Teen Wolf and Gary Johnson (Opinion)

Teen Wolf and Gary Johnson

Teen Wolf & Gary Johnson: I hear a lot of people saying, “Gary Johnson ran in 2012 and got less than 1%. Why do you think he can win now?” For Libertarians, that’s a loaded question.

First, understand that we know the difference between who should win and who is likely to win. For a Libertarian who believes in limited government, it’s easy to say our guy (Johnson) should win. We believe it passionately. We’ve been keeping score on Republicans and Democrats for a long time and we see them both as growers of government.

Democrats want the government to be so big that they can say, “Hey! You’re too rich. I need to take more of what you earn so someone else will be better off. P.S. We’re not asking. We’re telling.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be rich some day. Like Mr. Deeds, I think I’d use my money for good, but I’m turned off by the idea that the more I make, the more they take.

Republicans want the government to be so big that they can tell you what bathroom to relieve yourself in. I think that’s a shitty position. But that’s neither here nor there.

When someone makes the argument that Gary Johnson’s shortcomings in 2012 (still about one million votes) should mean he can’t win in 2016 I say, “Consider Teen Wolf.”

Remember Teen Wolf? It was the 1985 comedy in which Michael J. Fox played Scott Howard, an angst filled teenager whose uncertainty on the basketball court and lack of confidence with the ladies made him a veritable nobody in high school. That is, until he discovered his family curse, which also turned out to be a blessing, which then turned out to be a curse, and then a blessing again. Still with me?

Now that you’ve been refreshed, replace Scott Howard with Gov. Gary Johnson in the thick of the Teen Wolf saga. First, forget about Scott’s time in the closet with Boof. Second, the wolf is irrelevant, so forget about that too. And finally, don’t think about Gov. Johnson backstage with Pamela during dress rehearsal.

As a matter of fact, let’s limit this analogy to Scott’s time on the basketball court. In the opening scene, the winning point comes down to Scott. Insert inaudible onlookers, amplify the sound of the ball being dribbled, highlight the immense amount of sweat dripping down Michael J. Fox’s forehead, and put it all in slow motion. But, despite the theatrics, Scott misses from the free throw line and falls short of victory, which was a metaphor (I think) for the whole of Scott’s story at the time.

For the record, had he been successful, it would have been a really short movie.

As the film progresses, Scott Howard realizes he’s a werewolf with extraordinary abilities. As the wolf, he’s a star on the basketball court. He’s invited to be in the school play and is arguably the most popular guy in high school. But he realizes (eventually) that all of his successes are cheapened because it’s not actually him that has fallen into social acceptance. It’s his alter ego, and he’s determined to turn the tables and win on his own.

Some think he’s crazy, like the invisible man opting out of invisibility and walking into the bank vault for a quick withdrawal. But, it’s what he wants.

Fast forward to the end of the film (and spoiler alert?). Scott (not the wolf) is back at the free throw line. The game winning shot is his to take yet again. But this time, after all of the theatrics have commenced, Scott makes the shot and wins the game. Everyone celebrates.

Why didn’t he win at the beginning of the film? He didn’t win because circumstances were different. Back then, he didn’t believe in himself. This time he knew what it was like to be a winner (thanks to the wolf), and it was his job to transition that from the wolf’s legacy, to his own.

Likewise, circumstances prevented a Gary Johnson victory in 2012. People weren’t ready for it. But after four years, the two term Governor of New Mexico has learned some valuable lessons, all of which have culminated at a time when Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, perhaps the most unfavorable Republican and Democratic candidates ever, are offering little choice to fiscal conservatives and fans of less foreign conflict and intervention. And that could be Johnson’s golden ticket.

That, could be Johnson’s winning shot.

With another former Governor, William Weld at his side, 2016 could be the perfect storm, and at the very least the existence of a non-Trump/Clinton ticket will offer an option of conscience to more reasonable voters.

So, while he didn’t score the game winning shot in 2012, Gary Johnson’s final act is yet to be seen, and I for one want him to sink it.

 

 

 

Opinion: What is a Libertarian?

Today I listened to Jason Stapleton talk for 44 minutes on the topic, “What is a Libertarian?” Like Tom Woods during one of his recent podcasts, Jason agreed that a Libertarian “Is not ‘fiscally conservative and socially liberal,’ like Gary Johnson suggests. Rather, Libertarians have their own philosophy and operate on a standard of core libertarian principles. We are not a little of this party, a little of that party.” He then when on (for the next 40 minutes) to explain what a libertarian is/is not. Woods did something similar on his show (and at a luncheon during the Libertarian Party’s national convention).

But here’s my thing (whether it’s popular or not): If it takes 30-40 minutes to explain what a Libertarian is, then no Libertarian Party candidate for President will ever stand a chance at mass recruitment and/or a majority of votes.

People best absorb new ideas in bite sized portions.

While it might not be 100% accurate, Gary’s branding of the libertarian message works in only four words (fiscally conservative/socially liberal). It’s consumer friendly. It’s bite-sized. Non-libertarians can easily wrap their minds around it.

If I were pitching a movie to a Hollywood executive who hears (mostly bad) ideas all day and has minimal time in her schedule, I wouldn’t waste our time explaining every part of my script. She’d kick me out of her office before the second act. I would take two movies that she was already familiar with and use them to paint a picture. For instance, if I was pitching the ever-campy Sharknado series, I might say, “It’s Jaws meets Twister.” Or, if the film’s title was self-explanatory (Snakes on a Plane) I would use that. This level of brevity offers enough of the idea to generate interest and create understanding.

For libertarianism, the only other person I’ve heard make a succinct enough description is Matt Kibbe when he says, “Don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff.” But even that implies our beloved “taxation is theft” argument, which likely requires further explanation to people that don’t understand why government is bad for them.

