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The Things That Are the Same

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

The Things That Are the Same

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

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend about her life growing up, and how her family structure and her faith played into the life that she’s created for herself. Despite growing up in a different part of the country, with a different faith, and a different family structure, we actually want the same things, and we hold similar beliefs.

Our conversation then expanded beyond the two of us to our varied networks to look at things on a more “macro level,” where we began to talk about how people of the Jewish faith, Muslim faith, Christian faith, or even no faith at all, actually want a lot of the same things.

We want to be happy. We want to be healthy. We want to have friends and family that love us. Essentially, we want to live a good life, being “good people.” Regardless of our faiths or backgrounds, that can be achieved by living something that many of us know as “The Golden Rule,” where we treat others as we wish to be treated.

As libertarians, I believe that is the foundation of our philosophy and principles, making sure that those with whom we interact are treated by us as we want to be treated. As a libertarian, I believe in the good in others, and I want that to flourish as we focus on the freedom to live as though we wish, without the impediment of what someone else views as the “right thing.”

Regardless of your faith, family upbringing, or regional geographic culture, we still believe in the same basic principles in life. As libertarians, we have an opportunity, regardless of those things to use that commonality to be fantastic examples of what it is to be a good person.

AND a good libertarian.

I think that’s going to be one of the best ways to attract people to the ideas that we have to bring others to a hold a libertarian perspective.

 

 

Try A Different Tack This Holiday Season

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

Try A Different Tack This Holiday Season

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

The 2016 holiday season is already upon us. We have Thanksgiving next week, and we have Hanukkah and Christmas next month.

These holidays mean that we’re going to have a lot of time with friends, family, and co-workers as you go to parties and gatherings.

Typically, what we see from a lot of libertarian groups, in an attempt to advance libertarianism and the ideas of liberty, is to use these audiences that you have as a way to talk about libertarianism. This year, I’m going to ask that you try something different.

I’m asking that you do not talk about politics AT ALL. Instead, I want you to do something that is going to give you an opportunity to have both peace and a way to learn about some of the beliefs that these people hold. The best way you can achieve that is to listen.

Don’t engage. Just listen.

What you’re going to be able to do as people talk about their own ideas, you’re going to get a better understanding of where they’re coming from. You’re also going to be able to use that later on to formulate the ideas that you’ll be able to communicate when you’re talking with them later. This way, you’ll already understand their positions and you’ll have time to build your response to the ideas they hold.

The beauty of this is that you’ll have a ton of peace because you’re not going to be arguing with anyone. There won’t be any screaming matches or uncomfortable situations about ideas.

Instead, you’ll be able to have a peaceful Thanksgiving dinner. You’ll be able to have a wonderful learning Christmas feast, and you’ll learn so much more about other people’s views.

Just stop… And listen.

Who’s On Your Short List?

in Freedom On Campus, Liberator Online by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

Who’s On Your Short List?

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

American industrialist and businessman, J. Paul Getty, wrote in his book, “How to Be Rich,” that:

“…it has always been my contention that an individual who can be relied upon to be himself and to be honest unto himself can be relied upon in every other way.”

TeamworkAs one of America’s most successful entrepreneurs, Getty’s soundbites about living richly are definitely something to take to heart.

In the full year I’ve been outside the comforts of university life, I’ve learned more about the importance of reliability than I ever thought I would. At first, I learned how to rely on myself and my own skills when I moved a few hundred miles away from my family. Then, I learned to rely on those around me, which helped me create a new support system. Now, I work each and every day to be someone that others can rely on.

It is my hope that I’m on many “short lists.” Meaning, if a friend, family member, or co-worker had something important they needed help with, that I would be on their short list of people to call.

For example, I received a phone call from a college friend that I haven’t seen since graduation. She was in the Indianapolis area and wanted to know if she could potentially stay with me in case she was too tired to make the long drive home after a few meetings. I was  humbled that she thought of me – during my undergraduate years, I tried my very best to make sure that those around me knew that I could be someone who they could depend on.

Sometimes though, I drop the ball – I’m only human. We all are.

But even if people that occasionally drop the ball are honest with themselves and with others, as Getty mentions, it makes a difference.

I unfortunately can count on more than two hands (and two feet) the number of times I have encountered those who appear to be reliable, but end up doing more harm than they do good.

