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‘War Machine:’ A Lesson In Intervention All Libertarians Must Cherish

in Liberator Online by Alice Salles Comments are off

‘War Machine:’ A Lesson In Intervention All Libertarians Must Cherish

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

United States Army General Stanley McChrystal became infamous for resigning in shame after a report on Rolling Stone depicted him and his staff as highly critical of President Barack Obama. In the Netflix movie War Machine, McChrystal’s story becomes a tale of government folly abroad, where military men with views of grandeur attempt to mess with the lives of Afghans who want them out — no matter what.

warIn a post on his Facebook page, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) says the movie should be “mandatory for Congress to watch, particularly legislators hell bent on continuing/restarting the war in Afghanistan.” Without providing any spoilers, Paul touched on the very core subject of the movie.

Hiding behind a satirical rendition of McChrystal, the two-hour long flick is able to demonstrate, with visceral accuracy, just how utterly unproductive and destructive U.S. government’s interventions abroad can quickly become. By showing the viewer the demoralizing effect of a war against “common people” who don’t look or act like “insurgents,” the movie helps the public to have a better idea of what their tax dollars have been paying for since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

As many estimates claim both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars cost $4 trillion and $6 trillion, it’s difficult to watch War Machine and not ask ourselves why we were there in the first place.

As U.S. Marine Aaron O’Connell, the editor of Our Latest Longest War: Losing Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan, once stated, Americans spent a great deal of money “rebuilding” Afghanistan, only to have these efforts wasted in a short period of time.

During an interview with NPR, O’Connell gave a simple example of this phenomena:

“So we’ve spent billions building roads in Afghanistan, but we then turned the roads over to the Afghans in 2013. We trained up a maintenance unit so that it could provide for road maintenance, and nothing has happened since then. Now, today, more than half of the roads are deemed unfit for heavy traffic. And as one taxi driver put it in 2014 – things have gotten so much worse, now if we drive too fast, everyone in the car dies.”

When it comes to foreign policy, government intervention is very similar to intervention in domestic policies.

Government bureaucrats sit and think up a plan to “change” something or “make something better.” Then they pass legislation or simply pull some strings to get their views implemented. Unfortunately, their plan often backfires, simply because not one nor 100 bureaucrats have the knowledge that people on the ground, living those problems daily, have. As a result, the intervention turns into a mess that ends up harming more than it helps — no matter how well-intentioned.

As Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek once elaborated, “allocating scarce resources requires knowledge dispersed among many people.” Because access to this knowledge is impossible to any government body, interventions of any kind are bound to be disastrous.

In Afghanistan, we learned that much, except bureaucrats, are at it again, trying to revive the war sentiment even in Afghanistan.

As Paul stated, it might serve them well to watch War Machine, but not for the comedy alone. Instead of seeing the movie as satire, they must remember that what is depicted in the Brad Pitt-produced film is as far away from fiction as they can possibly imagine.

What attracted you to the liberty movement?

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism by Mike Sertic Comments are off

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

This is a question I enjoy asking people, for several reasons. One, it’s an ice breaker when meeting new folks at libertarian events, and people usually like to tell their story to other libertarians. Another is that I learn something about the person with whom I’m speaking. For me, their story is another data point that informs me how I might more effectively persuade others to become libertarian.

liberty Like many Gen Y libertarians, my view of how the world operates was fundamentally and irrevocably altered by Congressman Ron Paul following his 2008 presidential campaign and the Campaign For Liberty. It is likely that I would never have been exposed to the libertarian ideas he was presenting were it not for the internet—specifically Youtube and social media.

After watching every “Ron Paul destroys…” Youtube video I could find, I decided to take action and seek out some real-life libertarians in Sacramento. My online search connected me with Dr. Jim Lark, who was listed as the national LP’s student outreach contact. It so happens that Dr. Lark was also serving as Chairman of the Advocates for Self-Government. He graciously helped connect me with other libertarians in my community and also introduced me to Sharon Harris, the Advocates’ former and longest serving president.

Upon deciding to start a Students For Liberty club on my college campus at CSU Sacramento, it was not long before my Operation Politically Homeless kit from the Advocates arrived in the mail. With the help of a few student volunteers I had already recruited, we proceeded to conduct several on campus OPH events over the next two years and further identified and recruited many more libertarians.

I have heard it said that libertarians are not community-oriented and lack empathy and concern for their fellow citizens and neighbors. My experience coming into the movement and since has run completely counter to this narrative, and I attribute my sustained activism and commitment to libertarian principles over the last eight years to people like Dr. Lark, Sharon Harris, and the countless other passionate and caring people I have since met in the liberty movement.

Social movements are as much about advancing political ideals and policies as they are about attraction to the people who promote them. In hindsight, it was the personal integrity to his political philosophy that initially attracted me to Dr. Paul—something that I had not seen from a politician before. It is an honor for me to able to work to attract and persuade people to embrace libertarian principles and to empower libertarians to be highly successful at presenting the ideas of liberty to the world.

