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Give Them Hope!

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Give Them Hope!

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

I took the opportunity to see the movie Sausage Party (REMINDER: THIS MOVIE IS NOT SAFE FOR KIDS) over the weekend. While filled with raunchy adult humor and innuendo, near the end of the film, there was a line of dialogue that struck me as important for our conversations with those who aren’t libertarians yet… Give them hope!

hope

Conversations about politics right now center around how terrible both old parties’ candidates for president are, and we have a terrific opportunity to discuss libertarian ideas in the vacuum without any good ideas.

In the movie, there is a moment when the lead character can shatter an entire belief system (and does) to share the truth. He has two choices: he can disrespect their beliefs as he tears down their entire way of life, or he can offer them hope as he shows them the truth. At first, he adopts the former, yet moves toward the latter as he sees no fruit borne by his first efforts.

As libertarians, we should strive to adopt the second route.

We are LITERALLY the only people who can offer a world that is peaceful, prosperous, and free.

We need to offer the hope that outcome provides as we bring more people toward our way of thinking.

Think about it for a minute… We’re opening their eyes to something that goes against what the authoritarians have been touting their entire lives. We can either persuade them gently and bring them into the fold, or we can disrespect everything they’ve known their entire lives and lose them.

Those who want control and to use force over others build up the tool they use… The government.   They portray it as the only way to do anything, regardless of consequence. Our ideas and beliefs run counter to that, and that change is often hard to swallow after a life filled with being taught what we know to be false.

So, when we work to change hearts and minds, we can do so with a welcoming elegance and grace, shepherding our new brothers and sister in liberty to embrace what we already do, or we can do so clumsily and without lasting effect.

In the Nation’s Capital, Drinking in Large Groups Can Get You Fined

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In the Nation’s Capital, Drinking in Large Groups Can Get You Fined

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

Busybodies are always trying to figure out a way to control our lives in ways never seen before. In Washington, DC, the obsession is turning into a mental health epidemic—among bureaucrats and their supporters only.

DrinkingAccording to Watchdog.org, DC has decided to target groups that organize pub crawls. Because drinking in large groups is apparently dangerous.

Claiming to have safety in mind following a host of different pub crawls organized in the city this past year, DC officials are targeting these same pub crawl organizations, saying that bringing large groups of tourists to local restaurants and pubs to boost the local economy is just too much.

Instead of letting the community benefit from tourism, DC officials want fewer groups to organize pub crawls in the region, forcing gatherings of over 200 people to register with the city before hitting the town. These groups have to pay officials $500 for the privilege of getting an OK from the local government to operate, and organizers must also have a security plan set up. Oh, and never mind the holidays! DC will not give you an OK to operate for those sacred drinking dates.

According to Reason, the new rules also dictate ho pub crawls can be advertised, forcing organizers to add a warning saying “you must be 21 or older to participate” on every piece of pub crawl marketing material. Organizers must also add a line encouraging the use of public transportation.

But before this debacle took place and the city decided to “take action,” organizers were simply required to submit a registration. With the new requirements in place, the number of organized pub crawls in the nation’s capital is already starting to drop.

But despite the criticism, DC officials seem focused on letting this new set of rules stay in place. Even if that means local businesses will hurt as a result.

According to Watchdog.org, new impositions have created another set of problems, especially if government officials find an issue with you and your buddies participating in unregulated or unlawful pub crawls. Restaurants and pubs that aid unregulated groups under the new rules could be fined.

To Jon Gabel, an executive with event organizing company Joonbug Productions, the city’s new rules could hurt local businesses by both keeping people away and forcing restaurants to turn down customers.

He told the Washington City Paper that his pub crawls saved their lives in several occasions. A local restaurant manager agreed, saying that the new rules are “definitely going to impact a lot of businesses.”

In DC, large pub crawls have been part of the scene for several years, but it was only during 2015’s Halloween pub crawl that residents and law enforcement began to push for different rules. Nevertheless, Watchdog.org reports that incidents or arrests were too few or unimportant.

With the new rules in place, local business owners are afraid of the future, especially considering that since its implementation, at least four events were canceled.

