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If You See Something, DO Something

in Liberator Online, Walk the Walk by Brett Bittner Comments are off

If You See Something, DO Something

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

See Something DO SomethingThe Department of Homeland Security’s “If you see something, say something” campaign has become the unofficial slogan of post-9/11 America.

It’s been the butt of jokes by libertarians since its launch, and DHS re-launched the effort with new videos earlier this year.

This campaign is the epitome of Big Government “solutions.” It reinforces the idea that we should outsource responsibility to them, rather than looking out for ourselves. As libertarians, we understand that the price of individual liberty is the personal responsibility that comes with it.

While this slogan is directed to guide us to act when faced with suspicious terrorism-related activity, we can slightly alter it to direct our own lives away from Big Government and toward a free society.

When we see something that needs to be addressed, something should be DONE about it.

When we see an area of need, there is no reason to push that responsibility toward someone else, especially toward Big Government. Rather than outsourcing to them, we can address them ourselves by working with one another to solve the problems we face, without using the force of government.

We can strengthen our connections with our neighbors as we work together to reach the best solutions, instead of pushing one another away by bringing in a bully. Not only can we cut out the intrusion of Big Government, but we will likely find ourselves in a better situation than if we invited them in.

By taking charge of our own lives and working with those around us, rather than asking for action (and often permission), we can show others what a free society looks like. We can show how we would operate, and most importantly, show the lack of a need for government involvement in our lives.

We reduce the government’s influence over others when we don’t get the government involved in the first place.

Change We Can Believe In

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

Change We Can Believe In

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

Obviously, we’re not talking about the campaign slogan from eight years ago.

We are at a point where the dynamics of media are changing. More media outlets, bloggers, instant LIVE broadcasts, and social media drive conversations outside the tightly controlled messaging we’ve seen in the past. Because of the “always on” nature of many of these developments, the way news is presented is changing… For the better.

ChangeWith the ability to break news at any time, how people interact is changing. Today, we know more about what’s happening throughout the world, rather than a narrative that can be controlled.

The Arab Spring probably would not have made the news stateside, had it not been for the images, thoughts, and reporting performed by those on the ground, with the American audience demanding to know more. The dynamics of media are changing, and while the established corporate media tries to hang onto everything they can control, alternative media continues to grow in influence.

These changes also mean that ideas are spreading faster and with a farther reach. Even in some of the most remote areas of the world, a couple touches of a smartphone screen or clicks of a mouse can bring you up to speed on the latest happenings in minutes.

Because of how easy it is to get information, we now see a shift in how ideas spread, with virality, openness, and trust overcoming traditional advertising avenues and the power of vast sums of money. The dynamic is shifting, and greater exposure causes that shift to occur faster.

What does this change mean for libertarians? In this new decentralized dynamic, our voice can be just as prominent. The walls that stopped us before are crumbling, as we now have nearly equal footing.

So, let’s take advantage of this opportunity. The more we discuss our ideas, the moral case for freedom, and what a free society looks like, the greater influence we have on the direction our world moves. We can truly work to change hearts and minds without meeting the barriers of the past.

Knowing this, what will you do for liberty?

Let’s Just Have A Computer Program Decide Everything

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

“Let’s Just Have A Computer Program Decide Everything”

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

On my way to Las Vegas last week for FreedomFest, I had a revelation about “efficient government” and why it does not appeal to me. At least, it does not appeal in the same way a free society does.

WALL-EAs we’ve seen many times, candidates for office will promise to make government more efficient, eliminate waste, and reduce its size. While I appreciate the sentiment and pragmatism of that message, as a libertarian, I can’t take it seriously.

When we encounter those in favor of efficient government over the freedom a libertarian society offers, I suggest we offer the following suggestion: “Let’s just have a computer program decide everything.”

When it comes to efficiency, a computer program can make the decisions currently made by bureaucrats administering the myriad government programs that exist today. If you think about it, we could eliminate the waste, fraud, and abuse by making programming the decision-making to execute the laws and regulations on the books. The savings made by this automation would certainly make government operate cheaper, and there would be fewer people employed by government.