So, what attracted you to the liberty movement? Please write as and let us know at liberator@theadvocates.org. We’d love to hear from you.

Iowa Has Just Become More Gun-Friendly — Here’s Why It Matters

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

Iowa Has Just Become More Gun-Friendly — Here’s Why It Matters

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

As libertarians, it’s often difficult to find reasons to be hopeful when looking at the political process and how state and federal governments often ignore the classical liberal cry for more freedom. But every now and then, small government advocates are able to get certain policies passed locally that help boost, not stifle, freedom. That’s the case with Iowa.

IowaGovernor Terry Branstad has just signed a bill into law making the Hawkeye State one of the friendliest for gun owners.

The new law allows citizens to use weapons if they believe their lives are threatened and to sue local government officials if they refuse to lift restrictions associated with what many call “gun-free zones.”

House File 517 is being called the most “monumental and sweeping piece of gun legislation” in the state’s history by making the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution fully recognized and protected by state officials.

But local Democrats who are also anti-gun advocates have already voiced their contrarian opinions, afraid that the “stand your ground” portion of the new law will result in more cases of gun-related homicides.

They are also concerned that the law essentially criminalizes the creation of gun-free zones, allowing locals to carry guns anywhere they please.

But as many of us know, many of the now infamous shooting sprees have taken place in areas where policies are in place to prevent law-abiding individuals from carrying weapons. As many have pointed out, those who follow the law aren’t the ones more likely to commit crimes. Instead, those who ignore or effectively defy these rules are the ones causing gun-related crimes.

Like many activists have explained after the deadly Orlando slaughter, vulnerable individuals are “sitting ducks” in zones where the Second Amendment doesn’t apply. With its new law in place, Iowa could mitigate the risks associated with gun-related incidents and help its own citizens by allowing law-abiding individuals carrying guns to serve as deterrents to crime.

Instead of the fearful rhetoric that usually follows any pro-gun right measure such as the new Iowa law, what this new development must be accompanied by is the support for the basic principles of self-defense and property rights. After all, even if Democrats had a point when they say that protecting the Second Amendment will lead to more gun deaths, nobody has a right to deter an individual from owning property and from pursuing the defense of their person and property as they see fit. Or are anti-gun advocates unaware that minorities are also entitled to their defense when cornered or threatened by bigots?

Snowden’s Non-Profit Releases Tools To Protect Journalists, Whistleblowers

in First Amendment, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Snowden’s Non-Profit Releases Tools To Protect Journalists, Whistleblowers

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

Edward Snowden is the gift that keeps on giving. At least for us, libertarians.

Not only did he blow the whistle on the federal government’s lack of care for Americans’ privacy rights, but he did so responsibly. Now, after having been the victim of persecution for almost four years, he’s helping to continue the revolution he helped to ignite. By giving others the tools they need to remain safe when doing the same he had to do.

Non-profitAccording to Wired, Snowden’s non-profit Freedom of the Press Foundation is releasing a series of tools to help journalists and newsrooms to ensure their sources and communications are secure. This would shield whistleblowers like Snowden himself, giving them the incentives to report on wrongdoing committed by government employees and elected officials. An important task, considering the real threats journalists suffered in the past years while attempting to maintain their sources protected.

In 2015, for instance, it was revealed that British spies had had access to emails from most major newspapers and wire services in the country. In late 2016, Montreal police had tracked phone calls made by a reporter in order to identify his sources. Unsurprisingly, the target of the investigation had been critical of the law enforcement agency.

More recently, the current US president Donald Trump called on Congress to investigate leaks made to NBC news.

As the Freedom of the Press Foundation’s phone continues to ring off the hook for information on how to stay protected, the organization has launched a list of features and tools such as SecureDrop. The tool that functions through Tor, and that allows whistleblowers to make secure uploads of documents or leaked materials.

Sunder is another tool Snowden is helping to popularize. It was built as a coder for Signal, and because it requires passwords from multiple individuals so that the encrypted data is available, it will also keep sources secure.

Aside from these two tools, Snowden also helped to design an iPhone case that alerts the user if phone’s data is being transmitted without his knowledge, as well as a new version of Jitsi, an encrypted chat software that would be designed for newsrooms use.

While privacy advocates cannot fix the surveillance problem overnight, Snowden said about his organization’s goals, building a shield that will help to protect whistleblowers may do the trick.

Instead of sitting on his hands, watching the surveillance state grow massively with each new administration, Snowden took matters into his own hands. Developing his own solutions while supporting those who do the same. Living freely, in spite of government overreach.

Hyperbole Is NOT Your Friend

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

Hyperbole Is NOT Your Friend

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

How many times have you been listening to a policy discussion or debate and you hear a stat, fact, figure, or talking point that just seems completely unbelievable? You go home afterward and find out after some research that it’s actually false or misrepresented.

As libertarians, you and I don’t need to be doing things like that. We don’t need to embellish or exaggerate the facts. Today, government gives us so many real, yet unbelievable, examples to prove our point, that exaggeration and embellishment are completely unnecessary. We see things that happen daily that we never thought were possible, but they actually happen. Government is the cause.

If we do things to exaggerate, embellish, or use hyperbole to make our point, we erode trust with those we talk to. This can ruin our chances at future persuasion, not only in conversations you’ll be having with them, but also when other libertarians do as well. That lessens your credibility, as well as anyone else they encounter that identifies as a libertarian.

The bottom line is, if the REAL every day horrors brought about by government don’t persuade, hyperbole, histrionics, and exaggeration aren’t going to change someone’s mind, you may as well move on to a different approach to try to bring them to embrace a libertarian perspective.

At the end of the day, let’s remember that hyperbole is NOT your friend.

Do libertarians favor gun control?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Gun Rights, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Do libertarians favor gun control?

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

QUESTION: I am unclear on the libertarian stand on gun control and crime. Should there be gun control in a libertarian society? And if so, how much?

GunMY SHORT ANSWER: Firearms, like fists, can be used for offense or defense. Libertarians would not advocate cutting off a person’s access to firearms any more than they would advocate cutting off a person’s hands to prevent a brawl.

Most people who advocate gun control do so because they believe it lowers the crime rate. In fact, just the opposite is true. Violent crime (rape, robbery, and homicide) decrease dramatically when states pass laws that permit peaceful citizens to carry concealed weapons.

One famous example: in 1966 and 1967 Orlando, Florida police responded to a rape epidemic with a highly-publicized program to train 2,500 women in the use of firearms. Orlando became the only city with a population over 100,000 which showed a decrease in crime. Rape, aggravated assault, and burglary were reduced by 90%, 25%, and 24% respectively — without a single woman ever firing a shot in self-defense.

Criminals are looking for an easy mark and avoid those who might be armed. Anyone who doubts this might wish to put a sign on their front lawn saying “This house is a gun-free zone” to experience the consequences firsthand.

Gun control is actually “victim disarmament.” It exposes the weakest among us — women, children, and the elderly — to greater risk of attack. It denies us the ability to defend ourselves against those who would harm us.

Since the courts have ruled that the police have no obligation to protect an individual citizen from attack, we have no legal recourse if they fail to do so.

Acting in self-defense, armed citizens kill more criminals each year than police do, yet shoot only one-tenth as many innocent people by mistake. Clearly, armed citizens act as responsibly (if not more so) than trained law enforcers.

Libertarians believe that everyone has the right to self-defense. America’s founders did too. Libertarians strongly support the Second Amendment. Libertarians do not support the victim-disarmament laws collectively known as “gun control.”

For more details, including references for the examples cited above, see Chapter 16 of my book, Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression, available from the Advocates (2003 edition). The 1993 edition can be read online for free at my website.

 

What We Can Learn About Choosing Liberty from Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”

in Liberator Online by Morgan Dean Comments are off

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

This election cycle forced Americans to make some tough decisions- tough decisions regarding candidates they simply aren’t comfortable supporting. This led Republicans to support Democrats, Democrats to support Republicans and a record breaking percentage of the population saying “we reject these two choices” and supporting a third party candidate.

It is important to remember that when we support policies and candidates influenced by political power and corruption, we get the same, tired results, instead of getting results that will benefit us.

So how do we navigate this corrupt political system? How do we make the right choice? The answer is fairly simple. Always choose liberty.

Road Not TakenRobert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken expresses a similar predicament. This poem is about choosing between two paths.  Neither path can be predicted, as it is impossible to see all the way down either.  However, one path looks as if it hasn’t been traveled nearly as much. The speaker knows he cannot remake whatever decision he makes.  This gives him pause.  He knows he cannot predict the future, and that he will never be able to travel the path that he does not take.

Frost understands the age-old predicament of choice, wanting both, but ultimately deciding.

We face decisions in our political lives, which have a direct affect on our personal and professional lives.  Every time we vote, engage in political discourse, or label ourselves as a certain ideology, we choose a path.

Today we face two paths, one being Big Government, the other being freedom and liberty. The first path is the easiest. 

It is easy to let the government take care of us, provide us with transportation, health insurance, housing, and food. But when does it stop? Where is the limit to government involvement?  The other path can be rough and rocky as it is one of self-reliance, independence, and liberty.  This path doesn’t allow us to rely on the government, but rather on ourselves. The latter path may be the harder one, but it is also the one that will give us freedom in the long run.

Frost notes in The Road Not Taken that he took the road less traveled “and that has made all the difference.”

Wouldn’t you like to know that you took the path that was less traveled, even though it was the harder one? That ultimately, you made a conscious decision everyday to choose liberty? Choosing liberty simply means supporting ideals, candidates, and policies that put freedom first.

So let’s not take the path that has been traveled so many times, let’s make a hard decision, and let’s make change happen.  After all, it was also Robert Frost who said “freedom lies in being bold.”

Without a National Government, Spaniards Have a Taste of Freedom

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

Without a National Government, Spaniards Have a Taste of Freedom

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

For the last ten months, Spain has had no official government in place. And apparently, Spaniards couldn’t be happier.

It all began when neither of Spain’s major parties was able to secure a majority of seats in the national legislature. Since these parties are also unable to agree on a coalition government out of disdain for their opponents, the country of 47 million people is being left with a caretaker government instead of an officially elected body.

SpainAccording to the New York times, locals are glad.

To Félix Pastor, a local language teacher, the situation has produced positive outcomes. After all, “no government, no thieves.” Ana Cancela, a civil servant, agrees. She adds that “[w]e already knew that politicians were corrupt, but now we also see that they can’t even make politics work.”

As Spain dealt with corruption and scandal throughout the last two administrations, the current situation is being welcomed by those who believe that powerful politicians do less harm when left out of power.

For the past 300 days, basic government services have continued to be funded, but in the meantime, no new legislation is being considered and infrastructure and other government-run projects are frozen. And, unlike pessimistic predictions, things are actually getting better, with interest and energy rates staying low, and the economic growth forecast showing a 2.9 percent increase by the end of 2016. According to the New York Times, that’s twice the 1.6 percent average for the eurozone expected by the European Commission.

According to the Mises Institute, this period has been important for Spaniards. Now, they are finally able to get a taste of how resilient a society can be when left alone, without the paternalistic presence of a higher body regulating every aspect of people’s lives.

Instead of chaos, the absence of a centralized power gave Spaniards economic growth, a strong tourism industry, and a safe haven for consumers, who are expected to reach Spanish shores in droves.

To libertarians, this experience should be celebrated — and shared — widely. Not just because Spain has been surviving remarkably well without a government in place, but because common Spaniards are also celebrating the current situation, instead of giving in to fear.

What Libertarians Can Learn from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism by Morgan Dean Comments are off

What Libertarians Can Learn from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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Harry PotterAfter nine years, J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, decided she was not quite done with telling the story of ‘The Boy Who Lived.’ Released on July 31st, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child broke pre-order records for both Amazon and Barnes and Noble, the same year that we, as libertarians, are breaking records.

So, what can we learn as libertarians from the Harry Potter books? Gina Luttrell wrote at ThoughtsonLiberty.com an article discussing the overarching themes of libertarianism in the Harry Potter series as a whole, but with a new addition to the saga, there are new themes and ideas that we, as libertarians, can explore.

One of the main conflicts we see in the newest book is Harry’s son, Albus’ struggle to find where he truly belongs, both at school and in the world. He worries that the Sorting Hat will place him into Slytherin, instead of Gryffindor, the house of the rest of his family. Harry consoles him by pointing out that this doesn’t matter, that he will be loved regardless, and that The Sorting Hat will take his feelings into account.

This is similar to the struggle many of us have faced at least once, with a media telling us that there are only two political paths. Their aim is to push us to subscribe to one of their schools of thought, either a conservative or liberal viewpoint. It is important to remember there is more to politics than left and right.

Speaking as someone who formerly identified as a conservative from a conservative family, I can attest firsthand to the struggle of facing a change in philosophical identity after taking The World’s Smallest Political Quiz and realizing my values are different than I thought they were. I guess that is one way to find our “place”…The Quiz is almost like a Sorting Hat, huh?

As it has previously been discussed among libertarian scholars, Harry Potter is the perfect example of a libertarian. He values the ability to choose his own path, while fighting against the corruption within the Ministry of Magic. In previous books, the Ministry subscribed to similar ideas as the villains of the series, like ethnic cleansing, discrimination, violence, and secrecy. With a total lack of transparency, Big Government rules throughout the series.

In Harry Potter and the Cursed Child we see a very different Ministry of Magic, led by Hermione Granger, a character who has always been keen to follow the rules, but has proven time and time again that she is not afraid to deviate from them in cases of principle. We also see that Harry is serving as an Auror, or dark wizard catcher under Hermione.

So what can we take away from this shift as libertarians? Harry and his friends used to fight against the established government and their oppressive ideas, and now they ARE the government. Being a part of the libertarian movement means fighting corruption with freedom and openness, spreading the ideals of libertarianism as people become more open to it.

During this election year, I think we are experiencing a significant shift in the way people think. As people tire of the same two choices, and they get tired of Big Government ruling their lives, they are opening their eyes to libertarian ideals.

Libertarianism is more than just politics, yet we are seeing a shift in what drives people to throw their support behind a candidate. We have Gary Johnson and Bill Weld on the main stage, and although neither is perfect, they are representing new ideas that have never gained so much attention. Every day, we are changing the way people think.

So, let’s make sure we don’t forget that there is more than two options in politics. Let’s remember to stand strong on issues of morality. Let’s fight against an oppressive government.

Political discourse is changing.

Just like the beloved Harry Potter characters did, could we be experiencing a shift in the ‘political status quo?’ Let’s hope so.

How Much Is Liberty Worth?

in Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

How Much Is Liberty Worth?

