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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.

Experience New Things Experience New People

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

Experience New Things Experience New People

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

So, you’ve likely noticed that this week’s From Me to You is going to be a little bit different.

I’m not in my office. There’s not a bookshelf full of books behind me. In fact, it’s a little chilly, definitely overcast, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to rain on me at any second.

But this different experience is what we’re talking about today. We’re talking about experiencing new things, experiencing new people, as we become more effective communicators of libertarian ideas and libertarian philosophy.

I believe that you experiences determine the decisions that you make. Those decisions drive the actions that you take. Those actions lead to outcomes, whether good or bad.

As a libertarian, I want you to make those decisions for yourself, rather than having them centrally-planned from hundreds or thousands of miles away. I believe that YOU are going to make the best decision for yourself.

How am I going to know that though? I really only have my own experiences to draw from.

If I’m not out there experiencing what others are, and not experiencing what others struggle with, or how they succeed, how am I really going to be a proper advocate for making decisions for ourselves?

Libertarianism is not only about freedom and liberty for me, but it’s about freedom and liberty for everyone.

If I’m not experiencing what other people do, and I’m not able to empathize with their situations, how can I really be a proper advocate for liberty?

So, what I’m suggesting to you is that you go out and experience new things. Experience new people.

Find a different perspective. Step outside of your comfort zone.

We have an opportunity to really make a difference, as we learn about others, and they learn about us.

As you’re experiencing what other people have, and you’re finding out more about their lives and their stories, you’re going to be able to build rapport. You’ll then be able to influence their lives in a more libertarian way.

They may adopt some of the ideas and philosophy that we hold.

So, what’s going to be your first new experience?

You Might Be the First…

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

You Might Be the First…

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

Recently, I attended an event with numerous political groups using that event to reach out to the community about their political party or movement.

While there, I witnessed some astonishing behavior posing as outreach, some of which I couldn’t believe. I offered some advice, though I’ll offer more here today.

firstThese days, my outreach activities are mostly internal, within the libertarian movement, though I do have significant experience “in the trenches.” Through that experience I took steps to learn how to improve the results, whether I was to persuading someone to re-examine their political home, convincing them to vote for my candidate, or introducing them to a new organization.

One of the best lessons I learned to improve my outreach was to constantly think to myself that “You might be the first libertarian this person has ever met.”

When you ARE that first libertarian contact, you are an ambassador to libertarianism.

You represent every libertarian in the movement at that point in time to that person. He or she will be left with a permanent impression, good or bad, about libertarians going forward.

First impressions matter.

If you leave a bad first impression, you’ve just made it that much harder for your fellow libertarians. They now have to overcome that negative impression to persuade that person to consider libertarian ideas. If you left a REALLY bad first impression, he or she might have told others about how terrible libertarians are.

Luckily, there are more libertarians today than ever. Since the Advocates’ founding in 1985, we’ve identified and recruited countless people to accept libertarian ideas, philosophy, and way of life. Even on college campuses, where freedom seems to be a dirty word, our partner organizations, Students for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty, have opened the door, as well as hearts and minds, to thousands that now yearn for a libertarian society.

Honestly, I hope that you are not the first libertarian contact. That is not because I think you will give a bad first impression. You’re clearly interested in being a better ambassador for libertarianism by keeping yourself informed about the libertarian movement and how you can be a better representative of the philosophy. I hope you are not the first libertarian contact because of the growth of the libertarian movement.

Whether or not you are the first, act like you are. I can guarantee the results are better when you do.

Do Libertarian Ideas Go Too Far?

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

Do Libertarian Ideas Go Too Far?

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

Question:

Ron SwansonI am coming around to libertarian ideas, but so many libertarian policies, while moving in the right direction, seem to go way too far. For instance, the idea of no taxation, only user fees, seems great. But it seems that some taxation would be necessary to pay government workers, maintain ambassadors and embassies to other nations, host state visits from other nations, and (a necessary evil) pay lawyers to defend the government against lawsuits, as well as a host of other little things that there couldn’t be a user fee for. Can zero taxation really stand up to reason?

Answer:

Yes!

Government workers would be paid by those individuals or groups that made their employment necessary. Lawyers defending the government in lawsuits, for example, would be paid for by the guilty party. Since government officials would not enjoy sovereign immunity in a libertarian society, they could be liable for attorney fees and damages for any wrongdoing. In other answers posted on the Web site, I’ve detailed the mechanism by which restitution could be made.

Since a libertarian government would not be restricting trade between nations, establishing embargoes, setting tariffs, handing out taxpayer guaranteed loans, etc., our top officials would not be wining and dining dignitaries from other countries as they do today. Naturally, heads of state from other countries could visit the U.S. at their own expense. Without the ability to pick the U.S. taxpayer’s pocket, however, few would bother.

If embassies were maintained in foreign nations, they would be supported by fees from travelers or others who might utilize their services.

Today, those who are too poor to travel pay taxes to support services for people who can afford to see the world. Taxes are one way in which government makes the poor poorer and the rich richer.


Editor’s Note: As former Advocates President Sharon Harris notes in this article from a past edition of the Liberator Online, making the case for ending the income tax is not a difficult task. One thing to consider when discussing libertarian ideas is the concept of the Overton window, which can be raised with a little help from this post from that same issue.

 

Are You Using Facebook to Advocate for Liberty?

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

Are You Using Facebook to Advocate for Liberty?

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

This week, a friend of mine blocked and unfriended someone they’ve known for years after years of arguing over issues that do not directly affect either of them, but get them fired up. I understand wanting to rid one’s self of negativity and people who drive that stress level up, UP, UP!, but what is accomplished by walling yourself off from someone with whom you disagree?

FacebookWhen you post political, economic, and social commentary on Facebook, you invite your “circle,” and possibly strangers (if your posts are public), to comment, debate, and engage in that topic. For me, this is an OPPORTUNITY to share libertarian ideas and possibly persuade others to join us in the libertarian movement.

Have you ever changed your mind about an issue or stance you hold after a major Facebook argument that ends a friendship, even one solely on a social network?

Me neither.

My views have only been changed when presented with newly-available information or by better understanding a principle that I had not previously. None of those would be possible if we shut the door on someone who holds a different opinion.

As an administrator of Facebook pages in addition to a personal profile, I have had the opportunity to share content and engage with millions of people. In just the last seven days, our Facebook page reached 1.1 million users.

Would that be possible if we walled ourselves off from those who disagree on some tenets of libertarian philosophy?

We continue to grow and reach more people with the seeds of Liberty we plant with each post, comment, and share. We also provide fellow libertarians with quality content to share with their networks to begin conversations about libertarian philosophy.

Will you do the same?

Happy Facebooking for Liberty!

Most Effective Outreach? Lead By Example

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

Most Effective Outreach? Lead By Example

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

I’m often asked what I find to be the most effective ways to share libertarian ideas.

My answer? Lead by example.

Don’t worry about word choice, which book to recommend, or how you will answer a tough question. Start by being a shining example of what a libertarian is.

lead by exampleWhen you live your life in a way that exemplifies your beliefs, your actions display to others what you believe. This means getting involved in your community, volunteering for charity activities, and networking. What does it say to you when someone constantly talks about gardening should be, but you never see their tomatoes or roses? Is your mind questioning those supposed skills? The same goes for libertarian ideas. If you talk ALL DAY LONG about the wonders of free markets, voluntary cooperation, and how private charity outperforms government welfare programs in every way, but if no one sees you “gardening,” how much weight do your words carry?

Finding activities like maintaining a notoriously littered part of your community, starting a neighborhood tool library, or keeping the lawn trimmed of an infirm, elderly neighbor, are ways to show how individuals can make a difference in the community. As you perform these tasks, you inspire others to join you or to also do something that will also benefit those around you without looking to the government to pay someone to pick up litter or to send scary notices to your neighbor when their grass exceeds the mandated height for the city or county. Additionally, you will become known for your efforts to improve the quality of life in your community, which opens the door for others to seek you out.