As we saw in Back to the Future II’s vision for 2015, the legal system moved much more swiftly after they abolished all lawyers. While this was certainly more efficient, it likely wasn’t effective when it came to justice and the preservation of liberty.

Is that what libertarians are really seeking?

So, if you really think about it…if we make government more efficient, will we be freer?

 

 

Self-Government Goes To Those Who Show Up

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Philosophy, Walk the Walk by Brett Bittner Comments are off

Self-Government Goes To Those Who Show Up

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

As libertarians, we understand that personal responsibility is the price we are to pay for individual liberty.

Show UpWe discuss it at length when persuading others about how liberty works. We talk about how we (yes, you and I) will be responsible for one another in the absence of government programs that currently attempt to act as a safety net. We offer examples of our charity and entrepreneurship to prove that our fellow man will not go hungry, sleep in the streets, or be unable to read and write.

We know that our ideas and principles are the right ones to lead to a prosperous, peaceful, and harmonious society, so why aren’t we there yet?

Because, like those we’re trying to persuade, we’ve outsourced responsibility. Except that we have not outsourced responsibility to government. We’ve outsourced our responsibility to other libertarians.

We’ve outsourced that responsibility to libertarian candidates for office, their staff and volunteers, thinking that it’s their “turn” to spread the message, not ours.

We’ve outsourced that responsibility to libertarian think tanks, who work to deliver quality research, and statistics, and facts necessary to equip us with the right information.

We’ve outsourced that responsibility to libertarian activists, as they wave signs, work outreach booths, and persuade their friends, family, and neighbors about the beauty of a free society.

We’ve outsourced that responsibility to libertarian entrepreneurs, toiling to create the next Uber, AirBnB, or PayPal.

The price of personal responsibility is set, it’s non-negotiable, and it’s due every day. That price is showing up. Whether it is supporting candidates for office, sharing the mountains of data offered by our friends in think tanks and organizations in the libertarian sphere, attending an event, or using the goods and services that meet our needs, we need to pay the price daily.

If we don’t pay it, we fall behind. When we fall behind, we have to pay even more to catch up. Authoritarians count on us missing a payment, because they have their solution ready to go. They have the latest cure for society’s ills, and that intervention is government.

We ALL have busy lives, families, and hobbies calling for our time, attention, and effort, but we have to take responsibility for what we want in our lives. Much like the authoritarian way of outsourcing responsibility to government, we’ve outsourced it to other libertarians with the hope that their efforts will make up for a lack of them on our part.

Accept the call and take responsibility for a free society. You can’t wait for someone else to give you the freedom you deserve. You have to stop outsourcing responsibility and show yourself and others that we can do it.

If you aren’t going to show up to stake a claim for your life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, who will?

Snowden: Bulk Data Collection is Ineffective, Promotes Insecurity and Oppression

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

Snowden: Bulk Data Collection is Ineffective, Promotes Insecurity and Oppression

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

As the country watches the battle between the FBI and Apple unfold, former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden uses his notoriety to bring attention to the surveillance problem publicly.

During an interview with the Spanish TV channel Sexta, Snowden gave his two cents on the subject, extending his commentary to the realm of bulk data collection and why it never works.

SnowdenDuring the interview, Snowden claimed that what Washington D.C. believes to be the most effective way to deter terrorists doesn’t pass the smell test.

“In the wake of the revelations of mass surveillance,” Snowden explained, “[US] President [Barack Obama] appointed two independent commissions to review the efficiency of these [surveillance] programs, what they really did and what effect they had in combating terrorism.” What they found, Snowden continued, was that none of the surveillance programs carried out by Washington “stopped a single terrorist attack and never made a concrete difference in a terrorist investigation.”

When looking into how the CIA and NSA have violated the US Constitution for ten years by snooping on Americans’ private communications without ever producing warrants, Snowden continued, “we must ask ourselves: Was it ever worth it?”

