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Focus on Real

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

Focus on Real

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

So much of what we’ve seen lately in the news has been classified as “fake news,” when, in actuality, that’s not what it is. It’s a distraction from what’s actually happening.

Distractions are just that. They are the things that keep us from looking at what’s really happening and focusing on real things with real people. At the end of the day, neither your life nor mine will be affected by these distractions.

When we talk about libertarianism, we don’t need to focus on distractions. We need to focus on what’s real, what’s affecting your life, and what’s affecting the lives of the people around you. Those are the things that will make non-libertarians more amenable to the ideas we present, because they actually see the ideas we hold in action, and they see how we would handle a situation that is based in reality and that affects them.

Take, for example, the Michigan man who received a $128 citation for leaving his car running in his own driveway. He was simply warming it up on a cold day. Trust me, there are many mornings here in Indianapolis where I want to warm my car before I get in to make sure that it’s nice and warm before driving to work in the morning. Those are things that the state finds to be wrong and requiring revenue from you to recompense.

This man’s ticket is a real story affecting a real person that nearly everyone can relate to. This is something that we need to make sure we talk about, and we need to talk about it with authenticity.

One of the key reasons that Donald Trump won the election was the perceived authenticity that he presented in his politically incorrect style. It set him apart from Hillary Clinton, and because no one believed what she was saying, due to her lack of authenticity, they thought his loose style, like going on 3 AM Twitter rants, was something that was authentic. In actuality, it’s just more of the same packaged for the American voter for that election.

So. let’s stop focusing on distractions, and focus on things that are real.

Goldman Sachs’ CEO: Regulations Help Us Grow, Keeping Competitors at Bay

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Economics by Alice Salles Comments are off

Goldman Sachs’ CEO: Regulations Help Us Grow, Keeping Competitors at Bay

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

Crony capitalism continues to expand big government’s grip, extending the realm under government’s control in ways we once thought impossible. As businesses and employees hurt due to government’s increasing control over all business fields, so does the economy.

GoldmanWhile this issue is inherently a government problem, big business has a lot to do with the growing regulatory burden. Instead of downplaying their role, libertarians should be pointing out how both parties are to blame, and how even big businesses understand this reality and often use it to their advantage.

In a 2015 interview, Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein explained how regulations help to protect large, established firms, keeping smaller competitors from having access to the market.

In his own words, he gave the reporter an outline of what happens when a large firm like his is afraid of its competitors, and what’s funny is that few news outlets caught on to the CEO’s unabashed honesty, choosing to never reproduce his comments or downplay their importance.

When talking about how upstart tech companies and the threat they pose to Goldman, Blankfein said that while “all industries are being disrupted to some extent by new entrants coming in from technology,” regulations have been a friend of Goldman mostly because “there are some parts of [Goldman] business, where it’s very hard for outside entrants to come in, disrupt our business, simply because we’re so regulated.”

The burden of regulation, Blankfein added, is a serious issue for “people in our industry,” but, “in some cases,” Blankfein continued, “the burdensome regulation acts as a bit of a moat around our business.”

As you can see, Goldman Sachs’ own CEO refers to regulations as moats. In other words, the regulatory burden can be heavy and Goldman executives agree, but as long as the rules keep competitors from getting anywhere near the Goldman castle, the company doesn’t see a problem with complying.

According to Bill Anderson, a professor of economics at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Maryland, America truly embraced regulations during the Progressive era, following the lead of progressive leaders such as Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, and Woodrow Wilson who believed that “the federal system of delegated powers was archaic and out of date for a ‘modern, progressive’ society.”

To these politicians, stripping “powers from state and local governments and transferring them to Washington, DC” and “convincing members of Congress to give up their own constitutionally-designated powers” were essential steps in making America a truly progressive nation. How did they manage to go about putting their plan in practice? By “crafting of regulatory agencies,” all of which are part of the executive branch.

So next time you see a Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton supporter go on and on about how government and big business should not be involved in any way, remind them of what has enabled this cozy relationship.

“Who Can You Absolutely NOT Trust?”

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

“Who Can You Absolutely NOT Trust?”

