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The Things That Are the Same

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

The Things That Are the Same

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

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend about her life growing up, and how her family structure and her faith played into the life that she’s created for herself. Despite growing up in a different part of the country, with a different faith, and a different family structure, we actually want the same things, and we hold similar beliefs.

Our conversation then expanded beyond the two of us to our varied networks to look at things on a more “macro level,” where we began to talk about how people of the Jewish faith, Muslim faith, Christian faith, or even no faith at all, actually want a lot of the same things.

We want to be happy. We want to be healthy. We want to have friends and family that love us. Essentially, we want to live a good life, being “good people.” Regardless of our faiths or backgrounds, that can be achieved by living something that many of us know as “The Golden Rule,” where we treat others as we wish to be treated.

As libertarians, I believe that is the foundation of our philosophy and principles, making sure that those with whom we interact are treated by us as we want to be treated. As a libertarian, I believe in the good in others, and I want that to flourish as we focus on the freedom to live as though we wish, without the impediment of what someone else views as the “right thing.”

Regardless of your faith, family upbringing, or regional geographic culture, we still believe in the same basic principles in life. As libertarians, we have an opportunity, regardless of those things to use that commonality to be fantastic examples of what it is to be a good person.

AND a good libertarian.

I think that’s going to be one of the best ways to attract people to the ideas that we have to bring others to a hold a libertarian perspective.

 

 

Under Gov’t Pressure, Facebook & Others Plan to Censor ‘Terrorist’ Content

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

Under Gov’t Pressure, Facebook & Others Plan to Censor ‘Terrorist’ Content

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

As the United States remains entangled in a series of long-lasting wars abroad, people have given in to fear.

Recently, a poll showed that nearly half of Americans seem to believe that torture can be “useful,” a trend that has been going on ever since the United States invasion of Iraq took place.

SmartphoneWith the constant exposure to war talk, Americans become fearful for their lives and security. The obvious result is that, as more individuals become fearful, they also become more likely to support anything the government will tell them to keep them safe.

One of the actions often embraced by government agencies is censorship, even if officials never use this word to describe their actions.

But with the war on terror abroad being gradually expanded to cover every aspect of the American life experience, going as far as hurting freedom of speech across the board, other groups of Americans are being directly impacted. And, as a result, organizations like Facebook, YouTube, Microsoft, and Twitter are being increasingly pressured to “do something” about the “terrorist threat.” What we’re now seeing is that, instead of allowing these companies to set their own rules, bureaucrats are now making sure social media websites are blocking content deemed dangerous.

As a result of peer pressure, these companies are combining forces to “curb the spread of terrorist content online.” And now, they are exchanging data on their users with one another in order to identify “violent terrorist imagery or terrorist recruitment videos or images” so they can be removed from their forums.

According to Tech Dirt, this type of approach appears modeled on arrangements used to track child pornography. But while child pornography is illegal, “terrorist content” is an abstract idea that hasn’t been outlawed — yet.

Instead of acting out of a legal concern, these organizations are making what Tech Dirt calls “a judgement call.”
Once these groups start labeling certain types of content as bad, “false positive designations” will begin flowing across the platforms.
Because mistakes will be made, good people posting content deemed as dangerous will be blocked, leading to a war on information that Tech Dirt calls valuable and necessary.

While private organizations are free to set up their own rules, this decision appears to have stemmed from government pressure. As the line that divides private organizations and government policy remains blurred due to the crony capitalist nature of our government, it’s easy to see why these companies have had a hard time ignoring government pressure.

Instead of censoring or pushing organizations to censor their own users, we should be a loud voice of reason, urging organizations to, instead, allow this type of content to roam freely so that the majority of online users are able to take part in one of the most effective anti-terrorism actions there is: Mockery.

After all, when we are aware of where the problem is coming from, we can act in a decentralized fashion, attacking on different fronts and doing what centralized power often fails to do: Bring awareness to a serious problem and find its solution.

The Pentagon Wasted a Ton of Taxpayer Money Then Buried the Evidence

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

The Pentagon Wasted a Ton of Taxpayer Money Then Buried the Evidence

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

Seems counterproductive to say this out loud, after all, which bureaucracy in the world does not waste taxpayer money? But here it is: The Pentagon, which serves as the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense (DOD), has been wasting taxpayer money for a very long time.

PentagonBut in January 2015, a report released by the Defense Business Board — a federal advisory panel of corporate executives — was finally able to illustrate the scope of the waste and offer a solution. Instead of taking heed and allowing Congress to have access to this report, Pentagon leaders decided that having Congress look into the report would lead to a budget cut. And how could they survive that?

