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Two Phrases That Unmask Crony Capitalism and Corporate Welfare

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, One Minute Liberty Tip 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, One Minute Liberty Tip 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 Ask Dr. Ruwart, 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, One Minute Liberty Tip 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.


Word Choices: Re-Labeling the Minimum Wage

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Word ChoicePolitical word choice and labels are vitally important, and I’m always looking for new, more effective political wording. As I’ve noted in past columns, the name of a political proposal can often play a major role in whether it is accepted or rejected by the public and by your listeners.

The rebranding of the estate tax as the Death Tax is one of the most successful such examples. Similarly, the branding of government control of the Internet as “Net Neutrality” led to widespread support for this unfortunate idea.

That’s why I was pleased with some new labels and ways of discussing the minimum wage from economist Mark Perry, who writes the excellent blog Carpe Diem.

The minimum wage is one of the most pernicious economic ideas. It harms the very people it claims to help: the poor, the disadvantaged, the unskilled, the young. It tears out the bottom rung of the ladder to success. It has destroyed, by some estimates, millions of viable jobs in the U.S., including whole categories of jobs that, because of the minimum wage, were suddenly no longer viable.

Perry writes: “Words matter, and the terms ‘raising the minimum wage’ or ‘passing a living wage’ are easy to embrace because they sound so positive and well-meaning; but only because those terms only emphasize the potential, positive effects for some workers, while largely ignoring the potential, and very real, negative effects on small businesses, retailers and employers who bear the burden of the government mandate, and the inevitable adverse effects on workers who lose their jobs (or have their hours and benefits cut), or are unable to find a job at the ‘living wage.’ …

“Here’s a thought experiment: Ask people: a) if they would support a ‘$15,500 annual tax’ on small businesses, retailers, restaurants and employers for each full-time, entry-level worker employed, and alternatively b) if they would support a $15 per hour ‘living wage.’

“I’m pretty sure that at least some people who say they support a $15 per hour living wage would be slightly less enthusiastic about imposing a $15,500 per year ‘employer tax’ on small businesses, retailers and restaurants, even though those two proposals are roughly equivalent. …

“Let’s be very clear — going from the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour to a new $15 per hour minimum/living wage is equivalent to a $15,500 annual ‘tax’ (closer to $16,800 with additional payroll taxes) on employers for each full-time, minimum wage employee. …

“So I say to minimum wage advocates: would replacing the term ‘increase the minimum/living wage to $15 per hour’ with the equivalent term ‘raise the cost to businesses who employ or hire entry level workers by $15,500 per year ($16,800 with payroll taxes) for every full-time, entry-level employee’ curb your enthusiasm at all about government-mandated wage increases?”

There are some great ideas here. When discussing the minimum wage, try some of Perry’s suggestions:

* Instead of using the phrase “an increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 (or $15) per hour” express your concern about “imposing a $2.85 (or $7.75) per hour, per employee, tax on employers who employ or hire unskilled workers. Won’t that discourage employers from hiring the very people who most need these jobs? Why should we punish employers who are offering entry-level jobs to low-skilled unemployed workers?”

* Instead of using the term “minimum wage,” try calling it “the $15,500 annual tax on small businesses, retailers, restaurants and employers for each full-time, entry-level worker they employ.”

* Instead of “minimum wage,” try calling it “the $2.85 (or whatever sum applies) per hour, per employee, tax on employers who employ or hire unskilled workers.”

* Instead of “minimum wage,” try calling it “the government-mandated wage floor for unskilled, jobless workers.”

* Instead of “minimum wage,” try calling it ” the government-mandated wage floor that guarantees reduced employment opportunities for America’s teenagers and low-skilled workers, especially minorities.”

Now that you’ve got the idea, try working these phrases into your own wordings and style. You may find it easier to open minds to the true nature of the minimum wage law.

Valentine’s Day: Uncle Sam Breaks Taxpayers’ Hearts

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)


As I often point out, holidays can be a great time to share libertarian ideas with family and friends. It’s even more fun and effective if you’ve gathered liberty-themed facts, figures and stories specific for each holiday. We often share such information in the Liberator Online as a holiday nears.

With Valentine’s Day upon us, I’m pleased to present the following information from Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) about how much government is adding to the cost of your Valentine’s Day celebration. It’s shocking stuff, sweetened just a bit by ATR’s trademark humor.

Government Versus Valentine’s Day
(from Hayley Robinson, Americans for Tax Reform)

This Saturday is Valentine’s Day. Romantics all over the nation have spent the week buying gifts and making dinner plans, all at a considerable price. Last year the National Retail Federation estimated consumers would spend a whopping $17.3 billion on Valentine’s Day — an average of $133.91 per person.