The Drug War Has a New Target: Poor, White People

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The Drug War Has a New Target: Poor, White People

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

In one of my latest articles for The Anti-Media, I explain that the rate of incarcerated whites in the United States is higher than the total incarceration rates of most other countries across the globe.

HomelessAt 466 per 100,000 citizens in jail—the rate of white individuals currently serving time in American prisons—the United States would still be in the top ten list of top jailers globally. And as pointed out by The Washington Post’s Keith Humphreys, the rate of blacks in prison has been in steady decline over the past decade, while the number of white prisoners—both male and female—continues to rise.

The explanation for this fact is simple: The drug war hasn’t stopped.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the crack cocaine epidemic that swept major urban areas across the country was met with “tough on crime” policies, forcing oftentimes nonviolent drug law offenders to go to jail for life. Blacks account for 80 percent of federal crack cocaine convictions but whites and Latinos account for more than 70 percent of powder cocaine convictions.

As the movement spearheaded by libertarian-leaning organizations asking for mandatory minimum reforms and drug legalization gains popularity among liberals and conservatives, more states begin to review their drug laws, helping to change incarceration rates locally while giving first-time and nonviolent offenders a chance to get their lives back on track.

But as another drug epidemic takes the streets of both urban and rural America, another group begins to feel the heavy weight of misguided government policies.

West Virginia is the number one state in the country for fatal drug overdoses. The state also has the highest rate of babies born with some dependency on opioids.

Just recently, the city of Huntington, WV saw 26 overdoses in a matter of hours, prompting news organizations to call the city the heart of America’s opioid epidemic.

According to The Washington Post’s Keith Humphreys, there are two underlying issues that have been putting whites in jail at a greater rate.

First, “changes in drug use and enforcement over the past 15 years” may be playing a part. But “[m]ethamphetamine, prescription opioid and heroin epidemics” have also impacted “whites more than did the crack cocaine epidemic.” In states like West Virginia where over 93 percent of the population is non-Hispanic white, there’s an increased push to toughen drug-related laws, prompting enforcement organizations to respond accordingly.

But as we’ve seen with the crack cocaine epidemic and the US government’s war on drugs, increasing penalties for drug law offenses does not work.

All Americans, whether they are white or black have only one obstacle in their everyday fight for freedom and peace, and that is government’s heavy-handed, immoral interventionism. The time to identify the beast and speak openly about it is now.

Homeland ‘Security’? Gov’t Wants to Collect Travellers’ Social Media Info

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Homeland ‘Security’? Gov’t Wants to Collect Travellers’ Social Media Info

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

In Omnipotent Government, Ludwig von Mises writes that tending toward “a transgression of the limit” of the application of violence is a natural impulse among professionals who use violence in their line of work, even if the particular application of violence is seen as legitimate.

These transgressions are seen everywhere, from instances of police brutality to the ever-growing presence of law enforcement agents on our borders and airports.

SmartphoneNow, this transgression is entering another realm, making way for law enforcement to have an even more formally accepted online presence.

According to a new Department of Homeland Security proposal, officials are considering asking visitors entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program to disclose information pertaining to their social media presence.

If the DHS has its way, visitors would have to fill out a form with links to their Twitter, Facebook, and other online applications. According to the DHS, the collection of this information would “enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case.”

But the wording in this new proposal is broad enough to allow officials to dig at will, increasing the risk of abuse of power—a surveillance issue that has already been associated with 4th Amendment violations in the past. To privacy advocacy organizations like Restore The 4th, this new transgression is everything but legitimate.

In a press release, the organization explained that the DHS new proposal is toxic.

In a letter addressed to the US Customs and Border Protection, the group along with “over two dozen human rights and civil liberties organizations” outlined the program’s “disproportionate risks, excessive costs, and other serious shortcomings.”

According to the letter, the DHS will be further invading individual privacy, putting freedom of expression at risk if this proposal is implemented. Furthermore, the federal government would have to worsen the national debt due to the high cost of implementation. The maintenance of this program would also cost taxpayers greatly, Restore The 4th added, and these costs “appear to be unaccounted for in the DHS Paperwork Reduction Act statement.”

