the century, refined high potency heroin quickly took its place. When marijuana was targeted, smugglers turned to other high-potency, less bulky, far easier to smuggle drugs like cocaine. Bulky bags of powder cocaine were in turn replaced by tiny pellets of highly addictive crack. The same process continues to bring such dubious innovations as crystal meth, dangerous and untested “designer drugs,” and other cheaper, more dangerous, more bang-for-the-buck drugs.

Cowan summarizes the Iron Law of Prohibition in bumper sticker form: “The harder the enforcement, the harder the drugs.”

It’s called “The Iron Law” because this effect is so predictable and invariable. It’s as rock-solid as the law of supply and demand. Or even the law of gravity.

Interestingly, the exact opposite tends to happen in legal markets. Consumers tend to prefer ever milder, less potent versions. Thus the popularity of beer over hard liquor.

The Iron Law of Prohibition means that the War on Drugs strategy is futile and fatally flawed. It will inevitably bring us ever stronger and more dangerous drugs, with the concurrent deaths, health problems, crime and so forth, until it is ended.

This argument can open minds. It may not by itself convince someone to turn against the Drug War, but it is a powerful and persuasive addition to your other arguments.

To learn more about The Iron Law of Prohibition, including other negative consequences of it, check out these resources from Mark Thornton, an economist who had done outstanding work in this field:


The Risky Business of Communicating Liberty

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

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Nobel Prize-winning libertarian economist Milton Friedman was one of the earliest prominent public advocates of ending the War on Drugs.

In a 1991 interview on “America’s Drug Forum,” a national PBS public affairs talk show, Friedman made this excellent point:

risky business“The case for prohibiting drugs is exactly as strong and as weak as the case for prohibiting people from overeating.

“We all know that overeating causes more deaths than drugs do. If it’s in principle OK for the government to say you must not consume drugs because they’ll do you harm, why isn’t it all right to say you must not eat too much because you’ll do harm?

“Why isn’t it all right to say you must not try to go in for skydiving because you’re likely to die? Why isn’t it all right to say, ‘Oh, skiing, that’s no good, that’s a very dangerous sport, you’ll hurt yourself’? Where do you draw the line?”

This is a powerful argument for persuading others of the unfairness of the War on Drugs.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Overweight and obesity are leading risks for global deaths. Around 3.4 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, being overweight or obese “substantially increase[s] the risk of morbidity from hypertension, dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, and sleep apnea and respiratory problems, as well as cancers of the endometrium, breast, prostate, and colon. Higher body weights are also associated with an increase in mortality from all causes.”

Scary stuff! Yet no one — well, almost no one — would support a violent War on Eating Too Much Food, with armed Food Police breaking into fast food joints and homes to stop people from overeating. Few would support outlawing common foods associated with obesity, despite the documented dangers and huge social costs.

And what about swimming?

According to the Center for Disease Control, about 3,600 people — many of them children — die annually from accidental drowning, the fifth largest cause of accidental death in the United States. Yet we allow adults and children complete freedom to swim.

Disturbing research finds that football, boxing, hockey and other contact sports can cause severe and permanent brain damage. Yet millions of Americans still support and participate in these sports.

There are countless other risky activities we casually accept. Bungee jumping looks crazy to me, riding a motorcycle isn’t my thing, and I won’t be gazing down at the world from atop Mount Everest. But I strongly support and defend the right of others to engage in these things – along with the great majority of Americans.

Indeed, the freedom to make risky choices in such personal matters is a bedrock American value. Most people today make exceptions to this value only in certain narrow areas — most notably drugs. (And just some drugs, of course — not, for instance, liquor and tobacco, to bring up another wild inconsistency.)

When you use comparisons and concrete examples like the ones above, you help your listeners grasp the unfairness, injustice and inconsistency of the War on Drugs. It can be very effective to have specific numbers and reliable sources when making these comparisons, as I’ve done here, but just citing any risky but legal activity can open minds.

Try it — the risk is yours to take!

Thanks to Carpe Diem, Mark Perry’s outstanding economic blog, for recently mentioning Milton Friedman’s interview, which can be read in its entirety here.

That interview is also in the superb book Friedman & Szasz On Liberty and Drugs: Essays on the Free Market and Prohibition (1992), which features essays by Friedman and the great libertarian psychiatrist Thomas Szasz.

Libertarianism in Pop Culture

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

Libertarianism in Pop Culture

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

There is no shortage of “libertarian books,” whether you mean fiction works like Orwell’s 1984Huxley’s Brave New World, and any of Heinlein’s sci-fi, or more academic non-fiction texts like Hazlitt’s Economics in One LessonMises’ Human Action, or Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom.

How many of you became libertarians because someone handed you a book to read?

I didn’t. I don’t remember when a “libertarian switch” turned on, but I do remember when former talk-radio host Neal Boortz shared that my political philosophy had a name… libertarian.

Libertarians recognize that every individual is different. To me, that means that what opens one person’s mind to libertarianism may not work with another. Each individual’s path to libertarianism is different, and I think that many can be reached by the “normalization” of libertarianism and libertarians in popular culture.

