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

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

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

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

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

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

Do libertarians favor gun control?

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

Do libertarians favor gun control?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Should slander be protected as free speech?

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Should slander be protected as free speech?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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?

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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.

 

What is the Non-Aggression Principle?

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What is the Non-Aggression Principle?

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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.

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.

Should we ban tobacco instead of drugs?

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Should we ban tobacco instead of drugs?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Should Women Be Drafted?

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Should Women Be Drafted?

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

My short answer is that no one should be drafted. After all, our Constitution prohibits involuntary servitude, which is exactly what the draft is. Our young men—and possibly women—will be forced—at gunpoint, if necessary—to take up arms and kill other people.

DraftExcept for a few psychopaths, taking up arms with the intention to kill others day after day is difficult, even when our nation is truly threatened. It’s a rare individual who remains unscathed by killing others and being a target, which is why so many return home with post-traumatic stress disorder or serious mental illnesses. Going to war should always be the last resort, since the cost in lives, money, and disabilities is so high. In recent times, however, sending troops overseas seems to be a knee-jerk response to any provocation.

When our young people perceive that a war is not just or not warranted, they become unwilling to risk their lives or kill for it. In Vietnam, a war I remember well, this is exactly what happened. Although young men enlisted early in the war, they soon concluded that Vietnam was not a threat to the United States, and resisted the draft overtly or covertly.

Today, not enough of our young men are enlisting to sustain the conflicts in the Middle East. Our troops look forward to going home after their tours are up, only to be forcibly reenlisted under the stop-loss fine print in their contracts. We claim to have a volunteer army, but in fact those who enlist can be drafted for another deployment. This discourages further enlistment, as new recruits start to understand that they are actually signing an open-ended contract.
Clearly, the government believes it will need a draft in the not-so-distant future to maintain its chosen military action. We are told that without a draft, our young people will not step forward when our country is threatened. This is patently false. After 9/11, volunteers flooded to sign up for the anticipated military action. Now they no longer do, as they perceive their government is embarked on never-ending wars.

If our nation is truly threatened, our young people step forward willingly; if it isn’t truly threatened, why should they risk life and limb? We can’t keep killing people overseas because maybe, someday, they might try to harm us. There are simply too many people who “might” try to hurt us. A better strategy is to make sure our domestic security is strong enough that those who would do us harm will be thwarted in their attempt.

If we engage in overseas wars that are not truly defensive ones, and may even be primarily in the service of special interests, our young people should refuse to go. These young adults become the canaries in the coal mine, warning us that the war we wish to fight might not be so right.
Killing is difficult enough when it is perceived as a necessary evil, but it’s even more difficult without the motivation to protect our homes and loved ones. The draft isn’t only involuntary servitude; its slavery of the worst kind as it asks the draftees to do things they find morally repugnant. How are we to spread freedom abroad by taking it away from our young people at home?

Women have a major role to play in discussions about the draft. They should indeed talk about equal rights—for both men and women. Self-determination, the decision whether or not we are willing to go out and kill others, is a right that belongs to both sexes. Instead of insisting that their own rights should be violated, as the rights of men are today, women should be lobbying for an end of the draft. Our great, great-grandmothers fought to end the slavery of black people; today, we honor their memories by fighting to end the slavery of the draft.

How would the NC restroom law be handled in a libertarian society?

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How would the NC restroom law be handled in a libertarian society?

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

Question:

Considering the recent flap regarding the restroom law passed in North Carolina (and being considered elsewhere), how would this be handled in a libertarian society?

restroom Answer:

In a libertarian society, most—if not all—bathrooms would be privately owned, since government would be very limited. Owners could decide who could use them and who could not.

If some business owners decided to discriminate on the basis of color, gender, or religion, their competitors would likely advertise their willingness to serve everyone, gaining the loyalty of the groups discriminated against. Profits would go up for those who were willing to serve all, while they’d go down for those who discriminated. Business owners would have to choose between their pocketbooks and their prejudices. Historically, most choose their pocketbook.

Indeed, segregation became law in the post-Civil War south precisely because businesses were serving the ex-slaves to an extent that caused resentment. Business owners who wanted to discriminate didn’t like losing their profits to their more open-minded competition. They, along with whites who wanted separate facilities, lobbied government to force businesses to segregate their facilities.

