Those Crazy Libertarians – WAL Reader Issue 1

WAL Reader is a quarterly journal from We Are Libertarians. It is available online, on Kindle, or in print. Get yours by visiting WALReader.com.

By Rhinehold

I hear it a lot, being a Libertarian running for office: those Libertarians and their “crazy” ideas. Letting people choose to live their lives as they see fit, not as the government forces them to? How would we all survive? How would that work? Isn’t that something that only works in small widespread farm communities?

When debating people, I make no bones about being a Libertarian. “Oh,” I hear, “you’re an anarchist.” I’m not sure where that one comes from, but it seems like it’s mostly made up by people who just can’t grasp the thought of people being able to decide on things for themselves. “You just want the old and poor to be left alone.” Apparently, without government assistance, which means taking money from one group of people, by force, and giving that money to another, we as humane individuals would never help people in need. “Libertarianism was a nice idea when we were an agriculture society, but it doesn’t work in large urban areas.” No, that is when it is needed most, if there is no one around you telling you want to do, you don’t need a form of government that protects you from anyone. And my favorite: “you’re just selfish!” Yeah, that’s me, the selfish one who wants to give people more power over their own lives.

What is Libertarianism?

For those that read those quotes and didn’t see immediately what was wrong with them, let’s start by enlightening you about what libertarianism is and what it isn’t.

Boiled down, the libertarian philosophy is this: “People should be free to live their lives as they choose as long as they do not directly prevent others from doing the same.” What a radical idea!

That does not mean that Libertarians are for no government. To infer that means that you read only the first half of that statement and skipped the second. Yes, there are a group of people (often labeled as Anarcho-Capitalists) who are for totally free markets with no regulation. And there are other groups like voluntaryists, anarchists, etc. But there are also minarchists that are part of the libertarian view. Look at it like Christianity. To be a Christian you must believe that Jesus is your savior, but there are many ways of going about living your life beyond that and expressing your faith. Look at how many different types of Christians exist.

In relation to the markets, let’s take a closer look. If two people enter into a contract, that contract is a legally binding document. What does that mean? It means that if one side or the other attempted to violate that contract, they are in violation of the law (meaning government). That is governmental regulation. With no governmental regulation, contract law is meaningless, contracts are meaningless, and no one can be held accountable for anything in them. Anarchists will argue that private organizations can enforce them, but isn’t that just another word for government if you give a body the legal right to use force over others?

This is directly applicable to the second part of the basic libertarian principle: Government’s place is in regulating the interactions between individuals. If two people agree to the terms of a contract, the government is there to ensure that the contract is followed as agreed upon. It is also there to ensure that there is no fraud taking place when the contract was agreed to or afterwards. But, it is not there to determine if someone made a bad decision or unwisely agreed to something that someone else may think was not in their best interests. That is up to the individual signing the contract to decide.

q1Government should also be involved to ensure that all markets are free. Monopolies prevent this free market from working. Government should therefore be there to make sure that no one person or company has a complete monopoly over any one area of the markets. Unfortunately, most monopolies that exist today do so not just with the acquiescence of government, but with their support. They could not exist as monopolies without government getting involved. This usually plays out with licensing of a business, a way for current business owners to ensure that no new entrants into a market are allowed to compete for the part of the market that they have already acquired.

Government should also not be for picking winners and losers. Trying to punish a company because it is doing well or those who are running the company have different politics than the current administrations should be forbidden. Unfortunately, today, this happens frequently and is a current way that the two major parties play individuals against each other for their votes.

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Two women in New York City deliver homemade meals to the homeless population in their city. (Photo by Ed Yourdon, from Wikimedia Commons)

Beyond Markets

The government should be ensuring that people are not infringing upon other’s rights to live their lives as they choose. We should not be telling adults that they cannot buy beer on a Sunday, or sign a contract on Sunday, or buy a pack of cigarettes or whatever drug of choice they choose, it should be left to the individual to decide. However, if someone were to harm another while taking those drugs of choice, they should be arrested and punished for that behavior. If you want to drink a fifth of scotch at home, the government should not tell you that you can’t, but the minute you get behind the wheel of a car and endanger the rest of us… Sorry, your right to make your own choices ends at that point.

Who do we choose to love? Who do we choose to spend our time with? I don’t see how that is any business of any government agency. What goes on between two consenting adults is between them, not anyone else who might have a large group of people who think it is ‘icky’. That’s no one’s business but their own.

Libertarianism is not about leaving the poor and old to fend for themselves and it is certainly not about selfishness

Quite the contrary, we should be helping our fellow man who is in need. But we should decide when and where that help comes from. If a single mother of four is working hard to put her children through school and take care of them but has a rough month, perhaps she chooses not to help that month. Under our current system, she has no way of doing that. The government gets its cut before she has any say in the matter. So more often than I feel comfortable with, that person ends up in worse shape and eventually needs help that they wouldn’t have needed had they been able to make that choice for themselves.

Here is a current example of our welfare system in the United States. Three men are eating lunch on a park bench. A homeless man comes up and asks for some money to buy some food. The first two men say sure and each get five dollars out to give to him. They then look to the third one who says he can’t do it right now. What do the two men do? They hold him down and take the money from him and then give the fifteen dollars to the homeless man. That third man, who was going to take that money home to help feed his children is left to fend for himself now. Now that is not compassion. That is selfish. You’re selfish if you’re only willing to help another if you know that others are also helping him. That is what our welfare system is about, making sure that you are giving your money to help the poor and elderly as long as you know that everyone else is too.

