Personal Liberty

Home » Personal Liberty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who will fund national monuments in a libertarian country?

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

Who will fund national monuments in a libertarian country?

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

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

Monuments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas Could Soon ‘Nullify’ Federal Gun Control Measures

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

Texas Could Soon ‘Nullify’ Federal Gun Control Measures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creepy County Officials Stalk Grocery Shoppers in Search for Unlicensed Pets

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

Creepy County Officials Stalk Grocery Shoppers in Search for Unlicensed Pets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But should government have access to this information?

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

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

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

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

DOJ’s Rule Risks Our Privacy, And It’s About to Become Law

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

DOJ’s Rule Risks Our Privacy, And It’s About to Become Law

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

The Department of Justice’s proposed Rule 41, which would allow U.S. judges to provide law enforcement with search warrants for devices outside of the DOJ’s and its agencies’ jurisdiction, could soon become law, unless Congress does something.

DOJWhile Rule 41 could make Americans less safe, putting their privacy at risk, that is not the only issue with the proposed change to the law. According to Tech Dirt, Rule 41 could also turn millions of computer users across the world into criminals, simply because they use privacy tools to communicate with one another.

“From journalists communicating with sources to victims of domestic violence seeking information on legal services, people worldwide depend on privacy tools for both safety and security,” wrote the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). But if the DOJ wins this battle, the reality is that the U.S. government will be given the power to access phones and computers remotely with little to no oversight.

By allowing law enforcement to seek warrants to computers or other devices equipped with privacy tools, many have argued, Rule 41 adds a presumption of guilt to an activity that is part of the daily lives of most innocent American technology users.

In order to make sure the DOJ is not successful in its battle against privacy, several congressmen and senators from both political parties sent a letter to the DOJ asking for clarification on how the agency seeks to interpret the proposed changes to the law.

According to EFF, if Rule 41 becomes law, “anyone who is using any technological means to safeguard their location privacy could find themselves suddenly in the jurisdiction of a prosecutor-friendly or technically-naïve judge, anywhere in the country.” In their letter to the DOJ, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), and several others argue that Rule 41 would give law enforcement the power to hack into any device, expanding the scope of the DOJ’s authority, and risking our safety and privacy as a result.

Tech Dirt argues that while the DOJ claims that Rule 41 would not interfere with current laws, which already establish the need to demonstrate probable cause before the warrant is produced, judges have already been caught signing on warrants that exceeded existing jurisdiction limits.

Claiming that Rule 41 would keep those safeguards in place, Tech Dirt adds, is simply dishonest.

Unless Congress acts fast, Rule 41 will become the law by December 31st. Unfortunately for privacy, all the media seems to be talking about is the presidential election. Is anyone even paying attention?

As CA Moves to Legalize Recreational Weed, Startups Work Hard to Meet the Demand

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

As CA Moves to Legalize Recreational Weed, Startups Work Hard to Meet the Demand

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

California could soon be legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

If Proposition 64 passes this November, recreational marijuana would be legal in the Golden State for individuals aged 21 or older. Taxes would be established and then used to back government-run drug law enforcement, research, and what the architects of Prop 64 call “environmental restoration, cleanup, and enforcement efforts” resulting from illegal marijuana production.

PotWhile the initiative allows the state to profit from legalization, helping to boost the militaristic approach to the war on drugs locally, the law could benefit individual users and business owners who commercialize weed. And that’s what the startup community living in the heart of the American tech revolution is celebrating.

According to some reports, Silicon Valley’s class of pot entrepreneurs can’t wait until the votes have been all counted. Instead of sitting and waiting to see how things play out, they are already putting a “signature Valley spin on the age-old practice of selling marijuana,” using what they have learned from the social media explosion in order to prepare the market for consumers dying to use their smartphones to order some ounces of girl scout cookies, Bruce Banner, or perhaps sour diesel.

