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Taiwan Streets: a Case of Free Markets in Action

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Taiwan Streets: a Case of Free Markets in Action

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In Liberalism: In the Classical Tradition, Ludwig von Mises explains that classical liberalism “was the first political movement that aimed at promoting the welfare of all, not that of special groups.”

TaiwanIn an article for the Foundation for Economic Education, Professor Peter St. Onge, a long-time Taiwan resident, discusses a real world example of free markets working to promote the welfare of all members of a community.

In “Taiwan’s Social Safety Net Is the Street Market,” St. Onge reviews some of the most striking traits of the streets of Taiwan and the state’s loose regulations, giving us a better idea of what Mises wrote nearly 90 years ago.

According to Onge, libertarians and free market apologists are “often ridiculed” when they claim that free enterprise is the best substitute for the welfare state. They are often called naïve for suggesting that fully capable individuals would have a better shot at making a living if they were given freedom instead of government dependence.

In Taiwan, Onge writes, the welfare state is “tiny,” and the regulations aren’t as restrictive when compared to the United States or Europe. The few regulations the state has in place are also lightly enforced.

With the gaps created by government’s hands-off approach in the island of Taiwan, commerce exploded. The result? “Near-zero homelessness.”

The obvious effect of less restrictive regulations is the growth of business, which makes local streets bright with store signs, consumers, and shop keepers. But brick-and-mortar stores are not the only ones benefiting from this freedom. According to Onge, the island hosts a number of pop-up businesses that take over the streets, employing “mainly low-skill labor.” These businesses give the poor and the unskilled the chances that the state’s handouts can’t.

To illustrate his point, Onge writes that, every morning at 5 am, farmers bring their produce to a street close to the university where he works. Using folding tables, they place their products along the street undisturbed. As the diverse sets of customers arrive, the street is filled with color and sound. Some of the customers include the elderly, who aren’t healthy enough to drive to a large store, mothers with small children, and fathers getting ready to cook breakfast. At 7 am, farmers pack up and leave the spots, opening up the space to breakfast pop-ups like noodle shops, sandwich places, and joints offering full English breakfast.

Past noon, these spaces are freed again, giving the night crew time to set up different types of restaurants and stores.

At night, Onge reports, you can buy anything in that street. From fried chicken to kids’ toys. Customers can be seen enjoying the creative madness until 3 in the morning. Just a couple of hours before farmers are ready to unload their produce once again.

This “small river of entrepreneurial income” helps low-skilled workers find jobs, even if temporarily, while also bringing consumers what they want, conveniently.

Instead of crony capitalism, these streets are filled with old-fashioned free markets, allowing competitive enterprise to shape commerce, not government-backed favoritism.

The result is happier customers, more jobs, more safety, and cheaper products.

Adding a Private Element to Public Schooling Boosts Diversity

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Adding a Private Element to Public Schooling Boosts Diversity

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

During the 2016 Amplify School Choice event promoted and organized by the nonprofit news organization Franklin Center, bloggers and journalists from across the country had the opportunity to visit two public schools in the Denver, Colorado area.

While the event brought several options of schooling to light, one of the programs most speakers focused on is known as a charter.

StudentsCharter schools are public schools. What makes them uniquely different from traditional schools is that they share a private element with for-profit organizations.

Instead of being run like a public school, charters are given the freedom to refrain from following regulations imposed on traditional schools, allowing leadership to resort to different educational methods. Charters usually hire teachers who are not unionized and often use unique educational techniques, giving students with special needs an opportunity to adapt.

But because these schools are publicly funded, students who would otherwise be stuck in the neighborhood’s traditional school are given the opportunity to choose.

Charters, which are often smaller, are able to work with students in a more direct way than traditional school teachers can. And low-income families with access to the charter option are often thankful in the long run.

During a conversation with Bill Kurtz, the CEO of DSST Public Schools—a local charter—we were lucky to get to know three DSST students, all who happened to be the children of immigrants.

According to Kurtz, the idea behind DSST is to boost the community. “As you can see,” he told the audience of bloggers and journalists, “the school is very diverse. [It] largely mirrors the population of Denver.”

With a 100 percent success rate in sending students to college, DSST stands out for the diversity of its students and its success rate in following its mission. But during the conversation, Kurtz didn’t go into the economic or praxeological reasons why his school excels in bringing diverse people together.

In the book The Liberal Archipelago: A Theory Of Diversity And Freedom, author Chandran Kukathas contends that the state has no place promoting any set of values. Kukathas argues that, if the government imposes values by force, individuals will feel compelled to rebel or to act against their conscience.

The author adds that the “most important source of human motivation is principle—or, better still, conscience. … not because conscience always overcomes or overrules other motives … [but because conscience is] what we think should guide us.”

In an environment where private elements come together, eliminating the need to follow the values imposed by a governmental body, individuals are compelled to follow their heart, so to speak.

Adding the private element to a traditional school removes many of the impositions traditional educators, parents, and students are often faced with, boosting efficacy and yes, diversity. Not only because schools might be effectively targeting minorities, but because children stuck with bad educational choices due to their zip code are now given the opportunity to choose.

Students may come from a variety of backgrounds, but they also resort to charters because they have specific goals in mind: get a better education.

Schools with the private element are freer to experiment, giving students who are willing to follow their style an opportunity to grow while “weeding out” those who are not particularly fond of that school’s mission.

In the traditional school system, a child’s fate is set by his or her zip code. But where choice abides, so does conscience. And that’s why the removal of value imposition through government often produces great results.

Revolving Door: Google Enjoys Privileged Position within the US Government

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Revolving Door: Google Enjoys Privileged Position within the US Government

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

Putting an end to the revolving door used to be one of the issues presidential candidate Barack Obama appeared to be most passionate about. In December of 2007, then Senator Obama vowed to close the “revolving door … [in other words] the pattern of people going from industry to agency, back to industry,” as soon as he entered the White House. But by 2016, Franklin Center’s Watchdog.org reports, the practice couldn’t get more popular.

GoogleSince 2009, more than 250 people moved between Google and other related firms and the federal government. According to the results produced by Campaign for Accountability’s Google Transparency Project, there have been 258 revolving door instances associated with Google employees and other related firms. In many cases, these individuals were either involved with national political campaigns or with federal government agencies and Congress.