As with any change to the status quo, a political change happens behind the wave of change in popular opinion. Popular culture plays a large role in that, and we are on track to have libertarian thought remain a part of that conversation.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss EverdeenThere is a wave of anti-authoritarian messaging in many popular teen novels that became blockbuster movies like The Hunger Games and Divergent series with strong female leads like Katniss and Tris exercising independent will and standing up to tyrannical central authorities. We see similar messaging in animated films like The LEGO Movie (which I LOVE) and The Nut Job for younger audiences.

Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson was a libertarian hero for many, and Community’s Jeff Winger and Californication’s Hank Moody both self-identified as libertarians. One of the longest running and most consistent libertarian television shows began my senior year of high school, South Park. On a recent flight, I even read this book about the libertarian lessons the show contains, which begins its 19th season next month.

The stand-up comedy world also features Doug Stanhope and Joe Rogan, while actors like Vince Vaughn, Dax Shepard, and Glenn Jacobs recently “came out” as libertarian thinkers. Recently, musicians Big Boi (from the hip hop group, OutKast), country music singer Kacey Musgraves, and Aimee Allen released songs with strong libertarian messages. Former MTV VJs Kennedy and Kurt Loder mix pop culture and political leanings for Reason and Fox Business, respectively.

We’ve collected quite a few libertarian celebrities here, and we plan to update that list shortly with many new additions this fall.

It’s a start, and we have a long way to go, but there’s hope still with all of the non-political avenues noted above that we can reach and recruit new libertarians. Let’s make sure we support the artists and commentators that share our views to keep them in the public eye.

Will you commit to that with me?

Do Libertarian Ideas Go Too Far?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Communicating Liberty, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Taxes by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

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Ron SwansonI am coming around to libertarian ideas, but so many libertarian policies, while moving in the right direction, seem to go way too far. For instance, the idea of no taxation, only user fees, seems great. But it seems that some taxation would be necessary to pay government workers, maintain ambassadors and embassies to other nations, host state visits from other nations, and (a necessary evil) pay lawyers to defend the government against lawsuits, as well as a host of other little things that there couldn’t be a user fee for. Can zero taxation really stand up to reason?



Government workers would be paid by those individuals or groups that made their employment necessary. Lawyers defending the government in lawsuits, for example, would be paid for by the guilty party. Since government officials would not enjoy sovereign immunity in a libertarian society, they could be liable for attorney fees and damages for any wrongdoing. In other answers posted on the Web site, I’ve detailed the mechanism by which restitution could be made.

Since a libertarian government would not be restricting trade between nations, establishing embargoes, setting tariffs, handing out taxpayer guaranteed loans, etc., our top officials would not be wining and dining dignitaries from other countries as they do today. Naturally, heads of state from other countries could visit the U.S. at their own expense. Without the ability to pick the U.S. taxpayer’s pocket, however, few would bother.

If embassies were maintained in foreign nations, they would be supported by fees from travelers or others who might utilize their services.

Today, those who are too poor to travel pay taxes to support services for people who can afford to see the world. Taxes are one way in which government makes the poor poorer and the rich richer.

Editor’s Note: As former Advocates President Sharon Harris notes in this article from a past edition of the Liberator Online, making the case for ending the income tax is not a difficult task. One thing to consider when discussing libertarian ideas is the concept of the Overton window, which can be raised with a little help from this post from that same issue.


Outsourcing is TERRIBLE!

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

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Jobs shipped overseas!

Sweatshops exploiting the poor!

Workers laid off!

Camden NJ

We’ve all seen a politician or two try to score political points by talking about outsourcing and how outsourcing destroys the fabric of America… Or it takes jobs from Americans… Or it is bad for the economy…

What if I told you that none of those politicians sees that they serve as the mechanism by which EVERY American outsources the worst thing we possibly could.

We outsource responsibility.

Within (and hopefully outside) the libertarian movement, we discuss individual liberty and all that flourishes with that liberty, while recognizing that the price of individual liberty is responsibility, both personal and social.

Today, Americans outsource responsibility to government.

Rather than seeking knowledge about what is in the food we eat and how safe it is, we outsource that responsibility to the FDA and USDA. They do such a great job of preventing outbreaks of foodborne illness and ensuring that we have nutritious meals every time we eat, don’t they?

Rather than caring for others through mutual aid societies and private charity, we outsource that responsibility to the alphabet soup that is SNAP, AFDC, and TANF. Those programs keep people from going hungry and from living on the street so well, don’t they?

Rather than choosing the type and quality of education our children receive, we outsource that responsibility to a school system that chooses for our children the type and quality based on our ZIP code. Government schools continue to provide the highest-quality, individualized education that each of our children will need to succeed in the world they will face as adults, don’t they?

What if we chose to take back the responsibility of all that we’ve outsourced to government and focus on how we can flourish with the liberty that comes along with it?

Will you be more responsible with me and end this outsourcing?

What’s Your Number?

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

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That’s my number.