With news showing surveillance programs are used for purposes other than fighting terrorism, it’s difficult to ignore the whistleblower’s claims. Especially since the current administration seems unwilling to put an end to its ineffective programs.

Nowadays, bulk data collection is “more aggressive and invasive” than ever before, Snowden told Sexta. “Law enforcement and intelligence structures do not any longer bother to pick up a suspect and hack his cell phone, they cut into all lines and communications” instead. To the whistleblower, this is a clear violation of innocent people’s rights, since federal agents attack the “heart of the society” instead of following tangible evidence.

The debate revolving around privacy and bulk data collection often misses the importance of privacy in a free society. Something that Snowden likes to revisit often. During the interview, he explained this angle of the debate by reminding the reporter that “it is no different from saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say, … There are rights that provide value to you even if you’re not actively engaged in them in that moment.”

Currently, Americans are struggling to identify exactly what is and isn’t the best way to go about the surveillance subject. As the public is bombarded with divisive, autocratic rhetoric tied to the presidential campaign, many become oblivious, ignoring their surveillance-related concerns.

Understanding that existing tools like the Internet will always be abused by criminals, and that the federal government is incapable of keeping tabs on what citizens are doing at all times is all part of the problem. Famed economist F. A. Hayek talked extensively about the knowledge problem, explaining that the importance of knowledge of individual circumstances is often minimized by state officials, and the results are often bad to freedom since central planners like to claim they know just what they need to do to solve whatever problem is at hand.

Much like economic problems, which often become much worse as government intervention gets a boost, more surveillance has the same effect, forcing criminals to take part in even more obscure communication methods in order to remain untraceable. The unintended consequences are seldom discussed, but it’s the American individual who pays the price.

If Snowden and many other privacy advocates are right, the federal government’s efforts against terrorism could benefit greatly from a privacy-centered policy. After all, sacrificing freedom in the name of a false sense of security makes us both less safe and less free.

To the Death

in Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“Je ne suis pas d’accord avec ce que vous dites, mais je me battrai pour que vous ayez le droit de le dire.”

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

This magnificent declaration of free speech, tolerance, and liberty, attributed to the great 17th century French champion of liberty Voltaire, is now whirling around the globe in French and English, in print and online, in tweets, memes, newsfeeds and editorials.

The outcry over the murder of 12 people at Charlie Hebdo — killed for exercising their right to speak freely, killed for creating satire, killed for drawing cartoons — has thrust those words and the principle behind them into the minds of millions.

It is heartening to see such an overwhelming response in favor of freedom of speech, one of the most important and sacred of rights.

Freedom of speech has not always been tolerated well even here in America. Right up through the 1960s many novels, including books now considered masterpieces by authors like Henry Miller and William Burroughs, were illegal to sell. For most of America’s history, some words were unprintable, and writing about some ideas — birth control, for example — was forbidden. In the 1960s, Lenny Bruce, one of America’s greatest and most incisive comedians, was constantly harassed and arrested merely for using four-letter words in nightclubs; in despair, he died of a heroin overdose. Theater owners were arrested for showing sexually explicit films, convenience store clerks arrested for selling adult magazines.

Those who stood for freedom of expression in the past, even here in tolerant America, often fought a lonely and difficult struggle. All of us have benefited tremendously from their courage and passion.

Even today, even in America, those on the cutting edge of speech face threats. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders, Joe Randazzo, former editor of the satirical publication The Onion, wrote at MSNBC: “I’ve personally spoken on the phone with at least two individuals who threatened to rape me and kill my family” because of his writing.

Randazzo continues: “Satire must always accompany any free society. It is an absolute necessity. Even in the most repressive medieval kingdoms, they understood the need for the court jester, the one soul allowed to tell the truth through laughter. It is, in many ways, the most powerful form of free speech because it is aimed at those in power, or those whose ideas would spread hate. It is the canary in the coalmine, a cultural thermometer, and it always has to push, push, push the boundaries of society to see how much it’s grown.”