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

When it comes to elections, many voters focus on electing a “good king,” someone who would implement their worldview on others, even if that worldview is TERRIBLE for liberty. If you find yourself talking with one of those voters about libertarianism, your efforts to persuade may be more effective by asking them this question before you get into the politics or philosophy of libertarian thought, “Who can you absolutely NOT trust?”

The answer you receive does not matter, but you should definitely take note, as it will guide the rest of your interaction with them.

trustMost often, you will hear a prominent national name mentioned like Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Harry Reid, or Nancy Pelosi. These are easy targets, and most people keep their minds on the national political news.

Regardless of who they name and the issues they champion, your response should remain the same.

Once you know their top issues, you can begin to ask questions about those issues being manipulated by the person they trust least. Questions like “How would you feel about giving authority over you to [insert their untrustworthy person's name here] on the Second Amendment?” or “If [insert their untrustworthy person's name here] were in charge of who receives welfare and who doesn’t, how would you feel about that program?”

They will be taken aback by this, because they’ve not considered this before.

Then, you can begin a discussion about how when you empower the “good guy” to enact a policy that you also empower the “bad guy” to use that authority. We’re seeing this unfold right now as Congress decides on gender equality when it comes to the draft. As it stands today, the federal government requires young men aged 18-25 to register with the Selective Service. Last week, the Senate voted for equal treatment to force young women to also register for the draft precursor. There were two outcomes that would lead to equal treatment under the law here:

  1. What happened in the US Senate.
  2. That we realize that you don’t actually own yourself if the law compels you to potentially serve in the military against your wishes. This realization would have ended the Selective Service registration for men, providing the same equality, yet with a better self-ownership outcome.


Keep in mind that you don’t need to focus on their issue so much as the idea that once you give power to one, you give that same power to all that come after, and the best solution is to govern one’s self, rather than give away that power.

Primaries, Caucuses, and Nominations… Oh My!

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

Primaries, Caucuses, and Nominations… Oh My!

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

Two weeks ago, we discussed The “Most Important Election of Our Lifetime” Fallacy. Today, Indiana Republicans and Democrats line up to vote for their favored candidates and delegates on Primary Day.

The pressure to “participate in our democracy,” as I heard on the radio yesterday, continues to increase. The #NeverTrump advocates want me to vote for Ted Cruz today. I have yet to #FeelTheBern, despite the numerous radio and television ads from Bernie Sanders. This election cycle, the presidential nominees for both of the old parties are not yet locked in place, giving Indiana a moment in the sun with both the media and the candidates.

On top of that, there is a contested race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate between two sitting Congressmen, Marlin Stutzman and Todd Young.

PrimariesWhile I have voted in primaries in the past, I last cast a partisan ballot in the primary in 2012 to vote for Ron Paul in the Republican Presidential Preference Primary. <– try saying that three times fast

While I supported some fine candidates in parties other than my own, I realized that the primary process is used to determine intra-party business. That business is to place the party’s best candidate forward for the general election.

Should I be able to participate in their elections? I am not a member of either Team D or Team R, nor do I donate to either. Should I have a vote in how they conduct business? After all, General Electric does not allow non-shareholders determine who sits on their board. They handle such decisions internally, and most importantly, without using resources paid for by taxpayers.

In 2012, taxpayers spent approximately $400 million to fund each state’s primary election, ranging from $1.32 to almost $4 per voter, depending on the state and their turnout.

That means that taxpayers across the country subsidized the cost of selecting Mitt Romney and Barack Obama before their conventions even occurred in Tampa and Charlotte.

By contrast, the Libertarian Party chose the Gary Johnson/Jim Gray ticket in Las Vegas at their 2012 convention whose costs were borne entirely by attendees and donors to the party.

Often, the argument used against the idea of parties funding their own intra-party business is that only party insiders will be involved in the selection process. Given the way that the rules are written, the ability of “superdelegates” to ignore their constituents’ desires, and the efforts of those looking to stop the likely nominee, aren’t those same party insiders already doing the legwork of choosing who should represent them in both of the old parties?

I guess the question to be answered is, should taxpayers fund conventions and primaries? Couldn’t we make this simpler and less expensive by having the Party bear these costs, rather than have taxpayers subsidize the cost of this selection process and provide extra paid and earned media to the parties allowed to participate?