But according to Watchdog.org, one of the most eye-catching discoveries is that “[m]uch of that revolving door activity took place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where 22 former White House officials went to work for Google and 31 executives from Google and related firms went to work at the White House.”

In many of these cases, the Obama administration appointed these individuals directly.

Many of the Google employees who left the tech giant and its associated firms ended up in the President’s Council on Science and Technology and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, two boards responsible for regulating programs that directly impact Google as a company.

When the other end of the revolving door is analyzed, we also learn that 25 government officials involved with the intelligence community, the Department of Defense, or national security have joined the Silicon Valley giant in the past few years. And at least 18 former State Department officials embraced new positions with Google as well, while five Google staffers were hired by the State Department, and at least three Google executives switched jobs, moving their desks to the DOD headquarters.

According to the general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, Scott Amey, the number of people moving between the government and Google is high, raising concerns among anti-revolving door activists. Amey says that precisely because information concerning the quantity of people involved in this revolving-door game is hard to find, the actual scope of this mass migration may not be easy to grasp at the moment. Nevertheless, 250 individuals involved in this activity is “a very significant number.”

Amey told Watchdog.org that, if individuals working inside the government “have access to information on competitors and they go to Google … then you have to wonder if Google is getting an unfair advantage over others in their market.” Interestingly enough, Amey’s comment serves as the perfect example of why crony capitalism or, in other words, the marriage of the state and private special interests, is bad.

Without a government setting the rules, winners are only picked by the market, not the privileged few.

How Crony Capitalism Almost Destroyed a Small Vegan Business

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How Crony Capitalism Almost Destroyed a Small Vegan Business

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

Crony capitalism, what many still believe to be actual capitalism, is everywhere. That’s why every aspect of modern life seems to be ruled by those who nurture a cozy relationship with government.

Even what you eat for breakfast is under their control.

PastaLast year, we learned that the American Egg Board, a group of egg producers supervised by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), had used its influence and might to (try to) destroy a small company, the start-up Hampton Creek, which is behind Just Mayo.

The egg-less product became the target of the crony organization, which is funded by the mandatory fees members of the industry must pay, whether they are willing to be part of the organization or not. The USDA is in charge of overseeing the group’s budget and activities, making the AEB an arm of the state. So when the group’s president called the vegan Just Mayo a “crisis and major threat to the future of the egg product business” in an email and a USDA official suggested having Just Mayo’s labeling claims challenged with the US Food and Drug Administration, Hampton Creek was hit with a warning letter claiming that they had made unauthorized claims regarding their product, effectively “misleading” consumers by using the image of an egg on the label of a vegan item.

But the FDA move wasn’t enough. Later, the cartel group with direct ties to the US government moved to hire a lobbyist with the goal of making the grocery chain Whole Foods stop selling Just Mayo. While this step backfired, AEB ended up looking to another corporate ally to put an end to the competitor by convincing Unilever, the manufacturer of Hellman’s Mayonnaise, to file a lawsuit against Hampton Creek.

The lawsuit was later dropped.

A Freedom of Information Act request helped us learn more about this sordid pursuit against the small company just because of its competitive factor, giving us yet another great example of how government and special interests often work together to put an end to anything that makes them uncomfortable.

In a recent article for the Tenth Amendment Center, Mike Maharrey claimed that this episode in the recent history of food regulations shows the importance of fighting the federal government locally. After all, Maharrey wrote, “[t]he Constitution does not delegate the federal government any authority to regulate food safety.”

Despite the lack of legitimate authority, special interest groups like the American Egg Board continue to become involved with government, both local and federal. As they obtain privileges and special treatments that competitors do not enjoy, lobbyists work alongside lawmakers to solidify their clients’ position, oftentimes creating a scare regarding their competitors’ products that are sometimes powerful enough to nearly destroy small companies.

The result? Consumers end up having restricted access to variety, forcing the prices of commodities to go up.

Even if you’re not entirely positive the US Constitution should be followed at all times, you might agree that, if regulators and lawmakers do, indeed, have the health and safety of consumers in mind, they should be celebrating and welcoming new competitors in the food market, not fighting to keep the number steady. ​

How Regulation & the Fed Killed the Competitive Spirit in the Banking Community

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How Regulation & the Fed Killed the Competitive Spirit in the Banking Community

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During a recent House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing, a group of lawmakers wanted to know why there have been so few new banks opening their doors in America in recent years.

MoneyWhile it’s hard to admit that, for once, a group of Washington insiders are actually asking the right question, it’s also important to go beyond their concern by looking at why the sluggish economy is, in fact, to blame, but not because of economic factors alone. The problem, Mercatus Center’s Stephen Matteo Miller wrote, is regulation.

As the country announced the end of the economic crisis of 2008, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s application process was prolonged, hoping to cap the number of failed banks over time.

While this explains part of the problem, another issue also brought up by the Mercatus scholar may explain the other reason why there’s so little competition in the banking business.

According to a study carried out by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, the implementation of low interest rates defended by the Federal Reserve leadership may have had been directly to blame for low competition as well.

The conclusion both economists and the Mercatus scholar agreed on despite the findings by the Richmond Fed is that, laws like the Dodd-Frank Act, which adds to the regulatory burden, as well as the FDCI’s rule change had the most negative effect on the competitive aspect of the banking market, effectively protecting established banks and keeping smaller, more consumer-oriented banks out of the market. The artificial modifications made by the Fed have also contributed.

Over time, restrictions developed as regulations embodied in the Code of Federal Regulations have also had a negative effect on the overall health of the American economy. According to the Cumulative Cost of Regulations study carried out by the Mercatus Center, the regulatory burden may have helped to reduce gross domestic product (GDP) by $4 trillion. This aggressive and dramatic reduction may have also prompted entrepreneurs in the banking community to think twice before launching a new business.

So when reviewed carefully, the phenomena now under consideration by Congress has little to do with what many believe to be slow economic growth, or what many progressives like to call “record profits.” After all, it’s easy to measure how successful the established, too-big-to-fail banks have become over the past 6 or 7 years. What’s hard to assess is how much wealthier we would have been if government had gotten out of the financial system altogether.

