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It’s About Liberty, Not Technology

in Communicating Liberty, First Amendment, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, One Minute Liberty Tip, Philosophy by Sharon Harris Comments are off

It’s About Liberty, Not Technology

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

Last month actor Mark Hamill, an advocate of gun control, posted this tweet to his nearly one million followers:

“Don’t get me wrong, as a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment [sic]—I believe in every American’s right to own a musket.”

right-to-bear-musketsIn doing so, Hamill was repeating an anti-gun argument that’s frequently heard and is surprisingly widespread.

This argument says that the Second Amendment was written over two centuries ago, before today’s modern firearms had been invented. Therefore, the Second Amendment only protects a right to keep and bear muskets and other primitive firearms common at the time.

You might think that this is a satirical remark, more snarky than a real argument.

Yet many opponents of the right to keep and bear arms actually intend this as a serious argument. Even those who use it half-jokingly often believe it makes a legitimate point.

For example, journalist Piers Morgan tweeted this in 2012:

“The 2nd amendment was devised with muskets in mind, not high-powered handguns & assault rifles. Fact.”

I could cite many more. Versions of this argument are circulating on the Internet.

How might libertarians effectively respond to this? One obvious way is to apply the same logic to other amendments.

The First Amendment, which defends freedom of speech and freedom of the press, was written before the Internet, television, radio, DVDs, cell phones and other forms of personal and mass communication.

Yet most Americans, especially liberals and progressives who favor gun control, certainly recognize that the First Amendment protects such modern communication as well.

No First Amendment activist would argue that a newspaper must be printed on 18th century technology to have First Amendment protection. What could be sillier?

Similarly, most reasonable people see that the Fourth Amendment protection of privacy clearly applies to modern technology such as cellphones, laptops, and so on.

In some circumstances, it may also be useful to point out that this issue has already been settled — and quite forcefully — by the Supreme Court.

In fact, in the landmark 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision, the Court declared this argument was “bordering on the frivolous.”

Wrote the Court:

“Some have made the argument, bordering on the frivolous, that only those arms in existence in the 18th century are protected by the Second Amendment. We do not interpret constitutional rights that way. Just as the First Amendment protects modern forms of communications… and the Fourth Amendment applies to modern forms of search… the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”

The Supreme Court drove the point home just last month in Caetano v. Massachusetts, which concerned a woman who carried a stun gun for self defense:

“While stun guns were not in existence at the end of the 18th century, the same is true for the weapons most commonly used today for self-defense, namely, revolvers and semiautomatic pistols. Revolvers were virtually unknown until well into the 19th century, and semiautomatic pistols were not invented until near the end of that century. Electronic stun guns are no more exempt from the Second Amendment’s protections, simply because they were unknown to the First Congress, than electronic communications are exempt from the First Amendment, or electronic imaging devices are exempt from the Fourth Amendment.”

These are powerful, even devastating, arguments from logic, history and authority that pretty much lay waste to the argument that the Second Amendment is limited to protecting our right to black powder muskets. But… there’s one more important point to make.

We should always remember our purpose as communicators. In most communications and conversations, we should seek to win others to our side, not just to win arguments.

So, rather than just responding with the powerful arguments above, take a moment first to listen to those making these arguments and try to uncover their genuine concerns. Are they worried about our society becoming more violent? Are they fearful of more children being victims of mass shootings? Are they advocates of nonviolence who have adopted an anti-gun position?

These are all legitimate, admirable, understandable concerns. Let your listeners know that you share their concerns (if you do) and then point out that there are libertarian answers — solutions — to all of them. By identifying and addressing the underlying concerns, you can try to win them to our side, or at least to a better and more sympathetic understanding of our views. That’s a lot better than merely winning an argument, but making a permanent enemy.

If the conversation allows it, you could go even further and point out that, to many libertarians, the right to keep and bear arms is rooted in the fundamental libertarian idea that people should be free to do anything they wish as long as they don’t harm others. A conversation that reaches this level can be very rewarding.

There are specific communication methods you can use to respond in such effective ways, and I have compiled many of the best of them in my book How to Be a Super Communicator for Liberty: Successfully Sharing Libertarian Ideas.

Please check it out.

Why Rhetoric Should be Celebrated

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

Why Rhetoric Should be Celebrated

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

We often hear that persuasion is an obstacle to freedom. “Rhetoric,” they say, is why we’re in such trouble. After all, voters would make better decisions if they had been better educated about the issues facing the nation.

To Deirdre McCloskey, the celebrated Professor of Economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, people who scapegoat persuasion are misguided.

PersuasionIn a video for the Learn Liberty series, McCloskey argues that while many people with different points of view on politics all agree that free speech is “sacred,” few agree that persuasion is just as important, if not a feature of a free society.

“Rhetoric,” she tells the viewer, “sounds like a bad word.” Media outlets are the first ones to accuse politicians and key figures of indulging in rhetoric, and never getting to the point. But McCloskey believes that this approach to persuasion is superficial, especially when considering the alternative.

She explains that, persuasion would be bad if the alternative to “sweet-talking” people into believing something or siding with someone wasn’t persuasion through force.

Because we are humans, McCloskey adds, we depend on language. But if we cannot use language, there is another way of persuading people into taking a particular stance: Violence. If I have a gun in hands while telling you to believe in economics and stop arguing with me if you want to stay alive, you will most certainly choose to agree with me, just so you may avoid getting shot in the head. But if there aren’t any guns involved, all we can do to make our point stick is to try to persuade folks by selling our idea the best way we can.

“In a society of free choice, free ideas, free consumption,” McCloskey adds, “you have persuasion as the only alternative to violence.”

Henry David Thoreau once said that “thaw, with her gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor, with his hammer.” The late, prolific author Gore Vidal once said that advertising is the only art form ever invented in the United States of America. To McCloskey, “a free society is an advertising society,” after all, a free society is where people debate and persuade, rather than threaten others into going along with their ideas. Americans should be proud of this very American tradition.

Instead of demonizing rhetoric by complaining that propaganda alone is the root of our problems, McCloskey seems to argue, we should celebrate the “speaking, rather than violent, society,” and take part in the activity, rather than decry it as the root of all evil.

The War on ‘Unwanted Behavior’ Hits the Sidewalks

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

The War on ‘Unwanted Behavior’ Hits the Sidewalks

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

Distracted driving has been this age’s boogeyman for quite sometime. Once the public campaign against the behavior gained traction, it ended up prompting state lawmakers across the country to pass distracted law bills and ordinances throughout most of the United States. But as studies prove that restrictive laws tied to phone use behind the wheel are actually making roads less safe, many carry on with the belief that things will only get better when we start passing even more laws.

Phone In New Jersey, Democratic State Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt has been under the spotlight for trying to penalize pedestrians who walk while looking at their phones. The ban on texting while walking would reportedly cost pedestrians $50 per citation. Offenders could also be required to attend classes on highway safety.

Since the proposal was allegedly mocked by several publications in the state, Watchdog.org reports, Assemblywoman Lampitt was forced to pull the bill from consideration. The backlash was so powerful that it’s nearly impossible to find anything official on the bill in the state legislature’s website. But according to Watchdog, if the bill had seen the light of day, repeating offenders could end up in jail.

In a statement reproduced by NJ.com, Assemblywoman Lampitt is quoted as saying that “like distracted drivers,” distracted walkers are endangering the lives of other drivers. But what is catching the attention of many skeptics, is how proponents of such ban believe that, because distracted walking presents a danger to those using their phones while walking, the enactment of a ban is justified. Is that good enough?

To Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at Cato Institute, US lawmakers have embraced the tyranny of good intentions, creating generations of Americans who are dependent on the government for their every need. To Bandow, “emotion and intention seem to have become principal determinants of government policy,” and the results are tragic.

When politicians claim to be acting for the public good, Bandow wrote, they often ignore the consequences. But “consequences are critical.” Ignoring how certain laws written to criminalize particular behaviors have unwanted consequences won’t make the potentially negative ramifications go away.

Instead of creating a situation in which lawmakers have to address the negative consequences of bad policies down the road, politicians should focus on taking a closer look at how their current proposals may affect people in the long run before pushing new bills.

Thankfully, laws targeting pedestrians with smartphones don’t seem popular in New Jersey. But such restrictions could become popular elsewhere over time, and the trend to push other states to join the prohibitionist mass will only increase.

Being proactive about our safety doesn’t equal lobbying the government for further restrictions. Instead, responsible drivers and pedestrians must lead by example, showing others that they have chosen to put safety first. Passing laws against phone use will only force people to find new way of doing what they are already doing so law enforcers won’t catch them.

Are we really willing to pretend we care by simply leaving it all up to the government and walking away, or are we willing to prove that only personal responsibility—and vigilance—will keep us safe by standing against this type of policy?

HAIL Yes! You Can Win Others to Libertarianism

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

HAIL Yes! You Can Win Others to Libertarianism

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

It’s not enough to speak about liberty. You want to be heard. Understood. Remembered. Appreciated. And you want your ideas, whenever possible, to be accepted.

HandsIn his TED talk “How to Speak So People Want to Listen,” renowned communication expert Julian Treasure talks about four pillars of communication that are essential for powerful outreach – particularly when your goal is to change the world.

It’s marvelous for libertarians. Here are his four pillars, along with a brief discussion of how they apply to communicating libertarian ideas:

1. Honesty. Honesty, of course, means telling the truth. The importance of this when sharing libertarian ideas cannot be overemphasized.

Being honest includes being sure of your facts. It can be tempting to use a “factoid” or meme just because it sounds good or is funny. But check the sources and verify that the information is true. (Remember this wisdom from George Washington’s First Inaugural Address: “Just because something is on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true.”) In addition, be aware that even if something is technically true, it can still be misleading – also a form of dishonesty.

Being honest also includes saying “I don’t know” instead of pretending you know something you don’t. Pretending knowledge can backfire badly. Admitting that you don’t know everything (in other words, that you’re a human being), and offering to follow up with additional information, wins friends and provides future opportunities for discussions.

Note that being honest doesn’t mean being cruel. You don’t need to share any negative feelings you may have about someone else’s ideas.

2. Authenticity. This is similar to honesty. The word means “being real or genuine, not copied or false.” To me, it means being yourself, being true to yourself. Authenticity is powerful.

In communicating your ideas, use your own words, ones that are comfortable and natural to you. This doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel: in the libertarian movement there are invaluable resources for soundbites and well-written answers to questions. (For example, be sure to read Harry Browne’s Liberty A-Z and Mary Ruwart’s Short Answers to the Tough Questions.) Many of these soundbites can be easily used just as they are — that’s what they’re for. But if they don’t sound like something you would say, rewrite them to fit your own style.

Being authentic also means sharing yourself with others. Don’t hesitate, while discussing libertarianism, to add to your discussion other things that interest you. You will have better conversations, and other people are more likely to also share with you in turn – increasing rapport and giving you a better opportunity to directly address their concerns.

3. Integrity. To have integrity means to be consistent with your principles and values.

To me this means not supporting or advocating policies that are counter to libertarian principles. It also means continually practicing and learning to effectively share and communicate the full libertarian vision, rather than a watered-down version, in ways that are appealing and inspiring.

Having integrity also means being true to your word, keeping your promises, admitting your mistakes. It means being trustworthy. Reliable. Showing up on time. Be aware that when speaking to non-libertarians you represent the libertarian movement and other libertarians. Be a good ambassador for the movement.

4. Love. We all know what love is, but we may not always practice it in our political discourse. When we include love, we enhance the three traits above. We show respect for others, we practice the Golden Rule. Mr. Treasure puts it nicely when he says that in loving communication we truly, genuinely wish the other person well. When we do, the other person knows it, and this makes all the difference.

Each of these four pillars are powerful separately. Together they create an awesome synergy.

You’ll notice that the four words create an acronym: HAIL. As Mr. Treasure points out, the word “hail” means “to greet or acclaim enthusiastically.”

What a great way to treat people! And since most people tend to treat others the way they are treated, the reaction you will get will most likely be a very friendly one.

And in the current political culture of anger, screaming, attacking and all-round incivility, what better way to show a marked contrast between politics-as-usual and the glorious message we libertarians have of real market solutions, civil liberties, and peace for all.

P.S. I go into these ideas in more depth in my book, How to Be a Super Communicator for Liberty.

The Future of the Libertarian Movement is Bright

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

The Future of the Libertarian Movement is Bright

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

Last weekend, The Advocates participated in the International Students for Liberty Conference in Washington DC with nearly 2,000 attendees from around the world.

Interacting with students from campus groups throughout the country, as well as those from abroad, gave us a glimpse at the future of the libertarian movement. WOW! It is encouraging to see the knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm from these students as they glowingly share libertarian thought and embrace libertarian philosophy.

Whether they heard from a North Korean dissident about her experiences and vision for a freer world in Yeonmi Park, a former governor known for his use of veto and line-item veto powers in Gary Johnson, or witnessed a debate about the cultural and political change liberty brings between Jack Hunter and Jeffrey Tucker, these students and alumni who love liberty joined together to share their experiences and learn about all the libertarian movement has to offer.

Brett with Vermin SupremeWe even visited with Vermin Supreme, whose documentary “Vote for Jesus” screened on Sunday morning, throughout the conference. He even dropped his satirical bid for the Oval Office as a Democrat to seek the Libertarian Party nomination, as he saw the welcoming community that libertarians represent.

All kidding aside, the students I met this weekend ARE the future of libertarianism, and I’m impressed by them. I honestly wish I’d had a similar outlet when I was on campus at the University of Georgia to better prepare me for what the future held.

We are happy to be working with student groups across the country to assist them in spreading the ideals of freedom and liberty by offering FREE Operation Politically Homeless kits to campus groups, working with them to hone their message as they provide “on the ground” outreach to their fellow students and to the people at large, and support their efforts to be exemplify libertarianism.

Energy, enthusiasm, professionalism, and knowledge make the future of our movement bright, and I’m glad we’re doing everything we can to support that.

Can you help?

Helping Others See Your Vision of Liberty

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

Helping Others See Your Vision of Liberty

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

Most of us were brought up to accept the need for government control of almost everything. And that idea is reinforced every day by journalists, educators and politicians.

SunriseHow, then, do we persuade people to open their minds enough to explore our vision of liberty?