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

Recently, I found an interesting piece on Seth Godin’s blog about the fear of giving.  As libertarians, we have a reputation of acting in our own self-interests (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  This is a reputation very much deserved, as it aligns with our beliefs with regard to individual liberty and personal responsibility, but it also accurately portrays our giving, political and otherwise.

As individuals we act in our own self-interest, but as a group, we fail to adequately fund groups and candidates in line with our principles or invest in entrepreneurial efforts that decentralize authority.  The analogy used in that piece about giving was one that showed that in an emergency situation, one rarely considers the cost of action:

‘If you are walking by a pond and you see a child drowning, do you save her? What if it means ruining a very fancy pair of Italian shoes?’ Okay, if we assume the answer is yes, then why not spend the cost of those shoes to save 20 kids who are starving to death across town or the world? There’s really no difference. Or by, extension, invest in research or development that solves a problem forever… The issues are proximity and attention.

As we face the ever-growing threats to our liberty, it would seem that those active in the liberty movement, whether as an “R”, “D”, “L”, “I”, or anyone else who has “seen the light,” would be clamoring to give money to local groups, statewide and national organizations, candidates running for office, and activists that work against the two-headed snake of Big Government. Are we in an emergency situation today?

Godin points out the success of the Mormon church (as well as many of the Christian religions) as they set a standard for how to become and remain a member in good standing with regard to financial matters:

The Mormon Church says, ‘tithe’. Loosely paraphrased, they say, ‘10% is a lot, and 10% is enough.’ This is actually very smart, because they’ve created a difficult but achievable standard, a way to be a member of good standing in their tribe.

When my dad ran the local United Way drive as a volunteer, he pushed for one percent. ‘One percent isn’t a lot, but it’s enough.’

My first question to you is “How much is enough?”  If I asked you to contribute a certain percentage or a dollar amount to support the cause of liberty, what would that number be? (I’m honestly soliciting your feedback here: brett@theadvocates.org)

Additionally, do you think that the these groups and candidates ask for donations often enough?  Do they ask too much?  Or just the right amount?

I would be remiss not to ask that you support The Advocates for Self-Government with this opportunity, so please do give as much as you can.

My final question for you to consider is this:  How much is Liberty worth?

How much is Liberty worth?

Give Them Hope!

in Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

Give Them Hope!

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

I took the opportunity to see the movie Sausage Party (REMINDER: THIS MOVIE IS NOT SAFE FOR KIDS) over the weekend. While filled with raunchy adult humor and innuendo, near the end of the film, there was a line of dialogue that struck me as important for our conversations with those who aren’t libertarians yet… Give them hope!

hope

Conversations about politics right now center around how terrible both old parties’ candidates for president are, and we have a terrific opportunity to discuss libertarian ideas in the vacuum without any good ideas.

In the movie, there is a moment when the lead character can shatter an entire belief system (and does) to share the truth. He has two choices: he can disrespect their beliefs as he tears down their entire way of life, or he can offer them hope as he shows them the truth. At first, he adopts the former, yet moves toward the latter as he sees no fruit borne by his first efforts.

As libertarians, we should strive to adopt the second route.

We are LITERALLY the only people who can offer a world that is peaceful, prosperous, and free.

We need to offer the hope that outcome provides as we bring more people toward our way of thinking.

Think about it for a minute… We’re opening their eyes to something that goes against what the authoritarians have been touting their entire lives. We can either persuade them gently and bring them into the fold, or we can disrespect everything they’ve known their entire lives and lose them.

Those who want control and to use force over others build up the tool they use… The government.   They portray it as the only way to do anything, regardless of consequence. Our ideas and beliefs run counter to that, and that change is often hard to swallow after a life filled with being taught what we know to be false.

So, when we work to change hearts and minds, we can do so with a welcoming elegance and grace, shepherding our new brothers and sister in liberty to embrace what we already do, or we can do so clumsily and without lasting effect.

Taiwan Streets: a Case of Free Markets in Action

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

Taiwan Streets: a Case of Free Markets in Action

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

In Liberalism: In the Classical Tradition, Ludwig von Mises explains that classical liberalism “was the first political movement that aimed at promoting the welfare of all, not that of special groups.”

TaiwanIn an article for the Foundation for Economic Education, Professor Peter St. Onge, a long-time Taiwan resident, discusses a real world example of free markets working to promote the welfare of all members of a community.

In “Taiwan’s Social Safety Net Is the Street Market,” St. Onge reviews some of the most striking traits of the streets of Taiwan and the state’s loose regulations, giving us a better idea of what Mises wrote nearly 90 years ago.

According to Onge, libertarians and free market apologists are “often ridiculed” when they claim that free enterprise is the best substitute for the welfare state. They are often called naïve for suggesting that fully capable individuals would have a better shot at making a living if they were given freedom instead of government dependence.

In Taiwan, Onge writes, the welfare state is “tiny,” and the regulations aren’t as restrictive when compared to the United States or Europe. The few regulations the state has in place are also lightly enforced.

