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Putting Freedom First

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

Putting Freedom First

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

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.

A Spoonful of Sugar

in Liberator Online, Walk the Walk by Brett Bittner Comments are off

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

In Disney’s “Mary Poppins,” the title character, portrayed by Dame Julie Andrews, treats the children in her care to a musical, magical show of how to make a game of chores by adding an element of fun. I’ve always enjoyed Ms. Andrews’ performances, and the lyrics of the chorus in this song provide libertarians with an important message.

For a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down, the medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way

Often, libertarians find themselves as the bearers of “bad news” when it comes to policy discussions and decisions. We also encounter many misconceptions and popular talking points in casual conversations with friends and strangers alike. We often administer “policy medicine,” as we point out the flaws, unintended or unrevealed consequences, or damage to our rights in a proposal.

If you doctor were to give you a diagnosis that’s less than desirable, would you want him or her to do it with a bad attitude? What about with a great deal of condescension? Would you appreciate it if he or she were generally abrasive in that conversation? What if he or she insulted you or called you names, as they offer their diagnosis? I, like most, would not want bad news delivered with a sub-par attitude. As libertarians, we are a lot like that hypothetical doctor.

To many, we have bad news. Unfortunately, many libertarians deliver it with attitude, condescension, insults, or abrasiveness. In your experience, how is it received?

What I witness is a negative reaction to BOTH the news and the messenger. Once you make that negative impression, you are not as welcome to take part in the discussion. Whether held by a policymaker or your neighbor, how can your exclusion be a positive step for libertarianism.

After all, we want our libertarian solution to be heard, right?

When you offer such a “pill,” bringing your best manners, pleasantries, and attitude help you build a rapport with the others involved in the conversation. That is the “spoonful of sugar” to change an exclusionary reaction to the “medicine” you are offering. Some of the best discussions about policy and the libertarian solutions to issues faced today occur with those that know more than the divisive rhetoric within the limited discussion of a particular topic.

It is not our shared libertarian thoughts that make those discussions among the best. It is the way we approached the conversation. When we do so with a positive attitude, respect for their knowledge, or lack thereof, in a particular area, and kindness, we win. We may not persuade them on the issue at hand, but persuasion is usually not attainable in a single interaction.

We win by planting the seed that we offer a thoughtful, understanding perspective to issues of the day. Once we plant that seed, people will seek our opinion and thoughts on future issues where they may be persuaded, rather than an issue where they firmly hold a committed belief.

In the event that you are the only one exhibiting a pleasant demeanor, you can also win over those who witness the interaction. There is no downside to “killing them with kindness.”

So, why not offer a spoonful of sugar along with the medicine?

Why Are Libertarians Different? Intent Vs. Outcome

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

Why Are Libertarians Different? Intent Vs. Outcome

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

Libertarians… We are certainly a different breed.

We may look the same. We may use the same language. We put our pants on one leg at a time… Most of us, anyway.

We certainly have a unique way of thinking though.

Of course, our first instinct is not to suggest that “there ought to be a law.” That is the beginning of how we differ from non-libertarians.

The basis of not defaulting to government intervention lies a bit deeper than instinct. We want a lot of the same results: a well-educated society, an end to homelessness, peace with our neighbors, and the freedom to live our lives.

unintended consequencesWe also like to point out unintended consequences of policy decisions. Inevitably, every government policy idea devised sought to solve a problem, but not everyone follows where that policy idea takes us beyond the policymaker’s intent.

Libertarians recognize intent for what it is. We recognize that someone, somewhere intended their idea to fix an existing problem, prevent a future problem, or make lives better. We also see past intent to look at what happens when this intended solution gets implemented. We see whether it, or something similar, worked in the past. We also examine what we describe as unintended consequences that are likely to occur if the policymakers enact the proposed solution.

We focus on outcome.

We look at policies beyond intent, by focusing looking deeper than the surface, talking points, and smooth sales pitches. We look at people individually, rather than as statistics and metrics that can be manipulated. We examine individual decisions on their own, rather than as part of the aggregate. Put simply, we are looking out for the smallest minority there is… The individual.

Central planners will never be able to do so, because people are just data points. To them, they believe that they can predict what MOST of us will do when faced with a specific decision. The rest do not matter. Those individuals are statistically insignificant.

Are you insignificant?

Libertarians do not believe that you are, and we look at the unintended consequences, incentives, and individual decision-making to fully examine the outcome of a proposed policy or idea, rather than sweeping you, the individual, aside because you do not fit the model they prepared.

Today, ideas are judged by their intent, rather than their outcome. All too often, that means that the “solution” makes a larger or different problem.

To whom is that insignificant?

A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month – Part 2

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

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Recently, we examined some resources for Black History Month, a time which opens the door for discussions on issues key to libertarians.

This week I’m concluding with some more issue-oriented Black History Month resources and talking points.

First, a look at state-created poverty and unemployment affecting black Americans.

  • Race and Economics,” a short column by economist Walter Williams, examines this often-ignored point. Excerpt: “Some might find it puzzling that during times of gross racial discrimination, black unemployment was lower and blacks were more active in the labor force than they are today. … During the 1930s, there were a number of federal government interventions that changed the black employment picture.”
  • Walter Williams looks at the racist outcomes of the minimum wage more closely in “Minimum Wage’s Discriminatory Effects.” Excerpt: “Minimum wage laws have massive political support, including that of black politicians. That means that many young black males will remain a part of America’s permanent underclass with crime, drugs and prison as their future.”
  • Walter Williams’ outstanding 1982 short book The State Against Blacks (long out of print — check your library) — shows how numerous government programs, supposedly enacted to help blacks and the poor, have caused enormous harm to blacks (and others). 
  • In his 2004 column “A Painful Anniversary“ economist Thomas Sowell argues that the 1960s Great Society / War on Poverty programs helped destroy black families. Excerpt: “The black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state that subsidized unwed pregnancy and changed welfare from an emergency rescue to a way of life.”

Government’s role in protecting slavery and enforcing Jim Crow laws is often ignored. Yet of course it was government that created and defended such abominable and unlibertarian practices.

Still another fascinating topic tailor-made for Black History Month is the little-known history of how gun rights helped protect civil rights activists and advance the civil rights movement.

  • For starters, check out “Yes, Guns Are Dangerous. But They Also Save Lives and Secure Civil Rights“ by Damon W. Root of Reason magazine.
  • Also see this excellent review of the 2004 book The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement by Lance Hill, from The Nation magazine. This book tells the remarkable story of the Deacons for Defense, who at their peak had several hundred members and twenty-one chapters in the South. 
  • Black Open Carry: Why Gun Rights and Civil Rights Need Each Other” is a provocative new Reason TV video. It examines the little-known long, intertwined history of the gun rights and civil rights movements, from slave revolts to Reconstruction-era armed resistance to the Black Panther Party. “One of the great untold stories about the civil rights movement was that it required violent resistance from blacks to be effective,” says historian Thaddeus Russell. Seven eye-opening minutes in length.