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Why Do Libertarians Often Run Away From Politics?

in Elections and Politics, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, News You Can Use, Philosophy by Alice Salles Leave a comment

Why Do Libertarians Often Run Away From Politics?

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

In a 1998 article in The Wall Street Journal, George Melloan wrote that many “very capable persons who would make admirable public servants are turned off” by having to raise large sums of money to run for office. Spending so much time “with begging bowl in hand,” he wrote, keeps away the people who could genuinely help.

politics

Exploring this theme, economist Donald J. Boudreaux quoted Melloan and then explained that politicians do not beg for money. Instead, he wrote, they sell a very specific service. Namely, the “use of government’s coercive power to achieve for interest groups what these groups cannot or will not achieve peacefully on the market.”

This point is key to understanding politics as whole, as it showcases just how valuable the job of the politician is to the businessman, businesswoman, or any other particular member of an interest group with enough cash to buy political influence. Unfortunately, when the politician offers his future position in exchange for large donations, what he is offering is just to take part in legalized plunder while effectively reducing the freedoms of voters in general.

When we look at politics as the business of coercion, we understand its mechanisms and suddenly, what seems inexplicable becomes clear.

To politicians and those who support the concept, voluntary transactions found only in free markets are meaningless. What matters to them is to draft rules, policies, and statutes that limit other markets, picking winners and keeping entrepreneurs out of the loop. To them, consumption is a dirty word, so they will do all in their power to limit choice and with that, increase the costs of doing business to all industries under the sun.

The result? Less wealth, fewer jobs, fewer options, and more poverty.

To Boudreaux, this and many other characteristics often associated with politics necessarily disqualify the decent, honorable people who genuinely want to do good from being politicians. After all, honorable individuals couldn’t live with the idea that their salaries are paid through the confiscation of hard-earned money.

An honorable individual would also have a hard time being forced to come up with ways to reduce our freedoms even further, knowing full well that only the individual has a claim to his person and his property.

And last but not least, an honorable individual would see no use in selling influence, precisely because he or she does not see any human being as a subject to be ordered around.

As you can see, politics is a hard game for those who are not collectivists, and an even harder game for those who understand the virtues of the free market. And that is why it is a nearly impossible task to populate Washington with authentic lovers of liberty.

“Who Can You Absolutely NOT Trust?”

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

“Who Can You Absolutely NOT Trust?”

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

When it comes to elections, many voters focus on electing a “good king,” someone who would implement their worldview on others, even if that worldview is TERRIBLE for liberty. If you find yourself talking with one of those voters about libertarianism, your efforts to persuade may be more effective by asking them this question before you get into the politics or philosophy of libertarian thought, “Who can you absolutely NOT trust?”

The answer you receive does not matter, but you should definitely take note, as it will guide the rest of your interaction with them.

trustMost often, you will hear a prominent national name mentioned like Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Harry Reid, or Nancy Pelosi. These are easy targets, and most people keep their minds on the national political news.

Regardless of who they name and the issues they champion, your response should remain the same.

Once you know their top issues, you can begin to ask questions about those issues being manipulated by the person they trust least. Questions like “How would you feel about giving authority over you to [insert their untrustworthy person's name here] on the Second Amendment?” or “If [insert their untrustworthy person's name here] were in charge of who receives welfare and who doesn’t, how would you feel about that program?”

They will be taken aback by this, because they’ve not considered this before.

Then, you can begin a discussion about how when you empower the “good guy” to enact a policy that you also empower the “bad guy” to use that authority. We’re seeing this unfold right now as Congress decides on gender equality when it comes to the draft. As it stands today, the federal government requires young men aged 18-25 to register with the Selective Service. Last week, the Senate voted for equal treatment to force young women to also register for the draft precursor. There were two outcomes that would lead to equal treatment under the law here:

  1. What happened in the US Senate.
  2. That we realize that you don’t actually own yourself if the law compels you to potentially serve in the military against your wishes. This realization would have ended the Selective Service registration for men, providing the same equality, yet with a better self-ownership outcome.


Keep in mind that you don’t need to focus on their issue so much as the idea that once you give power to one, you give that same power to all that come after, and the best solution is to govern one’s self, rather than give away that power.

The “Most Important Election of Our Lifetime” Fallacy

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

The “Most Important Election of Our Lifetime” Fallacy

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

As libertarians, we’ve no doubt heard with every election that THIS one is the “most important election of our lifetime.” Even those who’ve decided to no longer participate in voting and elections are not immune.

Typically, it’s a hyper-partisan individual who is heavily invested in one side of the “horse race” for President, Governor, or Congress making the statement, and they have a litany of reasons why their candidate is “The One.”

To many of us, it’s a broken record. Whether it’s the appointment of Supreme Court justices, ending pointless wars, staving off economic collapse, or fighting back socialism, the refrain from both sides is essentially the same each time it’s shared. It’s been the same since I started paying attention to elections in 1992 and neither George H.W. Bush nor Bill Clinton really spoke to me as they campaigned for President.

