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How Crony Capitalism Almost Destroyed a Small Vegan Business

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How Crony Capitalism Almost Destroyed a Small Vegan Business

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

Crony capitalism, what many still believe to be actual capitalism, is everywhere. That’s why every aspect of modern life seems to be ruled by those who nurture a cozy relationship with government.

Even what you eat for breakfast is under their control.

PastaLast year, we learned that the American Egg Board, a group of egg producers supervised by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), had used its influence and might to (try to) destroy a small company, the start-up Hampton Creek, which is behind Just Mayo.

The egg-less product became the target of the crony organization, which is funded by the mandatory fees members of the industry must pay, whether they are willing to be part of the organization or not. The USDA is in charge of overseeing the group’s budget and activities, making the AEB an arm of the state. So when the group’s president called the vegan Just Mayo a “crisis and major threat to the future of the egg product business” in an email and a USDA official suggested having Just Mayo’s labeling claims challenged with the US Food and Drug Administration, Hampton Creek was hit with a warning letter claiming that they had made unauthorized claims regarding their product, effectively “misleading” consumers by using the image of an egg on the label of a vegan item.

But the FDA move wasn’t enough. Later, the cartel group with direct ties to the US government moved to hire a lobbyist with the goal of making the grocery chain Whole Foods stop selling Just Mayo. While this step backfired, AEB ended up looking to another corporate ally to put an end to the competitor by convincing Unilever, the manufacturer of Hellman’s Mayonnaise, to file a lawsuit against Hampton Creek.

The lawsuit was later dropped.

A Freedom of Information Act request helped us learn more about this sordid pursuit against the small company just because of its competitive factor, giving us yet another great example of how government and special interests often work together to put an end to anything that makes them uncomfortable.

In a recent article for the Tenth Amendment Center, Mike Maharrey claimed that this episode in the recent history of food regulations shows the importance of fighting the federal government locally. After all, Maharrey wrote, “[t]he Constitution does not delegate the federal government any authority to regulate food safety.”

Despite the lack of legitimate authority, special interest groups like the American Egg Board continue to become involved with government, both local and federal. As they obtain privileges and special treatments that competitors do not enjoy, lobbyists work alongside lawmakers to solidify their clients’ position, oftentimes creating a scare regarding their competitors’ products that are sometimes powerful enough to nearly destroy small companies.

The result? Consumers end up having restricted access to variety, forcing the prices of commodities to go up.

Even if you’re not entirely positive the US Constitution should be followed at all times, you might agree that, if regulators and lawmakers do, indeed, have the health and safety of consumers in mind, they should be celebrating and welcoming new competitors in the food market, not fighting to keep the number steady. ​

Don’t Be Fooled by the DOJ’s Proposed Legislation

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Advocates HQ Comments are off

Don’t Be Fooled by the DOJ’s Proposed Legislation

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

Two years ago, Microsoft refused to comply with a warrant concerning information hosted in Ireland, and the case was brought to court where justices ruled against the tech giant. Recently, however, the 2nd Circuit appeals court ruled in favor of Microsoft, claiming that the US government warrants do not apply to data stored outside of the country.

DOJDespite the ruling, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is now proposing a piece of legislation that would affect Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs), allowing the US government to force companies like Microsoft to unlock a server abroad.

According to the proposed legislation documents, Assistant Attorney General Peter J. Kadzik claims that the ideas proposed by the DOJ would help the US government investigate foreigners suspected of being involved in terrorism, urging Vice President Joe Biden to consider having Congress look at the DOJ’s solution.

In a post crafted by a former DOJ lawyer, the proposed legislation would allow the US government to have access to communication from non-US citizens who are located in foreign countries. Pieces of communication subject to the proposed rules would only be available for what the DOJ calls “criminal investigations,” which legalists claim to be helpful, since this restriction could help prevent current MLATs from being used with the purpose of gathering intelligence. Despite the carefully crafted piece of legislation, concessions aren’t enough to cover up for the DOJ’s goals to expand the agency’s reach.

According to Tech Dirt, the DOJ is using this proposed legislation to target laws and statutes that the agency has been abusing for years. Is the DOJ trying to make its work easier?

Take the Wiretap Act for instance, a law that has been rendered toothless ever since the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) used a single state judge in California to build a massive wiretapping operation in the Los Angeles suburbs. If the DOJ’s proposed rules are considered and signed into law, remaining restrictions imposed by the Wiretap Act would be lifted for good, making incidents like the one that took place in California more common across the country.

But that’s not all, restrictions imposed by the Stored Communications Act, which was used by the DOJ in its fight against Microsoft, as well as the criminal Pen Register statute would also be lifted under the proposed rules, Tech Dirt reports.

If the DOJ is lucky and Congress goes along with its plan, the dubious wording in the proposed rules would give officials authority to carry searches related to the “prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of serious crime, including terrorism.” Targets of investigations would have to be in countries that have executive agreements with the United States.