The advocacy group also claims that the DHS would ignite the expansion of the surveillance state by opening a new window into the traveler’s private life. If implemented, this new rule could impact particular groups of travelers, allowing law enforcement to refer to their racial and religious bias in order to do their job.

Restore The 4th explains:

“This ‘disparate impact will affect not only travelers from visa-waiver program countries, but also the Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans whose colleagues, family members, business associates, and others in their social networks are exposed to immediate scrutiny or ongoing surveillance, or are improperly denied a visa waiver because of their online presence.’”

The letter urges CBP to dismiss the DHS proposal altogether. ​

Should we ban tobacco instead of drugs?

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Should we ban tobacco instead of drugs?

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

QUESTION: I am a long time supporter of ending the war on drugs. I advocate treating drug abuse the way we treat alcohol abuse, as a health and not a legal problem. I find that many of the people that I deal with who oppose the war on drugs and support legalization of marijuana want to outlaw tobacco. I try to tell them that the war on tobacco will be just as successful as the war on drugs, but they insist that it go ahead. They point out that tobacco is deadlier than pot. I point out that heroin and LSD are as dangerous as tobacco, if not more. What suggestions do you have to answer the pro war on tobacco people?

CigaretteANSWER: The power to ban something “bad” is also the power to ban something “good.” Cannabis was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia for many years before it was “outlawed” via the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. As a result, this incredibly useful and inexpensive natural drug has been largely unavailable in the U.S. for the last 80 years.

By outlawing tobacco, alcohol, or any other substance, we pave the way for other “wars” based on political or economic gain. Special interests will lobby Congress to outlaw their competitors, just as William Randolph Hearst lobbied for hemp/cannabis prohibition so that his wood pulp forests would be used for paper manufacture instead of hemp.

The nicotine in tobacco is thought by some to be the most addictive substance known. If someone can’t stop smoking, isn’t it a health problem too? Why not treat it as such?

Don’t Just Depend On A Piece Of Paper

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Don’t Just Depend On A Piece Of Paper

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

This week, I participated in a panel discussion for new students beginning their college careers at my alma mater, Ball State University. I shared my experiences on campus, talked about leadership, how to find the right job after graduation, and what I am doing now with The Advocates for Self-Government with the Class of 2021 C.L.A.S.S. participants.

Ball StateDuring the Q and A portion of the panel, a student asked if earning my degree was more important than the professional experience I gained by completing internships during undergrad.

This is what I told him:

I wouldn’t be where I am professionally without the networking I did as an undergrad. Networking led to internships which led to my professional career. However, the journalism, history, graphic design, and political science classes I took gave me the technical skills I needed to succeed in professional clubs and internships.

In other words, I don’t think that it is important for students to depend on a piece of paper alone. A degree in a subject that one is truly passionate about is great – but it’s not the be-all and end-all of your education.

I have friends that never earned a college degree but have incredibly successful careers. I have other friends that have multiple degrees and are stuck in jobs that make them miserable.

My advice to college students is to take advantage of every single opportunity this upcoming school year and throughout your college career.

Do your best in your classes and ask for help when you need it. If there is a professional club on campus that is relevant to your major, attend a few meetings. If your department is hosting an alumni mixer, GO, and introduce yourself to professionals. Ask for their business cards and keep in touch.

One of my favorite quotes comes from actress Tina Fey:

“Say yes and you’ll figure it out afterwards.”

College is where you’re supposed to take risks, learn, and GROW personally and professionally.

Now, get out there and grow.

California: Closer to the End of ‘Policing for Profit’

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California: Closer to the End of ‘Policing for Profit’

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

California has just taken another step to nullify a federal rule over its unconstitutional nature.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, the California Assembly passed a bill that would keep state officials from using civil asset forfeiture to seize private property without due process while also effectively preventing federal agents to do the same in the Golden State.

Police StopSenate Bill 443 was introduced last year, and it was a response to the growing trend against civil asset forfeiture taking over the country. Organizations like FreedomWorks and Tenth Amendment Center are some of the leaders in this area, helping state legislators have access to reform ideas that render the federal rules unenforceable.

According to the libertarian justice firm Institute for Justice, civil asset forfeiture is “legal plunder,” because the practice gives federal and state law enforcement agencies the power to take a person’s property or assets, even if the owner hasn’t been arrested or convicted of a crime.

After passing the state Senate last summer, the bill failed in the Assembly. But once Assemblyperson Chris Holden made a motion to reconsider, the bill was placed in the inactive file and then brought up for a vote in the full Assembly on August 15.

If the bill is signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, the loophole in California law that allows officers to refer to federal agents in civil asset forfeiture cases in exchange for a portion of assets seized will be gone. Equitable sharing has been the only issue with California’s civil asset forfeiture laws, which are considered to be some of the strongest in the country. But up until now, the local protections against the practice meant nothing if federal agencies were involved.

Between 2000 and 2008, federal agents doubled their equitable sharing earnings. By the end of 2008, state officials across the country had helped the federal government seize about $400 million through the program.

With SB443, state prosecutors would be prohibited from going around restrictions imposed on state officials by passing cases off to the federal government. While this is good news, the bill still isn’t perfect.

If the amount seized is above $40,000, SB443 would allow state prosecutors to refer to federal officials under the equitable sharing program. The state could also have access to a portion of the assets seized if the owner of the property is convicted in a related criminal activity.

Despite its potential shortcomings, SB443 goes a long way to roll back federal intervention in local law enforcement activities, removing the financial incentive often tied to the practice.

Will other states follow?

Taiwan Streets: a Case of Free Markets in Action

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Taiwan Streets: a Case of Free Markets in Action

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

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.

Great Idea! Now, Can You Make It Happen Without Force?

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Great Idea! Now, Can You Make It Happen Without Force?

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

In order to reach more people, persuade them to adopt a more libertarian outlook, and keep them looking to reject the force of government intervention in our lives, we need to continue to build rapport and challenge their authoritarian beliefs in a friendly and non-confrontational way.

We often recommend building rapport with those you’re looking to persuade to adopt a more libertarian philosophy/worldview/lifestyle. That can be a difficult thing to do when discussing real world political issues, rather than asking some philosophical questions about who is best equipped to make decisions.

With that in mind, here’s a terrific way to build rapport with the people you’re talking with in a way that doesn’t alienate them. When they talk about a particular program or idea, focus on the outcome they desire and point out that the outcome is a good one. Typically, we are in agreement about the outcomes, whether they are prosperity, peace, a well-educated populace, safety and security, or happy lives. 

Next, you can congratulate them on a great idea!

As they bask in the compliment, you can begin asking if they want to make that happen without using force. Force, after all, is a very powerful thing, and is something that libertarians believe should not be initiated, rather it should only be used in response or self-defense.

forceBy praising them for their idea, we reinforce that we ARE listening to them, rather than waiting for our “turn to speak.”

By asking them questions, we SHOW genuine interest in their opinion or belief in an idea.

By asking how they might accomplish that outcome without using force, we LEAD them to come to the libertarian solution on their own.

Rather than start an argument or a fight about something where we agree on the desired outcome, we can engage in a useful dialogue that could very well end up changing the way they think about things… In a good way, without using force.

Once we’ve achieved some success, we can move on to other areas in a similar vein. It might take a few more conversations, as they may need time to reconsider how to get to our shared desired outcome, but without using force.

To accomplish making society freer and more libertarian, we have to change hearts and minds, because the people have the power. Acts of legislation are about 20-30 years behind the mainstream thinking of the people, so by winning over the people, we can already be living a libertarian life when the state finally catches up to us.

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.

Pick the Middle Seat

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Pick the Middle Seat

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

If we’ve not met, you may be unaware that I am a big guy. I also travel a lot.

For my comfort, that means making sure I sit by the window or on the aisle on a plane.

middle seatComing back from Las Vegas last month, I didn’t check in early enough for my flight to get a low boarding number on the airline that uses “cattle call boarding.” That meant a middle seat for four hours.

While kicking myself for not checking in sooner, the realization of the opportunity this presented hadn’t hit me yet. This was an AMAZING opportunity for outreach.

Most of the time, sharing such close quarters with complete strangers makes them great friends by the time we get to our destination. I know about their job, family, pets, etc., and they know a lot of the same stuff about me. There is typically a seed for Liberty planted somewhere in our interaction.

By sitting in my preferred seat next to the window, I limit my opportunity to the person sitting in the middle, unlikely to hold any real conversation with the person sitting on the aisle.

On the flight home, the three of us discussed politics, freedom, and the upcoming election in a very honest and civil manner. Both now have a different view of libertarian thought and are actively considering how much more often freedom is the answer.

Since, I’ve had at least one conversation with them both, as they had further questions about libertarianism and asked about resources for learning more. Obviously, I offered the Liberator Online, this column, and our online store.

What might happen if we all picked the middle seat and seized the opportunity to double our outreach efforts?

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.

NYC Weed Arrests Up Again, Is Full Legalization the Solution?

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NYC Weed Arrests Up Again, Is Full Legalization the Solution?

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

Someone forgot to tell progressive New York Mayor Bill de Blasio that times, they have already changed.

NYPDDuring the then mayoral candidate’s campaign, de Blasio vowed to ensure the New York Police Department would cease to treat possession of small amounts of marijuana as a crime, but ever since he was elected, the number of marijuana-related arrests went up. This year, Gothamist.com reports, it went up nearly a third.

In 1977, New York decriminalized possession of fewer than 25 grams of weed. Users smoking or holding the bud in public, however, were still subject to police scrutiny. But while commissioner Ray Kelly was in command between 2002 and 2013, arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana went up considerably. In 2010, low-level pot possession had become the top cause of arrest in the city, mostly due to the fact 50,383 people had been arrested for related offenses throughout that year.

That’s when pressure began to mount.

Faced with countless accusations of racial bias, commissioner Kelly decided to send officers a memo asking them to stop “improper” marijuana arrests, which often involved blacks and Latinos.

Once de Blasio took office, however, marijuana-related arrests dropped, but that didn’t last. In 2014, police had made 26,400 weed-related arrests. Now, recent figures show that the number of people going to prison for related offenses has increased considerably.

During the first half of 2015, NYPD had arrested 7,236 people for marijuana possession, but during the same period this year, the number went up to 9,331: A 30 percent increase.

Despite de Blasio’s campaign promises, things might not get better for pot smokers in the Big Apple unless state laws change.

A bill from 2015 that is still stuck in the state legislature could help give marijuana users more peace of mind. But the bill isn’t perfect.

If S. 1747, or the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act, passes, marijuana would be regulated and taxed like tobacco and alcohol. Proponents of similar pieces of legislation often say that while similar measures might have a negative effect on the overall cost of weed, it would keep officers from knocking people’s doors down in the middle of the night. But to many libertarians, only decriminalization of all substances, including marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol, works.

Mises Institute’s David Gordon argues in a piece from 2002 that punishing a person for using drugs is to “impose a severe disability on him; and justice requires that punishment be imposed only on someone who violates rights.” Drug use, therefore, cannot be criminalized simply because it could lead to bad social consequences. After all, Gordon continues, “[t]o punish people simply because their acts encourage others to act in a way deemed undesirable is to use people as means, in a morally unacceptable way.”

Despite the strong support the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act has obtained over the past year, many proponents of the bill believe that it could take years for something similar to pass through the state legislature, forcing New Yorkers to think twice before stepping outside with a small amount of weed in their pocket.

What the Village of Tyneham Can Teach Us About Eminent Domain Abuse

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What the Village of Tyneham Can Teach Us About Eminent Domain Abuse

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

Great Britain’s compulsory purchase orders are the equivalent of America’s eminent domain laws. These powers give UK government bodies the ability to retain property even if the property owner is reluctant to give it away.

TynehamMuch like eminent domain laws in America, certain UK bodies are allowed to obtain these properties by claiming that the land should be used for “public betterment.” But whether or not government is allowed to exercise this power if compensation is provided shouldn’t be the crux of the matter because value is subjective.