The idea that THIS YEAR will be what changes everything is an extension of a societal desire for immediate gratification…like the J. G. Wentworth commercials: “I WANT IT NOW!”

While a sense of urgency is necessary, things do not change overnight, nor will they even over a politician’s term. Patience and hard work bring the change we seek.

The slogan and rhetoric from the 2008 Obama campaign, “Change We Can Believe In,” tapped into the desire for immediate overhaul. What we saw over the last eight years wasn’t much change. It was a continuation of the same. The wars didn’t end. The cronies still got their goodies. Even Guantanamo Bay remains open and operational today.

Actual, sustainable change takes time. It is the result of many in their efforts to win over hearts and minds. It is not achieved in a single election, a new law, or a Supreme Court decision.

slow and steadyAs in the story I recounted in the Tell More Stories article a couple of weeks ago, slow and steady wins the race. That goes for growth as well, whether for an entire philosophy or certain aspects.

I’ve been on the inside as an elected official, and bureaucracy does move with the speed of molasses. In the winter. Uphill. Unless there is a manufactured urgency to DO SOMETHING, when a the square peg will be shoved into a round hole.

We haven’t won over the hearts and minds yet though. We have a long way to go in that regard. When large numbers of people begin to value freedom the same way that you and I do, we can focus our conversations there and on our path to electoral successes, if they are even necessary.

There is no silver bullet. We are building a movement for Liberty, and that growth doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s happening faster with each passing day.

Remember, politicians and laws don’t change hearts and minds, and we don’t win anything without those.

What is a Libertarian Win? Part 1

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

What is a Libertarian Win? Part 1

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

On Tuesday, many libertarians appeared on the ballot as candidates for office. Like them, when I ran for office both times, winning was pretty easy to define. It came down to whether we earned enough votes to serve in office. Unfortunately, there are not many wins for libertarians when you only use this metric.

Aside from winning the election, some smaller “wins” are possible:

  • winSeeing libertarian policy positions adopted by another candidate. Often, the biggest impact a candidate can have on an election they do not win at the polls is to have another candidate recognize the principled or popular position held by the libertarian candidate and adopt it as part of their platform or vision for the office they intend to hold. While not as big of a win for Liberty, it is a step toward a more libertarian society.
  • Awakening a desire for transparency. Many voters are unaware of the dealings of government, especially at the local level. There are times when a motivated candidate opens the electorate’s eyes about the cronyism and “shady” deals of their elected officials. Engaging voters and other community stakeholders in the political process to prevent the “business as usual” backroom deals that barely get an iota of public input or discussion in the board room.
  • Awareness of the existence of a differing opinion. We often recognize the similarities between candidates and parties that are supposedly so diametrically opposed to one another, yet find so much consensus when it comes to growing government and restricting liberty. Because of the posturing and theatrics, that is not the case for many Americans who applaud “crossing the aisle” to reach a bipartisan deal. With so many elected officials out of touch with the people they represent, their constituents are looking for something else. We often offer the common sense solution that promotes freedom and limits government power that they are looking for.

We discussed a division of labor for our efforts recently, and we’ll discuss how can we define a win for libertarianism outside of elections next week. What do you think of as a libertarian win?

Halloween: Share Some Scary Facts About… Government

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 18 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

HalloweenThe scariest holiday of the year is fast approaching. Bloodsuckers, devils, demons and creeps will roam the streets, demanding we hand over our goodies — or face nasty consequences.

No, not the elections — Halloween!

Holidays can be a great time to share libertarian ideas with family and friends. We recommend libertarians gather liberty-themed facts, figures and stories specific for each holiday and share them if and when appropriate. (We try to share such info in the Liberator Online as major holidays near.)

Below is a fun and startling report from Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) that gives some genuinely shocking figures about how much government is adding to the cost of your family’s Halloween celebration this year.

Unfortunately, ATR first posted this in 2011, and they haven’t updated it as we go to press. It’s still very usable, though. Just point out the date by saying something like “as Americans for Tax Reform noted a few Halloweens back…”)

So, if the opportunity arises, scare your family and friends with some of this truly terrifying information. You can share it online, too, by linking here.

You’ll surely open some minds about the creepiest House of Horrors of them all— the federal government! Happy Halloween!

The Frightening Cost of Halloween — Thanks to Government
(from Americans for Tax Reform)

Think Halloween is scary? Ha! It’s nothing compared to the Frightfest of taxes and hidden costs government adds to this beloved holiday.

Each year, parents spend $1 billion on kid costumes for Halloween. On average, for the estimated 41 million trick-or-treaters, each kid wears a costume costing almost $25 — a hefty sum for parents who know this annual investment is only going to get a few hours of use.

Taxes make up a shocking amount of that cost.