According to Tech Dirt, the proposal may superficially seem to cater to privacy advocates, but “The self-written loopholes allow for plenty of ‘search first, ask permission later’ action.” If Tech Dit’s assessment is correct, the proposal rules’ dubious wording could further entrap US citizens, helping the authorities to destroy even more of our liberties in the name of security, while targeting foreign servers in the meantime.

Big Government Killed Alton Sterling

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Big Government Killed Alton Sterling

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

Alton Sterling was known as the “CD man” in his neighborhood where Abdullah Muflahi allowed the 37-year-old black man to sell tunes and DVDs outside his convenience store.

SterlingThe owner of Triple S Food Mart told CNN he had known Sterling for six years. “Alton was out there selling CDs,” Edmond Jordan, an attorney representing Sterling’s family said, “trying to make a living.” According to the attorney, “he was doing it with the permission of the store owner, so he wasn’t trespassing or anything like that. He wasn’t involved in any criminal conduct,” yet earlier this week, two police officers pinned Sterling down then shot him as he lay on the ground, defenseless.

The incident sparked outrage online after the video depicting the altercation between Baton Rouge police officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II and the victim went viral. The footage, which was captured by a driver and his passenger, is hard to watch.

(UPDATE: Second video of Alton Sterling shooting by Baton Rouge police available here.)

It begins with the camera facing the dashboard but once you hear a pop, someone yells “get on the ground!” Once a second pop is heard, the camera pans up to the two officers confronting Sterling, who’s wearing a red shirt. That’s when one of the officers pulls Sterling over the hood then pins him to the ground. Once he’s down, both officers combine forces to keep the man restrained. Moments later, a voice shouts “he’s got a gun!” The video then shows the officer pulling something from his waist then yelling at the man on the ground while pointing at him. After some more yelling, two bangs are heard, which prompts the witnesses inside of the car to yell. After three more bangs follow, the woman in the vehicle begins to cry.

While it’s not yet clear why Sterling was targeted by the officers, the Baton Rouge police say they were called to the scene after an anonymous 911 caller reported being threatened by a man with a gun. But when CNN asked the shop owner about the incident, he said Sterling was a peaceful man. “They told him not to move,” Muflahi said, but once Sterling “[asked] them what he did wrong,” officers pulled a stun gun and used it on Sterling before the shots were fired.

According to Muflahi, one of the officers pulled out a gun from Sterling’s pockets after the shooting. Nevertheless, Muflahi told CNN, he wasn’t sure why the police were called since he hadn’t seen any confrontation involving Sterling before his death. “Just five minutes before,” Muflahi explained, “he walked into the store getting something to drink, joking around, (and we were) calling each other names.”

After the killing, the president of the NAACP’s local branch called for the mayor and police chief to resign. And while Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards says the US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is the leading agency behind this investigation, the state police, the FBI, and the US attorney’s office in Baton Rouge are also involved.

As local authorities are pressed to act, Baton Rouge police claim detectives are reviewing the cell phone video, but footage captured by the store’s cameras is yet to be released. According to Muflahi, officers took the video before the store owner had a chance to see it. The police also claim officers had body cameras at the time of the incident, but that during the altercation, the cameras fell off, failing to capture the shooting.

In current day America, we often hear about the death of due process, but we’re not completely aware of what that means until an incident like this happens.

Owning and carrying a gun shouldn’t be a crime. After all, the individual’s right to keep and bear arms is guaranteed by the US Constitution. Whether Sterling had a gun or not, he appears to have been confronted before having had a chance to know why he was being targeted, giving us reason to believe officers never told him why he was being stopped or asked not to move.

As bureaucrats and progressive politicians on both sides of the isle work together to add more crimes to the criminal code—making criminals out of us all—law enforcement agents are pressed to enforce these laws by any means necessary.

Instead of admitting government is inherently inefficient and acting accordingly, lawmakers add insult to injury by creating an environment ripe for conflict, not peace.

If we, as a nation, are serious about keeping communities and individuals safe, we must be ready to get back to the basics, looking at the Constitution for an example of how we must restrict rulers and enforcers—not ourselves.

Minimum Wage Laws Push Young Blacks Out of the Workforce

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Minimum Wage Laws Push Young Blacks Out of the Workforce

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

Unemployment is in the news again. But the media’s focus on the presidential elections seems to keep Americans from discussing the ongoing economic disaster we haven’t had the time to deal with since 2008. But as the Federal Reserve chairwoman shows signs of mild nervousness, more news outlets begin to pay attention. Still, few choose to dig deeper, and the great majority of the American electorate remains oblivious to the root causes of the problems they are dealing with now.

Walter E WilliamsIn order to help his fellow Americans understand the realities of government-management of economic policies, economist and professor Walter E. Williams wrote an article discussing the shift in unemployment rates and demographics over the past decades, helping us understand how bad the consequences of government interference are.

