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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?

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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.

Why Are People So Oblivious To Government’s Fiscal Follies?

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

Why Are People So Oblivious To Government’s Fiscal Follies?


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

Two years ago, I worked on an article that looked into a California coalition attempting to raise taxes on the wealthy without offering a justification for their efforts.

oblivious

At the time, I wasn’t just trying to understand why common Californians weren’t as concerned about the budget and the gloomy state of the local government’s finances, I was also trying to understand why anybody would simply ignore budgetary concerns anywhere in the country. After all, if the state notices it has run out of your money to pay its bills, the only way it has to make ends meet is to take more from taxpayers. Shouldn’t people be worried about that?

In order to find an answer to my question, I talked to Truth in Accounting (TIA)’s Founder and President Sheila Weinberg. And while I wasn’t surprised she was as smart as I would have imagined, I was in awe of the simple answer she gave me when discussing the importance of talking about balancing the budget before trying to raise taxes.

“The way it is now,” she calmly explained, “taxpayers can’t hold their elected officials accountable because they are getting more government than they are paying taxes for.”

As simple as it may sound, I thought, the fact that people are getting “more government than they are paying for” is exactly why they are not paying attention.

If the taxpayer isn’t bothered by the amount of taxes he pays, that might be because, perhaps, he isn’t paying for as many of the agencies, programs, and regulations as he is being told. Instead, governments (both local and federal) often run on creditsborrowingfederal grants, and yes, on taxes, but mostly they are always in the red, borrowing from future generations in order to pay for yesterday’s debt.

Taxpayers don’t notice their future is in jeopardy because they believe their taxes are covering it all — except they aren’t. So when higher taxes are announced or when local officials begin to talk about bankruptcy, individuals are often oblivious to how they got there.

As the tax burden grows, under those circumstances, taxpayers who are targeted and forced through legislation to give more end up fleeing to find greener pastures elsewhere, where they get to keep more of their money. As a result, the number of taxes being collected drops and entire cities (and sometimes states) break.

And it’s precisely because the overwhelming majority of locals simply get more government than they are paying for that they often ignore the warning signs that doomsday is just around the corner.

Cutting off the Nation to Spite the State

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Philosophy by Erik Andresen Comments are off

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Is libertarianism compatible with a more nationalist politics? Is it possible to have a free society that is largely closed to outsiders? The short answer is yes, but the way in which we (Americans specifically) conceive of the nation-state makes that question a little more complicated. Our rhetoric often revolves around the theme of shrinking (or eliminating) the State. But what of the Nation? What is the difference between a nation and a state?

StateThese two words are often combined into “nation-state.” A quick search of Google Ngram suggests that this compound is relatively new. This construction is not helpful in understanding these distinct concepts. A nation is a people, irrespective of location: Cherokee, Swede, Palestinian. A state is a government. A nation may form a state, but a state cannot create a nation, at least not a true nation. There is numerous example in which states have attempted to draw boundaries that did not accurately reflect real national territories, and war usually follows. In some cases, you may have multiple nations creating the state; Canada is a good example. The English, Inuit, and Québécois show that nations precede the state. A government too is just people. The point is that common governance has never been sufficient to create a nation.

If we do not understand this aspect of the current dialogue, libertarians risk losing the opportunity to message. Libertarianism (correctly) reduces many policy questions to interactions between individuals; we tend to shy away from discussing groups and tribes. Unfortunately for libertarians, most people tend to think in terms of group and tribal identities.

Our perspective doesn’t typically square with the current dialogue. Trump, Brexit (UK), Geert Wilders (the Netherlands), Marine Le Pen (France), Viktor Orban (Hungary), and Lega Nord (Northern Italy) are examples of nationalist candidates in the West whose campaigns and parties have performed historically well in recent elections. Their rhetoric is not very libertarian. They have opened wider the Overton Window, with national sovereignty, protectionism, cultural diversity, and mass immigration suddenly back on the table for discussion. Many writers have commented on the nationalist sentiment that seems to be sweeping much of the world. Depending on the writer, it is nearly always framed as either: open society vs. isolationist, or as globalism vs. nationalism.

How are we to persuade when most of our rhetoric only looks at individuals, with little room for larger, national conflicts? Let’s begin by listening to our friends. Are their positions based in fear? If so, do not dismiss their fears as insignificant. Why should they care about what we have had to say if we wholly reject their concerns or worldview? How can we hope to change hearts and minds if we don’t speak the same language? How can we reframe the conversation if we are not meaningfully involved in the discussion, to begin with? If we wish to influence, we must meet our friends and neighbors where they are at now.

 

The Libertarian USP

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Philosophy by Mike Sertic Comments are off

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As I mentioned in a recent issue of The Liberator Online, the Advocates finished its move from Indianapolis to Sacramento last month.  A colleague of mine was sorting through the treasure-trove of materials and resources that the Advocates has collected over the decades and stumbled upon something he then passed along for me to read.

USPWhat he shared was a powerful essay in the form of a pamphlet entitled “Persuasion versus Force” written by Mark Skousen in 1991.  In it, Skousen quotes an excerpt from the rather obscure book Adventures of Ideas written by Harvard professor and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead:

The creation of the world—said Plato—is the victory of persuasion over force…Civilization is the maintenance of social order, by its own inherent persuasiveness as embodying the nobler alternative.  The recourse to force, however unavoidable, is a disclosure of the failure of civilization, either in the general society or in a remnant of individuals…

Now the intercourse between individuals and between social groups takes one of these two forms: force or persuasion.  Commerce is the great example of intercourse by way of persuasion.  War, slavery and governmental compulsion exemplify the reign of force.

Skousen proceeds to acknowledge a truth all libertarians will recognize: “The triumph of persuasion over force is the sign of a civilized society.”  But, he adds, it is also a principle with which most citizens will agree, regardless of their liberal or conservative tendencies.

My friends on the left and the right will not dispute that persuasion is preferable to violence and force.  If they did, I would likely reevaluate our friendship.  However, it seems that only libertarians consistently view socio-political events from the persuasion-force perspective, and it is only libertarians who reject wholesale the use of force to promote one social agenda over another (through politics or otherwise).

In other words, it is within this framework that libertarianism’s unique selling proposition (USP) lies.  While it isn’t wrong to tout the fact that libertarians advocate for free markets, limited government, and peace, from a marketing perspective it leaves something to be desired.  After all, liberals and conservatives will, from time to time, pitch policy positions that align with the libertarian position—but not because they fundamentally reject force.  Unfortunately, Democrats and Republicans regularly embrace force over persuasion whenever it is deemed politically expedient to do so.

In my experience, the disconnect between people saying they reject force and then employing it through the political system is largely due to the fact that most people 1) do not recognize most forms of political coercion as being such (e.g. voting for and enforcement of bad laws), and 2) rationalize political coercion either as a defense mechanism against previous aggression (e.g. the “But he started it!” retaliation  argument), or as the only option (building roads).  It is our job as Advocates to continue to shine a light on these problems.

To me, anyone who consistently rejects force and employs persuasion in their personal, social and political relationships is acting as a libertarian.  I am unaware of any contemporary competing ideologies or political movements in America that embrace and advocate for the “nobler alternative” of peaceful, voluntary persuasion.  This is the libertarian USP.

Have your own take on libertarianism’s USP?  Write me at mike@theadvocates.org.  I’d like to hear about it.

Don’t Be Ugly To Others

in Freedom On Campus, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Philosophy by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

Don’t Be Ugly To Others

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The 1999 award-winning film, the Green Mile, tells the story of the lives of guards on death row who are affected by one of their charges: a large black man accused of heinous crimes against children.

uglyIn perhaps one of the most iconic scenes of the movie, John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) tells Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks), that he’s tired:

I’m tired, boss. Tired of bein’ on the road, lonely as a sparrow in the rain. Tired of not ever having me a buddy to be with, or tell me where we’re coming from or going to, or why.

Mostly I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world every day. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time. Can you understand?

Coffey’s famous line sums up how I’ve been feeling since the 2016 election: tired.
Tired of people being ugly to one another because they didn’t agree on their presidential vote, they did or didn’t march for something, because they just disagree.

In addition to countless social media arguments I’ve witnessed between friends and family, I’ve read stories about couples separating because of their disagreement about presidential picks. During inauguration weekend, I witnessed firsthand the destruction of private property. (Not to mention the names my friends and I were called just for attending the 58th inauguration.)

College campuses are also experiencing violent protests and seeing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage because their students don’t want someone on their campus who has different opinions than they do.

People obviously have the right to express themselves and end relationships as they see fit. But isn’t arguing about the election with your high school friends on Facebook kind of lame and petty? There’s a vast difference between having an open dialogue and downright, mean-spirited fighting.

People should be able to do what they want, so long as they can face the response to what they do.

Never is it acceptable to throw rocks, bricks or start fires in order to get one’s point across. These actions have a victim.

I, too, am tired of the fighting and of the ugliness. If we all took the time to breathe, a moment to truly listen to one another, then we might be able to eradicate some of the ugliness in this world.

The Importance of Being Self-Taught

in Education, Liberator Online, Philosophy by Morgan Dean Comments are off

Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Education Secretary this week. This was one of the most contentious and controversial confirmations in history. Those opposing her nomination cited a lack of experience in public education as a reason why she was unfit to serve.

taughtWith all the controversy, it’s important to consider another argument. It really shouldn’t matter who the Education Secretary is. The position shouldn’t exist. There should be no federal Department of Education, simply because it is impossible for one person to know how to meet the needs of every student in America.

Individually, standards set by the government regarding education don’t impact us as much as we think. This is because we should be setting our own individual standards. We should be striving to teach ourselves what we haven’t been taught in school.

Once students leave school, are they properly equipped to thrive in the post-secondary world? Probably not. This is why it is crucial that we strive to be self-taught.

Practical experience is the first facet of this. We learn by doing. I am a result of a public education in both high school and now college. However, I have learned more from the work I’ve done in my career than from my public schooling.

The second facet of being self-taught is reading. I am of the belief that reading for fun is just as important as educational reading, so long as you are doing both. Educational reading doesn’t always have to involve textbooks, though. Reading a book that you wouldn’t normally pick up is educational, as is reading a book on a subject you want to know more about.

The beauty of being self-taught is that you can learn absolutely anything with practice. You can become fluent in a foreign language, learn the customs of another country, or even pick up a new hobby or job skills, all from reading and doing.

I’m not saying that a public education is useless, not by a long shot. I recognize the benefits of it, but I do know that my love for reading comes from me teaching myself to read Shakespeare as a sixth grader.

So take a minute and realize that YOU have the power. You have the power to educate your children at home, and you have the power to learn anything you want by reading and then doing. Embrace that you are never too young or too old to become self-taught.

Oh, and If you love to read awesome books about libertarian principles maybe check out our book deal too.

What is the Non-Aggression Principle?

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

What is the Non-Aggression Principle?

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

QUESTION: What is the libertarian “non-aggression principle” (or “non-aggression axiom”)?

FistsMY SHORT ANSWER: Libertarianism is based on a single ideal, the non-aggression principle, so libertarian rhetoric tends to be remarkably consistent. Libertarians oppose the initiation of force to achieve social or political goals. They reject “first-strike” force, fraud or theft against others; they only use force in self-defense. Those who violate this “non-aggression principle” are expected to make their victims whole as much as possible. This “Good Neighbor Policy” is what most of us were taught as children. We were told not to lie, cheat, steal, not to strike our playmates unless they hit us first. If we broke a friend’s toy, we were expected to replace it.

Most of us still practice what we learned as children with other individuals, but we have grown accustomed to letting government aggress against others when we think we benefit. Consequently, our world is full of poverty and strife, instead of the harmony and abundance that freedom (i.e., freedom from aggression) brings.

Simply put, libertarians take the non-aggression principle that most people implicitly follow in their interactions with other individuals, and apply it to group actions, including government actions, as well.