So, because I want to win and see the Libertarian Party grow (with professionals, not naked dancing men)…

When I’m confronted with the opportunity to offer the Tom Woods/Jason Stapleton explanation of liberty vs. the Gary Johnson explanation, I’ll take Gary Johnson’s all day long.

If that’s what it takes to bring people in and make them comfortable digging deeper (perhaps getting to Woods/Stapleton), then by all means, I’m fiscally conservative, and socially liberal.

Update: I’ve also heard “social acceptance/fiscal responsibility.” That works for me too.

Song: Freedom – Election 2016

This was inspired by Dr. Marc Feldman’s rap at this year’s LP Convention and the Gary Johnson/William Weld nomination. I hope it is an encouraging hip-hop anthem for all libertarians during this year’s election season. If you like it, please consider making a donation to Gary Johnson’s campaign at GaryJohnson2016.com or to We Are Libertarians at WeAreLibertarians.com via Patreon. Or, you could donate to both! For Liberty – Joe Ruiz


Lyrics

Verse One

Look at this place we’re in. We could set the pace, Set our fates to win. Nobody demonstrates how they hate the kids like the status quo, debates, and the states that’s been. Thin – They say our chances are. We battling a beast that is so bizarre. We finally got a reach and the dance is ours. Now it’s time to unleash with our hands to stars. For this race is so staged whether red or blue. You can’t even believe what’s been fed to you. Are Republicans and Democrats dead to you? Because this year they’re dead to me too. I opt for freedom. I want to vote for me. We need to stand up for our rights to be. We need to stand up for some liberty. If we do, man, what a sight to see. I just need some (freedom).

Verse Two

Got our sights set on it. We finally got a moment now we can’t jet from it. We finally gotta own it. Be the champs – gotta want it. Put a stamp on the map. Show the people that they fronted when they told’em – only 2 choices in the U.S. We’ve been the voice, media just kept’em clue-less. Be for the truth, otherwise we keep it truthless. We the most authentic. I don’t know, that’s just my two cents. They called us wasted votes, but looking at it we’re the only sane ones to note. I say it’s time that everybody jumped on the boat. Are the other guys gonna get it done? Nope. They’ve just had too many chances – know the problems, not the answers. They the problem. That’s the stance if we really want to advance us. Let’s vote different cuz’ the same is outlandish. The way to be – for Liberty. Now everybody put your hands up.

Bridge

It’s a new day y’all. Either we choosin’ to change, or we choosin’ to fall. Either we choose to engage or we’ve rejected the call. Either we rippin’ down the system, or we buildin’ a wall. Either we askin’ for permission or we takin’ it all. Either we acceptin’ the mission or we droppin’ the ball. Either become an activist or be a fly on the wall but I just think that we should be involved.

This is for everybody this year that wants to be exceptional.
For everybody that’s brave enough to say “No More.”
For everybody that’s done with war, corruption, debt, and most importantly, for everybody that’s ready for some (freedom).

Political Parties: I Am Finished.

I am finished with political parties.

I am finished with political parties. I have been saying this for a while, but have not said it so publicly until now. In 2012, I was a hardcore advocate of the Libertarian Party. Before that, I was a Democrat.

Now, I am nothing. In my opinion, that makes me everything.

Why?

There a few reasons for this transformation.

  1. I do not need a name tag. I believe what I believe. While those views most closely align with the Libertarian Party, I may (from time to time) come by a Democrat that I enjoy, or even a Republican. I reserve the right to vote for any candidate, regardless of the letter next to their name. I do this without guilt or concern for the peer pressure that may accompany party affiliation. I have decided that this is the most pro-liberty position to take.
  2. Parties are unnecessary. What do you think parties do? Chances are you are wrong. Most likely, somebody else handles that. That begs the question (though): what is the party’s purpose? Is their purpose to run campaigns? When I ran for office, I thought there was a lack of “party support.” They nominated me (which was great). However, I thought (naively) that they were supposed to do so much more. To be fair, that was my fault, not theirs. My misconception was that the party was my campaign team. In my mind, they would be my volunteers, organizers, fundraisers, etc. The truth is that the team you create is your team – nobody else. Is their purpose to advance a message? Republican and Democratic parties change their messages regularly on the whims of their members and/or most likely voters. To quote Glenn Beck, they simply watch to see which direction the parade is moving in, and then jump out in front of it. In the liberty movement prominent authors, think tanks, personalities, and activist organizations are largely responsible for the evolution of thought. Therefore, you can check that off the list.
  3. Parties create the team sports mentality. Watch Republicans and Democrats for any period. In a recent debate, Hillary Clinton called Republicans her greatest enemies. In early Republican debates, moderators asked candidates, “Will you promise to support the Republican candidate no matter who he/she is?” When Donald Trump “no,” it was a huge story, and since he inevitably changed his mind you have to wonder what scrutiny his party applied. Do you think that means Republicans and Democrats have no ideological overlap? No. It just means priorities on the national stage are bad. Other parties are not much better. Every party wants control of the law. If the Libertarian Party took the reins tomorrow, human nature would eventually lead them down the same path. It might take a while, but ultimately the rhetoric of every party is that they are superior to the next, and so they should be given/stay in power.

Why do they exist?

It is easy. Parties exist to sustain themselves. All of their resources (time, money, nominations, etc.), are spent on winning – not for the betterment of our nation, but for the betterment of the party. They want to stay relevant. Moreover, I, for one, think we would be better off without it.

Without parties people would:

  1. Have no straight ticket option (and no desire for one).
  2. Be forced to think about each candidate on each issue.
  3. Vote for their favorite policies rather than simply voting against a label.
  4. Have a greater opportunity to advance education and persuasion (key for libertarians long hindered by the word “libertarian”). The winds of perception are real.
  5. Get a lot of the money out of the political process.