According to Williams, the unemployment rate of African American teenagers in 1948 was 9.4 percent while in 2016, the black teenage unemployment rate is about 30 percent. Still in 1948, the unemployment rate of white teens was higher, at 10.2 percent, while in 2016, it’s at 14 percent.

To the libertarian economist, what has caused this problem we have at hand is the elitist mentality.

In his article, Williams points out to comments made by another economist, David Howell, to illustrate the shifting mentality.

When talking about minimum wage laws and the reasons why we should embrace a higher minimum wage policy, Howell, who Williams calls a New School economist, says that we should not be worried about one of the most devastating consequences of raising the minimum wage: job losses. “Why shouldn’t we in fact accept job loss?” Asked Howell. But it was another scholar, Economic Policy Institute economist David Cooper, whose comments appeared to have truly triggered Williams.

“What’s so bad about getting rid of crappy jobs,” Cooper says, “forcing employers to upgrade, and having a serious program to compensate anyone who is in the slightest way harmed by that?” To Cooper, working fewer hours but making more money is all that matters, even if millions end up struggling to have access to entry level jobs due to the tough wage requirements.

To Williams, a “crappy job,” economically speaking, is a job. And being unemployed means being out of a job.

Whether Americans do not look fondly back to the 1940s and 1950s, Williams explains that, back when wage policies weren’t as interventionist, teens took jobs that would seem undesirable to the New School economists of today.

When Williams was a teen, he explained, he and his buddies would rise early during summers to board farm trucks headed to New Jersey. His jobs then varied a great deal. At times, Williams would pick blueberries, but sometimes he washed dishes and mopped floors, but he also worked unloading trucks at Campbell Soup.

Unfortunately for many teens living in poverty nowadays, the same jobs are either unavailable or not “good enough” for big city kids. Instead of allowing people to choose what job they are willing to take in order to make some kind of money, those who support interventionism in the economy prefer to see the poor unemployed and unskilled to see them fend for themselves.

If Williams is correct and current black leadership is all in favor of this view, things are only going to get worse.

The War on ‘Unwanted Behavior’ Hits the Sidewalks

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

The War on ‘Unwanted Behavior’ Hits the Sidewalks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helping Others See Your Vision of Liberty

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

Helping Others See Your Vision of Liberty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Private Initiative Ignites Flame of Real Change in Flint, Michigan

in Economic Liberty, Environment and Energy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Private Initiative Ignites Flame of Real Change in Flint, Michigan

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

The Flint, Michigan water scandal has been shaking up the lives of locals, putting their health in grave danger, and alerting the country to the dangers of too much government.

As private organizations like Walmart, Coke, Nestle, and Pepsi take steps to help Flint residents by delivering 6.5 million bottles of water to the city, free market advocates have been arguing that the private sector is the compassionate sector, while the state is often the originator of most of our problems.

HandSanitizer

Now, news about another private initiative in Flint is flooding social media websites, reminding us that the flame of change—and real hope—can only be ignited by the individual.

According to a GoFundMe page by the 7-year-old Isiah Britt from Virginia, kids at the Eisenhower Elementary School, a Flint facility, had become fearful of using the school water to wash their hands when they’d go to the bathroom. In order to make a real change and help the kids in Flint in a meaningful way, Britt decided to start a campaign. The goal? Buy enough hand sanitizer to everyone in his school.

Britt’s effort was celebrated by many who also helped by donating. Now, the 7-year-old has enough money to cover all schools in the city.

The GoFundMe page was created by the child and his mother on February 19 and it has raised over $10,000. On Saturday, the child announced on the page that both he and his mother had raised enough “to send hand sanitizer to every school in Flint!” He thanked the public and asked everyone to “keep going until all kids in Flint have clean hands!!”

The second-grader’s initial goal was to raise only $500 to buy twenty cases of hand sanitizer. But the campaign was so successful that a local news source in Virginia and Michigan decided to pick up the story.

The first shipment of hand sanitizer arrived at Eisenhower Elementary just a week into the fundraiser. Neithercut, Pierce, and Holmes Elementary Schools should be receiving their shipments in the near future.

During an interview with Richmond’s WTVR, Britt told the reporter he had never been happier. “That was the best day of my life,” the second-grader announced. “Trying to help a different school.”

“It doesn’t matter if you’re small. It doesn’t mean you can’t do big things.”

According to Britt’s parents, the 7-year-old now has a new goal, which is to send hand sanitizer to daycare and women’s centers across Flint.

While Britt’s story is a moving one, it hasn’t been the only one to demonstrate the importance of private initiative in the face of crisis.