You might have heard the Libertarian Party (LP) referred to as the “Party of Principle.” This is because the LP bases its programs and policy positions on the non-aggression principle.

What Paradise Lost Can Teach Us About Being Human

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Philosophy by Morgan Dean Comments are off

What Paradise Lost Can Teach Us About Being Human

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It’s no secret that, politically, this year has been unprecedented. Electoral politics have dominated every media source for over a year, making it impossible not to notice the ideological divide that has separated each of the political parties.

This has made one thing clear, our system is broken. This has created animosity on the national political stage that we have never seen before. With everything happening around us, sometimes we forget that we can make a difference, as humans, and that we don’t have to accept our broken political system.

Paradise LostIn Paradise Lost John Milton retells the Christian creation story of Adam and Eve. It is considered to be the story of “man’s first disobedience.” However, what is most important to consider is what that disobedience causes.

Milton writes that without Adam and Eve’s classic example of disobedience, God would never have been able to show his grace and love, creating a better outcome than if they hadn’t disobeyed him. We have this opportunity every day. As humans we are flawed, but this doesn’t mean we have to accept the flaws of our world, or even our broken political system. This means that we are given the opportunity to turn the negative into positive.

We can even see traits of humanity within Satan’s character. He went off on his own and created his own army, only to have nostalgic feelings for Heaven, asking himself why he couldn’t just be content in the presence of God.

In our world we have both good and evil. It is unavoidable, and as long as one exists, so will the other. We live in a world of contraries and we see that play out every day in politics. Peace vs. war. Love vs. hate. We must ask ourselves which side we want to fall on, then we must act.

What Paradise Lost teaches us is that it is a beautiful thing to be human and know both good and evil. As much pain as evil brings about, it also gives meaning to good. The difference between the two help us understand what we should seek, and what we must certainly should avoid.

Whether you believe that humans are innately good or evil, there is importance in remembering that we are all still human.. We must remember to first be good humans, THEN be good libertarians, but also remember that those two things can go hand in hand.

When Satan says that it is “better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven” is he right? It is better to pursue the existing evils for the sake of winning instead of turning the bad into good, reaching across party lines and working together to create long-term solutions?

Let’s Just Have A Computer Program Decide Everything

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

“Let’s Just Have A Computer Program Decide Everything”

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

On my way to Las Vegas last week for FreedomFest, I had a revelation about “efficient government” and why it does not appeal to me. At least, it does not appeal in the same way a free society does.

WALL-EAs we’ve seen many times, candidates for office will promise to make government more efficient, eliminate waste, and reduce its size. While I appreciate the sentiment and pragmatism of that message, as a libertarian, I can’t take it seriously.

When we encounter those in favor of efficient government over the freedom a libertarian society offers, I suggest we offer the following suggestion: “Let’s just have a computer program decide everything.”

When it comes to efficiency, a computer program can make the decisions currently made by bureaucrats administering the myriad government programs that exist today. If you think about it, we could eliminate the waste, fraud, and abuse by making programming the decision-making to execute the laws and regulations on the books. The savings made by this automation would certainly make government operate cheaper, and there would be fewer people employed by government.

As we saw in Back to the Future II’s vision for 2015, the legal system moved much more swiftly after they abolished all lawyers. While this was certainly more efficient, it likely wasn’t effective when it came to justice and the preservation of liberty.

Is that what libertarians are really seeking?

So, if you really think about it…if we make government more efficient, will we be freer?

 

 

Self-Government Goes To Those Who Show Up

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

Self-Government Goes To Those Who Show Up

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

As libertarians, we understand that personal responsibility is the price we are to pay for individual liberty.

Show UpWe discuss it at length when persuading others about how liberty works. We talk about how we (yes, you and I) will be responsible for one another in the absence of government programs that currently attempt to act as a safety net. We offer examples of our charity and entrepreneurship to prove that our fellow man will not go hungry, sleep in the streets, or be unable to read and write.