Now that your neighbors seek you out, you have an amazing opportunity. You will get to hear about their concerns and the issues that are important to them. The key to this activity is NOT to talk, but to LISTEN. The most important to be done is to hear what they have to say, letting them lead the conversation. This will help you to build rapport by finding common ground with which you begin to converse.

Because libertarianism is such a broad philosophy, you will likely find that you have similar concerns and desire the same outcomes, but the person to whom you are speaking may not be considering how libertarian principles and ideals could solve a problem. THIS is your opportunity to speak.

You listened, identified a problem, heard their desired outcome. Now, you can effectively offer a libertarian solution. Whether it is helping the homeless via shelters, soup kitchens, and health and employment services in the community or offering answers to the area’s poor education results by NOT relying on a government “solution,” you have credibility because you took it upon yourself to address a tangible issue that others noticed.

As you converse about the issue you both identified as an issue in need of a solution, keep the conversation in a friendly tone, using everyday language. The use of unnecessarily scholarly verbiage or political jargon and buzzwords may turn off your new friend. This is just a conversation between two people about everyday issues, not a debate. As tempting as it is, there is no “win” in making him or her feel like your intellectual inferior.

We libertarians are a diverse lot, and not everyone can bring new people around to the ideas and principles of libertarian philosophy, and that is OK.

By being a great example of libertarianism, you can be active and bring more people into the movement, but if you are uncomfortable with the whole “walk the walk” concept, please find another way you can help the libertarian movement. There are candidates, campaigns, and organizations who need your assistance in other ways. It may be that your lifestyle allows you to finance activities, your skills can bring a professional website to them, or your “best fit” is to be someone who can distribute hundreds of flyers that affect an electoral outcome. The key is to find and do what you do well.

New Poll: Millions of Voters Say They’re Libertarian

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!)

A new poll from YouGov brings exciting and unprecedented news for libertarians. Millenial Poll - Libertarian

Asked “Would you describe yourself as a libertarian or not?” fully one in five of likely millennial (ages 18-29) voters said yes — thus self-describing themselves as libertarians.

YouGov found that young Americans are more likely than any other age group to accept the label libertarian — great news for a growing political movement. And there is room for this figure to grow significantly as libertarian ideas spread, because, in addition to the 20% who self-identify as libertarians, another 42% said they were “not sure.” Only 39% rejected the label.

Among older voters, 17% of 30- to 44-year-olds, 15% of 45- to 64-year-olds and 9% of those 65 and older say that the word “libertarian” described their views.

More great news: a majority Americans are, broadly, embracing libertarian ideas of limiting government. Fully 51% say they want to shrink the size of government. A whopping 30% of Americans even agree with the radical libertarian statement that “Taxation is theft.” (It probably didn’t hurt that the poll was conducted April 8-9 — a week before Tax Day.)

But what is most remarkable about the YouGov poll is that it has found so many millions of voters who accept the libertarian “brand” as a label for their political views — something inconceivable just a few years ago.

Nor are these self-described libertarians tied to either of the two older political parties. The libertarian vote is up for grabs to the candidate or party that appeals most to it. Writes YouGov: “There is little difference between partisans when it comes to identifying as libertarians. Republicans (13%) are essentially no more likely than Democrats (12%) to identify as libertarian, while 19% of Independents describe themselves as libertarian.”

Notes Reason.com’s Nick Gillespie: “Let’s be clear about a couple of things: First, the fact that YouGov and other groups are hunting down the number of libertarians afoot — Pew even went ‘In Search of Libertarians’ just last year — is itself a sign that something new and different is happening. When you start touting up the way many things are breaking in a libertarian direction — the energy surrounding Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012, majority acceptance of pot legalization and gay marriage, serious efforts at criminal justice reform, plummeting numbers for faith in government, the rise of school choice, embrace of a sharing economy that routes around old-style regulation, general acceptance of free trade and free speech as positive values, and much more — it’s fair to call attention to what we’ve dubbed here as ‘The Libertarian Moment.’”

For more excellent commentary on the YouGov poll see “Millennials Are More Likely to Identify as Libertarians” by Robby Soave, Reason.com.

Classic “Bad Attitude” Anti-Tax Verse — and Hope for Ending the Income Tax

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

April 15, Tax Day, is nearly here.

It’s a grim subject — so how about some comic relief? And some inspiration, some hope, for change?

First, the comic relief.

I’ve had a lot of fun over the years with the following two classic anti-tax poems. The authors are unknown, but some versions seem to date from at least the 1930s.

It’s a good reminder that a lot of Americans have always had a “bad attitude” about taxes. (Just ask King George!)

Income TaxI hope they’ll give you a good laugh — and I hope you’ll keep working with the Advocates and other libertarians to create a movement that will make income taxes as much a thing of the past as slavery, alcohol Prohibition, and the Divine Right of Kings!

Don’t forget: following the poems, some inspiration and hope for change.

* * *

The Tax Collector’s Creed

Now he’s a common, common man
So tax him, tax him, all you can.
Tax his house, Tax his bed;
Tax the bald spot on his head.
Tax his drink, Tax his meat,
Tax the shoes right off his feet.
Tax his cow, Tax his goat;
Tax his pants, Tax his coat;
Tax his crop, Tax his work;
Tax his ties, Tax his shirt;
Tax his chew, Tax his smoke,
Teach him taxing is no joke.
Tax his tractor, Tax his mule;
Tell him: “Taxing is the rule!”
Tax his oil, Tax his gas,
Tax his notes, Tax his cash.
Tax him good and let him know
That after taxes, he has no dough.
If he hollers, Tax him more;
Tax him till he’s good and sore.
Tax his coffin, Tax his grave,
Tax the sod in which he’s laid.
Put these words upon his tomb,
“Taxes drove him to his doom.”
Even when he’s gone, we won’t relax —
We’ll still collect inheritance tax.

* * *

The Taxpayer’s Lament

Sit down my friends and just relax,
It’s time to pay your income tax.
For whether we are great or small,
They tax us one, they tax us all.
They tax the hobo and the queen,
They tax the bull and tax his ring.
They tax the gas that runs your car
And even tax the big cigar.
They tax your whiskey and home brew,
They tax the Bible and your pew.
They tax the wristwatch on your arm
And tax the rat trap on your farm.
They tax the baby in his crib, and
Tax his shirt and tax his bib.
They tax the crib that he sleeps in,
And don’t consider that a sin.
Then they go from bad to worse
And tax the doctor and tax the nurse.
They tax the dentist and his drill
And he just adds it to your bill.
Whenever you leave this world behind
They will be there to steal you blind.
Before you reach the Golden Gate
They’ll slap a tax on your estate.
They tax the hearse on your last ride,
And shed some tears because you died.
The reason for their deep distress?
You left them with no address.

* * *

Love ‘em!

And now the inspiration. Last year I wrote an article entitled “Making the Case for Ending the Income Tax.”

It suggests 11 ways to persuade others that abolishing the hated income tax — and replacing it with nothing — is not only extremely desirable, it is realistic and politically possible.

Check it out and consider using some (or all) of them. Recently we’ve seen once-radical libertarian ideas — for example, re-legalization of marijuana, marriage choice, and a non-interventionist foreign policy — leap into the mainstream. Let’s put ending the income tax —  and replacing it with… nothing — on that list!

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.”

The Most Powerful Way We Have to Change Things

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“I have a friend who can always be counted on to have a great book recommendation handy,” writes marketing guru Seth Godin in a recent post at his always-insightful blog.

“Another who can not only tell you the best available movie currently in theatres, but confidently stand behind his recommendations.

“And some people are eager to share a link to an article or idea that’s worth reading.”

Such people, Godin says, are surprisingly rare. Many people are hesitant to recommend something. What if the person thinks my recommendation is stupid? Or not cool enough? Or that I’m being too pushy? Or…

Yet this kind of sharing is crucial, Godin says. It can affect lives, even change our culture and our world.

“Sharing an idea you care about is a generous way to change your world for the better,” Godin writes.

“The culture we will live in next month is a direct result of what people like us share today. The things we share and don’t share determine what happens next.”

Indeed, he says, “the recommendation from person to person is now the most powerful way we have to change things.”

Which brings me to… libertarianism.

You’re reading this because you want to change the world. To spread the blessings of liberty. To awaken more people to the joys, the benefits, the goodness of libertarian ideas.

You are, whether you realize it or not, a very influential person. You likely have Facebook friends who want to be in touch with you. Family members who are open to ideas. Co-workers, colleagues, neighbors, fitness partners, friends… a network, online and off. Probably bigger than you realize.

It’s never been easier and cheaper to share ideas online. A few clicks and you can share a great pro-liberty meme with your Facebook friends (we feature a lot of good ones at our Facebook page). A few clicks and you’ve linked to a great liberty video or article or website or candidate or free book.

Offline, opportunities abound. No tool is better than the World’s Smallest Political Quiz, a simple, intriguing, fun item you can keep in your pocket or purse and hand out to friends.

Good libertarian books make great gifts. T-shirts and bumper stickers easily raise awareness.

This may sound simple. So simple, in fact, that it’s easy to ignore.

Yet Godin — one of the world’s most respected marketing experts — insists that this is a crucial way of changing our culture, changing our world. Godin’s opinion is based on years of studying and writing about change.

If everyone reading this makes a habit of regularly doing some simple, sincere, easy sharing and recommending like this, we can make millions of positive contacts for liberty in a very short time. Collectively, these kinds of contacts will open minds, shift attitudes, affect opinions, and change lives.

It just takes a (very) little time and effort. And, Godin adds, courage:

“It takes guts to say, ‘I read this and you should too.’ The guts to care enough about our culture (and your friends) to move it forward and to stand for something.”

Will you have the courage to risk sharing — smartly, appropriately, and regularly? And thereby move your friends — and our culture — to a better place? To liberty?

Vince Vaughn: I’m a Libertarian

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

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Vince VaughnVince Vaughn is one of the world’s most successful actors, screenwriters and producers. Since his breakthrough in the acclaimed 1993 independent comedy Swingers he’s become famous for his roles in some of the most popular comedies of the past decade, including The Wedding Crashers, The Break-Up, Starsky & Hutch, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Couples Retreat, and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. The versatile Vaughn has also played everything from romantic leads to action heroes and psychotic villains.

Vaughn’s sympathy for libertarian ideas has been well-known for several years. In particular he’s been a strong and vocal supporter of Ron Paul.

Now, in a new Playboy magazine interview, Vaughn makes his libertarianism explicit, as these excerpts make clear:

“I would use the term libertarian to describe my politics.

“I’m a very big fan [of Ron Paul]. Ron Paul woke a lot of people up to the fact that government can’t handle everything for you. Once you start playing that game, where does it stop? I like the way it was until 1913 [when the 16th Amendment was ratified, legalizing a federal income tax], when locally you had sales taxes and property taxes. That seems ethical to me, because I can move to a different neighborhood or area if I like the services they provide. To this day, your police department and your fire department are paid for with local taxes, and that makes sense, because you might use those. But the federal government looking into your books to decide what to take from you, that feels wrong.

“Trusting the federal government to know what we need and to run things well feels like a bad idea. You see that in the foreign policy of force, where the United States decides to go into another country to make things turn out a certain way. It doesn’t work. It causes more problems. … I don’t agree with a foreign policy that says you can send troops places without declaring a war and without having a plan to win the war. I would think you would look at Vietnam and suggest it wasn’t the best-laid plan.

“I feel the same way domestically. … [Adults] should be allowed to decide what’s in their interest, what makes sense for them, unless they commit fraud or physical force or take someone’s property. …

“I think history has proven without a doubt that the proper role of government is to protect individuals’ rights and liberties. That has always been the most prosperous, freest society for people to live in. And when government gets too involved, society turns into a place that gets very, very ugly. …

“America today is not capitalistic. The problem is corporatism. The government has too much authority, and it’s dangerous. It stifles productivity and freedom and prosperity and peace. …

“The Patriot Act? Let’s get rid of it. Undeclared wars, doing away with personal liberties — let’s understand how that has worked out historically to see that it has led to some horrible things. Once our personal liberties are gone, when an American citizen can be pulled out of his house and detained for six months without a trial, where is our country? Once those rights are gone, how do you get them back?”

Read the rest of the interview for more.

Valentine’s Day: Uncle Sam Breaks Taxpayers’ Hearts

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Cupid

As I often point out, holidays can be a great time to share libertarian ideas with family and friends. It’s even more fun and effective if you’ve gathered liberty-themed facts, figures and stories specific for each holiday. We often share such information in the Liberator Online as a holiday nears.

With Valentine’s Day upon us, I’m pleased to present the following information from Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) about how much government is adding to the cost of your Valentine’s Day celebration. It’s shocking stuff, sweetened just a bit by ATR’s trademark humor.

Government Versus Valentine’s Day
(from Hayley Robinson, Americans for Tax Reform)

This Saturday is Valentine’s Day. Romantics all over the nation have spent the week buying gifts and making dinner plans, all at a considerable price. Last year the National Retail Federation estimated consumers would spend a whopping $17.3 billion on Valentine’s Day — an average of $133.91 per person.

But that price is driven up enormously by an unexpected third wheel — Uncle Sam. Valentine lovers certainly won’t love discovering that, for almost every part of the day spent with that special someone, government taxes and fees send costs skyrocketing.

Consider:

Roses and Valentine’s Cards: These are romantic must-haves for many people. An estimated 233 million roses are grown for Valentine’s Day, and consumers will spend $1.9 billion on flowers145 million Valentine’s cards will be purchased for the occasion. Over $1 billion of the money spent on cards and flowers goes to… you know who.

A Romantic Dinner for… Three? Yep, save a chair at the table for Uncle Sam. $3.5 billion is spent dining out on Valentine’s Day — and a hard-to-swallow 31% of the cost of your bill comes from government taxes.

Wine: If you’ve been saving a nice bottle of wine for the occasion, be sure to savor it — 33% of the cost is due to government. That’s enough to drive you to drink… if you could afford all the taxes.

Chocolate: Consumers will spend nearly $1.3 billion on chocolate. Of this, 31% will be paid to the government. Ugh — that dessert just got a little less sweet.

Jewelry: In 2013, 6 million people expected or planned a marriage proposal on Valentine’s Day. In 2014 it was projected that $3.9 billion would be spent on diamonds, gold, and silver. But beware, the government is standing right there beside you as you pledge your love — and taking a 36% cut of the cost of your glittering symbols of love.

Cell Phones: If you’re in a long-distance relationship and can’t travel to see your sweetheart, hopefully you’ll still be able to give them a call. You might want to keep it short, though: Uncle Sam will be on the line as well, and he’ll be responsible for 40% of the cost of your bill.

Travelling: Making a surprise visit to your long-distance loved one? Whether you’re driving or flying, you’re paying Uncle Sam for the privilege. Last year 45% of the cost of gasoline was due to government taxation, while other taxes and fees accounted for 44% of the cost of airfare. An annoying backseat driver or snoring seat mate would be much better than the travel companionship offered by Uncle Sam.

ATR sums it up this way: “Single or steady, taxpayers will remain heartbroken this Valentine’s Day — when it comes to the costs imposed by the government.”