What do we do?

Whether you are a Libertarian, Green, Republican, Democrat, or anything else, let us all drop the labels and just be independents. Donate to the candidates that you agree with. Never donate to political parties. Rejecting a label does not mean compromising your values. I would even argue that it would advance them.

Let us disown all political parties. It is not a sport. There is no need for jerseys. A nation of independents will land closer to a nation of independence.

What Sucks About Ladies’ Night?

 

Be warned. This post is not political.


 

Do you know what sucks about Ladies’ Night?

I’m inebriated, and for all intents and purposes I have become a cliché – a mannish glassful of bourbon, distastefully paired with a disposable glass of Merlot. And why? Because it’s ladies night at the Ruiz house.

To be fair though, that’s not the only reason I’m smashed. I like to drink. It’s rare when you have children (if you’re responsible), to have a night when drinking doesn’t induce a significant degree of guilt. But since my kids are with my parents for the night temptation overrode my better senses.

Shouldn’t I be working? Absolutely. Are there better ways to spend my time? Well, that depends on the person. Brad Paisley had an entire album titled Time Well Wasted. I always liked that phrase. But being the night that it is, I’m currently a king who, though his rule is mighty, has been forced to retire to his chambers early, not by the threat of cold steel, but by feminine suggestion.


 

Weeks ago I found out that my wife was hosting a “Favorite Things” party. From what she tells me, Favorite Things is a tried and true tradition where each woman buys some of her favorite things and gifts them to another women in the group. Why? It (supposedly) causes women to consider new products, or to think about things that they haven’t tried before. I suspect (however), that it’s really just an excuse to eat, drink, and be merry beneath the guise of generosity.

By her side I’ve spent the better part of two days making sure that our home was pristine and void of any appearances which might suggest that a 4 year old and a 7 year old regularly thrash it. After all, and I say this from the outside looking in, female friendships don’t at all look like male relationships. They’re different.

All of my friendships are lukewarm. I mean, we enjoy each other’s company. I love our conversations. We occasionally make each other laugh and we have no short supply of favorable memories. But a lot of our conversations focus on politics and culture. We quote movies and “save the world” by complaining about the events of the day and suggesting how we’d do it better. Conversations about family are vague and kept somewhat under wraps.

That might actually be the biggest parallel that I see between men and women. While women make their things look well-taken care of and clean their houses so their friends think, “This is comfortable.” Or “She’s really got her shit together,” men say just enough about their families for their friends to assume, “Yeah, he’s got this.” Or “He’s got his shit together.” Notice the absence of the word “really” when I’m talking about men. With us there’s just not much of a need for emphasis.

Maybe it’s a societal thing. For centuries women have been pressured to become nurturers and good homemakers, so making good food and drink accessible to their friends and having a clean home helps to maintain that illusion. It’s an illusion that, even though women are increasingly more independent and free from their pre-feminist shackles, they seem to keep close. They don’t have to. Women know how hard they work. They know they deserve more breaks than they’re given and that the clean house and fresh baked goods bit is fiction beyond common courtesy. But they do it anyway.

Meanwhile, guys are traditionally supposed to take care of their families and be responsible for a happy wife and well-protected kids. That can mean a lot of different things to different people, but in its simplest form it really means they’ve got a roof over their heads. It’s much more animalistic. It’s much more hunter/gatherer. So we don’t even try to prove ourselves. We just omit. Do we need to show each other how good we are at being manly? Not really. Even if we did, it might be unmanly of us to care.

When our friends come over to visit they see the roof. Our wives and kids are usually somewhere around. That’s plenty for them. Anything else that’s said is a bonus, so we’re free to solve the world’s problems again.

And then there’s this: In Prince’s song Future Baby Mama he has one of those moments where he steps away from the melody and starts talking to his person, whoever she is. He says, “I know what you want. (You want) what every good woman wants – a man so in love with you that he can’t help but flaunt you. Deep down I know what you want. You want your girlfriends to hate you.”

You might be thinking, “Really Prince?”

Two things about that: 1. Shut up. He’s Prince. He does what he wants. 2. He does beg the question: When women gather, are they really putting their best foot forward out of common courtesy; so they feel more secure in their womanhood? Or are they (like Prince says) really trying to make their friends jealous?

I don’t think it’s the latter. I think that’s probably a strong accusation. In my opinion it’s more of the former. But you could probably make different arguments based on each individual.


 

Now I’ve written myself sober, and while there’s been no great point or demand to my writing I’ve learned recently that I don’t need one. Writers can just write because they enjoy writing. In fact, if these three pages or so seem somewhat A.D.D, you now know a little more about me as a person. Honestly. I am, by my nature, all over the place.

I can hear the “favorite things” being passed out now. They all sound happy. They’re definitely entertained. And I’ll say this: If men could ever take anything away from women it’s that with women there’s always an undercurrent of support. You could speculate that there’s more gossip, drama, and backbiting in female circles… I guess. But I think that’s surface fodder. That’s more the stuff of prime time television. But if you ever accused them of that publicly I almost guarantee you’d be opening a fresh wound in a pool full of sharks.

Men aren’t that sensitive. If I told one of my friends I’ve been having a rough go of it lately, I might be invited to elaborate, but it would ultimately end in a quick “I’ll keep you in my prayers” or “I’m sure things will work out.” But with women it’s otherworldly.

When Woman A has had a rough go of it, Woman B is more than attentive. She feels it for herself. She relates to it, internalizes it, and processes it, in a way that we’re just not capable of doing. Woman B never helps Woman A fix her problems. Rather, Woman B is structural support. She’s not there to stare down the wind for blowing. She’s there to endure the wind; to make sure that if her friend flies away, she won’t land on the pavement alone. And I think that’s pretty special.