With the gaps created by government’s hands-off approach in the island of Taiwan, commerce exploded. The result? “Near-zero homelessness.”

The obvious effect of less restrictive regulations is the growth of business, which makes local streets bright with store signs, consumers, and shop keepers. But brick-and-mortar stores are not the only ones benefiting from this freedom. According to Onge, the island hosts a number of pop-up businesses that take over the streets, employing “mainly low-skill labor.” These businesses give the poor and the unskilled the chances that the state’s handouts can’t.

To illustrate his point, Onge writes that, every morning at 5 am, farmers bring their produce to a street close to the university where he works. Using folding tables, they place their products along the street undisturbed. As the diverse sets of customers arrive, the street is filled with color and sound. Some of the customers include the elderly, who aren’t healthy enough to drive to a large store, mothers with small children, and fathers getting ready to cook breakfast. At 7 am, farmers pack up and leave the spots, opening up the space to breakfast pop-ups like noodle shops, sandwich places, and joints offering full English breakfast.

Past noon, these spaces are freed again, giving the night crew time to set up different types of restaurants and stores.

At night, Onge reports, you can buy anything in that street. From fried chicken to kids’ toys. Customers can be seen enjoying the creative madness until 3 in the morning. Just a couple of hours before farmers are ready to unload their produce once again.

This “small river of entrepreneurial income” helps low-skilled workers find jobs, even if temporarily, while also bringing consumers what they want, conveniently.

Instead of crony capitalism, these streets are filled with old-fashioned free markets, allowing competitive enterprise to shape commerce, not government-backed favoritism.

The result is happier customers, more jobs, more safety, and cheaper products.

The Silver Lining

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

The Silver Lining

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

You may have seen a story about one of the presumptive nominees for President and her recent interactions with the FBI.

CuffedThe outcome is one that we can now point to, with regard to intent, when discussing the justice system.

Regardless of what happened and happens with this particular case, the FBI and the Department of Justice did not pursue charges due their view that the actions leading to the investigation did not include criminal intent.

THAT is our silver lining. Both FBI Director Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch pointed to a lack of intent to violate laws governing the handling of classified information.

In a common law jurisdictions like the United States, a general test of guilt is one that requires proof of fault, both in thought and action. The former requires mens rea, or “a guilty mind,” while the latter requires actus reus, or “a guilty act.” This principle is stated best by Edward Coke, who is considered to be the greatest jurist of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras in England who said, “an act does not make a person guilty unless (their) mind is also guilty.”

Today, far too many Americans find themselves arrested, in court, or behind bars lacking the “guilty mind,” the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes part of a crime, despite having acted in a way deemed unlawful.

We also see a vocal group perpetuating a popular notion that once arrested or encounters police, a person is already viewed as guilty, the antithesis of justice.

Further, this instance amplifies the difference between the political class and the rest of us. Did we really think that someone who has lived in the White House, served in the US Senate, and been appointed to serve in the Presidential cabinet would encounter justice in a similar manner as would happen if you or I were in the same situation?

Putting aside our personal feelings about the person in question, justice cannot be served without observing that some may “get off.” If we use this high-profile investigation to exemplify why many more should not be locked in a cage for an act in which they held no “guilty mind,” we can win many hearts and minds over to a sense of justice.

Libertarians hold justice in high regard. It’s the tiered system where some are “more equal than others” that we despise.

 

What do libertarians think about government banning medical marijuana and gun violence research?

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

What do libertarians think about government banning medical marijuana and gun violence research?

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Dr. Ruwart’s website

The only way that research on gun violence can be “banned” is to have government use guns—and gun violence, if necessary—to stop it. Libertarians Researchrecognize the inherent contradiction in letting government use gun violence to ban research on it!

Research on medical marijuana is banned for fear that the results wouldn’t support the Schedule I rating (high potential for abuse, no medical utility) on cannabis. This ban is reminiscent of the Catholic Church’s persecution of Galileo for pointing out that the earth revolves around the sun!

Libertarians don’t support bans, which stop people—at gunpoint, if necessary—from doing enlightening research. Banning the growth of knowledge is a form of thought control.

What Do Libertarians Stand For?

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

What Do Libertarians Stand For?

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As a fellow libertarian, that question is rhetorical. We stand for individuality – we believe that individuals can make the best decisions for themselves, governing their own lives.

It is, however, something I hear from many who are not yet libertarian in their thinking. They assume that politics and philosophy only revolve around what they hear and see taking place in Washington DC and state capitals across the country. When viewed through that lens, the perception is that libertarians are opposed to everything.

againstYou and I know that the opposition “to everything” is due to the actions of the body in question, likely increasing the size and scope of government and infringing on the life, liberty, or property of the individual. Unfortunately, the aforementioned lens prevents much more than the support/oppose lever on the issue discussed.

How can we best refocus the lens toward our views and away from being “against everything”?

Three ways:

  1. Rather than fall into the trap of the issue du jour and the lever imposed on us by others, we can divert the conversation away from the support/oppose lever and focus on why a freedom-focused solution is the actual answer. Your success will lie in listening to find the desired outcome of your conversation partner and offering how the libertarian solution is the best way to arrive there. 
  2. Use your voice to promote libertarian ideas without being influenced by the issue of the day. Rather than being driven by the news cycle, your focus should be all the great things that are and can be possible in a libertarian society. If you choose 3-5 issues, you can rotate your focus, so as not to burn yourself (and those you communicate with) out.
  3. Re-frame questions that lead others to see that when you make decisions for yourself, the outcomes are better than the “one size fits all,” centrally-planned government solutions. Rather than jump straight into a dialogue that pits one side against each other, you can attract people to the ideas you support by offering questions that cause them to think beyond the either/or lens. Recently, a friend asked me about whether or not I thought it was OK for a parent to misrepresent their address to allow their child access to a better education in a district other than the one in which they were drawn. I responded with, “is it OK allow your child to go to a sub-par school when your tax dollars are funding one that meets your child’s needs better than the one ‘the powers that be’ deem appropriate for him/her based on their address?”

 

As is often shared by libertarians, there is more to color than black and white, and there is more to politics than left or right.

Let’s focus on opening eyes to color and thoughts beyond the left and right.

Take More Pictures

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

Take More Pictures

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“A picture is worth a thousand words.” - attributed to Frederick R. Barnard

As libertarians, we have a lot to say. Often, it is presented as a wall of text… Page after page of words pieced together in a mess without any formatting and filled with footnotes.

We assume that those we convince to read it will see how much time and effort we put into it, as well as how smart we are, and BOOM! they’ll be convinced. While that may work with our fellow libertarians who generally value substance over style and presentation, those who are not libertarian yet are unlikely to be impressed.

taking picturesSo, what does this have to do with taking more pictures?

First, taking and sharing pictures require that you do something worthwhile or interesting to memorialize. Hopefully, we snap a photo of our hard work, highlighting our best examples of living a libertarian life. By sharing them, we show that we understand not only the words, but also the actions, necessary to bring about the change we advocate.

Next, due to our increased activity, we’ll have less time to write those walls of text that inspired TL;DR (Too long; didn’t read). Can you imagine how many thousands of words on the page or screen we can replace with pictures?

Also, as social media continues to evolve, we see the impact that images have to make a “story” go viral. A picture of you speaking to a crowd at a rally or working at a soup kitchen not only exemplifies your commitment to your ideals; it can be inspiring to others to “get off the couch” and do something.

Finally, we can inspire others as we Walk the Walk. As we take and share pictures, we’ll inevitably be asked why we’re taking them. It will open the door to a conversation that we did not have to seek out, and we can share that we are looking to make a change in the world in which we live.

If you’re creating new libertarians passively by setting your example, all of those you persuade actively will have others to associate with. As we continue to grow the libertarian movement, we need more perspectives and routes to it to consider.

The “Most Important Election of Our Lifetime” Fallacy

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The “Most Important Election of Our Lifetime” Fallacy

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

As libertarians, we’ve no doubt heard with every election that THIS one is the “most important election of our lifetime.” Even those who’ve decided to no longer participate in voting and elections are not immune.

Typically, it’s a hyper-partisan individual who is heavily invested in one side of the “horse race” for President, Governor, or Congress making the statement, and they have a litany of reasons why their candidate is “The One.”

To many of us, it’s a broken record. Whether it’s the appointment of Supreme Court justices, ending pointless wars, staving off economic collapse, or fighting back socialism, the refrain from both sides is essentially the same each time it’s shared. It’s been the same since I started paying attention to elections in 1992 and neither George H.W. Bush nor Bill Clinton really spoke to me as they campaigned for President.

The idea that THIS YEAR will be what changes everything is an extension of a societal desire for immediate gratification…like the J. G. Wentworth commercials: “I WANT IT NOW!”

While a sense of urgency is necessary, things do not change overnight, nor will they even over a politician’s term. Patience and hard work bring the change we seek.

The slogan and rhetoric from the 2008 Obama campaign, “Change We Can Believe In,” tapped into the desire for immediate overhaul. What we saw over the last eight years wasn’t much change. It was a continuation of the same. The wars didn’t end. The cronies still got their goodies. Even Guantanamo Bay remains open and operational today.

Actual, sustainable change takes time. It is the result of many in their efforts to win over hearts and minds. It is not achieved in a single election, a new law, or a Supreme Court decision.

slow and steadyAs in the story I recounted in the Tell More Stories article a couple of weeks ago, slow and steady wins the race. That goes for growth as well, whether for an entire philosophy or certain aspects.

I’ve been on the inside as an elected official, and bureaucracy does move with the speed of molasses. In the winter. Uphill. Unless there is a manufactured urgency to DO SOMETHING, when a the square peg will be shoved into a round hole.

