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If you don’t champion liberty, who will?

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If you don’t champion liberty, who will?

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Question:

The libertarian movement has my best wishes and hopes for success. I am eager to see you succeed, and I will put my money and time where my mouth is. But first I want to see proof of progress. The proof I want is seeing a steady decline in the medias ability to launch lies and propaganda.

liberty

Answer:

I once saw a reproduction of the famous painting, ‘Washington Crossing the Delaware.’ General Washington’s commanding figure, however, had been cut out, leaving his soldiers leaderless.

The caption read, “What if he had said, ‘Let some other George do it?’”

Each of us has a role to play in the quest for liberty. Our natural tendency to “let some other George do it,” and wait for the “proof” of victory, can cost us that victory.

Only you can decide how long to wait before jumping into the fray. Consider the possibility of creating the proof that you seek rather than waiting for someone else to do it. Your talents will do much to further the cause of freedom!

Can people today handle freedom?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Philosophy by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Can people today handle freedom?

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

Question:

While I agree with the fundamentals of libertarianism, I am afraid that, at this stage of the human evolutionary process, most people couldn’t handle complete freedom. How many people do you know who, when about to take a specific action, would stop and think whether or not their action would have an undesirable result for someone else?

freedom

Answer:

People think about how their actions affect others when they themselves experience the fallout. Libertarianism creates this link when those who harm others must make full restitution.

Today, criminals are seldom caught because so much policing is focused on victimless crimes. Today, criminals go free after stealing, raping, and killing so that peaceful pot smokers can get mandatory minimums. Today, the military is our number one polluter, literally getting away with murder because of sovereign immunity.

Without more freedom and responsibility (libertarianism), we will move more slowly along our evolutionary path!

How could theater and the arts survive without government funding?

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

How could theater and the arts survive without government funding?

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

Question:

I consider myself ideally a philosophical (and political) libertarian already, even though I’m only 15 years old. However, I have a passion for theater and the arts. What would happen if we eliminated funding for the arts? How would theater and the arts survive if it weren’t funded and supported by the government?

arts

Answer:

In a libertarian society, the theater and the arts would be supported through private patronage. However, such a society would be much wealthier than we are today (see my book, Healing Our World, available from the Advocates (2003 edition) or as a free download (1992 edition) at Ruwart.com for details). The wealthier the society, the more it spends on the arts. Consequently, the arts should flourish in a libertarian society.

Are smokers infringing on your rights?

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

Are smokers infringing on your rights?

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

Question:

I disagree with your recent column on smoking. Why is it up to the non-smoker to choose a smoke-free work environment or restaurant? Isn’t this a case where a person’s right to swing their arms (i.e., smoking) ends with the next person’s nose (potential health risks and fouling the clothing of non-smokers)? Isn’t it the smokers who are infringing on my right to be free of their smoke?

smokers

Answer:

I, too, am a non-smoker who appreciates a smoke-free environment, so I know exactly where you are coming from.

Libertarians don’t support government-mandated smoking bans in restaurants and bars, because these restaurants and bars are the property of the owners, not the patrons or the government. Only the owners of these establishments have the right to determine whether smoking will be permitted.

Similarly, libertarians wouldn’t outlaw smoking in residences so that non-smoking visitors wouldn’t have to breathe the smoke of their hosts. In both cases, the owners decide what type of environment that they will invest in; patrons and visitors are free to decide if they wish to expose themselves to that environment.

Of course, “public” (government-owned) property, like courthouses and municipal buildings, poses special problems, because the “owners” (supposedly the entire citizenry, which include smokers and non-smokers), are unlikely to agree on whether or not to ban smoking there. So settling such disagreements is almost impossible. Such dilemmas support the libertarian notion that all property (or at the very least, as much as possible) should be private, and such decisions left to the owners. Clearly-defined property rights solve many, many problems!

Is libertarianism a combination of liberal and conservative ideas?

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Is libertarianism a combination of liberal and conservative ideas?

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

Question:

I have been on a political “soul search” lately. Someone suggested I take the World’s Smallest Political Quiz. I ended up scoring as a libertarian. I have been told that libertarianism is a combination of liberal and conservative ideas. Is that correct?

Answer:

Not really. Here’s a clearer explanation. Conservatives tend to prefer individual choice over government control in many economic issues, much (but not all) of the time. Liberals tend to prefer individual choice over government control in many (but not all) personal issues. Conservatives generally prefer a strong role for government in controlling and restricting individual lifestyle choices; liberals favor a strong role for government in controlling and restricting individual economic choices.

Libertarians, in sharp contrast, believe in freedom in both areas. Libertarians believe that individuals should always be free to make their own choices, as long as they don’t assault others, steal from them, defraud them, or harm their property. Libertarians want you to be free to choose; conservatives and liberals want to control you in some areas and give you limited freedom in others.

Libertarians honor their neighbor’s choice; conservatives and liberals want to use the government to take some of those choices away.

Are libertarians aware of safety concerns regarding legal marijuana?

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

Are libertarians aware of safety concerns regarding legal marijuana?

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

Question:

I think libertarians are wrong to support legal marijuana. Do you really think it wise to smoke pot and work with machinery, cars, trains, planes, or motorcycles, or weapons? Do you want to risk your child’s bus ride to school, or a field trip, after the driver has smoked pot? Or do you want the captain of your plane to smoke pot prior to your trip to Bermuda?

marijuana

Answer:

Libertarians agree with you that no one should drive or operate machinery or engage in similar behavior while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Further, libertarians believe that employers have the right to require their employees to take performance tests or drug tests, and fire them if they take anything — even prescription medication — that imperils their coworkers or customers.

However, why shouldn’t someone be free to smoke pot, drink alcohol, or use other substances, in the privacy of their own home? If there is no harm to others, there is no foul.

One could legitimately argue that the use of marijuana and other currently-illegal drugs may harm some users’ long term health. However, the same is true of many, many substances that are completely legal, ranging from alcohol and tobacco to fat, salt, sugar, and so on. Chronic overeating is especially damaging, yet having our calorie consumption regulated by the “Twinkie police” would be prohibitively expensive and invasive as well as outrageous.

We all make choices everyday that compromise our health. People die every year in sporting accidents, but the idea of prohibiting skiing, skydiving, and scuba seems ridiculous. Some people have higher thresholds for risks, and take chances that other people would not. That’s their right — as long as they don’t endanger others.

Living is dangerous and death is just a matter of time. We may want to spend life enjoying it as we see fit, rather than trying to prohibit others from doing so!

Could non-profit co-ops and “mutual aid societies” help make basic health care available for all?

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

Could non-profit co-ops and “mutual aid societies” help make basic health care available for all?

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

Question:

I think part of the problem with today’s health care system is the over-reliance on insurance companies. They are (rightfully) in the business of making money, and as a result they keep raising premiums.

care

What about the idea of competing with them by fostering the creation of non-profit insurance and/or medical co-ops? In a co-op, any profits would stay in the co-op to offset the additional cost of helping those currently lacking basic care.

Answer:

You’ve pretty much described the “mutual aid societies” that once protected Americans against medical disasters — before government regulated them out of business for the benefit of the doctors and insurance companies.

David Beito’s wonderful book From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State describes them in detail.

The AMA condemned doctors that worked for a flat fee for these societies. Since the AMA controlled the licensing boards, physicians didn’t want to incur their wrath.

Even though the mutual aid societies served their members well during the Depression, insurance companies successfully lobbied for regulations requiring that mutual aid societies have large amounts of financial reserves on hand.

Thus, these effective co-op-like groups were essentially regulated out of business, putting us at the mercy of the often less efficient and less compassionate insurance companies.

The free market and human ingenuity creates amazing protection for us, but government intervention destroys it!

How could society function without government-issued IDs?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Philosophy by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

How could society function without government-issued IDs?

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

Question:

Without a national ID (for example, Social Security numbers or driver’s licenses) how would banks and other institutions verify your identity for their services? How could they prove, for example, your claim to ownership of a piece of property or a car? How could they know you didn’t just steal or forge a deed or title?

ID

Answer:

A government-issued ID can always be forged. Already today, a thriving underground black market exists in forged Social Security cards, passports, and driver’s licenses.

Indeed, banks are losing so much money on forged ID and identity theft that many have started fingerprinting customers. With identification information, as in so many other areas, government does a very poor job.

As you have observed, identification — proving that someone actually is who he says he is, or has the qualifications he claims — is a vital need in a market economy. Private institutions have an enormous stake in being able to quickly and accurately insure the identities of customers who, in today’s global economy, may engage in transactions around the world.

In a libertarian society, banks and other financial institutions would establish the level of identity verification they needed to protect their interests, as has been the case in the past. Such institutions would have a strong interest in creating ways of identification that would appeal to — not offend or burden or harm — their customers.

Competition would quickly create new and innovative ways to meet this demand. We would expect to see the kind of constant innovation, low cost, ease-of-use, and concern for pleasing customers that we today see in other significantly unregulated areas of our economy, such as telecommunications, computers and the Internet.

People would be free to decide for themselves if they wanted to provide information in order to work with these institutions. Governments couldn’t force individuals to carry IDs. The most innovative and customer-pleasing solutions would be the most successful.

Finally, in a libertarian society there would be no danger of governments collecting vast databases of such information, a threat to our liberty.

There is a great need for identification services that aid consumers while protecting their privacy. Only the market — not government — can provide this.

How can I make a difference in the world without money?

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How can I make a difference in the world without money?

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

Question:

I’m a college student. I want to support libertarian and/or charitable organizations to make the world a better place. But I don’t have the money. I can barely afford to get by now. Yet I can’t just sit back and continue reading about atrocities any more. I want to make a difference. What can I do?

money

Answer:

Money is useful in trying to change the world, but by far activism is the key ingredient. Activists can show others the importance of setting things right. Those who have money instead of time will take care of the finances.

First, educate yourself on the principles of liberty. The Advocates site Libertarianism.com is a great place to start.

Second, learn how to effectively communicate those ideas. (This is a specialty of the Advocates. Each issue of the Liberator Online has communication information, and there is a wealth of similar material on powerful libertarian communication at the Advocates Web site .)

Third, find other people who share your interests. You can do this online. For instance, there are (at least) three U.S. national libertarian-oriented campus organizations:

* Students for Liberty
* Young Americans for Liberty
* Libertarian Party list of campus libertarian organizations

And there are plenty of other libertarian organizations that do local activism:

* The Libertarian Party has many local chapters across the U.S.
* The Republican Liberty Caucus is for liberty activists working in the GOP.
* Campaign for Liberty was formed after the Ron Paul presidential campaign to encourage grassroots activism.
* The International Society for Individual Liberty has links to many organizations in America and around the world that offer opportunities local activism. Click on their “Freedom Network” button at their home page.

That’s just a sampling. There are many other fine activist organizations out there, too. And there are also numerous organizations that focus on specific issues, such as the War on Drugs, gun rights, tax reduction, and so on.

(Please note, this list is for informational purposes. The Advocates is a non-profit educational organization, and does not endorse political campaigns or lobby to pass legislation.)

The people who attend these meetings can tell you what’s happening in your area. Get involved. Donate your time if you don’t have the money.

(And tell ‘em the Advocates sent you!)

Learn. Get active. Spend two or three hours a week making the world a better place instead of watching TV. You’ll feel much better afterwards!

How can we have fire protection and other services without taxes?

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

How can we have fire protection and other services without taxes?

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

Question:

If there were no taxes, how would we pay for hospitals, military defense and rescue workers? It would stink if a privatized fire fighter let your house burn because you didn’t pay for them. And what if a small town had only one station, and it begins over-pricing because they’re the only one in town?

taxes

Answer:

Actually, many small towns today, including my own, utilize private fire fighters who are primarily volunteers.  Each year, a community-support organization collects donations from bake sales, garage sales, barbeques and other fund-raising events to pay for their equipment. Almost everyone contributes as a customer, donor, volunteer, or organizer. Smaller communities would probably continue to utilize such strategies in a libertarian society.

In larger communities, homeowners could subscribe to one of multiple fire-fighting services.  Mortgage companies and insurers would likely require such a subscription as part of their contract, as many do today. Thus, most people would carry such subscriptions, which would probably be about half of what we pay in taxes today.

Someone without a subscription could still call a fire-fighting service and get immediate service; they would simply pay more than a person with a subscription. In some cases, a service might put out a fire gratis simply as good-will advertising to other neighbors, who might decide to switch their subscription to a group they’ve seen in action.

You can find more examples of how fire protection and other important services would be paid for in a libertarian society in my short articles here and here.