In order to make sure nobody would see the likes of this study, the Pentagon imposed a series of secrecy restrictions on the data used by the Defense Business Board. Even after being made public in its website, the Pentagon removed the 77-page summary of the report for good measure. According to the chairman of the Defense Business Board, Robert “Bobby” L. Stein, this particular move was reprehensible.

“They’re all complaining that they don’t have any money,” he told Washington Post, so “[w]e proposed a way to save a ton of money.” As it turns out, the Pentagon wasn’t interested in being frugal with the taxpayer dough. Nevertheless, Stein added, the Pentagon’s decision to make it hard for the public or Congress to have access to the report is a “travesty.”

“We’re going to be in peril because we’re spending dollars like it doesn’t matter,” he concluded.

According to the Washington Post report, this irresponsible approach to its finances could result in less money over time to the DOD.

But what about the DOD leadership? Are they OK with this disregard for the public?

As you may have guessed, nobody within the leadership of the defense community has, so far, been able to admit that the DOD is an entangled bureaucracy, living large and oblivious of the sacrifices Americans have to make to pay their taxes and keep the DOD afloat.

A great example of this lack of commitment to the taxpayer’s well being is easily spotted in comments made by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work, who ordered the Defense Business Board to conduct the study.

When talking to the Washington Post about the study, Work dismissed the Defense Business Board’s plan to save $125 billion, claiming that “[t]here is this meme that we’re some bloated, giant organization, … [while] there is a little bit of truth in that … I think it vastly overstates what’s really going on.”

We’re not surprised. After all, those who are part of the high levels of command within government agencies — whether we’re talking about the post office or the Pentagon — will always defend their actions and their agencies’ hands-off approach to accountability.

When we earn our own money, we’re wiser about how we spend it. When someone else is in charge of spending our money, however, their actions are no longer grounded on the notion that the cash on hand is scarce and restricted.

Who will fund national monuments in a libertarian country?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Who will fund national monuments in a libertarian country?

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

QUESTION: National landmarks such as the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial are symbols of national unity, strength, and sources of inspiration. They are monuments of a national republic. How would these monuments be constructed for the entire nation in a libertarian society?

Monuments

MY SHORT ANSWER: They would be constructed and maintained through private donations rather than taxes. Donations are given freely; taxes are forced.

We honor Jefferson, Washington, and other American icons because they believed in the importance of individual freedom, even though they may not have practiced it perfectly (e.g., Jefferson had slaves). We dishonor their memory and the values they cherished by forcing our fellow Americans to pay for their memorials.

Without tax funding, the edifices of these great men might be less grandiose than they are today. (Of course, they might just as well be even grander, better preserved and staffed, and better funded.) However, they would be a truer symbol of the freedom that made our nation great.

Even today, many renowned historical sites and monuments are privately funded. George Washington’s home Mount Vernon — the most popular historic estate in America, open 365 days a year — has been maintained and made available to the public since 1853 by the Mount Vernon’s Ladies’ Association, which proudly declares it “does not accept grants from federal, state or local governments, and no tax dollars are expended to support its purposes.”

Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello is maintained by a private, non-profit corporation, in cooperation with the University of Virginia.

Colonial Williamsburg was restored with private funds and is run as a private national museum not dependent on government funding.

A libertarian society, based on free enterprise and free from today’s crippling tax burden, would be far wealthier than our society today and thus better able to fund such monuments and landmarks. And the drive to collect the funding for them could unite and inspire the country every bit as much as the actual monuments themselves.

 

THANK YOU!

in Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

THANK YOU!

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

I want to thank everyone who participated in #GivingTuesday with us this year.

We had an awesome day! We ended up raising from 26 donors on Facebook $526, which was matched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through a grant we were involved in. We also had several supporters who donated online to the tune of $51,766, if you include all of the donations we received on Tuesday of this week to follow Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and finally, #GivingTuesday.

I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you who support us for participating in what is an awesome time for you to give thanks for the work that we do. This is my opportunity to give thanks for your support.

Thank you so much!

Feds Rely on Unreliable Databases to Deport Undocumented Immigrants, Time to Decentralize

in Foreign Policy, Immigration, Liberator Online, National Defense, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Feds Rely on Unreliable Databases to Deport Undocumented Immigrants, Time to Decentralize

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

The incoming, as well as the current U.S. presidential administrations, have a lot of common. But how could they not?

