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How Much Is Liberty Worth?

in Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

How Much Is Liberty Worth?

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Recently, I found an interesting piece on Seth Godin’s blog about the fear of giving.  As libertarians, we have a reputation of acting in our own self-interests (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  This is a reputation very much deserved, as it aligns with our beliefs with regard to individual liberty and personal responsibility, but it also accurately portrays our giving, political and otherwise.

As individuals we act in our own self-interest, but as a group, we fail to adequately fund groups and candidates in line with our principles or invest in entrepreneurial efforts that decentralize authority.  The analogy used in that piece about giving was one that showed that in an emergency situation, one rarely considers the cost of action:

‘If you are walking by a pond and you see a child drowning, do you save her? What if it means ruining a very fancy pair of Italian shoes?’ Okay, if we assume the answer is yes, then why not spend the cost of those shoes to save 20 kids who are starving to death across town or the world? There’s really no difference. Or by, extension, invest in research or development that solves a problem forever… The issues are proximity and attention.

As we face the ever-growing threats to our liberty, it would seem that those active in the liberty movement, whether as an “R”, “D”, “L”, “I”, or anyone else who has “seen the light,” would be clamoring to give money to local groups, statewide and national organizations, candidates running for office, and activists that work against the two-headed snake of Big Government. Are we in an emergency situation today?

Godin points out the success of the Mormon church (as well as many of the Christian religions) as they set a standard for how to become and remain a member in good standing with regard to financial matters:

The Mormon Church says, ‘tithe’. Loosely paraphrased, they say, ‘10% is a lot, and 10% is enough.’ This is actually very smart, because they’ve created a difficult but achievable standard, a way to be a member of good standing in their tribe.

When my dad ran the local United Way drive as a volunteer, he pushed for one percent. ‘One percent isn’t a lot, but it’s enough.’

My first question to you is “How much is enough?”  If I asked you to contribute a certain percentage or a dollar amount to support the cause of liberty, what would that number be? (I’m honestly soliciting your feedback here: brett@theadvocates.org)

Additionally, do you think that the these groups and candidates ask for donations often enough?  Do they ask too much?  Or just the right amount?

I would be remiss not to ask that you support The Advocates for Self-Government with this opportunity, so please do give as much as you can.

My final question for you to consider is this:  How much is Liberty worth?

How much is Liberty worth?

When You Listen

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

When You Listen

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

Markets, supply and demand, and general economic principles are not common knowledge. Those topics were barely mentioned in my single semester of economics in high school.

So, why do we fight so hard to teach them when we converse (or debate, yell and scream) about the issues in politics today?

Previously, we discussed how important listening is in our conversations with “libertarians in waiting” — those we are talking about libertarian ideas in a persuasive manner.

Recently, I discussed Uber’s “Surge Pricing” with my Uber driver. He talked about how much he despises “price gouging,” how many complaints he gets about it, and how it isn’t fair.

Because we engaged in conversation early in the ride, I know that his family owns a hotel. The conversation evolved to his experiences as a driver and came to the Surge Pricing issue.

At this point, we could “defend” the concept we know as scarcity and tried to convey an economic message against his “price gouging” view. How effective would that be?

Instead of trying to teach a strictly economic lesson, let’s focus on the fairness of the situation and the best outcomes for all involved.

So, rather than talk about scarcity, we discussed how fair it is to put a cap on prices in an emergency situation (akin to the anti-price gouging laws in many states). We talked about the hotel business and discussed what would happen if a room rate were capped at $100 per room per night vs. letting the market find a price point of $200 (or more) per room per night.

Here’s my example: If the Ventura family is escaping a natural disaster and comes upon a hotel that hasn’t raised prices, for the sake of comfort, they might take two rooms (one for the adults and one for the children) at the hotel if two are available at that price. That means “No Vacancy” for the travelers behind them. The Thomas family, who left an hour after the Venturas, has to continue on to another hotel or maybe even another town, or they might choose to sleep in their car.

no vacancy - listenIf the hotel operator instead raised the prices as his stock depletes and charges $200 per room per night, the Venturas would be more likely to squeeze together into a single room, leaving a room available for the tired Thomas family, who no longer has to search for a hotel room.

After planting that seed, we discussed the recent controversy about the Surge Pricing by Uber on New Year’s Eve.

I asked him if he was done partying at 1 AM and ready to go home, would he prefer to know that he could get his ride with Uber quickly, but for a higher than normal price, or hail a ride via the service if it can’t pay anything additional to the drivers for the holiday and heavier than normal traffic on a Thursday night. There’s no longer an incentive (higher than normal fares) for new drivers to come out to drive, so the wait might be akin to that of a cab company with a similar problem of a fixed number of drivers. In Indianapolis, I heard about New Year’s Eve revelers waiting nearly 3 hours for a taxi.

When you need a ride NOW, is it fair to have to wait hours, when you could pay more to get one in 5 minutes? Is it fair to the drivers to get paid the same rate for a holiday and much heavier than normal traffic?

When you listen. you get an opportunity to tell a story that someone else can easily grasp with no economic education, by focusing your comments on their concerns.