In January, Humanity First USA partnered with Detroit’s Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to donate 52,400 bottles of water to Flint residents impacted by the crisis. At least 104,800 bottles of clean water were gathered and delivered to two senior citizen homes, three churches, a local YMCA, and to the general Flint public. Many of the bottles were stored at the Salem Lutheran Church. Families in need of clear water were invited to stop by.

The organization still accepts water donations in Rochester Hills, Troy, and the Detroit Metropolitan area.

What Are Your Other Interests?

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

What Are Your Other Interests?

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

Football. Movies. Music. Food. Technology. Family. Cars. Family. Friends.

hobbies word cloud There’s more to life than policy, meetings, and debate. As libertarians, we tend to be hyper-focused on those things. As people living in the real world, we need to have a well-rounded life. Freedom is of utmost importance, yet a life focused solely on Big Government, its growth, and its encroachment in our everyday lives can burn you out and bring down your morale.

Personally, I’m involved in politics so that I don’t have to be. I’d much rather spend time with my family and friends, engaging in things I find fulfilling. If freedom were standard, I would invest more time and treasure in my interests of college football, auto racing, Broadway shows, movies, concerts, and rescuing dogs.

I would also spend more time traveling and visiting with friends and family around the country and throughout the world. It is a defensive move on my part to prevent my time, treasure, and talents from being used in ways I do not approve. If you don’t have something to escape to, how can you rest your mind, body, and soul from the crushing concern that is politics?

By balancing life and politics, we open our networks (and opportunities for persuasion) beyond the “echo chamber,” while simultaneously providing a refuge to prevent burnout. Burnout is probably the biggest hurdle I see to the spread of libertarian principles and ideas, as our best and brightest activists and communicators become consumed and overwhelmed with the grind of constantly battling authoritarianism. I’ve been at the brink of burning out myself. Between elections, outreach, media relations, and managing volunteers, exhaustion sets in. Had I not retreated to “rest” in some of the interests noted above, I may not be writing to you today.

What interests you?

Use “Venture Buyers” to Show the Hidden Dangers of Government Spending

in Liberator Online, Monetary Policy, One Minute Liberty Tip, Taxes by Sharon Harris Comments are off

Use “Venture Buyers” to Show the Hidden Dangers of Government Spending

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

You’re probably familiar with venture capitalists. But what about “venture buyers”?

I encountered that term this week in an excellent short article entitled “Federal Spending: Now for the Really Bad News” by Forbes Political Economy Editor John Tamny.

“Venture buyers” is a nifty phrase and concept that can be very helpful when you’re trying to persuade skeptics that government spending has terrible consequences.

Traian_vuia_flying_machine

In his article Tamny points out that government spending is not just ridiculously wasteful, bad as that is. It also deprives the people who earned that money of the ability to spend it themselves, on the things they consider most important. And this not only deprives them, it harms the rest of us — in unexpected ways.
One of those ways is that “venture buyers” don’t get to spend their money on new, innovative, risky, expensive and important items.
What are “venture buyers?”

“We sometimes hear them described as ‘first adopters,” Tamny explains. “These are the people with the means to experiment on what is new, frequently expensive, and possibly even life-threatening. Their buying habits tell businesses what consumers want, how they want it, and [by] doing that signal to entrepreneurs where the profits will be if they can turn what is frequently a rare luxury into a common good. But with government so aggressively spending the resources we’ve created… there’s much less ‘easy money’ in our pockets that would reveal our preferences for what is [currently] expensive and largely unknown.”

Venture buyers, then, are the people who are the first to buy new, promising, risky and costly goods and services, try them out, and bring them to the attention of the rest of us. As we watch them using and playing with their new products and toys and benefiting from exciting new services, the rest of us start clamoring for them as well. And businesses are motivated to discover how to quickly lower prices so the rest of us can enjoy them, too.
Venture buyers thus play a huge role in bringing life-changing new products and services to
society.

Think of all the things we commonly use today that began life as expensive and/or startlingly different products only used by those on the bleeding edge. Cars were once crazily expensive and dangerous, as were airplanes. Portable phones were luxuries for the rich. Home computers, VHS players, fax machines, Uber, Airbnb… it’s an endless list.

And an important note: it’s not just fun and seemingly frivolous products that venture buyers popularize. Take health and medicine.

Writes Tamny:

” [C]onsider the health implications of our free spending government. … Thinking about cancer, how much experimentation has never taken place over the last 80 years thanks to government spending having greatly shrunk the total availability of resources necessary for it? Was a cure (or many cures) lost as politicians falsely promised growth through spending on the proverbial bridges, grants, and yes, medical studies to nowhere?”

The more government spends, the less venture buyers have to spend. And that means far less experimenting with new and innovative products and services — including critical and life-saving ones. And that in turn means businesses and entrepreneurs receive far less information about society’s greatest needs and desires — and the best ways to fulfill them.

Of course, we never see the inventions, the cures, the innovations, the services that don’t come into being. We don’t know what we are missing. But we can understand that we are far poorer because of it.