Airbnb to Collect Taxes from Los Angeles Users

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Airbnb to Collect Taxes from Los Angeles Users

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Airbnb, the short-term rental app, has recently agreed to go along with officials in Los Angeles by requiring users to collect hotel taxes from their clients. The three-year agreement was signed early this week. And according to LA city officials, money collected by Airbnb in Los Angeles would bring $5.8 million in annual revenue.

ProtestThe agreement follows the city’s efforts to regulate Airbnb and similar companies locally.

As City Council members discussed what to do with Airbnb in the past few months, the company lobbied its users to stand up against suffocating regulations in a series of emails sent out regularly.

In one of these emails, Airbnb explained that the LA City Planning Commission was considering putting a 90 day cap on the number of nights Airbnb hosts can list their space, a rule Airbnb called “restrictive and arbitrary.” City officials were also considering limiting the number of listings hosts can have, which could affect users who have more than one room to rent, and instituting a registration procedure that would render the process of hosting through Airbnb difficult and expensive.

Another rule LA city officials had considered would also force Airbnb to turn over users’ personal information to the authorities, giving them information on how many nights a host books through the site and how much money renters make. Airbnb warned its users that the city did not detail how this information could be used.

Accusing property owners of evicting tenants to turn their properties into “commercial hotel and motel businesses,” Councilman Mike Bonin was one of the first in Los Angeles to propose Airbnb regulations. But while it is true, many users have, in fact, evicted their tenants in order to list their properties on Airbnb, that alone is not an excuse to regulate Airbnb out of existence. After all, the system works because it’s still affordable.

To tourists looking for an affordable accommodation option, the extra financial burden tied to the hotel tax could mean that renting through Airbnb might not be that affordable after all. To those who use the service as renters to make ends meet, being part of Airbnb may not be as appealing if rates are high because of the new rules.

In an article for US News, Mercatus Center’s Matthew Mitchell urges regulators to “deregulate traditional industries” if their goal is to help all industries and local businesses thrive. Instead of regulating the sharing economy and stifling competition, deregulation could also make it easier for visitors to stay and spend money locally.

Airbnb’s decision to go along with Los Angeles city officials may represent the company’s willingness to compromise, but a real solution to this dilemma will only be produced when lawmakers are honest about their goals.

After all, regulation will always makes things difficult for the consumer and the businessman, no matter how you slice it.

Video Game Shows the Economic Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana

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Video Game Shows the Economic Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana

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

In a truly free society, individuals would be able to provide the products consumers are after without having to deal with the restrictions imposed by bureaucrats.

Hemp IncWhen analyzed closely, private regulatory practices promoted within the marketplace are often much more efficient than regulations imposed by government officials who often are responding to potential threats instead of responding to legitimate market demands, putting a strain on job creators and consumers, who end up paying more—sometimes with their lives—for the product they want or need.

But as states begin to accelerate the process to legalize marijuana, the debate is finally shifting. Now, we’re finally talking more about the health and financial benefits of marijuana legalization than the legalization’s downside.

That’s why Hemp Inc. matters.

According to VICE News, the video game produced by HKA Digital Studios allows users to grow and sell weed while interacting with smokers, who sometimes happen to be celebrities. As a result of their economic ventures, these pot entrepreneurs are able to build marijuana empires. Unfortunately, that’s only currently—and legally—possible in real life if you move to states like Colorado and Washington.

The app was launched on April 26, but few news outlets covered the story.

Regardless of how popular the app becomes, the message it conveys is a powerful one. Despite the drug war, demands will always be met, no matter how many laws Congressmen pass. Once you lift barriers, however, industries flourish—including health industries—and consumer safety becomes a priority. Instead of assaulting people’s freedoms under the guise of safety, lawmakers are being increasingly reminded that they don’t know what is best for everyone. And that’s OK. Leaving it up to the individual is the only moral alternative.

So instead of logical arguments alone, anti-drug war advocates now have a new tool that demonstrates just how easily individuals are able to benefit themselves while benefitting others once marijuana is legal.

Instead of violent, bloody wars between gangs over street territory, the relationship between marijuana producers, sellers, and consumers is slowly becoming more like the relationship between the farmer, grocer, and the consumer—and that’s a positive development.

Unlike a real war, the drug war is an effort that targets a behavior seen as immoral, not a real enemy. But we have a modern historical example of how that type of war doesn’t lead us anywhere. Why are we still hesitant to put an end to this madness?

Bill Targeting Climate Change Skepticism Withdrawn, But Fight Against Dissent Continues

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Bill Targeting Climate Change Skepticism Withdrawn, But Fight Against Dissent Continues

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Due to what many call California’s state religion, a Senate bill scheduled for floor action this past week could have put Golden State businesses in legal trouble for questioning climate change. Thankfully, the ill-conceived piece of legislation has been scrubbed. For now.

Polar BearSenate Bill 1161, also known as California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act of 2016, hoped to undermine Californians’ 1st Amendment protections by allowing state and local prosecutors to pursue claims against groups expressing skepticism when it comes to climate change. According to the state Senate Rules Committee, the bill would have given district attorneys and the Attorney General the power to pursue Unfair Competition Law claims against businesses or organizations that have “directly or indirectly engaged in unfair competition with respect to scientific evidence regarding the existence, extent, or current or future impacts of anthropogenic induced climate change.”

To Sacramento Bee’s Ben Boychuck, if the bill had turned into law, it “would have been demolished on First Amendment grounds,” prompting many to believe that Senators behind this bill withdrew SB 1161 from consideration out of fear for the long term ramifications.

Fairly recently, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch claimed she was considering the possibility of pursuing civil actions against climate change skepticism, by saying that she had referred to the FBI to “consider whether or not it meets the criteria for which we could take action.” Former congressman Dr. Ron Paul responded to her comments shortly after, saying that “Defending speech we do not agree with is necessary to effectively protect the speech we support.”

But logic has no place in emotional discussions.

To many who consider themselves progressives, chanting “science” to any dissenting argument may suffice. But once the issue begins prompting legislation that protects one group from the other, however, things get messy.

