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Putting Freedom First

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Putting Freedom First

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On Tuesday evening, I had the opportunity to attend a debate between the candidates for U.S. Senate, here in Indianapolis.

It went about as I expected. We had one candidate who was the walking embodiment of the television commercials we see during every commercial break. We had a second who was an emotionless robot, who spent the entire debate ducking and dodging the charges that were aimed at him. Luckily, we had a third candidate who was there as well, and is a passionate advocate for liberty. She talked about the issues that are actually important to me, and I believe, are important to those voting on November 8th.

The beauty of her message is that she actually got noticed, while the other two spent the entire hour slinging mud at one another, from the introductions to the very end of the debate.

In the end, headline coverage focused on those two and the “politics as usual,” as well as the games that they play, using their focus grouped talking points and all the things that tested really well. Coverage that included the third candidate actually pointed out that she, because of her authenticity and the way that she was talking about issues that were no only important to her, but connecting to the people who watched that debate, she came out the winner.

In the past, we’ve talked about the “Most Important Election of our Lifetime,” and what a fallacy that can be, because we both know that liberty isn’t gained or lost with one vote, one election, or with one issue. What we have is an opportunity that we need to seize. We need to take advantage of the attention and the focus that’s placed on what’s happening before us.

This is our opportunity to live a libertarian life… To be that shining example of what libertarianism offers, as we work toward a freer society.

We also need to support others who do the same. Our support for them will also have them supporting us.

And, when we find that there is a candidate for office that we CAN vote for, we SHOULD, because we have an opportunity to do the most important thing that we can as libertarians to change hearts and minds…

And that’s putting freedom first.

Do What You Say You’ll Do

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Do What You Say You’ll Do

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There are many approaches to summarizing libertarian philosophy, whether it’s “The Golden Rule,”rugged individualism, or the complete works of Ayn Rand.

doPersonally, I embrace Richard Maybury’s approach most, when he introduces two laws in “Whatever Happened to Justice?“:

  1. Do all you have agreed to do, and
  2. Do not encroach on other persons or their property.

I find that most libertarians handle the second of those laws quite well, as most of us subscribe to the non-aggression principle. Where we can ALL, libertarian and non-libertarian alike, use a bit of help is with the first.

Carl Jung is quoted as saying, “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”

What you do, or don’t do, is the foundation of your reputation to others. We’ve all heard that someone’s reputation precedes them, and a reputation can often tell others more about you that any words you may communicate. Keeping in mind that you might be the first libertarian someone has met, shouldn’t you be a shining example for who and what we are?

When we can’t live up to doing what we say we will do, we lose our credibility. Losing credibility is a deal breaker for someone trying to persuade others to examine libertarianism. It’s like putting a question mark at the end of every promise we make and every position we take. Would you really want to take a chance on losing that trust? We have many other things to overcome without having to rebuild credibility.

So, how can we make sure we live up to part of living a libertarian lifestyle and embracing #1 above?

First, don’t take on too much. Often, we see a void and we step up to fill it. As a former manager in the service industry, I realize that we often over promise and under deliver, but if we flip that, we can make sure we meet our commitments by setting reasonable expectations and wowing with our results. Switch to an “under promise, over deliver” approach and see the results of keeping things under control.

Next, honestly evaluate the level of effort or time necessary to do a good job meeting the commitments you make. Something may seem to be quick or easy on the surface, but it can really bite you when it’s more complex than you first thought. Being honest about what it will take, along with not taking on too much will help you to do what you say you’ll do.

Finally, when you can’t make things happen on the timeline you’ve set, make sure you you offer explanations, not excuses. Excuses are flimsy, and the real reason is often the better route, especially if it’s humbling.

Are you ready to do what you way you’ll do?

We Are Changing Lives

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We Are Changing Lives

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Not to exaggerate things, but life-changing moments happen every day. With every interaction, we act in a way that can change someone’s life. We have the potential to use this for a variety of outcomes, whether positive, negative, or neutral. The best part is WE influence the outcome.

When we consider that we might be the first libertarian those we encounter ever meet, we have an opportunity to make an awesome first impression.

ChangingAs libertarians, we should embrace the opportunity to change people’s lives for the better. We can open others’ eyes to a world where peace, prosperity, and liberty thrive, rather than living in the shadow of a government that dictates to us our lives and actions. Do you remember how your life changed when you embraced libertarianism?

So, how can we share that experience with everyone?

We can change lives by making a positive impact on everyone we meet, and this doesn’t happen strictly at outreach booths. It isn’t even hard to accomplish. The key is being aware that every interaction is potentially life-changing and acting accordingly to make each of them positive for others.