I’ve administered The World’s Smallest Political Quiz 3500 times. This week, I crossed that threshold with a research project I’m in the midst of.

Quiz TIP CardThat figure doesn’t count the number of times I’ve left our “TIP Card” along with my business card to a server at lunch or dinner.My number above just counts the interactions I’ve had with people at county fairs, gun shows, on campus, for research, and as part of conversations with friends, new and old. That is a lot of conversations about liberty and libertarianism.Before I joined the Advocates, I was already passionate about liberty and the libertarian movement. Now, I get to turn up the gas on that flame for liberty.

So, back to my original question, how many times have you given The World’s Smallest Political Quiz? What were the outcomes of the conversations that the Quiz broke the ice for? Did you find an existing libertarian? Did you discover a NEW libertarian?

I want to hear from you about your successes. I also want to hear from you about your challenges.

Have you found that your outreach was more successful the more outgoing and gregarious the Quiz-giver shows themselves to be? I know that I have.

Recently, I visited an outreach booth of a local libertarian organization that I knew would be administering the Quiz, and I gave them some tips that tripled the number of people who took the Quiz over the prior year. They also saw a tremendous amount of activity under the tent, as passersby took an interest in libertarian philosophy.

What did we do to make such a big difference?

We re-arranged the “standard” booth layout, by putting the table at the BACK of the booth. This put all of the volunteers IN FRONT of the table, removing the barrier between those volunteers and the festival goers. Moving the table to the back of the booth also made it almost impossible to sit down, so the volunteers were on their feet with a lot more energy, and that energy spilled over into their conversations.

What better way to start a conversation about liberty than filled with energy?

What about you?

What tips do you have for tabling or outreach that you’d like to share? I may feature them here in a future issue or on social media as a tip for our supporters who are passionate to dispel the Left-Right political myth.

Who’s ready to get an Operation Politically Homeless kit to begin a conversation about our burning passion for a more libertarian society and way of life?

If you already have one, try something new with how you present your tabling/outreach effort and share your successes.

I love it when liberty wins the day, so let’s share what we’re doing to talk about libertarianism in a positive and effective way.

Who Owns You?

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

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Me: Who owns you?
Baby Anarchist (10): Me. I own me.
Me: Can someone else sell you?Who Owns You?
BA: No.
Me: Why not?
BA: A living person is his own property.
Me: Can someone else rightfully take away your life if you are being peaceful?
BA: There’s no rightful way to encroach on a peaceful person.
Me: Can someone else rightfully stop you from peacefully owning your rightfully acquired property?
BA: No. No one can stop you from keeping the thing you have peacefully gotten. If you’ve earned it, traded for it, been given it as a gift, it’s yours.
Me: Can someone else rightfully stop you from making a peaceful contract with another person?
BA: Nope. You’re peacefully doing it. It’s not hurting anyone. There’s no reason they should stop you.
Me: So no one is allowed to take away your right to make contracts?
BA: No one is allowed to take away your right to make contracts. You own you. No one can take away your right to enter into contracts.
Me: Did you know that years ago it was illegal for black persons to enter into marriage contracts with white persons?
BA: During slavery?
Me: After slavery. When they acknowledged that people were not the property of other people.
BA: That doesn’t make sense. If you are your own property then you can enter into contracts.
Me: If someone else can stop you from entering into a contract what does that make you?
YS (14): A slave.
Me: Is yesterday’s decision (2015 Supreme Court decision regarding marriage equality) about love, son?
YS: it’s about self ownership.
Me: Why did it have to be couched as a decision about love?
YS: Because people won’t respond to self ownership.
Me: Why don’t they want to hear that they don’t have self ownership?
YS: It’s complicated and bad.
Me: Love is nicer but the reality is people who own themselves are not denied the right to enter into peaceful contracts that don’t encroach on others.

Witness Protection Libertarians

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Persuasion Powerpoint by Michael Cloud Comments are off

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You’ve seen it featured in crime, courtroom, and police dramas on television.

A powerful and dangerous individual or group has gotten away with force and fraud for years. Finally, the police and prosecutors find a witness whose testimony can put the thugs behind bars.

Witness ProtectionBut the criminals will threaten or kill the witness or his family if he takes the stand.

The only way the authorities can get the witness to testify is to protect him and his family.

So the prosecutors and law enforcement offer secret relocation, new identities, and a new life to the person and his family — in exchange for his truthful testimony in court.

Witness Protection.

In our legal system, in certain cases, this makes sense.

But it makes no sense for libertarians to act as if they were in the political equivalent of this program.

Some libertarians blend in with mainstream or nonpolitical neighbors and coworkers.

They rarely join in on political or economic conversations at home or at work. And, if they do, they keep their comments mild and bland.

If they get libertarian email newsletters or social media, they keep it to themselves

`Why stir up trouble?’ they think. `Why start an argument?’

The don’t put Libertarian campaign signs on their front lawns. They don’t put Libertarian bumper stickers on their cars. And they keep their libertarian books and DVD’s in the private areas of their homes.

If they donate to Libertarian campaigns or vote for Libertarian candidates, they tell no one.