Thanksgiving: Share Some Shocking Facts About Thanksgiving and Big Government

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 22 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

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

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

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

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

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

Following is ATR’s report. (Note: ATR first posted this fun and informative piece in 2011, and unfortunately they haven’t updated it as we go to press. It’s still very usable, though. Just point out the date by saying something like “as Americans for Tax Reform noted a few Thanksgivings back…”)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Halloween: Share Some Scary Facts About… Government

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 18 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

HalloweenThe scariest holiday of the year is fast approaching. Bloodsuckers, devils, demons and creeps will roam the streets, demanding we hand over our goodies — or face nasty consequences.

No, not the elections — Halloween!

Holidays can be a great time to share libertarian ideas with family and friends. We recommend libertarians gather liberty-themed facts, figures and stories specific for each holiday and share them if and when appropriate. (We try to share such info in the Liberator Online as major holidays near.)

Below is a fun and startling report from Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) that gives some genuinely shocking figures about how much government is adding to the cost of your family’s Halloween celebration this year.

Unfortunately, ATR first posted this in 2011, and they haven’t updated it as we go to press. It’s still very usable, though. Just point out the date by saying something like “as Americans for Tax Reform noted a few Halloweens back…”)

So, if the opportunity arises, scare your family and friends with some of this truly terrifying information. You can share it online, too, by linking here.

You’ll surely open some minds about the creepiest House of Horrors of them all— the federal government! Happy Halloween!

The Frightening Cost of Halloween — Thanks to Government
(from Americans for Tax Reform)

Think Halloween is scary? Ha! It’s nothing compared to the Frightfest of taxes and hidden costs government adds to this beloved holiday.

Each year, parents spend $1 billion on kid costumes for Halloween. On average, for the estimated 41 million trick-or-treaters, each kid wears a costume costing almost $25 — a hefty sum for parents who know this annual investment is only going to get a few hours of use.

Taxes make up a shocking amount of that cost.

Kids’ costumes are almost all made of heavily taxed synthetic fibers. On top of the state sales tax paid at the register, the government increases the cost of buying these costumes by imposing a 17 percent tariff on many of these imported costumes. Businesses not only have to absorb these costs, but also those imposed by income taxes, payroll taxes, corporate taxes, property taxes, capital gains taxes, unemployment insurance taxes, workmen’s compensation taxes, and other payments to federal, state, and local forms of government.

When all is said and done, government taxes compose a terrifying 47.82 percent of the cost of the average kid’s costume — $11.66 of the average price. Boo!

But the government’s tricks don’t end there. The Halloween season brings with it $2 billion in candy purchases. Due to excise taxation on sweets in addition to the burden of taxes placed on the confectionery industry, the government takes a 30.81 percent bite out of the average trick-or-treaters’ candy haul. Ouch!

Altogether, the cost of celebrating our scariest holiday is made all the more frightening by the costs imposed by government: hidden taxes and other costs constitute 40.91 percent of your Halloween celebration. 

This amounts to a burden of $688 million — or $16.80 per kid. The remaining $1.3 billion of candy not distributed during trick-or-treating represents another $406 million in taxes. Finally, after including taxes on adults for decorations and costumes the total Halloween tax bite comes to… a bloody and bruising $2.7 billion.

And the cost is even higher if you attend a spooky party with alcoholic beverages. Wine, distilled spirits and beer are all subject to more hidden taxes. Going out to dinner instead of trick-or-treating also carries higher government costs. And if you have to drive your kids to trick-or-treat, the government bite of gasoline also takes a hefty bite out of your wallet…

Wherever you turn, wherever you go, you can’t escape the bloodsucking horror of… the federal government.

Hey, if you’re still searching for a truly bone-chilling costume idea, here’s one: dress up as… Uncle Sam.

The Libertarian Progress That Might Have Been

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion Powerpoint section in Volume 18, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

– John Greenleaf Whittier

Near the end of your life, you may have a chance to look back – and see what might have been. For your personal life. And for your libertarian life.

You will probably regret a number of things you did — or failed to do. And wish you’d have made a different choice — a better one.

Looking back, what regrets might you have about your current libertarian choices and actions?

Will you regret participating in the libertarian movement — or wish you had been more involved?

Operation Politically Homeless in ActionWill you regret spending an afternoon working at an Operation Politically Homeless booth — or sadly wish you had spent a day or two or three sharing the World’s Smallest Political Quiz?

Will you regret reading Libertarianism in One Lesson, Healing Our World and a half dozen other libertarian classics — or will you wish you’d shared these books with curious high school or college students?

Will you rue the day you donated $20 or $50 or $80 to the Advocates to help reach out to college students with our libertarian ideas and insights — or will you sadly wish you have given more… so the Advocates could do more?

Will you feel bitterness and anger over the time and money you spent attending an Advocates communication seminar — or will you wish you could relive the experience?

You don’t have to wait until it’s too late. You don’t have to wait until regret and sad might-have-beens fill your heart.

Simply take five minutes alone — and imagine that you’re ninety and near the end of your life. Look at this day, this year through those eyes. Look at your libertarian choices and actions.

Then make the libertarian choice you will NOT regret. The libertarian choice that will delight and please you today. The one that you’ll look back on with a smile — or tears of joy.

As you take these actions, you’ll be growing the libertarian movement — and advancing the cause of freedom.

And if enough of us do this today, tomorrow, this year and next… you may reach the last days of your life in a libertarian America. And you will be glad for the libertarian progress.

* * * * * * * *
Michael Cloud’s brand-new book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively from the Advocates, along with his acclaimed earlier book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion.

In 2000, Michael was honored with the Thomas Paine Award as the Most Persuasive Libertarian Communicator in America.

What Are You Waiting For?

in Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment to improve the world.” — Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl, 1952.

Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl I love that quote. I believe it has a powerful message for those of us who want to make our world a freer place.

It’s easy to feel that you must be wealthy, brilliant, part of a huge organization or team, or a cog in someone else’s master plan before you can take a meaningful action for liberty.

It’s easy to think that, sometime in the future, you’ll be able to do something significant for freedom — after you’ve stashed away a lot more money, or learned more about the intricacies of libertarian thought, or read a stack of books on economics, or listened to that album of outreach CDs, or cleared up enough time to run for office… someday,
sometime, eventually…

But the truth is, you don’t have to wait a single moment.

Right now, you are already doing something to, as Anne Frank says, “improve the world” just by your commitment to read the Liberator Online — a publication designed to, among other things, help you become a highly successful communicator of the ideas of liberty.

When you’re finished reading, you can immediately begin to “improve the world” — in dozens of different ways.

You can (to name just a very few possibilities):

  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper supporting a libertarian cause — and by doing so, take our ideas to thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of readers.
  • Call your local libertarian organization and offer to support a worthy project or candidate, help with office chores, or work at an Operation Politically Homeless (OPH) outreach booth. See if they have something that needs to be done that fits your talents, finances and time.
  • Pick out several people you think are good prospects to accept libertarian ideas. Think about how you can effectively and persuasively answer whatever concerns may be keeping them from fully embracing libertarianism. (It could be they’re ready — just waiting to be asked.)
  • Make sure you have some good libertarian outreach literature with you at all times. (Naturally, I’m partial to our pocket-sized World’s Smallest Political Quiz.)
  • Wear a button or a pro-liberty T-shirt. Put a bumper sticker on your car. And, again, carry good outreach literature with you for the questions you’ll be asked. (Maybe a stack of Quiz cards in your glove compartment?)
  • Call, write, email or fax your local, state and national elected officials. Urge them to stand up for our precious Bill of Rights during this time of civil liberties crisis. Or tell them to take a pro-freedom vote on upcoming legislation you’re concerned about. The League of Women Voters has a site that makes it easy to find and contact your national, state and local politicians.
  • Make a contribution to a libertarian organization that is doing work you find useful and important. (Again, I’m partial here!)


That’s just a few of hundreds of possibilities — simple but vital things you can do right now that will definitely make a difference in the world. (And again, note they all involve effective communication and outreach — the specialty of the Advocates.)

