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As Maine Fights For Food Sovereignty, The Federal Government Closes In

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

As Maine Fights For Food Sovereignty, The Federal Government Closes In


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Decentralization continues to be an important goal for many practical libertarians, and for good reason. After all, when you take the power away from a big, overbearing government body and brings it back to the hands of small communities, you allow individuals to make decisions for themselves along with their neighbors. You give autonomy back to small groups of people, keeping powerful politicians and lobbyists from having the last say on how people run their lives.

Maine

In Maine, Governor Paul LePage has just signed a Food Sovereignty Bill into law. The piece of legislation works by giving Maine towns the power to regulate local food production on their own. With this new bill, the state has essentially nullified the federal government’s monopoly on food regulations.

The first town to have enacted this type of legislation was Sedgwick, which is located in Hancock County in Maine. After passing its own law giving locals the right to produce and consume whatever food item they wish, such as meats from local plants or even raw milk (the horror!), the rest of the state followed suit. Now that the nullification fever spread across the state, others are hoping it spreads across the country.

In other states like Wyoming, similar laws also strip the federal government from its monopoly over food regulation. Unfortunately, they do not go as far as Maine’s new law.

With a law protecting the citizen’s right to sell homemade food without a license, Wyoming is one of the states that have fought for food sovereignty recently. Still, it’s only when we see states going as far as Maine that we’re reminded that battles fought locally are more likely to succeed. For libertarians, this is a message worth embracing as we often look for ways to ensure that individuals are the freest they can be regardless of who’s sent to oversee the executive branch in Washington, D.C., every four years.

Still, we must keep in mind that the federal government doesn’t let go of its powers that easily.

Unfortunately for Maine residents, the new law protecting their food rights is already being attacked by the feds.

Scheduled to go into effect in early November, the governor has urged the state government to hold a special session so they may listen to the federal government’s objections before allowing the bill to run its course.

This follows the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s threats regarding the state’s meat and poultry industries. If the law goes into effect as is, the USDA threatened the state’s meat to be transferred to the federal government’s inspection program. This would then defeat the bill’s purpose, giving the federal government its power to have the last word when it comes to meat and poultry products back.

Hopefully, the state will stand strong in the face of a threatening almighty federal government attempting to keep locals from making their own food-related decisions. And if that is the case, then Maine will serve as a real example of what courage looks like.

SHOCKER: Prison Food Makers Don’t Want Arizona to Legalize Pot

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

SHOCKER: Prison Food Makers Don’t Want Arizona to Legalize Pot

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

Rent-seeking, better known as the practice many companies embrace while trying to obtain benefits through the political machine, is, more often than not, the reason why our liberties are clipped, one by one, in the name of the greater good.

The war on drugs is the perfect example of this.

WeedEver since the idea of the drug war was first considered a valuable policy, politicians have used it as a way to bring their own enemies to heel. Much like major companies — whose profits suffer greatly whenever new competitors enter the market — these politicians often exploit their titles while claiming to hold an entirely different position in public.

With the war against marijuana, we have seen countless industries such as the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries step up their efforts to ensure the plant remains criminalized. As some begin to embrace the trend — even adding marijuana to their portfolio — others remain stubborn, fighting against the change and pushing Washington insiders to keep weed as a Schedule I substance.

Still, there’s one particular industry fighting marijuana legalization that, up until recently, had not made it to the news.

While the law enforcement and prison sectors have always been anti-drug legalization — with the exceptions of groups such as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) — yet another prison-related company has been investing in keeping weed illegal in at least one state: The prison food industry.

According to official Arizona state reports, Services Group of America has donated $80,000 last month to a campaign committee that hopes to defeat the legal cannabis measure on this year’s November ballot.

SGA’s subsidiary, Food Services of America, is tasked with preparing meals for correction facilities. And, in the past, it has been accused of offering meals that fail to meet basic nutritional standards set by the government. They do not seem too keen on allowing prison demands for their food reach a new low.