So do you know what sucks about Ladies’ Night? Not a damn thing. If anything it means your lady will come home more whole and even keel.

If I had to put a moral to the story, it’d be this: Men, whether we’d usually admit it or not, we’re needy. I’ve learned (over time) to resist the urge to call my lady home when it’s Ladies’ night. Don’t be a bitch baby. Embrace it. In the long run, it’s as good for you as it is for her.

 

 

 

Lee’s Chi-raq an Ode to Gun Control

Nobody wanted Chi-raq to be a good movie more than I did. I wanted it to be the best movie.

As an extra in the film – alternating between the roles of “Riot Police Officer,” “National Guard Soldier,” and “National Guard Dancer,” I was invested. Chi-raq was my first experience on the set of major film, and I gave 10 days of my summer – long days that ranged anywhere from 10 to 16 hours, to acting out my small parts.

And though they were small, I spent months hoping for an epic masterpiece. I hoped for a dark horse to ride in with a powerful message and spark an authentic change in the streets of Chicago.

I regularly checked the film’s IMDB page for a release date, shared updates as they appeared on social media, and pre-ordered the Blu-ray as soon as it was available.

Even as an extra, I could have been as proud of Chi-raq as its creator, Spike Lee.

And then I saw it…

First, I’ll offer the disclaimer that I knew gun control was (thematically) going to be a big part of the story. Still, it was a chance to be a part of a movie helmed by a well-known director, and since it was my first opportunity, I wasn’t about to turn it down.

Despite those themes Chi-raq had some very redeeming qualities. In theory it could have had a profound impact on its subject; Chicago neighborhoods driven by gang violence – burdened by black on black crime.

But the final product seemed to lose track of its audience. For every good point the film championed, something was said or done to negate it.

Chiraq 2

The Cons

  1. It lost focus. Chi-raq’s first ambition seemed to be telling a reckless and violent criminal class, “Enough is enough.” I support that. Making an emotional appeal against senseless killing and asking our brothers and sisters to consider how violence perpetuates more violence is cool, but the film strayed from that. After a while Spike’s political leanings bled through into the picture and left me asking, “Where’s this going?” Was Spike still speaking to the hood? It became unclear. Suddenly Chi-raq went from a cautionary tale set in Chicago to a cinematic treatise on racial inequality, income inequality, and the need for stricter gun laws. It even mentioned how these gangsters could buy guns with a fake ID at Indiana gun shows without a background check. To be clear, I doubt the subjects of the film frequent Indiana gun shows. Of the many other issues Chi-raq went on to address I sympathize with Black Lives Matter, I agree that private prisons are a mistake, and I understand that there have been far too many instances of bigotry and racism within the prison industrial complex, and with local and state police forces. But it seemed out of place. Because of these outside voices Chi-raq seemed to turn away from its original audience for the purpose of chewing out a larger, equally bad, yet still unrelated culture. I didn’t like that.
  1. Unnecessary commentary. Periodically Samuel L. Jackson’s character Dolmedes would interrupt with a third party observation about the events unfolding. Dolmedes didn’t belong anywhere else in the story. He was a narrator, and by no fault of Mr. Jackson’s, he should have been cut. Throughout the movie I understood what was happening just fine, and Dolmedes’ summaries didn’t contribute anything to better my experience.
  1. Comedy or Satire? There were several scenes that, as standalones, could have been very funny. I remember approaching Spike Lee one day as he thumbed through his text messages and telling him, “This is going to be hilarious.” Granted, as an extra I didn’t know the film’s synopsis. I didn’t know anything more than what other uninformed extras had told me on set. He gave me a kind of unamused look and asked, “Is it?” Of course he did. He knew his vision for the film. I didn’t. In the final edit the scenes that seemed really funny while filming were held back, diluted, and restrained. Since then Spike Lee has emphasized the difference between comedy and satire during promotional interviews, insisting that the humor in Chi-raq is about satire and not comedy. At the end of the day though, it just made me wish those scenes weren’t in the movie at all.
  1. The lyric. A majority of the dialogue had a kind of rhyme to it. Most of the verbal acting was in spoken word. Sometimes it was really effective, but most of it was just overdone and distracting.
  1. It failed women. Throughout the movie a battle of the sexes played out. The female characters in Chi-raq set out to abstain from sex until the men stopped killing each other. Okay. But despite gun violence being the central issue, Lysistrada’s strategy could have also worked in favor of feminism in a cinematic world where the female characters were very much objectified and mistreated. The male characters outwardly called female characters “bitches,” “wenches,” and “hos,” and even referred to their lady parts as “nappy pouches.” With all of the power Lysistrada’s army were able to demonstrate in Chi-raq, they could have changed the game and ended up with a more peaceful community AND a community of men that treated them with respect. Instead they embraced the sexism, almost as if to say, “You can treat me any way that you want as long as you stop shooting each other.” That was a shame.

Chiraq

The Pros

  1. Cinematography. The pictures were beautiful throughout. Kudos to Spike Lee for the quality of his visuals.
  1. Moments of brilliance. There were certain scenes – particularly those involving the daughter of Jennifer Hudson’s character Irene, which came across as sincere and powerful. I really found myself in it. I wish there had been more of that.
  1. It started a conversation. When the message was on point it was strong! I hope it reaches more than just the casual viewer, and hits those that are actually committing the acts of violence that Chi-raq
  1. Performances. All of the actors did a great job. Even with the spoken word that I disliked, all of the cast, but particularly Nick Cannon, Teyonnah Parris, Angela Bassett, and John Cusack, did a phenomenal job of interpreting the spirit of the dialogue. Their level of professionalism was evident.
  1. It explored a solution. While it’s unlikely that a sex strike will spark a revival in a very misguided and jaded culture, at least it makes a proposal. At the end of Chi-raq, no one should walk away demanding that sex be withheld. However, everyone should walk away asking, “If not sex, how can we fix this?” And for that, Chi-raq should be applauded.