When we adopt a mindset that we are ambassadors to libertarianism with everyone we meet, we are always “on.” That mindset shift to make a positive impact attracts people to you, and you can be a shining example to them of what it means to be a libertarian.

This approach not only augments our outreach beyond scheduled events, we create other ambassadors for our actions as they are attracted to us. By building relationships with those we attract, we can also add the fun of fellowship to the mix. A fun-loving, positive group of people engage others and bring more into their circle. That growth breeds further growth, and a cohesive, attractive group of people will continue to grow in their size and influence.

As our peer groups grow in this manner, we’ll continue to add more libertarians to the fold. In turn, that means a more libertarian mindset as we continue toward the critical mass necessary to impact society as whole, going beyond our pockets here and there. We’ve built quite a movement, and we need to continue it’s growth, winning over hearts and minds to bring about a freer society.

As we’ve discussed before, libertarianism won’t suddenly catch on, taking hold all at once, with one election or one law being passed, like you might flip on a light switch. While the light of liberty shines bright for you and me, there are many for whom it’s quite dim.

Let’s turn up the dimmer switch to brighten their lives too.

Show Before Tell

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Show Before Tell

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

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

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

How can you do it?

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

 

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

Slacktivism: You Can Do More

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Slacktivism: You Can Do More

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

I’ve worn ribbons. I’ve liked, shared, favorited, retweeted, and pinned things on social media. I’ve sported a sticker on my laptop.

Facebook LikeBut did any of that really accomplish anything? When looking at the direct effect of those activities, there was no measurable impact.

So, why bother with what I call slacktivism? (I’ll answer this shortly.)

Where is there a measurable impact?

  • Tabling/Outreach Booth – Setting up a table at an existing event and meeting new people is a great way to find new people for your group, your issue, or your philosophy. When you’re in college, there’s always an opportunity to table. Once you’re out, however, it gets pricier and a bit more difficult, but it can be done. Gun shows, book fairs, holiday festivals, and town celebrations are a prime opportunity to reach out to the local community for the post-college readers.
  • Going Door-to-Door – While this sounds like a strictly candidate or party politics activity, it can be something that gets noticed by your neighbors. If you are active in your community or highly visible, this kind of activism can lead to growth as you ask those around you to join in your efforts.
  • Contributions – I’ve long held the belief that EVERYONE can give time, talent, or treasure. When you have a particular talent that you can offer to your preferred issue or group, do it. When you have the time to serve that issue or group, share it. When you have the treasure, spend it in a way that benefits your passion project. I’ve always appreciated the time and talent an individual will give, as well as the funds they spend in lieu of that time, when they are too busy to make the time or talent commitment.
  • Being a Shining Example – This takes little or no “extra” time to accomplish. When you exemplify the libertarian lifestyle, the results may not be immediate, but they are measurable and direct. You will inspire others to join you. You will find that there are others who hold your same beliefs that may not be motivated other ways.

Above, I gave “slacktivism” a hard time. I realize that many of us are busy people with a lot going on, and wearing a pin, interacting on social media, or sporting a sticker may be all that you can do in that moment. I also realize there is an immeasurable impact in the aggregate when many wear those pins en masse, “like” or share social media posts, or promote a position or organization’s brand.

I ask that after that slacktivism moment passes that you take a hard look to plan how you can make a lasting, measurable impact.

If I can offer an immediate opportunity, I ask that you support us here at The Advocates for Self-Government with a bit of your treasure.

Compassion with Caution

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Compassion with Caution

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Over the last month, citizens of the world have watched the growing Syrian refugee crisis unfold on television. Thousands of men, women and children are risking their lives to flee the violence from the Syrian civil war. Many are making the treacherous journey on foot through Turkey, while others attempt to sail across the Mediterranean on makeshift rafts.

compassionAccording to Mercy Corps, more than 11 million Syrians have been displaced since 2011. The majority of these people have fled to Syria’s neighboring countries over the years – Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. As violence continues in the Middle East, more than 350,000 migrants have sought asylum in Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom – and it’s not ending there.

Germany expects 800,000 more migrants this year. British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged on Monday to take in up to 20,000 refugees from camps in Syria over the next five years.

Since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, only 1,500 refugees fled Syria for the United States, though President Barack Obama has committed to accepting 10,000 more over the next coming year.

Obama’s plan has sparked a debate in Washington. Refugee advocates say the United States is not doing enough to address the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, while some congressional Republicans worry that an increase could allow terrorists to enter the United States.

“The rhetoric has been really awful,” said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. “The difficulty of doing it is met by this Islamophobia and conflation of Syrians and Iraqis with terrorists.”

Strong opposition met previous efforts to increase the flow of Syrian refugees.

Fourteen U.S. Senate Democrats wrote a letter urging the Obama administration to allow at least 65,000 Syrian refugees to settle in the United States this past May. The following month, Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX) objected to the administration’s plans to allow nearly 2,000 by the end of 2015.

“While we have a proud history of welcoming refugees, the Syrian conflict is a unique case requiring heightened vigilance and scrutiny,” McCaul, whose Homeland Security Committee has held hearings on the issue, wrote in a letter to Obama.

Although both sides of the debate in Washington present valid arguments, why can’t the United States offer these refugees compassion while exercising caution? After all, the U.S. has a history of meddling in Middle Eastern affairs that complicate the situation faced today. That history goes back almost 100 years.

Now, in an attempt to escape the horrors of war, hundreds of refugees have drowned in the Mediterranean. Small children are washing up on the shores of Turkey and Greece. Refugees face tear gas and water bombs in other parts of Europe where their governments are closing borders.

The U.S. should be a shining example of compassion to the migrants who have lost everything. Republicans raise an excellent point: young, single men of military age should be looked at with caution so that our compassion isn’t taken advantage of by ISIS or other terrorists. The U.S. can do better than just taking 10,000 refugees.

By offering compassion, the United States can be an example to other parts of the world that the Syrian refugee crisis isn’t an issue of proximity, but an issue of humanitarianism.

Most Effective Outreach? Lead By Example

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Most Effective Outreach? Lead By Example

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

I’m often asked what I find to be the most effective ways to share libertarian ideas.

My answer? Lead by example.

Don’t worry about word choice, which book to recommend, or how you will answer a tough question. Start by being a shining example of what a libertarian is.

lead by exampleWhen you live your life in a way that exemplifies your beliefs, your actions display to others what you believe. This means getting involved in your community, volunteering for charity activities, and networking. What does it say to you when someone constantly talks about gardening should be, but you never see their tomatoes or roses? Is your mind questioning those supposed skills? The same goes for libertarian ideas. If you talk ALL DAY LONG about the wonders of free markets, voluntary cooperation, and how private charity outperforms government welfare programs in every way, but if no one sees you “gardening,” how much weight do your words carry?

Finding activities like maintaining a notoriously littered part of your community, starting a neighborhood tool library, or keeping the lawn trimmed of an infirm, elderly neighbor, are ways to show how individuals can make a difference in the community. As you perform these tasks, you inspire others to join you or to also do something that will also benefit those around you without looking to the government to pay someone to pick up litter or to send scary notices to your neighbor when their grass exceeds the mandated height for the city or county. Additionally, you will become known for your efforts to improve the quality of life in your community, which opens the door for others to seek you out.

Now that your neighbors seek you out, you have an amazing opportunity. You will get to hear about their concerns and the issues that are important to them. The key to this activity is NOT to talk, but to LISTEN. The most important to be done is to hear what they have to say, letting them lead the conversation. This will help you to build rapport by finding common ground with which you begin to converse.

Because libertarianism is such a broad philosophy, you will likely find that you have similar concerns and desire the same outcomes, but the person to whom you are speaking may not be considering how libertarian principles and ideals could solve a problem. THIS is your opportunity to speak.

You listened, identified a problem, heard their desired outcome. Now, you can effectively offer a libertarian solution. Whether it is helping the homeless via shelters, soup kitchens, and health and employment services in the community or offering answers to the area’s poor education results by NOT relying on a government “solution,” you have credibility because you took it upon yourself to address a tangible issue that others noticed.

As you converse about the issue you both identified as an issue in need of a solution, keep the conversation in a friendly tone, using everyday language. The use of unnecessarily scholarly verbiage or political jargon and buzzwords may turn off your new friend. This is just a conversation between two people about everyday issues, not a debate. As tempting as it is, there is no “win” in making him or her feel like your intellectual inferior.

We libertarians are a diverse lot, and not everyone can bring new people around to the ideas and principles of libertarian philosophy, and that is OK.

By being a great example of libertarianism, you can be active and bring more people into the movement, but if you are uncomfortable with the whole “walk the walk” concept, please find another way you can help the libertarian movement. There are candidates, campaigns, and organizations who need your assistance in other ways. It may be that your lifestyle allows you to finance activities, your skills can bring a professional website to them, or your “best fit” is to be someone who can distribute hundreds of flyers that affect an electoral outcome. The key is to find and do what you do well.