This is a powerful and persuasive indictment of government spending. (There are many others, of course.) I love the catchy, intriguing phrase “venture buyers” and how using it helps explain the little-understood but crucial role early adopters play in raising living standards for everyone.
Share it, and open minds to overlooked dangers of massive government spending.

Looking In the Mirror

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

Looking In the Mirror

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

Nearly every government official or candidate for office has a governmental solution for issues we face, regardless of the nature of that issue.

Poverty? Let’s adjust the minimum wage.

Education? Let’s tweak this or implement that new and shiny idea in government schools.

Jobs? We need the government efforts to lure businesses to a certain area with special favors.

What these “solutions” fail to address is the largest problem, the government itself. They seek to reform a reform of a reform that needed to change.

We’re told that these solutions are “outside the box” thinking, yet they simply make a small adjustment thought to “fix” the problem they’ve now uncovered.

looking in the mirrorLet’s think “outside the box” for just minute here…

What if we looked in the mirror for a moment and asked, “How can I solve this? Who would I ask for advice about [X]?” without the baggage of what currently exists and the bias toward the status quo? Obviously, our varied expertise and experience, as well as our areas of passion will drive our focus to the areas of greatest interest.

Would you want a brickmason determining healthcare policy? What does a realtor know about which math curriculum works best for students on the autism spectrum? How can a single person be enough of an expert in all that government involves themselves in to accurately determine the best outcomes in each and every case? What we see occur is that an agenda drives the decision-making to a “one size fits all” solution for over 300 million Americans.

What if we decided not to outsource all of this to a few people with a vested interest in keeping things as they are. After all, if they solved the problems we face, why would we need them? Further, if they had the solutions, wouldn’t they have already fixed everything?

What does this have to with liberty? If we took it upon ourselves to examine these issues and used our tendency to consider outcomes rather than intent and to seek out experts for their perspective, we can offer some pretty solid solutions that lean toward liberty and away from Big Government’s further growth.

Real solutions begin with us.

 

Big Government is Our Best Persuader

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

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

Do you recall your last encounter with Big Government?

Was it the DMV? The post office? The IRS? A police officer? Code Enforcement?

Was that experience pleasant? Did it cause you to run out and tell others about your love for government, like Butters from South Park?

Chances are, your experience was similar to mine.

I went to the post office to apply for a new passport. As you’re likely aware, not every location handles the applications. In my experience, they set certain hours for accepting the paperwork as a subset of the regular operating hours. In previous visits to the post office, I learned that passport hours are 10 AM until 4 PM on weekdays. If you work a traditional schedule, that is not particularly convenient, so I took a day off work to run some errands, and this task was among them.

Arriving at the post office at 2:10 PM, I felt confident that my business would conclude before the 4 PM window. Upon reaching the counter, after waiting in line to be served with all of the requisite paperwork, the clerk informs me that I will have to come back “in about 45 minutes,” because the person who handles passport applications left for lunch about 15 minutes prior. Let’s say that I was less than enthused.

I don’t begrudge a person taking a break. I totally understand that. My issue was with a system that would allow a floating, unannounced hour to be removed from what is already a small window for those of us gainfully employed. Can no one else at that location process these applications?

Rather than fight the “just following orders” mindset of most government workers, I left and came back about an hour later. Upon my return, I found I was not the only person who arrived during the lunch break and returned to encounter others with the same need. We commiserated about the inconvenience, and some of the others shared their “It’s the government. What do you expect?” attitude.

Being me, I engaged them in conversation about how this isn’t how things ought to be, and our mutual disdain for Big Government led us to a productive conversation about liberty and how libertarians think. As I often do, I shared the World’s Smallest Political Quiz with them, and gave them each my card. Today, one of them called to find out more about libertarianism, and we’re having lunch next week.

Thanks, Big Government!

Would You Double Down on Big Government?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Witness Protection Libertarians

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Persuasion Powerpoint by Michael Cloud Comments are off

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

You’ve seen it featured in crime, courtroom, and police dramas on television.

A powerful and dangerous individual or group has gotten away with force and fraud for years. Finally, the police and prosecutors find a witness whose testimony can put the thugs behind bars.

Witness ProtectionBut the criminals will threaten or kill the witness or his family if he takes the stand.

The only way the authorities can get the witness to testify is to protect him and his family.

So the prosecutors and law enforcement offer secret relocation, new identities, and a new life to the person and his family — in exchange for his truthful testimony in court.

Witness Protection.

In our legal system, in certain cases, this makes sense.

But it makes no sense for libertarians to act as if they were in the political equivalent of this program.

Some libertarians blend in with mainstream or nonpolitical neighbors and coworkers.

They rarely join in on political or economic conversations at home or at work. And, if they do, they keep their comments mild and bland.