One way is to share something like the following. It starts with a bold idea, elaborates on that idea with familiar examples everyone agrees with, and then invites your listeners to consider expanding the principle to issues they haven’t yet considered.

The history of the progress of the human race is largely the history of removing government control of our personal and economic lives.

When we separated church and state, both institutions became far more humane, and life became happier, safer, more peaceful.

When we lessened government control over the economy and began to embrace the ideas of economic freedom, the result was an incredible and unprecedented rise in living standards and a cornucopia of innovative new products and services.

When we ended the terrible experiment of alcohol Prohibition we ended the crime, the loss of civil liberties, and the terrible health threats that were created by that misguided policy.

When we ended literary and artistic censorship in America we saw a new flourishing of the arts.

Freeing a big chunk of telecommunications from government control led us in a few short years from a world where almost no one owned portable phones to today, when even children carry phones that can take photos and post them online, shoot and edit movies, play (and even record and mix) music, send texts — and even, when necessary, make phone calls.

The same principle holds true for innumerable smaller, more mundane but important services as well. To take just one example, replacing government-monopoly garbage pick-up with competition has resulted in huge savings and better service for millions of Americans.

Over and over again, allowing more personal and economic liberty by ending government control in a particular area of human endeavor has brought us new, wonderful harmony and abundance.

History shows us that liberty works, and the more liberty we have, the better off we will be. On every issue, big or small. Every time.

Does the Bill of Rights Guarantee the Right to…Own a Pet?

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

Does the Bill of Rights Guarantee the Right to…Own a Pet?

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

Thomas Jefferson once said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant & free… it expects what never was and never will be.”

One can only imagine Jefferson’s reaction to a recent national survey by the respected Annenberg Public Policy Center.

The Annenberg survey found that a terrifying large number of Americans are unfamiliar with even the most basic and most fundamental facts about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the structure of the U.S. government.

Rights And, in their ignorance, many are ready to toss out essential liberties and safeguards. Among the findings:

  • Only one in three Americans (31 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government. Thirty-two percent could not identify even one.
  • More than one in four Americans (28 percent) incorrectly thinks a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling is sent back either to Congress for reconsideration or to the lower courts for a decision.
  • Fully 12 percent say the Bill of Rights includes… the right to own a pet.
  • One American in four thinks the Bill of Rights guarantees “equal pay for equal work.”

 
This ignorance, alas, is nothing new. Many surveys over the years have reported similarly depressing findings.

Perhaps this partially explains why the Annenberg survey also found that significant percentages of Americans support getting rid of some of our most fundamental liberties:

  • Thirty-one percent say the government should have the power to outlaw a religion if a majority of voters believe it holds “un-American views.” Another 13 percent don’t care one way or another. Less than half (46 percent) oppose this.
  • Twenty-seven percent say the government should be able to prohibit a peaceful march down a main street if the marchers’ views are offensive to the majority of a town’s residents. Another 15 percent don’t care. A little more than half (54 percent) oppose.
  • Twelve percent support giving the government the power to stop the press from publishing articles critical of the government (prior restraint). Another 9 percent don’t care one way or the other.
  • Nearly half (46 percent) oppose current prohibitions on “double jeopardy,” the practice of retrying a person for the same crime twice if new evidence emerges after a not-guilty verdict.
  • One-quarter of those surveyed (26 percent) favor requiring a person to testify against himself in court. Another 17 percent don’t care either way.
  • A quarter of the respondents (25 percent) agreed that “it might be better to do away with the Supreme Court altogether” if it starts making a lot of rulings most Americans disagreed with.

 
Whatever your beliefs about government, the Constitution — and especially the Bill of Rights — has historically been the greatest resource for the day-to-day peaceful protection of American liberties. Thoughtful people of all political persuasions — liberals, conservatives and libertarians alike — find much common ground in these documents.

The lack of knowledge the Annenberg survey found constitutes nothing less than a civil liberties emergency.

Can anything be done to change this? Can you personally do anything?

Yes. We have many tools available to us, and many opportunities.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Share with your inner circle. Most of us have our greatest influence over those closest to us: children, grandchildren, other family members, close friends, neighbors, business associates, and so on. Share with them the importance of understanding how the government is structured and why our Bill of Rights freedoms are so vital. Encourage them to share them with others, creating a ripple effect. If your children attend a school, ask what is being done to teach these issues.
  • Use social media. Most of us are in contact with a great variety of people through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and other social media. Share this crucial information via videos, memes, links to news stories and articles. (The Annenberg poll press release, linked at the start of this article, will shock and amaze many of your friends and followers.)
  • Use holidays.Bill of Rights Day, (December 15), Constitution Day (September 17), and Independence Day (July 4) offer especially good opportunities to discuss these issues with family, friends, social media followers, and so on. They are great times for letters to the editor discussing the vital importance of our Bill of Rights freedoms and the need to understand them. Such letters can reach thousands or even tens of thousands or more people. Just a few letters in large newspapers can reach millions. Put these holidays on your calendar!

 
(By the way, all publicly funded educational institutions — including any schools receiving federal funds of any kind — are required to provide educational programming on the history of the American Constitution on or near Constitution Day. So on Constitution Day these matters will definitely be on the minds of many people.)

That’s just a start. Doubtless you can think of other opportunities and forums. As always, use the effective communication skills taught by the Advocates to make your communication appealing and welcome. (You’ll find lots of them in my book How to Be a Super Communicator for Liberty: Successfully Sharing Libertarian Ideas. e-book here)

It’s up to you. Government schools have failed miserably at teaching basic civics. So has the media. (The more skeptical among us might even note that government benefits enormously from having the public ignorant about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.)

As the great libertarian writer Harry Browne pointed out: “If the American people are to learn the importance of limited, Constitutional government, we have to teach them ourselves.” We have the power to reach those closest to us, and to reach — via letters, speeches, social media and many other ways — millions more Americans as well. Are you ready?

Prepare to Meet the New Republican Leaders; Same as the Old Republican Leaders

in Conservatism, Elections and Politics, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

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

In an unexpected move, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced on Friday that he would resign his post and leave Congress at the end of October. His resignation came at a time when conservative members of the lower chamber were waging an internal battle to strip funding for Planned Parenthood, a women’s healthcare provider that performs abortions, which could’ve resulted in a government shutdown.

Boehner has long been a target of conservatives in the Republican Party who feel that he is disconnected from or doesn’t care about the concerns of the base. In January, at the start of the new Congress, 25 Republicans cast protest votes against Boehner, nearly throwing the election of the Speaker into a second round of voting.

“My mission every day is to fight for a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government. Over the last five years, our majority has advanced conservative reforms that will help our children and their children. I am proud of what we have accomplished,” Boehner said on Friday. “The first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution that we all love. It was my plan to only serve as Speaker until the end of last year, but I stayed on to provide continuity to the Republican Conference and the House.”

“It is my view, however, that prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution. To that end, I will resign the Speakership and my seat in Congress on October 30,” he added.

Jockeying for position in the House Republican Conference began before Boehner resigned. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., had introduced a resolution to vacate the Office of the Speaker before the August recess. Although the resolution wasn’t expected to get even a hearing, a motion from the floor could’ve been raised at any time and a vote would’ve been required. It was unclear if Boehner would’ve survived without Democratic support.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was thought to be Boehner’s heir apparent before the resignation, and not much has changed. Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., the former Speaker of the Florida House, has announced that he’ll run as a conservative alternative, but no one believes he’ll mount a serious challenge.

