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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.

California Senate Passes Powdered Alcohol Ban, Proving Everything is Terrible

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

California Senate Passes Powdered Alcohol Ban, Proving Everything is Terrible

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

Government’s busybodies are always trying to find new issues so they may be blown out of proportion in the hopes the population will agree. And as it so often happens, these issues are frequently turned into threats that must be contained. By all means necessary.

AlcoholIn California, a state often mocked due to its anti-entrepreneurial regulations, legislators have just passed a new ban that will certainly make residents of the Golden State 100 percent safe.

Just kidding.

According to local news sources, the California Senate has just passed a new bill that officially bans powdered alcohol. The piece of legislation was defended by legislators who were concerned that teens could be using the powdered alcohol in “dangerous ways.”

SB 819 was approved in a unanimous vote this past Monday and it’s now on its way to the state Assembly. The product under threat here, which is often referred to as Palcohol, has been banned in several other states. If the CA state assembly approves the measure, it will make the Golden State the 28th state to have ignored the fact government should not get involved with an individual’s personal choices.

Introduced by Senate Minority Leader Emeritus Bob Huff, a Republican from San Dimas, the bill states that Palcohol sales would be forbidden across the state. The product, which is a freeze dried alcohol that comes in a small pouch, was approved for sale by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau in the United States in March of 2015. Ever since then, states have been debating whether the sale of these products should be barred. According to Palcohol creator Mark Phillips, the fact federal and state governments are attempting to deny “millions of responsible adults and hundreds of businesses a chance to use this legal, safe and revolutionary new product” is concerning. But California Senate legislators won’t have any of it.

According to Sen. Huff, powdered alcohol must be banned because it may be snorted or added to drinks that already come with alcohol, making them potential dangers to teenagers.

But the sale of alcohol to minors is already banned in California.

According to state law, the sale of alcohol to minors is illegal. But the sale itself is not the only issue. Holding parties and offering alcohol to minors is also illegal. Allowing an underage person to drink from a glass or pitcher belonging to an adult is also against state law.

If the sale of alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 across the state was already prohibited, was it really necessary to ban powdered altogether, keeping responsible adults away from the product over concerns that individuals may abuse it?

To libertarian scholars like Cato Institute’s Michael D. Tanner, “legislators at all levels of government try to make everything their business.” But instead of helping, legislators often create more problems.

Why not try freedom instead and allow people to make their own decisions for themselves?

America’s Founding Fathers complained that King George III had “erected a Multitude of New Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their Substance.” By releasing the country from Great Britain’s grip, they hoped to create a culture of skepticism toward governments claiming to have a say on everything Americans did.

Have they lost this battle?

Helping Others See Your Vision of Liberty

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

Helping Others See Your Vision of Liberty

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

Most of us were brought up to accept the need for government control of almost everything. And that idea is reinforced every day by journalists, educators and politicians.

SunriseHow, then, do we persuade people to open their minds enough to explore our vision of liberty?

One way is to share something like the following. It starts with a bold idea, elaborates on that idea with familiar examples everyone agrees with, and then invites your listeners to consider expanding the principle to issues they haven’t yet considered.

The history of the progress of the human race is largely the history of removing government control of our personal and economic lives.

When we separated church and state, both institutions became far more humane, and life became happier, safer, more peaceful.

When we lessened government control over the economy and began to embrace the ideas of economic freedom, the result was an incredible and unprecedented rise in living standards and a cornucopia of innovative new products and services.

When we ended the terrible experiment of alcohol Prohibition we ended the crime, the loss of civil liberties, and the terrible health threats that were created by that misguided policy.

When we ended literary and artistic censorship in America we saw a new flourishing of the arts.

Freeing a big chunk of telecommunications from government control led us in a few short years from a world where almost no one owned portable phones to today, when even children carry phones that can take photos and post them online, shoot and edit movies, play (and even record and mix) music, send texts — and even, when necessary, make phone calls.

The same principle holds true for innumerable smaller, more mundane but important services as well. To take just one example, replacing government-monopoly garbage pick-up with competition has resulted in huge savings and better service for millions of Americans.

Over and over again, allowing more personal and economic liberty by ending government control in a particular area of human endeavor has brought us new, wonderful harmony and abundance.

History shows us that liberty works, and the more liberty we have, the better off we will be. On every issue, big or small. Every time.

Is American Entrepreneurship Dead?

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

Is American Entrepreneurship Dead?

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

Promises of a better future post the 2008-2009 recession injected new confidence in the American economy. With the President Barack Obama administration’s push to use public money to stimulate the economy back to recovery, many believed that a full comeback was in order.

But years after the implementation of the stimulus plan, corporate debt continues to increase due to the federal reserve’s meddling, and the participation rate in the labor force continues to fall.

Entrepreneur

As the current administration claims falling unemployment rates prove the stimulus worked, it’s easy to see why so many believe that things are “back to normal.”

But according to Yonathan Amselem, an asset protection attorney in Washington, D.C., things are far from “normal.”

In an article published by the Mises Institute, Amselem explains that after a market crash, the unemployment rate eventually drops, naturally. He also reminds us that the Obama administration took over after the market crash. And that the so-called “recovery” may have just been a sign of a process that would have happened with or without the stimulus.

He also argues that a review of the type of industries that have been growing since the stimulus plan was put into action prove that the creation of jobs alone has nothing to do with economic recovery.

“We are pumping out an army of waiters, social workers, and associate professors with worthless six-figure degrees they have no hope of paying off in this life or the next,” Amselem argued. Instead of “high value, goods-producing workers,” America is producing workers who do not rely on innovation.

Individuals, Amselem argues, are not being encouraged to start businesses. Instead, they seem to believe that they are perfectly capable of turning “a six-year sociology degree into a job that doesn’t involve bringing people mimosas for brunch.”

But the workforce is not to blame for this shift in leading industries.

Instead, Amselen argues that the lack of incentives tied to entrepreneurship is forcing countless Americans to keep their dreams and aspirations locked away. As businesses now fail at a greater rate than they start, free market advocates like Amselen remind us that people are discouraged to try out on their own.

To the D.C. attorney, America’s structure of production has been disrupted by the political class in a dramatic way, making workers less competitive and forcing the entire nation to carry a very heavy debt burden while keeping the entrepreneurial spirit stuck under a mountain of bureaucracy.

As free market advocates continue to make the case against overwhelming regulations, urging the public to look at government intervention as a means to hinder economic development, media outlets and influencers often accuse them of being against the poor.

But economic growth can only be accomplished when competition and freedom are reinstated. Being against the poor means being pro-government intervention in the economy, which forces those with pauper means to resort to the black market for their needs.

Chicago Police ‘Intentionally Destroying’ Police Car Dashcams, Microphones

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

Chicago Police ‘Intentionally Destroying’ Police Car Dashcams, Microphones

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

Chicago is notorious for gun-related violence. With some of the toughest anti-gun rights on its books, the city struggles to keep its residents safe. With pro gun control advocates making the case that the town’s gun-related violence is due to the fact most people purchase their guns illegally, it’s hard not to see how enacting more restrictive laws won’t make a difference.

But gun violence alone is not the only issue in Chicago.

Chicago

According to Washington Post’s Radley Balko, corruption among Chicago Police Department officers continues to expose countless of innocent residents to unconstitutional abuses.

DNA Info Chicago reviewed over 1,800 police maintenance logs of the city’s many police cars to learn why 80 percent of the footage captured by squad car dashboard cameras in the city is often silent.

Last month, Chicago officials blamed the absence of audio on two factors, error and “intentional destruction.” With the help of the maintenance records, researchers found that, in many cases, officers pulled out batteries of their microphones, stashed full microphones in their glove boxes, and even destroyed microphone antennas. Microphones have also disappeared in several occasions.

But the research team also wanted to discover why footage of a particular 2014 incident involving a Chicago officer and a teenager did not contain any audio. What DNA Info learned is nothing short of horrifying.

On October 20, 2014, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was killed by officer Jason Van Dyke. The encounter’s footage was widely shared online. But while the video went viral, none of the patrol cars’ cameras present at the scene were able to capture any audio.

The dashcam attached to the patrol car used by Van Dyke had been sent to repair at least twice prior to the killing. According to DNA Info, police technicians reported on June 17, 2014 that a dashcam wiring issue had been fixed three months after the camera had been brought in for repair. But just one day later, the same dashcam was sent back to technicians.

According to the records obtained by DNA Info, technicians claimed that the issues presented the second time were due to “intentional damage.”

Twelve days after the camera came back from the technician’s desk, McDonald was killed.

Van Dyke’s patrol car camera did not register any audio of the incident. The video that went viral was recorded by another patrol car.

As the nation debates criminal justice reform, incidents like the one involving McDonald and officer Van Dyke should be part of the discussion.

Overcriminalization is a real issue. To Tim Lynch, the director of the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice, “too many officer-involved shootings receive little scrutiny.” Setting emotions aside and bringing these issues to light may give the public a better idea of what the solution is. But simply standing idly by as law enforcement, state officials, and lawmakers push for more laws, more restrictions, and more penalties won’t do.

New Jersey’s Takeover of Camden Proves Freedom is Better Than Taxpayer-Backed Revitalization Projects

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

New Jersey’s Takeover of Camden Proves Freedom is Better Than Taxpayer-Backed Revitalization Projects

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

Governor Chris Christie has recently announced that the state will take control of Atlantic City’s finances. As the city’s huge debt looms over its residents and the state vows to take over, critics and experts take a closer look at a previous major takeover of the city of Camden. And since many argue that state intervention ended up failing some of Camden’s most vulnerable residents, the promise of a better Atlantic City after intervention seems somewhat unrealistic.

In 2002, the state of New Jersey poured millions of taxpayer dollars into one of the largest takeover projects in US history. At least one law school, an aquarium, and a hospital were updated. But despite the taxpayer-backed incentives, the lives of residents did not improve. Instead, poverty and crime rates in the city remain high.