While SB 1161 has been withdrawn for now, nothing keeps climate change advocates from pushing for similar laws in different states or at the federal level. But believing that an argument has been proven correct isn’t enough to silence an individual.

While commenting on the possibility of having the FBI pursuing civil actions against climate change skeptics, Paul asked the audience if it would be OK to silence Keynesian economist Paul Krugman because Austrian economists believe “the argument over whether we should audit, and then end, the Federal Reserve is settled.”

The obvious answer is no.

But the Democratic Party is still convinced that the best line of action is to continue to call for more government action when it comes to energy, releasing the final draft of the organization’s official platform pushing for a petroleum-free America by mid-century.

While assuming that the government has a say in how the energy market should organize itself, politicians line up behind the climate change cause. Often ignoring the fact oil-rich nations with terrible humanitarian records such as Saudi Arabia often fund efforts to undermine competing industries in America.

Maybe over time, we will be able to learn whether there’s a link between the explosion of the popularity of the climate change cause and the increasing involvement of Middle East nations in US politics.

Better Economic Prospects, Not Incarceration, Behind US Crime Decline

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Better Economic Prospects, Not Incarceration, Behind US Crime Decline

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For the past two decades, crime in the United States has declined considerably. Compared to the crime rate of the early 1990s, US crime rates have fallen about half while violent crime has fallen by 51 percent. Between 1991 and now, property crime has fallen by 43 percent.

Sign But while many understand that better economic prospects tend to help keep the crime rate low, many tend to attribute the considerable reduction to a series of factors that, when closely reviewed, have little to do with safety.

Some of the most common arguments brought up by experts include the expansion of enforcement agencies, “tough on crime” policies, and increasing incarceration rates. Some have even gone as far as claiming that legalized abortions had helped to boost safety, ignoring the fact that abortion rates have declined over the past decades.

But according to research on the subject by New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, socio-economic factors, not mass incarceration, has helped reduce the crime rates across the country.

According to the paper, increasing incarceration has had no effect on the drop in crime rates since 2000. When it comes to violent crime, the rate is also close to zero. States like Texas, California, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York have all seen a drop in crime as incarceration rates have also dropped.

Between 2000 and 2013, the study concludes, growth in income and decreased alcohol consumption have been the top factors responsible for the drop in crime, along with a boost in consumer confidence. Between 1990 and 1999, factors that helped to push crime rates down included decreased unemployment, growth in income, decreased alcohol consumption, and increased incarceration and police numbers.

But as the number of police officers increases, the number of low-level offenders behind bars shoots up. According to Brennan Center for Justice, the fact we have more low-level offenders in jail now than before impacts the crime reduction effect.

From the study:

“The incarceration rate jumped by more than 60 percent from 1990 to 1999, while the rate of violent crime dropped by 28 percent. In the next decade, the rate of incarceration increased by just 1 percent, while the violent crime rate fell by 27 percent.”

During a recent justice reform event organized by the grassroots organization FreedomWorks, Molly M. Gill, a former prosecutor who’s now the Director of Federal Legislative Affairs for Families Against Mandatory Minimums Foundation (FAMM), pointed out that “very few violent offenders end up in federal prisons.” Instead of violent criminals, federal prisons hold a great number of non-violent drug offenders, who account for more than 25 percent of the federal budget every year. Instead of rehabilitating them once they are inside the system, U.S. Justice Action Network Deputy Director Jenna Moll told attendees, prisons are often seen as the easy way out. During the FreedomWorks event, Moll also talked to attendees. She pointed out that a “national survey found prisoners prefer one year in prison versus five years probation,” adding that “if even prisoners know” prison is “the easy way out,” it proves that the system is not working.

In a 2000 article for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), economics professor Bruce Benson explained that, while few studies on the matter have been carried out, “Private security employment has accelerated since 1970,” leading him to believe that the “private security market … the second fastest growing industry in the United States” may have something to do with the drop in crime rates. To the economist, private-sector responses to crime should be studied as a major factor behind crime decline.

After Brexit, Is Amexit Next? This ​Libertarian Congressman Says Yes

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After Brexit, Is Amexit Next? This Libertarian Congressman Says Yes

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After Britons voted to leave the European Union on June 23, libertarian-leaning Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) decided to lead the charge to get the United States out of the United Nations, attaching the term “Amexit” to the endeavor.

ThomasMassieIn a post on his official Facebook page, Massie shared the full text of HR 1205, the American Sovereignty Restoration Act, which was introduced in 2013 but died in the previous Congress.

The bill was cosponsored by Massie, and according to the congressman, it would effectively keep the United States from spending taxpayer money on the organization, prevent US Armed Forces from serving under UN command, put an end to diplomatic immunity for foreign UN members in the country, close the UN headquarters in New York, and terminate the country’s membership with other organizations such as UNESCO and WHO. The bill would also repeal the United Nations Environment Program Participation Act.

​Mentioning the fact many of the countries involved with the UN are run by dictators, Massie said that binding US citizens to decisions made by tyrants goes against the US Constitution, which is the “supreme law” of the land.

Massie went on to say that the UN gives “cover to corrupt governments” while preventing “citizens from owning guns.” In the “best case,” Massie responded in a comment, “the UN is a bureaucratic waste of American taxpayers’ money.”

Dr. Ron Paul has recently written a column for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity calling for a US exit from NATO.

According to the former congressman, NATO is a “Cold War relic” that “survives only by stirring up conflict and then selling itself as the only option to confront the conflict it churned up.”

Shortly after the Brexit vote, the head of the Texas Nationalist Movement used Twitter to call on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asking him to schedule a statewide referendum on the independence of the Lone Star state.

Last year, the Texas Republican Party rejected an initiative that would give voters the opportunity to vote to leave the union. If the measure had become a non-binding ballot initiative, it would have stated that the state of Texas would “reassert the prior status as an independent nation” if “the federal government continues to disregard the Constitution.”

When talking secession in his book Omnipotent Government, economist and philosopher Ludwig von Mises said that a nation doesn’t have the right to tell a province that it belongs to a large body of power. “A province consists of its inhabitants. If anybody has a right to be heard in this case it is these inhabitants,” he added. “Boundary disputes should be settled by plebiscite.”