The real race will be to replace McCarthy as Majority Leader. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., announced his bid for the top partisan post, as has House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga. Both are typically viewed as more conservative members of the House Republican Conference, but Price is likely to attract the most support from that wing of the party.

Still, don’t expect much to change with the new leadership team. Unless there is a serious about face on spending, civil liberties, and other big government policies that contradict the Republican Party’s supposedly limited government platform, the new House leadership will be the same as the old: Stale and weak.

Lawsuit Challenging the Exclusion of Qualified Candidates from Presidential Debates is Filed in Washington, DC

in Elections and Politics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Brett Bittner Comments are off

Lawsuit Challenging the Exclusion of Qualified Candidates from Presidential Debates is Filed in Washington, DC

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

2012 presidential candidates Gov. Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, along with the Libertarian and Green parties and their vice-presidential candidates, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, DC, today charging that the exclusion of qualified candidates from the general election presidential debates by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) violates federal anti-trust laws.

The lawsuit is funded by the Our America Initiative, a not-for-profit advocacy organization, through their Fair Debates project, https://www.fairdebates.com. It was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by the Our America Initiative’s attorney Bruce Fein, who served as Associate Deputy Attorney General and General Counsel to the Federal Communications Commission under the Reagan Administration.

presidential debatesThe legal challenge maintains that the Commission on Presidential Debates, a private 501©(3) organization created in 1987 by the Republican and Democratic national parties, intentionally limits participation in the nationally-televised debates to the Democrat and Republican nominees – placing other national party nominees at an unfair disadvantage. According to the complaint, other candidates are excluded by imposing arbitrary polling criteria, and the possibility of additional nationally-televised debates being sponsored by anyone other than the CPD is eliminated by agreements among the CPD and the two major party nominees forbidding participation in other debates or joint appearances.

The proposed remedy is that the debates include all candidates who are legally qualified to serve and whose names appear on enough states’ ballots to potentially secure a majority in the Electoral College.  In 2012, that threshold would have allowed participation, in addition to President Obama and Mitt Romney, by the Libertarian nominee Gov. Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein, as well as the two parties’ vice-presidential nominees.

Announcing the filing of the complaint, Our America Initiative Senior Advisor Ron Nielson stated, “A majority of Americans today do not believe that either the Republican or Democratic parties represents them. Yet, through the Commission on Presidential Debates, the two major parties have seized and maintained control over the televised debates voters see every four years, and have gone to great lengths to insure that no candidates other than their own have the opportunity to appear on the debate stage. This lawsuit seeks to change that, and give the American people a chance to see that there are other real choices.”

The Good and the Bad of Donald Trump’s White Paper on Guns

in Elections and Politics, Gun Rights, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

The Good and the Bad of Donald Trump’s White Paper on Guns

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

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has shifted away from his previous support of some gun control policies, including longer waiting periods and a ban on “assault weapons.” Although his campaign is general devoid of any meaningful or specifics on policy, Trump released a white paper last week that offers support for the Second Amendment.

AK47

The white paper opposes restrictions on firearms, such as “assault weapons,” that are usually targeted by the anti-gun left. But this is a departure for Trump, who, in his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, expressed support for a ban on this type of firearm.

“The Republicans walk the NRA line and refuse even limited restrictions,” Trump wrote. “I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.” (Emphasis added.) Trump was, at the time, considering a bid for the Reform Party’s presidential nomination.

Today, Trump, as he does on many different issues, sings a different tune. “Gun and magazine bans are a total failure. That’s been proven every time it’s been tried. Opponents of gun rights try to come up with scary sounding phrases like ‘assault weapons’, ‘military-style weapons’ and ‘high capacity magazines’ to confuse people. What they’re really talking about are popular semi-automatic rifles and standard magazines that are owned by tens of millions of Americans,” Trump’s white paper states. “Law-abiding people should be allowed to own the firearm of their choice. The government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own.”

He opposes expanded background checks and supports allowing the military to carry weapons on base and at recruiting centers. In the months after the Newtown tragedy, conservatives resisted a failed attempt to expand background checks, which wouldn’t have stopped that particular incident from occurring, and, after the recent shooting at a military recruiting center in Chattanooga, have expressed support for allowing recruiters to carry weapons on the job.

One particular policy proposed by Trump is likely to strongly appeal to conservatives. He supports “national right to carry,” which would make concealed carry permits valid in every state and the District of Columbia, much like a driver’s license. “A driver’s license works in every state, so it’s common sense that a concealed carry permit should work in every state,” Trump says. “If we can do that for driving – which is a privilege, not a right – then surely we can do that for concealed carry, which is a right, not a privilege.”

While this policy is attractive and worth of support – and at least three pieces of legislation have been introduced in the current Congress to achieve that goal – one aspect of Trump’s white paper is particularly troubling. He expresses support for a little known federal program, known as “Project Exile,” that existed in Richmond, Virginia in the 1990s.

“Several years ago there was a tremendous program in Richmond, Virginia called Project Exile. It said that if a violent felon uses a gun to commit a crime, you will be prosecuted in federal court and go to prison for five years – no parole or early release. Obama’s former Attorney General, Eric Holder, called that a ‘cookie cutter’ program. That’s ridiculous. I call that program a success,” the white paper states. “Murders committed with guns in Richmond decreased by over 60% when Project Exile was in place – in the first two years of the program alone, 350 armed felons were taken off the street.”

From 1993 to 2010, violent crime fell across the United States. The Pew Research Center found that the gun homicide rate fell by 49 percent from its peak level in 1993 and the victimization rate for other violent crimes committed with firearms, including rape, dropped by 75 percent.

“Nearly all the decline in the firearm homicide rate took place in the 1990s,” Pew noted, “the downward trend stopped in 2001 and resumed slowly in 2007. “ Theories on what caused the decline in crime rates vary, but economist Steven Levitt, known for the best-selling book, Freakonomics, has written that changes in policing strategies and gun control didn’t have much of an impact.

Project Exile was a federal program created in 1997 that targeted felons in possession of firearms. It brought these cases to federal court, where offenders faced a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence.

Trump’s praise of Project Exile may be misguided. A 2003 study called into question its effectiveness as a deterrent to violent crime. “Despite this widespread acclaim, some skeptics have questioned the effectiveness of Project Exile, pointing out that homicides increased in Richmond in the last ten months of 1997 following the program’s announcement,” the authors explained. “In fact, the Richmond homicide rate increased by 40 percent between 1996 and 1997.”

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., who represents part of Richmond and the surrounding area, blasted Project Exile in a speech on the House floor in April 2000. “The mandatory minimums associated with Project Exile show no better results. The proponents suggest that the violent crime rate has gone down 39 percent in the city of Richmond under Project Exile,” Scott said. “At the same time it went down 43 percent in Norfolk, 58 percent in Virginia Beach and 81 percent in Chesapeake without Project Exile.”

Trump’s white paper may offer a good idea, national right to carry, combined with fluff in contradiction to his previous statements, but programs like Project Exile are bad policy that are better handled under state law. What’s more, it defies logic. Violent crime is at its lowest point in the last couple decades. Unfortunately, the politics of fear are politicians need to succeed to win support from people who simply don’t know better.