Local news reports also add that other groups such as the state Chamber of Commerce in Arizona have also donated heavily to the anti-marijuana effort, addressing a $498,000 check to the campaign.

Before both groups offered their financial support, opioid maker Insys Therapeutics had gone further, donating $500,000 to the anti-pot campaign.

Other groups listed as major anti-weed donors include the Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesale Association, and SAM Action, which is often described as the campaign arm of Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

Despite the heavy-handed efforts coming from these companies to defeat the marijuana legalization efforts, polls show voters are supporting the effort to legalize pot in the Grand Canyon state.

Will rent seekers win this time?

What are rights?

in Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

What are rights?

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

Editor’s Note: This was written to introduce the idea of rights to the Young Statesman.

What are rights? There are two types or rights: Negative rights and positive rights. If you’ve ever heard the Ten Commandments, you’re familiar with Negative Rights. Thou shalt not…. Negative rights make you refrain from encroaching on the person or property of another.

RightsThou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Or as Libertarians like to say: Do not encroach upon the person or property of another. Simple, no? These rights don’t require you to Do anything. Only to refrain. A negative right essentially protects you from the encroachment of another person, a group, and the State. The negative right tells you that you can expect not to be subject to violence or coercion.

Negative rights are based on the idea of ownership. You own yourself and you own your property. No one has the right to infringe upon your life or your liberty or your property because they properly belong to you. For a negative right to be violated, one person, group, or State must encroach upon another. (Thou shalt not kill apparently doesn’t apply to tornadoes or earthquakes so if you’re killed by a tornado we don’t say that your rights have been violated.)

If you’ve ever heard someone argue that all people have the right to healthcare, education, food, shelter, or clothing they were making an argument for Positive rights. Positive rights make everyone responsible for providing one another with goods, services, and resources. Positive rights negate the principle of ownership. Every single argument for Positive rights without exception, no matter how kindly intended or reasonable, is an attack on self ownership and property.

Positive rights are based on the principle that we do Not own ourselves nor do we own our property. Therefore access to the property and person of another without their consent–theft and servitude–is fair and reasonable.

Positive rights require that you Do something. This is a violation of the principle of self-ownership. If I own myself, I am not required to Do anything at the behest of another. A Positive right guarantees the encroachment of another person, a group, and the State against your person and property. You will be subject to violence and coercion if you violate the right of another to your labor and property.

Constitutionally, the preservation of Negative rights is the purview of the State. Negative rights are ancient and history has shown that despots violate them first by claiming the ‘general welfare’ or ‘common good’ is being served and after establishing that the people will tolerate their breach they will do away with them in all but name.

How will ending the income tax help the poor?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, Taxes by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

How will ending the income tax help the poor?

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

Question:

I was unable to persuade a liberal friend that the income tax is evil because it is essentially forced labor through coercion, or that we could largely pay for the elimination of the income tax simply by halting our overseas empire (it seemed best to use a liberal priority in this instance). He maintained that eliminating the income tax would benefit only the wealthy. Could you help me show that eliminating the income tax is in everyone’s best interest?

TaxesAnswer:

Ultimately, the poor are hurt most by income taxes and government spending of any kind.

When government spends, it must tax or run a deficit. Both harm the poor. Deficit spending results in inflation. People on a fixed income, low income, or no income at all are hurt most by inflation. The little money that they have buys even less than before.

When government taxes middle or upper income individuals, money is diverted from consumer spending, spending which otherwise would create jobs that might lift some of the poor out of poverty.

Instead, the tax dollars go to government spending, which delivers half the service at twice the price of the private sector. Gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of wealth creation, goes down as government spending goes up (for details, see Chapter 12 of my book, “Healing Our World,” available as a free download [1992 edition] at www.ruwart.com or [greatly expanded and footnoted 2003 edition] for purchase from The Advocates).

Less wealth creation means that goods and services are more expensive than they otherwise would be. The poor are hurt the most when prices rise or do not fall as they otherwise would.

