A Failed Promise

A viewpoint on our increasing lack of statesmanship.

By John Bonanni

Newly elected presidents win elections by convincing voters of their opponent’s inability to avoid the mistakes of the previous administration. Inevitably, the victor creates their demise through the overexposure of a personal or political agenda; usually fostered by a congressional ambush of the opposing party. The self-assassination of Bill Clinton’s character
sidetracked his plan of prosperity for all and reset tolerances of moral relativity. George W. Bush’s candidacy was little more than a minor political blue blood riding on family gravitas with historical probitas. Barack Obama offered a passive standard of diplomacy and strategic leadership. All eventually failed the promise that has never been entirely kept since the country’s inception.

In 2008, we were at the threshold of the most significant opportunity for nation building since the American Civil War. Our discriminatory traditions that had evolved from reluctantly
freeing uneducated, labor-trafficked men and women of color to tolerating them as socially inferior, ineducable freeloaders continued its function in the form of economic discrimination.

We continued the traditional pattern of political yin and yang that had occurred since the country’s founding. From Edward Rutledge to Henry Clay to George Wallace—and there is a
basketful of biased politicos who fill the bill of racial complicity throughout our history—to today, race-based statesmanship had been a covert operative. It is not the failure of the political process. It is a persistent disregard for ethics, integrity, and human dignity.

The 20th-century remake of Abraham Lincoln, in the person of John F. Kennedy, redressed wounds that were assumed to have been healed by the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments one hundred years earlier. Progress was made, but racially biased entrenchment merely found new ways to function.

Somehow, the promise of tolerance and inclusion in the Obama Administration produced another racial equality revival. What could have been a correction of racial modus operandi erupted into a seizure of miscalculations and false patronizations; resulting in a political upset that produced the present near-constitutional crisis.

Democratic arrogance and dismissive self-righteousness in concert with Republican managerial ineptness and empathetic bankruptcy emboldened politically under-served voting blocks to deliver Donald Trump, a presidential entity who assumed the self-assassinating character of Clinton, the mismanagement of Bush, and the tenuous soapboxing of Obama into a predatory, reactionary, and dysfunctional sideshow of fright and oratorical floundering.

This new mix of presidential malfunction further damaged the dubious claim of American exceptionalism. From “Putting People First” (Clinton), “Compassionate Conservatism” (Bush), to “Yes We Can” (Obama), it seemed that no variation on the American exceptionalism theme in recent generations could achieve enough improvement to convince disenfranchised voters that change was working. America, apparently, needed to be made great again.

America is not unequivocally great. No country is. It has great ideas. We had tripped at the starting gate in 1776 by denying inalienable rights to an entire race of people, and inequality festered for generations to come in racial theatrics supported by both progressive and conservative agendas. How can a country claim exceptionalism as a clarion call when a fifth of its population had been dehumanized and considered property? Perhaps if we had addressed the accessibility of opportunity for all citizens, we might now be enjoying the pleasure of each other’s prosperity as a national pastime.

For generations, inert executive and entrenched legislative leadership have responded with obstructionism and preoccupied our energies with perfunctory grandstanding, bequeathing to us the civil unrest of our cities, the bankruptcy of our healthcare, the corruption of our processes. Did not these conditions of inequality demand the attention of the elected administration and the American public? Did we not dump excellent English tea for this misrepresentation? The pursuit of reconciliation through economic equality had been abandoned
once again.

So, we suffer still, not having completed the national purpose of self-determination. Democrats lure disenfranchised groups with proudly hailed social engineering programs that barely sustain a living environment. Republicans smugly shake off organizations they deem to be unworthy takers. Forever in debt and bereft of resources, these groups never gain access to building financial well being.

Our legislators bludgeon our economic stability, chalk up an astronomical national debt service, shackle tools of commerce and reduce educational institutions to reclusive safe spaces instead of centers of tolerance. This recurring depletion of statesmanship creates a congressional and social oligarchy and invites irreparable harm to democratic function. This time, with an administration filled with generals and independently wealthy individuals, our government resembles the largest, most powerful banana republic in history; which is the antithesis of a constitutional republic designed to empower every individual.

John spent a career in theatre management on tour, on Broadway, at Radio City Music Hall and many places in between managing every sensitive person he ever encountered. He now writes about them, among other things.

Stiglitz and Tocqueville on Freedom and Equality

By C.M. Hoy

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a recipient of the Nobel Prize in economics, is a professor of economics at Columbia University, and he is very concerned that there is far too much inequality of income in the United States. He believes that this inequality is the source of many problems in our country and that the government must take strong action to lower this disparity in income. He states his views in an article, “Inequality is Holding Back the Recovery,” and his book, The Price of Inequality. I am concerned by several aspects of his analysis and one aspect in particular as I will make clear in the ensuing paragraphs.

There is so much inequality in the U.S., that, says Stiglitz, “Tocqueville, who in the 1830s found the egalitarian impulse to be the essence of the American character, is rolling in his grave.” This remark is very misleading. Alexis de Tocqueville unequivocally indicated that equality was the wave of the future; however, he was not an egalitarian or a proponent of equality as this statement might lead you to believe. To conclude that Tocqueville was an egalitarian because he announced that egalitarianism was in our future, is like concluding that when Paul Revere shouted the British are coming, he was a supporter of the British invasion.

Tocqueville believes that liberty and equality do not mix and that equality could be inimical to liberty. He places liberty above equality.

Neither in his article nor his book does Stiglitz indicate that there is tension between equality and liberty. He misrepresents what the foremost problem for Tocqueville is, how to preserve individual freedom in an age of equality. For theorists other than Tocqueville, equality versus freedom is the major issue in the debate over equality. Stiglitz though appears to be ignorant of any literature contrasting equality and freedom. This is a major gap in his argument and knowledge. Since he cites Tocqueville as an authority, we will demonstrate that this authority is not a proponent of equality but liberty. This will set the record straight on Tocqueville and, perhaps, this will elevate the debate over inequality, to include a concern for liberty, which Tocqueville believes trumps equality.