But that price is driven up enormously by an unexpected third wheel — Uncle Sam. Valentine lovers certainly won’t love discovering that, for almost every part of the day spent with that special someone, government taxes and fees send costs skyrocketing.


Roses and Valentine’s Cards: These are romantic must-haves for many people. An estimated 233 million roses are grown for Valentine’s Day, and consumers will spend $1.9 billion on flowers145 million Valentine’s cards will be purchased for the occasion. Over $1 billion of the money spent on cards and flowers goes to… you know who.

A Romantic Dinner for… Three? Yep, save a chair at the table for Uncle Sam. $3.5 billion is spent dining out on Valentine’s Day — and a hard-to-swallow 31% of the cost of your bill comes from government taxes.

Wine: If you’ve been saving a nice bottle of wine for the occasion, be sure to savor it — 33% of the cost is due to government. That’s enough to drive you to drink… if you could afford all the taxes.

Chocolate: Consumers will spend nearly $1.3 billion on chocolate. Of this, 31% will be paid to the government. Ugh — that dessert just got a little less sweet.

Jewelry: In 2013, 6 million people expected or planned a marriage proposal on Valentine’s Day. In 2014 it was projected that $3.9 billion would be spent on diamonds, gold, and silver. But beware, the government is standing right there beside you as you pledge your love — and taking a 36% cut of the cost of your glittering symbols of love.

Cell Phones: If you’re in a long-distance relationship and can’t travel to see your sweetheart, hopefully you’ll still be able to give them a call. You might want to keep it short, though: Uncle Sam will be on the line as well, and he’ll be responsible for 40% of the cost of your bill.

Travelling: Making a surprise visit to your long-distance loved one? Whether you’re driving or flying, you’re paying Uncle Sam for the privilege. Last year 45% of the cost of gasoline was due to government taxation, while other taxes and fees accounted for 44% of the cost of airfare. An annoying backseat driver or snoring seat mate would be much better than the travel companionship offered by Uncle Sam.

ATR sums it up this way: “Single or steady, taxpayers will remain heartbroken this Valentine’s Day — when it comes to the costs imposed by the government.”

A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month – Part 2

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Recently, we examined some resources for Black History Month, a time which opens the door for discussions on issues key to libertarians.

This week I’m concluding with some more issue-oriented Black History Month resources and talking points.

First, a look at state-created poverty and unemployment affecting black Americans.

  • Race and Economics,” a short column by economist Walter Williams, examines this often-ignored point. Excerpt: “Some might find it puzzling that during times of gross racial discrimination, black unemployment was lower and blacks were more active in the labor force than they are today. … During the 1930s, there were a number of federal government interventions that changed the black employment picture.”
  • Walter Williams looks at the racist outcomes of the minimum wage more closely in “Minimum Wage’s Discriminatory Effects.” Excerpt: “Minimum wage laws have massive political support, including that of black politicians. That means that many young black males will remain a part of America’s permanent underclass with crime, drugs and prison as their future.”
  • Walter Williams’ outstanding 1982 short book The State Against Blacks (long out of print — check your library) — shows how numerous government programs, supposedly enacted to help blacks and the poor, have caused enormous harm to blacks (and others). 
  • In his 2004 column “A Painful Anniversary“ economist Thomas Sowell argues that the 1960s Great Society / War on Poverty programs helped destroy black families. Excerpt: “The black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state that subsidized unwed pregnancy and changed welfare from an emergency rescue to a way of life.”

Government’s role in protecting slavery and enforcing Jim Crow laws is often ignored. Yet of course it was government that created and defended such abominable and unlibertarian practices.

Still another fascinating topic tailor-made for Black History Month is the little-known history of how gun rights helped protect civil rights activists and advance the civil rights movement.

  • For starters, check out “Yes, Guns Are Dangerous. But They Also Save Lives and Secure Civil Rights“ by Damon W. Root of Reason magazine.
  • Also see this excellent review of the 2004 book The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement by Lance Hill, from The Nation magazine. This book tells the remarkable story of the Deacons for Defense, who at their peak had several hundred members and twenty-one chapters in the South. 
  • Black Open Carry: Why Gun Rights and Civil Rights Need Each Other” is a provocative new Reason TV video. It examines the little-known long, intertwined history of the gun rights and civil rights movements, from slave revolts to Reconstruction-era armed resistance to the Black Panther Party. “One of the great untold stories about the civil rights movement was that it required violent resistance from blacks to be effective,” says historian Thaddeus Russell. Seven eye-opening minutes in length. 