Education: A Private Facebook Chat

You’ve probably heard it mentioned in past episodes of the We Are Libertarians podcast, that a secret Facebook thread exists for the podcast’s hosts. But what brand of villainy goes on there? I’ll never tell. However, I will share this, since it was a great conversation that happened within the thread before we could make it to the podcast. Thanks to Greg Lenz, for always asking intriguing questions, making compelling arguments, and being civil in his discourse. – Joe Ruiz


Greg Lenz: Do you think teachers and (more so) school administrators, have a responsibility to follow what skills are in demand now and will be in the future? Or is that too high of an expectation to hold them to?

Joe Ruiz: What do you mean?

Greg Lenz: Shouldn’t schools teach skills that children will need in the future? Or at least skills that will be a foundation to build upon?

Joe Ruiz: Yes, but…With the advent of Common Core, I feel like teachers don’t really have a choice in what they teach. They have to make sure their kids are prepared for the standardized tests that are forced on them, and in most cases the curriculum that is set for them is so stiff that they can’t even utilize alternative means of getting the info to the kids.

Greg Lenz: Agreed. I’m not asking them to teach it. I’m just asking them to consider what their purpose is.

Joe Ruiz: My daughter’s Kindergarten teacher believes wholeheartedly that kids their age should be moving around, staying active, getting engaged in the material and burning off energy while they learn about the world. But because of the standards she is held to (Dibels testing, sight words, etc.), having them do that means they’d spend all of their time at home doing the state’s worksheets. So she has to try to create a balance where they get some of the worksheets done in the classroom, and some of them done at home (usually averaging about 8 worksheets at home per week).

Greg Lenz: Sure, and I have no beef with that. My question is, “Is education desirable? Why?”

Joe Ruiz: Change the question. Is being uneducated desirable?

Greg Lenz: No

Chris Spangle: NO MEANS NO!

Joe Ruiz: Good. I absolutely think teachers should be teaching what kids need to know versus what they’re currently teaching. I just don’t think whether or not they do it is the teacher’s decision at this point.

Greg Lenz: Perfect

Joe Ruiz: If it were, the teachers who still find value in cursive could still teach it, if they could justify it to their peers (just using cursive as an example).

Greg Lenz: Should they have to justify that value to me as a taxpayer and parent?

Joe Ruiz: I’d say so. Isn’t that essentially how teachers would be held accountable in a libertarian utopia?

Greg Lenz: Yep

Joe Ruiz: That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’d have to change their curriculum at the whim of every parent, but they’d probably still need to have an explanation prepared.

Greg Lenz: Now, do I have a right to require my kid’s teacher to make a case in the defense of education? Many have never considered why education is valuable, or why we place such an emphasis on it.

Joe Ruiz: I’m not sure I understand? Do you mean: Do you have a right to require your kid’s teacher to be an advocate for education, in a better state than it currently exists, to the state and Department of Education?

Greg Lenz: No, fundamentally, why do we want every child to be educated? What is the purpose or end goal?

Joe Ruiz: The advancement of society. Progress.

Greg Lenz: Progress of what? Society is an aggregate measurement of individuals.

Joe Ruiz: Arts, sciences, medicine, engineering, etc.

Greg Lenz: How can we advance art? In science, engineering, and medicine there are empirical methods for measuring progress. Language is subjective, like art.

Joe Ruiz: By continuing to create it. If kids don’t understand language, grammar, etc. there will never be another Twain…or Hell, even a Rowling.

Greg Lenz: But popularity/name recognition/sales are not progress. Unless Fifty Shades is progress too.

Joe Ruiz: I might argue that it is in that it opens the door to conversations that may have otherwise been held behind closed doors (if had at all).

Greg Lenz: Ultimately education is about building the skill set of an individual, right? I include critical thinking a skill. It’s the only reason we have it. So why is a skill set desirable? To produce and live. So teaching a child cursive, unless it is an aid in the learning process for the child, is unimportant and not worth requiring. In addition, if the purpose of education is to provide skills for production, not keeping abreast of what skills will allow them to in the future is a crime.

Joe Ruiz: That makes sense. I’m not against the abolition of cursive. But I wish it was something that, should the teacher find time in the day, is allowed to be taught. We still teach Greek, Hebrew, and Latin in both college and preparatory schools. It doesn’t mean that just because they’re dead languages, that knowing them isn’t valuable to uncovering some historical secrets later on.

Greg Lenz: For sure, and you can make a living as a Greek translator, Rabbi, or Latin teacher.

Joe Ruiz: Yes, and 100 years from now if an important letter from a former President or other historical figure were uncovered and written in cursive, I would hope someone knew how to decipher it.

Greg Lenz: My original point was this: If teachers haven’t considered what their purpose is, they merely exist to follow orders.

Joe Ruiz: I agree with that.

Greg Lenz: Hence the testing trend…

Joe Ruiz: Yes. And someone should rage against it.

Greg Lenz: And ultimately educators exist to teach someone how to learn. The great ones create a passion for learning.

Joe Ruiz: Those are the Mr. Feeney’s of the world. LOL. But in all honesty though, educators are leaving the field faster than the state can train and hire new teachers because of the “orders” that they exist to follow.

Greg Lenz: Because the skills necessary today will be different than tomorrow and public teachers are actively fighting against that.

Joe Ruiz: But that’s not all. I hope not.

Greg Lenz: They are. Take the fight for cursive, for example, or the fight against allowing HTML as a foreign language credit. Over valuing English and grammar (which is art not science).

