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A Libertarian’s New Year’s Resolutions

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Uncategorized by Advocates HQ Comments are off

(From the Libertarian’s New Year’s Resolutions section in Volume 19, No. 27 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Editor’s Note: Several years ago, Harry Browne — 1996 and 2000 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, world-renowned libertarian speaker and writer, and very good friend of the Advocates — made his New Year’s resolutions.

Harry BrowneThe result was a compact how-to of effective libertarian communication, by one of history’s most persuasive advocates of the ideas of liberty.

We are delighted to share this inspiring and uplifting classic with you. Consider adding them to your own resolutions this year — and share them with other libertarians.

***

  1. I resolve to sell liberty by appealing to the self-interest of each prospect, rather than preaching to people and expecting them to suddenly adopt my ideas of right and wrong.
  2. I resolve to keep from being drawn into arguments or debates. My purpose is to inspire people to want liberty — not to prove that they’re wrong.
  3. I resolve to listen when people tell me of their wants and needs, so I can help them see how a free society will satisfy those needs.
  4. I resolve to identify myself, when appropriate, with the social goals someone may seek — a cleaner environment, more help for the poor, a less divisive society — and try to show him that those goals can never be achieved by government, but will be well served in a free society.
  5. I resolve to be compassionate and respectful of the beliefs and needs that lead people to seek government help. I don’t have to approve of their subsidies or policies — but if I don’t acknowledge their needs, I have no hope of helping them find a better way to solve their problems. 
  6. No matter what the issue, I resolve to keep returning to the central point: how much better off the individual will be in a free society.
  7. I resolve to acknowledge my good fortune in having been born an American. Any plan for improvement must begin with a recognition of the good things we have. To speak only of America’s defects will make me a tiresome crank.
  8. I resolve to focus on the ways America could be so much better with a very small government — not to dwell on all the wrongs that exist today.
  9. I resolve to cleanse myself of hate, resentment, and bitterness. Such things steal time and attention from the work that must be done.
  10. I resolve to speak, dress, and act in a respectable manner. I may be the first libertarian someone has encountered, and it’s important that he get a good first impression. No one will hear the message if the messenger is unattractive.
  11. I resolve to remind myself that someone’s “stupid” opinion may be an opinion I once held. If I can grow, why can’t I help him grow?
  12. I resolve not to raise my voice in any discussion. In a shouting match, no one wins, no one changes his mind, and no one will be inspired to join our quest for a free society.
  13. I resolve not to adopt the tactics of Republicans and Democrats. They use character assassination, evasions, and intimidation because they have no real benefits to offer Americans. We, on the other hand, are offering to set people free — and so we can win simply by focusing on the better life our proposals will bring.
  14. I resolve to be civil to my opponents and treat them with respect. However anyone chooses to treat me, it’s important that I be a better person than my enemies.

Harry passed away in March of 2006, and we greatly miss him. If enough of us follow Harry’s advice, we can make 2015 the best year yet for the libertarian movement. He is the author of Liberty A to Z, available from the Advocates’ Liberty Store. 

Raising the Price of Milk: A Minimum Wage Metaphor

in Communicating Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues, One Minute Liberty Tip by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

First, the bad news.

A strong majority of Americans favor increasing the minimum wage. A recent Reason-Rope poll asked Raising the Price of Milk1,003 American adults this question: “The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Do you favor or oppose raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour?”

Fully 67 percent supported raising the minimum wage.

But there’s more.

When the poll further asked: “What about if raising the minimum wage caused some employers to lay off workers or hire fewer workers? Would you favor or oppose raising the minimum wage?” the response changed dramatically. 58 percent opposed raising the minimum wage, and only 39 percent favored it.

And when asked: “What about if raising the minimum wage caused some employers to raise prices? Would you favor or oppose raising the minimum wage?” the vote was split almost evenly.

And that’s the good news. We can change minds and win the majority to our side on this issue — if we help people understand the true, terrible consequences of minimum wage laws.

How can we do that? It’s not easy. To many people, a higher minimum wage seems compassionate. It even seems to make economic sense. As one state representative said earlier this year: “Raising the minimum is a win-win. If you put an extra $700 or $800 in a worker’s pocket, that money is going to be spent. Everybody will benefit.”

One problem is that most people aren’t employers; they don’t “buy” labor. They don’t think in those terms.

But most people do buy milk. And that suggests a simple analogy that can cut through foggy thinking and help people understand why the minimum wage produces such bad results.

Ask your listeners: What if the government decided to mandate an increase in the retail price of milk? Suppose the price of a gallon of milk was doubled?

Would that help farmers, dairies, and grocery stores? Would it mean more money for them? After all, it would only be a small increase for most milk buyers, just a few dollars per week.

Ask your listener what they think would happen if the cost of milk doubled.

How would people react? Would people buy more milk, or less?

For some people, the price increase wouldn’t matter. They’d just keep on buying milk.

But for many consumers, the price increase would make a big difference. Struggling families would be hit especially hard.

Many people would start exploring milk substitutes. Instead of buying whole milk, they might switch to cheaper soy or almond or rice milk.

Others would simply cut back on the amount of milk they consume.

Still others might water down their milk after purchasing it, to make it stretch further.

Further, the cost of items that used milk — cheese, ice cream, butter, etc. — would also rise. Consumers would buy less of those items, too. And manufacturers, just like consumers, would switch to milk substitutes whenever possible, in order to keep the prices of their products as low as possible.

The bottom line? Consumers would buy less milk. And, ironically, many farmers — the very people the increase was supposed to help — would lose money or even go out of business.

Which brings us to the minimum wage.

Employers buy labor, not milk. But if you increase the cost of labor, employers will act in much the same way that our imaginary milk consumers did.

Some employers will no longer be able to afford to buy labor at the price mandated by the new minimum wage. As a result, some jobs will shrink (fewer bag boys, fewer check-out counters, fewer waiters, fewer warehouse workers, etc.). Some jobs will disappear altogether. (Remember movie ushers, and car attendants who pumped your gas and checked your oil for you?)

Further, as the price for labor is incorporated into the price of goods, prices will go up for some products, and others may simply disappear from store shelves.

Some employers will look for labor substitutes, just like our consumers above looked for milk substitutes. They will use technology. Check-yourself-out counters. Automation. Robots. When labor reaches a high enough price, substitutes suddenly become cost-effective. Even moving to a new country with cheaper labor costs may be feasible.

Still others will “water down” the work. They will hire fewer people, or fewer full time employees, and stretch the work out between them.

Most people understand that if you forcibly increase the cost of milk, less milk will be sold, and ultimately both consumers and farmers will be harmed.

This simple metaphor lets them see the same is true of labor, too. A mandated increase in the price of labor, via the minimum wage, brings fewer jobs, higher prices for goods and services, harder work loads, and other negative consequences.

That’s not what people want. When they learn such these things are consequences of the minimum wage, they will no longer support it.

(To learn more arguments against the minimum wage, see “Minimum Wage Maximum Damage” by economist Jim Cox, published by the Advocates. This short easy-to-understand booklet devastates every argument for the minimum wage.)

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