A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Black History MonthI’ve often noted — especially in my One Minute Liberty Tip columns — that holidays and annual observances offer a great opportunity to present the ideas of liberty to family and friends.

Libertarians should consider collecting facts and stories to share on such occasions, when appropriate. That’s why we offer such information frequently in the Liberator Online.

February is Black History Month. This event, observed annually since 1976, potentially opens the door for discussions on issues key to libertarians.

If anyone should be receptive to the message of libertarianism it should be black Americans, who as a group have suffered from government oppression more than any other ethnic group in America, and whose historical and ongoing struggle for freedom is arguably the most dramatic one in our history.

And that story — the story of a people savagely oppressed by government power for centuries and bravely fighting to overcome that oppression — is one that Americans of all races would benefit from pondering.

Black History Month is an excellent time to show how government coercion was and is the chief engine of the oppression of black Americans, as well as Americans in general. Libertarians have a unique angle to bring to that discussion.

The Law Perverted: A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month,” an article by James Padilioni, Jr. of Students For Liberty, is a great place to start. It will stimulate your thinking on this issue and provides a seldom-heard historical and theoretical background.

For specific issues relating to black Americans and liberty, here are some excellent resources.

More and more people are — at long last — questioning the War on Drugs, which has been horrible for all Americans and from which blacks suffer disproportionately. Liberty-minded U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has won a lot of positive attention by taking a leadership role on this issue in Congress.

* “How the War on Drugs Is Destroying Black America,” by John McWhorter, a prescient 2011 Cato Institute essay, provides a short, powerful argument that the Drug War is the major source of racial hostility today. Excerpt: “If the War on Drugs were terminated, the main factor keeping race-based resentment a core element in the American social fabric would no longer exist.”

* “Race and Prison“ from provides some astonishing figures. Excerpt: “In the late 1990s, nearly one in three African-American men aged 20-29 were under criminal justice supervision, while more than two out of five had been incarcerated — orders of magnitudes higher than that for the general population. … In some areas, a large majority of African-American men — 55 percent in Chicago, for example — are labeled felons for life, and, as a result, may be prevented from voting…”

Strongly related to the War on Drugs’ disproportionate effect on black Americans is the militarization of police — another issue on which Rand Paul (“We Must Demilitarize the Police,” TIME magazine, Aug. 14, 2014) and libertarians have been leading the national debate.

* The best book on the subject is libertarian Randy Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.

* You can read a lengthy excerpt from Rise of the Warrior Cop for free, courtesy of the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal website.

A look at black champions of liberty is certainly appropriate for Black History Month. Here’s a great collection of videos of black libertarians and classical liberals, past and present, speaking on liberty. They’re suitable for any time of year, of course, but Black History Month is a perfect time to share them online.

The Great Libertarian Super Bowl TV Ad

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

(From the Persuasion Powerpoint section in Volume 20, No. 4 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Over 110 million people will watch this Sunday’s Super Bowl.Super Bowl

A 30-second Super Bowl TV ad costs $4 million.

A 60-second spot costs $8 million.

Suppose a billionaire challenged you to write a 30-second or 60-second TV ad for libertarianism that gets 10,000 or 100,000 or 1,000,000 or more people to POSITIVELY RESPOND — to give us their names and contact information?

What would you say during that TV ad?

You can speak roughly 50 to 60 words in 30 seconds and 100 to 120 words in a minute.

What would you say?

What would you ask — to get 10,000 or 100,000 or 1,000,000 or more people to respond? To get them to text, email, telephone, or write to learn more about libertarianism?

How would you absolutely, positively guarantee that the billionaire would get his money’s worth for your Super Bowl TV ad?

You may want to privately explore and experiment with this challenge. And try out different versions of it on family and friends.

You will get better. More persuasive.

And closer and closer to Super Bowl-level communication.

There’s No Such Thing as an “Unregulated Market”

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 4 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Unregulated MarketMany people fear that, without government regulation, there would be no way to insure the safety and reliability of the goods and services they rely upon every day.

They fear that a free market would be an “unregulated market” where consumers would be blind and helpless before deceptive, dangerous marketers out to take advantage of them.

This is a major deal-killer that keeps many people from fully embracing free markets and libertarianism.

Happily, there’s a great answer to this concern. The truth is, there’s no such thing as an “unregulated market.” Instead, there are two kinds of regulation: regulation by government command, and far more efficient regulation by markets and consumers.

A recent article in The Freeman by economist Howard Baetjer Jr. does a great job of explaining this — and of telling why this distinction is so crucial for libertarians to make.