Secrecy. Silence. Invisibility.

Witness Protection Libertarians.

But this does NOT make them safer. It makes Big Government safer.

It delays the growth of the Libertarian movement. It hinders support for the cause of liberty.

It keeps your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers from having warm and thoughtful conversations about liberty with someone they know and like and trust: YOU!

Opt out of Witness Protection Libertarian policies.

Opt into persuasive libertarian communication with The Advocates for Self-Government.


Michael Cloud is a master of libertarian communication. He is author of Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion and Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion. The latter can be purchased by subscribers of the Liberator Online for merely $5.01 and FREE SHIPPING with the code “LIBERATOR14″ at the link.

How Committed Are You?

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

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Unless you live under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Rachel Dolezal, the former President of the Spokane, Washington NAACP.

Regardless of one’s thoughts about her allegedly fabricated backstory, her accomplishments for the African-American community, the legal dispute with her family, and her questionable racial background, you have to admit that her commitment to a cause and the efforts she’s made are admirable.

As someone who’s worked with libertarian activists and volunteers for years, I wish I had come across JUST ONE that was half as committed to the libertarian movement as Ms. Dolezal is to the black community in Spokane.

That brings me to my original question.

commitmentHow committed are you to the libertarian movement?

Are you writing a letter to the editor every week about a libertarian position on an issue?

Are you utilizing social media to to advance the libertarian cause?

Are you reaching out to the people in your community with tools like anOperation Politically Homeless booth?

Now is the time for libertarians to seize the opportunities afforded us by so many finally seeing the problems with Big Government and its exponential growth. The government we see today has grown far beyond anything envisioned by Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Paine.

What are you going to do to stop that growth and help reverse course?

No one’s asking you to be as committed as Ms. Dolezal, but can you make a positive impact for your community in the same way she has hers?

No One “Pays” Taxes

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“You don’t ”pay’ taxes. The government TAKES them.” — comedian Chris Rock.Chris Rock

Not only is this quote funny (especially when you hear Chris Rock say it), it makes a profound point — one well worth remembering when talking about taxes and politics.

The word “pay,” in connection with taxes, is just government propaganda. Using it — saying we “pay taxes” or “paid our taxes” — hides and distorts the true nature of taxation. And that’s something libertarians shouldn’t do.

Here’s what I mean.

In common usage, the word “pay” strongly implies some kind of consensual agreement. If you’re selling apples and I want one, I pay you for it. If I don’t want the apple, I don’t have to pay. If someone else has a better deal on apples, I’m free to trade with him instead. Or I can skip apples altogether.

Similarly, if I borrow money from a loan company, I agree to pay it back with interest. If a competing company offers lower interest rates, I’m free to trade with them instead. I also of course have the option of not borrowing money at all.

Those are payments, voluntarily agreed to.

However, the word “pay” is inappropriate for a coerced exchange — like taxation.

As the great Lysander Spooner famously pointed out, if a criminal points a gun at you and demands all the money in your pocket, you aren’t “paying” the robber when you hand over your money. You didn’t “pay” — you were robbed!

If burglars enter your home at night and steal your valuables, you didn’t “pay” the burglar. He TOOK your money! You were robbed.

Libertarians view taxes as a form of coercion, no different in essence from robbery or theft. (By the way, a startlingly large number of Americans now agree with us on this. See the story “New Poll: Millions of Voters Say They’re Libertarian” above.)

So we should never use language like “pay taxes” or “paid taxes.” Saying so legitimizes taxation. It implies that taxation is just another form of legitimate exchange, like paying for goods and services you voluntarily purchased.

PickpocketInstead, when someone else uses that term, we should, if appropriate, gently disagree. And respond with something like: “Actually, I didn’t ‘pay’ taxes. No one PAYS taxes. The government just seizes money from you. There’s a big difference. Payments are voluntary. Taxes are coercive. Like… theft.”

Your wording, of course, will depend on who you’re speaking with and where. But one thing’s certain — you’ll have trouble improving on Chris Rock’s monologue:

“The messed-up thing about taxes is you don’t ‘pay’ taxes. The government TAKES them. You get your check and money is GONE! It was not an option! That ain’t a payment — that’s a JACK! I been TAX JACKED!”

Classic “Bad Attitude” Anti-Tax Verse — and Hope for Ending the Income Tax

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

April 15, Tax Day, is nearly here.

It’s a grim subject — so how about some comic relief? And some inspiration, some hope, for change?

First, the comic relief.

I’ve had a lot of fun over the years with the following two classic anti-tax poems. The authors are unknown, but some versions seem to date from at least the 1930s.

It’s a good reminder that a lot of Americans have always had a “bad attitude” about taxes. (Just ask King George!)

Income TaxI hope they’ll give you a good laugh — and I hope you’ll keep working with the Advocates and other libertarians to create a movement that will make income taxes as much a thing of the past as slavery, alcohol Prohibition, and the Divine Right of Kings!

Don’t forget: following the poems, some inspiration and hope for change.