Gita May, who has published widely on the French Enlightenment, states: “It was Tocqueville’s conviction that the particular quest for equality can only end up in servitude; that there is tension-and, not a concordance-between liberty and equality, and that egalitarianism can all too easily lead to the worst kind of tyranny… and can lead to questioning of the legitimacy of private property, this last bulwark of the individual against the state… He was keenly aware of the dangers presented to individual liberty.” Instead of referring to Tocqueville as an egalitarian, May instead refers to him “as a political libertarian.”

Tocqueville would unequivocally oppose the use of coercion to promote material equality.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. writes of Tocqueville that “The revolution of equality, he believed, was irresistible.” Schlesinger adds: “Tocqueville’s consuming passion was liberty; the challenge before a western man in his mind was to devise ways of securing liberty in the era of equality. He was vividly aware of the perils in the new dispensation. It was no simple thing to reconcile liberty and equality.”

Primrose Pratt Tisham tells us that “Tocqueville worried continuously that liberty was especially threatened in France where the passion for equality subsumed the desire for freedom.”

George Wilson Pierson describes Tocqueville as the “foreboding prophet of equality.”

These authors indicate that Tocqueville is not an egalitarian and they indicate that Tocqueville perceives a problem between equality and freedom, a problem that Stiglitz is either unaware of or simply ignores.

In the preface to the second volume of Democracy in America Tocqueville writes,” I believe that many persons would take it upon themselves to inform men of the benefits which they might hope to receive from the establishment of equality, while very few would venture to point out from afar the dangers which it would be attended. It is principally of these dangers, therefore, that I directed my gaze; and, believing that I had discerned what they are, it would have been cowardice to say nothing about them.”

In book 2, chapter 1, Tocqueville says, “that political freedom in its excesses may compromise the tranquility, the property, the lives of individuals are obvious even to narrow and unthinking minds. On the contrary, none but attentive and clear-sighted men perceive the perils with which equality threatens us, and they commonly avoid pointing them out. They know that the calamities they apprehend are remote and flatter themselves that they will only fall upon future generations, for which the present generation takes but little thought. The evils that freedom sometimes brings with it are immediate; they are apparent to all, and all are more or less affected by them. The evils that extreme equality may produce are slowly disclosed; they creep gradually into the social frame; they are seen only in intervals; and at the moment at which they become the most violent, habit already causes them to be no longer felt.”

Tocqueville further says, “I think that Democratic communities have a natural taste for freedom; left to themselves, they will seek it, cherish it, and view any privation of it with regret. But for equality their passion is ardent, insatiable, incessant, and invincible; they call for equality in freedom; if they cannot obtain that, they still call for equality in slavery.”

Please note that for Tocqueville equality and slavery are not mutually exclusive.

In book 2 chapter 4, he says, “but I contend that to combat the evils which equality may produce, there is only one effectual remedy: namely, political freedom.”

In book 4 chapter 1 he says: “I am convinced however that anarchy is not the principle of evil that democratic ages have to fear, but the least. For the principle of equality begets two tendencies: the one leads men straight to independence and may suddenly drive them into anarchy the other conducts them by a longer, more secret, more certain road to servitude. Nations readily discern the former tendency and are prepared to resist it; they are led away by the latter without receiving its drift hence it is peculiarly important to point it out.”

In a note in Tocqueville’s diary titled “My Instincts, My Opinions,” he writes “Liberty is the first of my passions. That is the plain truth.”

Obviously, equality is not his prime mover.

In Tocqueville’s Essay on American Government and Religion, he states: “we are ourselves going, my dear friend, toward a democratie [an equality] without limits. I do not say that it is a good thing…”

What would truly make Tocqueville roll over in his grave is someone representing him as a votary of egalitarianism rather than liberty.

In addition to Tocqueville, last century, there were at least four major writers who critically examined the relationship between equality (equality of condition or outcome) and concluded that liberty and equality were often in conflict with each other. And they came down on the side of liberty. The four that I have in mind is the sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf, the philosopher Robert Nozick, and the economists F. A. Hayek, and Milton Friedman.

In his book and his article, Stiglitz never so much as mentions the first three authors though he does discuss Friedman. However, his discussion of Friedman is rather odd. Though Friedman has written on the issues of equality, inequality, and individual liberty, Stiglitz never discusses Friedman’s ideas on these issues. Though the subject of Stiglitz book and article ostensibly is equality and inequality, he ignores Friedman’s treatment of these issues and wandering far afield, rather criticizes Friedman for not recognizing the imperfections of markets, such as asymmetric information, externalities, and public goods. He also criticizes Friedman’s view of the cause of the Great Depression. He is offended that Friedman argues that government was the cause of the Great Depression. He criticizes Friedman on many grounds but never discusses Friedman’s argument on the central topic of his (Stiglitz’s) book and article, on which Friedman has written so profoundly.

Browsing through the index to his book, neither the word liberty or freedom is ever mentioned. The lack of any discussion of the dilemma between liberty and equality is a major shortcoming of any discussion of equality of outcome, and it is thus a major shortcoming in Stiglitz as well.

By ignoring the incisive writings of Dahrendorf, Nozick, Hayek, Friedman, and Tocqueville, on the relationship between freedom and egalitarianism, Stiglitz provides an astonishingly shallow analysis.

In addition to the main problem in Stiglitz’s analysis, the complete absence of any discussion of the effects of egalitarianism on liberty, there are three other aspects of his analysis that we will briefly note.

In The Price of Inequality, he refers to “the alleged inequality- inefficiency trade-off, ” and he says that it “may not exist.” This trade-off shows, if true, that inequality is conducive to greater output and greater productivity than is equality. Though here he seems to think that the trade-off does not exist, in his textbook, Economics, he refers to an “incentive – equality trade-off, ” and he draws a graph with equality on the vertical axis and output on the horizontal axis showing that as equality increases output decreases. He says, “One of the basic questions facing members of society in their choice of tax rates and welfare systems is, how much would incentives be diminished by an increase in tax rates to finance a better welfare system and thus reduce inequality? What would be the results of those reduced incentives?”

No wonder there is an “alleged inequality-inefficiency trade-off.” Professor Stiglitz has been teaching it to generations of economics students.