Thus, when government spends, GDP falls and inflation grows, middle and high income individuals cut back on discretionary spending, like vacations; the poor, however, must cut back on necessities, such as food, safe housing, and preventative medicine.

On the other hand, when government spending slows, inflation slows too and jobs increase. Some of the poor move into the workforce and become more affluent.

Income taxes are bad for everyone, but the poor are hurt the most. The hidden negatives are often overlooked, and those who are trying to help the poor often hurt them out of ignorance.

What Happens When Demand Increases?

in Conversations With My Boys, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

What Happens When Demand Increases?

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

How will I explain the phenomenon of rising prices after a disaster to my seven-year-old son? I’ll say something like this.

You know there was a big storm in the Northeast. We saw it on television. There was flooding, there was a big fire, trees were down, and now there’s no electricity in a lot of places. It’s pretty miserable.

Supply And Demand Analysis Concept

People want clean water, food, and gasoline. They want to be able to clear away the trees that fell and they want to be able to run their generators if they’re without power. Normally, they could get these things, but because of the storm not only do they need more, but it’s hard for these things to get in. The normal supply lines are cut. So they want more and there’s less than usual around.

We’ve talked about scarcity before. It’s when there is a limited amount of the things we want. Right now, the things that they want are scarce. Demand has increased.

We’ve also talked about what happens when demand increases. When demand increases, prices go up. Prices just tell us how much of this thing is available. It’s information. Like when there’s a bad drought, the price of tomatoes goes up because there are fewer tomatoes to sell. The opposite is also true. When there is a lot of something, the price goes down. If I have a tomato farm and I have twice as many tomatoes one really good year, the price of tomatoes will go down. You can tell how much of something there is by its price.

This is the situation in the Northeast right now. Demand for gas, clean water, generators, and things like that has increased. What happens to prices when demand increases? Right. Prices go up.

You’ve seen this happen in daddy’s ebay business. When he’s down to the last ten of an item, he hikes up the price. It’s still available if someone really wants it, but those last ten are really really valuable. When he gets more in stock, he lowers the price again.

Remember how your brother asked you what you would do if you only had one cup of water each day? You said you’d drink that water. And if you only had two cups, you would use the second cup for keeping clean. And if you had three cups you would use the third cup for growing plants. And if you had four cups you might use the fourth cup for playing in the sprinkler or something. You understand when things are scarce, you use them differently. You economize. They are more valuable when there is less. Everyone understands that.

Anyway, back to the storm. Let’s say daddy sold things that would be important in an emergency. He has a store that sells gas, water, ice, and flashlights. He knows that as a storm approaches the demand for these things will increase and that perhaps his supply line will be severed for many days. He won’t be able to get more for a while. He will have a limited supply–like when you only have three cups of water. When demand increases, he’s going to raise prices. People won’t be able to buy as much. They’ll have to think about how they use what they buy. This keeps things on the shelves longer and when someone desperately needs a thing, it is more likely to be there for them. That’s really important during an emergency. It can even save people’s lives. Now, some people would say that it’s mean of daddy to raise prices when demand increases. But that’s not true. He’s simply letting people know that it’s time to economize. They need to think hard about how they want to use things. He’s just passing along information. And there’s good reason for him to do it. He’ll make more money if he’s doing the right thing. It also makes it worth his while to go to the store and keep it open for the one guy who really, really needs something. When the prices go up, he’s not going to sell as much, but he still has to be there. If he keeps his prices low, he’ll sell out and close his store.

So, what we know is that when demand increases, prices go up. When demand decreases, prices go down. Those are just laws. Like inertia. We just have to know that they’re laws and that they’re always in effect. We shouldn’t be surprised by them.

Some people try to suspend law and make it so store owners can’t increase their prices as demand increases. That’s really bad. It doesn’t work and it leads to more shortages because people won’t economize on their use of the scarce goods and services. If they aren’t properly priced, the consumer doesn’t know how valuable it is. They might buy the last flashlight to entertain their children in the dark when a guy two blocks over needed that flashlight to find something really important–like maybe the gas shut off–in the night. When things cost more or when we have less of a thing we really think about how we use it. If the prices don’t give us that information, that causes more problems in an already bad situation.