ICEIf the President-elect team has its way on implementing its immigration policies, they could look a lot like what has been happening for the past 8 years. Why? Because the new administration could be making use of the same unreliable database to track undocumented immigrants the current administration has been using.

In places like California, where local law enforcement agencies like the Los Angeles Police Department have vowed to say no to the incoming president’s deportation policies have been cooperating with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for years. People deported are often accused of having gang ties, but in many cases, The Intercept suggests, these accusations do not hold true because the information they collect is not always verified.

As these task forces combining federal and local law enforcement become newsworthy again, it’s important to note they have been around since the George W. Bush administration. The program, which is part of the Operation Community Shield, was put in place to identify and deport undocumented immigrants with criminal records.

Over the past decade, ICE has arrested 40,000 alleged gang members, but the total number of deportations tied to gang-related crimes has not been released. Nevertheless, 2.5 million people were deported under the current administration in its first six years, a record-breaking number.

Due to the lack of transparency, we do not know how many people actually involved in gangs have been deported or arrested through the deportation program currently in use. Since the data used by law enforcement might be flawed due to the government’s refusal to make it accountable, Peter Bibring, a senior attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California told The Intercept, “it’s irresponsible of the state to be using [California’s database], let alone handing over information to ICE.”

With big government policies like the drug war taking up so many resources, it’s difficult to see how law enforcement is able to manage this type of program effectively. How about decentralizing immigration policies, allowing states to apply their own rules by allowing states to become immigration policy laboratories, helping to reduce the burden on the taxpayer?

After all, it’s time to stop pretending the federal government has a say in who an employer can and cannot hire. Let states handle actual crime, pass their own immigration laws, and finally, put an end to the drug war so this type of problem does not continue to impose a greater burden on a nation already drowned in debt.

Ecstasy Might Be Approved as Relief for PTSD Patients, But Why Stop There?

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

Ecstasy Might Be Approved as Relief for PTSD Patients, But Why Stop There?

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

The drug war’s consequences have produced a wide variety of ramifications.

VeteransWhile low-income communities, especially in the inner cities and rural, forgotten areas of the country, are often mentioned as some of the areas mostly impacted by the criminalization of certain drugs, another group highly affected is often ignored: Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD).

A small nonprofit created in 1985 has been advocating for the use of substances such as marijuana, LSD, and MDMA — also known as ecstasy — to treat PTSD patients. The group funded Phase 2 studies and is now working on funding Phase 3. Previously, the group helped 130 patients while now, it could help a total of 230 individuals.

During Phase 2 of the study, the group focused on helping combat veterans and others including sexual assault victims who do not respond well to traditional prescription drug treatments. On average, these patients — some of whom had struggled with PTSD for 17 years — reported 56 percent decrease of severity of PTSD symptoms. In order to help a greater amount of patients suffering with the disorder, the group is applying for therapy status with the Food and Drug Administration, claiming that psychotherapy often produces similar results but only after years of implementation. With the use of these substances, this group claims, patients have a better shot at recovering in a shorter amount of time, helping these individuals get back to their lives. If approved by the government entity, the drug could be available by 2021. But even then, the drug would only be used under a limited amount of times and only for the purpose of treating PTSD.

While many scientists claim that legalizing and regulating this therapy will encourage further drug use, only part of their concern is warranted and for reasons they do not even suspect.

With the drug war, illicit drug markets were created in the shadows, allowing drug manufacturers and salesmen to deal with supply and demand in an aggressive, violent manner. Pushing markets to the shadows often has this effect, making perfectly safe substances like marijuana become the reason why violent gangs operated for decades, killing and leaving countless innocent victims homeless, often pushing them to flee their own homes as a result.

If this therapy, and only this therapy is legalized, expect to see an uptick in schemes bringing dealers and doctors together, much like what is happening now with the opioid epidemic.

Unless the official war on drugs ceases to exist and groups like the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies are able to experiment with all substances freely and without suffering due to government restrictions, patients who suffer from a variety of conditions won’t be able to have access to the treatment and help they deserve.

Officials Responsible for Stadium Subsidies Get Privileged Seats for Free

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

Officials Responsible for Stadium Subsidies Get Privileged Seats for Free

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

Freedom is easy to like. All it takes is for us to let it reign. But with crony capitalism being as ingrained in American political culture as it is today, most of the public isn’t aware of the disastrous consequences of the practice.

MinnesotaAccording to Reason magazine, at least six government appointees responsible for securing a great amount of public money for the construction of the Minnesota Vikings’ new football stadium are now getting access to luxury boxes at no cost.