* * *

The Tax Collector’s Creed

Now he’s a common, common man
So tax him, tax him, all you can.
Tax his house, Tax his bed;
Tax the bald spot on his head.
Tax his drink, Tax his meat,
Tax the shoes right off his feet.
Tax his cow, Tax his goat;
Tax his pants, Tax his coat;
Tax his crop, Tax his work;
Tax his ties, Tax his shirt;
Tax his chew, Tax his smoke,
Teach him taxing is no joke.
Tax his tractor, Tax his mule;
Tell him: “Taxing is the rule!”
Tax his oil, Tax his gas,
Tax his notes, Tax his cash.
Tax him good and let him know
That after taxes, he has no dough.
If he hollers, Tax him more;
Tax him till he’s good and sore.
Tax his coffin, Tax his grave,
Tax the sod in which he’s laid.
Put these words upon his tomb,
“Taxes drove him to his doom.”
Even when he’s gone, we won’t relax —
We’ll still collect inheritance tax.

* * *

The Taxpayer’s Lament

Sit down my friends and just relax,
It’s time to pay your income tax.
For whether we are great or small,
They tax us one, they tax us all.
They tax the hobo and the queen,
They tax the bull and tax his ring.
They tax the gas that runs your car
And even tax the big cigar.
They tax your whiskey and home brew,
They tax the Bible and your pew.
They tax the wristwatch on your arm
And tax the rat trap on your farm.
They tax the baby in his crib, and
Tax his shirt and tax his bib.
They tax the crib that he sleeps in,
And don’t consider that a sin.
Then they go from bad to worse
And tax the doctor and tax the nurse.
They tax the dentist and his drill
And he just adds it to your bill.
Whenever you leave this world behind
They will be there to steal you blind.
Before you reach the Golden Gate
They’ll slap a tax on your estate.
They tax the hearse on your last ride,
And shed some tears because you died.
The reason for their deep distress?
You left them with no address.

* * *

Love ‘em!

And now the inspiration. Last year I wrote an article entitled “Making the Case for Ending the Income Tax.”

It suggests 11 ways to persuade others that abolishing the hated income tax — and replacing it with nothing — is not only extremely desirable, it is realistic and politically possible.

Check it out and consider using some (or all) of them. Recently we’ve seen once-radical libertarian ideas — for example, re-legalization of marijuana, marriage choice, and a non-interventionist foreign policy — leap into the mainstream. Let’s put ending the income tax —  and replacing it with… nothing — on that list!

What Is the “Costberg” — and Why Should You Care?

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The CostbergI’m always delighted to find colorful, eye-opening words and phrases that libertarians can use to help people understand and embrace the ideas of liberty.

Here are some very useful terms for bringing attention to the little-known but astounding cost of government regulations.

Wayne Crews of the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has been following this issue for years. A recent CEI report, “Free to Prosper: A Pro-Growth Agenda for the 114th Congress,” estimates that, just in 2014 alone, an astounding 3,541 new federal regulations were enacted.

Crews admits that estimating the costs of regulation is difficult. In fact, the subtitle of “Tip of the Costberg,” his ongoing effort to do that, is “On the Invalidity of All Cost of Regulation Estimates and the Need to Compile Them Anyway.”) Yet someone’s got to do it — the federal government certainly won’t. Crews deserves great praise for his pioneering efforts.

By Crew’s best estimate, the burden of these regulations on American prosperity is staggering: around $1.882 trillion. The federal government will spend about $3.5 trillion this year. But this extra $1.882 trillion in unseen regulatory costs is, Crews says, the equivalent of an invisible 65% surcharge on your federal taxes, or nearly 12% of GDP.

“Regulation today is a hidden tax equivalent at least to half the amount of the fiscal budget itself,” Crews notes. “If federal regulations were a country, their cost would amount to the world’s 10th largest economy.”

This is an incredible drag on our economy, lowering our standard of living and slowing progress. Though most of us aren’t aware of it, it constitutes a sort of hidden tax that each and every American pays. In fact, Crews wonders if, as more data on the costs of regulation are compiled, we “may find taxation the lesser of the two components of governmental costs.”

This is a little-understood — though crucial — issue. But the terms we generally use to discuss it, like “excessive government regulations,” are…  kind of boring. And confusing. Listeners’ attention tends to wander.

So I like it that Crews occasionally spices up his discussion with some colorful and provocative terms that libertarians can use to help bring the issue to life for our listeners.

As noted, Crews calls this huge, ugly, dangerous mass of regulations and hidden costs the “costberg.” That’s clever, and creates a strong mental image of this “costberg” threatening to collide with and sink our ship of state, just like the iceberg that sank the Titanic.

And here’s another great term: “red tapeworm.” Last year Crews titled a blog post “Red Tapeworm 2014: Reckoning the Dollar Cost of Federal Regulation.” Red Tapeworm (as in “red tape,” slang for worthless and costly government regulation), is very useful, with a populist appeal. For example: “The red tapeworm is chewing up $1.882 trillion from the American economy — that’s money out of your pocket every year.”