A government strong enough to ban discrimination is powerful enough to implement it as well. Those who wish to discriminate and those who don’t will lobby against each other for control. When private service providers decide who can and can’t use their facilities, people vote with their dollars to support the businesses that express their own viewpoint. No lobbying is necessary!

Why aren’t free markets dominating in countries with weak or failed governments?

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Why aren’t free markets dominating in countries with weak or failed governments?

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

Question: If a free market with no government oversight and protections for the People is a successful model, then how come countries with failed/weak governments are not mopping up all the worlds’ business?

Free Market

Short Answer: If by “failed/weak” governments you are referring to the Third World, some “mopping up” is indeed occurring. Since governments that exploit their people the most usually have the lowest wages, U.S. and European manufacturers are utilizing the “cheap labor” there. If by “failed/weak” governments you mean something else, please give me more detail and I’ll try to answer you.

By the way, a free market is not one without “protections for the People.” Truly free markets usually require those who defraud or harm others to compensate their victims; this usually keeps them more honest than government oversight does. Indeed, the penalties for violating government regulations usually do little or nothing to restore victims and may even cost them more. For example, those polluting river water were usually successfully sued by those downstream for damages in both Great Britain and the western territories of the U.S. before they became states). Once the U.S. government took over the waterways, however, downstream landowners rarely got compensation, even from the fines imposed by government. They not only had to put up with the pollution, they had to pay taxes for the government oversight.

Makes you wonder who is being protected from whom, doesn’t it?

Who Has the Right to Marry Whom?

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Who Has the Right to Marry Whom?

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polygamyQuestion: Libertarians are quick to defend the rights of people of different races and/or religions to marry, and quick to defend the right of people of the same sex to do so. How do they feel about the right of people being married to more than one person?

Short Answer: Marrying more than one person is fine as long as everyone in the marriage is aware of it and in agreement.  However, from what I can see of the case you’ve cited, the second “wife” was deceived into believing she was marrying a single man.  That’s fraudulent and actionable by most libertarians’ standards.

Editor’s Note: Relationships that are polygamous in nature should include knowledge and consent of all involved. As Dr. Ruwart notes, anything else would be committing fraud with one or more parties, as the link in the original question alluded to. It should be noted that the Overton window with regard to the discussion of marriage may not be open enough to include polygamy yet. After all, a majority of Americans came to support same-sex marriage within the last decade.

During the prolonged public debate regarding marriage equality, many who opposed same-sex unions argued about the “slippery slope” that such unions would lead to other legal forms of “marriage disaster.”

In 2013, Slate published a very positive article in support for the legalization of polygamy. From that piece:

For decades, the prevailing logic has been that polygamy hurts women and children. That makes sense, since in contemporary American practice that is often the case. In many Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints  polygamous communities, for example,women and underage girls are forced into polygamous unions against their will. Some boys, who represent the surplus of males, are brutally thrown out of their homes and driven into homelessness and poverty at very young ages. All of these stories are tragic, and the criminals involved should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
[...] It’s also hard to argue with the constitutional freedom of religious expression that legalized polygamy would preserve. Most polygamous families are motivated by religious faith, such as fundamentalist Mormonism or Islam, and as long as all parties involved are adults, legally able to sign marriage contracts, there is no constitutional reason why they shouldn’t be able to express that faith in their marriages.

Is it Corporate Greed That Led to Turing Pharmaceuticals’ “Price Gouging” on Daraprim?

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Is it Corporate Greed That Led to Turing Pharmaceuticals’ “Price Gouging” on Daraprim?

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Question: Is it corporate greed that led to Turing Pharmaceuticals’ “price gouging” on Daraprim?

Turing PharmaceuticalsOver the last couple of days, the media has been aghast as Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO, Martin Shkreli announced his plan to increase the price of Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 a pill. Daraprim was patented in the 1950s, and is used for treating parasitic infections in fewer than 13,000 people a year in the U.S.  Turing bought exclusive rights to distribute the drug in the U.S. from Impax for $55 million; drug sales are less than $10 million/year.  Impax itself bought daraprim several years earlier. It upped the price from $1 to $13.50/pill, causing the number of prescriptions to drop about 30%.

Shkreli’s assertion that the profits would be used to develop a better drug for treating toxoplasmosis was met with skepticism.  Shkreli is a former hedge fund manager, not a pharma veteran, and might not be aware that the new drug will have to be tested against daraprim itself. Testing against placebo would be unethical, given that daraprim is part of the treatment standard.  Showing superiority, in terms of effectiveness or side effects, is much more difficult against another drug than placebo. Indeed, given the small number of patients who need the drug, it might be impossible to show the “statistical significance” required by the FDA, since large numbers of patients can’t be tested.