Too insignificant? Hardly! Your newspaper letter will reach a huge audience, opening minds and exposing many to libertarian, perhaps for the first time. Your OPH booth could greatly increase the size of your local libertarian organization and recruit tomorrow’s libertarian leaders and activists. A single Quiz you pass out at your workplace or in your classroom may change someone’s life forever (it’s happened many times). The discussion about liberty you have with your nephew or friend or fellow student or co-worker may just bring a new libertarian into the world — and every new libertarian means we’re that much closer to a free world.

You can probably think of lots of other things you can do. Take a moment and think of one simple activity you can easily do right now — the possibilities are enormous.

And remember, you can start immediately — you don’t need any more preparation time, and you don’t need anyone’s permission!

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment to improve the world.”

What are you waiting for?

Britain’s Young Are Libertarian; British rEVOLution Brewing?

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

British libertarians?

“Young Britons are classical liberals: as well as prizing social freedom, they believe in low taxes, limited welfare and personal responsibility. In America they would be called libertarians.”

Libertarianism is growing fast among Britain’s youth. Indeed, surveys indicate this is the most libertarian-leaning generation in British history. And libertarian ideas are rapidly gaining ground.

So reports The Economist magazine, June 1st 2013.

The Economist reports that the latest findings of the long-running British Social Attitudes survey (BSA) show young Britons have a “suspicion of state interventions of most varieties” and tend to feel that “people have a right to express themselves by what they consume and how they choose to live.”

“Predictably, that translates into a tolerance for social and cultural difference,” the Economist reports. “Polls show that the young are more relaxed than others about drugs, sex, alcohol, euthanasia and non-traditional family structures. They dislike immigration, but not as strongly as do their elders. And they are becoming ever more liberal. The BSA has tracked attitudes for three decades. It shows that the young are now far more tolerant of homosexuality, for example, than were previous generations at the same age.”

What about economic liberty? Young Britons are also far more skeptical of the welfare state: “More than two-thirds of people born before 1939 consider the welfare state ‘one of Britain’s proudest achievements.’ Less than one-third of those born after 1979 say the same.

The Economist quotes pollster Ben Page on the trend: “Every successive generation is less collectivist than the last.”

The Economist further notes: “All age groups are becoming more socially and economically liberal. But the young are ahead of the general trend. …

“Polling by YouGov shows that those aged 18 to 24 are also more likely than older people to consider social problems the responsibility of individuals rather than government. They are deficit hawks… They care about the environment, but are also keen on commerce: more supportive of the privatization of utilities, more likely to reject government attempts to ban branding on cigarette packets and more likely to agree that Tesco, Britain’s supermarket giant, ‘has only become so large by offering customers what they want.’”

Most of the young are disaffected politically. They are turned off by politics and there is very little libertarianism in the major parties.

Yet there may be a British rEVOLution brewing: “But among the politically engaged minority, libertarianism is growing. In April [the writer of this article] squeezed into a fuggy crowd of enthusiasts trading quotes by Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard in a room above a central London pub. Between discourses on the merits of Bitcoin (‘a currency without government-perfect!’) old-timers marvelled at the surge of interest. Freedom Forum, an annual convention for young libertarians, has tripled in size since its launch in 2011; a similar venture planned for July — a ‘Freedom Week’ of debate and lectures — has ten applicants for every place. Mark Littlewood of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a think-tank, declares himself ‘gobsmacked’ at the new popularity of anti-statist ideas and confidently predicts the emergence of a mass libertarian movement.”

How NOT to Talk to People About Liberty (VIDEO)

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

One of the best ways to learn how to better communicate the ideas of liberty is to see someone doing it… the wrong way.

How NOT to Talk to People About Liberty by The Libertarienne Show is a fun, funny, short video that shows you exactly that.

In just a quick minute and a half, you’ll see a catalog of ways guaranteed to turn most listeners off to libertarian ideas — maybe forever.

In addition to laughing — this is some funny stuff — you might go, “Oops!” and blush with self-recognition once or twice. I know I did!

If you like this video be sure to also check out their Facebook page, which has lots more great stuff.

How NOT to Talk to People About Liberty stars Cathy Reisenwitz with special guest, Libertarian Girl.

A Libertarian Dozen of the Best Ways to Discover and Create More Libertarians

in Communicating Liberty by Sharon Harris Comments are off

You’ve heard of a “baker’s dozen,” which is 13 instead of 12. Since libertarians always deliver more for the buck, here are 19 tips and techniques you can put to use immediately to discover and create more libertarians!

Enjoy these tips – and put them to use for liberty. Please let me know about your successes! Thank you!

1. Be aware of the “curse of knowledge.”

When you know a lot about something, it can be frustrating trying to explain it to someone who doesn’t have the knowledge you have. It can also be frustrating to your listener. Remember, it took you time to learn about all these ideas, so be patient. And don’t try to talk about too much at a time.

Always treat your listener like YOU would like to be treated.

2. The First Rule of Libertarian Communication?

This may be The First Rule of Libertarian Communication: Don’t turn people off to libertarianism. Don’t ruin a potential recruit. Don’t leave him or her with a distaste for libertarians and libertarianism.

It usually takes people several exposures to a new idea before they are willing to seriously consider it and embrace it. (In fact, if they adopt it too quickly, without reflection, they may abandon it just as quickly when the next new idea comes along.)

So when you meet people new to libertarianism, it’s not your job to convert them in one session. Though it could happen, it probably won’t. Resist the temptation to browbeat them, to argue, to grab them by the lapels and convince them of every detail of your views. (I know, it’s hard to resist sometimes! But try.)

Your goal as a libertarian communicator in most of these situations is simply to make a good impression and provide some useful and intriguing information. Smile. Listen to their concerns. Offer some good ideas. Find what issues are important to your listeners, and agree with them whenever you honestly can. Show them you’re a good person who shares their concerns (remember the Ransberger Pivot). Leave them with a few of those pocket-sized copies of the World’s Smallest Political Quiz that you always carry with you. (Quiz cards are designed so each is a self-contained outreach kit, and they’re available online from the Advocates Liberty Store.

Then, the next time this person encounters libertarian ideas — in a letter to the editor, on TV or radio, or in person — he will remember his first encounter pleasantly, and will be better prepared to explore these ideas further.

You want him to think along these lines: “That libertarian guy I met last month was pleasant and interesting, and his ideas were intriguing. I agreed with a lot of what he had to say. And now here’s another good idea from a libertarian. I need to look more deeply into libertarianism.”

This may sound like a simple tip. But believe me: it is crucial. When you identify yourself to someone as a libertarian, you instantly become, for that person, the public face of the whole libertarian movement.

Many, many people have been permanently turned off to libertarian ideas simply because the first libertarian they encountered acted in a way they found offensive, or presented the ideas in ways they found objectionable or obnoxious. And that’s a tragedy.

First, Do No Harm. That’s great advice for doctors – and libertarian communicators, too.

Instead of an argument

Alas, some libertarians consider arguing their favorite sport. It certainly can be fun, but often it is self-defeating.

Next time you find yourself tempted to argue, put yourself in the other person’s shoes: how many times have YOU changed your mind about something because someone attacked your position or told you your ideas were stupid?

Libertarian humorist Dave Barry says about himself (hopefully he’s joking!): “I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often – as a sign of their great respect – they don’t even invite me.” Ouch!

Productive alternatives to arguing include: actually listening to the other person, developing rapport, asking questions to discover his or her concerns, finding common ground, and sharing stories of how free-market alternatives have solved problems in the past.

These techniques and many more are described in detail in past “Liberty Minute” columns, in the Liberator Online‘s “Persuasion Power Points” columns, in Michael Cloud’s book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion, in Cloud’s audio program Essence of Libertarian Persuasion, and at the Advocates’ Communication Center.