The article is entitled “There’s No Such Thing as an Unregulated Market: It’s a choice between regulation by legislators or by consumers.”

Says Baetjer:

“A big economic problem the world faces is semantic. That is, ‘regulation’ has come to mean ‘government regulation.’ We don’t seem to be aware of the alternative: regulation by market forces. That’s a problem because it leads us to accept so much government meddling that we would be better off without.

“We want the aims of regulation — regularity and predictability in markets, decent quality and reasonable prices for the goods and services we buy — and thinking that government regulation is the only way to get those, we accept a vast array of unnecessary, wrongheaded, and usually counterproductive mandates and restrictions.

“But government regulation is not the only kind of regulation.

“To regulate is to make regular and orderly, to hold to a standard, to control according to rule, as a thermostat regulates the temperature in a building. Market forces do this continually as competing businesses offer what they hope will be a good value, then customers choose among the various offerings, then the competing businesses react to customers’ choices. That process is the market’s regulator.”

Baetjer explains how markets and consumer feedback regulate the quality of the goods and services we buy and how market and consumer feedback forces regulate prices, thus protecting consumers from higher-than-necessary prices.

Baetjer also explains the flip side of this: how government regulations that consumers think protect them actually hamper this crucial market and consumer regulation. How market/consumer regulation is weakened as markets become less free.

Finally, Baetjer sums up the problem — and opportunity — this realization offers free market advocates:

“We never face a choice between regulation and no regulation. We face a choice between kinds of regulation: regulation by legislatures and bureaucracies, or regulation by market forces — regulation by restriction of choice, or regulation by the exercise of choice.

“Government regulation is not the only kind of regulation; market forces also regulate. Recognizing this, communicating it to others, and getting the awareness into public discourse are key steps toward greater economic liberty.

“The benefit of this semantic change — opening up the meaning of ‘regulation’ to include regulation by market forces — is to raise the question, which works better? Regulation by market forces works better, but that’s another argument. The first step is to recognize that market forces regulate, too.”

These are vital insights for those interested in spreading the ideas of liberty. Avoid the phrase “unregulated market” and others like it. Not only are such phrases scary to many people, it doesn’t at all accurately convey what we mean. Libertarians favor market and consumer regulation over inefficient, misleading, coercive and costly government regulation.

Learning to convince others that consumers and markets regulate — and do it marvelously well, and far better than government — will help you win people to libertarianism.

I highly recommend Baetjer’s article. Read it — and start sharing the good news about market and consumer regulation.

I Wanted to Change the World…

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

I love this wonderful little reflection, attributed to “an unknown monk” writing around 1100 A.D.:

I Wanted to Change the World…
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I Wanted to Change the World
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. 
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family.
My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation… and I could indeed have changed the world.

Changing the world: that’s what we, as libertarian activists, want to do. As the wise monk points out, changing the world must begin with… changing ourselves. And that’s a lifelong process. How do we do that? Here are a few suggestions and some resources for this lifelong journey:

  • Keep developing your understanding of libertarianism. What does liberty mean to you? Why are you a libertarian? Commit yourself to a joyful lifetime of learning. Read books, watch videos, talk with knowledgeable people. Periodically return to the basics. Be open to learning new arguments for liberty. Stay up to date: follow quality libertarian blogs, magazines, podcasts and new books. Be able to speak knowledgeably on libertarian solutions to current problems. David Bergland’s Libertarianism in One Lesson, published by the Advocates, is widely hailed as the best short introduction to libertarianism available. The Ludwig von Mises Institute has created one of the great online libertarian treasures: they’ve made hundreds of classic, essential libertarian books available online, for free
  • Learn how to communicate the ideas of liberty effectively and persuasively. Here’s where the Advocates can be of great service to you! Successful libertarian communication has been a key part of our mission since our founding. Check out our online Liberty Store for books, CDs and DVDs on how to do this. Plus, every issue of the Liberator Online has new articles on the best ways to communicate libertarianism. If you want to learn to do public speaking for liberty, consider joining Toastmasters.  And call 800-932-1776 or email us to learn how you can have a fun, engaging and enlightening Advocates libertarian communication workshop in your area. 
  • Develop your personal skills. How you present yourself is critically important — and you’d be shocked at how often this crucial point is neglected. Be friendly. Dress appropriately. Listen respectfully to others. Be a good friend, family member, neighbor — people are far more likely to listen to your political ideas if they already like and respect you as a person. 
  • Be prepared to answer questions. Learn to answer in bite-sized soundbites. Be ready to persuasively answer the tough questions libertarians are commonly asked. 
  • Meet other liberty activists. Go to libertarian meetings. Join a campus or local libertarian group. Network with libertarians online. From these meetings may come the “family” in the monk’s story above that will help you change your community, your country… and the world. 
  • Use proven tools. The world-famous World’s Smallest Political Quiz was developed by the Advocates to make explaining liberty easy and fun. Millions of people have encountered libertarianism through this single tool. Our OPH (Operation Politically Homeless) kit gives you the ability to find dozens or even hundreds of libertarians and liberty-friendly people wherever people are gathered. 