We know that our ideas and principles are the right ones to lead to a prosperous, peaceful, and harmonious society, so why aren’t we there yet?

Because, like those we’re trying to persuade, we’ve outsourced responsibility. Except that we have not outsourced responsibility to government. We’ve outsourced our responsibility to other libertarians.

We’ve outsourced that responsibility to libertarian candidates for office, their staff and volunteers, thinking that it’s their “turn” to spread the message, not ours.

We’ve outsourced that responsibility to libertarian think tanks, who work to deliver quality research, and statistics, and facts necessary to equip us with the right information.

We’ve outsourced that responsibility to libertarian activists, as they wave signs, work outreach booths, and persuade their friends, family, and neighbors about the beauty of a free society.

We’ve outsourced that responsibility to libertarian entrepreneurs, toiling to create the next Uber, AirBnB, or PayPal.

The price of personal responsibility is set, it’s non-negotiable, and it’s due every day. That price is showing up. Whether it is supporting candidates for office, sharing the mountains of data offered by our friends in think tanks and organizations in the libertarian sphere, attending an event, or using the goods and services that meet our needs, we need to pay the price daily.

If we don’t pay it, we fall behind. When we fall behind, we have to pay even more to catch up. Authoritarians count on us missing a payment, because they have their solution ready to go. They have the latest cure for society’s ills, and that intervention is government.

We ALL have busy lives, families, and hobbies calling for our time, attention, and effort, but we have to take responsibility for what we want in our lives. Much like the authoritarian way of outsourcing responsibility to government, we’ve outsourced it to other libertarians with the hope that their efforts will make up for a lack of them on our part.

Accept the call and take responsibility for a free society. You can’t wait for someone else to give you the freedom you deserve. You have to stop outsourcing responsibility and show yourself and others that we can do it.

If you aren’t going to show up to stake a claim for your life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, who will?

Education Theater

in Conversations With My Boys, Education, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Philosophy by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

Education Theater

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

I think education is a natural system that can’t be centrally planned. And yet, that’s exactly what we try to do with curriculum-and-textbook-based learning. Scope, sequence, grading children by age, all of that is done not for the sake of the child but for the sake of efficiently delivering lessons aimed at imparting skills and knowledge. We have the best intentions, but what is it getting us?

Theater-EducationWhat we’re finding is that we can throw skills and knowledge at them but unless it’s on the child’s timeline, when they’re interested, when it matters to them, it doesn’t stick. We’re wasting all kinds of time, effort, and patience re-teaching things that we taught when children weren’t interested or ready. We’re frustrating children and what we’re really teaching them is that education is an absurd, arbitrary exercise in memorizing what someone else deems worthy and promptly forgetting it once the test is over. This is a false efficiency. This is education theater.

Worse yet, perhaps, we ignore the individual’s strengths, genius, needs, desires, capacities, and dreams when we attempt to be efficient and to impose ‘education’ on them. What they’re really doing is creating themselves and I think in the best of all worlds the people who love them the most should be resources or facilitators or mentors in that process. Sometimes it seems to me that education is like a bad present. We’re shoved into the dreaded Christmas cardigan from Aunty Hortence and told to go thank her when what we really wanted, what we really needed, was the bike.

What do libertarians think about government banning medical marijuana and gun violence research?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarianism, Philosophy by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

What do libertarians think about government banning medical marijuana and gun violence research?

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Dr. Ruwart’s website

The only way that research on gun violence can be “banned” is to have government use guns—and gun violence, if necessary—to stop it. Libertarians Researchrecognize the inherent contradiction in letting government use gun violence to ban research on it!

Research on medical marijuana is banned for fear that the results wouldn’t support the Schedule I rating (high potential for abuse, no medical utility) on cannabis. This ban is reminiscent of the Catholic Church’s persecution of Galileo for pointing out that the earth revolves around the sun!

Libertarians don’t support bans, which stop people—at gunpoint, if necessary—from doing enlightening research. Banning the growth of knowledge is a form of thought control.

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?

Thank You, Libertarian Party!