Finally, you can simply refer to “the huge hidden tax of government regulation.” People understand the nature of taxes more than they do unseen regulation and mandates. Just pointing out that such things amount to hidden taxes — and massive taxes — can be eye-opening for your audience.

Try using these terms — along with facts and figures from CEI’s excellent reports — to spice up your discussions of this extremely important, but largely unrecognized, problem.

And for more on this topic, check out CEI’s “Ten Thousand Commandments” website, which regularly updates these figures and arguments.

The Most Powerful Way We Have to Change Things

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“I have a friend who can always be counted on to have a great book recommendation handy,” writes marketing guru Seth Godin in a recent post at his always-insightful blog.

“Another who can not only tell you the best available movie currently in theatres, but confidently stand behind his recommendations.

“And some people are eager to share a link to an article or idea that’s worth reading.”

Such people, Godin says, are surprisingly rare. Many people are hesitant to recommend something. What if the person thinks my recommendation is stupid? Or not cool enough? Or that I’m being too pushy? Or…

Yet this kind of sharing is crucial, Godin says. It can affect lives, even change our culture and our world.

“Sharing an idea you care about is a generous way to change your world for the better,” Godin writes.

“The culture we will live in next month is a direct result of what people like us share today. The things we share and don’t share determine what happens next.”

Indeed, he says, “the recommendation from person to person is now the most powerful way we have to change things.”

Which brings me to… libertarianism.

You’re reading this because you want to change the world. To spread the blessings of liberty. To awaken more people to the joys, the benefits, the goodness of libertarian ideas.

You are, whether you realize it or not, a very influential person. You likely have Facebook friends who want to be in touch with you. Family members who are open to ideas. Co-workers, colleagues, neighbors, fitness partners, friends… a network, online and off. Probably bigger than you realize.

It’s never been easier and cheaper to share ideas online. A few clicks and you can share a great pro-liberty meme with your Facebook friends (we feature a lot of good ones at our Facebook page). A few clicks and you’ve linked to a great liberty video or article or website or candidate or free book.

Offline, opportunities abound. No tool is better than the World’s Smallest Political Quiz, a simple, intriguing, fun item you can keep in your pocket or purse and hand out to friends.

Good libertarian books make great gifts. T-shirts and bumper stickers easily raise awareness.

This may sound simple. So simple, in fact, that it’s easy to ignore.

Yet Godin — one of the world’s most respected marketing experts — insists that this is a crucial way of changing our culture, changing our world. Godin’s opinion is based on years of studying and writing about change.

If everyone reading this makes a habit of regularly doing some simple, sincere, easy sharing and recommending like this, we can make millions of positive contacts for liberty in a very short time. Collectively, these kinds of contacts will open minds, shift attitudes, affect opinions, and change lives.

It just takes a (very) little time and effort. And, Godin adds, courage:

“It takes guts to say, ‘I read this and you should too.’ The guts to care enough about our culture (and your friends) to move it forward and to stand for something.”

Will you have the courage to risk sharing — smartly, appropriately, and regularly? And thereby move your friends — and our culture — to a better place? To liberty?

Two Phrases That Unmask Crony Capitalism and Corporate Welfare

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Chris Rufer is founder of The Morning Star Company, which employs approximately 2,500 people in food processing and agribusiness. He’s also an Advocates Board member.

Last week Chris had an excellent opinion piece published in the New York Times, explaining why the federally run Export-Import Bank is a rip-off and boondoggle that should be shut down.

The article is entitled “End This Corporate Welfare.” There’s a brief excerpt from it in this issue’s They Said It column, and you can read the full article here.

Chris does a great job of making this seemingly obscure and esoteric issue clear, interesting and important to the average reader.

One phrase in particular jumped out at me. Describing how corporate welfare works, Chris writes: “It’s private gain at the expense of public pain.”

That’s a great phrase! I love the populist feel of it, and how it makes the injustice of such things as the Export-Import Bank instantly clear. “Private gain at the expense of public pain” can be used to describe all kinds of corporate welfare and crony capitalism boondoggles: professional sports subsidies, licensing laws that protect politically connected businesses from competition, taxes on imported goods… and many more.

I also like another phrase Chris used. He notes that the Import-Export Bank gives huge private businesses taxpayer-backed loans, guarantees and insurance.

The results: “When a company profits from the bank’s support, it pockets the money. If it defaults, taxpayers’ pockets get picked.”

That, too, is a clever and catchy way to describe the essential unfairness of corporate welfare, how it protects politically connected companies from the risks and consequences of their actions — at the expense of the rest of us.

Consider adding these two phrases to your liberty communication vocabulary.

The “Massive Action” Trap

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion Powerpoint section in Volume 20, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

What’s the WORST piece of advice that many motivational gurus and personal coaches give to under-performing business and sales people?

“If you’re not getting the results you want, double your rate of failure. Or triple the number of prospects you call on,” many urge. “Massive action is the royal road to success,” say success gurus from Tony Robbins on down.

Does doubling your rate of failure improve your skill? No.

Does tripling your rate of failure inspire and motivate you? No.

Does massive wrong action deliver better results? No.