In the book Liberalism, Mises goes further, stating that if there’s a way to grant the individual with the right of self-determination, “it would have to be done.”

Minimum Wage Laws Push Young Blacks Out of the Workforce

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Minimum Wage Laws Push Young Blacks Out of the Workforce

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Unemployment is in the news again. But the media’s focus on the presidential elections seems to keep Americans from discussing the ongoing economic disaster we haven’t had the time to deal with since 2008. But as the Federal Reserve chairwoman shows signs of mild nervousness, more news outlets begin to pay attention. Still, few choose to dig deeper, and the great majority of the American electorate remains oblivious to the root causes of the problems they are dealing with now.

Walter E WilliamsIn order to help his fellow Americans understand the realities of government-management of economic policies, economist and professor Walter E. Williams wrote an article discussing the shift in unemployment rates and demographics over the past decades, helping us understand how bad the consequences of government interference are.

According to Williams, the unemployment rate of African American teenagers in 1948 was 9.4 percent while in 2016, the black teenage unemployment rate is about 30 percent. Still in 1948, the unemployment rate of white teens was higher, at 10.2 percent, while in 2016, it’s at 14 percent.

To the libertarian economist, what has caused this problem we have at hand is the elitist mentality.

In his article, Williams points out to comments made by another economist, David Howell, to illustrate the shifting mentality.

When talking about minimum wage laws and the reasons why we should embrace a higher minimum wage policy, Howell, who Williams calls a New School economist, says that we should not be worried about one of the most devastating consequences of raising the minimum wage: job losses. “Why shouldn’t we in fact accept job loss?” Asked Howell. But it was another scholar, Economic Policy Institute economist David Cooper, whose comments appeared to have truly triggered Williams.

“What’s so bad about getting rid of crappy jobs,” Cooper says, “forcing employers to upgrade, and having a serious program to compensate anyone who is in the slightest way harmed by that?” To Cooper, working fewer hours but making more money is all that matters, even if millions end up struggling to have access to entry level jobs due to the tough wage requirements.

To Williams, a “crappy job,” economically speaking, is a job. And being unemployed means being out of a job.

Whether Americans do not look fondly back to the 1940s and 1950s, Williams explains that, back when wage policies weren’t as interventionist, teens took jobs that would seem undesirable to the New School economists of today.

When Williams was a teen, he explained, he and his buddies would rise early during summers to board farm trucks headed to New Jersey. His jobs then varied a great deal. At times, Williams would pick blueberries, but sometimes he washed dishes and mopped floors, but he also worked unloading trucks at Campbell Soup.

Unfortunately for many teens living in poverty nowadays, the same jobs are either unavailable or not “good enough” for big city kids. Instead of allowing people to choose what job they are willing to take in order to make some kind of money, those who support interventionism in the economy prefer to see the poor unemployed and unskilled to see them fend for themselves.

If Williams is correct and current black leadership is all in favor of this view, things are only going to get worse.

FDA Ignores Science, Pushes for Nutrition Label Changes

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FDA Ignores Science, Pushes for Nutrition Label Changes

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The US Food and Drug Administration is at it again, trying to find even more reasons to get involved in the eating habits of Americans and US residents. To Mercatus Center’s Richard Williams, this is a serious problem.

GroceryAccording to Williams, an expert in benefit-cost analysis regarding food safety and nutrition, the FDA’s tendency to meddle with our food is a tradition to the agency, mainly due to the government’s resistance to looking into new ideas.

The FDA’s latest efforts revolve around nutrition labels.

According to the agency’s latest announcements, products will be required to carry labels with “more obvious” calorie counts, reports ABC. The FDA will also add a new line for added sugar, such as sweeteners and high-fructose corn syrup. With this change, the FDA hopes to “help Americans make healthier choices.”

But according to Williams, the label improvements do little to help consumers. Why? Because a very small percentage of the population uses “nutrition labels to eat healthier.”

According to the expert, what we currently know about what consumers eat and how their health is impacted is based solely on “data that come from people trying to remember what and how much they ate.” Studies on this subject have shown that, due to the fact people often forget what they eat, data associated with people’s eating habits are often “flat wrong.” The consequences are as follows: Instead of looking into the issues and dissecting the researching procedures prior to taking the data into consideration, the FDA is simply forcing an entire nation to adjust by basing its knowledge of how healthy people are on inaccurate information.

Back in 1993, Williams wrote in his article for Politico, he worked as the chief economist at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in the FDA. At the time, he predicted that the FDA’s implementation of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 would generate good outcomes, helping people make healthier choices. At the time, Williams confessed, he believed that the country would see 40,000 fewer cases of cancer and heart disease over the next 20 years. He also believed that 13,000 deaths would also be prevented as a result of the implementation new nutrition label requirements. Unfortunately, his predictions were off.

Nowadays, fewer people read food labels, claiming it’s easier for them to figure out their taxes than to work toward having healthier eating habits. And how do we know this? Well, research carried out by the Department of Agriculture shows that nutrition labeling laws have no effect on food consumption of ingredients such as saturated fat and cholesterol while another study carried out by independent researchers shows that food labels may be harming consumers who actually read them. According to the piece of research, evidence suggests that labeling requirements have “had limited success and in fact may be misleading to consumers.”

In order to help Americans make better decisions, Williams writes in his column, the FDA needs to walk away from micromanaging people’s lives. First, “the FDA would need to honestly concede how little it knows about how different foods and food combinations actually affect individuals with distinct genetic and environmental factors,” then, the agency would have to review its methods, putting an end to what Williams calls experiments “on the entire American population.”

Will the FDA listen?

Gov’t Watchdog Worried About Consumer Privacy Offers no Solution to the Federal Surveillance State

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Gov’t Watchdog Worried About Consumer Privacy Offers no Solution to the Federal Surveillance State

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

Recently, the Government Accountability Office released a report on issues regarding “surreptitious tracking apps,” hoping to identify the problems with cellphone features used for stalking so that regulators and lawmakers are able to find policy solutions that protect the American consumer and his privacy.

OfficeUnfortunately for Americans across the board, GAO failed to include government-backed and run surveillance programs as features putting our privacy at risk.