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Libertarian Party, News From the Advocates for Self-Government, Philosophy by Sharon Harris Comments are off
(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)
Last week at its national convention, the Libertarian Party awarded me the greatest honor of my career.I was awarded the party’s Thomas Paine Award. The Thomas Paine Award is given by the Libertarian Party every two years to the Libertarian Party member “who has been an outstanding communicator of Libertarian ideas, principles, and values through written, published, or spoken communications.”
As someone who has spent the last two decades teaching libertarians to successfully communicate the ideas of liberty, there can be no greater professional honor for me.
I am deeply moved to receive this award, and I cannot thank the Libertarian Party enough for this recognition. It will inspire me to work even harder for our great cause.
In 2012 Advocates Chairman of the Board Jim Lark was given this same award, driving home the vital role the Advocates plays in this important field.The Libertarian Party national awards program began in 1996 with the Samuel Adams Award (for outstanding activism), the Thomas Paine Award (for outstanding communication of libertarian ideas), and the Thomas Jefferson Award (for lifetime achievement through 2010; from 2012 henceforth, for outstanding leadership).I think it speaks very highly of the Advocates that so many people associated with this organization have received these awards.Since 1996, only three people have won at least two of the awards: Harry Browne (1998 Thomas Paine Award, 2006 Thomas Jefferson Award); Jim Lark (2004 Samuel Adams Award, 2008 Thomas Jefferson Award, 2012 Thomas Paine Award); and me (2012 Thomas Jefferson Award, 2014 Thomas Paine Award).Advocates Chair Jim Lark is the only person who has won all three.Other longtime Advocates friends and associates who have won these prestigious awards are David Bergland (1998 Thomas Jefferson Award), Michael Cloud (2000 Thomas Paine Award), and Mary Ruwart (2004 Thomas Paine Award).And I was deeply moved this year when Hardy Macia — an Advocates Board member and longtime Advocates supporter who died last May — received the 2014 Samuel Adams Award recognizing outstanding LP activism.

Also at this convention, Harry Browne and ballot access expert and activist Richard Winger were inducted into the Libertarian Party’s new Hall of Liberty. Harry was a great friend of the Advocates. He did communication workshops with us, gave us the honor of publishing his great book Liberty A-Z: 872 Soundbites You Can Use Right Now!, and delivered his last speech at our 20th Anniversary Celebration just a few months before his death.

Richard Winger has been a friend of the Advocates for many years, and I have long admired his unique and important work. He has also advised Liberator Online editor James W. Harris on articles on ballot access issues.

Advocates people stayed busy at this year’s convention fulfilling our mission: helping libertarians become great communicators of the ideas of liberty.

I conducted three workshops the week of the convention: a workshop on effective communication; a workshop on how learning about personality types can help libertarians successfully present the ideas of liberty to everyone; and a communication workshop for the Libertarian State Leadership Alliance (LSLA) at their candidate training the day before the convention. Thanks to everyone who attended!

Jim Lark conducted a campus organizing workshop along with Students For Liberty co-founder and president Alexander McCobin. Advocates Board member Emily Salvette was chair of the Credentials Committee at the convention, a position she has held on previous occasions and for which she has drawn great praise.

Finally, the Advocates booth, featuring a wide variety of communication books and other tools, as well as some fun convention specials, was a big draw and was kept busy throughout the convention. A big thanks to Advocates Program Services Coordinator Dagny Smith and Brett Bittner for making this booth a smashing success.

Again, thank you Libertarian Party for this great honor. This would not have been possible without the inspiration, teachings and personal examples of numerous mentors I have been blessed to have in the libertarian movement. I cannot begin to thank them all here, but I would like to single out my predecessors at the Advocates for Self-Government: our late founder Marshall Fritz and past Advocates president Carole Ann Rand. I am enormously grateful to them — and all who inspired and worked with them — for building this organization that has given me such a wonderful opportunity to serve the liberty movement.

The Advocates will continue to provide vital resources for libertarian activists — helping them to be successful in taking the libertarian message of individual liberty, abundance and peace to the world.

Thank you!