Massive unskilled action will wear you out. Will demoralize you. Will drive you out of sales or public speaking or persuasion.

Massive ActionIf you’re not getting the sales or speaking or persuasion results you want, watch YouTube videos by those performers who ARE getting it done.

Or read how-to books by those who regularly get 2 or 3 or 10 times the results you do:

Influence by Robert Cialdini.

The Magic of Rapport by Jerry Richardson.

Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion by Michael Cloud.

Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion by Michael Cloud

Try out what they teach you. Are you getting better results than you did with your old approach? If so, practice it, use it, and profit from it.

Massive action will burn you out.

Skilled, knowledgeable action will energize you — and win dozens and dozens more people to liberty.

The Vast Graveyard

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Who’d have thought it?

In 2008, in order to deal with the problem of obesity, the Los Angeles city council banned the opening or expansion of “stand-alone fast-food restaurants” in low-income areas of the city, where about 700,000 people lived.

Now the results of that experiment in nanny-state tyranny are in. And according to a study by the RAND Corporation, financed by the National Institutes of Health, and published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, it has been… a total failure. Overweight and obesity rates actually increased in the area covered by the fast-food ban from 2007 to 2012 — and faster than the rest of the city or county.

Further, the consumption of fast food increased at the same rate as outside the area of the The Vast Graveyardban. And as an unintended consequence, desperately needed restaurant jobs in that area never came into being, thanks to the ban.

Libertarians aren’t surprised. We’ve watched, time after time, government attempts to control the peaceful lifestyle choices of adults crash, burn, and backfire.

  • Remember in 2002, when all illegal drug use in America ended, thanks to the efforts of 32 Republican congressmen? Oh wait… that didn’t happen. But that’s what House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s “Speaker’s Task Force for a Drug-Free America” boldly promised on March 24, 1998: a “drug-free America by 2002.” Yes, they said that with a straight face. What did happen, of course, was a continuation and escalation of military-style Drug War tactics that have gutted civil liberties, encouraged drug abuse, led to the creation of ever-worse drugs, made vicious gangsters rich, spread AIDS and other diseases, and produced many other negative consequences. Rumor has it that illegal drugs can still be found in America as of 2015.
  • The Bush administration’s 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program said that by 2014 every child in America was supposed to achieve grade level or higher in reading and math. Libertarian scholar Charles Murray memorably described the law: “The United States Congress, acting with large bipartisan majorities, at the urging of the President, enacted as the law of the land that all children are to be above average.” To make this happen, the federal government poured tens of billions of dollars into this (arguably unconstitutional) scheme. Of course, NCLB has been a failure, and government education remains a disaster.
  • Alcohol Prohibition began on January 16, 1920. America’s most famous evangelist, Dr. Billy Sunday, boldly proclaimed: “The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be only a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs. Men will walk upright now, women will smile and the children will laugh. Hell will be forever for rent.” Well, it didn’t quite work out that way.

We could go on and on. No one ever 
summed this up quite as succinctly as the great libertarian writer and Libertarian Party presidential candidate Harry Browne: “Libertarians understand a very simple fact of life: Government doesn’t work. It can’t deliver the mail on time, it doesn’t keep our cities safe, it doesn’t educate our children properly.”

Libertarians also know what does work: liberty. Let people be free to live in any peaceful way they choose, to exchange goods and services as they see fit, and the results will be extraordinary: a flourishing of peace, harmony, creativity, and abundance. Over and over again, history shows this. Indeed, it is the story of the progress of the human race.

That’s why I call libertarianism “the great Cause that makes all other great causes possible.” One day people will look back at the vast graveyard of failed government programs… and wonder how anyone could have ever believed that bullying and coercion could possibly work better than liberty.

Thank you for your devotion to our great Cause!

What is the Difference Between Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and Libertarianism?

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: What is the difference between Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and libertarianism?Ayn Rand's Objectivism

MY SHORT ANSWER: In my opinion, the differences are more cultural than real, in political matters. Both Objectivism and libertarianism are based on the non-aggression principle of honoring our neighbors’ choice (not initiating physical force, fraud or theft) and making things right with our victims if we don’t.

Objectivism is a comprehensive philosophy of life that includes not just political beliefs but strong and unified beliefs on virtually every aspect of human existence, including religion, art, romance, and so on. Libertarianism, in contrast, is a strictly political philosophy.

Rand believed that government’s proper role was protection of rights and that government should have a monopoly on defensive force to fulfill this role. Many libertarians agree with her. Others believe that governments are a poor protector of rights and that competition in this realm is right and proper.

* * *

LEARN MORE: Suggestions by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris for  additional reading on this topic:

Ironically, although Ayn Rand publicly disavowed libertarianism, she is unquestionably one of the most influential figures in the modern libertarian movement and is commonly identified today as a libertarian. And her political views are libertarian, by any common definition of the term.

Here are two short pieces that explore this seeming contradiction. Please note, this is a subject about which many people disagree.

* “What Is the Objectivist View of Libertarianism?“ an essay by David Kelley and William R. Thomas. David Kelley is Founder and Executive Director of the Atlas Society, which promotes Objectivism.