Again, in The Price of Inequality, Stiglitz indicates that unions are essential for increasing wages in general and lessening inequality. But this is not what he is teaching economic students in his textbook. In Economics, he shows that as unions raise the wages of some workers “firms will employ fewer workers.” Even union employees that benefit in the short run could lose in the long run as employers do not replace the expiring capital and “jobs decrease.” Also, the unions gain pay increases for some workers by “the reduced employment of workers in the unionized sector” increasing “the supply of labor in the nonunionized sector, driving down wages there.” And finally, “the higher wages [of unionized workers] may well be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.”

Higher prices, increased unemployment in the union sector, and lower wages in the nonunionized sector do not seem likely to lower inequality, and they most certainly will not improve living conditions. There is a significant discrepancy between what Stiglitz teaches economic students and what he teaches the general public.

Finally, and again wandering rather far afield from his topic, Stiglitz is upset that industries such as the airlines have been deregulated. It appears that he would like to reregulate these industries. And he believes that further government regulations are in the general interest.

However, perhaps we should proceed cautiously. Additional regulations could prove onerous to producers, and this might concern Stiglitz. For example, the government might force authors to recall their defective products from the market. As the adage goes, be careful what you wish for, you just may get it.

“I have a PhD from Columbia University. I am a Professor of Economics at the County College of Morris in New Jersey. I have written many articles on individual freedom in regard to speech, equality, and the marketplace. I am the author of A Philosophy Of Individual Freedom: The Political Thought of F. A. Hayek published by Greenwood Press.” – C.M. Hoy

Puerto Pobre – How Government has Guaranteed Puerto Rico’s Economic Failure

By Clyde Myers

Though Puerto Rico has been held as a US territory since 1889, it wasn’t until 1917 when President Woodrow Wilson needed to find a way to force Puerto Ricans to fight in WWI that they were granted a pseudo-citizenship that came with many caveats and limitations… sort of a ‘friends without benefits’ arrangement. Hence, the Jones-Shafroth Act was born and given the status of US Citizen to all Puerto Ricans, which granted them the privilege of dying in their oppressors’ wars.

Puerto Rico has never really flourished under US control, though it has certainly seen better days. Government regulations have always stifled their small economy, but it just seems to keep getting worse. Local policies aren’t the only ones to blame either. Several US federal policies are among the largest contributors to the hardships felt by ordinary residents of the small, Caribbean island. I want to call these policies antiquated, but that word implies that there was ever a time when the policies were fair or proper, and it would be impossible to make that case.

MINIMUM WAGE LAWS

Puerto Rico is a part of the United States. The dollar is their currency, and they are bound by US laws, including the federal minimum wage. But how is that a bad thing? Don’t people in Puerto Rico deserve a living wage? I would argue that certainly, they do and it is exactly the minimum wage need that prevents them from earning one.

Though only 46 percent of the 3.7 million population of Puerto Rico participates in the workforce, as compared to about 60% in the mainland US, their median household income is just under $20,000 per year. Compare that to the almost $52,000 US median, which is slightly lower in my home state of Indiana’s at $50,532. A person making the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would make $14,500 per year based on a 40-hour workweek for 50 weeks per year. That sounds like nothing and, even compared to a very modest $50k per year. But consider that minimum wage in Puerto Rico is 74.3% of the median, things start to come into perspective. Since prices are higher in Puerto Rico, it’s kind of like if we were to have an $18.50 per hour minimum wage here on the mainland, except that $18.50 would only buy you $10 worth of goods and services.

So, Puerto Rico has an idle workforce that can’t go to work because it’s illegal for them to work for less than minimum wage. Yes, people who make minimum wage are poor, especially in a place where everything costs more, but to make it illegal to pay people below a living wage, minimum wage laws have forced many Puerto Ricans into living on no wage at all. In its attempts to outlaw poverty, the government has created more poverty and made it more severe.

THE MERCHANT MARINE ACT OF 1920 (The Jones Act)

This federal statute is intended to make sure that maritime commerce between US ports is conducted using US ships, which also must be constructed in America and owned by Americans. This protectionism keeps Puerto Rico from being able to import or export anything unless they use the US Merchant Marine, which means US ships, constructed in the US, and crewed by US staff. This makes imports cost twice as much as they do in neighboring Caribbean nations. Their incentive to export is likewise reduced as Puerto Rico’s goods are more expensive and less competitive than mainland consumers and wholesalers can get elsewhere.

EXCESSIVE TAXATION

As it is not officially a state and therefore does not have representation in US Congress, they are not subject to the federal income tax. This often plants the notion that Puerto Rico is some tax haven in the minds of typical mainlanders. This is not the case. Puerto Rico imposes its income tax and sales tax. Still, the biggest blow to Puerto Rican prosperity came in the form of Section 936 of US Internal Revenue Code, which removed tax exemptions for US companies with subsidiaries in Puerto Rico. Former President Bill Clinton signed legislation in 1996 that scaled back these exemptions over a ten year period. This effective tax hike went into full effect in 2006 and had since led to massive job losses, and Puerto Rico has endured 12 consecutive years of economic depression across the island.

ENORMOUS GOVERNMENT AND SOCIAL FUNDING
One-third of Puerto Rico’s workforce is employed by the government. One-third of Puerto Ricans are on food stamps, not to mention other forms of help. Let’s assume that there’s no convergence between those groups for the sake of this article, though I suppose it is entirely possible that government employees may also be on some forms of assistance.

The largest employer on the Island is the government, because there is so much support that needs to be distributed. More help means less incentive to work, and the fewer people work, the more they need help. The more aid they need, the more government programs and employees are needed yet, with the decrease in jobs, the less money there is flowing into the government to pay those government salaries and cover the program budgets, creating a massively unsustainable situation that will lead to a crash.

Like much of the world, they will most likely see the failures of government as a pressing need for more and more government, and they will suffer more and more unintended consequences. I’m rooting for Puerto Rican statehood if that’s what they want. They deserve proper representation, but I fear that the United States and its own twenty billion dollar debt and thousands of unsustainable public programs could never save them from the consequences of the US’s poor decision-making and underhanded dealings that put Puerto Rico in this situation in the first place. If they could resist the call of socialism, they’d be better off pursuing independence.

Clyde Myers is a columnist and blogger from Columbus, Indiana where he serves in the leadership of the local Libertarian Party.

References:
www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2014/cb14-17.html
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Rican_government-debt_crisis
www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode46a/usc_sup_05_46_10_24.html
www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/936
www.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/1898/chronpr.html

Tax Policy Helped Create Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Crisis

Do Not Engage

 This article submitted by Christopher Peffers

I got in an argument with a liberal on Facebook the other day. This is a pretty common occurrence for me (and much of America) but I don’t mind. I like the arguing. Nothing gets my fire burning like a good debate. It’s good to throw around ideas with people that disagree: you’ll either learn something new or sharpen your own viewpoint for later debates. It’s a win-win as long as it’s a good debate. This was not a good debate however. I like to think of myself as a pretty level headed person but I’m ashamed to say I lost control pretty quick. I’ll attach the original post then continue my thoughts below.

 

Post in question*

There’s a lot to process there. Usually I find it’s good to focus a rebuttal on one point and go from there (one good thing to keep in mind when forming an argument is that one good point alone is better than that same good point with a few weaker points your opposition can attack aggressively). What I’m not proud of is I didn’t focus on the thing that bothered me the most. I went after Hillary right away. Called her a crook and a liar and maybe even a sociopath (the Clintons often get me seeing red in conversation). I should have focused on the most offensive thing in that statement: point number 3.

I understand it can be tough to debate certain people. There’s a certain class of people who never quite learned how to have a discussion. No matter what you say they’ll dig their heels into the same tired points over and over again. They’ll respond to a thoughtful point with insults and screaming. The original poster phrased it succinctly: they are not there to have a talk, they are simply basking in their own self-righteousness. I have a name for people like this. I call them “everyone at one point or another in their lives.”

It’s good to realize when you’re wasting your breath and need to move on. The entire modern world was mostly built by people who realized they weren’t getting anything done and decided to pursue a more successful path. The freedom to pick our battles is one of the most positive things about modern life. Specialization is one of the greatest forces for our accomplishments as a society and may be the core reason we’ve made it this far. Few animals even get a chance to die in a warm room surrounded by loved ones (dogs being the only other one I can think of. Thanks for being bros, dogs.). But it’s necessary to understand that people’s willingness to listen is based on potentially millions of things that any individual trying to convince them has no control over. Refusing to engage people is hands down the worst way to jumpstart a social movement. The people who are your loudest opposition are often times the people most worth engaging. Many times these people are angry simply because everyone refuses to talk to them as if they’re adults. They are treated constantly like their opinions don’t matter and that encourages them to sink deeper into their beliefs.

This attitude is exactly why the democrats lost the election. Well, their first mistake was running Killary instead of Papa Joe (I don’t like Joe Biden but that guy would’ve polled at 70% the moment he stepped in the arena and would’ve never lost that lead). There are a lot of reasons people voted for Trump (it would be asinine to assume 40+ million people had the same motivations for getting up in the morning, let alone picking the leader of the free world) but if we focus on the so-called “swing voters”, the ones who didn’t decide until days before the election, we can get a better picture of why he won. The democrat strategy was to vomit a list of terrible things that Trump has done and they assumed that would be enough. But for the people who made it to November without their final decision this was a problematic strategy. If they were still undecided after the litany of terrible press that followed Trump clearly more of the same wasn’t going to change their minds. Compare that to the republicans strategy of parroting all their concerns and making ambitious promises to fix those concerns immediately. Now, I’m not saying every Trump supporter was stupid enough to believe everything he said. In any other election it would be a terrible strategy. But Hillary was the one person this strategy worked gangbusters against. When they asked each side to present their case one made them a bunch of crazy promises and the other called them evil and idiotic for even considering literally the only other option they had. They felt their opinions were being shouted down so they found someone to shout down the democrats’ opinions.

I suppose refusing to engage is a slight improvement over silencing opinions through oppression. If the louder, angrier potion of our population simply shut up it would certainly be a lot easier to think. This would be a fine decision to make if one doesn’t care if their movement dies. Somehow I don’t think this is what democrats (or any other ideological group) want however. So if you’re willing to listen to what I have to say (admittedly I have zero credentials) I would like to offer one giant piece of advice to get the most out of your debate experiences:

Never outright refuse to debate anyone

This is the simplest piece of advice I can offer. People tend to think of losing an argument as a more damaging act than anything else when trying to get a movement going. This causes them to only pick fights with people they know they can beat. They argue the same few good points against people who haven’t thought out their position as well just so they can add a victory to their group’s pile and call it a day. One argument has never changed anyone’s mind though. People have far more bad ideas than good so evolution has given us this gift of not believing everything we hear right away. To win hearts and minds you must stoke the flames of discussion so they are constantly burning. You may argue with a brick wall for years then one day that wall finally agrees to a point you made and you realize they were listening all along, the change just wasn’t visible until now. And even beyond them, someone might overhear the argument and start silently moving to your side.

I’m not saying you have to continue a bad argument as long as they’re willing to continue, only so much work can be done in a day and we all have our limits. Just don’t flat-out give up on people. That won’t inspire them to get better, only sink lower (sometimes even violently so). Given how close the election was I’d feel comfortable saying it was the sole reason the democrats lost an election they should have won in a landslide.

And conservatives, don’t start getting all smug because the liberals appear slightly worse in this metric at the moment. This has been the trend in American politics for decades now. One party gets in power and decides they don’t have to listen to anything their opposition has to say. It’s why the presidency seems to without fail switch parties every 8 years as of late. The party in power simply becomes insufferable and the swing voters start looking elsewhere. Put the work in to break the cycle.

 This article submitted by Christopher Peffers

Black Market Milk

By Clyde Myers – Clyde Myers is a natural foods enthusiast, Columnist, and Blogger. He has contributed essays on foraging for wild foods in GRIT magazine and has led guided wild food foraging walks for multiple SEED projects. He lives in Columbus Indiana with his wife and two daughters where he is active in the local Libertarian Party.