When to begin your journey? I love this phrase, attributed to Anne Frank: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before beginning to improve the world.”

Are We Nearing the Libertarian Tipping Point in America?

in Communicating Liberty, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion Powerpoint section in Volume 20, No. 2 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

…and if we are, what can YOU DO to speed up the process?

A number of libertarian researchers, thinkers, and writers strongly believe that the Libertarian Tipping Pointlibertarian movement is growing faster and moving forward faster than ever before.

They cite the growing and snowballing numbers of libertarians in the Millennial Generation.

Seventy-four million Millennials — ranging from 10 to 33 years old — are becoming more and more libertarian.

They point out the large number of 18- to 35-year-old voters who supported and voted for Ron Paul for President in 2008. And the larger and growing number of Millennials who campaigned and voted for Ron Paul in 2012.

And they note the increasing percentages of these young voters who voted for Libertarian Party candidates in 2012 and 2014.

The momentum is increasing each election.

And, just as importantly, it’s increasing between elections. In high schools. On college campuses across America. On talk radio. On TV talk shows. And online.

If these numbers are right, if these trends are happening… what can YOU do to speed up the process? To get us nearer to the Great Libertarian Tipping Point?

  1. Talk with high school and college students about liberty. 
  2. Talk with 18- to 35-year-olds about liberty — and the difference it can make for their future.
  3. Ask for permission to forward them links to short YouTube videos or clips or talks. Then do it — sparingly.
  4. Get their permission to send them online links to well-written essays and articles. Or email newsletters such as the Liberator Online. Then ask them to forward the stuff they like best to their friends and classmates.

Here’s the secret to speeding up libertarian growth among the Millennials: winning more Millennials to liberty… and getting them to share it with their friends and classmates and colleagues.

Share your best libertarian conversations and online materials with a dozen receptive Millennials for several weeks or months, and then ask THEM to share the libertarian conversations and writings with a dozen of their friends and classmates. With people roughly their own age who know them and like them and trust them.

You can set this in motion in less than 30 minutes a week.

Then, together, we will push past the Tipping Point — and begin dismantling Big Government and expanding liberty.

Libertarians Are Actually Less “Isolationist” Than Other Political Views

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 2 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Libertarians who advocate a foreign policy of peaceful non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations sometimes get labeled by critics as “isolationist.”

The words “isolationist” and “isolationism” are smears. Further, they inaccurately describe what libertarians believe. I’ve written in the past on ways to respond to this charge.

Libertarian InternationalismLast month Simon Lester, a trade policy analyst with Cato Institute, wrote an excellent column entitled “Libertarian Internationalism” at in which he debunks the notion.

“[T]he reality is that libertarianism is among the most internationally minded philosophies,” he writes. “Examining several key areas of international relations makes this clear: International trade, diplomacy and the military, and institutions.”

Here are some of his arguments, which are helpful to anyone in discussing this issue.

1. International trade.

“The most obvious place where libertarians are internationalists is economic relations. True libertarians advocate the free flow of trade and investment, without government restrictions. This is about as international as you can get. For libertarians, the origin of a product or service is irrelevant. People around the world should be able to buy and sell from each other without government interference. …

“Unfortunately, in most countries today, there is a strong sentiment for favoring domestic economic actors over foreign ones. This feeling manifests itself in various forms, such as tariffs and Buy National procurement policies. Libertarians stand almost completely united against this nationalist feeling, believing that trade and other economic interaction with foreign actors benefits us all.”

2. Diplomacy and the military. 

“Diplomacy and the military is a more complicated policy area, involving a number of instances of potential relations between domestic and foreign. Here, though, there is a strong case that libertarians are more internationalist than most others. Of course, in part this depends on what one means by internationalism.

“Libertarians are most frequently accused of isolationism when they object to military intervention in foreign territories. That libertarians usually object to these interventions is not in doubt. However, use of the military cannot always credibly be called internationalist. Colonialism and conquest, although they do require contact with foreigners, are not generally a positive form of international relations. …

“Thus, for libertarians, war and government aid do not reflect true internationalism. To some extent, they are really about government bullying and condescension towards foreigners, the idea that we are superior to them and can use our power to re-make them in our image. In contrast, libertarians believe in treating citizens of other countries with respect and acting with humility.”