Even worse are those who use outlets like social media to gloat about how they used their time and talents “for good” without realizing how badly they set back the team, group, or project.

There was a saying that became popular during my last year in college:

“When I die, I hope [class project group member] lowers me into my grave so that they can let me down one last time.”

Although it’s hilarious (and morbid), think about it.

Do your actions make others want you on their short list? Or are you just going through the motions?

Pick the Middle Seat

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

Pick the Middle Seat

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

If we’ve not met, you may be unaware that I am a big guy. I also travel a lot.

For my comfort, that means making sure I sit by the window or on the aisle on a plane.

middle seatComing back from Las Vegas last month, I didn’t check in early enough for my flight to get a low boarding number on the airline that uses “cattle call boarding.” That meant a middle seat for four hours.

While kicking myself for not checking in sooner, the realization of the opportunity this presented hadn’t hit me yet. This was an AMAZING opportunity for outreach.

Most of the time, sharing such close quarters with complete strangers makes them great friends by the time we get to our destination. I know about their job, family, pets, etc., and they know a lot of the same stuff about me. There is typically a seed for Liberty planted somewhere in our interaction.

By sitting in my preferred seat next to the window, I limit my opportunity to the person sitting in the middle, unlikely to hold any real conversation with the person sitting on the aisle.

On the flight home, the three of us discussed politics, freedom, and the upcoming election in a very honest and civil manner. Both now have a different view of libertarian thought and are actively considering how much more often freedom is the answer.

Since, I’ve had at least one conversation with them both, as they had further questions about libertarianism and asked about resources for learning more. Obviously, I offered the Liberator Online, this column, and our online store.

What might happen if we all picked the middle seat and seized the opportunity to double our outreach efforts?

What are the Hidden Costs of Sending Children to Government Schools?

in Children's Rights, Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online, Marriage and Family, Personal Liberty by Advocates HQ Comments are off

What are the Hidden Costs of Sending Children to Government Schools?

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

Editor’s Note: Although this isn’t strictly a conversation, it’s something to think about when weighing the educational options for one’s children. 

School If I took a blow to the head and decided to go to a 9-5 j.o.b. and tried to provide something close to what the boys get at home now I’d have to pay for the following:

–Private school
–Hidden costs associated with school (projects, parties, fund raisers, etc.)
–Someone to run them to activities
–Additional medical due to increased sickness in self and children
–Sick child care
–Testing for BA
–OT for auditory processing/sequencing (I wouldn’t have time)
–Tutoring for reading (I wouldn’t have time)
–Sports for both boys
–Sports equipment
–Professional wardrobe for me
–Uniforms for boys
–Dry cleaning
–Additional meals out
–Housekeeper
–Help in the shop–boys do this now
–Help with yard maintenance –boys do this now

That’s just off the top of my head. The private schooling, the nanny/child care, OT, tutoring, and sports alone would eat anything I brought in. And that’s just the money.

I suspect if they were in school there would be a fair amount of despair in the life of my oldest who is independent and sets his own path. Despair in the life of an adolescent who lives big is usually expensive. Emotionally expensive and monetarily expensive. I’ve seen it end in therapy for anger. I’ve seen it end in a trip to the hospital for a child who was acting out. There’s worse. Best not to go there.

I can’t imagine what would happen to BA in the hands of even the most caring teachers. He’s, frankly, our child to raise. There is no outsourcing him and keeping him whole. That’s all there is to say about that.

Raising and educating our sons takes up a lot of room in my head. Room that would be taken up by work if I were going to a 9-5. I wouldn’t be able to devote as much time to observing them and figuring out what was really happening developmentally, intellectually, emotionally, physically. I couldn’t set up independent studies, mentoring, apprenticing. There simply wouldn’t be as much time for me to be the expert on our sons. That’s work that can’t be sent out.

That’s my work to do. Besides their dad, there’s no one in the world who has as much skin in the game as I have.

Sometimes the parent who stays with the children wonders what it would be like if they worked a 9-5 j.o.b.. If you do that, make sure you put everything on the scales. Being away from your children will have hidden costs and unintended consequences, good and bad.

Take A Break

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

Take A Break

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

Rest. Relaxation. Leisure.

All of that sounds delightful. Why? Because it’s the opposite of most of our lives. We work. We raise families. We volunteer.