Around the world, crowds numbering in the thousands have gathered in defense of this most fundamental of freedoms, some waving pencils and pens, some holding signs reading “Je Suis Charlie” — “I Am Charlie.” Cartoonists worldwide have rallied to honor their fallen brothers-in-ink with an outpouring of creative and defiant tributes.

How glorious, how thrilling to see such passionate defense of free speech in response to those who would use violence to shut out views they disagree with.

Free speech is a value millions hold dearly. But that wasn’t always true. We believe so strongly in free speech today because of the centuries of political activism that won that freedom, defined it, argued for its value, and made it a central part of our lives.

As we libertarians build a consensus on other fundamental freedoms — peace, the right to control our bodies, the right to own and keep the fruits of our labors — we will see these ideas, too, embraced by the people of the world, and vigorously defended when attacked.

I’ll end with another quote from Voltaire, with a message I hope will be taken up one day soon with the same passion as the one at the beginning of this column:

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”

New York Times: Should We Abolish the CIA?

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

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

It’s exciting news when a bold libertarian idea moves into the mainstream. We’ve seen this again and again in recent years.

Now the New York Times — the very definition of mainstream, Establishment opinion — has asked a critical and timely question in the “Room for Debate” section of its Opinion Pages:

Abolish the CIA?“Do We Need the C.I.A.? Would the security needs of the United States be better served if the agency were dismantled?”

Writes the Times:

“Since Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan introduced bills in 1991 and 1995 to abolish the Central Intelligence Agency and transfer its powers to the State Department, many have continued to share his concerns about the agency’s competence and performance. The Senate intelligence committee’s report on the use of torture is the latest example of the agency’s controversies. …

“Would the security needs of the United States be better served if the C.I.A. were dismantled?”

That such a question is being asked and debated is great news, says Jacob Hornberger, president of the libertarian Future of Freedom Foundation:

“That is a remarkable development. When was the last time you read that question being asked by anyone in the mainstream press? Wouldn’t we ordinarily see the question posed in the following manner: ‘Is It Time to Reform the CIA?’ …

“Libertarians have long called for the abolition, not the reform, of the CIA… The fact that the Times even asks the question is a testament to the importance of hewing to libertarian principles rather settling for reform proposals. Over time, ideas on liberty percolate and find their way into the minds of others. And suddenly there are prominent people in mainstream American life asking, ‘Why not abolish the CIA?’”

Hornberger gives his own answer to the New York Times’ question.

“The existence of an agency like the CIA is totally contrary to the principles of a free society. … It’s not just the post-9/11 torture scandal. The CIA has been engaged in evil, immoral, dark-side activities since its inception, all guided by the mindset of ‘patriots’ who were protecting ‘national security’ from the communists and, later, from the drug dealers, the ‘terrorists,’ and anyone else who could be used to scare Americans into keeping quiet about the CIA’s steady acquisition of secret, omnipotent power.

“The CIA knowingly employed Nazis, including ones who had participated in the Holocaust, all the while keeping it secret from the American people.

“The CIA destroyed democratic regimes all the over the world and installed brutal and tyrannical dictatorships in their stead.

“The CIA initiated horrendous medical experiments on unsuspecting Americans in its MKULTRA program and then destroyed its records so that the American people would not discover the full details of what they had done. …

“The CIA initiated a formal program of assassination and, in fact, participated in the assassination or execution of people around the world…

“The CIA has engaged in assassination and torture since at least the 1950s… At the risk of belaboring the obvious, it continues to assassinate people in different parts of the world…

“From its inception, the CIA has meddled in the affairs of other countries and continues to do so. It is without a doubt the world’s biggest troublemaker, and it is the American people who are bearing the brunt of all the trouble.

“Where in the Constitution does it authorize an agency like the CIA? The fact is that the very existence of the CIA has converted the original concept of limited government into unlimited government. For as long as one part of the government has unlimited powers, that automatically means that the federal government has unlimited powers. …

“So, New York Times, the answer to your question is: Yes, most definitely, the time for abolishing the CIA is long past due. It’s a key to restoring a free, prosperous, and secure society to our land. Thanks for asking the question because it will almost certainly cause others to ponder it.”

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.