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Big Government vs. Self-Government in Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Marriage and Family by Morgan Dean Comments are off

Big Government vs. Self-Government in Shakespeare’s As You Like It

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

William Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It is known for the themes of marriage, forgiveness and love. However, upon closer examination, it can also be read as a tale of people fighting the wrongs of Big Government, while pursuing self-government.

as you like itFirst, we have to look at what it means to “self-govern.” We give this our own meaning every day when we make decisions independent from the government. Self-Governing means that you decide how to live and are responsible for your own actions and choices.

In As You Like It, there are two opposing sides in a warring family, Duke Senior, who represents self-government and peace, and the other being Duke Frederick who represents Big Government and violence.

The major motif within the play is a family divided. Duke Senior has been usurped by his brother and banished from the kingdom, while Duke Frederick remains and banishes other members of Duke Senior’s family.

Duke Senior flees to The Forest of Arden where he lives a very minimalist life, among the shepherds who live very pastoral lives. The forest serves as a place of freedom and refuge from the evils of courtly life. The idea of the forest in literature, and especially in this play, is that it is the antithesis of civilization. The forest is the one place that man has not yet touched and made corrupt.

Living in the forest, Duke Senior builds a life for himself, finds other lords who have also left the court, and pursues a freedom in the forest. They operate completely separately from the Big Government that is back at the court, and they are happy.

As we are well aware, Big Government always tries to intervene. Rare contributor Bonnie Kristian wrote an interesting article about how even the smallest examples of government interference should concern us.

Even during Shakespeare’s time, there is government overreach. Duke Frederick and his posse go after Duke Senior. However, along the way he meets a priest who convinces him to lead a peace-loving life away from the court. Self-government, for the win!

If self-government worked in the Shakespearean era, with practice, it can work today, several hundred years later.

Most importantly, are you putting self-government into practice in your daily life?

BREED LOVE: What the Country’s First Female Self-Made Millionaire Taught Us About Free Markets

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

BREED LOVE: What the Country’s First Female Self-Made Millionaire Taught Us About Free Markets

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

“Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them!” Sarah Breedlove Walker

Sarah Breedlove, also known as Madam C. J. Walker, had a tough but incredibly fulfilling life.

WalkerThe African American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political activist became one of the wealthiest black women in the country by launching Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing, a company created to meet her communities’ cosmetic needs.

Born to enslaved parents in 1867, Breedlove was the first child in her family to be born as a free woman. As a young woman, Breedlove went through severe financial hardships, but once she moved to Saint Louis, Missouri, she became aware of some of the health difficulties people in her community suffered.

Some of the issues Breedlove saw other black women experiencing included severe dandruff and other scalp ailments associated with skin disorders caused by the lye added to the soap of the era, as well as other socio-economic factors.

Seeing so many women like her suffer from these ailments prompted her to act.

Once Breedlove saw a demand for better cosmetic products designed for different types of skin, she first sought more information on hair care with her brothers, who were barbers. In no time, she became a commission saleswoman for Annie Turnbo Malone, the owner of the Poro Company.

As the time passed, Breedlove used what she learned from her work along with the knowledge she had gathered as a result of her own research, developing her product line.

In 1905, Breedlove moved to Colorado where she and her daughter launched their business. The door-to-door saleswoman would teach other young black women how to style and care for their hair locally until 1910, when Breedlove established her business in Indianapolis, training other women to use “The Walker System,” her own method of grooming that promoted hair growth and scalp conditioning.

For about a decade, Breedlove employed several thousands of black women as sales agents. By 1917, Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing had employed nearly 20,000 women.

Breedlove took pride in her system, but she also wanted to see others like her flourish.

Instead of just training employees, Breedlove started teaching others about finances and entrepreneurship, empowering an entire generation of black women through the establishment of the National Beauty Culturists and Benevolent Association of Madam C. J. Walker Agents.

During the National Negro Business League (NNBL) annual meeting in 1912, Breedlove celebrated her individuality and self-empowerment by stating:

“I am a woman who came for the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there, I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there, I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations. I have built my own factory on my own ground.”

Breedlove was special because she never complained. Instead, she looked around and saw an issue that she could solve. Through markets, she learned to compete by offering a product that met the demands of people in her community. As she grew as a businesswoman, she also gave back, teaching others that hard work and dedication pay off in the end.

Sarah Breedlove Walker may have not always seen her own story as an example of how markets help empower the individual. But this generation of young women could learn a great deal from her. Not just because of her defiance in the face of difficulties, but also because of her vision. Instead of simply demanding attention to her cause, Breedlove made her mark in the world by helping others (while helping herself).

As the F. A. Hayek character says in The Fight of the Century: “Give us a chance so we can discover/The most valuable ways to serve one another.”

More Love

in Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

More Love

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

When we woke up yesterday, the breaking news was about a senseless tragedy that took place overnight in Orlando at Pulse nightclub.

That tragedy took 49 of our families and loved ones.

moreloveAs is often the case, without full information, those seeking to politicize the great suffering caused by the event jumped in with both feet. Whether the issue is terrorism, guns, Muslims, the LGBT community, or immigration, those seeking to promote their agenda took to social media, news interviews, and any avenue they could find to spread the word.

As we noted on Facebook, our first priority is to grieve for the loss of life. Full stop.

There are 49 families who just lost their son, daughter, father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or cousin. There are 49 families who are laying someone they love to rest. There are 49 families who will never be the same.

For the rest of us, the stunned feeling still shakes us, as we learn more about the victims, the perpetrator, and the actions that took place there. We need time to process what happened. We need time to have a full picture of what occurred.

Rather than make assumptions, based on the little bit of information that’s publicly available, let us save our voices for love. Let US share it to our families. Let US share it to our neighbors. Let US share it with our friends. Let US reach out to those affected by the tragic events in Orlando. Let US give blood. Let US be the example of how we should respond.

One of my favorite things about libertarians is how much we have to offer in times of struggle, and how much we help those in need.

Let US do that.

When the grieving wanes, we can have a conversation about what should happen.

But first, let US love.

HAIL Yes! You Can Win Others to Libertarianism

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

HAIL Yes! You Can Win Others to Libertarianism

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

It’s not enough to speak about liberty. You want to be heard. Understood. Remembered. Appreciated. And you want your ideas, whenever possible, to be accepted.

HandsIn his TED talk “How to Speak So People Want to Listen,” renowned communication expert Julian Treasure talks about four pillars of communication that are essential for powerful outreach – particularly when your goal is to change the world.

It’s marvelous for libertarians. Here are his four pillars, along with a brief discussion of how they apply to communicating libertarian ideas:

1. Honesty. Honesty, of course, means telling the truth. The importance of this when sharing libertarian ideas cannot be overemphasized.

Being honest includes being sure of your facts. It can be tempting to use a “factoid” or meme just because it sounds good or is funny. But check the sources and verify that the information is true. (Remember this wisdom from George Washington’s First Inaugural Address: “Just because something is on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true.”) In addition, be aware that even if something is technically true, it can still be misleading – also a form of dishonesty.

Being honest also includes saying “I don’t know” instead of pretending you know something you don’t. Pretending knowledge can backfire badly. Admitting that you don’t know everything (in other words, that you’re a human being), and offering to follow up with additional information, wins friends and provides future opportunities for discussions.

Note that being honest doesn’t mean being cruel. You don’t need to share any negative feelings you may have about someone else’s ideas.

2. Authenticity. This is similar to honesty. The word means “being real or genuine, not copied or false.” To me, it means being yourself, being true to yourself. Authenticity is powerful.

In communicating your ideas, use your own words, ones that are comfortable and natural to you. This doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel: in the libertarian movement there are invaluable resources for soundbites and well-written answers to questions. (For example, be sure to read Harry Browne’s Liberty A-Z and Mary Ruwart’s Short Answers to the Tough Questions.) Many of these soundbites can be easily used just as they are — that’s what they’re for. But if they don’t sound like something you would say, rewrite them to fit your own style.

Being authentic also means sharing yourself with others. Don’t hesitate, while discussing libertarianism, to add to your discussion other things that interest you. You will have better conversations, and other people are more likely to also share with you in turn – increasing rapport and giving you a better opportunity to directly address their concerns.

3. Integrity. To have integrity means to be consistent with your principles and values.

To me this means not supporting or advocating policies that are counter to libertarian principles. It also means continually practicing and learning to effectively share and communicate the full libertarian vision, rather than a watered-down version, in ways that are appealing and inspiring.

Having integrity also means being true to your word, keeping your promises, admitting your mistakes. It means being trustworthy. Reliable. Showing up on time. Be aware that when speaking to non-libertarians you represent the libertarian movement and other libertarians. Be a good ambassador for the movement.

4. Love. We all know what love is, but we may not always practice it in our political discourse. When we include love, we enhance the three traits above. We show respect for others, we practice the Golden Rule. Mr. Treasure puts it nicely when he says that in loving communication we truly, genuinely wish the other person well. When we do, the other person knows it, and this makes all the difference.

Each of these four pillars are powerful separately. Together they create an awesome synergy.

You’ll notice that the four words create an acronym: HAIL. As Mr. Treasure points out, the word “hail” means “to greet or acclaim enthusiastically.”

What a great way to treat people! And since most people tend to treat others the way they are treated, the reaction you will get will most likely be a very friendly one.

And in the current political culture of anger, screaming, attacking and all-round incivility, what better way to show a marked contrast between politics-as-usual and the glorious message we libertarians have of real market solutions, civil liberties, and peace for all.

P.S. I go into these ideas in more depth in my book, How to Be a Super Communicator for Liberty.

They Want Hate Between You

in Conversations With My Boys, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, Middle East by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

They Want Hate Between You

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

BA(10): I wish I knew why those terrorist did that.
Me: Would it comfort you to know why?
BA: It would help me if I understood why.
HateMe: Well, they murdered those people so you would hate Muslims. Like Al (a friend who is Muslim). They want you to hate Al.
BA: I would never hate Al. Why do they want me to hate him?
Me: They want you to make Al feel hated and attacked. They want you to work for them and make Al feel attacked. Like you are his enemy. They want you to hate Al and attack him so he has to defend himself from you.
BA: Why would they want that?
Me: They want Al to feel persecuted by you and they can’t do that job. They have to make you do that. They want hate between you. They want Al to hate you and they want Al to join them.
BA: I would never hate Al.
Me: It doesn’t begin as hate. It begins as fear and distrust. When you fear and distrust your friends and neighbors you are doing the work the terrorists want you to do. You are working for them.
BA: If I hate anyone I hate the terrorists.
Me: That also serves them. Hate is like a little pile of burning matches. You can not put out that little burning pile of matches by adding your own burning match to it. You must quench hate and more hate does not quench hate. Do you see?
BA: Yes.
Me: When there is great hatred like there was last night in Paris we are being called to great love and compassion. We are called to love the people who have died and the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, and friends who are heartbroken with grief. Love quenches hate. Do you see?
BA: They want me to hate and be afraid.
Me: Yes. Do you remember those people who came to our church to frighten people?
BA: It’s like that. It’s the same thing. Only they didn’t kill us they just tried to scare us.
Me: Yes. It’s hate. They want you to hate. When you hate, you are on the side of those who hate.

Who Owns You?

in Communicating Liberty, Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

Who Owns You?

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

Me: Who owns you?
Baby Anarchist (10): Me. I own me.
Me: Can someone else sell you?Who Owns You?
BA: No.
Me: Why not?
BA: A living person is his own property.
Me: Can someone else rightfully take away your life if you are being peaceful?
BA: There’s no rightful way to encroach on a peaceful person.
Me: Can someone else rightfully stop you from peacefully owning your rightfully acquired property?
BA: No. No one can stop you from keeping the thing you have peacefully gotten. If you’ve earned it, traded for it, been given it as a gift, it’s yours.
Me: Can someone else rightfully stop you from making a peaceful contract with another person?
BA: Nope. You’re peacefully doing it. It’s not hurting anyone. There’s no reason they should stop you.
Me: So no one is allowed to take away your right to make contracts?
BA: No one is allowed to take away your right to make contracts. You own you. No one can take away your right to enter into contracts.
Me: Did you know that years ago it was illegal for black persons to enter into marriage contracts with white persons?
BA: During slavery?
Me: After slavery. When they acknowledged that people were not the property of other people.
BA: That doesn’t make sense. If you are your own property then you can enter into contracts.
Me: If someone else can stop you from entering into a contract what does that make you?
YS (14): A slave.
Me: Is yesterday’s decision (2015 Supreme Court decision regarding marriage equality) about love, son?
YS: it’s about self ownership.
Me: Why did it have to be couched as a decision about love?
YS: Because people won’t respond to self ownership.
Me: Why don’t they want to hear that they don’t have self ownership?
YS: It’s complicated and bad.
Me: Love is nicer but the reality is people who own themselves are not denied the right to enter into peaceful contracts that don’t encroach on others.

Government Vs. Generosity

in Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 24 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

What a great time of the year! In the spirit of the season, charity and helping those in need are uppermost in the minds of many people.

This is wonderful. However, some people, in their commendable desire to help the unfortunate, are calling for government to play a larger and ever-greater role in this.

But such government involvement actually harms the needy, those who want to help, and the very organizations that do the most good.

  1. Government aid greatly diminishes the role and influence of private charities and religious and spiritual organizations. Churches, temples, charities and similar organizations can do many vital things that government cannot. In addition to aid, they can offer community, spiritual growth, personal counseling and much more. However, when government becomes the primary provider of aid, these bedrock social institutions lose countless opportunities to encounter and influence others in life-changing ways. Indeed, they become increasingly seen as irrelevant and unimportant.
  2. Government programs rob the potential giver of the great benefits of giving. In many spiritual traditions, a charitable gift is just as important for the giver as it is for the receiver. Indeed, some might argue it is even more important. As the saying goes, “It is better to give than to receive.” Giving teaches crucial spiritual lessons and brings other wonderful benefits to the giver. Yet if money is simply seized from people to fund government welfare programs, potential givers may believe they have done their part and feel no need to do any actual giving. And a gift is not really a gift if it has to be compelled by force. Opportunities for personal and spiritual growth are lost.
  3. Government is remarkably, famously inefficient. Those who give want to know that their gift provides the maximum benefit for those they want to help. Wasteful, poorly operated, faceless, coldly bureaucratic government organizations are a poor choice to do this. Indeed, who, given the choice, would give their money to, say, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services instead of a local soup kitchen or an effective national private charity? Charities are constantly being evaluated, and are constantly motivated to innovate, improve, become ever more efficient. Tax funding of poorly run government programs robs spiritual and charitable organizations of precious funds that would otherwise be spent far more efficiently to help those in need.


It’s the season for giving. Give with love, give with joy, give in the most effective way you can.

Great Libertarian Movie

in Liberator Online, Libertarian Movies by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“Still Mine” (2013) is one of the best libertarian-themed movies I’ve ever seen. It’s based on a true story. Still Mine movie posterIn 2007 Canadian Craig Morrison, 88 years old, set out to build a small home where he could care for his wife, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. He began building it himself, on his own land, with his own hands, using lumber he sawed himself — as he’d done other times in the past.

But this time he ran into trouble — from new restrictive building codes and oppressive bureaucrats who ultimately threatened to bulldoze his home and throw him into prison.

“I thought this was a free country, that we had liberties and freedoms like we used to have, but I was sadly mistaken,” Morrison told a local newspaper. “All I wanted to do is build a house, and I was treated as if I was some kind of outlaw.”

This film is based on that story. It’s a gripping tale of one fiercely independent man facing a soulless bureaucracy. It is more than a political story. It’s about families, about aging, about love, about responsibility.

“Still Mine” is marvelously done and has received rave reviews from critics. The Canadian Globe and Mail called it “a cautionary tale of the tremendous power of the state over the individual in an age of pervasive bureaucracy. It is, indeed, a profound parable of irretrievably lost independence and casually forgotten freedoms.”

“Still Mine” stars James Cromwell, renowned for decades as a character actor, in his first lead role. His performance is wonderful (as are the other performances in the film). I was curious if he had more than a passing interest in the politics in the story.

Turns out he did. Cromwell’s father, John Cromwell, was an award-winning actor and director — who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. That left a mark on his son. In the 1960s James Cromwell did guerrilla theatre protesting the Vietnam War and fought segregation in the South. He was part of the Committee To Defend The Black Panthers, which worked to free unjustly imprisoned members of that group.

In an interview at, Cromwell said the following about the political message of “Still Mine.”

“My watchword has always been ‘Resist Authority’ and I have been involved with radical politics since the sixties…

“Somebody wrote a review [of "Still Mine"] where they said ‘Somebody who does not obey the law cannot be a sympathetic character.’ What about Gandhi? What about Martin Luther King? What about the suffragettes or those for gay rights or the people who have always stood up to oppose unjust laws and regulations?

“They have always been our heroes and in that respect, I personally think that Craig [lead character in "Still Mine"] is a hero. It is on a small scale but he says that this does not stand and cannot stand. It is not human and it is not caring. Those are the politics of this film.”

Although in one interview a few years ago he said he was a libertarian, in another more recent one he described himself as a progressive. Whatever his politics, he’s always been an outspoken champion of the downtrodden and the underdog, and in interviews he frequently urges people to “question authority.”

“Still Mine” is a beautiful film in many ways, and watching it is like seeing one of those great Institute for Justice ads about citizens resisting unjust government come to life.

It’s on DVD. I highly recommend it.