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?

From the Missile Crisis to Air Travel

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

From the Missile Crisis to Air Travel

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

Our relationship with one of our closest neighbors continues to thaw after more than 50 years of tense relations, as both the United States and Cuba reached an agreement to allow commercial air travel to commence between the two nations. We are one step closer to ending the embargo and restoring a relationship that many thought would return upon the collapse of the Soviet Union more than two decades ago.

I love it!  I’ve long been a fan of the food, music, and culture of the Caribbean, especially that which has made its way from Cuba.

Not only will Americans soon be able to travel to the island nation ninety miles off the coast of Florida openly and often, Cubans will soon be able to enjoy many of the niceties they’ve missed over the last fifty-four years.

When it comes to freedom, this may be one of the best ways to share it. When we’re disconnected from a nation, but more importantly its people, we become a piece of propaganda over which we have no influence. After fifty-four years of a Castro-controlled narrative, we have a opportunity to share what it means to be free. Our goods, our music, and our people will serve as ambassadors to a regime that seems to be content living in an era frozen in time.

CubaThe introduction of commerce with the United States offers a glimpse at the advances made since 1961. Cars, computers, and culture all progressed during our absence from their lives. We can shape a vision of “Libertad” previously unfamiliar. Without a single bomb, boot on the ground, or posturing politician, we can liberate the hearts and minds of millions of people simply through the expressions available in our culture.

As “Western” goods made their way behind the Iron Curtain, we began to erode the messaging about America through commerce. The narrative about us didn’t hold up.

We can do that again. We SHOULD do that again.

We should ALWAYS be doing that, even within our own borders. If we forget what we’re told and believe what we experience with and about one another, we can build a future that does not rely on Big Government. We can build one that only relies on the freedom to choose our best path and the personal responsibility that goes along with that freedom.

¡Viva la Libertad!

 

Tax Freedom Day is Nearly Here — Or Is It?

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Tax Freedom Day“Tax Freedom Day” is the day when, according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year.

To calculate this date, Tax Freedom Day takes all federal, state, and local taxes and divides them by the nation’s income.

For 2015 the Tax Foundation calculates Americans will pay a whopping $3.28 trillion in federal taxes and $1.57 trillion in state and local taxes — for a total tax bill of $4.85 trillion, or a staggering 31 percent of total national income.

So this year, Tax Freedom Day falls on April 24 — 114 days into the year.

And… if you include annual federal borrowing, which represents future taxes owed, Tax Freedom Day doesn’t arrive for another 14 days, until May 8.

Until then, the average American is, essentially, slaving away fulltime for the government.

To put these taxes in perspective, Americans will collectively spend more on taxes in 2015 than they will on the basic necessities of life — food, clothing, and housing — combined.

By contrast, in 1900, in pre-income tax America, Americans paid only 5.9 percent of their income in taxes, meaning Tax Freedom Day came on… January 22.

This year’s Tax Freedom Day is one of the latest ever. It’s a day later than last year, and is the latest since 2007, when it fell on April 25. The latest-ever Tax Freedom Day was May 1, 2000.

Awful as all this is, some critics argue that the Tax Foundation greatly underestimates the cost of government.

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a group that lobbies for lower taxes and smaller government, each year calculates its “Cost of Government Day.” Cost of Government Day is the date on which the average American has earned enough to pay taxes — PLUS the cost of mandatory but unfunded federal, state and local regulations.

Last year ATR’s Cost of Government Day didn’t arrive until July 6 — meaning that government consumed 51% of national income, and the average American labored more than half the year — 186 days — to pay what the state demanded.