The Religious Test Clause and Muslims

in Conservatism, Elections and Politics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

The Religious Test Clause and Muslims

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

Ben Carson raised more than a few eyebrows on Sunday when he said that a Muslim should never be considered for the presidency. The retired neurosurgeon and Republican presidential hopeful was responding to a question from Meet the Press host Chuck Todd when he made the Islamophobic comment.

“Should a president’s faith matter? Should your faith matter to voters?” Todd asked Carson.

“Well, I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter,” Carson replied. “But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, no problem.”

Todd followed up by asking Carson if he believes Islam is consistent with the Constitution. Carson didn’t hesitate. “No, I do not,” he said. “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” He did say, however, that he would consider voting for a Muslim for Congress, which he said is a “different story,” if he agreed with their policies.

Carson is among the presidential candidates who have made railing against Islam a frequent theme of their campaigns. This rhetoric may appeal a part of the Republican Party’s ultra-conservative base, but it’s disappointing to hear coming from anyone with a large following.

Of course Carson is free to set his own criteria for voting for a candidate. Every voter has that right, and some did against the 2012 Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon. But let’s be clear here, Article VI, Clause 3 of the Constitution states: “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” (Emphasis added.)

The framers of the Constitution had their reasons for adding the language. “First, various Christian sects feared that, if any test were permitted, one might be designed to their disadvantage. No single sect could hope to dominate national councils. But any sect could imagine itself the victim of a combination of the others,” Gerard Bradley explains. “More importantly, the Framers sought a structure that would not exclude some of the best minds and the least parochial personalities to serve the national government.”

Any suggestion that a candidate for federal office should be subjected to a religious test should is itself inconsistent with the Constitution. And, no, “but Sharia law” isn’t a valid response. It’s a half-cocked conspiracy theory, but that’s what passes for political and policy discussion today in the United States, at least in some circles.

Libertarian Parenting

in Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Marriage and Family by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

Libertarian Parenting

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

Me: What are the rules of the house?
BA (10): Do not encroach on the person or property of another. Do all you have agreed to do. [We took those rules directly from Richard Maybury.]11988564_10104815737879530_1104378496462959819_n
Me: Who has to obey the rules?
BA: Everyone in the house?
Me: Me and Dad?
BA: Yes.
Me: What if you don’t want to obey those rules?
BA: You can ask if you can change the rules.
Me: Who would you ask?
BA: It depends on who is in a good mood.
Me: Young Statesman, what are your thoughts? What if you don’t want to obey the rules? Do you only lose the constraint?
YS: You lose the protection that the rules provide you.
Me: What does that make you?
YS: An outlaw. Fair game.
Me: So, BA, what would you think if we said, “Great. You don’t want the constraints or the protection of the rules, there are more of us, we’re going to take your stuff!”
BA: I’d be like, “That was a bad choice. I take that back.”
Me: So you think those are good rules.
BA: Yeah.
Me: Are they rules you’ll take with you into adulthood?
BA: I think so.
Me: What if you met someone who didn’t obey those rules?
BA: I would be quite upset.
Me: What would you call that person?
BA: A thief.
Me: Are you free to leave the family?
YS: Yes. I’m not going to.
Me: So you’re here voluntarily?
YS: Yep.
Me: How can that be? What recourse do you have? Isn’t it dangerous just to leave?
YS: You would help me find a good home that suited me better.
Me: That’s true. That’s a big part of being a member of this family. You are free to go. Your father and I both agree on that point. He is free to leave, I am free to leave, you are free to leave, your brother is free to leave. How do you think it impacts our parenting to know that we have agreed that you can walk away–right now–and not look back?
YS: It makes you think about your actions and consequences.
Me: Does that make us perfect parents?
YS: No.
Me: Why don’t you leave?
YS: Because I love you all and you are my family.
Me: What if we were oppressive?
YS: You aren’t so how would I know what I would do?
Me: So if we were prone to being oppressive we wouldn’t give you the option to walk away.
YS: Right. If you’re going to be oppressive you aren’t going to give the kid the option to safely walk away.
Me: But you’re given the right to walk away when you’re eighteen, right? Earlier if you become an emancipated minor. So eventually everyone has the right to rid themselves of relationships they find abusive or broken. We’ve just given it to you earlier. Why would we do that?
YS: Because you want to be respectful of me.
Me: It also keeps us honest. Knowing that you can leave us. It levels the field. What if I couldn’t leave my marriage to your father?
YS: That would make you a slave and he could do anything.
Me: Would that be healthy?
YS: No. You couldn’t do anything. You would have no power.
Me: There has to be balance. We decided early on that our relationships had to be balanced. You had to have the right to leave. Your father and I agreed to that with one another. That’s our agreement. If one of us refuses to make leaving the family a safe option for a child, the other is the fail safe. They will guarantee your safe departure and survival until you are old enough to make it on your own. Are there other adults who would assist you if your dad and I suddenly lost it?
YS: Yes.
Me: Miss Katy, Miss Alison, Miss Karen, Mr. Jamie, The Whites, Scott. Would they help you?
YS: Yes, they would. But I’m not leaving.

We have this conversation about every six months. Just so he knows his father and I remain bound by this rule. We check in. They know the rules of our union as a family and they know that removing themselves safely is an option guaranteed to them as members of this family. Particularly as they become young adults with all that adulthood brings with it, I think having the option to walk away is fundamental.

Would You Double Down on Big Government?

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

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

Last month, after serving mid to low-income neighborhoods for nearly 60 years, Double 8 Foods made the decision to close all five of their Indianapolis locations following many years of declining revenues. Immediately, community leaders turned to city government for an answer, asking the Mayor to find a workable solution. The “food desert” in areas that could not support the chain’s five locations quickly became an issue for candidates in this fall’s mayoral election.

double downRather than waiting the couple weeks it took to begin “talks” with Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, one prominent community leader took only a few days to mobilize a shuttle service to minimize the impact of the stores’ closures in the short-term. That leader is Senior Pastor of Barnes United Methodist Church on Indianapolis’ westside Charles R. Harrison.

Waiting for Big Government to come along to solve this problem is not an option for Harrison and the area churches in the communities that these stores served. They jumped into action by providing transportation with their church vans from the now-closed Double 8 stores to other grocery stores unreachable by foot and cumbersome to navigate by IndyGo, Indianapolis’ mass transit bus system.

Reverend Harrison also led by example, driving the shuttle himself while recruitment efforts for volunteers to handle the thrice-daily trips for the neighborhood bore fruit. Churches in the affected areas quickly followed suit, shuttling dozens of former Double 8 shoppers to Aldis, Safeways, and Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets just a few miles away.

One candidate for Indianapolis mayor identified it as a problem, pledging “to work with state, federal and local leaders to explore bringing more food options to the city,” while the other wants to use “economic incentives” to attract grocery retailers to these areas and use the tax dollars collected to fund neighborhood improvements. Both mayoral candidates clearly favor a slow-moving Big Government solution, while residents seek to meet the immediate need of stocking their pantries and refrigerators.

While Harrison’s efforts are clearly an interim measure to minimize the pain felt by area residents, it provides a bridge to what happens next in the city, in a peaceful and voluntary way. This week, donations to defray the costs of the shuttle service began to appear at the church and at the shuttle stops, so it’s possible this initiative may become a full-fledged program until new or existing grocers, co-ops, or community gardens fill the void.