Libertarianism is Relevant

Libertarianism is about the here and now more than ever before

I have never understood the argument that in a rural society, libertarianism is ok, but in a city environment, well, it’s just not workable. Really? When do you need protection to make your own choices and have the government work out the disputes between you and your neighbors more than in a large urban city? If I am being drunk and obnoxious at home on a large farm with 200 acres, who cares? If I drive my car drunk around my property, who cares? But if I am being drunk and obnoxious or driving drunk in a city with a large population? Other’s rights are being violated. Nothing in libertarianism says that you have to put up with that situation, it is an infringement upon you.

How Have the Other Parties Done?

People think that ensuring that individuals are free and enjoying their liberties is “crazy” and continue to elect the same two parties to office thinking that it is doing any good. Let’s take a look at what they have done to our country.

Education

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(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In 1979 the Department of Education was formed. It was only to have a small budget of 14.5 billion and employ less than 100 people. Today, its budget is well over 32 billion and it employs over 5000 people, 90 percent who were deemed “nonessential” during a recent government shutdown. The education spending rate has increased three times as fast as other non-defense discretionary programs, 30% vs. 8%. We have gone from spending $3000 per pupil to $6000 (adjusted for inflation). What have we gotten?

According to Lisa Snell’s article “Stimulus Won’t Change the Education System’s Status Quo” in Reason Magazine: “The average reading and math scores for 17-year-olds on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the nation’s benchmark for student achievement, are no better today than they were in 1971; SAT verbal scores show a decline (from 530 in 1972 to 504 today); and SAT math scores have been essentially flat (from 509 in 1972 to 515 today). U.S. graduation rates were 78 percent in 1972 and are 74 percent today; and U.S. 15-year-olds score below the international average on science and math literacy when compared with 30 OECD countries—American kids rank behind students from Poland, Hungary, and France to name a few.”

So, we have created a bureaucracy that is eating itself, injecting politics further into our school system, and creating students that are worse off than they were before we got involved. And the answer that we hear from Washington? More spending, more control, more of the same.

And they call libertarians crazy.

Government Debt

When you run out of money at the end of the month, what do you do? Cut spending? More often than not. Increase your income? Some people get second jobs or other income for that. Do you just keep spending and borrowing more? More citizens are doing that and finding out that it doesn’t work well in the long run. Unfortunately, our government hasn’t learned that lesson yet…

q2The US experienced high growth in the 50s and 60s, yet our debt remained largely unchanged when compared with inflation. However, starting in the 1970s and skyrocketing since, it has ballooned up to 16 Trillion dollars. But, that’s not the worse part. You see, what the politicians won’t tell you is the dirty little secret that those numbers are just public debt. That is debt that the government owes to the public or other entities outside of the government. That’s not our total debt. Our total debt, as of today, when including money that the government has borrowed from itself (largely in the shape of the Social Security Trust Fund and other pension plans) is…

$22,027,542,672,770.63.

Yes, that is over 22 trillion dollars that our government must pay back. This number can be tracked for a current snapshot or over time by using the US Treasury’s Debt to the Penny. Don’t just take my word for it, go look it up yourself.

So, why don’t we hear that number? Why only the 16 Trillion? Well, other than the obvious “it sounds better”, the short answer is that the government doesn’t seem to want anyone to know that it has been raiding our Social Security trust fund for decades. Even Bill Clinton who is touted with “running a surplus” is hiding those numbers. At no time during the Clinton administration did our national debt decrease. Our public deficit did go down a year or two, but only by a little and only on the public side of things. But our Intragovernmental Holdings still increased more than the public debt decreased.

The people who are in power now are wanting you to give them the power to spend more money, on top of all of the money they already owe. Does that sound like a sound plan to you? Do you think that we can continue to spend money at this rate, or higher if Washington had its way, and not eventually have to pay up? I can only say I am glad they are not in charge of my finances.

And they call libertarians crazy.

Prison Population

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(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Every year since 1972 our prison population has increased, until this last year. There are currently over 2 million people behind bars in the US, or better put, one out of every 133 of us. We have 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its prison population. We incarcerate more than any other country, including China. And this year the prison population went down, not because there were less crimes, but because of budget constraints more prisoners were let go before finishing their sentences. And the fastest growing segment of that population: nonviolent, first time offenders of drug laws. Our war on drugs has failed miserably and we continue to take a hard stand against an activity that less than 100 years ago would have taken an amendment to the US Constitution to enforce.

The funny thing is that taking drugs is not illegal. It cannot be illegal according to the Supreme Court. Instead, they make “possession” of the drug illegal. It’s an interesting work around that has resulted in the increase of drug use, the cost to the taxpayers in the billions, and the incarceration rates in the US to skyrocket. Worse, because of the federal laws, the government can’t regulate the drugs like they can with cigarettes and alcohol. And it can’t be taxed either. Individuals with problems are less likely to get help for fear of being arrested, funding to help those people is not collected and we put nonviolent drug users in the same prisons as violent convicts, an atmosphere that is more likely to turn them to a further life of crime than they would have if they were left alone.

And they call libertarians crazy.