Joe Ruiz: Part of it has to be this though: If you handed Picasso a canvas that was entirely paint by number and told him, “Every painting that you do from here on out has to live within the parameters that we’ve set for you on the canvas,” he would have chosen to sculpt rather than paint. There’s never been a time where kids have needed to be met where they’re at more, and yet teachers are required to meet a bird’s eye view curriculum in an educational system that is crying for personal attention.

Greg Lenz: We can get a customized version of everything in this universe except public education. It’s an assembly line in a world of 3D printers. And the educators did it to themselves by not skating to where the puck going.

Joe Ruiz: That might be true. But “they did it to themselves” doesn’t make right what is wrong with the system.

Greg Lenz: The reason they didn’t is because they’ve never been forced to define or defend their purpose. What would make it right is if educators understood their purpose, not just to follow orders of social engineers in a bureaucracy. I don’t think any educator or DOE secretary considers why the founders wanted public education, or why being educated is preferable to being uneducated.

Step two: We’ve established its preference, but why? What do we hope to achieve?

Joe Ruiz: That might be true in the big picture. But as you’re presenting it, it sounds like you’re vilifying teachers…the individuals who are in the profession. Most of them get into the field because they like working with kids and want to help mold tomorrow’s leaders, the way it’s always been spun to us. When presenting an argument like that I don’t think we can shame anyone. We just have to empower them. “Teachers, knowing your purpose is the key to setting this thing right.”

Greg Lenz: Yes. And I don’t blame teachers. I blame myself, or parents for not making teachers defend their purpose before being hired or graduating from with a degree in education.

Joe Ruiz: That’s good. That said, I think you could, with something that basic, uplift an entirely new generation of educators, who might help to reform education in years to come. It would be good for a teacher to identify their purpose, and ardently defend it to the state. Then, they would have the courage to say, I am not a babysitter. I am not a social worker. I am not a parent. I am not a counselor. I am, in fact, an educator.”

Greg Lenz: Right. And in order to graduate, you have to define education, demonstrate its value, and defend it. They have a more important role than nearly any other person in each student’s life.

Joe Ruiz: It’s the second most important role, a parent being first.

Greg Lenz: Right.

Joe Ruiz: This should have been in an episode of the podcast.

Joe Ruiz: By the way, regarding your thoughts on English: You don’t think a consistent form of communication is important though? Regardless of profession.

Greg Lenz: No, not where we are going. If it prevents someone from understanding what you mean, then yes.

Joe Ruiz: That’s kind of assumptive. Even with coding, you’re still setting up platforms with which to communicate in a traditional language.

Greg Lenz: If it’s format is quirky, but still understandable, it’s no different than if you’re Shakespeare.

Joe Ruiz: It’s like when I read guest submissions for We Are Libertarians. Sometimes I have to read them multiple times to try to understand what the writer is trying to say, even if what was written made total sense to the writer. Sometimes their words are spelled correctly. It’s just the way certain writers speak and the words they use. It can make it really hard to find the point. Likewise, if I read Mises, the content is over my head and I get confused.

Greg Lenz: Language and grammar are not without vale. It’s a supply and demand thing. The STEM majors command higher wages because there is greater demand and fewer in possession of the skill set. English majors are lucky to find technical writing jobs for $10 an hour.

Joe Ruiz: Sure, I agree. But that’s because you don’t need a college degree to be a writer. You just need to know how to write. But to say that it’s not a vital part of a college education is different from saying it isn’t a vital part of education as a whole. For instance, a guy I knew in college was an English major because he wanted to be a writer. Now he works at Wal-Mart and spends his nights writing screenplays on First Draft while eating Taco Bell. I on the other hand, had no English education beyond high school and am now a paid writer, who writes for a world-renowned political commentary site with extraordinarily handsome podcast hosts. (j/k)

Greg Lenz: Unfortunately, that’s the norm. And Shakespeare, Rowling, Twain etc. weren’t great because of their technical proficiency. They were great because of their creativity, which isn’t taught enough.

Joe Ruiz: Can you teach creativity?

Greg Lenz: English instruction should be a tool that is used to express and develop creativity.

Joe Ruiz: I would accept that. A creative class that teaches writing among music, art, etc?

Greg Lenz: Yep. Because that’s where the value is, not in perfect grammar. Now creative abilities will vary, but you can teach frameworks. For example using metaphors to grasp a concept. This painting represents man’with meaning, use legos to build something a child struggles with in the day to day life of a child.

Joe Ruiz: Right, perfect grammar is not as important as conveying a thought in an understandable fashion. In that respect, I agree.

Greg Lenz: But schools overvalue proficiency and undervalue creativity. That hurts earning power.

Joe Ruiz: That’s probably true. But I wouldn’t endorse the idea that any form of communication is okay. There’s got to be a happy medium in what we accept.

Greg Lenz: The market determines that. English became the standard because people wanted to converse in it. Demand drives the medium. Any medium has to be okay because a medium has no value except the value that individuals attach to it. It’s a vessel for interaction, like currency. That’s why English replaced Latin.

Joe Ruiz: Right, but a more uniform “currency” of interaction helps to limit misunderstandings, at least across subsets of the culture.

Greg Lenz: Precisely, not because it’s better, because it’s easier to use due to more people understanding the messages encoded in it. It’s the Network effect. There’s more utility because of the number of users who understand it, which undermines any argument for cursive.

Joe Ruiz: I think I’m with you, but hear this first: If Doug crashes his car on vacation in Maryland and Dr. Jennifer requests his chart and health history from Dr. Rodriguez in Southern California, isn’t it necessary for them to be able to understand what’s written from peer-to-peer?

Greg Lenz: Enter the market for translation.

Joe Ruiz: ?