If they get libertarian email newsletters or social media, they keep it to themselves

`Why stir up trouble?’ they think. `Why start an argument?’

The don’t put Libertarian campaign signs on their front lawns. They don’t put Libertarian bumper stickers on their cars. And they keep their libertarian books and DVD’s in the private areas of their homes.

If they donate to Libertarian campaigns or vote for Libertarian candidates, they tell no one.

Secrecy. Silence. Invisibility.

Witness Protection Libertarians.

But this does NOT make them safer. It makes Big Government safer.

It delays the growth of the Libertarian movement. It hinders support for the cause of liberty.

It keeps your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers from having warm and thoughtful conversations about liberty with someone they know and like and trust: YOU!

Opt out of Witness Protection Libertarian policies.

Opt into persuasive libertarian communication with The Advocates for Self-Government.


 

Michael Cloud is a master of libertarian communication. He is author of Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion and Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion. The latter can be purchased by subscribers of the Liberator Online for merely $5.01 and FREE SHIPPING with the code “LIBERATOR14″ at the link.

Thank You, Taylor Swift!

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

Thank You, Taylor Swift!

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

Next week, Apple, already an innovator when it comes to how we listen to music, will launch Apple Music. Despite their marketing efforts, I was completely unaware, as I am not a part of what I affectionately call “The iCult.” Unaware until pop music princess Taylor Swift announced that she would not allow her wildly popular album, “1989,” to appear on the multinational technology company’s streaming service, that is.

Taylor SwiftI will admit that I am a fan of Taylor Swift. Her catchy songs, especially from the aforementioned album, get my toes tapping, and when I get to know the lyrics, I might even sing along in the car, while cutting the grass, or even when I’m out on a walk.

Music tastes aside, Taylor Swift did something that I wish more people would, when it comes to things with which they disagree. She withheld her wildly popular album, which is home to four chart-topping singles since its release eight months ago, and used her celebrity, popularity, and audience to affect change in her industry without getting her Congressman or Senator involved to have the government “do something.”

The issue at hand was about Apple’s plan not to pay royalties to artists during the initial 3-month trial they offer to new subscribers to the service, something that Swift found “shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company“. She points to “the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success” as the real beneficiaries of her action.

Far too often, we see individuals and groups running to Big Government to change something that they disagree with or are offended by. In both of the instances noted above, people voted with their feet, something I remember Clark Howard saying frequently on Atlanta radio when I grew up. They affected change, not by rallying a City Council to deny a proposed Wal-Mart’s building plan to stop construction or by getting a law enacted in their state that’s named after someone affected by an ultra-rare situation, but by using the power of markets.

I’m pleased to share that Apple reversed course, and all my libertarian Taylor Swift fans (and maybe some who want to listen to the artist that used markets over Big Government) will be able to stream “1989″ on Apple Music during the trial period and beyond.

I would be remiss not to mention that Taylor’s media blitz around this story brought up an interesting take on the contract she has photographers sign. There are some signs of change on the horizon here as well.

Imagine that. All of this was solved by peaceful, voluntary interaction, and NOT the intervention of Big Government

How Committed Are You?

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

How Committed Are You?

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

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Rachel Dolezal, the former President of the Spokane, Washington NAACP.

Regardless of one’s thoughts about her allegedly fabricated backstory, her accomplishments for the African-American community, the legal dispute with her family, and her questionable racial background, you have to admit that her commitment to a cause and the efforts she’s made are admirable.

As someone who’s worked with libertarian activists and volunteers for years, I wish I had come across JUST ONE that was half as committed to the libertarian movement as Ms. Dolezal is to the black community in Spokane.

That brings me to my original question.

commitmentHow committed are you to the libertarian movement?

Are you writing a letter to the editor every week about a libertarian position on an issue?

Are you utilizing social media to to advance the libertarian cause?

Are you reaching out to the people in your community with tools like anOperation Politically Homeless booth?

Now is the time for libertarians to seize the opportunities afforded us by so many finally seeing the problems with Big Government and its exponential growth. The government we see today has grown far beyond anything envisioned by Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Paine.

What are you going to do to stop that growth and help reverse course?

No one’s asking you to be as committed as Ms. Dolezal, but can you make a positive impact for your community in the same way she has hers?

“You Libertarians Will Never Get Anywhere Until You Accept the Fact of Big Government…”

in Liberator Online, Persuasion Powerpoint by Michael Cloud Comments are off

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

I was in a Starbucks, drinking coffee, and reviewing my notes in Libertarianism by Dr. John Hospers.
A 20-something guy walked in the door, glanced at the cover of my book, and walked over to my table.
“Are you a libertarian?”  he asked.
“Yeah, “ I answered.
big government“I don’t know you,” he said. “But I do know this: You libertarians will never get anywhere until you accept the fact of Big Government. Let me tell you why.”
“I’ll be glad to hear why…if you’ll just clarify a couple of things for me,” I said.
“Clarify what?” he asked.
“When you say we need to ‘accept the fact of Big Government’, exactly what do you mean?” I asked.  “Do you mean that we libertarians have to accept the fact that Big Government DOES EXIST? OR: Do you mean that we libertarians need to RESIGN OURSELVES to Big Government?”
“I mean that you need to come to terms with the fact that government is big and it’s going to stay big,” he said


“So you’re telling me that Big Government is inevitable – that it’s impossible to shrink today’s Big Government, to make it smaller?” I asked.