Those restful vacations break up our daily lives. Even a change of scenery while we toil can be refreshing.

breakPolitics is no different, and you don’t necessarily need to plan a getaway.

Every once in a while, you need to take a break from the grind of politics. There’s no need to go to, watch, read, and consume EVERYTHING ALL. THE. TIME.

As libertarians, we attune ourselves to the actions of, commentary about, and reactions to what happens in Washington DC and state capitols. That’s a lot of information to keep track of.

Additionally, we interact with other libertarians, other politicos, and media organizations almost obsessively. In today’s age of information, it’s almost like trying to drink from a firehose.

We can easily become overwhelmed by it all.

Being overwhelmed can impact our effectiveness. It can also hurt our ability to effectively communicate with others, both within the libertarian movement and with those who haven’t joined us yet. We don’t even realize it’s happened.

That’s when it’s time to take a break.

If you need sun, surf, and drinks with umbrellas in them, take a few days to soak up the sun on the beach with an umbrella drink.

Often, it only takes stepping back to turn a wrench, paint a picture, or play your guitar. Letting your hobbies and interests clear your mind for a few hours, days, or even a week will change you.

Personally, I’m a fan of completely unplugging, and I come back refreshed, invigorated, and eager to jump back into the swing of things.

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?

Does the Bill of Rights Guarantee the Right to…Own a Pet?

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

Does the Bill of Rights Guarantee the Right to…Own a Pet?

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

Thomas Jefferson once said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant & free… it expects what never was and never will be.”

One can only imagine Jefferson’s reaction to a recent national survey by the respected Annenberg Public Policy Center.

The Annenberg survey found that a terrifying large number of Americans are unfamiliar with even the most basic and most fundamental facts about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the structure of the U.S. government.

Rights And, in their ignorance, many are ready to toss out essential liberties and safeguards. Among the findings:

  • Only one in three Americans (31 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government. Thirty-two percent could not identify even one.
  • More than one in four Americans (28 percent) incorrectly thinks a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling is sent back either to Congress for reconsideration or to the lower courts for a decision.
  • Fully 12 percent say the Bill of Rights includes… the right to own a pet.
  • One American in four thinks the Bill of Rights guarantees “equal pay for equal work.”

 
This ignorance, alas, is nothing new. Many surveys over the years have reported similarly depressing findings.

Perhaps this partially explains why the Annenberg survey also found that significant percentages of Americans support getting rid of some of our most fundamental liberties:

  • Thirty-one percent say the government should have the power to outlaw a religion if a majority of voters believe it holds “un-American views.” Another 13 percent don’t care one way or another. Less than half (46 percent) oppose this.
  • Twenty-seven percent say the government should be able to prohibit a peaceful march down a main street if the marchers’ views are offensive to the majority of a town’s residents. Another 15 percent don’t care. A little more than half (54 percent) oppose.
  • Twelve percent support giving the government the power to stop the press from publishing articles critical of the government (prior restraint). Another 9 percent don’t care one way or the other.
  • Nearly half (46 percent) oppose current prohibitions on “double jeopardy,” the practice of retrying a person for the same crime twice if new evidence emerges after a not-guilty verdict.
  • One-quarter of those surveyed (26 percent) favor requiring a person to testify against himself in court. Another 17 percent don’t care either way.
  • A quarter of the respondents (25 percent) agreed that “it might be better to do away with the Supreme Court altogether” if it starts making a lot of rulings most Americans disagreed with.

 
Whatever your beliefs about government, the Constitution — and especially the Bill of Rights — has historically been the greatest resource for the day-to-day peaceful protection of American liberties. Thoughtful people of all political persuasions — liberals, conservatives and libertarians alike — find much common ground in these documents.

The lack of knowledge the Annenberg survey found constitutes nothing less than a civil liberties emergency.

Can anything be done to change this? Can you personally do anything?