Miscellaneous “Do Not Dos”

We are just touching the surface here and I could (and may) write a book about all of this, but let’s speed things up with a short list of some of the things you can’t do in Indiana (the state I personally live in) because of the actions of the two parties (other states are probably as messed up as we are):

  • Properly choose the school you send your children to (private or public) unless you are rich.
  • Walk onto a plane with a bottle of water (federal law).
  • Drive your car without a seat belt on.
  • Buy alcohol on Sunday.
  • Sign a contract on Sunday (no car sales on Sunday as a result).
  • Play poker online (federal law).
  • Play poker at a table, with real cards, unless on a body of water and approved by the state.
  • Possess marijuana (federal and state law).
  • Carry drinks into a restaurant or bar.

Why Continue to Support the Duopoly?

So, you’ve heard that the Libertarians are a crazy bunch, that their ideals are outdated or only work in a “utopia”. All I ask is that you take a look back at the way the Democrats and Republicans have run this state and this country and ask yourself.

Who are the crazy ones? The Libertarians who want to give us more control over our individual lives as long as we don’t violate the rights of others. Or the Republicans and Democrats who have given us over half of a century of declining education, declining standards of living, increased spending, increased debt and continually pass more and more laws that tell you how to live your life?

Or are the crazy people the ones that keep sending the same people back to the state house and Washington thinking that “this time” things will be different. Isn’t that like taking the milk out of the refrigerator and tasting that it is bad and then putting it back in thinking that tomorrow it will be good again?

q3

My recommendation is to throw out your preconceived notions about what others have told you about Libertarian thought and the Libertarian Party and take a closer look at what we are really saying, what we really stand for. Don’t let the people who have run this country into the ground make up your mind for you. You can go to the Libertarian Party’s website and see for yourself what the crazy Libertarians are talking about.


Rhinehold is a host of the WAL Daily podcast and a regular guest on the We Are Libertarians podcast.

(This article was originally published on Rhinehold.org on Oct. 25th, 2010. It has slightly edited for clarity and style and republished with the author’s permission. Rhinehold did make minor updates to the original article as well.)

Undaunted!

Did Trump Lose the Shutdown Fight? Depends on Who You Ask?
By Ryan Lindsey

WAL Reader is a quarterly journal from We Are Libertarians. It is available online, on Kindle, or in print. Get yours by visiting WALReader.com.

I was convinced that Trump’s total cave on the longest federal shutdown in history was a mortal wound to Trump. If he had kept the shutdown going indefinitely or until congress finally surrendered border wall funding to him, I was fully convinced that the 2020 race was his to lose. I was equally certain that if he was the one to blink first, that the tables would flip, and his reelection would be nearly impossible against any but a few of the DNC’s contenders.

But then, two days after the shutdown ended, I overheard a conversation among several people who I know to be fundamentally decent and intelligent individuals who had gladly voted for Trump in 2016. They were discussing the end of the shutdown, but what they were saying didn’t align at all with what I (perhaps arrogantly) had assumed they would be saying. What I heard from them was nothing but praise for their president – he had been perfectly reasonable and given the Pelosi and the Democrats every opportunity to end the shutdown on their own; he was just making sure that federal workers would begin getting paid again (after not caring about that for over thirty days); he was simply setting the stage to better justify executive action and a national emergency later on; etc.

An Isolated Incident of Loyalty?

I was surprised, and frankly I still can’t empathize with their sentiments – if I had voted for Trump based on his campaign promises and “tough guy, never-back-down” persona, I would have been livid at the absolute disaster of the shutdown, which was rendered meaningless by his willingness to let Pelosi walk all over him. Why weren’t they fuming, why didn’t they feel betrayed? I thought (and hoped) that they were just a minority of Trump supporters. Surly most of his 2016 voters felt the same indignation and sense of being duped as Ann Coulter, Steve Bannon, Michael Savage, and many others in the conservative-populist movement.

No, I had assumed wrong again. A couple more days after overhearing that conversation (four days after the shutdown ended) I tuned into the local conservative FM talk radio station on my commute to work. I was curious to see what the local morning show host, Nick Reed (who, to his credit is often extremely nonpartisan and has strong libertarian streaks on many issues), had to say about the shutdown ending and the backlash Trump has received from many of the more “prestigious”, “elite” conservative opinion directors. For most of my drive, Reed was taking calls from listeners who were giving their two cents about Trump reopening the government. My dread over the state of the GOP increased as one after another, callers justified the president’s actions. Narratives of 4, 5, 6, 12D chess filled the airwaves.

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Nick Reed of KSGF’s Nick Reed Show. (Facebook Live)

Now, I personally do not buy into this whole idea that Trump is actually a political chess master. I think the claim that a political novice with no knowledge of how the gears of bureaucracy and congress turn is somehow the most genius man to ever sit in the White House is absolutely bogus and has no backing at all in reality. In my opinion, the president has just slightly more political acumen in his whole body as the lowliest congressional aid has in their right arm (that is not an indictment on his character or abilities as a campaigner – those are separate issues all together). I still firmly believe that Trump lost the shutdown battle and that in any rational world the whole fiasco would have absolutely crippled his reelection campaign. Clearly that wasn’t the case though. Trump’s 2016 supporters either didn’t care about their man’s defeat or they were convinced that it wasn’t a defeat at all.