Camden

Despite the interventionist failures since 2002, the state announced in 2013 that it had decided to take over the education in Camden. As you will see, the results were equally disappointing.

According to a report from 2009, the initial revitalization campaign in the city counted with $175 million in bonds and loans and a one-time $7.5 million appropriation from the state budget. Shortly after, the then-Governor Jim McGreevey appointed a chief operating officer to take over the local government and the school board. The plan was to create jobs, bring in new businesses, fix the schools and the sewers, and demolish unsafe vacant businesses.

But as the takeover came to an end in 2010, Camden remained one of the most dangerous cities in New Jersey. And despite the state’s repeating efforts to reform the education system in the city, Camden school districts remain problematic.

The New Jersey government has been responsible for running the Paterson, Newark, and Jersey City school districts for more than 20 years. In 2013, it took over Camden’s as well. During the first years under state control, Camden failed to meet performance requirements in at least five areas.

While Paterson, Newark, and Jersey City report that their graduation rates had improved, local educational leaders claim that the improvement is due to the work members of the community have been doing in partnership with educational groups.

According to Paterson Education Fund’s executive director Rosie Grant, the state takeover meant little to the community.

“The gains that we have made,” she told The Record, “have been for the most part despite the state takeover.” Instead, Grant believes that the city’s decision to break the region’s largest high schools to form smaller academies is what made Paterson great.

But not all is lost in Camden.

When it comes to education, the real revolution arrived in the form of school choice.

According to a 2015 video by Jim Epstein, school choice gave local families in Camden the ability to choose. Instead of relying solely on state-run schools that continue to fail Camden’s children to this day, the implementation of charter schools has given residents the opportunity to enroll their children in institutions where children actually learn, despite their economic background.

If the state’s intervention in Camden has anything to teach other cities across the country is that pouring taxpayer money into an issue won’t make it better. Boosting choice—and freedom—on the other hand, usually works.

If the current administration is serious about saving Atlantic City, it will avoid pouring money into the problems the city is facing. Opening its doors for businesses and competition, however, may just do the trick.

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!

 

Freedom Is Indivisible

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

Freedom Is Indivisible

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

Economic freedom. Civil freedom. Religious freedom. Sexual freedom. Personal freedom. Political freedom.

Freedom is popular.

freedomAs such, some attempt to position themselves as its champions, by defining which carefully-worded sliver of freedom they feel comfortable permitting you to exercise.

Libertarians believe that freedom, while formed from many components, is indivisible. 

While some may value their economic freedom over their political or civil freedom, without the political freedom to choose between candidates and ideas and civil liberties to ensure that government has not improperly imprisoned the dissidents, economic freedom cannot exist.

The freedom to live your religious convictions cannot survive in an environment without the freedom to choose your mate or to have the ability to support your church financially.

Essentially, each aspect of freedom is interdependent on the others, and when you try to dissect and distribute only parts of the whole, freedom does not really exist. When only slivers are permitted, none of us live free.

As documented in the Declaration of Independence, rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were paramount in the founding of America. Our freedom engenders our ability live our lives as we see fit without the force or coercion of others.

This week, our friends at The CATO Institute and the Fraser Institute released the Human Freedom Index, which “presents the state of human freedom in the world based on a broad measure that encompasses personal, civil, and economic freedom.”

As you will note, the United States is no longer the leading bastion of liberty we once were, falling to 20th out of 152 countries measured in the index. Expansion of the regulatory state, multiple “wars” (terror, drugs, poverty, etc.), and the victories of eminent domain and civil asset forfeiture over property rights all contribute to our loss of freedom. None of those factors is exclusively detrimental to one aspect of freedom, yet they all undermine our overall freedom.

So, the next time you hear someone espouse their love for their preferred aspect, remind them that freedom is indivisible, and that without all of it, none of us are truly free.

Why Are Libertarians Different? Intent Vs. Outcome

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

Why Are Libertarians Different? Intent Vs. Outcome

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

Libertarians… We are certainly a different breed.

We may look the same. We may use the same language. We put our pants on one leg at a time… Most of us, anyway.

We certainly have a unique way of thinking though.

Of course, our first instinct is not to suggest that “there ought to be a law.” That is the beginning of how we differ from non-libertarians.

The basis of not defaulting to government intervention lies a bit deeper than instinct. We want a lot of the same results: a well-educated society, an end to homelessness, peace with our neighbors, and the freedom to live our lives.

unintended consequencesWe also like to point out unintended consequences of policy decisions. Inevitably, every government policy idea devised sought to solve a problem, but not everyone follows where that policy idea takes us beyond the policymaker’s intent.

Libertarians recognize intent for what it is. We recognize that someone, somewhere intended their idea to fix an existing problem, prevent a future problem, or make lives better. We also see past intent to look at what happens when this intended solution gets implemented. We see whether it, or something similar, worked in the past. We also examine what we describe as unintended consequences that are likely to occur if the policymakers enact the proposed solution.

We focus on outcome.