Greg Lenz: All professions have mutually agreed to jargon, not regulation requiring the rationalization of its value set by a governing body, which is what the cursive debate is…protectionism.

Joe Ruiz: But if they’re not entering medical school equipped with a capacity to understand it, they have to be retaught their identification of language before they can even receive training in their chosen field.

Greg Lenz: Right. You’re where I am.

Joe Ruiz: Maybe, I just haven’t figured out yet if I like that. LOL

Greg Lenz: Which is why educators training the next crop have to “predict and anticipate” where the world is going, or they’re useless. I would argue most hate it, because it’s change, which makes people uncomfortable. Like Spanish road signs. “Make them learn ENGLISH! This is Murica! It’s funny if you think about it. “In Murica we speak English. If you don’t like it, leave!”

Joe Ruiz: But that leads us right back to the beginning. If I were a hired teacher, even if I had my finger on the pulse of where things were going, I couldn’t (at this point) adjust my curriculum accordingly. Teachers are powerless, times two. Even if they could get past themselves, they have to get past the lawmakers.

Greg Lenz: Right, but if they don’t even know why education is good, and why their role in teaching skill sets to individuals to prepare them for the future, there isn’t hope, period. It would just be the continuing on of an increasingly irrelevant system. Change happens at the individual level. Show me a school system of teachers that can defend their purpose and role to a group of parents, and I’ll show you one given the freedom to teach in whatever fashion they feel helps learn best.

Joe Ruiz: So solution time. What do you, Greg Lenz, do with that?

Greg Lenz: I should ask each teacher that I encounter what education is? I should ask them why it’s preferable to ignorance. I should ask them to define education and tell me what its goal is, and hopefully that spreads. Like a liberty virus…

Joe Ruiz: Gotcha. Well, seems like a noble pursuit. Good talk, Russ!

Greg Lenz: LOL

The Libertarian Case for Rand Paul

On April 18th, 2015, renowned libertarian author Walter Block published his support for Rand Paul in the 2016 presidential race. Senator Paul announced his bid for president on April 7th. The following is Walter Block’s case for Rand Paul, as released via social media here:

Walter Block’s Facebook Post


 The libertarian case for Rand Paul

By Walter E. Block

block_2 (1)

I am a libertarian. I have been one for a long time; since about 1963. I like to think that my libertarian credentials are about as good, among the living, as anyone else’s on the planet. I support Rand Paul for president of the U.S.

Yet, even I must admit, thanks to the sterling work of Robert Wenzel, Justin Raimondo and many others, Rand’s claim to libertarian support has been somewhat tarnished of late in my mind.

Previously, I gave Rand a mark of 70 on my own personal libertarian-o-meter. For comparison purposes, I gave myself a 100 (hey, I have to do so, since this metric measures conformity with my own views), Ron Paul and Murray Rothbard 97s (since I disagree with each of them on only a very few issues), and Gary Johnson, the likely standard bearer of the Libertarian Party in 2016, also a 70. But, thanks to Rand’s changes of policy, typically in a direction away from libertarian purity, I have demoted him to a 60. By the way, no other Republican candidate gets more than a 30, and Hillary weighs in at 5 out of 100. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and the other Fox-ers do not break the 30 mark either despite the fact that they sometimes, rarely, have something nice to say about free enterprise.

Why, then, do I support Rand Paul for president of the U.S.? I cannot go as far in the defense of this man as Andrew Napolitano (“Rand Paul Is Every Bit As Libertarian As His Father”), but, I insist, there is a strong libertarian case for Rand’s candidacy. Let me count the reasons.

First of all, it is a matter of comparison; the choice for presidency is a relative matter, not an absolute one. Yes, Rand is no pure libertarian, but he is the best candidate with a reasonable shot at winning. When I mention the other likely Republican candidates, any fair-minded libertarian must acknowledge he stands head and shoulders above them all: Bush, Carson, Christie, Cruz, Huckabee, Jindal, Kasich, Perry, Rubio, Santorum, Walker. Some of them have done a few good things, many bad ones; none of them is in the same league as Rand Paul. It is not even close.

If the master allows his slaves to vote between Overseer Goodie (who beats them once per week) and Overseer Baddie (who does so hourly), and they choose the former, they are making a reasonable choice. Goodie is not great but Baddie is horrid. Rand Paul is no Murray Rothbard, he is no Ron Paul. But the other Republicans, from a libertarian point of view are vile, disgusting, despicable. There is simply no comparison, even fully acknowledging all of Rand’s flaws from a libertarian point of view.

Yet, some libertarians are so disappointed in Rand that they have publicly stated they would vote for Hillary rather than him. This, surely, is pique, not rationality. This is the case for preferring Baddie to Goodie. This is psychological perturbation, not sensible libertarian strategy. This is barking madness.

Secondly, thanks to Rand, the dreaded “L” word is continuously mentioned. The New York Times, the Washington Post, the major electronic media are continually using this nomenclature. There is hardly a day that goes by that the word “libertarian” is not bruited about. How are we to promote liberty when those with gigantic megaphones refuse to even utter our philosophical name? I don’t credit Rand with all of this publicity. I have not conducted any statistical study of the matter. However, it is my strong impression that before his candidacy the word was hardly used. I expect that if and when Rand Paul drops out of the race, the major media will go back to red and blue (states), left and right, and once again ignore libertarianism, which does not fall into either of these categories.

Third, against thanks to Rand Paul, the name Ron Paul is once again in the news. Again, this is just my subjective impression, but I am a news hound, the major media would dearly love to shove Ron Paul down the memory hole. But with Rand on the scene, they simply cannot. This story, the relationship between father and son, is just too good to be completely ignored. If Rand does nothing more than focus attention on his dad, his candidacy must be counted as a net benefit to our movement.