How regulations and government interventions stifle the local food producers and make their products less safe.

“How much you want?” The shady character asks.

“How much can I get for twenty bucks?” Came my reply, though it didn’t matter. I needed my fix.

I needed the hit, the elixir that keeps me going. I’d pay nearly any price for it and it’s being illegal made me want it all the more. What contraband was I seeking? What had brought me down to the level of a common criminal? Heroin? Cocaine? Even just weed? Nah, Kid’s stuff. Those don’t get me what I’m after. What I am referring to, of course, is the vilest of all contraband…

Milk. Raw Milk. Pure, virgin moo juice.

The shady character? Just a local farmer. She is a good and decent person, performing an essential service that should be hailed as the noblest and righteous of professions. But here in Indiana and several other states, she is a criminal. I too am a criminal. I am a criminal because I want to drink milk that hasn’t been pasteurized. I am a criminal because I value the balance of my gut bacteria. I am a criminal because I want a strong immune system, and I am a criminal because I supported a local farmer. I am a criminal because, as a grown adult, I understand the risks of raw milk and am willing to take that risk.

If you hadn’t already guessed, I’m sort of hippy-dippy natural foods enthusiast. I forage for wild food plants and write about that topic for obscure natural living and farm magazines, my own blog, and I teach foraging classes and workshops several times a year. I grow an extensive organic garden, save and trade seeds, collect rainwater, barter for local organic eggs, etc. In the warmer months, I rarely wear shoes and hardly eat any meal that doesn’t contain some form of kale. Because of this, I am often assumed to be a leftist or at the very least, a Democrat. I am not, but it’s fair to say that most of the people that I interact with self-identify as left of center if not as total socialists.

These are well-intentioned folks with Bernie 2016 and CoExist stickers on their Subarus. We’re talkin’ organic vegetable munching, patchouli wearing, pot smoking, Anti-GMO, granola folks. Many of them struggling small-scale organic farmers or producers themselves. They are sweet folks and some of my favorite people on earth, misguided though they may be. It always strikes me as funny that these folks are so staunchly anti-libertarian, yet local, sustainable food production, which is so close to their hearts and livelihoods, is so incredibly hindered by government intervention that it should make anyone sign up for the LP newsletter and build a shrine to Ayn Rand after about 5 minutes of dealing with the red tape.

Regulations can seem like a good thing on the surface. Humans have been collectively putting their trust in the state to regulate businesses, especially those that can have a direct impact on a person’s health and well-being, for quite a long time. Certainly, no one wants to buy meat tainted by botulism or listeria-ridden spinach, and since businesses seem to survive despite being regulated and so does the food consuming population, we get used to calling regulation a success because we see these businesses working.

What we don’t see are the ones that closed or never got started. We don’t see the growth of current companies that was never able to happen due to the increased burdens from regulation. It is easy to call something a success when there is no metric by which to measure it. There is no unregulated space where all other factors are equal against which we could compare data. So food industry regulations always win the election because they’re always running unopposed. All the while meat still seems to become tainted and listeria still finds its way onto the spinach.

There’s apparently something strange that happens to the space-time continuum when money is transacted for a product. Granny Bess can bake you one of her blue ribbon pies in her uninspected kitchen from rhubarb she grew in her garden, fertilized with manure from her own chickens, and you’re allowed to assume the risk that her processes are clean enough to produce food and that she knows what she’s doing. This is a perfectly legal transaction.

However, if you buy the pie from the same Granny Bess, a pie made in the same kitchen, with the same ingredients, under the same conditions, that transaction is illegal. Even if you pay the many taxes on it, this practice is punishable by law. Why? Because according to the state of Indiana, when money changes hands, Granny Bess needs to not only be inspected but also must buy specific types of equipment, must have hand washing sinks placed at specific locations, and in most cases, must operate out of some space other than her home, as well as a myriad of other regulations. All of these things cost money.

Large scale businesses that are already well established can afford those types of entry barriers to the marketplace or the increased cost of continuing business but Granny Bess probably can’t. She’ll never get her business off the ground if she needs to invest in industrial equipment, pay for her food safety certification classes, then pay whatever the license fee is in addition to finding a suitable space from which to operate. Maybe she didn’t even want to go into business long term. Maybe she just wanted to operate long enough pay off the last of her home before retirement or get her bathroom remodeled. Should it cost her life savings to make a few extra dimes to rub together?

It’s easy to look at this and think that, despite the collateral damage of Granny Bess’s situation, there is a necessary public good that came out of the regulations and that was ensuring the health and safety of consumers. But is that really the outcome? Why can Granny Bess give you one of her pies if it’s so risky? Why can she donate a dozen of them to the school bake sale or the fire station fish fry fundraiser? The pies are still available for public consumption and are still being exchanged for money. The only difference is that Granny Bess isn’t the one benefiting.

How has the risk of consuming it been reduced? It hasn’t.

In his book “Folks, This Ain’t Normal,” organic farmer Joel Salatin, owner/operator of Polyface Farms in Virginia, who has written several books and given multiple TED talks on sustainable agriculture extensively covers the way in which government regulations often keep him from using practices that would make his products have a beneficial impact on the environment and produce products that would be healthier for his customers to consume.

His argument is that it’s not necessarily a bad thing that there are regulations or standards, just that the people making and enforcing these don’t know much, if anything, about the industry they’re regulating at all. These are government bureaucrats for whom the sole purpose of their jobs is supposed to be to keep the public safe from foodborne pathogens and contaminants, but they seldom know the nature of particular pathogens and their interaction with livestock in a holistic, science-based manner.

Salatin points out that they don’t know that pasture raised, grass fed cows are much healthier than cattle from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and don’t require the same antibiotic dosages that cows raised in CAFOs do. They don’t know that the chickens and cattle benefit from being pastured together as it more closely mimics the way ruminants and birds interact in nature. They just see chickens and cows together and say “No, you can’t do that!” Salatin exposes the glaring example that they also didn’t know that their recommendation to feed the remains of slaughtered cows to the next generation of feedlot cows would result in Mad Cow Disease.

Even after supposedly learning from that mistake they still advocate for the practice of feeding dead chickens to cows. They hold these family farms and their healthy animals to the same regulatory standards of the giant CAFOs where the cows stand knee deep in manure that flows to giant manure lagoons and where the fecal particulate in the air is so dense that the animals have to be pumped full of antibiotics just to survive long enough to be slaughtered. The CAFOs can afford to accommodate the regulations. Small time pasture farms have no need for the measures because of their superior practices but still have to bear the cost to accommodate them and often simply cannot.

My self-defeating, Bernie loving friends and colleagues would, unfortunately, argue that the government isn’t regulating enough and that businesses left unchecked would run amok and poison everyone with unsanitary practices. But it’s not that businesses left alone and unregulated would always result in safe, healthy, and ideal products, just that government intervention doesn’t either.

No matter how well intentioned, the net result is that the government ends up enforcing bad practices that contribute to there being more disease, more pollution and more risk to the public health and safety. It stifles local economies, restricts public access to healthy products, discourages ecologically sound land stewardship, and ultimately results in a less healthy and less safe population.

Sources:

Salatin, Joel. Folks, This Ain’t Normal. 1st ed. New York: Center Street, 2012. Print.
www.in.gov/boah/2489.htm
milk.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=005192

Image Credit.

Guest Post: Make Our Schools Like Uber

According to anyone but a member of the state-run taxi cab coterie, Uber is awesome. It increases consumer choice, uses GPS technology for localization and accountability, drives down costs, and provides a better experience than the traditional taxi cab. But the establishment fears the threat of competition. Schools are no different from any other organizational endeavor. The more our schools become Uber-ized, the more specialized, efficient, and quality the experience for our children will become.

Uber creates a better experience by relying on consumer choice and feedback. It is more localized than a traditional cabs because you choose the pickup location. Each car is equipped with a driver-based GPS to serve the customer’s needs. There is also no argument about payment; the user has agreed to payment before the service has started. Let’s take a moment and imagine if you got into an Uber vehicle and had to pay a taxi tax: the starting rate for a traditional cab. This is the way that we fund education: you live in a district and you pay taxes whether or not you go to a school in that district. There are ways to drive down costs and increase quality by modeling school funding based on consumer choice.

The best way to do that is to let the money follow the children. Sounds pretty logical: the idea funding students instead of institutions. Unfortunately, there is a bureaucracy and unions anathema to the idea. Their intentions are in the right place, their incentives are not. What Uber-izing our schools does it put the money where the kids are. In order to do this, we must shift away from the concept that costs are fixed in schools. Costs change depending on the market forces surrounding them, and demand for good schools will force bad ones to get better.

This is a problem that will be fixed by changing the way we pay, not how much we pay. Since the 1960s, real education spending from the federal government has more than tripled when adjusted for inflation, yet results have flatlined. If costs were fixed, then more money would scale upwards towards quality. Andrew Coulson at the Cato Institute highlights that each child student that graduated in 2009 cost around $151,000, which is triple the amount we spent per child in 1970. “To sum up, we have little to show for the $2 trillion in federal education spending of the past half century. “

Much like school choice advocates, Uber has faced challenges from regulators with vested interests in its failure. The why behind these challenges is not based in any logical opposition to the benefits provided by consumer choice. The challenges exist because of money and special interests aimed at keeping the status quo. The way around this simple: expose consumers to the benefits of choice, and they will choose goods of a better quality. This is exactly how Uber has eroded the taxi cab monopoly, and it’s the way we’ll get better quality schools for our children.

Guest contributor Christopher Blakeley is from The Urban Libertarian. Learn more about him here:

The Urban Libertarian: theurbanlibertarian.us/

Link to the Original Article: theurbanlibertarian.us/politics/make-our-schools-like-uber.html

Guest Submission: Right To Work Is Anti-Liberty

By: Josh Lents

Living in Hendricks county; the most Republican county in Indiana according to Greg Lenz on the last We Are Libertarians podcast, I’m often witness to much banter about Republican ideals such as smaller government and liberty, but these conversations often involve misguided anti-liberty statements about erecting a giant wall on our border, bombing someone (for freedom no less), or supporting “right to work” legislation. I would like to address the last of these.

People often point out that no one should be forced to join a union because doing so is anti-freedom, and I think we can all agree on that. It would be a violation of the non-aggression principle (NAP) to force anyone to do anything against his or her will. This argument however is a misrepresentation of what the law actually does, and I would counter argue the law itself violates the NAP, instead of the other way around. Are individuals really being forced into unions against their will? It turns out “right to work” has little to do with the individual, and much to do with the private contract rights of employers and unions.

The law prevents unions and employers from signing a private contract to exclusively hire one particular union’s workers for a specific job. Under “right to work,” signing such a contract would be in violation of the law, subject to enforcement by government force. For example, the company I work for hires union workers for one particular job category but not for others. The job category is for a skilled labor position, in which the union trains and has a pool of hundreds of people with that skill set. It benefits my employer because the industry they are in can be a bit unstable at times and having access to a pool of hundreds of qualified workers at the drop of a hat gives them an advantage when bidding on big jobs in which they may need to fill dozens of skilled labor positions over night. It also benefits the employer because the wage and benefits are collectively bargained for ahead of time so they don’t have to negotiate with dozens of individual people separately. Paying dues is a condition of employment no different than any other condition an employer may impose. For instance, my wife works at a hospital and is required to purchase a specific set of scrubs with that hospitals logo on it. This is a condition of her employment, which is no different than being required to pay dues. If I didn’t want to pay dues or if my wife didn’t want to buy those scrubs, there are plenty of other employers that don’t require such things. We are not forced to work for those employers, and therefore, we are not forced to pay those dues, or purchase those scrubs, or accept any other condition of employment.

We may not always like our choices, but they are still ours to make. Taking away the right to exclusively contract ultimately cuts into the union’s power to collectively bargain because without that exclusive contract the union doesn’t have much to bargain. This is the ultimate goal, to break up the unions. Unions are actually a great example of liberty in action. A union is a group of individuals who voluntarily associate together for a common cause. Think of it like a representative government, except with the actual consent of 100% of everyone that is represented. Imagine if you will, the government passing a law which I will call “right to associate,” in which the government makes it illegal for your home owners association (HOA) to require you and your neighbor to pay dues, but still forces the HOA to provide services to you and your neighbors regardless of whether or not they pay dues. This is essentially what “right to work” is; a law of force, and there is no liberty in force.

Josh Lents is 29 years old, currently residing in Avon, Indiana, and graduated from Brownsburg High School. He became interested in the liberty movement during Ron Paul’s 2012 run for president. He also served time in the US Army, including a tour in the Iraq war. Josh is married with one child and another on the way.

 

Guest Post: Florida Sheriffs and the Fight Against Marijuana

marijuana_law_florida-300x169
By: Travis Wilson
Florida will be the next battleground for the Medical Marijuana issue to surface. In 2014 voters will have the opportunity to voice their opinions on the matter; this has also given the state’s law enforcement brigades a reason to form an alliance to combat this issue. Elected Sheriffs from all across the state are teaming up to write articles in local papers, performing community outreach projects and citizen awareness campaigns on what they see as the dangers to society if medical marijuana were to be legalized or at a very least decriminalized. What I am here to say is “Sheriffs, Shut up already.”
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If it is to be said that Law enforcement is the part of any government that’s sole reason for existence is to enforce the laws, ticket, fine or apprehend and incarcerate law breakers, then it should matter not what the laws are. As a collective of elected officials that swear to uphold the states laws and codes there should be no comment from this group as it would be in their special interest that any substance and product be illegal. In line with the most common defense of their actions, “just doing their jobs”, this would mean that groups of elected sheriffs and officers should not try to influence the changing of these laws by activism or advocacy campaigns.
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The Florida Sheriffs Association cites multiple reasons why they oppose these reform measures. Most of these reasons are for the belief in the order to protect the common good or public welfare. Other reasons given by law enforcement are the reports of rising crime rates in areas where marijuana is legalized or decriminalized. Some of these reports are false and others unsupported, but that’s no reason to throw out the results say officers. “Florida’s sheriffs believe that legalizing smoking marijuana, which has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse, is a dangerous decision for our state and its citizens. Florida’s Sheriffs stand firm in their opposition to the legalization of the use, possession, cultivation, delivery and sale of marijuana,” says their website.
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The Association also puts in a disclaimer, “Florida sheriffs agree that there may be strains of marijuana that can provide relief for children with severe, intractable seizures. This type of marijuana is high in CBD, a pain relieving and anti-convulsing component of marijuana, and contains minimal amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (the psychoactive ingredient that produces a high). Sheriffs are concerned about manipulation of families in need if the production, distribution, monitoring and quality control are not well defined and regulated.” This is an example of exclusionary or discretionary liberty. When a group or groups are permitted while others are punished for the same act it does not send a clear message as to the reason for the ban in the first place. If the health risks are too great for recreational use by non-sick people than it stands that the health risk would be the same for sick persons. If the safety and security of the community be the reason it stands that the Association would define all crimes as being committed by those who do not suffer from these diseases. Though no study has been done to find this I would bet there would be at least some crime being committed by those that would be accepted to use medical marijuana.
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On another side of this issue is the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). LEAP is a group of law enforcement personnel that oppose not only the prohibition of marijuana but of all recognized drugs and substances. Their statement is, “History has shown that drug prohibition reduces neither use nor abuse. After a rapist is arrested, there are fewer rapes. After a drug dealer is arrested, however, neither the supply nor the demand for drugs is seriously changed. The arrest merely creates a job opening for an endless stream of drug entrepreneurs who will take huge risks for the sake of the enormous profits created by prohibition. Prohibition costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars every year, yet 40 years and some 40 million arrests later, drugs are cheaper, more potent and far more widely used than at the beginning of this futile crusade.” This is a different view in that instead of police punishing users, seller, buyers, cooks, growers and producers the riddance of prohibition will lead to more crimes of violence or property theft and damage. LEAP believes in a system of regulation and distribution but doesn’t mention who would have this control. This is an area I would like more details to be released.
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One more way to look at this issue is the idea of complete abolition of all laws and regulations on every substance, natural plant or drug that is currently under the control of government. This belief is one that reduces the issue down to the basic aspect of property rights and self-ownership. If every man be respected to own and use his property in any way that does not interfere in the rights of others this issue is resolved under this ultimate idea. We do not live in such a world though. We live in a world where what a man does in his own home to his own body by voluntary means has somehow directed an effect unto the entirety of the public and should be shunned and punished by captivity.
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The idea of self-governance and self-ownership is lost on the majority of the public. It is a concept that takes away the power to dictate others actions and set prejudices against things or situations that they morally admonish or oppose and replace it with  responsibility for one’s own self and nothing more.
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The War on Drugs is ultimately a war on freedom and choice. It is a war on individual liberty and self-ownership. It is the opposition to the freedom that many people claim they seek and many more claim they support. The War on drugs is in one sentence a War on People.
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Travis Wilson is a Guest Contributor to We Are Libertarians. He currently resides in Northeast Florida and is a libertarian activist. His other works can be found on his blog at the links below.

For more please check out Thejeffersonpapers.blogspot.com

Guest Submissions at We Are Libertarians do not necessarily represent the views of We Are Libertarians as a whole, or its individual contributors. Opinions are those of the contributor.

Guest Post: What Is Voluntaryism?

VoluntaryismVoluntaryism is the philosophy that one becomes an advocate for when he or she learns to apply the Non-Aggression Principle and its doctrine of Equal Liberty consistently. It has nothing to do with the choices an individual makes, as long as that choice is consistent with the aforementioned principle and doctrine. Voluntaryism is not a political philosophy, though it can be adequately applied to politics, it is a philosophy that is essentially one’s lifestyle. An individual who has no desire to engage in political discourse can be a Voluntaryist, so long as they do not impose their particular beliefs on those who wish to be politically active. Even to an extreme, a tyrant of a commune could also be a Voluntaryist; as well as those who willingly submit to the will of his dictate. By their own volition, they both fit the description of a Voluntaryist. This extreme means he or she who forces freedom and individual liberty is technically the authoritarian (commonly referred to as the liberty-monger).