Arguing is the Little League of communication. Persuasion is the World Series. It takes longer to master, but it’s a far better game and the pay-off is well worth it.

Don’t Begin with an Apology

Suppose you had a really nice house you wanted to sell. When a prospective buyer came by, would your opening line be, “You may have heard about houses like this falling down, but that’s not true about this house.”

If you owned a restaurant, would you advertise, “Our burgers aren’t the kind that make people sick – honest!”

Of course you wouldn’t. But that’s exactly what I’ve heard many libertarians do when they’re introducing others to libertarian ideas.

They begin with, “There are lots of misconceptions about libertarianism.” Or, “I know you’ve heard that libertarians don’t care about the poor, but I’m not like that.” Or, “Despite what you may have heard, it’s not true that Lyndon LaRouche is a libertarian.”

While it’s important to correct misunderstandings and falsehoods about libertarianism (when they come up), it’s even more important to start your discussion of libertarianism in a positive way.

Opening with a negative or apologetic statement immediately plants seeds of doubt in the mind of your listeners. Most people believe that, where there’s smoke, there’s quite possibly a fire.

It also invites attack and argument, since you start by putting yourself on the defensive.

But most importantly, many people – if not most – have a very positive overall impression of libertarianism. It’s self-defeating to begin by apologizing for some misconception or falsehood they may not even be concerned about.

Once you’ve given them an honest, positive description of libertarianism they’ll be able to clearly see the benefits of liberty. And if they hear negative things about libertarianism, or have concerns, they can ask you – or, even better, they’ll correct the misconceptions themselves!

3. A “Good Neighbor Policy” for Libertarians

One of the best ways to win others to libertarian ideas is simply to be a nice person – a nice person who also happens to be a libertarian.

This is one of the things that the late, great Karl Hess – one of the most influential libertarians of the past century – often talked about: the importance of being a “good neighbor.” In his West Virginia rural community, Hess pitched in and helped his neighbors build barns and do other chores. As a result, they liked this friendly, helpful neighbor – and they respected his out-of-mainstream libertarian ideas.

Libertarian philosopher Tibor Machan puts another spin on the same notion: “People tend to be more interested in what you have to say if they already know what kind of wine you like.”

It’s common knowledge that people will be more likely to try a new product, or a new idea, if someone they know and respect suggests it. That’s as true of political ideas as it is of restaurants or jogging shoes.

So one of the best ways to help people become open to our ideas is to first let them get to know you as friendly, nice, interesting, interested, and helpful. Then, when they find out you are also a libertarian, they’ll be interested in learning more. The ideas will be “vetted” because they already respect you.

Yes, it’s simple, it seems obvious – but how many of us practice this as often as we might? Be a good friend, relative, neighbor, co-worker – and your ideas will carry far more weight.

4. Listen. Listen. Listen.

One of the most important – and frequently overlooked, and surprisingly difficult – secrets of truly successful communication is LISTENING.

In our eagerness to tell people about the ideas of liberty, we may miss out on the big benefits of simply stopping and listening.

Here are some of those benefits:

1. You learn what the other person’s primary concerns and interests are. This gives you a chance to address those concerns, instead of talking about something the other person doesn’t care about.

2. You find out about any misconceptions they may have about libertarianism. This gives you a chance to clear those up.

3. You can discover areas of agreement, thus creating invaluable rapport.

4. You show the other person that you are interested in them. People tend to be reciprocal, and therefore will be more interested in you.

To be a good listener, you must REALLY listen – not just pretend. Breathe and focus on what the other person is saying.

While this is SIMPLE, it’s certainly not EASY. (If you think it is… try it.) But trust me, this is powerful.

So be sure to listen up! The benefits make it well worth the effort.

* * *

In a recent Dilbert cartoon, the obnoxious Dogbert character told a communication seminar: “There’s really no point in listening to other people. They’re either going to be agreeing with you or saying stupid stuff.”

Thank goodness Dogbert isn’t a libertarian! The fact is, every successful persuasion conversation starts with listening. Attentive listening assures the other person that you care about what they think, and allows you to effectively address their concerns.

But how do you know you’re really hearing what they’re saying? It’s simple: Repeat what the other person said. Then ask: “Is that right?” This technique is called “echoing.” It lets someone know you heard and understood.

Example: They say, “In a libertarian society, wouldn’t poor people starve without government welfare?” You say, “You’re concerned that poor people wouldn’t get the help they need in a libertarian society, and would starve. Is that correct?”

Wait for the response (and listen to it!). Then you can talk about how liberty helps the poor. Echoing lets the other person know you’re listening. It’s a technique that builds the respect and rapport that’s necessary to change somebody’s mind.

Is there an exception to this rule? Only one: Don’t listen to Dogbert!

5. Learn about sales and learn about psychology.

[Info to follow. Please check back soon.]

6. K.I.S.S. (Keep it short, silly).

Few people like to hear a lecture from another person, so keep your answers short. Here are some good tips on doing this.

Success with Soundbites

As a libertarian, you are automatically a spokesperson for libertarianism. How well you answer questions about liberty may well determine whether or not your listeners decide to become libertarians.

So you should always be prepared to answer, in a quick, clear and memorable way, common questions about libertarianism.

Take a lesson from some of the world’s best communicators: don’t leave it to chance!

Don’t hope that inspiration will strike you at the moment you’re unexpectedly asked a question. Don’t risk the frustration of stumbling around, answering badly, and then kicking yourself a day or two later when the right answer suddenly pops into your head.

Instead, work on your answers in advance. Create soundbites – short, pithy, memorable answers – to those questions.

You can probably make a list of questions you are most likely to be asked about libertarianism. (The most common: “What is libertarianism, anyway?”)

For each of those questions, create one or more soundbites. They should be about thirty seconds long. Less is better. Write them down. Refine them. Commit them to memory. And practice saying them until they come quickly and easily, and sound natural and fresh.

Former Libertarian Party presidential candidates Ed Clark, David Bergland, and Harry Browne each did this. The seemingly off-the-cuff eloquence they showed during their campaigns was actually the result of their advance work preparing and practicing soundbites.

Happily, you don’t have to reinvent the soundbite wheel. The Advocates collected the best of Harry Browne’s campaign soundbites into his wonderful book Liberty A to Z: 872 Libertarian Soundbites You Can Use Right Now. Dr. Mary Ruwart is a pioneer in the creation of soundbites. Many answers from her “Ask Dr. Ruwart” column are archived in searchable form at the Advocates Web site. Mary also has an outstanding book, Short Answers to the Tough Questions, a treasure of soundbites, available from the Advocates.

There are also some great short soundbite-sized answers to common questions at Libertarianism.com.

Take these sources as your starting point. Pick the soundbites you like. Personalize them. Rewrite them and make them your own. Learn them.

You’ll be a far more comfortable and polished spokesperson for liberty. And you’ll enjoy your casual conversations about libertarianism a lot more.

“Hey, What’s a Libertarian?”

One day, you’re going to be asked: “Just what is a libertarian, anyway?”

It may happen while you’re calling into a talk radio show. “So tell us,”, the host may ask you. “What do libertarians believe, anyway?”

Or you may be running for office and a reporter gives you the opportunity to “define yourself” for his story.

Your answer could be very important. It might reach thousands. Or it might reach just one person who is very important to you.

Don’t hope for inspiration. Instead, be prepared.

Have a clear, short, persuasive and easy-to-understand definition on the tip of your tongue.

I strongly suggest you *memorize* your favorite definition – and practice delivering it – so you don’t have to even think about it when asked.

That’s what two of America’s most successful libertarian communicators — presidential candidates Harry Browne and David Bergland – both told me they did.

You can write your own definition. You can also use someone else’s, or modify someone else’s to fit your own style.