Violence in America: Drug War Policy is the Problem, Not Guns

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

Violence in America: Drug War Policy is the Problem, Not Guns

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

President Barack Obama has reignited the gun debate by announcing a series of executive actions with the intent of curbing gun violence. To critics, Obama’s announcement is simply a mistake. To others, executive actions are sideshows, distracting the country from the actual problems tied to violence.

Despite the criticism, former Secretary of State and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she’s “proud” of Obama. To the Democrat, more must be done in order to “eliminate all the threats as much as possible.”

gun control

Included with the executive actions are new requirements concerning background checks for guns bought from dealers online and at gun shows. The president also wants to upgrade the background check technology that would help federal officials track stolen weapons.

But despite the president’s passionate rhetoric, unregulated private sales usually benefit individuals who are prevented from owning guns but who are not necessarily purchasing weapons to commit crimes.

On the other hand, weapons used by the two attackers responsible for the deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino were bought legally, making Obama’s latest actions completely ineffective in similar cases.

But as media outlets and Internet figures debate the effectiveness of Obama’s plan, another piece of evidence provided by the federal government is consistently left out of the discussion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the injury rates among crime victims who use guns to defend themselves are lower when compared to injury rates among victims who resort to different strategies for protection.

The $10 million study released recently by CDC suggests that the number of violent crimes, “including homicides specifically,” has been in steady decline for the past five years, and that the number of stolen guns linked to criminal use is very low. Most felons, the report suggests, obtain their weapons from informal sources instead of resorting to theft. The study also suggests that most gun-related incidents in America tend to result in injuries rather than deaths.

Yet another bit of information the president failed to mention during his announcement covers the rates of gun-related deaths. According to the study released through CDC, the majority of deaths caused by firearm use are suicides, not homicides.

Between 2000 and 2010, for instance, the number of firearm-related suicides outnumbered the number of homicides for victims in all age groups. The agency reports that 335,600 people died between 2000 and 2010 due to firearm-related violence, but 61 percent of these deaths, or 204,716 of these cases, were suicides.

If the president is serious about curbing violence in America, one could easily find reasons to take a look at other policies—such as the drug war—for a practical solution.

According to the study released by CDC, African American males are the most affected by firearm-related violence.

While the study suggests that income inequality is a risk factor that may predict violence, it fails to note that the drug war is mostly responsible for the high rates of arrests, prosecutions, and convictions among people of color.

Being serious about gun violence in the country requires vision, which President Barack Obama appears to lack.

As the drug war wages on, despite some states’ successful efforts against prohibition, inequality and economic tyranny continue to make gun violence an issue in America. Executive orders concerning gun use will do nothing to put an end to what the US drug policy has triggered.

Increasing Costs Tied to Obamacare Make Healthcare Ministries More Appealing Than Insurance Providers

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

Increasing Costs Tied to Obamacare Make Healthcare Ministries More Appealing Than Insurance Providers

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

As the country is distracted by the presidential election, issues that aren’t getting as much air time as Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton become a side show.

With reports concerning the ineffectiveness of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, hitting the news but being ignored by major news channels, crusaders take it to the Internet to discredit Obamacare critics. As new reports argue that Americans are fed up, smaller publications seek to downplay some of the fears brought up by conservatives and libertarians all along. When faced with evidence that shows ACA is making healthcare less affordable, will these pro-Obamacare crusaders back down?

Health Care

Exactly two days before Christmas, the New York Magazine ran an article tailored to take conservative-leaning Americans to task. The subject? One of the left’s most adored achievements (and one of the right’s biggest, and most disputed, creations): Obamacare.

According to Jonathan Chait, the author, the NY Mag piece was conceived in order to debunk arguments presented by Ross Douthat, who wrote a column on Obamacare for New York Times earlier that same week.

While the piece discusses the number of covered Americans before and after the enactment of Obamacare and other points made by Douthat, it’s when Chait focuses on the cost of healthcare before and after the enactment of ACA that things get interesting.

In the NY Mag piece, Chait introduces a seemingly detailed blueprint of how ACA has bent the overall healthcare cost to the average consumer. Yet he ignores actual evidence proving that no, Obamacare hasn’t helped to keep the cost of healthcare low. As a matter of fact, the constant meddling with the insurance business and the healthcare industry in the past has done nothing but to increase the overall cost of health care. Now, those who lost their previous plans and who are unable to sign up for insurance after Obamacare went into full force are being cornered. As a result, they are choosing to pay the IRS fee instead of getting coverage.

Even those who supported President Barack Obama’s signature law are getting desperate.

But as a number of consumers lose their hope, a report recently published by the Wall Street Journal shows that things might have just gotten worse.

According to the WSJ, the cost of health insurance is such a heavy burden for those who lost their insurance plans after ACA became the law of the land that many consumers are now turning to healthcare ministries to cover their medical expenses.

That’s right. Health insurance costs are so out of control that consumers are turning to ministries, which operate outside the insurance system, in order to get access to the health care they need.

Instead of functioning as an insurance provider, these ministries provide health care cost-sharing arrangements to those who share the same religious beliefs.

Ministries now count with about 500,000 members nationwide thanks to ACA. Previous to the law, there were about 200,000 members enrolled in the system. But things could get crowded soon, making it hard for ministries to take in more members.

While ACA gives these ministries an exception to the law, only groups that have operated continuously since at least December 31, 1999 are eligible. Without the possibility of expanding the number of participating ministries, helping those in need could become too heavy of a burden.

When the exception was added to the law, it hoped to satisfy a relatively small number of groups that argued that nonparticipation was a matter of religious freedom. Now, ministries are being sought after as a matter of survival. And as ministries become crowded, insurance commissioners begin to complain, claiming these groups operating outside ACA are hurting consumers.

But with ministries costing about 30 percent less than private insurance, consumers who choose the more affordable path can’t be blamed for taking the easier way out.

Claiming to have the consumer’s best interest at heart, insurance commissioners from Kentucky, Washington, and Oklahoma have, in the past, decided to take action against ministries in their states. Thankfully, legislatures blocked the efforts. But as the cost of care continues to grow and the number of uninsured only shrinks because of the threat associated with non-compliance, other states may attempt to put an end to faith-based healthcare providers again, hurting thousands of consumers if they succeed.

In light of this report, will NY Mag’s Chait finally agree that Obamacare is making healthcare less affordable? Probably not. Nevertheless, ministries may have to fight yet another battle to stay open if membership growth remains steady.

They Said It… With Hillary Clinton, Pat Buchanan, and More

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 18 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Hillary ClintonHILLARY:  “Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs.” — Hillary Clinton, speaking at a political rally in Massachusetts, Oct 24, 2014. (Clinton supporters claim she is quoted out of context; you can find their argument here.)

INSANITY:
Pat Buchanan“We borrow from Japan and Europe to defend Japan and Europe, though World War II has been over for 70 years.” —Pat Buchanan, “Things Fall Apart,” syndicated column, Oct. 24, 2014.

UH-OH: “The extent of and continuing increase in inequality in the United States greatly Janet Yellinconcern me. …I think it is appropriate to ask whether this trend is compatible with values rooted in our nation’s history, among them the high value Americans have traditionally placed on equality of opportunity. …In such circumstances, society faces difficult questions of how best to fairly and justly promote equal opportunity.” — Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellin in a speech entitled “Perspectives on Inequality and Opportunity from the Survey of Consumer Finances,” Oct. 17, 2014.

THE NEW CONSUMER REGULATION:
Mark J. Perry“It’s important to remember that Uber drivers and Airbnb hosts are already very heavily regulated, and in some ways they are regulated even more intensely than traditional taxis or hotels by a very ruthless group of regulators — the consumers who use their services and can rate each driver after every Uber ride and rate each host after every Airbnb stay. And the regulation goes both ways — the Uber drivers rate their passengers and the Airbnb hosts rate their guests. So the issue really isn’t a choice between government regulation and a completely unregulated sharing economy; the issue really is who is the primary regulator: a) government bureaucrats and legislators who are often captured by regulated industries like taxi cartels (Big Taxi), or b) the consumers.” — Mark J. Perry, “In the battle between sharing economy entrepreneurs and regulators, I’ll bet on the entrepreneurs like Uber and Airbnb ,” Carpe Diem blog, American Enterprise Institute, Oct. 23, 2014.