The Power is His

Of course, a couple of weeks after caving into Pelosi and Schumer, Trump signed a declaration of a national emergency in regard to the border and his cherished wall project. He couldn’t get what he wanted from congress, so he would use alleged executive authority to get his funds instead. While this move was received with horror from most members of the mainstream media and many federal officials, it was not an unprecedented powergrab. American presidents have spent the better part of two centuries acquiring power that is not constitutionally theirs – particularly the previous two, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

By this point, it was not surprising at all when I almost immediately saw conservatives who had denounced Obama’s powergrabs cheer on this act of executive overreach by Trump. Even some people who I had considered libertarians were supportive of this move. Republican congressmen like Thomas Massie and Justin Amash who spoke out against the national emergency declaration received a solid thrashing from conservative media and activists.

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But of course they did – those people were not truly opposed to the executive actions of Obama and Bush, they were just opposed to who was taking the action. In their minds, Trump not only needed but deserved this power.

Loyal to a Fault

I wasn’t taking one critical factor into account: you should never underestimate how loyal Trump’s supporters are to him personally. They’re not loyal to his ideals or his policy proposals, they’re loyal to him. If Trump says he won a fight, then he won that fight in the minds of the Trump cultists, regardless of what the facts or reason say.

The cult of personality that is seducing the GOP has finally changed – Ronald Reagan has lost his throne to Trump.

Undaunted_1Embarrassingly, this is a mistake I have made with Trump multiple times since he first announced his plans to take the presidency nearly four years ago. I underestimated his supporters’ unconditional loyalty to him all throughout the entire Republican primary and general campaign. When he won the election, I was forced to take a step back and admit that to most of his supporters, Trump’s actions ultimately did not matter. All that mattered to them was that he was him. But still, I forget that lesson occasionally. Why?

Maybe it’s because I’m not above the fray and have also fallen into different cults of personality at times. Upon honest reflection, I do think this is a temptation I have become better at resisting, but still, maybe I make myself forget about the Trump cult of personality because I am ashamed of my own follies in that area. Ask anyone who knew me during 2012 to 2016 and I’m sure they could tell you all about my obsession with Ron and Rand Paul, and the blinders I wore when it came to their shortcomings. It’s not a part of my past that I am particularly proud of in that regard.

Personality cults are just as much a threat to society as partisanship is – maybe if we are all able to reflect on our actions and loyalties (and the actions of those we are loyal to) we can begin to root out the cults that lead us. In my experience, the centers of personality cults are, at best, fallible men, and at worst, manipulative charlatans obsessed with gaining power over you. I hope that the Cult of Trump begins to dissolve before the next election (and that other personalities will not rise to take his place). If we’re going to live in a democratic republic, I’d rather live in one where leaders were chosen based on their character and proposals, rather than simply their persona.

Taxpayers Should Not Fund Indy Eleven’s New Soccer Stadium

It’s a budget year in Indiana, which means the Indy Eleven are again making a pitch for a gleaming, expensive taxpayer-funded stadium.

The soccer team, which competes in the second-division United Soccer League, has been a fixture in Indy since 2014. Almost from the first whistle, the team has gone to the legislature with its hand out asking for public funding for a new stadium. Before the first game, the team asked for $80 million to fund a stadium. It was rejected by the state legislature, which countered with an offer of $20 million in renovations to its then-home, IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium. 

So instead of scaling back its request, Eleven owner Ersal Odzemir has increased it almost eight-fold, asking for $550 million to build a stadium and mixed-use development at a yet-to-be-named location (although Broad Ripple High School was one potential offering). Apartments, retail space and a hotel were among the ideas pushed forth for the site, but the centerpiece is the soccer stadium. 

For comparison, the request is double the inflation-adjusted cost of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and only slightly less than the $720 million price tag for Lucas Oil Stadium. A better comparison would be to look at the price of other minor-league facilities. Victory Field, where the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians play, opened in 1996. It cost $18 million to build ($30 million in today’s prices) and the Indians picked up half the cost. At 21 years of age, it remains a state-of-the-art ballpark that is considered one of the premier stadiums in minor league baseball. The Indiana Farmers Coliseum, whose interior was completely rebuilt from 2012-14, cost $63 million.

Of those teams, the Colts and Pacers are established teams in established major leagues who bring national attention to the city.

The Eleven are a second-division soccer team. While the team has fervent support among its fanbase, that alone is not a reason to hook the taxpayers of Central Indiana for a half-billion dollars. While an argument is made that a professional team induces economic activity, that’s been proven largely false over the years. One could argue a major league team like the Colts or Pacers increases civic pride and quality of life. However, minor league and second-division teams have very localized fan bases and provide inexpensive family entertainment and bring very little new money into a community.

The Eleven’s support is on par with its minor league brethren in Indianapolis. Its annual attendance has hovered between 10,465 the first year and just a shade under 8,400 fans in 2016 and 2017 – its last two seasons at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium. A move to Lucas Oil Stadium pushed attendance slightly back over 10,000. The market is similar to the attendance numbers from the Triple-A baseball Indianapolis Indians, who also play during the summer and average around 9,000 fans per game each year. 

The Eleven’s supporters speak of the stadium as being necessary for a potential move up to Major League Soccer, the top tier of soccer in the United States. But there are two problems with the argument.
First, MLS has not given Indianapolis a franchise. Even if so, a new stadium is not a necessity. Cincinnati recently received a franchise while playing in a college football stadium. And even if it does, something significantly less costly than a $550 million development would be more than adequate for the team. 

Second of all, an MLS entry would not likely have that much of an affect on attendance. Soccer fans are soccer fans and the market has already proven the existing demand is about 8-10,000 fans per game, which can be served by upgrading the existing infrastructure or building a scaled-down stadium. MLS isn’t the NFL or the NBA. Simply upgrading leagues likely won’t upgrade much except ticket prices. 