Here are some definitions to try on for size:

The American Heritage Dictionary: “One who advocates maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state

Here’s what I usually say: “Libertarianism is, as the name implies, the belief in liberty. Libertarians believe that you own your own life and property, and you have the right to make your own choices as to how you live your life — as long as you simply respect the same right of others to do the same. We believe in individual liberty and limited government.”

And here’s a great one from David Bergland: “Libertarianism is what you probably already believe. Libertarian values are American values. Libertarianism is America’s heritage of liberty, patriotism and honest work to build a future for your family. It’s the idea that being free and independent is a great way to live. That each of us is a unique individual, with great potential. That you own yourself, and that you have the right to decide what’s best for you. Americans of all races and creeds built a great and prosperous country with these libertarian ideals. Let’s use them to build America’s future.”

Find more great short definitions.

Speaking of our libertarianism.com site, keep that URL in mind! It’s very useful to be able to add, after your definition: “If you want to learn more about libertarianism, there’s a Web site that can answer your questions: www.Libertarianism.com .”

7. Importance of branding libertarianism.

McDonald’s doesn’t sell hamburgers. It sells Big Macs. Coca-Cola doesn’t sell cola drinks. It sells Cokes.

These companies want you to think of *their* stores and *their* products when you are ready to buy. And they want you to come back. Again and again.

For the same reason, when you are talking or writing about libertarian ideas, use the words “libertarian” or “libertarianism.”

This accomplishes two vital things.

1) It helps people become aware of those words. It helps them understand that libertarianism is a distinctive political philosophy – a political “brand.”

2) Unless you brand your idea as libertarian, your letter to the editor or your conversation may become an “ad” for conservatism or liberalism instead of libertarianism.

For example, a letter to the editor against gun control that fails to mention the word “libertarian” will, by default, be seen by virtually all readers as a conservative letter. Similarly, a speech opposing the War on Drugs will be understood by many listeners to be a liberal speech – unless the word “libertarian” is used in it.

When you get hungry for a burger, McDonald’s wants you to think of them. When people get hungry for solutions to political problems, we want them to think of libertarians. A letter or conversation that brands solutions as “libertarian” will send customers to the libertarian “store” – where they can sample our other “products,” that is, other libertarian positions and the libertarian ideology.

Unless you brand your ideas as libertarian, people will miss the opportunity to learn about our movement that is devoted to liberty on every issue – and to become a part of it!

8. Using questions.

The Power of Questions

Libertarians have lots of great answers to political questions.

Sometimes, however, it’s better to ask questions instead of giving answers. Asking the right question, or asking a question in the right way, can stimulate mind-opening insights.

Here’s one example of a great question, from Wall Street Journal editor John Fund.

Suppose someone is talking about the need for a major government role in providing for the poor. Instead of lecturing the person (which could start an argument and put the person on the defensive), try asking this question:

“Imagine you won the lottery or otherwise came into a large sum of money, and you wanted to help the poor. You could give $100,000 to a private charity of your choice. Or you could write your check to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Which would you choose – and why?”

Virtually no one chooses government! And in answering the question, people convince themselves of the advantages of charity over government.

Questions make people think. It’s amazing how often people will come up with the libertarian answer to a problem, if you give them a chance. And if they do so, they are more likely to accept that answer.

Flipping the Question

In this issue, we have excerpts from a new TIME magazine interview with Ron Paul.

One of the questions TIME asked Paul was this:

“Why do you support the decriminalization of marijuana?”

Now that sounds like a perfectly normal, fair and innocent question. And, in fact, it is.

But think about the wording. The question creates a “frame” in a listener’s mind. Asked in this way, the question implies, and assumes, and implicitly announces, that the position being questioned is unusual, out-of-mainstream, radical, weird, or even dangerous.

The result: No matter how you answer it, that initial impression remains. And you sound out-of-mainstream, on the fringe, or worse.

Please note: I’m not saying that someone who asks a question worded like that is trying to paint you in a negative manner. They may, in fact, agree 100% with you. But the wording of the question puts you at a major communication disadvantage, and undercuts your answer no matter how brilliant and logical it might be.

But you can reverse that, and turn it to your advantage – by using a technique I call “Flipping the Question,” or, for short, the Flip.

The Flip restates and reverses the question. When that happens, YOUR point becomes the reasonable, moderate, normal, safe view. Just like that! And the Flip is so subtle and effective that your questioner is likely to agree with you.

Ron Paul’s response to that TIME question is the perfect Flip.

He answered: “Why support the criminalization of marijuana is the better question.”

He then went on to give a strong, short argument for legalization of marijuana.

See what he did? He simply restated the question. Supporting marijuana prohibition was presented as the odd position. His position was presented as the normal, moderate, responsible, commonsense one.

It happened instantly.

You can use the Flip to great advantage in many libertarian conversations. Examples:

QUESTION: Why do you want to end government schools?

FLIP: A better question would be, “After so many decades of failure, why does anyone still think the government is competent to educate our children?”

QUESTION: Why do you defend gun ownership so strongly?

FLIP: A better question might be, “Why would anyone want to deprive people of the ability to defend themselves and their loved ones from vicious criminals?”

When you Flip the Question, you, in essence, become the questioner. The original questioner (or the implicit assumption in the question) is suddenly put on the defensive.

Note, too, that the Flip isn’t necessarily a rebuttal or an argument. Many questions worded this way aren’t coming from people hostile to your views. You will find that the Flip persuades many of these people to agree with you.

Flipping the Question is not something that comes naturally. You have to memorize the response, practice it, get comfortable and fluid with it. And of course you must have good answers about the subject being discussed.

But it is worth the effort. Because the Flip can turn your answer into a victory for your ideas.

9. Take YES for an answer.

As libertarians, we’re always anxious to persuade others to come around to our point of view about every issue.

So in our first conversation with someone, it’s easy to fall into the trap of not taking YES for an answer.

All too often we anxiously wait for – or even rush the conversation toward – a hot-button topic on which we *disagree* with the person, so we can begin the persuasion process!

But when we do this, we skip one very important step in a discussion: building rapport. Without rapport, persuasion is very difficult, if not impossible.

One wonderful thing about libertarianism is that EVERYONE agrees with us on some – even many – issues. So try starting the conversation with areas of agreement. Linger on those issues, enjoy the conversation, and let the other person know how smart you think they are! Be sure to tell them that you – and other libertarians – strongly agree with them on those issues.

Hold off on steering the conversation toward disagreement until later in the conversation – or even until a future conversation.

Learn to take YES for an answer, first, and you’ll find it much easier to get to agreement on those controversial topics.

10. Use the Ransberger Pivot.

Ouch! Libertarians sometimes get hit with hostile questions from people who don’t understand the ideas of liberty and free markets.

Mention free markets, ending the War on Drugs, or replacing government schools with private alternatives, for example, and some people will go ballistic. They will think you’re crazy, or have evil intentions, or both – and they’ll let you know it.

“End government welfare? Do you hate the poor?”

“Make drugs legal? Do you want our streets filled with crazed addicts and criminals?”

“No government schools? Do you want a nation of illiterates? Don’t you care about our children?”

Sound familiar? It’s easy for a conversation to quickly degenerate from here into a shouting match, or a meaningless exchange of slogans and rhetoric.

But there’s a far better way to respond. Use the Ransberger Pivot!

The Ransberger Pivot is one of the most effective communication tools I know. Invented in 1982 by Ray Ransberger and Advocates Founder Marshall Fritz, the Pivot is a great way to defuse hostility and get your questioner on *your* side.

The Ransberger Pivot is quite simple – but it doesn’t come naturally. It takes some practice. But the payoff makes it well worth the effort.

There are three steps to the Pivot:

Step 1: Stay calm and *listen* to what the questioner is asking.

Step 2: Ask yourself what the person is really concerned about. What does he really want? Make an intelligent guess.

Step 3: If you want the same thing (and 99% of the time you will), strongly express your desire for that same outcome. Show your questioner you share the same core values on this issue.