Excerpt: “If we exclude anarchism [that is, the kind of non-government libertarianism advocated by Murray N. Rothbard, David F. Friedman, and others, sometimes known as 'anarcho-capitalism' or 'market anarchism'], we can say that libertarianism is the Objectivist position in politics. But Objectivism includes more than politics. It is a systematic philosophy that also includes a specific view of reality, human nature, and the nature of knowledge. It includes a specific code of morality based on the requirements of life in this world. The Objectivist commitment to individual rights and a ban on the initiation of force is grounded in its view of nature, knowledge, and values. Its political conclusions thus stand on a firm and quite specific foundation …Philosophically, some libertarians are Objectivists, or would at least agree with the core elements in the Objectivist case for liberty, such as the individual’s need to act by means of reason in pursuing his life and happiness as ultimate values.”

* “Objectivism and Libertarianism“ by Nathaniel Branden. In this very short 1999 article Branden, at one time one of Rand’s closest associates, tells how Rand considered, and rejected, the label libertarian — and what that word now means in today’s political world.

Excerpt: “[T]oday libertarianism is part of our language and is commonly understood to mean the advocacy of minimal government. Ayn Rand is commonly referred to as ‘a libertarian philosopher.’ Folks, we are all libertarians now. Might as well get used to it.”

Out-Teach the Opponents of Liberty

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion Powerpoint section in Volume 20, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Strategies and tactics of libertarian persuasion can change people’s beliefs and opinions.

But they pale beside the mind-changing power of teaching others the facts and principles of liberty.

A little libertarian learning can change the hearts and minds of millions.

Don’t take my word for this.

Try it. On family members. Friends. Neighbors. Co-workers.

Email them one or two short, powerful essays by Bastiat or Henry Hazlitt or Harry Browne.

Give them a copy of Jim Cox’s brief and persuasive book Minimum Wage, Maximum Damage.Share Your Love of Liberty

Or Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt.

Or Libertarianism in One Lesson by David Bergland.

If they ask for more, lend or give them other books, essays, articles, audios and videos on free market economics and libertarianism.

We can out-teach many supporters of Big Government and opponents of liberty.

Because the facts are friendly to freedom.

Liberty Language: Instead of “Sales Tax”

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

As Mark Twain famously observed, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is Lightning Wordsreally a large matter — ’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.”

The political words and labels we use are vitally important. I’m always looking for new, more effective political wording — political “lightning words” that will open minds and stimulate thinking.

Here are a couple more excellent mind-opening word suggestions from economist Mark Perry, who writes the excellent blog Carpe Diem. (We looked at his thoughts on alternative wording for the minimum wage in my previous column.)

These suggestions concern the sales tax.

Most of us think of the sales tax as spare change, or a nuisance, most of the time — a few pennies or dollars per purchase, and the occasional more painful amount on big-ticket purchases. Yet the total amount Americans pay over the course of a year in sales taxes can be a significant percentage of their income. In California, for example, state and local sales taxes can hit a whopping 10%. And sales taxes on the necessities of life — food, clothing, transportation, etc. — can hit the poor and struggling especially hard.

The way the sales tax is collected, in daily small amounts, muddies and hides the impact of this tax and who pays it. So does the innocuous name “sales tax.”

Perry suggests two alternate terms to make people think. He suggests it’s more accurate to call the sales tax “the consumer tax” or “the buyers’ tax” so that “the ultimate payer of the tax is recognized.”

I like both of these, and I’m especially fond of “buyers’ tax.”

And here’s one of my own: “customer tax.”

Try them out. You may find they open minds and lead to fruitful discussions.

Memory Fades, Dissolves, Decays, and Leaks Away

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion Powerpoint section in Volume 20, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Maybe you’ve carefully read everything Ayn Rand ever published.

Or you’ve studied the complete works of Murray Rothbard.

Or the complete Harry Browne or Henry Hazlitt or Ludwig von Mises or Milton Friedman.

So you feel ready to discuss or debate something your favorite author covered.

Perhaps you were prepared… while you were reading the works. Or right after you finished reading them.

But how long has it been since you read the material? Three months? Three years? Five years? Ten or more?

Because memory fades, dissolves, decays, and leaks away. 

And unless you’ve re-read the books… or reviewed the crucial parts… chances are that you remember only a small fraction of what your favorite writer explained. And you may misremember a number of the author’s key points.

This is why we need to re-read, review, and even write out — in our own words — the evidence and arguments the author made.

Want to make sure that you remember the insights, analyses, and explanations of your favorite writer?

Yellow highlight, bracket, and underline the key sections of each book as you read it.

Makes notes and write questions in the margins of each key section.

Inside the front page of each book, write the date you finished reading it. (After several years, you may think you read a book in 2015 — and discover from your date that you read it in 2011.)

Often, just a sixty-minute review of your underlined and bracketed sections, your notes and your comments will yield you a motherlode of refreshed, renewed knowledge.

And you will become far better at explaining and winning others to liberty.


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