We look at policies beyond intent, by focusing looking deeper than the surface, talking points, and smooth sales pitches. We look at people individually, rather than as statistics and metrics that can be manipulated. We examine individual decisions on their own, rather than as part of the aggregate. Put simply, we are looking out for the smallest minority there is… The individual.

Central planners will never be able to do so, because people are just data points. To them, they believe that they can predict what MOST of us will do when faced with a specific decision. The rest do not matter. Those individuals are statistically insignificant.

Are you insignificant?

Libertarians do not believe that you are, and we look at the unintended consequences, incentives, and individual decision-making to fully examine the outcome of a proposed policy or idea, rather than sweeping you, the individual, aside because you do not fit the model they prepared.

Today, ideas are judged by their intent, rather than their outcome. All too often, that means that the “solution” makes a larger or different problem.

To whom is that insignificant?

A “Devil’s Dictionary” of Washingtonese

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

WashingtoneseLibertarian journalist James Bovard — author of a dozen outstanding and eye-opening books including Lost RightsThe Bush Betrayal, and most recently Attention Deficit Democracy — has done Americans yet another service.

In an editorial for USA Today Bovard put together a short dictionary of “Washingtonese” — the slippery lingo that politicians, bureaucrats and other such nefarious critters use to hide what they really mean.

Or, as Bovard puts it, the government’s “nebulous nomenclature [that] deters citizens from recognizing exactly how well their elected leaders serve them.”

Here’s a sampling:

  • Historic — different than last week
  • Unprecedented — different than last month
  • Emergency — the gift that keeps giving
  • Truth — whatever people will swallow
  • Legacy — any political boast that survives more than three 24-hour news cycles
  • Handout — a government benefit received primarily by the supporters of the other party
  • Mandate — whatever a winning politician can get away with
  • Honorable — any public figure who has not yet been indicted
  • Bill of Rights — (archaic) political invocation popular in 1790s
  • Fair play — any process in which politicians or bureaucrats pick winners and losers
  • Rule of Law — the latest edicts from a deputy assistant Labor Secretary or deputy assistant HUD Secretary
  • Patriotic — any appeal that keeps people paying and obeying
  • Waste — federal spending that fails to generate laudatory headlines, votes or campaign contributions
  • Freedom — whatever rulers have not yet benevolently prohibited
  • Election — when voters are permitted to freely consent to one of the two aspiring despots offered by the major parties
  • Cynic — anyone who expresses doubt about the latest bipartisan agreement to gradually eliminate the federal budget deficit over the next 117 years
  • Anarchist — anyone who advocates across-the-board spending cuts of more than 3.63%
  • Scurrilous — anyone who mentions previous federal failures when the president proposes glorious new programs

For much more Bovardian wit and wisdom, see his USA Today article.

The Libertarian Vote: How Big Is It?

in Elections and Politics, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Now that Rand Paul has officially announced he is seeking the presidency, attention is being focused on the libertarian voting bloc. Just how big is it? How many libertarian-minded voters are out there?

The answer may surprise you.

First, it’s important to note that “libertarian voter” doesn’t necessarily mean a voter who meets the stricter definition of a libertarian, i.e., someone who consistently opposes the initiation of force. Rather, it refers to someone who would be inclined to vote for a libertarian candidate in an election. Someone who is more supportive of libertarian ideas than liberal, conservative, statist or centrist ideas.

Different organizations have used different methods to determine the size of this libertarian bloc. And they’ve come up with some pretty consistent estimates.

* For 20 years Gallup’s annual Governance Survey has divided voters into liberal, conservative, libertarian, or populist, based on their answers to two questions:

  1. “Some people think the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Others think that government should do more to solve our country’s problems. Which comes closer to your own view?”
  2. “Some people think the government should promote traditional values in our society. Others think the government should not favor any particular set of values. Which comes closer to your own view?”


In their 2014 survey Gallup classified 24% of respondents as libertarian (with 27% conservative, 21% liberal, and 18% populist). This is hardly a rigorous political litmus test, but it may well help single out voters who might be sympathetic to libertarianism.

  • The Cato Institute’s David Boaz has done a lot of work on this over the years, including an important 2012 book (with David Kirby Emily Ekins) that summarizes numerous polls by Cato and others on the topic: The Libertarian Vote: Swing Voters, Tea Parties, and the Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal Center.
    They conclude that, depending on the criteria used, roughly 15-18% of voters can be classified as “libertarian voters.”
  • A 2006 Zogby poll, commissioned by Cato, found surprising results. Zogby asked half of a group of 1,012 people who had voted in the 2006 election: “Would you describe yourself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal?” Fully 59% of the respondents said “yes.”
    Zogby asked the other half a more challenging question: “Would you describe yourself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, also known as libertarian?” A surprising 44% of respondents — representing 100 million Americans — answered “yes” to that question, thus self-identifying as libertarians. This is obviously higher than the number of true libertarians in America, but certainly it at least indicates that millions of people are open to these ideas and this label.
  • Finally, here’s an often-overlooked but remarkable finding — based on the Advocates’ World’s Smallest Political Quiz. In August 2000 Rasmussen gave the World’s Smallest Political Quiz to nearly 1,000 representative American voters. The Quiz is a far more rigorous test of one’s libertarian leanings than “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” or other looser definitions used by polling firms. Yet fully 16% scored in the libertarian sector then — a figure closely matching to the other estimates we’ve cited.

