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Can we cut military spending without endangering U.S. security?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Liberator Online, Military, National Defense by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Can we cut military spending without endangering U.S. security?

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

Question:

In a libertarian society, the U.S. military would be scaled down. By doing this, won’t the U.S. be putting itself at risk should it face a country with a larger military that is aggressive towards the U.S.?

military

Answer:

Although it’s likely that we’d have a smaller military in a libertarian society, we’d probably have a much more efficient one.

Navy Seal Commander Richard Marcinko was asked by his superiors to infiltrate key Naval bases with a handful of colleagues. Commanders of the target installations were given notice that Marcinko’s raiders were coming. Nevertheless, with only seven men, Marcinko planted dummy demolition charges on nuclear submarines, captured the women and children living on base, and even gained access to Air Force One as it was being refueled! The Commanders complained that Marcinko had cheated by coming in by water or other “back doors” that they hadn’t prepared for. (You can read more about it in Marcinko’s book, Rogue Warrior.)

Our military is a subsidized monopoly that has trouble protecting us on our home turf. Like most government services, it costs much and delivers little, wasting the energy and lives of our brave soldiers. This isn’t the fault of our soldiers. It’s due to politics and the inevitable inefficiency of government. Our soldiers deserve better — and so do we!

How Regulations Helped to Kill the Blackcurrant Berry Market in America

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

How Regulations Helped to Kill the Blackcurrant Berry Market in America

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

It’s no secret that regulations are used as tools by rent-seeking firms in order to keep competitors off the market. But when US regulations restrict the production of items for long periods of time and for no apparent reason, it’s often hard to bring the same items back into particular communities.

FruitThis happened with the blackcurrant berry, which has impacted Skittles, the fruit-flavored sweets that are both produced and marketed by the Wrigley Company.

In the United States, the purple Skittle tastes like grape. But anywhere else, including the United Kingdom and Australia, the company uses blackcurrant to produce these pesky purple pieces of candy. Outside of the country, everyone knows what blackcurrant is. But in America, many haven’t even heard of the powerful fruit.

What many also don’t know is that blackcurrant berry is not widely known in America because of a regulatory black hole.

For many years, growing the sweet and tart berry in the United States was outlawed. Since the early 1990s, farmers were forced to drop the production, but it wasn’t because there wasn’t a demand. Instead, the policy was embraced after legislators learned that the berry bushes could act as a vector for white pine blister rust, which could destroy the wood. That was a problem for lumber producers, and the berry was outlawed.

While in the 1960s the federal government loosened restrictions, allowing states to set their own rules, a few have kept the ban in place. Nevertheless, most states now allow farmers to grow the berry. Regardless of the policy change, the decades of obscurity made Americans remain unaware of the very existence of blackcurrant berry. The fruit, which is widely popular in Europe, is seldom found anywhere in the United States.

One man’s journey to formally decriminalize the fruit in New York started in Germany, where he ran a restaurant in the Bavaria region. Coming back to New York, Greg Quinn lobbied local lawmakers, helping overturn the ban on growing the fruit. Ever since 2003, Quinn has been growing blackcurrants in Hudson Valley, and now counts with at least 10,000 bushes in his backyard.

Ever since the very first moment he learned about the berry, he knew he alone had to help reintroduce the flavor back to the American palate.

As his brand of juices and concentrates start to slowly hit the market, many cocktail bars and restaurants appear to like the products, but the flavor is so foreign to Americans that the product is often seen as a tough sell.

Until blackcurrant berries are popular in America again, one can only hope that this story will help others to think twice before supporting more restrictions in the future.

Should we ban tobacco instead of drugs?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Drugs, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Should we ban tobacco instead of drugs?

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

QUESTION: I am a long time supporter of ending the war on drugs. I advocate treating drug abuse the way we treat alcohol abuse, as a health and not a legal problem. I find that many of the people that I deal with who oppose the war on drugs and support legalization of marijuana want to outlaw tobacco. I try to tell them that the war on tobacco will be just as successful as the war on drugs, but they insist that it go ahead. They point out that tobacco is deadlier than pot. I point out that heroin and LSD are as dangerous as tobacco, if not more. What suggestions do you have to answer the pro war on tobacco people?

CigaretteANSWER: The power to ban something “bad” is also the power to ban something “good.” Cannabis was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia for many years before it was “outlawed” via the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. As a result, this incredibly useful and inexpensive natural drug has been largely unavailable in the U.S. for the last 80 years.