Why, you might ask, can Shkreli price his drug so high and not fear that a generic competitor will undercut him? After all, the daraprim no longer has patent protection.

The answer: Turing Pharmaceuticals has a de facto monopoly, courtesy of the ever-increasing costs of gaining FDA approval, both for new drugs (over $1 billion and 11 years) and generics. Any generic company could make daraprim; its patent expired decades ago.

However, the FDA would require that the company demonstrate that its pill released the drug into the blood stream at the same rate as the original daraprim.  Coupled with the cost of setting up FDA-approved manufacturing facilities for the new drug, a turn-around time of a couple years or so due to regulatory red-tape, and the expensive clinical trials, a generic company would need to commit to spending many millions, perhaps tens of millions, even with the special exemptions that the FDA gives drugs that have small or “orphan” patient populations.  After jumping through all of these costly hoops, the competitor might be unable to take a substantial part of the market from Turing should it choose to lower its prices for the sole reason of preventing the competitor from getting a foothold.

The $750 pill might be considered an example of “corporate greed.”  However, Turing probably wouldn’t have even attempted such a price hike without high cost of FDA-mandated drug development, both new and generic, which virtually eliminated his competition.

 

Do Libertarian Ideas Go Too Far?

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

Do Libertarian Ideas Go Too Far?

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Question:

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

Answer:

Yes!

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

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

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

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


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

 

When Should ID Be Required?

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When Should ID Be Required?

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

QUESTION: What is your position on requiring ID to buy firearms? What about voting?

MY SHORT ANSWER:

IDMost libertarians don’t believe that ID should be required for purchase of firearms. Recording a person’s ID or making them register a handgun allows the government to easily confiscate weapons if it wants to disarm part of the population.

Some libertarians believe that a background check, which would require ID, is a reasonable way to keep violent criminals from easy access to firearms. However, people who are willing to murder and assault others typically steal the guns used during a burglary or purchase them on the black market, so that the gun cannot be connected to them. Thus, laws that require those purchasing a gun to show an ID probably do not deter much gun-related crime.

With regard to the second half of your question, there are some libertarians do not believe in the validity and structure of government as we have it today. Consequently, they believe that voting isn’t appropriate and may constitute force. For these libertarians, your question would likely be met with “Why does it matter?”

However, as long as we have voting—and some libertarians believe that we always will—it would seem reasonable to make sure that only those “qualified” to do so are marking ballots. Showing ID helps, but it isn’t foolproof, as ID can be counterfeited.

What is the Libertarian Alternative to Zoning?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

libertarian alternative to zoningQUESTION: I am a homeowner in a low-income neighborhood. I work hard to keep my property up, and my yard is beautiful. I am enraged by people who leave tires and garbage cans in front of their houses, don’t cut the grass, and scatter their garbage all over the street. They do not have the right to denigrate my quality of life.

How do I reconcile my libertarianism with the fact that I call the city on these offenders and advocate stricter laws regarding how one keeps the outside appearance of his property?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, when builders created a subdivision, they might choose to put deed restrictions on the homes. Prospective owners would need to accept these as a condition of purchase. Alternatively, property owners’ associations might be put in place with a starting set of restrictions, to be modified in time by the buyers into the subdivision. Such restrictions could include standards of upkeep. People who desired a well-kept neighborhood would likely buy in such communities.

People who would rather not be restricted would buy in communities or other areas where such standards were minimal or non-existent. In this way, everyone’s preference would be honored. Everyone wins!

Today, however, standards — even zoning — can fluctuate overnight with changes in city councils, zoning boards, or inspectors. Sometimes these standards are selectively enforced (e.g., a neighbor has to complain before action is taken). Buyers don’t always know what they are getting into and understandably become resentful when their neighbors use government to restrict them. Thus, unfortunately, today win-win solutions to these problems are rare.


Learn More: Liberator Online editor James W. Harris suggests the following articles for further reading on this topic:

  • How Zoning Rules Would Work in a Free Society“ by Ben O’Neill, Mises Institute, June 17, 2009. This short article shows what’s wrong with zoning, and why market alternatives are better and fairer. 

