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Now Is The Wrong Time For More Gun Control

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

Now Is The Wrong Time For More Gun Control

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

The horrific and heartbreaking mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, has already sparked calls for more gun control legislation. Still, on the aftermath of such incidents, the number of Americans running to gun stores to purchase firearms always increases, showing that regardless of whether public figures, news reporters, or progressive politicians on both sides of the aisle seem to think, most Americans put their own well-being and self-defense rights before politics.

gun

While it’s impossible to discuss the tragic killings of dozens in an attack that left more than 500 injured simply because the details regarding the attacker are still being investigated, we must always remember that it’s in times of crisis that politicians will try to tell us they know how to make it all better.

Whether Republican or Democrat, elected officials, and hopeful candidates will go over their talking points in times of tragedy, telling us that their solution will work this time, all we have to do is to trust them.

New legislation, they say, will help remedy this situation by cracking down on gun owners, or individuals with health issues, or gun salesmen. But while these pieces of legislation target everyone under the sun, they fail to target bureaucrats with guns.

These politicians often ignore the countless instances of abuse involving law enforcement agents, government security agents, and members of other agencies tasked with border securitydrug law enforcement, and even surveillance.

Their guns are never at risk.

When it comes to allowing government to oversee all aspects of an individual’s life, the consequences are usually disproportionate.

Government will create rules that hurt good people while giving law enforcement little to no incentives to go after the real bad guys. That’s precisely what happens when gun control laws are enacted.

When rules are applied to gun purchases, delaying the gun purchasing process, the law-abiding citizen has to prove his innocence before being able to take that gun home. To criminals, all that it takes is the willingness to steal a gun or a weapon to commit a crime. No background checks necessary.

In the case of mass shootings involving distraught individuals, many were able to obtain their guns legally and yet, no background check was able to detect any issues that could have led authorities to believe that these individuals were going to eventually turn into mass murderers.

With the media feeding the fear surrounding these instances of mass shootings and using heavy anti-gun rhetoric, those who do not feel either represented or protected by government officials become anxious. So instead of feeding into this fear and paranoia, how about understanding that, ultimately, it’s up to the individual whether he decides to purchase a gun for personal safety or other ends, and realize that the government should have no say as to what property one has the right to have access to. Just like it doesn’t have a moral reason to tell an individual whether he can or cannot use a substance such as cannabis on his own body.

Yes, Corruption Cripples the Economy

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

Yes, Corruption Cripples the Economy

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

When analyzing the potential ramifications of picking one presidential candidate over the other, many prefer to overlook claims of corruption. On one hand, voters might not be exactly aware of what corruption may entail, but on the other, they might not be entirely sure of how corruption taking place in high levels of government will ever impact their personal finances. Unfortunately for those who do not seem to understand how corruption affects them, the consequences of rent-seeking and influence-peddling schemes go deeper than we expect.

corruptionIn Protectionism vs. Corruption: Which Is Worse for the Economy?, economist D.W. MacKenzie writes that while “an overwhelming majority of economists have agreed on the benefits of free trade since 1817,” many contemporary politicians believe that some trading restrictions help boost the U.S. economy.

But when it comes to analyzing the impact of corruption, few seem to take into consideration that political corruption “impairs economic efficiency and lowers living standards.”

Traditionally, corruption has always been treated as a legal affair, which might explain why the population’s attention is steered away from the real-world consequences of the practice.

According to MacKenzie, the problem with widespread corruption is that special interest groups take advantage of it, lobbying government elements directly to provide them with special treatment, therefore transferring wealth “from the general population into their pockets.” When analyzed closely, these special relationships between private industries and the government “make us all worse off” because the resources used to ensure these groups’ needs are being met could have been spared. In other words, taxpayer money spent on what many call corporate welfare could have stayed in the consumer’s pockets and then used for other purposes, getting that amount back into the economy and helping to make it grow.

Another aspect of political corruption that is often ignored is that free trade is the necessary condition for economic growth to occur, but in countries where markets thrive, their governments are often less impacted by corruption. Considering political corruption is inefficient and bad for growth, MacKenzie concludes, giving more power to politicians known for being corrupt will further damage the economy.

As voters cast their ballots for president, they must have in mind that the only policy that will bring economic growth and peace to America is the complete elimination of barriers to commerce, getting the government completely out of the business of picking winners. Unless the link between the government and the rent seeker is severed, there will be no room left for prosperity.

Speech Censorship Is Bad, Even If It Targets Terrorists

in First Amendment, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Speech Censorship Is Bad, Even If It Targets Terrorists

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

Censorship never works. Especially when it comes to speech that is considered offensive or criminal. Why? Because when individuals are given a platform where they may express themselves openly, they become more visible, giving others who disagree with their methods or philosophy an opportunity to spot them and stay out of their way.

TwitterBut when fear is at play, people tend to lose grasp of their emotions and what could have turned into a reasonable debate turns into a witch hunt.

As politicians and others urge companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter to crack down on users who identify as Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) fighters and sympathizers, encouraging these users to be banned from their platforms, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) admits that banning ISIS users from online platforms pushes them “to a place where they’re less able to proselytize broadly but more able to communicate in a secure way.” Meaning that, when users are blocked from Twitter, it makes it difficult for law enforcement to track them down.

Who would have thought?

According to Tech Dirt, intelligence officials are usually able to get good intelligence from paying attention to social media accounts from ISIS fighters. But in spite of what many consider to be a risk associated with how easily ISIS fighters are able to recruit by keeping active accounts on social media, Tech Dirt points out that nearly every single study on radicalization shows that online recruitment is not as effective as many would think.

Silencing users might help to keep social media websites “clean” from speech we find offensive, but instead of making us safe, it just pushes individuals who follow dreadful philosophies into the shadows, making it harder for us to spot them and keep an eye on what they are up to next.

When translated into enforcement, the banishment of users from online platforms only makes it hard for officials to track terrorists down.

As US officials continue to press private tech companies to open backdoors so that law enforcement is able to closely spy on American citizens, public pressure to ban offensive speech adds fuel to the fire, oftentimes giving officials reasons to lobby for the expansion of government’s spying powers.

Instead of allowing our feelings to speak louder than reason, we must always remember that what may seem as the best solution superficially might not produce the desired outcome. No matter how many times we implement the same policy.

As Use of Pot Drops, Prohibitionists Must Look Elsewhere for Pro-Drug War Arguments

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

As Use of Pot Drops, Prohibitionists Must Look Elsewhere for Pro-Drug War Arguments

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

The Washington Post has recently reported that rates of marijuana use among teens who reside in Colorado are unchanged when compared to data gathered before state voters legalized marijuana in 2012.

WeedIn 2009, a survey showed that 25 percent of Colorado youths had used marijuana in the past 30 days but in 2015, only 21 percent of youths did the same. The survey was carried out among random middle and high school students across the state.

According to the Colorado health department, the agency behind this survey, the use of marijuana among teens has not increased since legalization. A fact many drug warriors did not predict before voters decided to make the recreational use of the plant legal across the state.

In the past, opponents of legalization made the case that lifting restrictions on access to weed would push the number of teen smokers up, but as the number of marijuana use nationwide is falling considerably, prohibitionists begin to panic.

According to Mason Tvert, the Marijuana Policy Project’s director of communications, the theory that “making marijuana legal for adults will result in more teen use” has been clearly debunked with the help of these surveys. “Levels of teen use in Colorado have not increased since it ended marijuana prohibition,” Tvert added, “and they are lower than the national average. Elected officials and voters in states that are considering similar proposals should be wary of claims that it will hurt teens.”

But the fight against prohibition continues to win new supporters, even as prohibitionist politicians continue to put failed policies before real progress.

Most recently, a group known as Arkansans for Compassionate Care submitted 117,649 signatures to the secretary of state urging the state to place a proposal on the ballot that would legalize medical marijuana.

The proposal would help people with certain medical conditions have access to marijuana products with the help of a doctor’s recommendation. While the signatures haven’t been confirmed, the group needed 69,000 signatures from registered voters to have the initiative added to the ballot. Two other groups in the state of Arkansas are also gathering signatures for other proposals, one that would legalize medical marijuana and a second that would legalize recreational weed.

At least 25 states and Washington D.C. currently have laws legalizing marijuana in some form, with Ohio being the latest state to allow residents suffering from chronic pain, epilepsy, or side effects of cancer treatments to be treated with the help of cannabis.

As more states where the use of cannabis is legal investigate the use of its residents, it becomes clearer that freedom—not the government’s micromanagement skills—works.

Why Rhetoric Should be Celebrated

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

Why Rhetoric Should be Celebrated

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

We often hear that persuasion is an obstacle to freedom. “Rhetoric,” they say, is why we’re in such trouble. After all, voters would make better decisions if they had been better educated about the issues facing the nation.

To Deirdre McCloskey, the celebrated Professor of Economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, people who scapegoat persuasion are misguided.

PersuasionIn a video for the Learn Liberty series, McCloskey argues that while many people with different points of view on politics all agree that free speech is “sacred,” few agree that persuasion is just as important, if not a feature of a free society.

“Rhetoric,” she tells the viewer, “sounds like a bad word.” Media outlets are the first ones to accuse politicians and key figures of indulging in rhetoric, and never getting to the point. But McCloskey believes that this approach to persuasion is superficial, especially when considering the alternative.

She explains that, persuasion would be bad if the alternative to “sweet-talking” people into believing something or siding with someone wasn’t persuasion through force.

Because we are humans, McCloskey adds, we depend on language. But if we cannot use language, there is another way of persuading people into taking a particular stance: Violence. If I have a gun in hands while telling you to believe in economics and stop arguing with me if you want to stay alive, you will most certainly choose to agree with me, just so you may avoid getting shot in the head. But if there aren’t any guns involved, all we can do to make our point stick is to try to persuade folks by selling our idea the best way we can.

“In a society of free choice, free ideas, free consumption,” McCloskey adds, “you have persuasion as the only alternative to violence.”

Henry David Thoreau once said that “thaw, with her gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor, with his hammer.” The late, prolific author Gore Vidal once said that advertising is the only art form ever invented in the United States of America. To McCloskey, “a free society is an advertising society,” after all, a free society is where people debate and persuade, rather than threaten others into going along with their ideas. Americans should be proud of this very American tradition.

Instead of demonizing rhetoric by complaining that propaganda alone is the root of our problems, McCloskey seems to argue, we should celebrate the “speaking, rather than violent, society,” and take part in the activity, rather than decry it as the root of all evil.

Want to Fight Income Inequality? Enact Extensive Regulatory Reforms

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

Want to Fight Income Inequality? Enact Extensive Regulatory Reforms

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

Many praised Vice President Joe Biden for talking about the “enormous concentration of wealth” in the hands of “a small group of people,” but to Mercatus Center’s economists and researchers Patrick A. McLaughlin and Laura Stanley, the comments seem out of touch.

BarberWhile politicians from both major political parties often refer to income inequality as an issue that must be combatted, anti-poverty policies are mostly ineffective. In order to further their agenda, many of the politicians who promise to “do something” about the inequality problem often resort to higher tax rates and higher minimum wage policies once they get elected, making it even harder for uneducated and inexperienced individuals to make a living.

Being oblivious about the unintended consequences tied to minimum wage policies and higher taxes, researchers and economists from the Mercatus Center say, is what keeps our economy growth sluggish, and our poor from lifting themselves out of poverty.

Instead of repeating the same mistakes by passing more inefficient policies, free market advocates believe that there’s only one policy that will solve the so-called “inequality” problem for good: regulatory reform.

According to a Mercatus study released recently, regulation can be related to income inequality.

Researches argue that erecting barriers to entry ends up discouraging entrepreneurs at the bottom rungs of the income ladder to start a business. What researchers also found is that countries with more restricting entry regulations have higher levels of measured income inequality. Restrictions to entry makes the higher share of income go directly to the top 10 percent of earners, which is why regulatory reform is so important.

Occupational licensing and other policies that prolong the permitting processes are great examples of barriers that increase the cost of doing business. As a result of the enactment of these policies, low-income earners find it hard to join the market.

According to another recent study, the quality of service provided in many areas seldom changes when licensing is introduced. Currently, all states require licenses from truck drivers, pest control applicators, and even cosmetologists, making it harder for individuals to enter the market without a permit. In some states, even florists need a license to do business. With so many barriers, it’s no wonder low-income individuals prefer to steer away from these occupations, mostly because the cost of entering the market is too high.

While workers in the United States face fewer restrictions to enter the market when compared to several other countries, the regulatory cost of doing business is still too high. If America is serious about putting an end to income inequality, researchers argue, we must put an end to entry regulations that keep entrepreneurs from entering the market legally, not enact more barriers whose unintended consequences are bound to create even more inequality.

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?

Ammunition Against a Powerful Anti-Gun Rights Meme

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

Ammunition Against a Powerful Anti-Gun Rights Meme

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

You see and hear this phrase over and over again in the media: “the gun lobby.”

Frequently it is prefaced by the word “powerful” as in “the powerful gun lobby.”

gun controlIndeed, Google “powerful gun lobby” and you’ll find thousands of matches. Here are some examples from recent news stories:

“The powerful gun lobby has thwarted repeated attempts at firearm reforms, even after a host of horrific shootings…”

“However, the powerful gun lobby and its supporters in Congress have blocked the proposed measures…”

“His efforts to overhaul the nation’s gun laws have been thwarted time and time again by the powerful gun lobby…”

This is an extremely effective propaganda phrase that has worked its way into common and unthinking usage by journalists, politicians, and the public. One reason it is so effective is that many people don’t even realize that it is propaganda. Yet it is.

The phrase creates a potent meme. It instantly conjures up the image of a sinister, wealthy, scheming gun lobby constantly acting in opposition to the wishes and best interests of the vast majority of Americans. A small but extraordinarily effective lobby that controls politicians to prevent the rest of America from winning the popular, reasonable, workable, common-sense gun control measures that would save lives and make everyone safer.

This subtle, devastating phrase portrays most American citizens as standing helpless and endangered before this tiny but unstoppable lobby that cares more about guns and profits than human lives.

Yet this is an utterly false picture. First, polls show that the majority of Americans favor gun rights over gun control. Opposition to gun control has increased in recent decades. Polls vary on specific issues, but in general, and especially concerning the more draconian gun-rights restrictions, a majority or near-majority consistently favors gun liberty.

So the “powerful gun lobby,” far from being a small group of elites manipulating the political system, actually represents, generally speaking, theanti views of a majority or near-majority of Americans.

Second, the “powerful gun lobby” phrase conveniently ignores a crucial point: there exists a very powerful and highly influential anti-gun lobby in America. This anti-gun lobby is massive, well-funded, very active, and enjoys huge support from some of the most powerful people and institutions in America. The anti-gun lobby includes presidents, members of Congress, other office holders, billionaire supporters (Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, George Soros, Nick Hanauer, for example), journalists, celebrities, think tanks, advocacy groups… Indeed, most of the work of the “powerful gun lobby” is in response to the ceaseless efforts of this anti-gun-rights lobby to limit gun rights or abolish gun ownership outright.

Yet we seldom if ever hear anything about the “powerful anti-gun lobby.”

Which brings me to today’s communication tip. You can raise awareness of this — and begin refuting the ubiquitous and misleading “powerful gun lobby” meme — by simply using this phrase: “anti-gun lobby.” Or “the powerful anti-gun lobby.” Not in an argumentative or confrontational way, but in casual conversations about guns. Just drop it in:

“The anti-gun lobby is putting all their weight behind this new bill to outlaw private gun sales…”

“That’s the argument being made by the powerful anti-gun lobby. But as John Lott points out in his excellent book More Guns, Less Crime…”

I like the way “anti-gun lobby” parallels the familiar “gun lobby” phrase. This gets the attention of listeners.

Those who support gun freedom will find it refreshing to hear. Those who are undecided about the issue will find it intriguing. It will help cancel out the “powerful gun lobby” meme, help your listeners begin thinking outside the mental box that phrase creates, and open their minds to thinking further about other aspects of the gun issue.

Of course, use this along with the other rules of good libertarian communication, always remembering that our goal is opening minds and winning supporters, not engaging in fruitless arguments. (I discuss those rules, and many more ways to talk about gun rights, in my book How to Be A Super Communicator for Liberty.)

A “Devil’s Dictionary” of Washingtonese

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

WashingtoneseLibertarian journalist James Bovard — author of a dozen outstanding and eye-opening books including Lost RightsThe Bush Betrayal, and most recently Attention Deficit Democracy — has done Americans yet another service.

In an editorial for USA Today Bovard put together a short dictionary of “Washingtonese” — the slippery lingo that politicians, bureaucrats and other such nefarious critters use to hide what they really mean.

Or, as Bovard puts it, the government’s “nebulous nomenclature [that] deters citizens from recognizing exactly how well their elected leaders serve them.”

Here’s a sampling:

  • Historic — different than last week
  • Unprecedented — different than last month
  • Emergency — the gift that keeps giving
  • Truth — whatever people will swallow
  • Legacy — any political boast that survives more than three 24-hour news cycles
  • Handout — a government benefit received primarily by the supporters of the other party
  • Mandate — whatever a winning politician can get away with
  • Honorable — any public figure who has not yet been indicted
  • Bill of Rights — (archaic) political invocation popular in 1790s
  • Fair play — any process in which politicians or bureaucrats pick winners and losers
  • Rule of Law — the latest edicts from a deputy assistant Labor Secretary or deputy assistant HUD Secretary
  • Patriotic — any appeal that keeps people paying and obeying
  • Waste — federal spending that fails to generate laudatory headlines, votes or campaign contributions
  • Freedom — whatever rulers have not yet benevolently prohibited
  • Election — when voters are permitted to freely consent to one of the two aspiring despots offered by the major parties
  • Cynic — anyone who expresses doubt about the latest bipartisan agreement to gradually eliminate the federal budget deficit over the next 117 years
  • Anarchist — anyone who advocates across-the-board spending cuts of more than 3.63%
  • Scurrilous — anyone who mentions previous federal failures when the president proposes glorious new programs

For much more Bovardian wit and wisdom, see his USA Today article.

Should Vaccines Be Mandatory?

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

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: Should vaccines be mandatory?Should Vaccines Be Mandatory?

MY SHORT ANSWER: With the new surge of measles cases, many people are calling for mandatory (forced) vaccination. At first glance, their arguments seem reasonable. Measles can kill and the vaccine is reportedly about 95% effective. Side effects are claimed to be minimal, although serious outcomes are reported on pp. 6-8 of the package insert that comes with the vaccine, including measles itself.

Even if the vaccine had zero side effects and 100% effectiveness, forcing it upon children would start us down the slippery slope of allowing bureaucrats and politicians to decide what medications we MUST ingest or be injected with. Today’s pharmaceuticals have the power to alter our thinking, libido, and even our desire to live. Some schools already diagnose boisterous children, bored with the one-size-fits-all curriculum, as having some type of disorder, and demand that they be given medications that have serious side effects.

Ultimately, each of us must weigh the risks and benefits of what we eat and how we medicate. Choose wisely, and good health to you and yours!

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for additional reading, selected by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

* “Vaccine Controversy Shows Why We Need Markets, Not Mandates“ by Ron Paul, M.D., February 8, 2015. Excerpt: “If government can mandate that children receive vaccines, then why shouldn’t the government mandate that adults receive certain types of vaccines? And if it is the law that individuals must be vaccinated, then why shouldn’t police officers be empowered to physically force resisters to receive a vaccine? If the fear of infections from the unvaccinated justifies mandatory vaccine laws, then why shouldn’t police officers fine or arrest people who don’t wash their hands or cover their noses or mouths when they cough or sneeze in public? Why not force people to eat right and take vitamins in order to lower their risk of contracting an infectious disease? These proposals may seem outlandish, but they are no different in principle from the proposal that government force children to be vaccinated.”

* * *
Short Answers to the 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.

They Said It… With John Stossel, David Boaz, and More

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 20, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

THE FIRST AND ONLY: “BREAKING: Brian Williams becomes first person in human history to suffer professional consequences for lying about the Iraq War.” — tweet from Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress, February 10, 2015.

GOP VS. MEDICAL FREEDOM: “House Republicans have voted yet again to repeal Obamacare. … Of course, there is a greater chance that the sun will not rise tomorrow than that Obama would sign the bill to repeal the healthcare law that bears his name. But if the Republicans are so interested in a free market in health care, why don’t they vote to repeal Medicaid, Medicare, and Bushcare (the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003)? The answer is that Republicans and conservatives don’t believe in medical freedom at all.” — Laurence M. Vance, “The Stupid Party Strikes Again,” LewRockwell.com blog, February 4, 2015.

RAND PAUL SLAMS NSA: “It’s none of their damn business what you do on your phone.” — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), criticizing the National Security Agency (NSA) during a rally in Ames, Iowa, February 6, 2015.

JOHN STOSSEL ON POLITICIANS, TAPEWORMS AND OTHER PARASITES:
John Stossel“Compare politicians and politicians’ cronies to tapeworms and ticks. Like parasites in nature, the ticks on the body politic don’t want to kill the host organism — meaning us. It’s in politicians’ and regulators’ interest to keep the host alive so they can keep eating our food and sucking our blood. After watching members of Congress applaud President Obama during his last State of the Union address, I came to think that politicians were worse than tapeworms and ticks. … At least tapeworms and ticks don’t expect us to clap.” — award-winning libertarian journalist John Stossel, “Parasites,” syndicated column, February 4, 2015.

LIBERTARIANISM, AMERICA’S CORE PHILOSOPHY: “Libertarianism, a belief in what Adam Smith David Boazcalled ‘the obvious and simple system of natural liberty,’ is the core philosophy of America. The first colonists fled aristocratic Europe to find religious liberty, individualism, and economic opportunity. They declared their belief in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. American history has been a struggle between liberty and power, between those who wanted to defend and extend the liberties guaranteed in the Constitution and those who wanted to make the United States more like the countries our ancestors left, with powerful and paternalistic government. Throughout our history, libertarian sentiments have been rekindled when the federal government has grown beyond what Americans will tolerate — such as the past few years. … Libertarianism is the framework for a future of freedom, growth, and progress, and it may be on the verge of a political breakout.” — Cato Institute executive vice president David Boaz, “Libertarianism Is on the Verge of a Political Breakout,” TIME, Feb. 5, 2015. Check out Boaz’s great new book The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom.

Libertarian Party: Shut Down CIA, Prosecute Torturers

in Communicating Liberty by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 24 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The Libertarian Party says there’s only one way to deal with the new revelations of CIA torture and the tortureagency’s long history of other crimes: shut down the CIA and other rogue, out-of-control spy agencies.

Says Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas J. Sarwark:

“The CIA’s practice of torture confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Report released on December 9 shows the agency engaged in reprehensible and illegal behaviors that were, in effect, war crimes.

“The CIA and politicians redacted the bulk of the government’s report, which remains withheld from public view. One can only speculate as to the additional horrors that lie within the rest of the report, given the gravity of what was revealed.

“These acts of torture were immoral, disgusting, and un-American. And… they were ineffective.

“Yet the CIA and the Department of Justice, which sanctioned the torture, claim that it was legal and exhibit a shocking lack of remorse for the brutality inflicted on its victims.

“Whether it’s choking a man to death for selling loose cigarettes in New York or torturing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, the government refuses to prosecute government employees who brutalize the vulnerable. When the government investigates itself, it almost always clears itself of any wrongdoing.

“This is why we must shut down the CIA.”

Sarwark points out that the 70-year history of the CIA is ” littered with episodes of human rights violations, illegal activities, and deception,” including:

  • Targeted killings and assassinations
  • Overthrowing democratically elected governments
  • Human experimentation, including giving the hallucinogenic drug LSD to U.S. and Canadian citizens without their knowledge
  • Dealing heroin in Asia
  • Spying on Americans, members of congress, and foreign leaders
  • Shipping war prisoners to foreign countries where torture is permissible (“extraordinary rendition”)
  • Lying to Congress

“Government-sanctioned torture is bipartisan,” Sarwark adds, noting that Republican President George W. Bush authorized the torture revealed in the Senate report, and President Barack Obama granted him full immunity. Torturers still hold high positions in government.

“Famed journalist Glenn Greenwald said ‘The Obama administration’s aggressive, full-scale whitewashing of the ‘War on Terror’ crimes committed by Bush officials is now complete.’

“Whereas Democrats and Republicans have continually funded and encouraged CIA war crimes, the Libertarian Party has consistently and strongly opposed the use of torture, mass surveillance, and human rights violations by the U.S. government throughout the party’s 43-year history.

“The Libertarian Party calls for real accountability, including prosecuting all of those who authorized and performed these brutal acts.”

Your Tax Dollars Paid for Swedish Massages for Rabbits

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

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

Politicians are warning us that the government is broke. It’s time for higher taxes and belt-tightening. Citizens need to pay more and expect less.

But still, our leaders heroically scraped together funding for the most important, the most fundamental, the most essential government functions.

Like providing Swedish massages to rabbits.

Yep. The National Institutes of Health spent $387,000 on this project. Yes, that’s the same NIH whose director says they “probably” would have come up with a vaccine for Ebola by now, if it wasn’t for low funding (they only get $30 billion a year).

And that’s just the beginning. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has released his annual Wastebook report.

Wastebook 2014: What Washington Doesn’t Want You To Read“ identifies “100 silly, unnecessary, and low priority projects” that lay bare Washington’s loony spending priorities. Wastebook

Total bill for these one hundred projects? A whopping $25 billion. And, Sen. Coburn warns, this is “just a fraction of the countless frivolous projects the government funded in the past twelve months — with borrowed money and your tax dollars.”

Sen. Coburn further notes: “Despite all of this obvious waste, Washington politicians celebrated ending the fiscal year with a deficit under half-a-trillion dollars for the first time since 2008 — as if adding $486 billion to a national debt quickly approaching $18 trillion is an actual accomplishment deserving praise.”

Here are a few more choice items from Coburn’s Wastebook 2014:

  • $856,000 to teach mountain lions to use treadmills.
  • $307,524 to study whether sea monkeys can be trained to swim. 
  • $371,026 to study whether mothers love their dogs as much as their own children.
  • $804,254 for a video game to empower parents to persuade their kids to eat vegetables.

Just skimming the table of contents rewards you with items like these below. And each one is accompanied by a jaw-dropping description that will have you thinking you’re reading the humorous parody site The Onion:

  • Roosevelt and Elvis Make a Hallucinatory Pilgrimage to Graceland
  • NASA Wonders How Humans Will React to Meeting Space Aliens
  • Anti-Terror Grant Buys State-of-the-Art SWAT Equipment for Safest Small Town in America
  • Spouses Stab Voodoo Dolls More Often When “Hangry,” Study Reveals
  • Scientists Hope Gambling Monkeys Unlock Secrets of Free Will
  • Paid Vacations for Bureaucrats Gone Wild 
  • Taxpayers Help NY Brewery Build Beer Farm
  • Free “High-End” Gym Memberships for DHS Bureaucrats
  • USDA’s “Perfect Poop Pak” Smells Like Government Waste

Page after page, the idiocy and waste goes on and on. Read the whole thing here.

Word Choices: Pro-Market, Not Pro-Business

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Libertarianism by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Libertarians enormously appreciate the positive contributions so many businesses have made to our

world.

Because of this, libertarians are sometimes labeled “pro-business.”

But this is incorrect — and misleading.

Libertarians are not “pro-business.” We are “pro-market” — a very different thing.

The distinction is a vital one.

Libertarians support a free market where businesses are free to enter a field and offer their goods and services, in competition with any and all others who wish to do the same.

The resulting competition brings ever-better goods and services. Lower prices. Innovation. More convenience and more choice.

The companies that succeed in this free market competition do so by doing the best job of pleasing customers. Those that fail to sufficiently please consumers go out of business. The consumer is king.

This is the market process that libertarians strongly support.

But being “pro-business” is an entirely different thing. Politicians, lobbyists, economists, pundits and others who are pro-business — or who favor a particular business entity — may lobby for special favors for a particular business or area of commerce.

This may be pro-business. But it is anti-market.

Many who are pro-business want government to help particular businesses or industries that are unable to compete effectively. Sometimes they want government to use political power and tax dollars to entice a business to locate in a particular area.