The report, which can be read in full here, claims that the issue with most apps designed as tracking features is that they may intercept a smartphone’s communications, such as text messages, phone calls, and emails. Without the consent of those being tracked, GAO reported, their safety and privacy are at risk.

During a recent interview, GAO’s Physical Infrastructure Director Mark Goldstein said that while many tracking apps that offer services to parents who are concerned about their children’s whereabouts for instance have “legitimate purposes,” but many others are “marketed for what’s called surreptitious use, or where you’re not telling someone that you’re using their phone to track them, and this happens in a number of kinds of cases, for stalking and for other kinds of nefarious purposes.”

Without explaining what he meant by nefarious purposes, Goldstein went on to claim that the biggest safety issue with tracking apps available nowadays is that, if a tracker knows where you are, they “can stalk you, they can harm you.” And while “there are a variety of laws on the books, both at the federal level and at the state level that focus on different components of whether you can sell [these apps],” “millions of people report being stalked every year,” suggesting that whether the laws are in effect or not, it doesn’t matter—criminals will continue to do what they do, whether the law exists or not.

The solution, Goldstein explained, is a combination of government-backed efforts that would allegedly protect the citizen from abuse, regardless of how ineffective current laws are. These efforts include boosting the Department of Justice’s educational programs.

In the past, the DOJ launched the Stalking Resource Center, an agency that trains law enforcement officers, policymakers, victim service professionals, and others on the dangers associated with tracking technology. In 2012, reports claiming that the center did not offer any direct support to victims was mostly dismissed by mainstream media. But the program is still funded by taxpayer money.

According to Goldstein, law enforcement must also get a boost in order to effectively “prevent these things from happening and to penalize, obviously, and prosecute people who break the law in these areas.” Goldstein also added that producing more “legislative remedies” could also help to improve law enforcement effectiveness.

“The bottom line is,” Goldstein closed the interview by saying, “the technology brings us costs as well as benefits.” The fact an individual has access to a cell phone, the government employee claims, is enough to put him in danger. “As individuals,” he continued, ”we have to be alert to that, and as a government, we have to ensure that our citizens are able to use these kinds of devices without fear of something bad happening.”

Instead of micromanaging what app an individual uses on his or her phone, what GAO could have done instead to help protect American consumers was to also carry a research into whether the federal government’s spying programs are effective.

According to a White House-appointed review group as well as the nonprofit organization New America Foundation, NSA’s phone record collection has played an insignificant role in preventing terrorist attacks. But the effects of federal surveillance policies being used as we speak are not always neutral: abuse within the agency continues to put countless of innocent people—and their privacy—in danger.

But will GAO ever look into that? I doubt it.

Pennsylvania School Bus Waste Story Nothing New

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Pennsylvania School Bus Waste Story Nothing New

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

Another day, another story of government waste.

School BusEach year, Watchdog.org reports, Pennsylvania school districts spend over $54 million of taxpayer money on transportation services provided by contractors who do not have to compete for exclusive contracts with the state and local education agencies. Due to the state’s lack of rules regarding competitive bids, many are calling for an audit and a change of rules.

But would opening up the districts to a competitive bidding process alone do the trick?

According to late free market economist Milton Friedman, there are at least 4 ways money can be spent. “You can spend your own money” on things and services you consider important to yourself, trying to “get the most for your money.” You may also spend your money on somebody else, forcing yourself to look for something that will be meaningful or useful to the recipient while remaining mindful “about the cost.” Or you can either spend somebody else’s money on yourself or others.

According to Friedman, when you spend money earned by somebody else on other people, you’re not “concerned about how much it is,” and that, he concluded, is what government does.

While the waste promoted by Pennsylvania school districts is nothing unheard of, media outlets seldom discuss the lack of incentives in keeping a budget among government officials, whether they are local, state, or federal employees.

If bureaucrats are not concerned about the source of resources, they won’t be concerned with how much they spend. Opening the state’s districts to a competitive process might be of help, but it still won’t solve the government’s money spending problem.

In an article for the Mises Institute, Ryan McMaken makes the case that government is never able to allocate tax money efficiently.

He justifies his argument by claiming that once money is taken from an owner through taxation, the coercive nature of the transaction keeps those allocating it from learning just how valuable roads, law enforcement, and even public education truly are to those paying for them. He also argues that, when government spending is not limited by tax revenues alone, government officials have an endless source of revenue, either in the form of cheap money coming from a central bank or a federal government grant. And that alone is enough incentive to keep government employees from acting responsibly.

Without a free and unrestricted market in business transactions between service providers and consumers, transactions are imposed by the government, not sought after by the individual. Therefore, government cannot assess just how much those services are worth if they do not have a way to gauge demand.

If lawmakers and officials want what’s best for Pennsylvania’s children and their taxpaying parents, the only way to give them what they need—and want—is to remove perverse incentives from the equation, allowing parents to act on their ability to choose what’s best, and most valuable, to their children.

How would the NC restroom law be handled in a libertarian society?

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How would the NC restroom law be handled in a libertarian society?

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Question:

Considering the recent flap regarding the restroom law passed in North Carolina (and being considered elsewhere), how would this be handled in a libertarian society?

restroom Answer:

In a libertarian society, most—if not all—bathrooms would be privately owned, since government would be very limited. Owners could decide who could use them and who could not.

If some business owners decided to discriminate on the basis of color, gender, or religion, their competitors would likely advertise their willingness to serve everyone, gaining the loyalty of the groups discriminated against. Profits would go up for those who were willing to serve all, while they’d go down for those who discriminated. Business owners would have to choose between their pocketbooks and their prejudices. Historically, most choose their pocketbook.

Indeed, segregation became law in the post-Civil War south precisely because businesses were serving the ex-slaves to an extent that caused resentment. Business owners who wanted to discriminate didn’t like losing their profits to their more open-minded competition. They, along with whites who wanted separate facilities, lobbied government to force businesses to segregate their facilities.

A government strong enough to ban discrimination is powerful enough to implement it as well. Those who wish to discriminate and those who don’t will lobby against each other for control. When private service providers decide who can and can’t use their facilities, people vote with their dollars to support the businesses that express their own viewpoint. No lobbying is necessary!