    Excerpt: “Contrary to the alleged necessity of zoning laws, there is ample scope for non-coercive solutions to zoning issues in the context of a free society of private-property ownership and nonaggression. In particular, private ownership of property allows for restrictive covenants to be agreed between the property owner and another party so that the allowable uses of land are limited according to the wishes of the parties. It follows that property owners within a given neighborhood may contractually agree to impose restrictions on themselves with respect to the allowable developments on their land or the allowable uses of their property.”

  • Zoning Laws Destroy Communities“ by Troy Camplin, Mises Institute, April 30, 2010. This short article discusses problems with zoning, including huge unintentional consequences that subvert zoning’s alleged goals of fostering and preserving communities.Excerpt: “Zoning laws are a violation of property rights. They destroy the sense of community in neighborhoods, increase crime, increase traffic congestion, contribute to urban and suburban air pollution, contribute to poverty, contribute to reliance on government — and, thus, reduce self-reliance — and contribute to the ruin of our schools. Most of our urban and suburban problems arose with zoning and other anti-property laws, to which welfare programs and public housing projects have contributed…”

What is the Difference Between Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and Libertarianism?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: What is the difference between Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and libertarianism?Ayn Rand's Objectivism

MY SHORT ANSWER: In my opinion, the differences are more cultural than real, in political matters. Both Objectivism and libertarianism are based on the non-aggression principle of honoring our neighbors’ choice (not initiating physical force, fraud or theft) and making things right with our victims if we don’t.

Objectivism is a comprehensive philosophy of life that includes not just political beliefs but strong and unified beliefs on virtually every aspect of human existence, including religion, art, romance, and so on. Libertarianism, in contrast, is a strictly political philosophy.

Rand believed that government’s proper role was protection of rights and that government should have a monopoly on defensive force to fulfill this role. Many libertarians agree with her. Others believe that governments are a poor protector of rights and that competition in this realm is right and proper.

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LEARN MORE: Suggestions by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris for  additional reading on this topic:

Ironically, although Ayn Rand publicly disavowed libertarianism, she is unquestionably one of the most influential figures in the modern libertarian movement and is commonly identified today as a libertarian. And her political views are libertarian, by any common definition of the term.

Here are two short pieces that explore this seeming contradiction. Please note, this is a subject about which many people disagree.

* “What Is the Objectivist View of Libertarianism?“ an essay by David Kelley and William R. Thomas. David Kelley is Founder and Executive Director of the Atlas Society, which promotes Objectivism.

Excerpt: “If we exclude anarchism [that is, the kind of non-government libertarianism advocated by Murray N. Rothbard, David F. Friedman, and others, sometimes known as 'anarcho-capitalism' or 'market anarchism'], we can say that libertarianism is the Objectivist position in politics. But Objectivism includes more than politics. It is a systematic philosophy that also includes a specific view of reality, human nature, and the nature of knowledge. It includes a specific code of morality based on the requirements of life in this world. The Objectivist commitment to individual rights and a ban on the initiation of force is grounded in its view of nature, knowledge, and values. Its political conclusions thus stand on a firm and quite specific foundation …Philosophically, some libertarians are Objectivists, or would at least agree with the core elements in the Objectivist case for liberty, such as the individual’s need to act by means of reason in pursuing his life and happiness as ultimate values.”

* “Objectivism and Libertarianism“ by Nathaniel Branden. In this very short 1999 article Branden, at one time one of Rand’s closest associates, tells how Rand considered, and rejected, the label libertarian — and what that word now means in today’s political world.

Excerpt: “[T]oday libertarianism is part of our language and is commonly understood to mean the advocacy of minimal government. Ayn Rand is commonly referred to as ‘a libertarian philosopher.’ Folks, we are all libertarians now. Might as well get used to it.”

Shouldn’t We All Vaccinate So We Don’t Endanger Others?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: Shouldn’t we all vaccinate so we don’t endanger others?Vaccination

MY SHORT ANSWER: My recent column “Should Vaccines Be Mandatory?” made a civil liberties argument for the right of people to make personal medical decisions like vaccination for themselves. Several readers expressed concern. They wondered whether people who didn’t vaccinate might endanger others with compromised immune systems who couldn’t vaccinate, such as the elderly or infants.

People with poor immune function are more likely to be exposed to the flu and/or pneumonia than measles from an unvaccinated person. Many thousands of Americans get the flu annually, while less than 200 people each year develop measles. The flu can lead to pneumonia also, making these two infections the 9th highest cause of death in the U.S.