What can we conclude? While the numbers and the criteria in these studies vary, at the very least there is broad agreement on a figure between 15% to 20%. That’s 30 to 40 million voters — a huge, and growing, voting bloc that could easily swing an election.

Add to this the additional millions on the left, right, and center who may vote for a libertarian-leaning candidate who stresses issues of great importance to them — such as a more peaceful foreign policy, marijuana re-legalization, slashing taxes, and reforming the out-of-control surveillance state.

Which brings us back to Rand Paul’s presidential run announcement. Rand Paul doesn’t claim to be a libertarian. He has described himself as “libertarian-ish” and in 2013 told Sean Hannity “I use the term constitutional conservative, but I also use the term libertarian conservative. … I accept all of those terms if they mean they believe in limited government and more individual liberty.”

But he is certainly the most libertarian-inclined presidential candidate — outside the Libertarian Party — in memory. Cato’s Boaz notes in TIME what may well be the most important thing to come out of a Rand Paul campaign:

“One result of his campaign will be to help those tens of millions of libertarian-leaning Americans to discover that their political attitudes have a name, which will make for a stronger and more influential political faction. … Libertarianism is the framework for a future of freedom, growth, and progress, and it may be on the verge of a political breakout.”

Spotlight the EXCITEMENT of Liberty!

in Liberator Online by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion Powerpoint section in Volume 20, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“Michael, most people aren’t very interested in liberty,” a 10-year libertarian told me.Spotlight

“Really?” I asked. “Would you like to find out why?”

“Yes,” he said.

“What are 3 fascinating things about freedom?” I asked.

“Well, there are lots of interesting things,” he said.

“Could you give me 3 exciting examples?” I asked.

He hemmed and hawed. But he couldn’t come up with even 3 “Wow!!!” things that liberty gives us.

Why? Because he’d never asked himself questions like these:

* “What are 3 or 4 or 5 huge, immediate, direct benefits that liberty would give us in this area?”

* “What are 2 or 4 exciting things that will happen when we abolish the federal income tax — and return every dollar every year to the men and women it was taken from?”

* “What are 3 or 5 terrific things that will happen when we end the War on Drugs and free every peaceful drug offender in prison?”

* “What are a few of the most thrilling things about giving people dramatically more freedom than we have today?”

Showcase, celebrate, sing the praises of, beat the drum for, and shout out the most exciting, engaging, jazzy things that freedom will bring the person you’re talking with — and his family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, too.

If you repeatedly and relentlessly do this in all your libertarian conversations you’ll find that people are indeed interested in liberty — and you’ll bring in dozens and dozens of new, excited libertarians.

Four Great FREE EBOOKS on Liberty

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Students For Liberty (SFL), in partnership with the Atlas Network, has published four outstanding libertarian books — great reading for student and non-student libertarians alike.

And you can download them for FREE as e-books or PDFs, or purchase paperback copies. (Note: if you’re not a student, ignore the “Expected year of college graduation” form box when downloading a PDF.)

Here’s what SFL offers:

The Economics of FreedomThe Economics of Freedom: Selected Works of Frédéric Bastiat features a truly delightful and enlightening collection of essays. Atlas scholar Tom Palmer notes that Bastiat is “the clearest, most sensible economist who ever wrote. Bastiat can be understood by a Nobel Prize winner, a taxi driver, a student, an entrepreneur… even a politician! Read this book and get set for a life-changing experience.”

The Morality of CapitalismThe Morality of Capitalism edited by Tom G. Palmer: Outstanding short pieces by a fantastic line-up of philosophers, economists, Nobel Prize winners, and entrepreneurs, all making the case that not only are markets highly effective, a true free market system is a prerequisite for a just, prosperous, and cooperative society.

Why LibertyWhy Liberty edited by Tom G. Palmer: A great collection of articles that focuses not just on political theory but also on liberty through the lens of culture, entrepreneurship, health, art, technology, philosophy, and the transformative power of freedom. The book features articles from experts in the fields of policy, academia, business, media, and student organizing. This collection makes it clear that liberty is a dynamic and liberating force with the power to change the world for the better.

Peace, Love, & LibertyPeace, Love, & Liberty edited by Tom G. Palmer: Shows that libertarianism is the philosophy of peace — and how libertarian ideas are making the world a safer place. Drawing on the disciplines of history, philosophy, poetry, literature, and psychology, Peace, Love, & Liberty shows that peace is possible — and shows how we can achieve it.

These books can also be purchased, either individual copies or in packs of 100 copies at very low cost, making them great for outreach. Thanks, SFL!