“Yes, I am,” he said.

“Well? What’s your evidence that it’s impossible for voters or libertarian officeholders to reduce the size, power, authority, taxes, and/or spending of today’s Big Government?”

“Look, I don’t want to get into a debate…” he said.

“Fine. But before you go, could you please tell me which facts and evidence tell us that Big Government is inevitable — and that the only sane thing for libertarians to do is surrender to Big Government?” I asked.

“Look, I’ve got to go,” he said as he headed for the exit.

“Okay. But remember, small government is beautiful. And individual liberty is possible.”

Libertarian Party Mocks Tepid GOP Tax Plan, Calls Instead for Ending the Hated Income Tax

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The Libertarian Party has denounced the latest income tax reform proposal by “fiscal conservative” Libertarian PartySenators Marco Rubio (R- FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) as far too timid with little or no benefit to most taxpayers. Further, charges the Libertarian Party, the plan “leaves the federal tax burden dangerously high.”

“This is what leaders within the GOP — which now holds majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate — have to offer?” asked Nicholas Sarwark, Chair of the Libertarian National Committee. “The Republican plan would do nothing to reduce federal deficits or federal spending. It keeps the federal tax burden at over $3 trillion and climbing, up from the dangerously high level of $2.1 trillion when Obama took office.”

The irony of “fiscal conservatives” in control of both branches of Congress calling for taxes higher than when Obama came in, and adding trillions of dollars to the national debt, was not lost on the Libertarians.

There’s a far better way, the Libertarian Party said.

“How about doing what many Libertarian candidates propose instead: ending the federal income tax altogether, balancing the budget, and cutting trillions of dollars in wasteful federal spending,” suggested Sarwark.

The Libertarian Party noted the surprising fact that ending the federal income tax entirely — and replacing it with nothing — while also balancing the budget — only requires rolling back federal spending to the level of… 1998.

1998, of course, was near the end of the Clinton administration, routinely denounced by conservatives as epitomizing “Big Government.” Certainly no conservative leaders in 1998 worried that the federal government was too small or lacked funds to perform its constitutional duties. Even President Clinton himself acknowledged that government had become far too big, famously declaring that “the era of Big Government is over” (perhaps unaware that we would soon be in the era of Bigger and Even Bigger Government).

Yet simply returning to funding at the 1998 level, says the Libertarian Party, would not only allow the abolition of the hated income tax. It would allow “more than enough to provide a strong national defense — and dramatically more than enough to fulfill all constitutional functions of the federal government.”

“Ending the income tax, balancing the budget — eliminating wasteful, unneeded and destructive government programs, wars, and bureaucracies — and cutting total federal spending accordingly will put an average of $11,525 back into the budget of every American household,” said Sarwark. “It pours $1.4 trillion into the productive, private sector economy.

“That’s stimulus!” Sarwark said. “Vote Libertarian, end the income tax, and put money back into your budget.”

Out-Teach the Opponents of Liberty

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion Powerpoint section in Volume 20, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Strategies and tactics of libertarian persuasion can change people’s beliefs and opinions.

But they pale beside the mind-changing power of teaching others the facts and principles of liberty.

A little libertarian learning can change the hearts and minds of millions.

Don’t take my word for this.

Try it. On family members. Friends. Neighbors. Co-workers.

Email them one or two short, powerful essays by Bastiat or Henry Hazlitt or Harry Browne.

Give them a copy of Jim Cox’s brief and persuasive book Minimum Wage, Maximum Damage.Share Your Love of Liberty

Or Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt.

Or Libertarianism in One Lesson by David Bergland.

If they ask for more, lend or give them other books, essays, articles, audios and videos on free market economics and libertarianism.

We can out-teach many supporters of Big Government and opponents of liberty.

Because the facts are friendly to freedom.

Libertarian Party Response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address: Why Not Peace, Liberty and Abundance for All?

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Immediately after President Obama’s State of the Union address and the Republican response, America’s third-largest political party, the Libertarian Party, weighed in with their take, offering a ringing pro-liberty alternative to the Big Government agendas of the two older parties.

The mass media declined to carry it, but don’t let that stop you from encountering a genuine libertarian State of the Union address. It was delivered by Arvin Vohra, vice chair of the Libertarian National Committee. You can see and read the entire response here.