But they are not stopping there. They are also eager to develop software for growers and dispensaries, helping to “blow open the doors to innovation on the technology side of the cannabis industry,” says Chris Walsh, editorial director of Denver-based Marijuana Business Daily.

While this enthusiasm shows the importance of allowing markets to let consumers make all decisions, it is also a risky business, considering marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

During the upcoming months and even years, many states will be joining the list of states legalizing marijuana, but federal regulators will, most likely, be the last ones to embrace the trend.

Estimates suggest that by 2020, marijuana sales in America will exceed $22 billion. While there’s a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs to join the industry, barriers lifted by the very laws removing the criminal element and regulating the sale and use of weed may make it difficult for those who aren’t already established or well-connected to succeed.

To those who are already in the business or getting ready to cash in, there’s still an issue with the financial aspect of the marijuana industry, considering the fact that most investment firms will steer away from marijuana entrepreneurs due to federal pressure. But companies like Snoop Dogg’s Casa Verde Capital have already thought of that, offering startups the means to get going with their ideas without having to worry about convincing powerful, well-connected men in suits their business plan will work despite all odds.

As more states join the legalization movement, opportunities will be made available. It’s up to those willing to take the risk of going against the feds to embrace them.

What This School District in Pakistan Teaches the World About Choice

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

What This School District in Pakistan Teaches the World About Choice

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

According to Al Jazeera, the most literate district in Pakistan is not heavily subsidized by the Pakistani government.

HunzaKnown for being a success story in a country torn apart by war and poverty, Hunza Valley beats all other Pakistani school districts, boasting 95 percent literacy rates among both genders. Meanwhile, districts across the country have some of the lowest literacy rates in the world, with the average adult literacy rate at 55 percent and female adult literacy rate at 42 percent.

When analyzed closely, Hunza Valley’s uniqueness is easy to identify. After all, their schools are not run by the government. Instead of waiting for government to do something, the local community decided to take matters into their own hands in the 1980’s, starting their own independent community school system.

What started as a way to fill in the gap left by government turned into a success story, thanks to the private initiative of villagers.

Muhammad Ibrahim, the chairman of the local Ismaili Community, says that village residents “all joined hands to start a community school [that would] produce students who can compete with the challenges of the modern world,” giving birth to the most successful education story coming from Pakistan in the past years.

The plan worked so well that currently, parents will power through any kind of struggle or difficulty to ensure their children are attending a community-run school.

“Education is the top priority” for Hunza residents, Hunza Public School principal Mehraban Karim told Al Jazeera. And to ensure their children are educated, “they have and will eat grass but will not compromise on their kids’ education. That’s the reason we have 95% literacy rate,” Karim added.

In Pakistan, education is free and mandatory up to secondary school. While classes start at a young age and the enrollments are high, the community-run schools in Hunza are much more popular, outnumbering government-run schools.

According to a World Bank study from 2014, another mountain district five hours away from Hunza Valley has a 5 percent female literacy rate. A huge difference when compared to Hunza, where local communities work together to educate their young without the help of government.

While infrastructure-wise, Hunza Valley cannot be compared to many — if any — school districts in the United States, the results of Hunza residents’ efforts are tangible.

That’s what happens when parents, educators, and community leaders come together to ensure their children have an option. When government fails, individuals step up, doing a much better job at educating children so they won’t become dependent on government assistance throughout their early years and even long into their adulthood.

Hopefully, parents in America can learn a thing or two from these Pakistani parents, becoming more involved and more interested in learning more about how they should go about amplifying school choice nationwide.

School Choice Awards Highlight Differences Between Private Initiative and Traditional Approaches

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

School Choice Awards Highlight Differences Between Private Initiative and Traditional Approaches

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

When freedom lays the groundwork for markets, colorful outbursts of creativity and efficacy can be seen, filling the air with sparkles.

Not just figuratively.