Libertarian Chinese Immigrant Opens Eyes on Gun Control

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Lily WilliamsLily Tang Williams immigrated to the United States when she was 24 to escape communist rule in China. Having grown up under Mao Zedong’s tyrannical communist regime, she doesn’t take her rights for granted — including the right to keep and bear arms.

Today she’s a U.S. citizen, a Libertarian Party member, Colorado Director of 2012 Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s Our America Initiative, and all-around liberty activist.

On February 2 she testified before the Colorado State Legislature, urging the repeal of gun control laws passed in 2013. Her powerful testimony is spreading around the web.

Here’s what she said.

I was born and grew up in People’s Republic of China, where the Communist Party rules everything. Chinese citizens are not allowed to have any guns ever since the Communist Party took over in 1949. So, Chinese people are left helpless when they need to defend themselves. I grew up with fear like millions of other children. Fear police will pound our doors at night for no good reason (search warrant is not necessary for them to do that), fear bad guys will come to rob us (there were crimes in our poor neighborhood), fear my parents and brothers would get hurt and taken away. I have seen local people who defend themselves with kitchen knives, rocks, glass bottles and sticks against criminals. But when it comes to dealing with the Chinese government and police brutality, there is nothing we could do.

Remember June 4th Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989? Our own soldiers, ordered by the top leaders in Beijing, killed thousands of students. Even though the local residents were supporting students, they had no ways to help them. Some Beijing residents begged for the tanks to stop but they did not. What if the residents and students had guns? What if there was militia in China that time? What if the citizens had unlimited magazines? The history might have been different.

Why do you limit our firearms to only 15-round magazines? Do the criminals limit theirs? Does the government limit theirs? If we use our guns primarily for self defense, I need as many magazines as needed to defend my family and myself because I am a bad shot. It seems not fair at all to limit law abiding citizens’ ability for self defense. What if the shop owners only could fire 15 times during the famous LA riot? What if the home owners ran out of bullets during the looting after Hurricane Katrina? What happens if the ranchers near the border have to face a big group of drug cartels who threaten them? How about the famous cases of our government gone wild: Ruby Ridge, Waco, Texas, Athens, Tennessee — a small town in the U.S.A at the end of the World War II, where the local dictators wanted to highjack the election results with their guns, [but] local residents organized and armed themselves to take their town back?

I came to the U.S. for freedom, including the freedom granted by the Second Amendment: the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. When I held my own gun for the first time in my life in this country, I felt empowered and for the first time, I felt free.

If the Communist government took my gun rights away, why are you limiting my gun rights in Colorado? Are you becoming communists? I hope not. I lived under tyranny for 24 years, I do not want to ever live under it again.

Please vote as if the Constitution actually means something, because it does! Didn’t you swear that you would uphold the U.S. Constitution and Colorado constitution when you became a House representative? I urge you to vote yes on HB15-1009, Repeal Large Ammo Magazine Ban, making our beautiful state free again. Thank you.

What is the non-aggression principle?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 19 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: What is the libertarian non-aggression principle?

MY SHORT ANSWER: Libertarianism is based on a single ideal, the non-aggression Keep Calm And Be Non-Aggressiveprinciple.

Libertarians oppose the initiation of force to achieve social or political goals. They reject “first-strike” force, fraud or theft against others; they only use force in self-defense. Those who violate this “non-aggression principle” are expected to make their victims whole as much as possible, via restitution.

This “Good Neighbor Policy” is what most of us were taught as children. We were told not to lie, cheat, steal, or strike our playmates, except if they hit us first. If we broke a friend’s toy, we were expected to replace it.

Most of us still practice what we learned as children with other individuals, but we have grown accustomed to letting government aggress against others when we think we benefit. Consequently, our world is full of poverty and strife, instead of the harmony and abundance that freedom (i.e., freedom from aggression) brings.

Simply put, libertarians take the non-aggression principle that most people implicitly follow in their interactions with other individuals, and apply it to group actions, including government actions, as well.

* * *
Short Answers to Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

Abolish NSA, Exonerate Snowden, Stop Illegal Spying: Libertarian Candidates Pledge

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 17 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Scores of Libertarian Party candidates for federal office have pledged to downsize the bloated federal government  — in these big and specific ways:

* Eliminate the federal income taxEnd Spying - Abolish the NSA
* End the War on Drugs
* Abolish the NSA
* Cut military spending by 60%

We’re exploring each of these pledges in detail, one per issue, because the Libertarian Party has done a great job of showing that these bold proposals are not only possible, but practical and enormously beneficial. (Of course, you can jump ahead of us and read about all four positions right now.)

Let’s look at the pledge to abolish the NSA (National Security Agency).

The candidates pledge: “If elected, I will sponsor legislation to abolish the NSA, grant clemency and full whistleblower protection to Edward Snowden, consolidate our 18 spy agencies into one accountable agency, and cut taxes accordingly.”

Here are the benefits of fully restoring the Fourth Amendment, exonerating Edward Snowden and shrinking the American spy apparatus, according to the Libertarian Party:

* Privacy! No more snooping on your private emails, phone calls, text messages, Skype sessions, and other personal communication without your consent. No risk of embarrassment and humiliation due to others’ unwelcome knowledge of your personal life. You alone will control your private information.