3. International institutions. 

“This is the area where libertarians are most likely to reject what is conventionally thought of as the internationalist position, as they worry about the power of these institutions. In reality, libertarians are not rejecting the idea of international institutions, but rather the specific policies pursued by some of these institutions. … If there were international institutions that supported balanced budgets (or protected property rights), for example, libertarians would likely be supportive. There is no fundamental libertarian objection to international cooperation through institutions; the only concern is on specific issues of substance.”

Finally, Lester argues that libertarianism is inherently internationalist, not isolationist.

“At a more conceptual level, the idea of limited government inherently pushes us away from nationalism and towards internationalism. As things stand now, most power is in the hands of national governments, who often use this power in ways that conflict with the interests of other governments. In other words, putting power in the hands of nation-states leads naturally to national conflict. By contrast, devolving power to local governments more closely connected with the people reduces the role of national governments and nationalism. It makes power more disbursed, and allows communities to connect with each other, regardless of the nation in which they are located.”

These are excellent points, and sharing them with critics can help refute and perhaps eventually bury the tiresome “isolationist” smear.

Read Lester’s complete argument at

New York Times: Should We Abolish the CIA?

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

It’s exciting news when a bold libertarian idea moves into the mainstream. We’ve seen this again and again in recent years.

Now the New York Times — the very definition of mainstream, Establishment opinion — has asked a critical and timely question in the “Room for Debate” section of its Opinion Pages:

Abolish the CIA?“Do We Need the C.I.A.? Would the security needs of the United States be better served if the agency were dismantled?”

Writes the Times:

“Since Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan introduced bills in 1991 and 1995 to abolish the Central Intelligence Agency and transfer its powers to the State Department, many have continued to share his concerns about the agency’s competence and performance. The Senate intelligence committee’s report on the use of torture is the latest example of the agency’s controversies. …

“Would the security needs of the United States be better served if the C.I.A. were dismantled?”

That such a question is being asked and debated is great news, says Jacob Hornberger, president of the libertarian Future of Freedom Foundation:

“That is a remarkable development. When was the last time you read that question being asked by anyone in the mainstream press? Wouldn’t we ordinarily see the question posed in the following manner: ‘Is It Time to Reform the CIA?’ …

“Libertarians have long called for the abolition, not the reform, of the CIA… The fact that the Times even asks the question is a testament to the importance of hewing to libertarian principles rather settling for reform proposals. Over time, ideas on liberty percolate and find their way into the minds of others. And suddenly there are prominent people in mainstream American life asking, ‘Why not abolish the CIA?’”

Hornberger gives his own answer to the New York Times’ question.

“The existence of an agency like the CIA is totally contrary to the principles of a free society. … It’s not just the post-9/11 torture scandal. The CIA has been engaged in evil, immoral, dark-side activities since its inception, all guided by the mindset of ‘patriots’ who were protecting ‘national security’ from the communists and, later, from the drug dealers, the ‘terrorists,’ and anyone else who could be used to scare Americans into keeping quiet about the CIA’s steady acquisition of secret, omnipotent power.

“The CIA knowingly employed Nazis, including ones who had participated in the Holocaust, all the while keeping it secret from the American people.

“The CIA destroyed democratic regimes all the over the world and installed brutal and tyrannical dictatorships in their stead.

“The CIA initiated horrendous medical experiments on unsuspecting Americans in its MKULTRA program and then destroyed its records so that the American people would not discover the full details of what they had done. …

“The CIA initiated a formal program of assassination and, in fact, participated in the assassination or execution of people around the world…

“The CIA has engaged in assassination and torture since at least the 1950s… At the risk of belaboring the obvious, it continues to assassinate people in different parts of the world…

“From its inception, the CIA has meddled in the affairs of other countries and continues to do so. It is without a doubt the world’s biggest troublemaker, and it is the American people who are bearing the brunt of all the trouble.

“Where in the Constitution does it authorize an agency like the CIA? The fact is that the very existence of the CIA has converted the original concept of limited government into unlimited government. For as long as one part of the government has unlimited powers, that automatically means that the federal government has unlimited powers. …

“So, New York Times, the answer to your question is: Yes, most definitely, the time for abolishing the CIA is long past due. It’s a key to restoring a free, prosperous, and secure society to our land. Thanks for asking the question because it will almost certainly cause others to ponder it.”

Polls Show Growing Support for Non-Interventionist Foreign Policy

in Communicating Liberty, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, National Defense by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

David Boaz of the Cato Institute points out at the Huffington Post that support for a non-David Boazinterventionist, or at least far less interventionist, foreign policy is growing rapidly in America.