The appointees are members of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), an agency created by the state government in 2012 to administer public subsidies granted to the building of the U.S. Bank Stadium. The stadium opened earlier this year with the help of $1.1 billion grant from the taxpayer and now, the six appointees who must have worked quite hard to ensure public money was readily available are able to enjoy all and any events in the stadium for free.

During an investigation by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, reporters found that, while the Vikings claim that the very existence of these luxury boxes is a marketing move, family and friends of the same MSFA board members responsible for government’s generous grants are often in attendance.

While attempting to explain why they have access to the suites, at least two MSFA members told reporters that since they work “long hours on game days and spent long nights negotiating on behalf of taxpayers during construction of the building,” privileged access to events is “reasonable.” How about that?

Despite their comments, one of these privileged government workers happens to be the son of Walter Mondale, the 42nd Vice President of the United States under President Jimmy Carter, while a second MSFA board member is the daughter of Tom Kelm, the chief of staff for former Minnesota Gov. Wendell Anderson.

As you can see, power players in local and federal politics are often quick to identify. As many of them live their lives being involved in lobbying efforts to ensure special interests are being protected and propped by official entities, they also fatten their own bank account or enrich their lives as a result.

The lesson here is: Incentives always matter.

For this issue to be addressed in a direct and effective matter, those concerned with how their money is spent should always press for reform that removes these incentives from the game altogether. Change will come only when we are able to ensure that neither party is gaining something from government intervention.

The Five People You Meet In Politics

in Liberator Online by Morgan Dean Comments are off

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

The Five People You Meet in Heaven was written by Mitch Albom. It was published in 2003 and sold more than six million copies worldwide. It follows the story of an amusement park maintenance man named Eddie. Eddie recently died trying to save a young girl from a freak ride accident and is now in heaven.

PeopleThe reader follows Eddie’s journey through heaven as he meets five people that have in someway influenced his life. This is a journey similar to what we experience politically.

For most, politics and civics isn’t introduced until later in one’s life. People do not begin their lives being political. Children do not argue about politics on the playground. They aren’t yet exposed to the talk that can monopolize the lives of adults. As they get older, they become exposed to politics, which usually begins at home.

This starts a political journey that lasts a lifetime. Along the way, we meet five people that impact our political decisions.

The first people you meet on your journey is the first person you hear the political opinions of. For me, it was my Republican parents. For others, it can be another relative, a teacher, or even a friend. This usually kick starts your first set of political opinions. For years, I identified as a Republican.

The second person you meet in politics is someone who believes the same things you do. This person is easy to get along with, they agree with you on most, if not all things. They very well may be your new best friend.

Here is where things start to get tricky: the third person you meet on your journey is someone who challenges you. This is someone who doesn’t agree with you on anything political. It could be a family member, friend or professor. They argue with you and challenge you to look at the world from their perspective.

It isn’t until later on that you realize the importance of this person.

The fourth person you meet in politics really shakes things up. They believe what you believe. They are in the same political party as you, but there is a problem. They aren’t a very good person. Your hear them say something awful about another person, or perhaps you find something unfavorable about the way they treat people. Either way, you question if you truly believe in the ideals that you have clung to for years. The answer is often times complicated.

The fifth and final person you meet in politics is the most important. That person is yourself. Not just any version of yourself. This version comes after all the self-doubt, exposure to new things, people, places, and ideas. This is the person that you become after all that. In my experience this is never the person you were before.

Just like The Five People You Meet in Heaven, the five people we meet along the way change us. They make us reconsider things we thought we would never change our minds on, but in the end, it’s all for the best.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If You See Something, DO Something

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

If You See Something, DO Something

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Try A Different Tack This Holiday Season

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

Try A Different Tack This Holiday Season

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t engage. Just listen.

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

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

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

Just stop… And listen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas Could Soon ‘Nullify’ Federal Gun Control Measures

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

Texas Could Soon ‘Nullify’ Federal Gun Control Measures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small CA City Employees Living Large, Making More Than Governors

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

Small CA City Employees Living Large, Making More Than Governors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live In Peace

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

Live In Peace

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

Well, another election happened.

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

So, now what?

The election is over. The results are in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

in Liberator Online by Morgan Dean Comments are off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, Corruption Cripples the Economy

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

Yes, Corruption Cripples the Economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creepy County Officials Stalk Grocery Shoppers in Search for Unlicensed Pets

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

Creepy County Officials Stalk Grocery Shoppers in Search for Unlicensed Pets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But should government have access to this information?

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

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

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

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

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