Ludwig von Mises wrote in Human Action that value “is not intrinsic, it is not in things. It is within us; it is the way in which man reacts to the conditions of his environment.” So if a man finds value in his land, even if he is being compensated for leaving against his will, the action imposed by the governmental body forcing him out is, indeed, immoral. Because value, Mises adds, “is not what a man or groups of men say.” It’s how they act that counts. Even if you agree with the government’s rationale, taking a man’s land against his will is inhumane. After all, Mises adds in The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, “there is no yardstick to measure the aesthetic worth of a poem or of a building,” so who are we to judge what is or isn’t valuable to an individual?

But history is full of anecdotes that teach us that much and yet we ignore it. Allowing generation after generation to place bureaucrats in charge of telling us what our most sacred rights truly mean.

Take the story of a village formerly known as Tiham, but which is now referred to as Tyneham.

In 1943, Tyneham and the neighboring area residents were asked to leave. They were given 28 days to walk away from their homes so Allied forces could use the place as a post where they would train for the D-Day landings.

As villagers left with the belongings they could carry, villager Helen Taylor waited until the very end, posting a note on the door of the limestone church of St Mary that read “We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.”
As villagers left believing they would one day come back, government later proved them wrong. The 13th Century church endured, but folks like Taylor would never have the pleasure of holding mass there as a community again.

In 1948, the Army resorted to compulsory purchase order laws and put a hold on the village and its standing properties, claiming soldiers needed the place for military training. Up until this day, that’s what the village and its remains are used for. Now, littered with scrap and shells from decades of target shooting, only dead former members of the village are allowed to come back to be buried in the churchyard.

The image of a concerned villager asking soldiers to treat her home well may have vanished from English people’s memories, but the message remains the same. What right does a man have if not to do what he pleases with his own property? Stripping citizens from their belongings under the guise of fighting for peace may sound honorable, but in practice, all that is often left behind is garbage—and heartbreaking memories.

Be Your Own Advocate

in Education, Freedom On Campus, Liberator Online by Advocates HQ Comments are off

Be Your Own Advocate

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

I have the unique experience of sharing the same alma mater as my parents. I grew up hearing stories about how things were when they were at school, the friends they made, and the professors who helped shaped their worldviews. When it was my turn to attend college, I remember my parents making a lot of comments about how different my experience was going to be from theirs. And as a recent graduate, I agree.

AdvocateThe ‘culture’ of college campuses has changed greatly since my parents were in school. Recent events at Mizzou, Yale University, and Occidental College have garnered national attention. Moreover, the way that college administrators have reacted to those events have shown how they are contributing to the creation of, in my opinion, the most coddled generation.

I think one of the most important aspects of growing into adulthood is learning how to handle one’s self professionally.

During my undergraduate years, I had multiple classmates with difficulties discussing issues or grievances with professors, faculty, and other students. Rather than confronting the issue in an adult way, they would often take to social media to complain, would involve a department head when it was unnecessary…or would have their parents take care of it.

I think that there are some very extreme situations in academics when it’s important to rely on others for help.

But when the issues at hand can be resolved in a short, face-to-face conversation, it’s important to rely on one’s self. My advice to incoming freshmen is simple: be your own advocate.

Nothing is going to boost confidence more than learning how to stand up for one’s self. Life lessons like this one can transcend the majority of material in a classroom and can help in the workplace, too.

College is a time of growth. Do you want to take an active role in that growth or do you want to take a backseat and let someone else drive?

 

Our New Project!

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Our New Project!

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

In case you weren’t around for our Facebook Live announcement Monday, Chloe and I introduced to you, our friends and family, our new project, Libertarianism.com.

The World’s Smallest Political Quiz has been around for almost 30 years, and it’s been a great outreach tool to begin a conversation about political philosophy, by discovering a person’s political tendency.

Today, that all changes.

We’ve launched our first attempt at persuasion BEYOND the Quiz, as we work to a more libertarian society. Nothing within the Quiz has changed, we’ve simply added the next step to follow up with the millions of people who take the Quiz online. Earlier this year, we broke 23 million.

Please take this opportunity to try things out.