ChildrenUnfortunately for many children who now lack the opportunity to attend a school that meets their needs, many in America fail to see education as a market as well. Not because parents do not want to see results, but because special groups have, over the years, used education as a means to obtain political influence, oftentimes hurting the poorest among us. With their talk of making education a “right,” they helped to remove the market element, further hindering competition and, as a result, increasing the overall cost of education across the board.

In states like Arizona, where students have had the opportunity to experiment with the idea of school choice, even if just superficially, things seem to be getting better.

Because of the implementation of the charter school system in the state — a system that still relies on public funding — local public school students are able to “learn to speak Mandarin, study dance, [and even] become young engineers or delve into the medical sciences.”

Thanks in part to a more competitive educational environment, Arizona students have shown that adding private elements to the public school system helps to boost choice, creativity, and dedication, making the Grand Canyon state a leader in high school education.

One of the state’s charters is even among the country’s top 10 schools, according to the most recent “Best High School” ranking.

Recently, the Arizona Charter Schools Association celebrated the private element of the segment’s work, recognizing some of the best individuals involved in the private aspect of the charter school system.

During the event, President and CEO of the Arizona Charter Schools Association Eileen B. Sigmust gave a speech, claiming that what “these winners have in common is their innovative approach to education and committed focus to the success of their students.”

Unfortunately for countless students in less privileged areas of the country, public school teachers and leadership often fail to focus on these two factors, mostly because of a lack of incentives to ensure children excel — a problem often caused by teachers unions, whose main accomplishments often include providing teachers with paths to comfortable and unchallenged careers by basing their salary on seniority, failing to tie pay rate with performance.

During the Arizona Charter Schools Association’s 2016 Charter Awards event, teachers were praised for “[understanding and embracing the notion] that all students learn differently and [tailoring their] lessons to each child to ensure all students make growth in her classroom.”

While the system isn’t perfect, the clear differences of approach between the traditional schools and the charter system give us further proof of the importance of private ownership, and the role it plays in helping every single child have access to the education that better meets their needs.

SHOCKER: Prison Food Makers Don’t Want Arizona to Legalize Pot

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

SHOCKER: Prison Food Makers Don’t Want Arizona to Legalize Pot

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

Rent-seeking, better known as the practice many companies embrace while trying to obtain benefits through the political machine, is, more often than not, the reason why our liberties are clipped, one by one, in the name of the greater good.

The war on drugs is the perfect example of this.

WeedEver since the idea of the drug war was first considered a valuable policy, politicians have used it as a way to bring their own enemies to heel. Much like major companies — whose profits suffer greatly whenever new competitors enter the market — these politicians often exploit their titles while claiming to hold an entirely different position in public.

With the war against marijuana, we have seen countless industries such as the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries step up their efforts to ensure the plant remains criminalized. As some begin to embrace the trend — even adding marijuana to their portfolio — others remain stubborn, fighting against the change and pushing Washington insiders to keep weed as a Schedule I substance.

Still, there’s one particular industry fighting marijuana legalization that, up until recently, had not made it to the news.

While the law enforcement and prison sectors have always been anti-drug legalization — with the exceptions of groups such as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) — yet another prison-related company has been investing in keeping weed illegal in at least one state: The prison food industry.

According to official Arizona state reports, Services Group of America has donated $80,000 last month to a campaign committee that hopes to defeat the legal cannabis measure on this year’s November ballot.

SGA’s subsidiary, Food Services of America, is tasked with preparing meals for correction facilities. And, in the past, it has been accused of offering meals that fail to meet basic nutritional standards set by the government. They do not seem too keen on allowing prison demands for their food reach a new low.

Local news reports also add that other groups such as the state Chamber of Commerce in Arizona have also donated heavily to the anti-marijuana effort, addressing a $498,000 check to the campaign.

Before both groups offered their financial support, opioid maker Insys Therapeutics had gone further, donating $500,000 to the anti-pot campaign.