Let’s look at the Ransberger Pivot in action.

Your questioner asks: “You libertarians want to get rid of public schools, don’t you? What about our children?”

You ask yourself: What is this person *really* concerned about? What does he want?

Obviously, he wants children to be educated. A great goal! You want this, too, right?

So you respond something like this: “Like you, I too want to live in a world where all children are educated. In fact, where children have access to a far better education than they have now.”

Bingo! That’s the Pivot. You’ve bypassed a potential argument, and instead established a strong common ground with your questioner. Instead of immediately launching into a disagreement, you’ve found agreement and shared values.

Now you can go on to a constructive discussion of the best ways to achieve the end you both agree is worthwhile.

Of course, you then must have a good answer to that question. You need to know the facts – in this case, a persuasive case for why the private sector offers the best opportunity to dramatically improve education.

But The Ransberger Pivot is a vital transition, or prelude, to that answer. It plays a crucial role by defusing hostility, and thus making your questioner, and other listeners, more ready to hear your answer with an open mind.

Remember: when people ask hostile questions, they often are questioning your motives. They assume you disagree with their concerns, they think you have different values, and they may even believe you have bad intentions.

The Ransberger Pivot is a kind of verbal judo or aikido. It takes the steam out of the hostility by demonstrating that you share the questioner’s concerns. This in turn offers the opportunity for rapport. Your listeners are then more likely to pay attention to your answer, and you increase your chance of persuading them to your point of view.

Now that you know what the Ransberger Pivot is, let’s try it out.

Your questioner asks you: “You want to end welfare? What about the poor? Are you really that cold and heartless?”

Remember the Ransberger Pivot steps. Stay calm and don’t fall into a knee-jerk retort. Think: What’s the underlying concern here? Obviously, your questioner is against poverty, and wants to help those in need. That’s admirable, isn’t it? It’s actually a great ideal, and one you share.

So use the Ransberger Pivot to establish that common ground. Try a response along these lines:

“Like you, I am saddened and outraged by poverty. I want the poor and needy to have more aid, more effective aid, and far more opportunities than they do now. I want a world of abundance and opportunity for all people.”

Now, you can go on to have a fruitful discussion of the best way to achieve that goal. Again, you’ll need the facts for your argument. The Ransberger Pivot doesn’t give you that. But it does give you a more friendly, harmonious chance to convey those facts.

Some other Ransberger Pivot responses to typical questions:

“Like you, I want to live in a society where the streets are safe for our children…”

“Like you, I want clean air and water…”

“Like you, I want to know that the food and products I buy are safe…”

Here are a few more tips for using the Pivot.

1) It helps to memorize a specific phrase to kick it off. Notice above I used: “Like you, I want…” That’s a proven favorite. One advantage of memorizing an effective phrase like this is that it will always be there for you to use. Don’t rely on improvisation.

2) The Ransberger Pivot should be short. Just a sentence or two. It’s just a way to turn the discussion around. You need time for the follow-up answer, the meat of your discussion.

3) Use the first person (whenever it is appropriate). Instead of “libertarians want…” say “I want.” This more personal response helps establish rapport.

4) The Ransberger Pivot should only be used when you really agree with the listener’s concerns (and most of the time, you will). It’s the *opposite* of a trick or deception. It’s a way of clarification.

5) It takes practice! It is NOT as easy as it sounds. Using the Ransberger Pivot does not come naturally – especially when you’re in the midst of a discussion. So prepare now. Make a list of difficult questions. Ask them to yourself, or even better, get someone to ask them to you. Practice Ransberger Pivot responses until it becomes a reflex.

6) Start your soundbites with the Ransberger Pivot! In the past, I’ve discussed the importance of preparing and memorizing soundbite responses to the common questions every libertarian is inevitably asked. Use the Ransberger Pivot at the start of your soundbites, when appropriate. It’s a powerful combination!

Many libertarian communicators swear by the Ransberger Pivot. Give it a try!

11. Take NO for an answer.

Do you have someone with whom you’ve argued endlessly about politics and have never gotten an agreement?

Or is there someone in your life who gets mad (or gets quiet, or changes the subject) every time you bring up a political issue?

Suggestion: Unless you just enjoy arguing for the sake of arguing, don’t talk about politics with those individuals.

Unfortunately, not everyone is in the market for our ideas. Some people really believe in Big Government and limited individual liberty.

On the other hand, there are plenty of folks who are not only open to our ideas, but are eager to hear about them and take action! They’re HUNGRY for the solutions that liberty provides.

There’s a limited amount of time available to find and meet these people, share the ideas of liberty with them, and get them active in bringing libertarian ideas to still more people.

Ask any good salesman and he or she will tell you that the secret to making a sale is to talk to enough good prospects. To do that, we must learn to take “NO” for an answer, move on – and get a “YES!”

12. Do your homework.

13. Don’t hesitate to say “I don’t know.”

Are you an expert on politics, economics, world history, philosophy, geography, the environment, science, biology, current events, and half a dozen other major subjects?

Probably not. So, at some point in your conversations about liberty with friends, or in speeches about freedom to the public, you’re probably going to be asked a question you don’t know the answer to.

Be ready for it, because it happens to everyone. And relax – the answer is easy!

First, know what NOT to do. Don’t fall prey to the temptation to bluff your way through it or pretend to have knowledge you don’t have. This can really make you look bad.

Instead, first compliment the questioner: “That’s a very good question.” Then, just be honest: “And it’s one that I don’t know the answer to.”

How refreshing this will be to your audience! It’s not often that people encounter this kind of honesty – and they appreciate and respect it.

You now have the opportunity to let your audience know there is a large libertarian movement, where such questions have been discussed and answered. Tell them there are dozens of libertarian think tanks and organizations, and thousands of publications from libertarians on every conceivable topic – including this one. Let them know you will find the answer and get back to them right away.

If you don’t already have it, be sure to get contact information for the questioner and follow up promptly.

You’ve turned a difficult situation into an opportunity for further contact, and you’ve shown yourself to be human, honest, and reliable. Congratulations!

14. Have intellectual integrity.

15. Use “you” instead of “I.”

When talking about the benefits of liberty, we frequently use the word “I”. For example:

“Why should I have to give half of my income to the government?”

“Why should I have to pay for the education of other people’s children?”

“I would be far better off if I could invest the money that’s taken from me in Social Security taxes.”

By replacing “I” with “you,” we bring our listeners into the discussion. They are able to more clearly see that they — not just you — are victims of bad government policies. They can picture themselves benefiting from libertarian policies. And it sounds less selfish, less self-centered, as well.

“Why should you have to give half of your income to the government?”

“Why should you have to pay for the education of other people’s children?

“You would be far better off if you could invest the money that’s taken from you in Social Security taxes.”

A simple but effective shift in perspective. Try it!

16. Word choice: use the right words.

Mark Twain once siad the difference between the right word and the wrong word is the difference between “lightning” and “lightning bug.” I can’t stress too much how important it is to choose your words carefully.

[List to follow. Please check back soon.]

17. Be optimistic, passionate, enthusiastic.

18. Use the World’s Smallest Political Quiz and OPH.

19. Use the Libertarian Denominator.

Here is a great way to define libertarianism – particularly if someone asks you how libertarianism compares to liberalism and/or conservativism.

Libertarians often answer such questions with: “Libertarians are conservative on economic issues and liberal on social issues.”

Try using “The Libertarian Denominator” instead. Answer: “Conservatives who favor the free market tend to be libertarian on economic issues. Liberals who favor civil liberties tend to be libertarian on social issues.”

This answer makes libertarianism the common denominator – the measuring stick, if you will.

The Libertarian Denominator shows libertarianism to be the consistent philosophy, the one that favors liberty across the board.

An added bonus is instant rapport: just about everyone sees that they agree with libertarians – at least half the time!