Third of all, this is a local issue, but the Eleven’s ownership repeatedly asks the state for revenue. There is no more reason for legislators in Angola, Gary, Lawrenceburg or Evansville to vote to direct their tax money to provide entertainment to a small part of Central Indiana than there is for legislators in Indianapolis to build a stadium for minor league teams in those cities.

A soccer stadium would be a benefit to Indianapolis, both intrinsically and in diverting game-night revenue from other entertainment areas to the area of town where the stadium locates.

But if the Indy Eleven’s owner wishes to build one, he should do it with his own money. He IS a real estate developer after all. If it is a profitable venture and will provide the benefit he claims it will, the development will stand on its own and be viable. There’s no reason to require the taxpayers of Indiana to shoulder the cost and the risk.

Individualism under Siege: The Effect of U.S. Sanctions on Iran

By Matin Pedram (1)

Economic sanctions (either targeted sanctions or comprehensive embargos) undermine infrastructures as well as social synergy. Although someone can claim that targeted sanctions have no such negative externalities, decrease in foreign investment and interruption in capital flows are the definite outcomes which have their own catastrophic results. So, impacts of economic sanctions cannot be estimated less than a real war.

This essay is going to affirm that Iran nuclear deal from an individualistic point of view is an efficient deal. Furthermore, sanctions re-imposition is against individualistic values of Iranian people because the opportunities to achieve moral well-being and human capital accumulation, being the main forces of any changes in a society, will be lost.

Making JCPOA Sense

The JCPOA is an agreement on the nuclear program of Iran reached in Vienna on July 14, 2015 between Iran, the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany). On 16 January 2016 it was announced by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran had adequately dismantled its nuclear weapons program, allowing the United Nations to lift sanctions immediately. Hence, the oil embargo and financial sanctions were lifted. It was a big moment for Iranian people to access to global markets more freely and follow their own well-being, but there were many controversial arguments in favor of or against the JCPOA in the United States which made the perspective unclear. In spite of European Union, China and Russia objections, on May 8, 2018, the United States withdrew from JCPOA. As a consequence, the risk of doing business in Iran increased dramatically for the multinational companies that operate in the Iran’s market.

Currently, sanctions can be categorized into 2 sections: 1) Sanctions which are re-imposed by US and 2) Sanctions which have been still lifted by EU and UN through JCPOA and Security Council resolution number 2231.

Impacts of JCPOA

Withdrawal on Iranian People: Undoubtedly, maximizing well-being in an isolated society is farfetched issue, though there is no guarantee that in a free society one will improve his well-being. Based on the comprehensive regime of sanctions, accessibility to Iran’s markets is restricted, and the outcome will be people’s unwanted deprivation, and aggression purposefully toward individuals’ choices. (3)

Due to JCPOA withdrawal, the United States gave a clear message to every entrepreneur that Iran no longer is a secure destination for investment; therefore, risk of investment in Iran and even exportation of products to Iran is tremendously increased. Without access to foreign investments and technologies, economic flourishing is like a dream.

Although one can claim that free access to information, humanitarian aid or consumer goods are not restricted by sanctions, cost of the access will increase. Furthermore, standard of living will diminish dramatically due to hardship in access to markets and it gradually leads to economic depression.

Avoidance from Reengineering the Society

the main reason to impose sanctions is to change one state’s behavior. In a broad context, it can be called reengineering a society to see a kind of revolution. According to this, “whenever the outcome of user-owner decisions about their properties is not liked by the community of social engineers (people, that is, who are not the user-owners of the things in question and who do not have a contractually acquired title to them), it has the right to interfere with the practices of the actual user-owners and determine the use of these means, thereby restricting their property rights.” In other words, JCPOA was a framework to restrain Iran’s nuclear program, but after sanctions re-imposition, in particular (financial sanctions such as money transactions, foreign investments, and SWIFT accessibility), it was decided by the United States to restrain people’s choices.

In conclusion, these are the real impacts of re-imposed sanctions on Iranian individuals. Iranian people have restricted choices to decide what actions they can take to improve their properties and well-being because “the community of social engineers has the right to determine unilaterally what is or is not a preferred outcome, and can thus restrict the property rights of natural owners whenever, wherever, and to the extent that it thinks necessary in order to produce a preferred outcome.”

As Raimondo truly states: “Sanctions represent the opposite of a just war: from wars that only involved soldiers, we have moved to wars that only involve civilians. The concept of economic sanctions as a weapon also assumes international economic regulations and enforcement agencies, setting up a cadre of bureaucrats who sit in judgment of “outlaw nations”: in effect, the apparatus of world economic planners.” (5)

Now, planners use their own discretion to decide which type of investments and what kind of products are allowed to enter to Iran’s market. That is why individualistic values are under pressure and sanctions not only help to restore them, but also undermine their position in the society.