Other groups listed as major anti-weed donors include the Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesale Association, and SAM Action, which is often described as the campaign arm of Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

Despite the heavy-handed efforts coming from these companies to defeat the marijuana legalization efforts, polls show voters are supporting the effort to legalize pot in the Grand Canyon state.

Will rent seekers win this time?

Should we privatize the police for public safety?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarianism, Personal Liberty by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Should we privatize the police for public safety?

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

QUESTIONS: How would poor individuals/communities afford police protection in a libertarian society? If rich/white communities’ private police kill poor/minority individuals who pass through the rich/white communities’ streets, what recourse do the dead individuals have?

PoliceANSWERS: Today, much of the police budget comes from traffic fines or property taxes.  The poor pay these property taxes through their rent.   If the police force was a private one, the poor would have lower rents and thus more money in their pocket with which to pay their police fees.  If they didn’t like the service they were getting, they could simply end their subscription.

For the poor, the option of not paying is much more important than it is to those who are better off.  When crimes are committed today, the wealthier victims will often get preferential care.  If the minority victims are ignored, which is often the case, they have little recourse.   Being a paying customer gives them clout in a privatized system; they simply take their money and go elsewhere or provide their own protection in the form of a firearm or a guard dog. Today, they pay whether they get service or not, so they can’t readily afford other options.

The myth in our society is that the poor don’t pay for police protection and other government services.  In fact, they often pay more and get much less.

Private police do not have the immunity from prosecution that our public police illegitimately enjoy.  If they killed minority individuals without just cause, they could be tried for murder, just as an individual citizen would.  The families of the victims would likely demand such prosecution.

A private police service wouldn’t be very attractive to customers, even the rich/white ones, if minorities were unjustly killed.  All but a few would likely withdraw their subscriptions.  Who wants a police force in their neighborhood that shoots people for the most trivial of reasons?  No one wants their children to grow up in such a neighborhood. To most people, regardless of their color or socio-economic class, all lives matter.

Since most businesses operate on a small profit margin (10% or so), losing even a few customers means a big dent in the bottom line.  Private police want their paycheck too and are motivated to truly serve and protect when we each have the choice whether or not to employ them.

WE Will Build the Roads

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

WE Will Build the Roads

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

I’m trying something new with the From Me to You column this week, and I’d love to get your feedback on it. Please send me an e-mail to let me know if you like this, hate this, or even if you’re indifferent.

Big Government vs. Self-Government in Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Marriage and Family by Morgan Dean Comments are off

Big Government vs. Self-Government in Shakespeare’s As You Like It

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

William Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It is known for the themes of marriage, forgiveness and love. However, upon closer examination, it can also be read as a tale of people fighting the wrongs of Big Government, while pursuing self-government.

as you like itFirst, we have to look at what it means to “self-govern.” We give this our own meaning every day when we make decisions independent from the government. Self-Governing means that you decide how to live and are responsible for your own actions and choices.

In As You Like It, there are two opposing sides in a warring family, Duke Senior, who represents self-government and peace, and the other being Duke Frederick who represents Big Government and violence.

The major motif within the play is a family divided. Duke Senior has been usurped by his brother and banished from the kingdom, while Duke Frederick remains and banishes other members of Duke Senior’s family.

Duke Senior flees to The Forest of Arden where he lives a very minimalist life, among the shepherds who live very pastoral lives. The forest serves as a place of freedom and refuge from the evils of courtly life. The idea of the forest in literature, and especially in this play, is that it is the antithesis of civilization. The forest is the one place that man has not yet touched and made corrupt.

Living in the forest, Duke Senior builds a life for himself, finds other lords who have also left the court, and pursues a freedom in the forest. They operate completely separately from the Big Government that is back at the court, and they are happy.

As we are well aware, Big Government always tries to intervene. Rare contributor Bonnie Kristian wrote an interesting article about how even the smallest examples of government interference should concern us.