* Consolidating the 18 U.S. spy agencies will enable substantial cuts in federal taxes. Each American family will get back, on average, $540 every year that they now pay in taxes.

* Assurance of privacy will increase the use of online banking and shopping, creating greater convenience for shoppers and increased sales for online vendors. It also encourages use of email, which cuts costs for businesses, cuts prices for consumers, liberates personal communications, and reduces paper waste.

* Protection from warrantless government search and seizure will greatly reduce the risk of unjust arrests and prosecution of innocent Americans, and will lessen the risk of America devolving into a state of tyranny.

* Exonerating Edward Snowden will grant him the respect and freedom he deserves, and will make it safe for whistleblowers to speak up when the government violates the rights of citizens.

 

They Said It… Rand Paul, John Hickenlooper, And More!

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Doug Sosnik

AMERICANS MAD AT GOV’T, WANT LESS OF IT: “It is difficult to overstate the depth of the anger and alienation that a majority of all Americans feel toward the federal government. A June 30, 2014, Gallup poll found that Americans’ level of confidence has dropped to near record lows for all three branches — the presidency (30 percent), Congress (7 percent) and the U.S. Supreme Court (29 percent). …the country’s diminishing faith in its institutions has translated into a desire for less government, not more.” — Democratic political strategist Doug Sosnik, former political director for President Clinton, “Blue Crush: How the Left Took Over the Democratic Party,” Politico Magazine, July 24, 2014.

ANGRY AMERICANS PART 2: 
John Hickenlooper“People are mad at Democrats. But they’re certainly not happy with Republicans. They’re mad at everything.” — Democratic governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper, quoted in the  New York Times, August 26, 2014.


John HaywardBURGER KING HAS IT THEIR WAY: “Three cheers for Burger King, I say! All of the whiny liberals racing to call them ‘unpatriotic’ for pursuing a deal to merge with the Canadian coffee shop Tim Horton and reincorporate north of the border, thus escaping the deranged American corporate tax system, are completely missing the point. Nothing is more patriotic, more quintessentially American, than voting with your feet and withdrawing your consent from an unhinged government. When CEOs start climbing over the walls to escape from greedy left-wing government, the problem is not insufficiently high walls.” — conservative writer John Hayward, “Burger King to escape U.S. corporate tax system,” Human Events, August 26, 2014.

RAND PAUL ON THE INTERVENTIONISTS: 
Senator Rand Paul“The let’s-intervene-and-consider-the-consequences-later crowd left us with more than 4,000 Americans dead, over 2 million refugees and trillions of dollars in debt. Anytime someone advocates sending our sons and daughters to war, questions about precise objectives, effective methods and an exit strategy must be thoughtfully answered. America deserves this.” — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), “Rick Perry Is Dead Wrong,” Politico.com, July 14, 2014.

Ron PaulRON PAUL ON HELPING ISIS RECRUIT: “A new U.S. military incursion will not end ISIS; it will provide them with the recruiting tool they most crave, while draining the U.S. treasury. Just what Osama bin Laden wanted!” — Ron Paul, “Obama Has No Middle East Strategy? Good!” Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, August 31, 2014.

FREEDOM OR EMPIRE:
Robert Murphy“If Americans want a free society at home, then they must convince the U.S. government to give up its global empire. The militarized police recently on display in Ferguson was no freak coincidence: Antiwar activists and other civil libertarians have been warning for decades that an aggressive U.S. foreign policy would eventually destroy domestic liberties. Americans can’t ask their government to subjugate foreigners with bombs but bow to their own wishes at the ballot box.” — Robert P. Murphy, “A free society must give up empire,” Antiwar.com, August. 30, 2014.


LABOR DAY, OBAMA ERA:
 “It’s Labor Day weekend. Labor Day, of course, is a David Lettermanholiday where people take three days off from being unemployed.” — David Letterman, August 28, 2014.

NOTED AND REQUOTED
CANDIDATE OBAMA VS PRESIDENT OBAMA:

President Barack Obama

“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” — Sen. Barack Obama, interviewed by the Boston Globe while running for president in 2008, quoted by Conor Friedersdorf at Atlantic.com.

Buckley for Senate

in Liberator Online, Libertarian Party by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

John BuckleyOne of the most famous family names in American political history is once again on the ballot and in the national news.

John Buckley — cousin of the renowned late conservative icon William F. Buckley and former U.S. Senator James L. Buckley — is running an active campaign as Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Senate in West Virginia.

And he’s already drawing significant national attention. The Washington Post recently described his campaign as one of seven U.S. senate races in which a Libertarian Party candidate could win enough votes to affect the outcome of the election, thus forcing the campaigns of both older party candidates to seriously consider supporting libertarian positions if they want to win.