Refuting pundits who charge that such ideas have little popular support, Boaz cites some recent major polls.

“Perhaps most broadly,” writes Boaz, “a massive Pew Research Center survey in December 2013 found that 52% of respondents said the United States ‘should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.’ That was the most lopsided balance in favor of the U.S. ‘minding its own business’ in the nearly 50-year history of the measure.”

Boaz also cites a CBS News/New York Times poll  from June 2014 showing that fully 75% of Americans believe the result of the war in Iraq was not worth the loss of American lives and other costs of the invasion. Only 18% thought it worthwhile. The percentages were about the same whether those surveyed were Republicans, Democrats and independents. It’s hard to imagine a more thorough repudiation.

A YouGov poll in March found, Boaz writes, that “the American public has little appetite for any involvement in Ukraine… Only 18% say that the U.S. has any responsibility to protect Ukraine.” Boaz further notes that “Republicans were barely more supportive: 28 percent yes, 46 percent no.”

In April, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found strong and deep support for less intervention, and almost no desire for further involvement in the internal affairs of foreign nations.

The Wall Street Journal summarized its poll’s findings: “Americans in large numbers want the U.S. to reduce its role in world affairs… In a marked change from past decades, nearly half of those surveyed want the U.S. to be less active on the global stage, with fewer than one-fifth calling for more active engagement — an anti-interventionist current that sweeps across party lines. …

“The poll findings, combined with the results of prior Journal/NBC surveys this year, portray a public weary of foreign entanglements and disenchanted with a U.S. economic system that many believe is stacked against them. The 47% of respondents who called for a less-active role in world affairs marked a larger share than in similar polling in 2001, 1997 and 1995.

Concludes Boaz:

“Americans, including Republicans, are getting tired of policing the world with endless wars. Support for the Iraq war is almost as low as approval of Congress. Interventionist sentiment ticked up in the summer of 2014 as Americans saw ISIS beheading journalists and aid workers on video. But even then most voters wanted air strikes, not more troops.

“Here’s a prediction: 13 months from now, when the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire begin voting for presidential candidates, Americans will be even more weary of nearly 15 years of war, and U.S. intervention will be even less popular than it is now.”

Boaz notes that only one potential major party presidential candidate thus far has rejected interventionism in favor of a far less interventionist policy: libertarian-leaning Republican Rand Paul (R-KY).

A Libertarian’s New Year’s Resolutions

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Uncategorized by Advocates HQ Comments are off

(From the Libertarian’s New Year’s Resolutions section in Volume 19, No. 27 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Editor’s Note: Several years ago, Harry Browne — 1996 and 2000 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, world-renowned libertarian speaker and writer, and very good friend of the Advocates — made his New Year’s resolutions.

Harry BrowneThe result was a compact how-to of effective libertarian communication, by one of history’s most persuasive advocates of the ideas of liberty.

We are delighted to share this inspiring and uplifting classic with you. Consider adding them to your own resolutions this year — and share them with other libertarians.


  1. I resolve to sell liberty by appealing to the self-interest of each prospect, rather than preaching to people and expecting them to suddenly adopt my ideas of right and wrong.
  2. I resolve to keep from being drawn into arguments or debates. My purpose is to inspire people to want liberty — not to prove that they’re wrong.
  3. I resolve to listen when people tell me of their wants and needs, so I can help them see how a free society will satisfy those needs.
  4. I resolve to identify myself, when appropriate, with the social goals someone may seek — a cleaner environment, more help for the poor, a less divisive society — and try to show him that those goals can never be achieved by government, but will be well served in a free society.
  5. I resolve to be compassionate and respectful of the beliefs and needs that lead people to seek government help. I don’t have to approve of their subsidies or policies — but if I don’t acknowledge their needs, I have no hope of helping them find a better way to solve their problems. 
  6. No matter what the issue, I resolve to keep returning to the central point: how much better off the individual will be in a free society.
  7. I resolve to acknowledge my good fortune in having been born an American. Any plan for improvement must begin with a recognition of the good things we have. To speak only of America’s defects will make me a tiresome crank.
  8. I resolve to focus on the ways America could be so much better with a very small government — not to dwell on all the wrongs that exist today.
  9. I resolve to cleanse myself of hate, resentment, and bitterness. Such things steal time and attention from the work that must be done.
  10. I resolve to speak, dress, and act in a respectable manner. I may be the first libertarian someone has encountered, and it’s important that he get a good first impression. No one will hear the message if the messenger is unattractive.
  11. I resolve to remind myself that someone’s “stupid” opinion may be an opinion I once held. If I can grow, why can’t I help him grow?
  12. I resolve not to raise my voice in any discussion. In a shouting match, no one wins, no one changes his mind, and no one will be inspired to join our quest for a free society.
  13. I resolve not to adopt the tactics of Republicans and Democrats. They use character assassination, evasions, and intimidation because they have no real benefits to offer Americans. We, on the other hand, are offering to set people free — and so we can win simply by focusing on the better life our proposals will bring.
  14. I resolve to be civil to my opponents and treat them with respect. However anyone chooses to treat me, it’s important that I be a better person than my enemies.