Pro-business forces may want to prop up a favored business with bailouts of tax dollars or with other tax grants. They often call for punitive taxes on competition that challenges the favored business (especially if that competition is foreign). They may offer special zoning privileges to favored businesses. They may call on the government to seize private property through eminent domain and give it to a favored business.

Pro-business forces may endorse licensing, education requirements, regulations and other obstacles that protect favored businesses from competition. It often surprises people to learn that many large businesses love government regulation because it limits their competition. But as Nobel Prize winning economist George Stigler wrote: “…as a rule, regulation is acquired by the industry and is designed and operated primarily for its benefit.”

Governments may declare a business is “too big to fail” and thus deserves a huge taxpayer bailout. Or that a field is crucial to the “public interest,” and thus deserving of subsidies and special treatment; agriculture is a prime example.

You get the picture. All of this is done by pro-business people. And all of it is deeply, profoundly, anti-market.

In an excellent article on this topic, “‘Free Market’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Pro-Business“ economist Art Carden quotes a great passage from the book The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley:

“I hold no brief for large corporations, whose inefficiencies, complacencies, and anti-competitive tendencies often drive me as crazy as the next man. Like Milton Friedman, I notice that ‘business corporations in general are not defenders of free enterprise. On the contrary, they are one of the chief sources of danger.’ They are addicted to corporate welfare, they love regulations that erect barriers to entry to their small competitors, they yearn for monopoly and they grow flabby and inefficient with age.”

The fruits of the pro-business mindset — taxes, unfairness, lack of competition and choice, over-priced goods and services, unemployment — are often the things that people hate most about our economic system. People naturally blame this on free enterprise, on the market system. Yet it is the pro-business mindset — not the market — that is responsible for these ills.

Let me give Art Carden the (almost) final word:

“In a free market, you are welcome, and indeed encouraged, to enter the mousetrap industry if you think you can build a better mousetrap or find a way to make similar mousetraps more efficiently. The other side of that coin is that you will be encouraged to leave the mousetrap industry if it turns out that your mousetraps are not better, but inferior.

“A ‘free market’ agenda is not the same thing as a ‘pro business’ agenda. Businesses should not be protected from competition, losses, and bankruptcy when they fail to deliver for the customer. All three are essential to truly free markets and free enterprise.”

Don’t use the label “pro-business.” And politely but firmly reject it if someone attempts to label you that way. Respond that you are pro-market, not pro-business. And explain the difference.

Woody Harrelson: People Would Do Fine Without Government

in Communicating Liberty by Advocates HQ Comments are off

Woody HarrelsonWoody Harrelson is one of the world’s most famous and respected film stars. He’s also well known as an outspoken activist for causes including civil liberties, peace, environmental issues and relegalizing marijuana.

In an interview in the June / July 2013 Issue of Details magazine Harrelson expands on his political views — revealing a strong skepticism about politics and politicians and declaring, among other things, that he’s an anarchist who thinks people would get along just fine without the State.

Excerpts: 

WOODY HARRELSON: I tend to not like politicians, because it’s a subtle form of prostitution. Or maybe not so subtle.

DETAILS: So you dislike Democrats as much as you dislike the GOP?

WOODY HARRELSON: It’s all synchronized swimming to me. They all kneel and kiss the ring. Who’s going to take on the oil industry or the medical industry? People compare Obama to Lyndon Johnson, but I think a better comparison is between Obama and Nixon. Because Nixon came into office saying he was going to pull out of Vietnam, and then he escalated the war. A lot of us were led to believe that Obama was the peace president, but there are still, I think, 70,000 troops in Afghanistan.

DETAILS: You’re an advocate for legalizing marijuana. Do you think recent events make it more likely?

WOODY HARRELSON: I can’t imagine that it’s going to happen, no. The deeper issue is, what does it mean to live in a free country? In the U.S., something like 80 percent of people in prison are there for “consensual crimes.”

DETAILS: Do you want to get more involved in politics?

WOODY HARRELSON: No. I don’t believe in politics. I’m an anarchist, I guess you could say. I think people could be just fine looking after themselves.