Some highlights:

On education: 

“Mr. President, we can have world-class education. The first step is defunding and eliminating the federal Department of Education, abolishing Common Core, and allowing parents to take full control over their children’s education. Free-market competition will raise educational standards, lower costs, and prepare students to compete in a global economy.”

On ending the income tax: 

“Here’s how we really grow the economy and create jobs: dramatically cut taxes and government spending. Libertarian candidates have pledged to sponsor legislation to cut federal spending to 1998 levels and eliminate the income tax. That means that you keep the money you earn, and spend it how you see fit: on charities and the arts, science research, education, and the health care of your choice.

“Eliminating the income tax also defunds government’s ability to infringe on our privacy, to create enemies through needless wars, and to imprison our fellow citizens for victimless crimes.”

On ending the War on Drugs:

“Mr. President, so many of your supporters have begged you to defund and end the War on Drugs, but you have refused their pleas. Drug prohibition separates families, fosters violence, and destroys communities. You can end the War on Drugs today, by doing what so many Libertarian gubernatorial and presidential candidates have pledged to do: pardon all nonviolent drug offenders.

“Libertarian candidates have pledged to completely end the War on Drugs, and thereby eliminate the black market profits that fund violent cartels. Ending the Drug War will make our streets safer, and people will no longer have to fear incarceration if they seek help overcoming an addiction.”

On online privacy: 

“Americans should be able to use their computers and phones without fear of anyone listening in or recording their communications through mass surveillance. … To protect privacy, Libertarian candidates have pledged to defund the NSA’s mass surveillance program, repeal the Patriot Act, and massively downsize and consolidate redundant spy agencies.”

On war, military spending, and foreign intervention: 

“Mr. President, your party and the Republican Party are damaging lives here and abroad through misuse and overuse of the military. Libertarian candidates have pledged to sponsor legislation to end all foreign military operations, shut down needless foreign bases, cut military spending by at least 60 percent, and bring our troops home.

“Even after those spending cuts, we will still outspend both Russia and China combined. We will also be safer, because our military will be focused on defense. We will stop creating enemies through unwarranted military intrusions.”

On ending Obamacare:

“Republicans have talked about repealing and replacing Obamacare. With what? Romneycare? That will continue to damage businesses and make health care worse. When Republicans controlled the House, they had the chance to defund Obamacare. They refused.

“Libertarian candidates have pledged to completely repeal Obamacare along with the many laws that stand in the way of low-cost, high-quality health care. Providers will compete for customers by lowering costs and increasing quality.

“To help people in need, Libertarian candidates will make charitable hospitals legal. Doctors should not have to leave our borders to be able to offer free care.”

On the need for the Libertarian Party:

“We need to massively downsize and defund the federal government. But Republican and Democratic politicians only want to make it bigger. Get involved with the Libertarian Party in your state by going to LP.org, and by voting Libertarian.”

Are We Nearing the Libertarian Tipping Point in America?

in Communicating Liberty, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion Powerpoint section in Volume 20, No. 2 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

…and if we are, what can YOU DO to speed up the process?

A number of libertarian researchers, thinkers, and writers strongly believe that the Libertarian Tipping Pointlibertarian movement is growing faster and moving forward faster than ever before.

They cite the growing and snowballing numbers of libertarians in the Millennial Generation.

Seventy-four million Millennials — ranging from 10 to 33 years old — are becoming more and more libertarian.

They point out the large number of 18- to 35-year-old voters who supported and voted for Ron Paul for President in 2008. And the larger and growing number of Millennials who campaigned and voted for Ron Paul in 2012.

And they note the increasing percentages of these young voters who voted for Libertarian Party candidates in 2012 and 2014.

The momentum is increasing each election.

And, just as importantly, it’s increasing between elections. In high schools. On college campuses across America. On talk radio. On TV talk shows. And online.

If these numbers are right, if these trends are happening… what can YOU do to speed up the process? To get us nearer to the Great Libertarian Tipping Point?

  1. Talk with high school and college students about liberty. 
  2. Talk with 18- to 35-year-olds about liberty — and the difference it can make for their future.
  3. Ask for permission to forward them links to short YouTube videos or clips or talks. Then do it — sparingly.
  4. Get their permission to send them online links to well-written essays and articles. Or email newsletters such as the Liberator Online. Then ask them to forward the stuff they like best to their friends and classmates.

Here’s the secret to speeding up libertarian growth among the Millennials: winning more Millennials to liberty… and getting them to share it with their friends and classmates and colleagues.

Share your best libertarian conversations and online materials with a dozen receptive Millennials for several weeks or months, and then ask THEM to share the libertarian conversations and writings with a dozen of their friends and classmates. With people roughly their own age who know them and like them and trust them.

You can set this in motion in less than 30 minutes a week.

Then, together, we will push past the Tipping Point — and begin dismantling Big Government and expanding liberty.

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