Fourth, the complaints emanating from libertarian quarters that Rand is not a libertarian are highly problematic. He never once said, to the best of my knowledge, that he was a libertarian. Yes, he characterized himself as a libertarian Republican, as a Republican libertarian, as a conservative libertarian, as a libertarian conservative, as a libertarian constitutionalist and as a constitutionalist libertarian, and several other variations on this theme. He did not, ever, declare himself as a libertarian, plain and simple. So, it is rather harsh for libertarian critics to use this as a measure of the man and to declare him not only wanting, but as a fraud. If his name was Paul Rand, not Rand Paul, and his dad had nothing to do with politics, I warrant that libertarians would be drooling all over him. For, clearly, with the exception of Gary Johnson, who I maintain is cheek by jowl with Rand Paul on any reasonable libertarian-o-meter, there is no one else who even comes close. And, consider Ron Paul’s experience running as a Libertarian in 1988, and then again as a Republican in 2008 and 2012. This shows that the one, in terms of garnering publicity is the major league, while the other is the minor league. Don’t we libertarians want publicity?

Fifth, if libertarians are so venomous toward Rand, they can have little or no influence on his future behavior, his future stances. He has already shown himself as flexible on the issues. If he changed once, or twice, ok, ok, more than that, he can do so even more. John Maynard Keynes famously wrote, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” Perhaps the facts of a gigantic, stupendous unemployment rate for black male teens will convince him to come out not only against an increase in the minimum wage, but in total opposition to this pernicious legislation. Perhaps the facts of wildly disproportionate incarceration rates for African-Americans will turn Rand in the direction of favoring elimination of drug laws, at the very least those for marijuana. Perhaps his experience with his fellow senator from Kentucky will teach him not to rely so heavily on mainstream Republicans. Perhaps the vicious way he is now being treated by the neo-cons will bring him back closer to the libertarian fold on foreign policy. In these and all other such ways libertarians might possibly play a role, but not on the basis of this totally dismissive stance they have so far adopted.

Sixth, the longer Rand stays in the race, the more publicity garnered by libertarians; see above. The more money donated to his cause, the longer he can endure in this venture. So, I urge my fellow libertarians to not only financially contribute to his candidacy but to offer him any and all support they can. Suppose Rand Paul stays in until the bitter end. Even if he does not win the nomination, he will thereby increase his chances of being picked for vice-president. This would be yet another gigantic boost to our cause of publicizing liberty. And, happy day, suppose he somehow wrests the nomination away from his Republican competitors. I’d give my eye teeth to witness a series of debates between him and Hillary Clinton, wouldn’t you?

I stand with Rand, and I urge my fellow libertarians, particularly those who have been most dismissive of him, to reconsider their position on this man. The acorn has fallen too far from the tree in this case in my opinion. But, he is by far the best we have. The perfect is the enemy of the good. It cannot be denied that Rand is pretty darned good from a libertarian point of view – compared with the realistic alternatives.


 

What do you think of Dr. Block’s argument?

For more on Walter Block please listen to We Are Libertarians’ interview with Walter Block, here:

We Are Libertarians Interviews Walter Block

You can also read Walter Block’s recommended reading list for libertarians, here:

Walter Block’s Reading List

Gutter Maintenance and Revolt

I spent my entire day at a home and garden show. Lemons, meet lemonade.

Imagine this. An elderly woman looks down at her husband. They were both the same age, but time had taken a greater toll on his body over the years than it had hers. At this point in his life simple tasks like pulling weeds and mowing the lawn were too difficult. He had successfully rehabilitated after suffering a mild stroke some years back. Meanwhile, she had been fortunate, experiencing zero significant health issues and maintaining mobility despite the nearing scythe and hourglass of Father Time.

One day, while the two discussed the changing seasons outside of their Michigan home, it was agreed that it was once again time to clean their gutters. Concerned for her husband’s health but still confident in her body’s abilities, the elderly woman volunteered to take on the additional chore. She got dressed, hauled the wooden ladder from the garage, climbed to the top, and began cleaning the leaf debris which had accumulated.

And then…tragedy.

In the moments that followed, the elderly woman, healthy by all other standards, would lose her balance and fall from the ladder, breaking her neck as she hit the ground, and dying almost instantly.

Sure, they could have paid someone to do the work. There are plenty of companies which specialize in gutter cleaning. However, between her husband’s medical bills and other financial obligations, the couple decided that it wasn’t worth an additional payout from their already budgeted retirement checks. When their neighbor told me this story I was in awe of the irony. How many times prior must they have emptied their gutters and then moved on with their day? They were homeowners, after all.

But today things could have been different. Today a solution exists that could have prevented the old lady’s accident. Who knows how many years she would have otherwise had in front of her?

Gutter guards have since become an option for homeowners. Technically, they’ve existed in some form or another for a very long time, but newer models have shown much greater worth and value. Here’s how they work:

A flat surface guard, made from quality materials such as high grade surgical steel that doesn’t allow organic debris to move through it, snaps on to a home’s existing gutters. Then, voilà! From that moment on when the rains pour, water may bleed into the gutters as intended, but everything else that falls will be stopped by the guard and washed away.

Once again technology and innovation have created a great convenience for society. Now, money typically paid out to gutter cleaners may be saved (or used elsewhere). Seniors like the woman mentioned above will no longer need to scale dangerous ladders for routine maintenance. No one will (if they choose to take advantage).

This solution does not require purchasing new gutters and the price varies depending on the size of your project.

Also, some companies’ products are better than others, so do your research!

But the bottom line is that the market has spoken yet again, and in the future, gutter guards could potentially save a life. They probably already have!

The tyranny of gutters and gutter maintenance has finally come to an end. Freedom has once again emerged victorious.

Also posted at Liberty.me.