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It’s About Liberty, Not Technology

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

It’s About Liberty, Not Technology

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

Last month actor Mark Hamill, an advocate of gun control, posted this tweet to his nearly one million followers:

“Don’t get me wrong, as a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment [sic]—I believe in every American’s right to own a musket.”

right-to-bear-musketsIn doing so, Hamill was repeating an anti-gun argument that’s frequently heard and is surprisingly widespread.

This argument says that the Second Amendment was written over two centuries ago, before today’s modern firearms had been invented. Therefore, the Second Amendment only protects a right to keep and bear muskets and other primitive firearms common at the time.

You might think that this is a satirical remark, more snarky than a real argument.

Yet many opponents of the right to keep and bear arms actually intend this as a serious argument. Even those who use it half-jokingly often believe it makes a legitimate point.

For example, journalist Piers Morgan tweeted this in 2012:

“The 2nd amendment was devised with muskets in mind, not high-powered handguns & assault rifles. Fact.”

I could cite many more. Versions of this argument are circulating on the Internet.

How might libertarians effectively respond to this? One obvious way is to apply the same logic to other amendments.

The First Amendment, which defends freedom of speech and freedom of the press, was written before the Internet, television, radio, DVDs, cell phones and other forms of personal and mass communication.

Yet most Americans, especially liberals and progressives who favor gun control, certainly recognize that the First Amendment protects such modern communication as well.

No First Amendment activist would argue that a newspaper must be printed on 18th century technology to have First Amendment protection. What could be sillier?

Similarly, most reasonable people see that the Fourth Amendment protection of privacy clearly applies to modern technology such as cellphones, laptops, and so on.

In some circumstances, it may also be useful to point out that this issue has already been settled — and quite forcefully — by the Supreme Court.

In fact, in the landmark 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision, the Court declared this argument was “bordering on the frivolous.”

Wrote the Court:

“Some have made the argument, bordering on the frivolous, that only those arms in existence in the 18th century are protected by the Second Amendment. We do not interpret constitutional rights that way. Just as the First Amendment protects modern forms of communications… and the Fourth Amendment applies to modern forms of search… the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”

The Supreme Court drove the point home just last month in Caetano v. Massachusetts, which concerned a woman who carried a stun gun for self defense:

“While stun guns were not in existence at the end of the 18th century, the same is true for the weapons most commonly used today for self-defense, namely, revolvers and semiautomatic pistols. Revolvers were virtually unknown until well into the 19th century, and semiautomatic pistols were not invented until near the end of that century. Electronic stun guns are no more exempt from the Second Amendment’s protections, simply because they were unknown to the First Congress, than electronic communications are exempt from the First Amendment, or electronic imaging devices are exempt from the Fourth Amendment.”

These are powerful, even devastating, arguments from logic, history and authority that pretty much lay waste to the argument that the Second Amendment is limited to protecting our right to black powder muskets. But… there’s one more important point to make.

We should always remember our purpose as communicators. In most communications and conversations, we should seek to win others to our side, not just to win arguments.

So, rather than just responding with the powerful arguments above, take a moment first to listen to those making these arguments and try to uncover their genuine concerns. Are they worried about our society becoming more violent? Are they fearful of more children being victims of mass shootings? Are they advocates of nonviolence who have adopted an anti-gun position?

These are all legitimate, admirable, understandable concerns. Let your listeners know that you share their concerns (if you do) and then point out that there are libertarian answers — solutions — to all of them. By identifying and addressing the underlying concerns, you can try to win them to our side, or at least to a better and more sympathetic understanding of our views. That’s a lot better than merely winning an argument, but making a permanent enemy.

If the conversation allows it, you could go even further and point out that, to many libertarians, the right to keep and bear arms is rooted in the fundamental libertarian idea that people should be free to do anything they wish as long as they don’t harm others. A conversation that reaches this level can be very rewarding.

There are specific communication methods you can use to respond in such effective ways, and I have compiled many of the best of them in my book How to Be a Super Communicator for Liberty: Successfully Sharing Libertarian Ideas.

Please check it out.

Apple Wins Court Battle Against FBI, and the Immorality of the Surveillance State is Exposed

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Comments are off

 Apple Wins Court Battle Against FBI, and the Immorality of the Surveillance State is Exposed

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

As privacy advocates urge the federal government to stop pressuring Apple to create a backdoor to its iPhone, a move that would essentially undermine the company’s own encryption software, the company has just won big in a federal court.

iPhoneAccording to The Intercept, the ongoing battle between the tech company and the surveillance state could turn out bitter for the federal agency since a New York federal magistrate judge has just rejected one of the US government’s requests.

The criminal case involves an iPhone whose encrypted system has put its data out of the reach of the FBI. Apple was asked to aid investigators, but Magistrate Judge James Orenstein ruled against the government’s request.

The iPhone in question belongs to Jun Feng. Back in October, he pleaded guilty to drug charges. While the Drug Enforcement Administration seized Feng’s phone, it claimed it was unable to access its data. As both the DEA and the FBI tried to break the code, they also claimed they were unable to overcome Apple’s security measures.

As a result, a motion was filed, and the company was ordered to assist the investigation “under the authority of the All Writs Act,” a piece of legislation that is also being used by the FBI to force Apple to help investigators with the phone belonging to the San Bernardino killers.

Apple rejected the request on both cases. According to The Intercept, the government has requested the company to aid investigators in at least nine other occasions.

Using previous decisions pertaining to the interpretation of the All Writs Act, Judge Orenstein concluded that “imposing on Apple the obligation to assist the government’s investigation against its will” was not justified by the law. The question raised by the government’s requests, Judge Orenstein added, is whether the All Writs Act gives a court the power to compel Apple to perform work that goes against its will. Apple, the private party in the matter, has no alleged involvement with the criminal activity involving Feng, therefore the federal government has no legal means to compel Apple to create a backdoor to its product.

To Glenn Greenwald, the privacy advocate and journalist involved with the dissemination of information leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Orenstein’s ruling clarifies that the purpose of the request put forth by the FBI is not directly tied to the data evidence. Instead, Greenwald argues, FBI wants to broaden its authority, giving the federal government precedential authority to force other tech companies to undermine their own security systems in future investigations.

To privacy—and liberty—advocates, Apple’s decision makes sense.

In an article for the Foundation for Economic Education, Andrea Castillo explains that Apple has decided to put its consumers first. A move that goes against the attitude embraced by many corporations that “serve as quiet collaborators for the surveillance state to avoid retribution from the government.”

To Dr. Ron Paul, the former congressman and founder of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, the United States is not East Germany. Complying with the FBI’s order would represent a major threat to liberty.

If Greenwald is right, the recent court ruling could help privacy advocates in their fight against the federal government’s overreach. But is the over reliance on the courts the best move?

Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) have both claimed that the FBI’s request is unconstitutional. The recent court ruling may confirm the fact the FBI wanted more than a simple aid in their investigations, but the fact the requests were unconstitutional—and immoral—should be enough to give anyone enough reasons to say no to the surveillance state.

Freedom Is Indivisible

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

Freedom Is Indivisible

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

Economic freedom. Civil freedom. Religious freedom. Sexual freedom. Personal freedom. Political freedom.

Freedom is popular.

freedomAs such, some attempt to position themselves as its champions, by defining which carefully-worded sliver of freedom they feel comfortable permitting you to exercise.

Libertarians believe that freedom, while formed from many components, is indivisible. 

While some may value their economic freedom over their political or civil freedom, without the political freedom to choose between candidates and ideas and civil liberties to ensure that government has not improperly imprisoned the dissidents, economic freedom cannot exist.

The freedom to live your religious convictions cannot survive in an environment without the freedom to choose your mate or to have the ability to support your church financially.

Essentially, each aspect of freedom is interdependent on the others, and when you try to dissect and distribute only parts of the whole, freedom does not really exist. When only slivers are permitted, none of us live free.

As documented in the Declaration of Independence, rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were paramount in the founding of America. Our freedom engenders our ability live our lives as we see fit without the force or coercion of others.

This week, our friends at The CATO Institute and the Fraser Institute released the Human Freedom Index, which “presents the state of human freedom in the world based on a broad measure that encompasses personal, civil, and economic freedom.”

As you will note, the United States is no longer the leading bastion of liberty we once were, falling to 20th out of 152 countries measured in the index. Expansion of the regulatory state, multiple “wars” (terror, drugs, poverty, etc.), and the victories of eminent domain and civil asset forfeiture over property rights all contribute to our loss of freedom. None of those factors is exclusively detrimental to one aspect of freedom, yet they all undermine our overall freedom.

So, the next time you hear someone espouse their love for their preferred aspect, remind them that freedom is indivisible, and that without all of it, none of us are truly free.

What Do You Think About the War on Drugs?

in Conversations With My Boys, Drugs, Liberator Online by Comments are off

What Do You Think About the War on Drugs?

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

Me (The Libertarian Homeschooler): What do you think about the war on drugs?
War on Drugs Is a War on UsYS (Young Statesman, 14): I think it’s none of the state’s business what we can or cannot put into our bodies and what we can or cannot do with our money.
Me: But a lot of people die from drug overdoses. For whatever reason you aren’t likely to do that, but shouldn’t other people be protected from drugs and drug overdoses? Should they just be thrown to the wolves? Don’t we care about them?
YS: You’ve made a emotional argument.
Me: How do you combat that?
YS: You could say, “Are you saying it is the responsibility of the state to protect people from making bad choices?”
Me: Right. That’s the argument that the state should protect people from bad choices wrapped in a veiled personal attack: “You don’t care about other people. You’re a bad person.” But there’s another argument. Who determines what goes into your body? Who owns your body? That’s the most compelling argument.
YS: Do you own you or does the state own you?
Me: Yes. I think that’s the most important argument. Property rights. Who owns you? That can get lost. Why did it become difficult when it became about you caring about other people?
YS: Because it became an emotional argument.
Me: How did it feel when it became an emotional argument?
YS: Oh, God. Not this again.
Me: It’s a trap.
YS: It makes your brain stop working as well.
Me: What do you have to do when faced with a emotional argument?
YS: Think about the argument that’s being given to you. You have to make it about property rights again.
Me: Is that because most arguments boil down to property rights?
YS: If you’re arguing about feels, it’s because the other person is trying to shut the argument down. Most arguments are actually about property. You have to remove the emotion. You can’t follow that trail. That’s not the real argument.
Me: Is it possible that the other person doesn’t know the real argument? They don’t know what’s at stake?
YS: Yeah. They think it’s about protecting people from a small danger but there’s a bigger danger. You are trying to show them the rest of the picture. Yes, it’s important for people not to overdose but property rights are more important.
Me: The denial of property rights, in my opinion, is the greatest evil. When we deny people their property rights we have to tell lies and create systems to justify the denial. Those lies and those systems lead to violence and slaughter.

Ron Paul: My New Year’s Resolutions for Congress

in Liberator Online by Advocates HQ Comments are off

(From the Libertarian’s New Year’s Resolutions section in Volume 19, No. 27 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In late December 2012, as he approached retirement from Congress, Ron Paul presented some New Year’s resolutions for his fellow members of Congress to ponder. 

If anything, they’re more relevant today than ever, and we’re pleased to share them with you. 

* * *

Ron PaulAs I prepare to retire from Congress, I’d like to suggest a few New Year’s resolutions for my colleagues to consider. For the sake of liberty, peace, and prosperity I certainly hope more members of Congress consider the strict libertarian constitutional approach to government…

In just a few days, Congress will solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against ALL enemies, foreign and domestic.  They should reread Article 1 Section 8 and the Bill of Rights before taking such a serious oath. Most legislation violates key provisions of the Constitution in very basic ways, and if members can’t bring themselves to say no in the face of pressure from special interests, they have broken trust with their constituents and violated their oaths. Congress does not exist to serve special interests, it exists to protect the rule of law.

I also urge my colleagues to end unconstitutional wars overseas. Stop the drone strikes; stop the covert activities and meddling in the internal affairs of other nations. Strive to observe “good faith and justice towards all Nations” as George Washington admonished. We are only making more enemies, wasting lives, and bankrupting ourselves with the neoconservative, interventionist mindset that endorses pre-emptive war that now dominates both parties.

All foreign aid should end because it is blatantly unconstitutional. While it may be a relatively small part of our federal budget, for many countries it is a large part of theirs — and it creates perverse incentives for both our friends and enemies. There is no way members of Congress can know or understand the political, economic, legal, and social realities in the many nations to which they send taxpayer dollars.

Congress needs to stop accumulating more debt. U.S. debt, monetized by the Federal Reserve, is the true threat to our national security. Revisiting the parameters of Article 1 Section 8 would be a good start.

Congress should resolve to respect personal liberty and free markets. Learn more about the free market and how it regulates commerce and produces greater prosperity better than any legislation or regulation. Understand that economic freedom IS freedom. Resolve not to get in the way of voluntary contracts between consenting adults. Stop bailing out failed yet politically connected companies and industries. Stop forcing people to engage in commerce when they don’t want to, and stop prohibiting them from buying and selling when they do want to. Stop trying to legislate your ideas of fairness. Protect property rights. Protect the individual. That is enough.

There are many more resolutions I would like to see my colleagues in Congress adopt, but respect for the Constitution and the oath of office should be at the core of everything members of Congress do in 2013.

VIDEO: The Pilgrims and Property Rights — How Our Ancestors Got Fat & Happy

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 22 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Thanks to ReasonTV for a short and funny video that covers the essential points of property rights and free enterprise we explored in this article.

Great for sharing online with friends and family. About 2:30 minutes.

They Said It… With George Will, David Boaz, Judge Napolitano and More

in Communicating Liberty by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 22 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

FEDS ATTACK PILGRIMS AS “ILLEGAL ALIENS”
George Will“The Agriculture Department . . . stresses sensitivity. A video of its ‘cultural sensitivity training’ shows employees being instructed to call the Pilgrims who created Thanksgiving ‘illegal aliens.’ Of course there were no immigration laws to make any one of the first Thanksgivings illegal — for which fact, give thanks. Someday, if there is no Agriculture Department, more thanks to be given.” — George Will, “Pardon These Turkeys,” Washington Post, November 27, 2013.

JUDGE NAPOLITANO ASKS WHAT IF: “What if Thanksgiving exposes the government?

“What if another Thanksgiving Day is upon us and because of the governmentJudge Andrew Napolitano we have less to be thankful for than we did at the last one? What if at every Thanksgiving liberty is weakened and the government is strengthened?

“What if Thanksgiving’s warm and breezy seduction of gratitude is just the government’s way of inducing us to think we should be grateful for it?

“What if we don’t owe the government any thanks for anything? What if the government owes us back all the freedom and property it has stolen from us? What if the government has produced nothing and owns nothing, save what it has coerced us to give it?” — opening of Judge Andrew P. Napolitano column, “What if Thanksgiving exposes the government?” November 28, 2013.

OPEN ON THANKSGIVING: “Some 200 retailers nationally opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day, and a lot of others did so at midnight. Shoes, jewelry, sporting goods, flat-screen TVs, fancy chocolate — if you wanted it, you could buy it before the football games were finished.

“This development provokes all sorts of laments. Family togetherness is getting short shrift. Commercialism has become an epidemic. The urge to buy has trampled more wholesome traditions.

“The critics may be right. But what is most obvious in the expanding store hours is an item of good news: In America, the consumer is king. …

“It’s all proof that a free-market economy serves the interests of ordinary people. Stores don’t open on Thanksgiving because they want to; they open because shoppers reward those that do, at the expense of those that don’t. For consumers, it may be a reason to abbreviate the holiday festivities, but it’s also grounds for gratitude.” — syndicated columnist Steve Chapman, “How the Consumer Became King: Capitalism Empowers Ordinary People” November 29, 2012.

SO MUCH TO BE THANKFUL FOR: “A Kenyan boy who managed to get to the United States told a reporter for Woman’s World magazine that America is ‘heaven.’ Compared to countries that lack the rule of law, equality, property rights, free markets, and freedom of speech and worship, it certainly is. A good point to keep in mind this Thanksgiving Day.” — Cato Institute Executive Vice President David Boaz, “What to Be Thankful For,” Washington Times, November 25, 2004.

Ayn Rand and American Indians

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Property Rights by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: How do libertarians feel about this Ayn Rand statement: “[The Native Americans] didn’t have any rights to the land and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using… [W]hat was it that they were fighting for, if they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence. Their right to keep part of the earth untouched, unused, and not even as property, but just keep everybody out, so that you can live practically like an animal, or maybe a few caves above it…. Any white person who could bring the element of civilization had the right to take over this country.”

MY SHORT ANSWER: I’ve never seen this comment before; thanks for sharing! Most libertarians — myself included — would disagree with it.

Native Americans did conceive of, and recognize, property rights for scarce resources, such as Naturefishing rights in rivers, which were generally held and passed down in families. Land property wasn’t usually scarce; property rights usually aren’t well-defined when a resource is abundant, since there is no competition for it. Consequently, Native Americans often did not establish land boundaries, homestead particular parcels, or recognize land claims. Some exceptions included an individual or family’s farmed fields and tribal hunting grounds.

Although by European standards, the Native American existence might be considered primitive, the land wasn’t untouched or unused. Native Americans used the land primarily to hunt, to fish, and to farm, but used sustainable practices to insure future sources of food. Natives living in our rainforests today are in a similar position as Native Americans were; libertarians often donate to a legal fund so that they can litigate for recognition of their homesteading claims.

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for further reading on this topic, from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

* “The most ignorant thing Ayn Rand ever said?“ by Timothy Sandefur. Sandefur , a Pacific Legal Foundation attorney, Cato Institute adjunct scholar, author of several books, and Objectivist, thoughtfully examines the quote, Rand’s fallacies on this issue, and the context of her remarks.

SequoyahEXCERPT: “I consider myself an Objectivist; I think Ayn Rand’s philosophical and political arguments are basically correct, and I enjoy her literature tremendously. But I think it’s important for Objectivists to acknowledge when Rand was wrong about something, and there can be no doubt she was wrong [in this quote]… The Cherokee had property rights, as well as a written constitution, newspapers, a formal government, schools, and a capital city. Other tribes had similar institutions… I think it’s safe to say that Ayn Rand knew virtually nothing about the history of American Indians. In part this is no fault of hers, since historiography and cultural anthropology at that time was pretty shabby, and because that was a period when the silly leftist romanticization of Indians was first reaching a height which is only now diminishing.”

* “Dances With Myths“ by Terry L. Anderson, Reason Magazine, February 1997. Anderson is executive director of the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) and a leading free market environmentalist. In this article he gives numerous examples of how, at times, American Indians established and defended property rights.

EXCERPT: “American Indian tribes produced and sustained abundant wealth because they had clear property rights to land, fishing and hunting territories, and personal property. Pre-Columbian Indian history is replete with examples of property rights conditioning humans’ relations with the natural environment.”