The root word of Voluntaryism is volunteer, and in every possible context a volunteer is simply understood as “a person who offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task by their own free will or choice; a person who willingly gives consent.” That’s a simple definition, but obviously it is an elementary term that is still misunderstood by many, which includes American politicians, college professors, students, judges, officers of the state, and sadly even those who claim to be Voluntaryists.

I now wish to address that which is sad, and also counter-productive to the advancement of liberty.

“Each faith, each ideology, tends to deviate from its original ideas, sometimes in a quite fundamental way and usually without most members being aware of what has happened.”

   — John Zube

The notion that anyone who holds a set of religious beliefs cannot be a Voluntaryist is not consistent with the philosophy of Voluntaryism itself, and is in fact boldly fallacious. Whether one believes in many gods, a single god, or in an unlimited benevolent government has little to no effect on their philosophy being voluntary. The act of telling other people what they can or can not believe, or what they ought to believe, as if that were the prerequisite for being a consistent Voluntaryist, is actually imposing one’s will on other people, and that force is antithetical to the principle of non-aggression. Any individual who willingly decides to practice a religion without infringing the equal liberty of someone else, has done absolutely no harm, and to impose one’s will on them would be to violate their liberty of conscience.

This was a position taken up by one of The Levellers in Seventeenth century, Richard Overton who wrote: “No man hath power over my rights and liberties, and I over no man’s.” Considering our history, if we aim to be Voluntaryists, true to form, our resistance is not against hierarchies or those who believe in a supreme being at the top of those hierarchies; Nor is our resistance against those who place a government at the top of those hierarchies, while it treads heavily upon their liberties. Throughout history, Voluntaryism has propagated alongside many great differences of beliefs, tastes, and perspectives, but the core tenet of Voluntaryism was neither collectivism or conformity. Long before the word Voluntaryist had even been branded, or The Aim of the Voluntaryist had been locked in; even long before the era of The Levellers and The True Levellers (Both had very different opinions on politics and governance, but surprisingly both had religious beliefs); even before the 1530′s when Etienne de la Boetie wrote The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, the core tenet was no different. Voluntaryism is deeply rooted in voluntary associations, non-aggression, and whether or not we give our consent to being governed by others against our own free will.

Timothy Voluntaryist Fogle is a first time Guest Contributor at We Are Libertarians. This piece was originally posted on The Autarchist.Papers – his personal periodical about the Libertarian philosophies of Voluntaryism and Autarchism. It has also been published by TheLibertarianLiquidationist.com.

Guest Post: Libertarianism & The Charge of Utopia

Utopia

One of the most prevalent claims against libertarians is that their ideas are Utopian in nature, but this can only be construed as a bad thing if you use the definition given by Sir Thomas More. The word Utopia first came about in the 1500’s through the philosopher and author Thomas More. If one examines the book they would find that the mythical place described in the book Utopia is nowhere near its present day meaning and by all accounts would never form in a libertarian society. Presently defined as an ideal place or state it would fit the vision of libertarians. It is here that the separation of definition takes place from the fiction story to the present day definition.

Of the many themes in More’s description of Utopia, I want to compare two major areas as they are the very basis to individual liberty and libertarianism as a whole; Private Property and Self-Ownership. These two points in Thomas More’s fictional story are meant to lead to a Utopia or perfect world, but error on the basis on individual liberty. This is where the charge of libertarians being Utopian by the book’s definition, in their ideas and vision is completely false.

Private Property

“In More’s novel Utopia has no money or private property and there is therefore no greed, power struggles, corruption, or vanity, and very little crime. Everything is held in common and everyone’s needs are supplied” [1].

This is nowhere near a Libertarian stance. The existence of property owned by the state has never been a view expressed by the Libertarian philosophy. Private ownership of property leads to the owner feeling a sense of personal investment in the maintenance and improvement of that property. When the ownership is transferred to the state that investment is not realized and the property is subject to abuse and quickly falls into disrepair and dilapidated. Simply look into your local public housing projects to see this effect in comparison to a area of high private home properties.

In the modern day definition of utopia, a libertarian society would be centered around the Right of Private Property and its protection.  As Ludwig von Mises once stated, “If history could teach us anything, it would be that private property is inextricably linked with civilization.” Private ownership of property is one of the fundamental tenets of libertarianism. It leads to the production of goods and the means of labor to produce those goods. It is this ownership that allows individuals to create homes and businesses.

Self-Ownership

In More’s description of his utopia he includes the custom of owning servants or slaves, Labeled as “bondmen”, these unfortunate people are owned by others to be put to work in the home and wherever else needed. In no way does this represent the libertarian view of self-ownership. The belief that you, and you alone, can own your body and the fruits of your labor and toil is a vital, central axiom of libertarianism and cannot, in any way be construed to include any sort of servitude or bond to another person.

Another point in this issue is the way in More’s Utopia there are authority figures set into every community and city; eventually leading to a central ruler and its court. This point is a little different in the Libertarian stance. Libertarianism is broad and a very large-tent term. It contains those that believe in the minimal amount of outside governance and also those that believe in no governance but self-rule.

How do you define the word Utopian? With the charge that libertarians are Utopian in their ideas one would have to differentiate the term from the classical to the modern.

In the classical sense, in no way, shape, or form would that type of society exist, or even begin to exist under the libertarian positions of Private Property and Self-Ownership.

In the modern day definition, a more perfect world, or a utopia could exist under a libertarian society. This begs the question though; shouldn’t this be wanted by all, and embraced by everyone?

With the modern definition being what it is, I must ask, if libertarians are Utopian in belief, what does that make the other party’s ideals? What is the purpose of all the added regulations, laws, rules, and restrictions? What are they working towards? Is it all for the ultimate goal of total control? Of course these are rhetorical questions! I already know the answers.

Travis Wilson is a Guest Contributor to We Are Libertarians. He currently resides in Northeast Florida and is a libertarian activist. His other works can be found on his blog at the links below.

Link directly to the blog post: thejeffersonpapers.blogspot.com/2013/11/intentions-and-results.html?m=0

For more please check out Thejeffersonpapers.blogspot.com