Yes. We have many tools available to us, and many opportunities.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Share with your inner circle. Most of us have our greatest influence over those closest to us: children, grandchildren, other family members, close friends, neighbors, business associates, and so on. Share with them the importance of understanding how the government is structured and why our Bill of Rights freedoms are so vital. Encourage them to share them with others, creating a ripple effect. If your children attend a school, ask what is being done to teach these issues.
  • Use social media. Most of us are in contact with a great variety of people through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and other social media. Share this crucial information via videos, memes, links to news stories and articles. (The Annenberg poll press release, linked at the start of this article, will shock and amaze many of your friends and followers.)
  • Use holidays.Bill of Rights Day, (December 15), Constitution Day (September 17), and Independence Day (July 4) offer especially good opportunities to discuss these issues with family, friends, social media followers, and so on. They are great times for letters to the editor discussing the vital importance of our Bill of Rights freedoms and the need to understand them. Such letters can reach thousands or even tens of thousands or more people. Just a few letters in large newspapers can reach millions. Put these holidays on your calendar!

 
(By the way, all publicly funded educational institutions — including any schools receiving federal funds of any kind — are required to provide educational programming on the history of the American Constitution on or near Constitution Day. So on Constitution Day these matters will definitely be on the minds of many people.)

That’s just a start. Doubtless you can think of other opportunities and forums. As always, use the effective communication skills taught by the Advocates to make your communication appealing and welcome. (You’ll find lots of them in my book How to Be a Super Communicator for Liberty: Successfully Sharing Libertarian Ideas. e-book here)

It’s up to you. Government schools have failed miserably at teaching basic civics. So has the media. (The more skeptical among us might even note that government benefits enormously from having the public ignorant about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.)

As the great libertarian writer Harry Browne pointed out: “If the American people are to learn the importance of limited, Constitutional government, we have to teach them ourselves.” We have the power to reach those closest to us, and to reach — via letters, speeches, social media and many other ways — millions more Americans as well. Are you ready?

Thanksgiving: Share Some Shocking Facts About Thanksgiving and Big 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. 22 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Thanksgiving TurkeyHolidays can be a great time to share libertarian ideas with family and friends, so be sure to gather liberty-themed facts, figures and stories specific for each holiday. We often share such information in the Liberator Online as a holiday nears.

With Thanksgiving almost upon us, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) warns that an uninvited guest is planning to crash your Turkey (or Tofurkey) Day celebration. Save a big seat at the table for… Uncle Sam.

ATR offers some genuinely shocking figures about how much government is adding to the cost of your family’s Thanksgiving celebration.

Share this information with your family and friends, if appropriate, and you’ll surely open minds and spark stimulating discussions. You can share it online, too, by sharing this link.

Maybe they’ll even give thanks that you and other libertarians are working hard to spare them from this kind of government plunder.

Following is ATR’s report. (Note: ATR first posted this fun and informative piece in 2011, and unfortunately 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 Thanksgivings back…”)

Hard to Be Thankful for Bigger Government this Thanksgiving
from Americans for Tax Reform (ATR)

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for reuniting with friends and family. Unfortunately, the government wants in on your celebration too. Whether you stay home or travel for the holiday, government is a significant contributor to the costs of the celebration.

Of an identified $10 billion in spending that occurs during Thanksgiving weekend on the wine and beer, the gas and plane tickets, and the meal itself, government taxation composes 35.86 percent of those expenses — approximately $3.6 billion in revenues.

Many of these Thanksgiving items are subject to the increased costs of income taxes, payroll taxes, corporate income taxes, and other taxes on business activity. Government then includes additional fees and excise taxes that further increase the cost of providing specific items or services.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, a 2011 Thanksgiving meal for ten increased in cost by $5.73 to a total of $49.20 — and government taxation gobbles up $13.68 of that.

And this doesn’t include beer and wine consumption. Between football games and meals, nearly 53 million cases of beer are consumed. Government collects $219 million in taxes — 44.33 percent of the cost of each case. Thanksgiving attendees will also find it hard to be grateful for the 32.77 percent increase in the cost of each bottle of wine thanks to government.

Whether you fly or drive to be with your loved ones this Thanksgiving season, government heavily taxes your preferred mode of transportation. Of the 94 percent of travelers driving their cars, government will raise an estimated $1.1 billion in tax revenue — 45.33 percent of the gasoline price tag. Similarly, government also increases the cost of the average $376 Thanksgiving flight — making up 43.57 off each ticket’s price.

Government hits taxpayers particularly hard during the holiday season, filling its plate with these taxes and fees. As you gather with family and friends this Thanksgiving, remember that Uncle Sam is to thank… for your smaller slice of pumpkin pie.