I go into more detail in my book “Healing Our World,” available from the Advocates [latest 2003 edition] or as a free download [older 1992 edition] at my website.

Can we cut military spending without endangering U.S. security?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Liberator Online, Military, National Defense by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Can we cut military spending without endangering U.S. security?

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

Question:

In a libertarian society, the U.S. military would be scaled down. By doing this, won’t the U.S. be putting itself at risk should it face a country with a larger military that is aggressive towards the U.S.?

military

Answer:

Although it’s likely that we’d have a smaller military in a libertarian society, we’d probably have a much more efficient one.

Navy Seal Commander Richard Marcinko was asked by his superiors to infiltrate key Naval bases with a handful of colleagues. Commanders of the target installations were given notice that Marcinko’s raiders were coming. Nevertheless, with only seven men, Marcinko planted dummy demolition charges on nuclear submarines, captured the women and children living on base, and even gained access to Air Force One as it was being refueled! The Commanders complained that Marcinko had cheated by coming in by water or other “back doors” that they hadn’t prepared for. (You can read more about it in Marcinko’s book, Rogue Warrior.)

Our military is a subsidized monopoly that has trouble protecting us on our home turf. Like most government services, it costs much and delivers little, wasting the energy and lives of our brave soldiers. This isn’t the fault of our soldiers. It’s due to politics and the inevitable inefficiency of government. Our soldiers deserve better — and so do we!

How will libertarians help those who are disadvantaged?

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

How will libertarians help those who are disadvantaged?

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

Question

In every human endeavor that has been measured, humanity shows a distribution of talent, ability, error, height, weight, intellectual capacity, etc. that follows the traditional bell-shaped curve. That is, unless it is skewed by local factors of education, various selected populations, and so on. In other words, half the people of the world are on the ‘left’ side and half the people are on the ‘right’ side of this curve.

libertarians

So, then, my question: How do libertarians, with their ‘pull yourself up by your boot straps’ outlook, propose to deal with those on the left side of the curve? To blithely say that ‘privatization of welfare,’ private charity, and so on will take care of these more unfortunate folks is simply ‘pie in the sky’ thinking.

Answer

Libertarian societies are wealthier than other countries because the poor are given the opportunity to work. European immigrants, for example, came to the US to escape the guilds and trade restrictions that kept them out of the labor market. Thus, the first thing a libertarian society does to help the ‘left side’ is to shift as many people as possible further into the middle. Because almost everyone is better off in a libertarian society, more charity is available for the few who cannot support themselves. When help is given privately, approximately 80% of each charitable dollar gets to a worthy recipient. Only 20% of each tax welfare dollar reaches the poor; most of the money goes to pay the salaries of the social workers. In addition, welfare harms the poor by discouraging them from entering the work force. After ten years of personally working with welfare recipients, I can attest that the system does the poor more harm than good.

How can we solve America’s economic woes?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, Social Security by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

How can we solve America’s economic woes?

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

Question:

How can you balance the budget, pay off the debt, and slash spending without doing away with entitlements, like Social Security and Medicare, that people have paid into for decades?

economic

Answer:

We can only balance the budget by privatizing entitlements like Social Security and Medicare and ending foreign wars. The ONLY way we can keep the promises made to our seniors without massive inflation is to increase our rate of wealth creation. One way to do that is by deregulating business. Each regulator destroys about 150 private sector jobs each year, so each one fired is true economic stimulus.

Another way to increase wealth creation is to cut the tax rate and end tariffs and other barriers to importation. This drives domestic capital into efficient businesses, stimulating the economy further. Even at lower tax rates, a robust economy means more tax dollars collected to offset the entitlement programs, which should be privatized ASAP so that young people aren’t forced into these Ponzi schemes.

How do you define a victimless crime?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

How do you define a victimless crime?

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

Question

I’m a Libertarian candidate for prosecuting attorney, and I’m seeking to craft short answers for my campaign. One of my campaign promises is that I will not seek to imprison persons accused of a victimless crime.

crime

How would you define ‘victimless crime’ when asked? Specifically, does that include negligent conduct that involves a risk of harming others? For example: driving through a red light, driving while intoxicated, and firing shots into the air.

Many types of negligent criminal conduct involve some risk of harming others. But often the risk is trivial. What is the dividing line between trivial risk and significant risk? There are no statistics on the risk of harm I know of.

Answer

A victim (by libertarian standards) is someone who is threatened with physical force, fraud, or theft. If there is no threat, there is no crime. A victimless crime, therefore, is one in which no one has been threatened with physical force, fraud, or theft.

Shouldn’t we intervene in other countries if we could save lives?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Shouldn’t we intervene in other countries if we could save lives?

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

Question

If we have the power to save lives by intervening internationally, which is the greater evil: imposing our will on others or the destruction of lives? Yes, it is correct that we tend to ignore civil strife in areas where we would either get bloodied or areas we don’t care about (like Rwanda), but should we intervene where we can do so at little physical cost if a net balance of lives can be gained?

lives

Answer

Ah, the age old question, ‘Can the ends justify the means?’ I’ve come to the conclusion that when we use bad means to obtain good ends, our efforts backfire every time. Rather than supporting a war funded with taxes, I chose to help the refugees.

Naturally, when you, as an individual, feel that you can do good by supporting a fight, you should follow your conscience by supplying your own time, money, and effort. If you force your neighbor who feels differently to participate, however, you’ll jeopardize your cause. After all, by using taxes to support the fight, you are first attacking your peaceful neighbors to save others from tyranny. You become the tyrant in order to save others from oppression. The contradiction should be obvious.

Many people applaud our entry into World War II as an example of how good (e.g., defeating Hitler) can come out of bad (e.g., taxes and the draft). With the advantage of historical hindsight, let’s see if this is an accurate description of what happened.

Hitler offered to let the Jews leave Germany if other countries would accept them. Few nations would alter their immigration quotas, however. If you visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., you can see a picture of a shipload of Jews being turned away from U.S. shores. They eventually had to return to Europe, where most of them were killed. Without the aggression of immigration laws, we could have saved the Jews without spilling the blood of our young men.

Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor probably wouldn’t have occurred without the aggression of a U.S. oil embargo, saving the lives of our servicemen there.

Hitler’s finest were already trying to assassinate him by the time the U.S. entered the war and probably would have succeeded eventually. Instead, the U.S. entered the war, took Stalin as an ally, and gave Stalin most of Eastern Europe. Stalin proceeded to kill millions, without offering to let them migrate elsewhere, making Hitler look benevolent in comparison. Those who survived these purges were forced to live in constant fear, poverty, and strife. Did our aggression against our own neighbors make war on tyrants save lives or take them? The body count suggests that our aggression cost more lives than it saved.

Are private schools unfair?

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

Are private schools unfair?

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

Question

I live in England, where the private schools are derided by some, not because they are bad, but because they are thought of as unfairly benefiting the wealthy. I disagree. I believe that, because the offspring is an extension of the parent, he or she gains no unfair advantage — the school simply allows people to gain advantage from their own work. Do you agree?

schools

Answer

I would agree. However, all schools, whether public or private cost many times more in taxes or tuition than is necessary because of government regulations. Without these restrictions, ad-sponsored television programs like Sesame Street, special educational cable stations, Internet courses, and other advances we cannot yet envision could make high-quality education virtually free — for everyone! For details, see Chapter 10 of my book, “Healing Our World,” available from the Advocates for Self-Government.

What will happen to people with low incomes if minimum wage is done away with?

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

What will happen to people with low incomes if minimum wage is done away with?

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

Question:

If you take away minimum wages, businesses can pay whatever small amount they want and keep the rest for profit. What about those who will only make $3.00 per hour?

wage

Answer:

If businesses can pay what they want, why do 90-95 percent of today’s workers in the U.S. make more than the minimum wage? The answer: supply and demand applies to employees as well as products. If a business doesn’t pay a person what he or she is worth, they go to a new employer or start their own business. In a libertarian society, with its expanding economy, such moves will be much easier than they are today.

Minimum wage laws actually destroy entry-level positions for the unskilled. Black economist Walter Williams believes that the minimum wage laws are the single most important factor in keeping young blacks out of the job market. The next time Congress considers raising the minimum wage, look in your newspaper for an estimate of the number of jobs that will be lost – potential training jobs for the disadvantaged.

How would roads be operated and financed in the ideal libertarian world?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Business and Economy, Economic Liberty by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

How would roads be operated and financed in the ideal libertarian world?

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

Question: How would roads be operated and financed in the ideal libertarian world? How would traffic violations, actions which may be victimless crimes but would be very likely to harm others if they were allowed to continue unchecked, be handled?

RoadsAnswer: Roads would probably be operated by companies which would finance them through tolls (highways), subscription fees (local roads), or measures similar to condominium dues (neighborhood streets). Even today, some communities finance almost half of their roadways through these alternatives, saving themselves up to 50% when compared to government-run alternatives.

Road owners would set the standards for drivers’ conduct (e.g. speed limits, alcohol load, etc.). Reckless drivers, regardless of whether they were under the influence of mind-altering substances, would probably be banned by road owners so that customer safety could be maintained.

Libertarians believe that defensive force can be used against those who initiate or THREATEN to initiate force against others. Prohibiting reckless driving could certainly fall into that category.

Do libertarians favor gun control?

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

Do libertarians favor gun control?

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

QUESTION: I am unclear on the libertarian stand on gun control and crime. Should there be gun control in a libertarian society? And if so, how much?

GunMY SHORT ANSWER: Firearms, like fists, can be used for offense or defense. Libertarians would not advocate cutting off a person’s access to firearms any more than they would advocate cutting off a person’s hands to prevent a brawl.

Most people who advocate gun control do so because they believe it lowers the crime rate. In fact, just the opposite is true. Violent crime (rape, robbery, and homicide) decrease dramatically when states pass laws that permit peaceful citizens to carry concealed weapons.

One famous example: in 1966 and 1967 Orlando, Florida police responded to a rape epidemic with a highly-publicized program to train 2,500 women in the use of firearms. Orlando became the only city with a population over 100,000 which showed a decrease in crime. Rape, aggravated assault, and burglary were reduced by 90%, 25%, and 24% respectively — without a single woman ever firing a shot in self-defense.

Criminals are looking for an easy mark and avoid those who might be armed. Anyone who doubts this might wish to put a sign on their front lawn saying “This house is a gun-free zone” to experience the consequences firsthand.

Gun control is actually “victim disarmament.” It exposes the weakest among us — women, children, and the elderly — to greater risk of attack. It denies us the ability to defend ourselves against those who would harm us.

Since the courts have ruled that the police have no obligation to protect an individual citizen from attack, we have no legal recourse if they fail to do so.

Acting in self-defense, armed citizens kill more criminals each year than police do, yet shoot only one-tenth as many innocent people by mistake. Clearly, armed citizens act as responsibly (if not more so) than trained law enforcers.

Libertarians believe that everyone has the right to self-defense. America’s founders did too. Libertarians strongly support the Second Amendment. Libertarians do not support the victim-disarmament laws collectively known as “gun control.”

For more details, including references for the examples cited above, see Chapter 16 of my book, Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression, available from the Advocates (2003 edition). The 1993 edition can be read online for free at my website.

 

Should slander be protected as free speech?

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

Should slander be protected as free speech?

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

QUESTION: I have questions about a past column of yours on the topic of blackmail. You wrote: “Manyslander libertarians consider slander of a person’s reputation to be a violation of the non-aggression principle; others don’t.”

I’m confused. It seems to me that slander should be protected as free speech in a libertarian society. There’s no aggression involved. So what’s the problem?

MY SHORT ANSWER: Not all libertarians agree on whether or not a lie constitutes aggression. A lie does not necessarily affect only one’s reputation. For example, a service provider could be put out of business by a well-publicized lie and lose all their assets before they were able to set the record straight. I have actually seen this happen to a publicly-traded company, where stockholders lost their investments and the employees lost their jobs.

Does a person have the right to free speech? Of course! Must they take responsibility for the consequences of their speech? That is the real question.

For example, if a person purposely yells “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, and people are killed in the stampede, is he or she guilty of manslaughter if there was no fire? The person yelling “Fire!” has the right to free speech, certainly. Must that person pay restitution to those who are injured or the survivors of those killed?

What if the person thought they smelled smoke and truly believed that there was a fire? They were trying to help people and didn’t lie, but the result was the same. Are they responsible for the dead and injured?

This is where libertarians disagree over this issue. Some libertarians would agree with you that the only consequences that a liar should have to face is damage to his or her reputation, regardless of the consequences of that lie. Others believe that a liar is responsible for the resulting damage.

 

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