Even during Shakespeare’s time, there is government overreach. Duke Frederick and his posse go after Duke Senior. However, along the way he meets a priest who convinces him to lead a peace-loving life away from the court. Self-government, for the win!

If self-government worked in the Shakespearean era, with practice, it can work today, several hundred years later.

Most importantly, are you putting self-government into practice in your daily life?

Without a National Government, Spaniards Have a Taste of Freedom

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

Without a National Government, Spaniards Have a Taste of Freedom

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

For the last ten months, Spain has had no official government in place. And apparently, Spaniards couldn’t be happier.

It all began when neither of Spain’s major parties was able to secure a majority of seats in the national legislature. Since these parties are also unable to agree on a coalition government out of disdain for their opponents, the country of 47 million people is being left with a caretaker government instead of an officially elected body.

SpainAccording to the New York times, locals are glad.

To Félix Pastor, a local language teacher, the situation has produced positive outcomes. After all, “no government, no thieves.” Ana Cancela, a civil servant, agrees. She adds that “[w]e already knew that politicians were corrupt, but now we also see that they can’t even make politics work.”

As Spain dealt with corruption and scandal throughout the last two administrations, the current situation is being welcomed by those who believe that powerful politicians do less harm when left out of power.

For the past 300 days, basic government services have continued to be funded, but in the meantime, no new legislation is being considered and infrastructure and other government-run projects are frozen. And, unlike pessimistic predictions, things are actually getting better, with interest and energy rates staying low, and the economic growth forecast showing a 2.9 percent increase by the end of 2016. According to the New York Times, that’s twice the 1.6 percent average for the eurozone expected by the European Commission.

According to the Mises Institute, this period has been important for Spaniards. Now, they are finally able to get a taste of how resilient a society can be when left alone, without the paternalistic presence of a higher body regulating every aspect of people’s lives.

Instead of chaos, the absence of a centralized power gave Spaniards economic growth, a strong tourism industry, and a safe haven for consumers, who are expected to reach Spanish shores in droves.

To libertarians, this experience should be celebrated — and shared — widely. Not just because Spain has been surviving remarkably well without a government in place, but because common Spaniards are also celebrating the current situation, instead of giving in to fear.

Speech Censorship Is Bad, Even If It Targets Terrorists

in First Amendment, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Speech Censorship Is Bad, Even If It Targets Terrorists

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

Censorship never works. Especially when it comes to speech that is considered offensive or criminal. Why? Because when individuals are given a platform where they may express themselves openly, they become more visible, giving others who disagree with their methods or philosophy an opportunity to spot them and stay out of their way.

TwitterBut when fear is at play, people tend to lose grasp of their emotions and what could have turned into a reasonable debate turns into a witch hunt.

As politicians and others urge companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter to crack down on users who identify as Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) fighters and sympathizers, encouraging these users to be banned from their platforms, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) admits that banning ISIS users from online platforms pushes them “to a place where they’re less able to proselytize broadly but more able to communicate in a secure way.” Meaning that, when users are blocked from Twitter, it makes it difficult for law enforcement to track them down.

Who would have thought?

According to Tech Dirt, intelligence officials are usually able to get good intelligence from paying attention to social media accounts from ISIS fighters. But in spite of what many consider to be a risk associated with how easily ISIS fighters are able to recruit by keeping active accounts on social media, Tech Dirt points out that nearly every single study on radicalization shows that online recruitment is not as effective as many would think.

Silencing users might help to keep social media websites “clean” from speech we find offensive, but instead of making us safe, it just pushes individuals who follow dreadful philosophies into the shadows, making it harder for us to spot them and keep an eye on what they are up to next.

When translated into enforcement, the banishment of users from online platforms only makes it hard for officials to track terrorists down.

As US officials continue to press private tech companies to open backdoors so that law enforcement is able to closely spy on American citizens, public pressure to ban offensive speech adds fuel to the fire, oftentimes giving officials reasons to lobby for the expansion of government’s spying powers.