Footnotes

  1. L.L.M in International Business and Economic Law, Matin.pedram@gmail.com
  2. The United States re-imposed sanctions in 2 phases:
    Phase 1: After passing a 90-day mark on August 6, 2018 the following sanctions have been snapped back on Iran:
    Sanctions on Iran buying or acquiring U.S. dollars;
    Sanctions on Iran trading gold and other precious metals;
    Sanctions on Iran’s sale, supply or trade of metals such as aluminum and steel, as well as graphite, coal and certain software for “integrating industrial processes”;
    Sanctions on “significant” sales or purchases of Iranian rials, or the maintenance of significant funds or accounts outside the country using Iranian rials;
    Sanctions on issuing Iranian debt;
    Iranian auto sanctions.
    Phase 2: At the end of the 180-day interval on November 4, 2018 another set of sanctions have been clamped down on Iran:
    Sanctions on Iran’s ports, as well as the country’s shipping and shipping sectors;
    Sanctions on buying petroleum and petrochemical products with a number of Iranian oil companies;
    Sanctions on foreign financial institutions transacting with the Central Bank of Iran and other Iranian financial institutions;
    Sanctions on the provision of certain financial messaging services to Iran’s central bank and other Iranian financial institutions;
    Sanctions on the provision of underwriting services, insurance, or reinsurance;
    Sanctions on Iran’s energy sector. (FAQ, www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/jcpoa_winddown_faqs.pdf, August 6, 2018)
  3. “Natural law theory justifies talk about both absolute and relative rights. It is always, absolutely, wrong for someone to harm another – to injure a basic aspect of the other’s well-being – purposefully or instrumentally.” (Chartier, Gary, Natural Law and Economic Justice, Cambridge University Press, 2009, p.22)
  4. Hoppe, Hans-Hermann, A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2010, p.144.
  5. Raimondo, Justin, “Evil of Sanctions”, The Free Market 16, no. 4, (April 1998)

Why Has Identity Politics Become So Prevalent?

By every measurable standard, the world is improving for its inhabitants. With less war, disease, and famine, over 7 billion humans can survive on a planet using less land for agriculture while producing more. There has never been a safer time to be alive in human history.

So why do we feel like everything is terrible?

It’s due to a concerted effort from demagogues within colleges, media, and politics to make us think things are terrible to create multiple crises. It is easier to control a population when that population is emotional and angry.

“Propaganda is to democracy what violence is to dictatorship.” – Noam Chomsky

Why does the left focus on identity politics (and now the Trump wing of the right)?

Given the stability of the world, there aren’t egregious, large-scale societal issues of poverty, injustice, and government oppression in America. I’m not arguing that all of our problems are solved because there are still many societal imbalances in our economy and criminal justice system. They aren’t as apparent as zero registered African-American voters in all of Mississippi or substantial portions of Americans not having access to power and sewage as in the 1950s.

In the absence of evident crises, radicals must create discord to provoke society into action. Take this quote from Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals (Alinsky was a 1960’s political figure that worked for the mob and decided to translate their tactics to modern politics. Hillary Clinton wrote her senior thesis on his ideas):

“Men don’t like to step abruptly out of the security of familiar experience; they need a bridge to cross from their own experience to a new way. A revolutionary organizer must shake up the prevailing patterns of their lives agitate, create disenchantment and discontent with the current values, to produce, if not a passion for change, at least a passive, affirmative, non-challenging climate.”

In other words, manipulate people through propaganda and political action to make regular people believe things are terrible, so they will try to solve the problems you’ve made up by giving you control over their lives. If they don’t become an ally, then ensure they can’t or won’t speak up and oppose you. For more on those tactics, click here.

There are very real imbalances in our society for women and minorities. These realities have been exploited by political opportunists on both sides to galvanize their base and create an “us vs. them” mentality. Instead of using language that brings together the multiple parties to solve an issue like gun violence or the unjust warehousing of the poor under the guise of the drug war, thought leaders at media outlets, think tanks, advocacy groups, political organizations, and universities do what demagogues have done for the whole of human history: protect their interests by dividing the population in an effort to maintain power.

Those biased towards the left must do a better job of examining their language, and the effect that weaponizing intersectionality has had on America.

Those biased more towards the right have to avoid reactionary behavior and turning away from real problems just because they “feel leftist.”

The good news is that while individual humans continue to be their own worst enemy, the expansion of liberty and free markets has allowed the species as a whole to live better lives. We should start getting out of our way and work together to avoid feeling miserable when there’s little reason for it.

Open Speech is Essential To Correcting the Bad Behavior of Alex Jones

First they came for the Foreign Trolls, Now they Come for the Domestic Trolls

Chris Spangle

The deplatforming of Alex Jones has me fired up. Why? I was 18 when 9-11, and I then became active in politics. I lived through the lead up to the Iraq War where I saw, and participated in, the silencing of anti-war activists. They were right, I was wrong, and a million people died.

I’ve watched the media and the 2-party political apparatus create propaganda out of false information which is then used to marginalize, criminalize, and kill American citizens. Once the citizenry was behind the “patriotic” and “right” things as a result of major media and political newspeak, the government implemented policies that range from subtle conditioning (TSA) to the destruction of the fourth amendment (Prism).

Jeff Sessions vs Legal Marijuana: Here’s Why Sessions Will Lose

In the face of overwhelming opposition, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has doubled down on the War on Drugs.  Specifically, the War on legal marijuana. He announced last week that the federal government is going to start enforcing federal marijuana laws again in states that have legalized marijuana.

At first glance, this looks like a major step backwards on the road to ending the government practice of invading private property, kidnapping non-violent people, stealing their money and valuables, and then locking them in cages for the “crime” of possessing a plant unapproved of by the federal government.

This will backfire on the Sessions and his drug warrior cronies, however.  In fact, this may be the spark that ignites the flame of legal marijuana across the entire Unites States.

The Best Way to Get Rid of a Bad Law

Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying “The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.”