By outlawing tobacco, alcohol, or any other substance, we pave the way for other “wars” based on political or economic gain. Special interests will lobby Congress to outlaw their competitors, just as William Randolph Hearst lobbied for hemp/cannabis prohibition so that his wood pulp forests would be used for paper manufacture instead of hemp.

The nicotine in tobacco is thought by some to be the most addictive substance known. If someone can’t stop smoking, isn’t it a health problem too? Why not treat it as such?

If not you, who? If not now, when?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

If not you, who? If not now, when?

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

QUESTION: Sometimes when I criticize government, I am told that if I don’t like it here, I should go somewhere else. Essentially, the old “love it or leave it” line. What’s a good response?

QuestionMY SHORT ANSWER: One response I use goes like this:

“I love my country and its heritage of liberty. When I see it going astray, I want to help it get back on track.

“Our government once endorsed slavery. Where would we be today if the abolitionists had left, instead of helping our nation extend its heritage of liberty to slaves?

“When our government makes a mistake, it’s up to us to correct it. If not us, who?”

The Financial Burden Tied to Nonviolent Crimes is Destroying Poor Communities

in Capital Punishment, Criminal Justice, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Alice Salles Comments are off

The Financial Burden Tied to Nonviolent Crimes is Destroying Poor Communities

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

A terribly tragic incident involving a man from Texas is receiving little attention from the media.

According to Yahoo! News, Patrick Joseph Brown, a 46-year-old man accused of stealing a guitar, was booked on a misdemeanor theft charge on April 3. Forty-eight hours after failing to post bail, Brown was found beaten to a pulp in the cell he shared with several other men, including three men who had been charged with aggravated assault causing serious bodily harm. He was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

PrisonWhile authorities in Harris County aren’t aware of what prompted the violent act, Brown was placed in a cell with violent suspects due to his failure to come up with $3,000. Brown’s teenage son is devastated.

To proponents of a comprehensive criminal justice reform, the financial burden tied to minor or drug-related crimes has become a reason of concern.

The drug war, for instance, has had a real impact on the poor across the United States. But the financial burden tied to other non-violent crimes has also been affecting low-income communities across the board.

Harriet Cleveland, a 49-year-old mother of three in Alabama, was arrested after not being able to pay a series of traffic tickets. She had accumulated a number of citations because she had been driving without a license for some time. She also had no insurance.

While Cleveland says she knew what she was doing “was wrong,” she had no choice. She had just found a job after some time, a part-time gig that paid her $7.25 per hour, and her son had to be taken to school. She felt that the tickets could wait. Unfortunately, the police didn’t agree.

After she was arrested, the judge sentenced her to two years of probation with Judicial Correction Services, a private probation company. Cleveland had to pay JCS $200 a month, the judge ordered. While Cleveland was able to make her payments throughout the first year, gathering whatever she could find to put the money together, she eventually fell behind on payments. After losing her part-time job, Cleveland had to turn in all of her income-tax rebate to JCS instead of fixing the holes in her bedroom walls. By summer of 2012, “the total court costs and fines had soared from hundreds of dollars incurred by the initial tickets to $4,713, including more than a thousand dollars in private-probation fees.”

In the past three decades, the size of America’s incarcerated population quadrupled. The overcriminalization of America has been, along with the drug war, partially to blame for this phenomena.

With federal agencies and state governments attaching jail time to otherwise non-criminal behavior, even private companies that rely on the criminal justice system like Judicial Correction Services saw an opportunity to fill in the gaps by offering the state the services public law enforcement agencies are supposed to offer but are unable to. Instead of looking at the laws for an answer to this problem—identifying what kind of laws should be scraped, and what kind of behavior should be spared jail time—many justice activists believe that the solution is to put an end to what they call “policing for profit.”

But whether non-violent arrestees are trapped in a cycle of debt and incarceration because of mounting court debt or because of other probation company fees, we must look deeper into this matter by identifying ways of only arresting those who have committed crimes worthy of jail time.

Jail is not the best place for a mother of three who’s struggling to make ends meet but nor is it a safe place for a non-violent arrestee taken into custody for allegedly stealing a guitar. If criminal justice reformers are serious about their goals, tackling the overcriminalization problem in the United States is the only solution.

The Future of the Libertarian Movement is Bright

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

The Future of the Libertarian Movement is Bright

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

Last weekend, The Advocates participated in the International Students for Liberty Conference in Washington DC with nearly 2,000 attendees from around the world.