Isn’t it awesome when people come together without coercion or force to do some good?

Now that you see how immediately someone can act to help the most vulnerable among us without outsourcing responsibility to Big Government, what can you do in your neighborhood or city to address an issue before government can step in and likely make things worse, like they did recently?

Just two years ago, Midwest retailer Meijer showed interest in building a superstore that included full grocery options just a mile and a half south of the closed Double 8 where Reverend Harrison’s shuttle meets riders daily. The store’s planned footprint would have required Meijer to purchase 35 area homes for demolition, many of which were already abandoned by their owners, but “not in my backyard activists” swarmed to have the city stop the proposed build, pushing Meijer out of the project and across town by almost six miles or nearly an hour by city bus.

In past messages I’ve asked that you no longer outsource responsibility to government to help those in need. In just over a week, there is an example that I can reference that is local.

Can you imagine the positive response you could elicit if you took on the challenge of solving an issue in your neighborhood or city?

As a former school board member, I can tell you that access to books is an issue in many neighborhoods, and a small book drive for families in your area or a Little Free Library would make a world of difference.

As someone who lives in an urban area, I can attest to the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in the “food deserts.” Some urban gardeners could teach valuable skills, while providing some fresh food alternatives to the processed and pre-packaged junk available in convenience stores and drive thrus.

As a firm believer in being a positive example for someone, I cannot begin to tell you how much just a couple hours a month as a mentor can change the life of someone who needs to know that there is more in their future than what they may have today.

Will you take a look and see how you can be a shining libertarian example and solve a problem without Big Government?

Really, Almost Most Everyone in Congress Should be Thrown Out of Office

in Elections and Politics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Really, Almost Most Everyone in Congress Should be Thrown Out of Office

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

On Tuesday, surprisingly, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., filed a resolution to declare the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives vacant, which, he said, is meant to serve an expression of dissatisfaction with Republican leadership in the lower chamber.

Congress“It’s really more about trying to have a conversation about making this place work,” Meadows said, “where everybody’s voice matters, where it’s not a punitive culture.”

H. Res. 385, which is non-privileged, has absolutely no chance of passage in the normal legislative process. It would never get out of committee, for example. Republican leaders would never allow that to happen. Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, against whom the resolution is directed, dismissed the tactic at a press conference on Wednesday.

There is another way, however. Meadows or any other member of the House could make a privileged motion from the floor, however, which would require a vote within 48 hours. Considering that 29 Republicans voted against Boehner in the election for Speaker in January, it’s quite possible that a few defections, provided the original group sticks together, could throw House Republicans in turmoil.

H. Res. 385 is a strongly worded condemnation of Boehner’s tenure as Speaker, which began in January 2011, listening several infractions that necessitate removal. “Whereas the Speaker has, through inaction, caused the power of Congress to atrophy, thereby making Congress subservient to the executive and judicial branches, diminishing the voice of the American people,” the resolution states. “Whereas the Speaker uses the power of the office to punish Members who vote according to their conscience instead of the will of the Speaker.”

“Whereas the Speaker uses the legislative calendar to create crises for the American people, in order to compel Members to vote for legislation,” the resolution continues. “Whereas the Speaker does not comply with the spirit of the rules of the House of Representatives, which provide that Members shall have three days to review legislation before voting,” it adds before declaring the office of the Speaker vacant.

Still, the resolution, whatever Meadows meant by it, does make one think. Boehner’s lack of respect for process or the strong-arming of members may bother the North Carolina Republican, but let’s go further. Most on Capitol Hill, regardless of party, have little regard for the rules and limitations on the federal government defined in the Constitution or the individual liberties protected by the Bill of Rights.

Really, why stop at Boehner? That’s not a knock against Meadows. His complaints are about the process by which the House is run, and they are entirely valid and worthy of discussion.

Looking at the bigger picture, there may be a handful of members who’ve stayed true to their oaths of office. Others have passed laws to spy on Americans, expand government to impose mandates on states and the American people, created a fourth branch of government – the regulatory state – that promulgated rules that were never approved by lawmakers, and plunged the nation further and further into debt by doling out money for programs that are blatantly unconstitutional.

For too long, Americans have allowed politicians to scare us with crises – including the Great Depression, World War II, and the War on Terror. “Don’t just stand there, do something!” we cry, while the great document that protects or liberties from government is erased word by word. We’ve signed our liberties away in favor of purported economic and national security.

Of course, no member of Congress is going to thrown his or herself out of office, but we do have a serious problem in the United States. It doesn’t begin or end with Boehner. Ultimately, it begins with “We the People.” It’s truly a sad state of affairs.

Do Libertarian Ideas Go Too Far?

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

Do Libertarian Ideas Go Too Far?

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

Question:

Ron SwansonI am coming around to libertarian ideas, but so many libertarian policies, while moving in the right direction, seem to go way too far. For instance, the idea of no taxation, only user fees, seems great. But it seems that some taxation would be necessary to pay government workers, maintain ambassadors and embassies to other nations, host state visits from other nations, and (a necessary evil) pay lawyers to defend the government against lawsuits, as well as a host of other little things that there couldn’t be a user fee for. Can zero taxation really stand up to reason?

Answer:

Yes!

Government workers would be paid by those individuals or groups that made their employment necessary. Lawyers defending the government in lawsuits, for example, would be paid for by the guilty party. Since government officials would not enjoy sovereign immunity in a libertarian society, they could be liable for attorney fees and damages for any wrongdoing. In other answers posted on the Web site, I’ve detailed the mechanism by which restitution could be made.

Since a libertarian government would not be restricting trade between nations, establishing embargoes, setting tariffs, handing out taxpayer guaranteed loans, etc., our top officials would not be wining and dining dignitaries from other countries as they do today. Naturally, heads of state from other countries could visit the U.S. at their own expense. Without the ability to pick the U.S. taxpayer’s pocket, however, few would bother.

If embassies were maintained in foreign nations, they would be supported by fees from travelers or others who might utilize their services.

Today, those who are too poor to travel pay taxes to support services for people who can afford to see the world. Taxes are one way in which government makes the poor poorer and the rich richer.


Editor’s Note: As former Advocates President Sharon Harris notes in this article from a past edition of the Liberator Online, making the case for ending the income tax is not a difficult task. One thing to consider when discussing libertarian ideas is the concept of the Overton window, which can be raised with a little help from this post from that same issue.

 

#TRUMPED

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

#TRUMPED

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

He leads the polls among Republicans seeking the 2016 Presidential nomination.

He insulted a previous Republican nominee for that office and refused to apologize.

He even gave out another candidate’s personal cell phone number at a rally in that candidate’s home state.

To whom am I referring?

Donald TrumpDonald Trump. A businessman, a real estate mogul, a television personality, and, right now, the man who is DOMINATING the political news with his “boisterous personality.”

He made inflammatory statements about our southern neighbors and Mexican immigrants. He flaunted his immense wealth in a complaint about financial reporting. One national news outlet publicly relegated their coverage of him to the Entertainment section, rather than Politics.

His campaign style can only be described as a brash, insulting spectacle.