City Uses Pot Taxes to Help the Homeless

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City Uses Pot Taxes to Help the Homeless

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

Drug legalization continues to be an important topic. And as local governments look to marijuana taxes as a reliable way to boost their revenue, more Americans now see a greater number of practical reasons to lobby their states to liberate access to cannabis and other prohibited substances.

HomelessIn Colorado, where sales and consumption of recreational marijuana is legal, legalization of pot helped to boost the economy, injecting about $2 million into the local economy during the first month of legalization alone. Over time, the flood of cash coming from pot sales also helped the state’s education system. Now, the Colorado city of Aurora is also putting the legal cannabis money to what many believe to be a top priority project.

According to the Huffington Post, Aurora has recently announced that it will be allocating $1.5 million in recreational marijuana tax revenue for programs that focus on the city’s homeless population.

Due to this program, a local nonprofit group known as the Colfax Community Network should receive $200,000 from this special fund, while other organizations will be provided with vans to be used for homeless outreach. All paid by taxes tied to marijuana sales.

Toward the end of the year, the city of Aurora is projected to raise $5.4 million in marijuana tax revenue, a figure that could prompt legislators across the country to take the idea of the legalization of recreational marijuana seriously.

But what about other recreational drugs?

In March of 2016, a group of 22 top medical experts called for the decriminalization of all nonviolent drug use and possession. According to the group of doctors brought together by Johns Hopkins University and The Lancet, the global war on drugs was and still is a failure. Instead of maintaining these failed policies in place, these experts urged countries to “move gradually toward regulated drug markets and apply the scientific method to their assessment.”

Mentioning torture, abuse, and a dramatic downward change in life expectancy in Mexico since the country’s government decided to militarize its response to the drug trade in 2006, these doctors also cited use of incarceration as a drug control measure, which has destroyed the lives of many nonviolent drug users. Resorting to incarceration as opposed to treatment, these experts concluded, is the “biggest contribution” to the HIV and Hepatitis C epidemics among drug users.

When discussing domestic policy, the same group also concluded that prohibitionist laws in the United States have contributed to “stark racial disparities” when it comes to drug law enforcement.

While the debate surrounding drug use and commerce may naturally lead to a taxation debate, current laws keeping consumers from having access to their drug of choice continue to hurt more than help. Especially in poor areas of the country.

As libertarians all know, the free trade of goods and services is all consumers need to have access to so they may prosper and self-regulate, but if the pot taxation argument helps us bring more drug warriors to our side, we shouldn’t be ashamed of using it.

The damage done by the drug war calls for a drastic change.

Bloomberg Reports: The Gold Standard Is Popular Again

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Bloomberg Reports: The Gold Standard Is Popular Again

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Bloomberg has published an article recently discussing the gold standard, its critics, and its backers. And according to the media company’s assessment, “one of the oldest ideas about money” appears to be finally making a comeback.

GoldAssociating the idea of sound money to a “fringe movement,” mainstream economists and former White House officials are quoted in the article as saying that while they do not like the idea of establishing the gold standard, that’s what “we’ll increasingly talk about” in the future.

According to Tony Fratto, who worked as a Treasury and White House official during the George W. Bush administration, the gold standard “let to some of the worst economic downturns and bouts of deflation in history.”

But the kind of deflation he is talking about isn’t a bad thing.

When discussing economics, many believe that both deflation and inflation are all about the drop and rise in prices. Once you look into the definition of these terms, you’re given an opportunity to understand why Fratto is wrong.

When “Austrian economists talk about inflation or deflation,” the Executive Director at the Carl Menger Center for the Study of Money and Banking Paul-Martin Foss once wrote, “they mean an increase or decrease in the money supply.” Therefore deflation, which is a contraction of money supply is, in fact, dangerous. But when mainstream economics use the term, they use it in reference to a fall in prices, not in money supply.

So what Fratto appears to be particularly afraid of isn’t the contraction in supply of cash, but a fall in prices.

He must really hate competition!

As Foss explained in another article, “the gold standard did not fall away because it was inefficient or counterproductive; it was actively destroyed by governments which did not want to continue to be bound by its strictures.” I

f the gold standard is in place, governments are restricted, and their creative methods of expanding power and reach are, as a result, also restricted. What brought the gold standard to an end wasn’t a drop in prices. Instead, governments sought more control and influence. Getting rid of the gold standard gave them power over the currency and over those who use it.

While the Bloomberg piece claims the idea of restoring the gold standard “is almost inconceivable,” the monetary theory’s growing popularity may be a sign that times are, indeed, changing. Take Russia and China for instance. While neither one of those nations are currently serious about instating the gold standard, they are leading the central bank gold buying spree.

As the price of gold increases, more and more individuals begin to wonder whether they too should get into the practice, exchanging failed, inflated, and worthless fiat currency for a commodity whose value has stood the test of time.

Perhaps Bloomberg’s Michelle Jamrisko is right and the gold standard is, indeed, making a comeback. We just hope it sticks this time.

What Mainstream News Sources Get Wrong About Economic Recovery

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

What Mainstream News Sources Get Wrong About Economic Recovery

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

The press, author and philosopher Edmund Burke once argued during a parliamentary debate in 1787, is the “Fourth State,” a “societal force” whose powerful influence makes it the perfect tool of the powerful men. All too often, you see this powerful tool being used to shift the blame from government’s intrusive, unproductive policies to taxpayers, in an attempt to make the idea that government always acts with our best interest in mind popular again.

WaPoIn a recent Washington Post article, Robert J. Samuelson takes American consumers to task for not allowing President Barack Obama administration’s economic recovery plan to work. A comment Zero Hedge’s sassy Tyler Durden does not seem to be very happy about.

In a piece exposing the problems with Samuelson’s article, Zero Hedge claims that Washington Post, or what the author calls an “administration mouthpiece,” goes to the extreme of indirectly accusing Americans of being “stingy” when Samuelson argues that the only drag on the economy is “us.”

Since Americans refuse to go out and buy more stuff, WaPo’s Samuelson claims, “American consumers aren’t what they used to be … and that helps explain the plodding economic recovery.”