Interacting with students from campus groups throughout the country, as well as those from abroad, gave us a glimpse at the future of the libertarian movement. WOW! It is encouraging to see the knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm from these students as they glowingly share libertarian thought and embrace libertarian philosophy.

Whether they heard from a North Korean dissident about her experiences and vision for a freer world in Yeonmi Park, a former governor known for his use of veto and line-item veto powers in Gary Johnson, or witnessed a debate about the cultural and political change liberty brings between Jack Hunter and Jeffrey Tucker, these students and alumni who love liberty joined together to share their experiences and learn about all the libertarian movement has to offer.

Brett with Vermin SupremeWe even visited with Vermin Supreme, whose documentary “Vote for Jesus” screened on Sunday morning, throughout the conference. He even dropped his satirical bid for the Oval Office as a Democrat to seek the Libertarian Party nomination, as he saw the welcoming community that libertarians represent.

All kidding aside, the students I met this weekend ARE the future of libertarianism, and I’m impressed by them. I honestly wish I’d had a similar outlet when I was on campus at the University of Georgia to better prepare me for what the future held.

We are happy to be working with student groups across the country to assist them in spreading the ideals of freedom and liberty by offering FREE Operation Politically Homeless kits to campus groups, working with them to hone their message as they provide “on the ground” outreach to their fellow students and to the people at large, and support their efforts to be exemplify libertarianism.

Energy, enthusiasm, professionalism, and knowledge make the future of our movement bright, and I’m glad we’re doing everything we can to support that.

Can you help?

Private Initiative Ignites Flame of Real Change in Flint, Michigan

in Economic Liberty, Environment and Energy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Private Initiative Ignites Flame of Real Change in Flint, Michigan

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

The Flint, Michigan water scandal has been shaking up the lives of locals, putting their health in grave danger, and alerting the country to the dangers of too much government.

As private organizations like Walmart, Coke, Nestle, and Pepsi take steps to help Flint residents by delivering 6.5 million bottles of water to the city, free market advocates have been arguing that the private sector is the compassionate sector, while the state is often the originator of most of our problems.

HandSanitizer

Now, news about another private initiative in Flint is flooding social media websites, reminding us that the flame of change—and real hope—can only be ignited by the individual.

According to a GoFundMe page by the 7-year-old Isiah Britt from Virginia, kids at the Eisenhower Elementary School, a Flint facility, had become fearful of using the school water to wash their hands when they’d go to the bathroom. In order to make a real change and help the kids in Flint in a meaningful way, Britt decided to start a campaign. The goal? Buy enough hand sanitizer to everyone in his school.

Britt’s effort was celebrated by many who also helped by donating. Now, the 7-year-old has enough money to cover all schools in the city.

The GoFundMe page was created by the child and his mother on February 19 and it has raised over $10,000. On Saturday, the child announced on the page that both he and his mother had raised enough “to send hand sanitizer to every school in Flint!” He thanked the public and asked everyone to “keep going until all kids in Flint have clean hands!!”

The second-grader’s initial goal was to raise only $500 to buy twenty cases of hand sanitizer. But the campaign was so successful that a local news source in Virginia and Michigan decided to pick up the story.

The first shipment of hand sanitizer arrived at Eisenhower Elementary just a week into the fundraiser. Neithercut, Pierce, and Holmes Elementary Schools should be receiving their shipments in the near future.

During an interview with Richmond’s WTVR, Britt told the reporter he had never been happier. “That was the best day of my life,” the second-grader announced. “Trying to help a different school.”

“It doesn’t matter if you’re small. It doesn’t mean you can’t do big things.”

According to Britt’s parents, the 7-year-old now has a new goal, which is to send hand sanitizer to daycare and women’s centers across Flint.

While Britt’s story is a moving one, it hasn’t been the only one to demonstrate the importance of private initiative in the face of crisis.

In January, Humanity First USA partnered with Detroit’s Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to donate 52,400 bottles of water to Flint residents impacted by the crisis. At least 104,800 bottles of clean water were gathered and delivered to two senior citizen homes, three churches, a local YMCA, and to the general Flint public. Many of the bottles were stored at the Salem Lutheran Church. Families in need of clear water were invited to stop by.

The organization still accepts water donations in Rochester Hills, Troy, and the Detroit Metropolitan area.