Trump is also a political enigma that stymies the traditional candidates, as they ponder whether to rush to be more like him to get their faces on television or to distance themselves from him.

Regardless of these things and his political positions (or lack thereof), Trump captivates the American public today.

He does that on style alone.

In an era where word choice, tone, and even tie color are polled and run by focus groups, he is the opposite. He is a candidate that seems to have no filter.

Americans are DESPERATE for something different from the traditionally bland selection of Governors, Senators, and Congressmen that seek the Presidency. Take a look at the campaigns of Herman Cain (2012), Dr. Ben Carson (2016), and Carly Fiorina (2016), none of whom brought with them any prior political experience in elected office.

Today, voters get that with Donald Trump. They also get flamboyance, cash, and a penchant for saying things that others would never dare say. Couple that with the desperation for something DIFFERENT, and he easily pushed to the front of a crowded field of Republicans.

Does he talk about meaningful issues? Or are people just enamored by his celebrity, his insults, and his ability to grab their attention?

Is he really a part of the debate? Or is the spectacle just something to watch?

What happens when people take a closer look? I think we all remember the media scrutiny with the also-rans in 2012 after their moment in the sun.

Do the voters really want another wealthy elite, albeit from the beneficiary side of Big Government, in charge? Maybe a better question is, will Trump’s still undefined political positions resonate with voters once the shine of his splashy entrance dulls and fades?

Maybe one of these days, someone who isn’t part of “the club” will get a chance to talk about the real issues we face and how freedom, rather that Big Government, is the catalyst to our return to peace, prosperity, and the republic the Founders envisioned.

I look forward to that day.

New Poll Shows Libertarians Represent One-Fifth of Voters

in Elections and Politics, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

New Poll Shows Libertarians Represent One-Fifth of Voters

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

In August, The New York Times ran a piece proclaiming that the United States’ political landscape was in the in the midst of a “libertarian moment.” The narrative may have focused some on Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and his strong libertarian leanings, but the story told was much deeper and, perhaps, a sign of a generational shift in American politics.

Still, some view the “libertarian moment” as a blip on radar. Old narratives, such as the stale left-right political paradigm, are repeated on television and talk radio shows by the pundit class, who are ignorant to changing attitudes and growing discontent with increasingly irrelevant political institutions.

Poll

Over the last several years, polling firms have tried to make sense of the rise of libertarians. In 2006, David Boaz and David Kirby of the Cato Institute analyzed polling data and found that 9 percent to 14 percent of the voting public held libertarian views. These voters, the authors suggested, were fiercely independent, and frustrated by the growth of government under President George W. Bush.

Boaz and Kirby released follow-ups to their 2006 report in 2010 and 2012, with occasional analyses of polling data mixed in between. Kirby and Emily Ekins of the Reason Foundation also released a thoughtful look at the roots of the Tea Party movement in 2012, finding a strong libertarian streak.

Although there is no looming libertarian takeover of the United States, subscribers to the philosophy find themselves gaining more influence, according to a recently released Reuters survey. In particular, the data show millennials – those between the ages of 18 and 29 – more likely to label themselves as libertarians.

“One in five Americans consider themselves libertarian, with younger adults being the most likely to adopt the label,” Reuters noted. “Among adults aged 18 to 29, 32 percent consider themselves libertarian. Just 12 percent of Americans age 60 or older consider themselves libertarian.”

Surprisingly, 22 percent of self-identified libertarians are Democrats to only 19 percent are Republicans, while 25 percent are politically independent.

It may be too early to draw any conclusions about what the data suggest, but it’s becoming clear that libertarians are becoming a subset of the body politic that is difficult for the political class to ignore. Those who do may be doing so at their own peril.

For libertarians, it’s crucial not to misread this growing trend. Influencing policy debates through responsible activism and well-messaged education are the best courses of action, at least for now.

The Libertarian Vote: How Big Is It?

in Elections and Politics, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Now that Rand Paul has officially announced he is seeking the presidency, attention is being focused on the libertarian voting bloc. Just how big is it? How many libertarian-minded voters are out there?

The answer may surprise you.

First, it’s important to note that “libertarian voter” doesn’t necessarily mean a voter who meets the stricter definition of a libertarian, i.e., someone who consistently opposes the initiation of force. Rather, it refers to someone who would be inclined to vote for a libertarian candidate in an election. Someone who is more supportive of libertarian ideas than liberal, conservative, statist or centrist ideas.

Different organizations have used different methods to determine the size of this libertarian bloc. And they’ve come up with some pretty consistent estimates.

* For 20 years Gallup’s annual Governance Survey has divided voters into liberal, conservative, libertarian, or populist, based on their answers to two questions:

  1. “Some people think the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Others think that government should do more to solve our country’s problems. Which comes closer to your own view?”
  2. “Some people think the government should promote traditional values in our society. Others think the government should not favor any particular set of values. Which comes closer to your own view?”


In their 2014 survey Gallup classified 24% of respondents as libertarian (with 27% conservative, 21% liberal, and 18% populist). This is hardly a rigorous political litmus test, but it may well help single out voters who might be sympathetic to libertarianism.

  • The Cato Institute’s David Boaz has done a lot of work on this over the years, including an important 2012 book (with David Kirby Emily Ekins) that summarizes numerous polls by Cato and others on the topic: The Libertarian Vote: Swing Voters, Tea Parties, and the Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal Center.
    They conclude that, depending on the criteria used, roughly 15-18% of voters can be classified as “libertarian voters.”
  • A 2006 Zogby poll, commissioned by Cato, found surprising results. Zogby asked half of a group of 1,012 people who had voted in the 2006 election: “Would you describe yourself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal?” Fully 59% of the respondents said “yes.”
    Zogby asked the other half a more challenging question: “Would you describe yourself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, also known as libertarian?” A surprising 44% of respondents — representing 100 million Americans — answered “yes” to that question, thus self-identifying as libertarians. This is obviously higher than the number of true libertarians in America, but certainly it at least indicates that millions of people are open to these ideas and this label.
  • Finally, here’s an often-overlooked but remarkable finding — based on the Advocates’ World’s Smallest Political Quiz. In August 2000 Rasmussen gave the World’s Smallest Political Quiz to nearly 1,000 representative American voters. The Quiz is a far more rigorous test of one’s libertarian leanings than “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” or other looser definitions used by polling firms. Yet fully 16% scored in the libertarian sector then — a figure closely matching to the other estimates we’ve cited.

What can we conclude? While the numbers and the criteria in these studies vary, at the very least there is broad agreement on a figure between 15% to 20%. That’s 30 to 40 million voters — a huge, and growing, voting bloc that could easily swing an election.

Add to this the additional millions on the left, right, and center who may vote for a libertarian-leaning candidate who stresses issues of great importance to them — such as a more peaceful foreign policy, marijuana re-legalization, slashing taxes, and reforming the out-of-control surveillance state.

Which brings us back to Rand Paul’s presidential run announcement. Rand Paul doesn’t claim to be a libertarian. He has described himself as “libertarian-ish” and in 2013 told Sean Hannity “I use the term constitutional conservative, but I also use the term libertarian conservative. … I accept all of those terms if they mean they believe in limited government and more individual liberty.”