His point is that if an unjust law is enforced sporadically, or unevenly throughout a population, it is likely to stay on the books forever.  It can then become a tool for law enforcement and corrupt politicians to use against specific enemies or groups.  If only some of the population is made to suffer the indignities of an unjust law, the rest of the population isn’t likely to force a change since it doesn’t concern them personally.

However, once an entire population is forced to endure the unjust law, they will quickly rise up and force its repeal.

The backlash that the Trump administration will get for strictly enforcing federal marijuana laws in legal marijuana states will quickly lead to a reversal on this new policy.

The Legal Marijuana Revolution

Today, over half of the population lives in a state with some form of legal marijuana.  Every election cycle more states are legalizing it.  This is a tidal wave that can not be stopped.  People are realizing that letting individuals consume a plant that has countless medical applications, and is impossible to overdose on, isn’t as scary as the fear-mongers led us to believe it would be.  State governments are also realizing that the extra tax revenue gives them more power and money.

Now that individuals, particularly sick and dying individuals, are seeing the benefits of legal marijuana, it’s going to be that much harder to convince them to go back to the old ways.  Same goes for state governments that are flush with a new source of revenue in the form of marijuana taxes.

In fact, even before one soul has been sent to federal prison under this new policy, states are already fighting back.  Vermont just became the first state to pass a bill to legalize recreational marijuana.  Republican Governor Phil Scott has indicated he will sign the measure into law.

Imagine what will happen when a cancer patient is sent to prison in a state where they are legally allowed to consume marijuana.  Even if Sessions and his marijuana Gestapo are smart enough to leave sick and dying individuals alone, they are sure to shut down dispensaries where sick and dying patients get their medicine from, thus causing huge backlash.

If Sessions wants to keep marijuana illegal, the last thing he should be doing is going after sick and dying patients and the dispensaries that supply them their much needed medication.

State’s Rights

They’re not just for Republicans anymore!  Thanks to Sessions and his crusade against non-violent, consenting adults who are buying, selling, and consuming a plant without permission from the federal government, Democrats are actually making arguments in favor of State’s Rights!  This puts typically anti-pot Republicans in a difficult position.  Either go against State’s Rights or side with Democrats.  Either way they’re going to have backlash.

If their base sees them as siding with Democrats against Sessions, they may be viewed as weak.  If they side with Sessions against State’s Rights, they are potentially giving up a huge tool in any future fight against federal overreach in other areas.  With public opinion overwhelmingly in favor of legal marijuana, and with many prominent Republicans already criticizing Sessions, it looks like the State’s Rights argument will eventually defeat Sessions.

The Future of Legal Marijuana

In 2013, then President Obama released a memo saying he would no longer obstruct states that have legalized marijuana.  Up until then, the Obama administration had waged a war on legal marijuana that would make Jeff Sessions blush.  The Obama administration had conducted more raids on legal dispensaries than the previous 12 years combined.  Obama’s first term saw $100 billion more spend on interfering with legal marijuana laws than under 8 years of Bush.

The backlash from this caused Obama to cease this federal overreach in 2013.  If a President coming off a landslide victory for his 2nd term couldn’t get away with interfering with the legal marijuana industry, a widely despised Sessions working under an unpopular Trump administration has no chance.

Prominent leaders in both major parties are in favor of legalization and, more importantly, the population is ready for legal marijuana.  With an almost cartoonishly evil Sessions in charge of a renewed federal crusade against peaceful pot users, it won’t be long until this becomes a wedge issue.  In fact, with the level of hatred that already exists for Sessions, those of us on the side of not throwing non-violent people in cages for consuming a plant couldn’t ask for a better adversary.  We may even see more states following Vermont’s lead and legislating legalization sooner than they otherwise would have just to spite Sessions and his unpopular crusade.

Originally published on Mike’s website here.  Check out his blog levelheadedlibertarian.com for more!

You may also like this from Mike Tront – Marijuana Can Be a Victory for Libertarians, Unless We Screw it Up

The Real Story of Collusion Emerges in the Mueller Investigation

A friend recently asked me to boil down the Russian-Trump investigations. What were the smoking guns? What had he supposedly done wrong? The truth is that no one has articulated clearly and accurately what Trump or his campaign had done wrong. I offered the following analysis:

Incredibly, the educated guess has become a reality due to leaks, likely from Republicans on various Congressional committees, which are exposing the seedy inner workings of the FBI and the special prosecutor’s investigation. One text, in particular, is a damning piece of evidence.

Ending Net Neutrality Will Bring Free Internet Access To The World

With the exception of the 2015 Net Neutrality ruling by the FCC, the Internet has largely been left alone by the most powerful government on the planet.  This “light touch” regulation has resulted in industry growth that is virtually unmatched in human history.  From AOL, to DSL modems, to fiber optic cable, to 3, 4, and 5G phones, to near ubiquitous Wi-Fi, delivering the Internet to the masses is a story of ever increasing options, exponentially better speeds, and decreasing prices.  The logical next step is worldwide Internet connection to everyone on the planet for free.  However, the 2015 Net Neutrality ruling may have empowered the largest government in the world to slow, and possibly stop, the inevitable future of free Internet access to the world.

How Is Free Internet Access Possible?

The idea of free or low cost Internet being broadcast to the world has been in development by several people and companies for years.  Internet giant Facebook has plans in the works.  Google has plans as well.  A little known company based in New York, called the Media Development Investment Fund, is attempting to throw their hat in the ring by creating something called the Outernet.  An alternative to the Internet that’ll broadcast for free all around the world from cube satellites circling the globe in low Earth orbit.