Harry passed away in March of 2006, and we greatly miss him. If enough of us follow Harry’s advice, we can make 2015 the best year yet for the libertarian movement. He is the author of Liberty A to Z, available from the Advocates’ Liberty Store. 

The Eyeball Lottery: A Powerful Argument for Self-Ownership

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 25 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

For many libertarians, self-ownership is the philosophical root of their support for liberty. Even many libertarians whose belief in liberty is based on other arguments often strongly support the fundamental idea of self-ownership.

The modern argument for self-ownership was formulated by John Locke, who famously wrote in his Second Treatise on Government (1689): “every man has a property in his own person: this nobody has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his.”

eyeball lotteryFrom there, the entire libertarian position can be deduced and defended: the right to do as you choose with your own life and property, so long as you don’t harm the lives and property of others.

From the standpoint of libertarian outreach, there’s another strong advantage of the self-ownership argument. When someone accepts it, they are accepting a baseline argument from which most or all other libertarian positions must also be accepted, or at least taken very seriously. So convince someone of the validity of self-ownership, and they will be allies on most other major issues as well.

Which brings me to… the Eyeball Lottery. fake eyeball

I first encountered this somewhat gruesome but powerful argument in Ayn Rand’s collection of essays The Virtue of Selfishness, Chapter 10, “Collectivized Ethics.”

Here’s what Rand wrote:

“It is medically possible to take the corneas of a man’s eyes immediately after his death and trans­plant them to the eyes of a living man who is blind, thus restoring his sight (in certain types of blindness). Now, according to collectivized ethics, this poses a social problem. Should we wait until a man’s death to cut out his eyes, when other men need them? Should we regard everybody’s eyes as public property and devise a ‘fair method of distribution’? Would you advocate cutting out a living man’s eye and giving it to a blind man, so as to ‘equalize’ them? No? Then don’t struggle any further with questions about ‘public projects’ in a free society. You know the answer. The principle is the same.”

Other writers have presented this idea in different ways. Here’s how you might present it in a conversation:

“As you know, there are millions of people in the world who, through no fault of their own, are blind. Meanwhile, most people, through sheer luck, are blessed with two functioning eyes.

“Would it be fair, then, for the government to force all two-eyed persons to register for an ‘eyeball lottery’ to remedy this imbalance? Those whose numbers are picked would have one of their eyes removed painlessly. That eye would then be given to the blind.

“The result: millions of blind people would now have the gift of sight. And those people who were forced to undergo the surgery would still have one good eye.

“Would you be in favor of that? Do you believe it would be right for the government to force someone to participate in this lottery? Would you willingly take part in such a lottery?”

The answer, of course is almost always… no. Indeed, most people shudder at the proposal.

Then ask: “But why not?”

Virtually everyone knows the answer: It’s just not right. The eyeballs belong to the person. They are his personal property. He owns them, in some definitive way that is universally realized — and, in the same way, he owns the rest of his body parts, and thus, his entire body.

While it might be wonderful if someone voluntarily donated an eyeball in this way, it would be wrong, immoral, unthinkable, monstrous, totalitarian to force people to submit to such an operation — even in the great cause of helping the blind see.

This thought experiment dramatically opens minds to consider the concept of self-ownership. From there, other questions can be asked. Is it right to conscript someone — to force him to face death, in a cause he may not even believe in, for some collective good?

And, if someone owns his body absolutely, doesn’t he then own the right to the fruits of his labor — created by the operation of his own body and mind? And doesn’t self-ownership demand the end of all so-called “victimless crime” laws?

Try it, perhaps with some philosophical or open-minded friends. Great discussions may follow!

An excellent discussion of The Eyeball Lottery is in “Taxation, Forced Labor, and Theft,” an essay by Edward Feser that appeared in the Independent Review published by the Independent Institute. Feser examines this and related self-ownership arguments from Robert Nozick and Murray Rothbard, and counters some arguments that have been raised against the Eyeball Lottery conclusion. Recommended.

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