Instead of allowing our feelings to speak louder than reason, we must always remember that what may seem as the best solution superficially might not produce the desired outcome. No matter how many times we implement the same policy.

In America, One Person is Arrested Over Pot Every 49 Seconds

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

In America, One Person is Arrested Over Pot Every 49 Seconds

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

While campaigning for president, then Senator Barack Obama claimed that the federal government should not use its resources to prosecute marijuana providers in states where the substance was legalized for medical use. But after promising to put an end to the previous administration’s raids on medical pot providers, the current administration went on a witch hunt, cracking down on medical cannabis providers so aggressively that it managed to outdo the George W. Bush’s administration’s war on pot.

PotCurrently, medical marijuana is legal in 25 states in America, but according to the FBI, 2015 saw 574,641 marijuana-related arrests, resulting in one pot arrest every 49 seconds. In nine out of ten cases, the arrests were carried out for possession, not production or distribution.

Accounting for 38.6 percent of the 1.5 million drug-related arrests in 2015, marijuana arrests happened more frequently than other drug-related arrests.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), only 19.9 percent of 2015 drug arrests were tied to heroin, and only 5.1 percent were tied to synthetic or manufactured drugs.

While the rate of marijuana-related arrests is still high, arrests have dropped 2.3 percent when compared to the data available 15 years ago, when 734,497 Americans were arrested “for marijuana offenses of which 646,042 (40.9 percent) were for possession alone,” the FBI reported.

Each year, taxpayers have to come up with $3.6 billion to enforce marijuana possession-related laws. And yet, ACLU reports, the drug war continues to be a failure.

Among many marijuana legalization advocates, the fact many states are gearing up to vote on recreational marijuana legalization is a major step forward. Nevertheless, the federal government is still reluctant to embrace the new trend, keeping marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance.

To Mises Institute’s Ryan McMaken, “state-level nullification efforts in the US within Colorado, Oregon, Washington State, and Alaska, have weakened the US’s ability to insist on prohibition,” allowing other states and foreign governments to begin looking at marijuana-related laws under a different light. Prior to this major state-level movement to legalize marijuana locally, the US government’s drug war had been the major igniting force behind the drug wars across other countries in the continent. As more states embrace freedom, the federal government — as well as other governments — may finally begin looking at legalization as a feasible policy.

Until then, however, the US involvement with the United Nations may help to slow down the worldwide legalization trend, mainly because of the UN’s 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which legitimizes the US drug war.

How Did We Get Here?

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

How Did We Get Here?

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

It’s 2016. We are 40 days from the Presidential election.

So, how did we get here?

As a country, we’ve abandoned hope, we’ve given in to fear, and we’re seemingly okay with it all.

CrossroadsA long time ago, the ideals of the American Dream went away. They were replaced by people “knowing what’s better.” They promised to fix the ills of society by giving them the ability to plan what you and I do.

As with any social change, it began with something small, limiting an act in the interest of “common sense,” or “safety,” or “the future.” Once empowered, they used fear to drive public opinion to their side, limiting more and more freedom. Those limits preserve power and control.

With each step “forward,” a little bit of freedom was lost. With each act by government, at the federal, state, and local levels, we lost a bit of the American ideal.

We’ve settled for asking for permission, rather than living our own lives as we see fit. When it comes to electoral politics, we’ve settled as well. We seek to be ruled by a “good king,” rather than finding someone who understands what freedom entails and only wishes for its acts to be to protect life, liberty, and property, leaving the rest for us to figure out ourselves, as individuals.

Today, you and I are more often asking for permission, instead of reaching solutions with and for ourselves.

On the bright side, no matter what happens in forty days, more people are looking for something different.

Every day, more are tiring of the same.

Every day, more people see what’s wrong with letting others plan their lives.

Every day, more people realize that freedom is easy.

We just have to act like it.

Page 1 of 812345...Last »