Perhaps of most interest to libertarians is Nexus Earth.  Nexus is a crypto currency that has teamed up with Vector Space Systems to launch cube satellites into low Earth orbit in order to broadcast their blockchain to the world for free.  The development team of Nexus sees this as a step towards a fully decentralized and free (meaning both no cost to the user and free from government censorship and control) Internet for the world.

Basically, all these organizations are attempting to beam connectivity down from the sky rather than using expensive infrastructure down on Earth.  As these sky-based technologies become cheaper, and as more and more competition enter this market, it’s just a matter of time before the price is driven down to zero for anyone, anywhere to access the Internet.

Current Problems

Like all advancing technologies, this will not go from 0-60 overnight.  There will be incremental advancements.  The current problem with connecting to the Internet from the sky is that it is extremely expensive to send access to the entire Internet this way.  Not only do you have to put hundreds of cube satellites in orbit to have a functioning and fast network, but you have to send data to these satellites from the ground.

Thankfully, launching these cube satellites is becoming cheaper and cheaper.  It’s building the means of sending Internet data to the cube satellites that is going to be one of the biggest (non-regulatory) stumbling blocks.  Until it becomes cost effective to access the entire Internet this way, companies are experimenting by only sending specific websites and applications directly to the user.

How Will Net Neutrality Stop Free Internet Access?

As we’ve heard over and over again, Net Neutrality is in place to prevent Internet Service Providers (ISP) from prioritizing data.  Under this regulation, your ISP can’t decide to block you from accessing a certain website and they can’t send data from one website at faster rate than another website.  The idea is to prevent censorship and to prevent an ISP from holding certain websites hostage unless they (or you) pay an extra fee.

I’m not going to get into these specific concerns here, as they’ve been addressed thoroughly elsewhere and this post is focusing on a different aspect of the debate.  But if you’re interested in hearing a quick, funny take down of these concerns you can check out Why John Oliver is Wrong about Net Neutrality by Andrew Heaton via Reason TV.

If the idea of Net Neutrality is to make sure all ISP’s give full access to all of the Internet, then free Internet beaming down from satellites will be almost impossible to develop.  Net Neutrality will effectively make it illegal for a company to beam free Internet down from satellites unless they can guarantee that the people receiving the Internet will get ALL of the Internet.  In fact, this has already happened.

Facebook has been attempting to beam free Internet to some of the poorest regions of the world.  Regions that have no access to the Internet.  They are doing this by using a combination of drones and satellites to beam down a limited number of useful websites.  They call it Free Basics.  So is Facebook being heralded as an important leader in bringing about much needed Internet access to the third world?

They are not.  According to this Guardian article, Facebook Lures Africa with Free Internet – But What is the Hidden Cost?, there is no shortage of outrage over Facebook not being able to connect the world’s poorest people to the entire Internet for free.  In fact, they aren’t even allowed to offer their Free Basics program in India.  From the article:

It is not the first time Facebook has faced challenges to its initiative. In India, Free Basics was effectively banned after a groundswell of support for net neutrality – a principle affirming that what you look at, who you talk to and what you read is ultimately determined by you, not a business.

That’s right.  Net Neutrality was used by the Indian government as an excuse to stop their people from accessing free Internet services.

Later in the article, this tidbit also stood out:

In April, Reuters revealed that Free Basics had been blocked by Egypt’s increasingly oppressive government after Facebook refused to let it snoop on users.

Imagine that, governments are pushing back against free Internet access because it’s harder to spy on you.

The Future of Free Internet Access

Currently, all major ISP’s support Net Neutrality.  Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon have all issued statements of support.  Yes, they do push back on some of the regulations they face from the FCC, but when it comes to delivering content to their customers, they all wholeheartedly support the idea that all ISP’s should be forced to deliver all of the Internet to their customers.  If I were them, I would too!

They know more than anyone that their business model will soon be obsolete.  It’s only a matter of time.  Who in their right mind would deal with these companies, and pay for their services, if they could get free Internet access from satellites?  It’s not just ISP’s who are scared.  You’d be hard-pressed to find any Internet giant that opposes Net Neutrality.  Again, I would support it too if I were in their shoes!

These businesses will be disrupted as well by free Internet access.  Companies could launch their own satellites and beam down their own service for streaming TV shows and movies.  Their customers wouldn’t need an ISP, they’ll just need a device that is Wi-Fi enabled.  Social media sites, email companies, shopping sites, anyone could do this.  And their customers wouldn’t be confined to any certain geographical region, either.  The entire world would have access to their sites without having to pay for an ISP first.

This is precisely what Nexus Earth, the crypto currency I mentioned earlier, is attempting to do with their blockchain. They have the ambitious plan of giving the entire world free access to their crypto currency.  No Internet connection required.  Just a Wi-Fi enabled device.

As more and more companies utilize this business model, innovation will happen quickly.  This will bring down costs and eventually the entire Internet will be accessible to the entire world for free.

Plenty of billionaires and billion-dollar companies stand to lose money and market share from such a truly free and open decentralized Internet.  It’s no wonder they all support Net Neutrality.  Think about it this way, when’s the last time a group of billionaires got together with the government to conspire to help you out at their personal expense?

Originally published on Mike’s website here.  Check out his blog levelheadedlibertarian.com for more!

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.