Answer the questions like you normally would, and also answer them in different ways. That way, you’ll see how we’re working to persuade Centrists, Conservatives, Liberals, and Statists to adopt a more libertarian way of thinking.

This is your opportunity to try this out before we start re-directing the Quiz traffic to it.

Share it with your friends, family, and co-workers!

Think you can do a better job at persuasion? Send us an e-mail at info@theadvocates.org and tell us how you’d like to partner with us to make a more libertarian society. We welcome new players to our game.

If not you, who? If not now, when?

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

If not you, who? If not now, when?

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

QUESTION: Sometimes when I criticize government, I am told that if I don’t like it here, I should go somewhere else. Essentially, the old “love it or leave it” line. What’s a good response?

QuestionMY SHORT ANSWER: One response I use goes like this:

“I love my country and its heritage of liberty. When I see it going astray, I want to help it get back on track.

“Our government once endorsed slavery. Where would we be today if the abolitionists had left, instead of helping our nation extend its heritage of liberty to slaves?

“When our government makes a mistake, it’s up to us to correct it. If not us, who?”

Pokemon Go Creators Face Lawsuit Over Possible Property-Related Crimes

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Pokemon Go Creators Face Lawsuit Over Possible Property-Related Crimes

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

It’s no secret that Pokemon Go, the augmented-reality game, is currently one of the most popular apps in the country. But as users become involved in accidents due to their outdoor adventures trying to catch Pokemon characters, reports related to individuals being chased away and at times even shot at for trespassing are also becoming more common.

PokemonNow, a man from New Jersey is escalating the fight against Pokemon trespassers by suing the company behind the game—not the actual players. If he has it his way, individuals who own property listed as a Pokestops or Pokemon gyms in the app could be added to the list of plaintiffs.

According to the suit, Pokemon Go encourages players to go after Pokemon characters placed close to or at private properties without the owner’s consent. The suit also states that at least five individuals approached the plaintiff asking if they could have access to his backyard in the past. Interestingly enough, the suit alleges these individuals knocked “without plaintiff’s permission,” confusing anyone who believes that knocking and formally asking for access means that he was properly approached and that his property was never trespassed against.

To players, however, the concern brought up by the New Jersey man may seem illegitimate since the system alerts users they should not trespass, warning that attempting to gain or gaining “access to any property or location where you do not have the right or permission to be” should be out of the question.

Despite the warning, Niantic Labs, Nintendo, and The Pokémon Co. have all been named in the suit. California’s federal court should soon rule on whether the man who filed the complaint will be able to legally keep Pokemon hunters off his property.

The game, which has been downloaded more than 30 million times, generating over $35 million in revenue, continues to be both praised and criticized for the several consequences of its launch. But blaming the company behind the app for a potential trespassing incident might not have a positive outcome after all.

Pokemon Go players have an opportunity to learn a thing or two about property rights and voluntary cooperation while playing, taking the example of other players who have been involved in delicate incidents while catching Pokemon into consideration while roaming the streets in search of new characters. Instead of putting the blame on the game, why not help players understand that playing safely can also be fun? All they have to do is follow the company’s instructions and play responsibly.

After all, suing Niantic Labs over risks potentially associated with the act of playing the game is like suing a weapon manufacturer for a potential gun injury incident that hasn’t even materialized.

Allowing players to take responsibility for their actions could be yet another reason to believe Pokemon Go is one of the best things about modern life.

Nullification Works, Colorado & Other States Show How

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Nullification Works, Colorado & Other States Show How

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

Colorado, the state of legal recreational marijuana, may soon be able to kick the federal government’s erratic surveillance policies to the curb, proving that state nullification is worth the effort.

Iphone

A bill signed into law earlier this year that has been active since May 11, 2016 applies state law rules to federal agencies, effectively barring agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) from taking actions locally that infringe on certain rules. The result is important, since the refusal to enforce federal rules on Colorado soil means that federal acts that go against the Constitution could be thwarted.

The piece of legislation (HB1109) was a bipartisan effort that, according to Tenth Amendment Center’s Mike Maharrey, could help to put an end to federal efforts that infringe on Americans’ constitutional rights such as the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance programs. Since massive databases used by the NSA require a great deal of water to keep computer systems cool, refusing to provide resources to federal agents may help to prevent the expansion of the surveillance state.

This type of approach to federal laws has been upheld in court in the past.

In 2007, when the federal government sued the state of Nevada for refusing to give the Department of Energy (DOE) access to its water supply to build a nuclear waste disposal site on Yucca Mountain, US District Judge Roger L. Hunt ruled that the state of Nevada had a right to say no the federal government, basing his decision on the fact that state rights are protected and shouldn’t be violated by a federal agency.

Maharrey explains that the legal basis for this refusal to cooperate is known as the anti-commandeering doctrine, which came to be due to four Supreme Court cases, including the Printz v. US from 1842 that serves as the doctrine’s cornerstone.

The anti-commandeering doctrine reassures the states that they are free to refuse to cooperate, while also making it clear to the federal government that its agents are prohibited from forcing state officials to comply. If Colorado is able to use its water rights to thwart the growth of programs that effectively infringe on our constitutional rights, that means that other states may join the effort.

Recently, Louisiana took an important step toward hindering the surveillance state by passing a law that requires a court order for the use of stingray technology, which is often used by law enforcement to track the location of phones and give officers access to their contents. The law is now into effect.

Illinois has also passed a very similar bill, which will go into effect on January 1, 2017. According to the bill’s wording, stingray technology use will also be restricted by court orders. But the bill goes further by prohibiting the use of the technology to gather the contents of phones targeted by law enforcement. Instead, officials with a warrant will only be able to use the stingray system to track the location of a device or identify it as a communications device, effectively protecting the individual’s conversations.

Judges Ignore FBI’s Law-Breaking Ways, Acting Outside of Their Jurisdiction

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Judges Ignore FBI’s Law-Breaking Ways, Acting Outside of Their Jurisdiction

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

The problem with certain government policies (or should I say all of them?) is that, prior to being enacted, neither lawmakers nor members of the press ask the question: What are the long-term, unintended consequences of signing it into law? But in many other cases, oversight is so spotty that entire governmental agencies are given a green light to act as both the lawmaker and enforcer, making matters even worse.

FBI

During a recent child porn investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) deployed a hacking tool known as Network Investigative Technique (NIT), which allows officials to obtain the real IP addresses of certain website users. But the warrant used to deploy this tech was later ruled as invalid and unconstitutional by judges in Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Kansas. Despite the courts’ review, the FBI was given a pass, as judges simply placed the blame at the feet of the judges issuing the warrants instead of penalizing the FBI for making the move.

Now, we’re learning that the malware used by the FBI is breaking its own rules by giving officials access to computers from users around the globe.

According to Motherboard, at least 50 Austrian IP addresses were targeted by federal intelligence officials, giving US authorities the means to pursue suspects outside of the country’s jurisdiction, effectively exceeding the agency’s own Rule 41(b), which allows for remote access searches without notice or special justification.

Tech Dirt reports that the FBI’s hacking tool has now been responsible for the targeting of individual IP numbers in Greece, Denmark, Colombia, Chile, and the UK, even though “the FBI gave no indication in its affidavit that it would possibly be carrying out extraterritorial searches.” In this case, the FBI failed to report that individuals being targeted were located in areas outside of the magistrate’s jurisdiction. And that is a huge problem.

But the targeting of individuals both in America and abroad is wrong—and unconstitutional.

Remote access of a series of computers without consent or specific justification has a name: Mass surveillance. An issue that has already been settled by the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution. Individuals should be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures due to the 4th Amendment, so why is the FBI being given the freedom to act outside of its jurisdiction while also going against the law of the land?

In a free society, the work of law enforcement should always be difficult. Not because officers are to be mistrusted in general, but because people with power ought to be mistrusted. Regardless of what role they play. That’s why the presumption of innocence is a feature and not a bug in a country where liberty reigns.

Unless we are willing to annihilate any trace of freedom we still have, we should never let this type of abuse of power go unchecked. No matter how scared you may be of potential criminals.

Personal responsibility is still the best defense against criminals.

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