Further, writing in the conservative New American magazine, Bob Adelmann argues that the Tax Foundation doesn’t take into account many government costs and hidden taxes, including estate taxes and fees (such as drivers’ licenses, boat registration, building permits, hunting and fishing licenses, phone and cable bills, etc.); that it ignores the staggering cost of complying with the tax laws; and that it also ignores the devastating “hidden tax” of inflation.

Combining all the above — fees, compliance costs, regulations, hidden taxes, etc. — adds up to a government that is devouring far more than half of our incomes.

Which brings to mind the old joke: “Taxes are revolting. Why aren’t you?”

Liberty Language: Instead of “Sales Tax”

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

As Mark Twain famously observed, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is Lightning Wordsreally a large matter — ’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.”

The political words and labels we use are vitally important. I’m always looking for new, more effective political wording — political “lightning words” that will open minds and stimulate thinking.

Here are a couple more excellent mind-opening word suggestions from economist Mark Perry, who writes the excellent blog Carpe Diem. (We looked at his thoughts on alternative wording for the minimum wage in my previous column.)

These suggestions concern the sales tax.

Most of us think of the sales tax as spare change, or a nuisance, most of the time — a few pennies or dollars per purchase, and the occasional more painful amount on big-ticket purchases. Yet the total amount Americans pay over the course of a year in sales taxes can be a significant percentage of their income. In California, for example, state and local sales taxes can hit a whopping 10%. And sales taxes on the necessities of life — food, clothing, transportation, etc. — can hit the poor and struggling especially hard.

The way the sales tax is collected, in daily small amounts, muddies and hides the impact of this tax and who pays it. So does the innocuous name “sales tax.”

Perry suggests two alternate terms to make people think. He suggests it’s more accurate to call the sales tax “the consumer tax” or “the buyers’ tax” so that “the ultimate payer of the tax is recognized.”

I like both of these, and I’m especially fond of “buyers’ tax.”

And here’s one of my own: “customer tax.”

Try them out. You may find they open minds and lead to fruitful discussions.

Great News! The World Is Getting Better: HumanProgress.org

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

HumanProgress.orgThere is a large and growing body of evidence showing dramatic and remarkable improvements in human well-being in recent decades, especially in the developing world.

Unfortunately, this evidence is little-known and often overlooked. Bad news and predictions of doom and gloom are disproportionately reported. Many people, including the highly educated, simply have no idea of the great and ongoing progress in many crucial areas of human life around the world.

This exciting and uplifting news deserves far more attention. HumanProgress.org, a new website and research tool from the Cato Institute, hopes to accomplish that.

Many visitors who take the time to explore the site will be genuinely surprised by the well-documented major advances in world peace, living standards, environmental cleanliness, life spans, and much more. Crimes such as rape, hate crimes, deadly riots, and child abuse are all substantially down from the past. Around 5.1 billion people live in countries where incomes have more than doubled since 1960, and well over half the human race lives in countries where average incomes have tripled or more. Technologies unimaginable just a few years ago are now commonplace even among the world’s poor.

HumanProgress.org provides tools that let users see the many documented ways in which the world has become a far better place. Over 500 data sets of human development indicators from a variety of reliable sources allow visitors to compare indicators with one another, create and share graphics, and calculate differences in human well-being between different countries over time. Visitors can explore progress in categories including: Communications, Education, Energy, Environment, Food, Gender Equality, Happiness, Health, Housing, Transportation, Violence, and Wealth.

By putting together this comprehensive data in an accessible way, HumanProgress.org provides a fantastic documented resource for scholars, journalists, students, and the general public.

For a good graph-free overview of what it’s all about, go to the introductory essay “What is Human Progress?” which presents some downright startling figures and arguments and puts them in context.

And for an easy way to keep up with breaking good news about human progress — and to get a regular booster shot of reasons for rational optimism — you can like HumanProgress.org’s Facebook page.

Cato hopes that HumanProgress.org will lead to a greater appreciation of the improving state of the world. Things are getting better in many areas, to a remarkable degree, and largely due to progress in markets, civil liberties and peace. That’s great news! Let’s spread the word.