We haven’t won over the hearts and minds yet though. We have a long way to go in that regard. When large numbers of people begin to value freedom the same way that you and I do, we can focus our conversations there and on our path to electoral successes, if they are even necessary.

There is no silver bullet. We are building a movement for Liberty, and that growth doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s happening faster with each passing day.

Remember, politicians and laws don’t change hearts and minds, and we don’t win anything without those.

ACA’s Bureaucratic Requirements Force Patients to Lose Access to Care

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

 ACA’s Bureaucratic Requirements Force Patients to Lose Access to Care

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

The Affordable Care Act has become a joke among conservatives and libertarians.

Since the passing of the law, mandates concerning enrollment requirements pushed the cost of health care up, forcing countless to not only find themselves uncovered, but also unable to have access to the care they had before Obamacare.

DoctorWhile the overregulation of health care in America is nothing new, ACA accelerated a process that was well under way before President Barack Obama took office. Unfortunately, officials didn’t pay attention to the market signals. What the current administration decided to do instead was to focus on pushing laws based on hopes and aspirations, ignoring the potential consequences.

The story of Walt Whitlow is the perfect example of why politicians should always consider the short and long-term consequences of their policies.

According to the Associated Press, Whitlow was under treatment for cancer when he learned that his financial assistance had gotten slashed under ACA. With a premium costing four times what it cost prior to the passing of the new health care law, his deductible went from $900 to $4,600.

Patient Ana Granado also suffered due to the bureaucratic nature of the law.

Granado had undergone a breast cancer surgery and was waiting to undergo breast reconstruction procedures when she was notified that her coverage had been canceled. Under ACA’s new rules, her immigration status became an issue, which forced her insurer to drop her. While lawyers were able to resolve the issue promptly, her financial assistance for premiums were suspended.

Under ACA, Lynn Herrin’s tax credits for premiums were also questioned by the IRS, forcing her to pay $700 to the taxman. Having issues to find a doctor, Herrin decided to cancel her plan, which left her without any assistance when she later found out she had oral and neck cancer.

As countless Americans and residents ditch their plans or pay more for their previously affordable plans because of complex paperwork requirements, many believe that the law was never written to make health care access affordable.

By adding more roadblocks and mandates, ACA forced many Americans to rely on the government for subsidies so they can afford health care. Under a free market system, they would be dealing directly with insurers and providers instead.

By making the cost of insurance an issue, the federal government created a monster that costs the taxpayers and leaves millions of patients without access to quality care when they need it the most.

Currently, 12.7 million people are covered thanks to subsidies created by ACA. But about 470,000 people had their coverage terminated through September 30, 2015 because of complex paperwork requirements. Another 1 million of households had their financial assistance “adjusted” due to what the government calls “income discrepancies.”

By making the process more bureaucratic than it should be, ACA forced countless of consumers to rely on the government for health care. Elizabeth Colvin of Foundation Communities says people have been panicking when they “get that bill for a full-price plan.” This issue is undermining ACA’s insurance markets, simply because the cost to obtain coverage through the government is too high.

As more and more Americans look for alternative ways to have access to health care, the future of ACA is uncertain. Will the next administration take these matters into account when thinking about reforming US health care law?

Show Before Tell

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

Show Before Tell

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

Show and tellIn my elementary school years, we participated in Show & Tell, an opportunity to share with the class something neat or unique and lead a discussion about it. The concept was a simple, yet effective way to prepare young people to speak in front of groups.

Even as adults, this provides us with a lesson in effective outreach to non-libertarians. We need to show that libertarians live their lives in a peaceful, voluntary way…The libertarian lifestyle.

What makes this outreach effective is that, when you live your life like you would in a libertarian society, it never turns off. There are no booths to shut down. There are no hours of operation. It’s a constant, effective outreach that can easily attract others to libertarianism.

How can you do it?

  1. Before you speak about Liberty, show it with how you live your life.
    Are you using force or fraud as a means to an end? Or are you someone who offers only honest, voluntary cooperation in your dealings in business and relationships? The latter is very libertarian, while the former is the antithesis of libertarian thought. In a situation where force or fraud is used, it’s unlikely that all parties will be better off. When every interaction is agreed to by all parties, everyone benefits. <– That’s a libertarian interaction. Let’s strive to live that way.
  2. Before you tell me how much libertarianism means to you, show me that you understand what it means.
    Are you constantly dictating to others how they “should” do things or live their life? Or are you setting a positive example and persuading those who seek your counsel? A positive example goes much further than unsolicited advice on a single area of concern. It also brings you to the forefront of those to ask when advice is necessary.
  3. Before you preach the principles of Liberty, teach me about it with your actions.
    Being a shining example of what a libertarian is gives those who have little to no exposure to libertarians a very positive impression of who we are. I know libertarians to be very caring, friendly, and generous, despite the societal meme depicting us as selfish, heartless loners. Let’s break that meme!

 

Are you ready to show what it means to be a libertarian? Once you’ve committed to that, your words about libertarianism will carry far more weight, and you will attract more people to the beauty that is Liberty.

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.

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