Said the Washington Post: “John Buckley knows something about winning political races. He’s a former state legislator in Virginia, and a former employee at the American Conservative Union, the Cato Institute and the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University.” He’s also a past National Chairman of Young Americans for Freedom and has worked for the Institute for Humane Studies and the National Tax Limitation Committee.

At his campaign website he sums this up: “All through my life, I’ve worked to promote freedom and prosperity.” His lifetime of political experience, he says, soured him on the Republican Party as a vehicle for liberty and led him to the Libertarian Party.

Buckley tells more about his background and beliefs at his Facebook page:

“I turned 60 in 2013 and, with what I see happening under the presidency of Barack Obama (and even the astonishing growth of government under President George Bush), I want to do my part to try to turn America around. We need less government, not more!

“I have also realized that principles of limited government should be applied across the board, not just as to taxes, spending, and economic regulation, but to personal, ‘lifestyle’ decisions as well. Thus, I favor drastically lowering the level of federal government taxes and spending, embracing Second Amendment gun ownership rights, and respecting private property;

“I also support the legalization of marijuana (common sense tells us it’s time to end the ruinously expensive, counterproductive, and failed ‘War on Drugs’), same-sex marriage, and ending Big Brother’s snooping and spying on American citizens.

“Most Americans don’t like being told what to do and don’t relish telling others what to do, either. The American way is ‘live and let live.’ We may not like the decisions our friends and neighbors make, but we express our moral suasion voluntarily (through churches and family and other peaceful expressions of community standards), not through laws and dictates.

“We certainly don’t like politicians, and especially not Congress or whoever is president, telling us what to do. Whether it’s fluorescent light bulbs, ‘Big Gulp’ sodas, how we run our businesses, how we choose to meet the moral obligation to help our neighbors in need, the curriculum of our children’s schools, our right to keep and bear arms, what we smoke or drink, who we can love or the terms of our health-care.

“I am in favor of liberty — that’s what ‘Libertarian’ means, favoring liberty. It’s the American way of life, but I’m afraid the principles of liberty have been largely abandoned under mainstream Republicans and Democrats. Let’s reclaim the greatness of the American system of limited government. I’ll hope you’ll join me in this campaign.”

National Service: Should Young Americans Be Forced To Serve the Government?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)
National Service

QUESTION: I believe we shouldn’t be forced to participate in some kind of national service. However, some of my friends say we owe some duty to our country for being born here and living here. What about a citizen’s duty to country?

MY SHORT ANSWER: If “doing our duty” is equated to providing “service,” who decides what is service and what is not? If young Steve Jobs had been forced into some type of national service instead of being left alone to tinker in his garage, he might never have invented the personal computer. The resulting increases in everyone’s standard of living would have been lost or delayed because of a bureaucrat’s uninformed decision about what was good for the country.

Freedom is what is good for a nation, especially one that wants to help its poor. More freedom means more wealth creation and less poverty. Government interference, even well-intended, backfires. (For some examples and more detail, see my book, “Healing Our World.” The 1992 edition is available as a free download at www.ruwart.com. The updated 2003 edition is available at the Advocates online bookstore.)

Most people give generously of their time and money if this is the voluntary custom. For example, tipping is not mandatory, but almost everyone does it. Before government got involved in social welfare, almost everyone helped a less fortunate neighbor individually or as part of a formal organization because that was the custom. You were either a charity case or a provider of charity; few people wanted to be in the former group.

To return to this way of charitable thinking, the government should stop forcing people to “give at the office” through taxation and resist the temptation to force people into service. Doing so will only create resentment towards those in need, leaving little sympathy for the poor when their “help” disappears in the shifting political tides.

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for further reading on this topic from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

* “Shhh… Don’t call Obama’s national service scheme a ‘draft‘” by Jerome Tuccille. National service is seemingly off the front burner, but don’t let down your guard; the idea continues to circulate. This article, written in 2008 when the idea was being more strongly pushed by both Democrats and Republicans, points out the insidious nature of the concept.

EXCERPT: “Under Barack Obama’s plan, a refusal to participate in a national service program touted at the federal level will be punished by the withholding of high school diplomas by the school district in your town. And without that diploma, few colleges or employers will even bother to look at your application.

“It’s a softer sort of authoritarianism which requires no draft boards, muddles the identity of the ‘bad guy’ and produces no martyrs in handcuffs for the evening news. You just can’t get a job if you don’t do as you’re told.”

* “National Service? Puh-lease“ by Michael Kinsley, TIME, Sept. 04, 2007. Liberal journalist Kinsley does a great job of gutting the whole “national service” notion. Ignore the couple of paragraphs in the middle about democracy and taxation; the rest is brilliant and marvelously written.

EXCERPT: “Problem number one with grand schemes for universal voluntary public service is that they can’t be both universal and voluntary. If everybody has to do it, then it’s not voluntary, is it? And if it’s truly up to the individual, then it won’t be universal. What advocates of this sort of thing generally have in mind is using the pressures of social conformity and the powers of the state indirectly to remove as much freedom of choice as possible, while still being able to claim that everyone who signs up is a ‘volunteer.’”

* * *
Short Answers to Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

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