Kids’ costumes are almost all made of heavily taxed synthetic fibers. On top of the state sales tax paid at the register, the government increases the cost of buying these costumes by imposing a 17 percent tariff on many of these imported costumes. Businesses not only have to absorb these costs, but also those imposed by income taxes, payroll taxes, corporate taxes, property taxes, capital gains taxes, unemployment insurance taxes, workmen’s compensation taxes, and other payments to federal, state, and local forms of government.

When all is said and done, government taxes compose a terrifying 47.82 percent of the cost of the average kid’s costume — $11.66 of the average price. Boo!

But the government’s tricks don’t end there. The Halloween season brings with it $2 billion in candy purchases. Due to excise taxation on sweets in addition to the burden of taxes placed on the confectionery industry, the government takes a 30.81 percent bite out of the average trick-or-treaters’ candy haul. Ouch!

Altogether, the cost of celebrating our scariest holiday is made all the more frightening by the costs imposed by government: hidden taxes and other costs constitute 40.91 percent of your Halloween celebration. 

This amounts to a burden of $688 million — or $16.80 per kid. The remaining $1.3 billion of candy not distributed during trick-or-treating represents another $406 million in taxes. Finally, after including taxes on adults for decorations and costumes the total Halloween tax bite comes to… a bloody and bruising $2.7 billion.

And the cost is even higher if you attend a spooky party with alcoholic beverages. Wine, distilled spirits and beer are all subject to more hidden taxes. Going out to dinner instead of trick-or-treating also carries higher government costs. And if you have to drive your kids to trick-or-treat, the government bite of gasoline also takes a hefty bite out of your wallet…

Wherever you turn, wherever you go, you can’t escape the bloodsucking horror of… the federal government.

Hey, if you’re still searching for a truly bone-chilling costume idea, here’s one: dress up as… Uncle Sam.

They Said It… Ann Coulter, Jacob Sollum, Milton Friedman and More

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

ANN COULTER WANTS TO DROWN LIBERTARIAN VOTERS: 

Ann Coulter“The biggest current danger for Republicans is that idiots will vote for Libertarian candidates in do-or-die Senate elections… If you are considering voting for the Libertarian candidate in any Senate election, please send me your name and address so I can track you down and drown you.” — Ann Coulter, “Your ‘To-Do’ List to Save America,” syndicated column, September 17, 2014.

OBAMA VS. THE CONSTITUTION: “[President Obama] is acting on the Bruce Ackermanproposition that the president, in his capacity as commander in chief, has unilateral authority to declare war. In taking this step, Mr. Obama is not only betraying the electoral majorities who twice voted him into office on his promise to end Bush-era abuses of executive authority. He is also betraying the Constitution he swore to uphold.” — Bruce Ackerman, professor of law and politics at Yale, “Obama’s Betrayal of the Constitution,” New York Times, Sept. 11, 2014.

 

U.S. GENERAL ADMITS “WE HELPED BUILD ISIS”: 
Tom McInerney“In Syria we backed… some of the wrong people and not in the right part of the Free Syrian Army. … I’ve always maintained… that we were backing the wrong types. … Some of those weapons from Benghazi ended up in the hands of ISIS. So we helped build ISIS.” — retired U.S. Air Force General Tom McInerney, FOX News, early September.

Tom BoggioniMILITARIZING SCHOOL DISTRICTS: “Taking advantage of U.S. Defense Department offers of free or low-cost military hardware, Texas school districts have been helping themselves to high-powered weaponry, bullet-proof vests, and armored vehicles to militarize their campus police officers. … [Ten] districts have acquired 64 M-16 rifles, 18 M-14 rifles, 25 automatic pistols, extended magazines, and 4,500 rounds of ammunition. Additionally, the schools stocked up on armored plating, tactical vests, as well as 15 surplus military vehicles.” — Tom Boggioni, “Texas school districts militarize campus cops with free surplus weapons, armored vehicles,” The Raw Story, Sept. 5, 2014.

LIFE SENTENCE FOR SELLING POT:
Jacob Sollum“Washington and Colorado have repealed all criminal penalties for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana and for production and sale by state-licensed businesses (as well as home cultivation of up to six plants in Colorado). … In Oklahoma, by contrast, possession of any amount can get you up to a year in jail, and sale of any amount less than 25 pounds triggers a sentence of two years to life.” — Jacob Sullum, “Life In Prison For Pot And Other Travesties Of Marijuana Prohibition,” Forbes.com, Sept. 4, 2014.

ME NEITHER: “Remember when war was something fought to defend the homeland from invasion? Yeah, me neither.” — tweet from Jonathan Danforth, Sept. 9, 2014.

NOTED AND RE-QUOTED
MY MOUTH, MY CHOICE:
Milton Friedman“The government has no more right to tell me what goes into my mouth than it has to tell me what comes out of my mouth.” — Milton Friedman, meme circulated by the Independent Institute.

 

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“They Said It…” is compiled by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris.