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American Taxpayers on the Hook for $6 Million to Promote the Beautiful Albanian Countryside

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

American Taxpayers on the Hook for $6 Million to Promote the Beautiful Albanian Countryside

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

You’ve got to hand it to the federal government; they really know how to throw away taxpayers’ hard-earned money. Just last week, Congress passed a budget that increases spending by some $80 billion and raises the debt ceiling for the rest of Barack Obama’s presidency.


Of course, it’s too much to ask, apparently, that lawmakers and the Obama administration take an axe to some of the wasteful spending that could take some of the burden off of taxpayers. Take the $6 million the U.S. Agency for International Development plans to give to Albania to promote tourism in the tiny Southeastern European nation, which was recently the subject of by Sen. Rand Paul’s, R-Ky., “Waste Report.”

Albania’s economy is experiencing turmoil because of the economic crisis that has ravaged Greece, its neighbor to the south. In May, for example, the World Bank backed a five-year, $1.2 billion loan program to try to boost the country as it tries to enter the European Union. The United States is, apparently, pitching in to boost Albania’s burgeoning tourism industry.

“To restart their economy, the Albanian government is hoping to capitalize on the country’s tourism potential, but it is the U.S. taxpayer who is footing at least part of the bill,” Paul’s office explains. “Amazingly, tourism is already a major contributor to the Albanian economy. According to the grant description, tourism (in total) currently accounts for 17 percent of the nation’s economy.”

“By comparison, The World Travel and Tourism Council reports that tourism contributes 9.5 percent to the worldwide economy and 8.4 percent to the U.S. economy. This means Albania’s tourism economy, as a percent of GDP, is already larger than the U.S,” it adds.

The problem for the United States is that much of what we’re spending in terms of foreign aid, such as the $6 million to promote tourism in Albania, is part of the increasing river of red ink that flows from Washington.

Albania may be a beautiful country worthy of a visit, but that doesn’t mean American taxpayers should be footing part of the bill to promote it. The national debt – currently north of $18.5 trillion – keeps growing while the federal government doles out goodies for other countries.

Not to come across overly nationalistic here, because there are many wasteful and unauthorized domestic programs that taxpayers are compelled to fund. The guide should be the United States Constitution. After looking it over, one will be shocked – absolutely shocked to discover – that there isn’t a “Promote Tourism in Other Countries” Clause.

Silicon Valley Innovators: Gov’t Is Biggest Barrier to U.S. Innovation

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 21 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Innovation's biggest barrierWhat’s the worst drag on American technical innovation?

According to some of the most creative and successful people in America, it’s… government.

In a new “Silicon Valley Insiders Poll,” The Atlantic asked 50 “Silicon Valley Insiders” — described as leading “executives, innovators, and thinkers” — this question: “What’s the biggest barrier to innovation in the United States?”

The top three answers:

  1. “Government regulation/bureaucracy” — cited by 20% of respondents. 
  2. “Immigration policies” — cited by 16%.
  3. “Education” — yet another thumping government failure — cited by 14%. 

As Reason’s Nick Gillespie notes in the Daily Beast: “Given the role it plays in setting immigration policy and controlling education at all levels through a mix of money and mandates, that means government takes the gold, silver, and bronze medals at making life harder.”

(Fourth place was “Talent Shortage,” cited by 10% of respondents, which is also at least in part a consequence of the second and third government-created barriers.)

Further, it’s not just the tech sector reporting serious damage from government. A 2010 survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Businesses asked small business owners to identify the biggest problems they face. Twenty-two percent of respondents said the single most important problem facing small businesses was “Taxes. Another thirteen percent said “Government Regulations and Red Tape.” Both, of course, are direct manifestations of Big Government. Combined, they add up to 35% — making Big Government the biggest problem small businesses say they face.

And Americans in general seem to agree. As we reported earlier this year, a Gallup poll found a record 72% of Americans picked big government as “the biggest threat to this country in the future” compared with big business or big labor.

Robbery With a Badge: Shocking New Report

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Asset forfeiture is a dull name for a shocking little-known legal device Civil Asset Forfeiturethat allows law enforcement officials to take your cash and property — without a warrant or criminal charges of any kind — and keep most of the proceeds.

That’s right: they can do this even if you have not committed a crime. Even if you’ve never been charged with one.

The only way you can get back your money or property is to go through an exhaustive legal process to prove that your property was legally acquired. Yes, in essence, you must prove to the government that you are not guilty. And the process is so difficult, time-consuming and expensive that most don’t attempt it.

Even if you think you know about this vile practice, a new report by the Washington Post entitled “Stop and seize: Aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes” has uncovered new information that will shock you.

Among the Post’s findings:

* Asset forfeiture has risen dramatically in the past decade. Thousands of Americans have had billions of dollars stolen by police — again, without being charged or convicted of a crime.

* The federal government has given millions of dollars to non-government organizations to train police officers in aggressive use of asset forfeiture. An estimated 50,000-plus police officers have had such training in the last decade.

* Says the Post: “Behind the rise in seizures is a little-known cottage industry of private police-training firms that teach the techniques of ‘highway interdiction’ to departments across the country.

“One of those firms created a private intelligence network known as Black Asphalt Electronic Networking & Notification System that enabled police nationwide to share detailed reports about American motorists — criminals and the innocent alike — including their Social Security numbers, addresses and identifying tattoos, as well as hunches about which drivers to stop. …

“A thriving subculture of road officers on the network now competes to see who can seize the most cash and contraband, describing their exploits in the network’s chat rooms and sharing ‘trophy shots’ of money and drugs…”

* “Some police advocate highway interdiction as a way of raising revenue for cash-strapped municipalities. ‘All of our home towns are sitting on a tax-liberating gold mine,’ Deputy Ron Hain of Kane County, Ill., wrote in a self-published book under a pseudonym. Hain is a marketing specialist for Desert Snow, a leading interdiction training firm based in Guthrie, Okla., whose founders also created Black Asphalt. Hain’s book calls for ‘turning our police forces into present-day Robin Hoods.’”

There’s much more in the Washington Post’s multi-part series, now online.

Would Religious References Be Removed from Money, Courts and Schools in a Libertarian Society?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: I want to see the removal of all references to a god from money, courts, and schools, as I believe these are a violation of the separation of church and state. What is the libertarian stance on this?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, all schools would be private. You could send your children to a school that catered to your tastes (i.e., no references to a deity or religion) and religious people could send their children to a school devoted to Him (or Her as the case might be).

Competition in currency, which would be most likely in a libertarian society, would probably result in some private currencies without a religious reference and others with one.

Some libertarians believe that courts should compete as well; others want a monopolistic system like we have today. Since a libertarian society’s code would be ‘honoring our neighbor’s choice,’ it’s likely that courts would offer both Bible-based oaths and secular ones.

It’s a matter of choice. You choose what you want; others choose what they want. The market gives multiple choice; the government usually gives a one-size-fits-all monopoly.

If someone wants to use government to outlaw religious references, he can only do so by giving the government power to impose religious references. Rather than advocating such a win-lose situation, libertarians promote the win-win options that occur when we honor our neighbor’s choice, rather than imposing our own.

(For a more detailed explanation of what the phrase “honoring our neighbor’s choice” entails, see my book, Healing Our World, available from the Advocates. The earlier 1992 edition can be read online free at my website.)

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

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

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

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