But according to Zero Hedge’s author, America’s current economic issues may be traced back to other culprits, such as increasing health insurance premiums and the high cost of property and rentals. Zero Hedge also argues that even when looking at the jobs created over the past few years, it’s easy to see that what has risen recently is the rate of part-time or minimum wage jobs, not full-time work. Should the current administration take pride in that?

Once we look deeper into the issues Americans are currently facing, we become more aware of the roots of the economic problems we, as a nation, have experienced in the past decade, making Samuelson’s claims sound shallow.

Soaring national debt and money printing are two problems that directly affect consumers nowadays, whether they are rich or poor. Both of these problems have been devaluing our dollar, inflating prices, and crushing our money’s overall purchasing power. And both of these issues have been the policies of most of US presidents over the past decades.

While economic intervention is a real problem, it’s not the only thing keeping Americans down. Big government’s overpowering regulations are also adding more fuel to the fire by raising a greater amount of barriers to businesses.

The regulatory burden keeps entrepreneurs with little capital in hand from entering the marketplace, depriving workers and consumers from options. That, Mercatus Center’s Patrick A. McLaughlin argues, contributes to poverty.

Without government’s artificially imposed barriers, the American consumer would have a stronger currency to work with, and the unemployed would have better job opportunities.

Unlike Samuelson claims, Zero Hedge reports, the average American is now broke. Samuelson may miss what was once the “world’s most vibrant middle class,” but he does not know how to get us there.

So instead of asking broke Americans to resort to easy credit—yet another issue with today’s economy—so the current administration’s economic recovery finally “works,” how about taking the individual’s struggle to make ends meet under the thumb of government’s heavy-handed interventionism into consideration next time?

How will ending the income tax help the poor?

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How will ending the income tax help the poor?

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

Question:

I was unable to persuade a liberal friend that the income tax is evil because it is essentially forced labor through coercion, or that we could largely pay for the elimination of the income tax simply by halting our overseas empire (it seemed best to use a liberal priority in this instance). He maintained that eliminating the income tax would benefit only the wealthy. Could you help me show that eliminating the income tax is in everyone’s best interest?

TaxesAnswer:

Ultimately, the poor are hurt most by income taxes and government spending of any kind.

When government spends, it must tax or run a deficit. Both harm the poor. Deficit spending results in inflation. People on a fixed income, low income, or no income at all are hurt most by inflation. The little money that they have buys even less than before.

When government taxes middle or upper income individuals, money is diverted from consumer spending, spending which otherwise would create jobs that might lift some of the poor out of poverty.

Instead, the tax dollars go to government spending, which delivers half the service at twice the price of the private sector. Gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of wealth creation, goes down as government spending goes up (for details, see Chapter 12 of my book, “Healing Our World,” available as a free download [1992 edition] at www.ruwart.com or [greatly expanded and footnoted 2003 edition] for purchase from The Advocates).

Less wealth creation means that goods and services are more expensive than they otherwise would be. The poor are hurt the most when prices rise or do not fall as they otherwise would.

Thus, when government spends, GDP falls and inflation grows, middle and high income individuals cut back on discretionary spending, like vacations; the poor, however, must cut back on necessities, such as food, safe housing, and preventative medicine.

On the other hand, when government spending slows, inflation slows too and jobs increase. Some of the poor move into the workforce and become more affluent.

Income taxes are bad for everyone, but the poor are hurt the most. The hidden negatives are often overlooked, and those who are trying to help the poor often hurt them out of ignorance.

Massachusetts Lawmakers Stand Against Federal Raw Milk Ban

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

Massachusetts Lawmakers Stand Against Federal Raw Milk Ban

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

Consumers should always have access to the products and services they want and need. As long as these products and services are not used to harm others, individuals are ultimately free to make their own choices, especially when it comes to what they put in their own body. This argument holds true when it comes to drugs, but it’s also true when applied to raw milk.

CowIn the United States, consumer access to milk in its raw form was banned by the Federal government in 1987. Long before then, in 1924, “Grade A Pasteurization” had become a recommended federal policy, but consumers still were able to purchase raw milk without the fear of having to fight the government to have access to it.

In 2011, former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul made the news for his pro-raw milk stance, which was turned into an unsuccessful pro-raw milk bill. While many railed it as a victory to the establishment, the movement had just started to shape up.

Following in his footsteps, congressman Thomas Massie took the fight for milk choice to Washington a second time, dropping two bills addressing the same issues. At the time, Massie hoped to restore the farmers’ right to distribute raw milk once again, meeting the needs of their customers.

While his bills didn’t see the light of day, states picked up where he left off, pushing for local legalization of raw milk commerce.

Now, the Tenth Amendment Center reports, an agriculture bill drafted by the Senate Ways and Means Committee in Massachusetts is hoping to expand raw milk sales in the state, helping to nullify the federal ban on raw milk sales locally. An effort that could expand to other states.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, Senate Bill 2258 incorporates a series of measures relating to agriculture by allowing farms to deliver raw milk to consumers via contractual arrangements. The bill states that licensed raw milk farmers “shall be allowed to deliver raw milk directly to the consumer, off-site from the farm, provided that the raw milk farmer has a direct, contractual relationship with the consumer.”

The bill even allows farmers to sell raw milk from a stand, and whether the stand is or isn’t attached to the raw milk dairy wouldn’t serve as an impediment to local farmers. To Tenth Amendment Center’s Mike Maharrey, S.2258 also “open[s] the door to raw milk sales at farmer’s markets.”

Currently, Massachusetts consumers are only allowed to purchase raw milk on the farm. Expanding sale and consuming liberties helps consumers and farmers maintain a better relationship, protecting the purchase and consumption of raw milk locally once again.

While the bill is limited, it represents a stand against the federal government’s ban.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, unpasteurized milk poses a higher risk of contamination. While the feds use the higher risk as a reason to keep consumers from having access to the product, state efforts to lift the ban could help the nation see that the criminalization of raw milk has been doing more harm than good to local economies.

It is the Tenth Amendment Center’s hope to see more states following suit, passing their own nullification bills, and helping local consumers to have greater access to the products and services they are willing to take part in, whether the federal government likes it or not.

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