The measures that compromised individuals take to protect themselves from these more common, deadly threats (e.g., avoiding crowds), would protect them from measles as well. These precautions are necessary, because the effectiveness of annual flu shots can be as low as 10%.

Contrary to popular opinion, the measles vaccine doesn’t always work, either. One-half of Canadian cases of measles come from vaccinated individuals; in the U.S., about one-third of people in a measles outbreak have received one or two doses of the vaccine.

Only about 25% of those vaccinated maintain measles immunity for 10 years or more; 75% of the vaccinated population loses their protection before that, although they often get a milder form of measles if infected.

As one might expect, the immune system doesn’t respond as strongly to a vaccine as it does when it mounts a full scale response to an actual infection. Only people who have had measles as a child can expect a lifetime of protection.

I had measles before we had the vaccine. Back then, some people purposefully exposed children to make sure they had immunity to measles, mumps, and occasionally other childhood diseases. Parents wanted to be sure that their girl children especially had immunity, as getting measles while pregnant could be detrimental to the unborn child. The good news is that many of our seniors probably still have immunity to childhood diseases, even if they haven’t been able to vaccinate.

In conclusion, universal vaccination for measles is unlikely to significantly protect compromised individuals, not only because the vaccine has limitations, but because other infections (e.g., flu, pneumonia) are the real threat. If an immune-compromised individual alters their lifestyle to avoid those more common, deadly infections, they are likely to avoid the measles too.

Inexpensive Vitamin A is currently being studied as a treatment and preventative for infections, including measles. If my immune system became compromised, Vitamin A supplementation is something I’d likely explore.

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LEARN  MORE: Suggestions for additional reading, selected by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

* “Vaccine Controversy Shows Why We Need Markets, Not Mandates“ by Ron Paul, M.D., February 8, 2015. Excerpt: “If government can mandate that children receive vaccines, then why shouldn’t the government mandate that adults receive certain types of vaccines? And if it is the law that individuals must be vaccinated, then why shouldn’t police officers be empowered to physically force resisters to receive a vaccine? If the fear of infections from the unvaccinated justifies mandatory vaccine laws, then why shouldn’t police offices fine or arrest people who don’t wash their hands or cover their noses or mouths when they cough or sneeze in public? Why not force people to eat right and take vitamins in order to lower their risk of contracting an infectious disease? These proposals may seem outlandish, but they are no different in principle from the proposal that government force children to be vaccinated.”

Should Vaccines Be Mandatory?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: Should vaccines be mandatory?Should Vaccines Be Mandatory?

MY SHORT ANSWER: With the new surge of measles cases, many people are calling for mandatory (forced) vaccination. At first glance, their arguments seem reasonable. Measles can kill and the vaccine is reportedly about 95% effective. Side effects are claimed to be minimal, although serious outcomes are reported on pp. 6-8 of the package insert that comes with the vaccine, including measles itself.

Even if the vaccine had zero side effects and 100% effectiveness, forcing it upon children would start us down the slippery slope of allowing bureaucrats and politicians to decide what medications we MUST ingest or be injected with. Today’s pharmaceuticals have the power to alter our thinking, libido, and even our desire to live. Some schools already diagnose boisterous children, bored with the one-size-fits-all curriculum, as having some type of disorder, and demand that they be given medications that have serious side effects.

Ultimately, each of us must weigh the risks and benefits of what we eat and how we medicate. Choose wisely, and good health to you and yours!

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for additional reading, selected by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

* “Vaccine Controversy Shows Why We Need Markets, Not Mandates“ by Ron Paul, M.D., February 8, 2015. Excerpt: “If government can mandate that children receive vaccines, then why shouldn’t the government mandate that adults receive certain types of vaccines? And if it is the law that individuals must be vaccinated, then why shouldn’t police officers be empowered to physically force resisters to receive a vaccine? If the fear of infections from the unvaccinated justifies mandatory vaccine laws, then why shouldn’t police officers fine or arrest people who don’t wash their hands or cover their noses or mouths when they cough or sneeze in public? Why not force people to eat right and take vitamins in order to lower their risk of contracting an infectious disease? These proposals may seem outlandish, but they are no different in principle from the proposal that government force children to be vaccinated.”

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Short Answers to the Tough QuestionsGot questions? Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

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