But he is certainly the most libertarian-inclined presidential candidate — outside the Libertarian Party — in memory. Cato’s Boaz notes in TIME what may well be the most important thing to come out of a Rand Paul campaign:

“One result of his campaign will be to help those tens of millions of libertarian-leaning Americans to discover that their political attitudes have a name, which will make for a stronger and more influential political faction. … Libertarianism is the framework for a future of freedom, growth, and progress, and it may be on the verge of a political breakout.”

Is Liberty Doomed — or Inevitable?

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

I’ve heard both of these arguments for many years:

1.) “The libertarian cause is doomed. People will never understand liberty; even those who do understand it don’t want it. So why should I waste my time in such a futile cause?”

and:

2.) “Libertarianism is certain to succeed. The state cannot out-compete the marketplace. Given time, the superiority of the market will inevitably lead to a libertarian society. So why should I spend my time working on what will come about inevitably anyway?”

Ironically, both arguments lead many people to stop working for liberty, to stop supporting libertarian causes, to turn their back on the freedom movement.

I think both arguments are wrong.

I certainly believe that liberty is winning — in fact, our ideas are spreading at an incredible pace. I speak from experience. I’ve been in the libertarian movement since the early 1970s, when almost no one believed these ideas — when the joke used to be: “How many libertarians can fit into a phone booth? Answer: all of them.”

Today no one would even understand that joke. Libertarians are everywhere, and libertarianism is constantly discussed in the media. It’s nothing less than a sea change — a true rEVOLution.

Sure, I wish things were moving even faster. But the logic of our ideas is winning us converts daily, while the Big Government left and right are increasingly seen as bankrupt.

But liberty is NOT inevitable. Our ideas are fighting other powerful ideas and movements in the marketplace of ideas. There’s no guarantee those ideas won’t defeat our own. Their proponents are certainty trying hard to make that happen. Have you noticed the many attacks on libertarianism recently, by scholars, journalists, pundits, politicians, and other influential people?

A major reason libertarianism has seen such great success in recent years is because untold thousands of people have worked so hard, and contributed so much, to bring us to this point.

You yourself learned about liberty from someone. Maybe someone gave you a copy of the #libertyWorld’s Smallest Political Quiz.

Maybe you heard a libertarian candidate or speaker on television or radio.

Maybe you read a book or article written by a libertarian writer.

However you learned about libertarianism, it was because someone, in some way, reached out to you. That person, too, learned from someone else.

And that outreach was backed up by a network of libertarian organizations that have worked for decades to create a powerful movement ready with information and opportunities for people who want to make a difference in the world.

Those organizations didn’t spring up out of the ground by magic. They were only possible because someone — someone like you — years ago decided that this cause was so important they wanted to make sure these organizations existed, so that people like you could learn about liberty and the liberty movement.

For almost thirty years the Advocates has been a vital part of the libertarian movement. Our mission is a unique one. We help people encounter and learn about the ideas of liberty — and we provide them with the best methods and tools to help them, in turn, take those ideas to others.

The Advocates has helped millions of people encounter, evaluate and embrace the ideas of liberty. And we’ve helped countless libertarians become highly successful in convincing others to accept these ideas.

Our World’s Smallest Political Quiz has been taken online over 22 million times. Thousands of people take it each month, learning more about their political views and discovering libertarianism.

The Quiz has reached additional millions through newspapers, magazines, OPH booths, over 10 million card copies, textbooks, talk radio, and many other ways.

The Liberator Online — you’re reading it right now — takes information about liberty, the liberty movement, and the best ways to communicate libertarian ideas to over 30,000 subscribers.

We reach out in many other ways, too. New technology offers incredible opportunities. I recently did an online communication seminar from my office in Georgia with a group of libertarian students in Arizona. That would have been inconceivable just a few years ago.

But it still comes down to you. You — your activism, your donations, your outreach to friends, neighbors, families and others — make the work of the Advocates, and the growth of the liberty movement, possible.

Your participation is vital. The future of liberty — for yourself, your family, the world — will be shaped by the actions of the libertarians of today.

This is incredibly important. Liberty matters. The lives and well-being of millions of people are at stake.

Your efforts make a difference. Your participation in the struggle is essential.

As the great libertarian economist Ludwig von Mises said:

“No one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result.”

Victory is NOT inevitable. But our ideas are moving forward, and there is great reason for optimism.

When you contribute to the work of the Advocates — or other worthy libertarian organizations — you are helping move the world in the right direction. You are making a real difference.

DonateJust as someone, once, did for you.

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Libertarian Candidates Pledge: Abolish the Income Tax

in Drugs, Economic Liberty, Elections and Politics, Liberator Online, Libertarian Party, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Libertarianism, Military, Taxes by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Scores of Libertarian Party candidates for federal office have pledged to downsize the Abolish The IRSbloated federal government — in these big and specific ways:

  • Eliminate the federal income tax
  • End the War on Drugs
  • Abolish the NSA
  • Cut military spending by 60%

We’ll be examining those pledges in detail below and in the next few issues, because they show that these bold-sounding proposals are not only possible, but practical and beneficial. (Of course, you can jump ahead and read about all four positions right now.)

First, eliminating the hated federal income tax. The candidates pledge: “If elected, I will sponsor legislation to eliminate the federal income tax, cut federal spending to the 1998 level ($1.65 trillion), and get the IRS off the backs of taxpayers.”

(Yes, that’s right: government has grown so rapidly in recent times that if you cut spending to 1998 levels — the Clinton era of huge government — you could eliminate the federal income tax.)

Here are the benefits of eliminating the income tax, according to the Libertarians:

  • Immediately balances the budget — without raising taxes.
  • Gives back, on average, $11,525 to each American family — every year — that they can invest, save, spend, or give away as they see fit.
  • Pours $1.4 trillion into the productive, private-sector economy, stimulating massive investment in small businesses and creating tens of millions of new private-sector jobs.
  • Stops the devaluation of the dollar and stabilizes prices, preserving American wealth.
  • Forces politicians to eliminate destructive federal programs, regulations, and bureaucracies that do more harm than good. Examples include: stifling business regulations, the prohibition of marijuana, unnecessary foreign wars, and thousands of frivolous projects best left to the private sector (e.g., promoting the Hawaiian Chocolate Festival).
  • Creates a boom in charitable giving. Trillions of dollars back in the hands of American taxpayers enables them to take care of others in need through their churches and private charities, and by giving directly to help friends, family, and community members in need.
  • Eliminates wasteful bookkeeping needed to comply with IRS tax filings and audits, saving Americans 6 billion hours of their precious time and up to $378 billion in accounting costs — every year.
  • Aborts the Democrats’ and Republicans’ plan to add another $5 trillion over the next eight years to the already perilously high $17 trillion federal government debt, sparing future generations from footing a bill they played no part in creating.
  • Frees up billions of dollars for Americans to spend on music, entertainment, crafts, and the arts, enabling talented individuals — now unemployed or working in jobs they don’t like — to do what they love for a living.
  • Forces politicians to eliminate government waste.
  • Stops the growth in the interest due on the federal debt, now at $237 billion per year. This will help minimize this expense if interest rates ever rise, which is likely.
  • Restores America’s reputation as the envy of the world, demonstrating that the American experiment of free, unfettered trade creates prosperity and alleviates poverty. This sets an example for poor countries, helping them rise from hardship to abundance.

 

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