The future of freedom and liberty depends on our ability to convey the immeasurable benefit of freedom
Nearly everyone knows there is something wrong with the world as it is. The liberty-minded person believes that he or she knows a major part of what is wrong. There is not enough flexibility and adaptability in the structures of government that presume to manage the social order. State systems have made life rigid and regimented–replete with regulations, taxes, mandates, and prohibitions–with the cost that too many people are excluded, demoralized, and impoverished. For moral and practical reasons, this situation must end.
In other words, freedom is the answer.
We recall the moment when we discovered this. The light flicked on. The shades came off and the world looked different from before. Our lives changed. How can we help others arrive at this point?
The short summary of what we believe: the astonishing rise of government power over the course of the last one hundred years has truncated freedoms, human rights, and prosperity along with all the fruits of the human spirit. Government is the main enemy, but government hides under cover of social contract, social justice, democracy, religion, security, and a host of other changing veils.
All of this is clear to those steeped in the tradition of liberty-minded thought as it has gradually emerged over the centuries. But it is obviously not clear to the vast majority of the human family, who continue to live under the illusion that giving government more power will magically cure society’s ills by infusing us with a greater reality of fairness, justice, morality — or whatever they claim.
How best to correct this error? How best to share this knowledge? How best to bring others along to the same understanding?
Here are ten rules–five don’ts and five dos. And I know: every libertarian reader of this article is immediately saying “Don’t tell me what to do!” …..
If you learn anything about our “justice” system. It should be, that it is more aptly called an injustice system. It is dark, and evil, and past reform. It should be thrown out and we should start over….
Imagine being young, vulnerable, and facing criminal charges for a crime you didn’t commit. The justice system sees you as nothing more than a statistic. Your case is not worth their time and resources. The question of your innocence is actually of little interest to the DA’s office. You are just another file on top of an endless stack of others. Their only goal is to move your paperwork from their stack to someone else’s.
Before you are even given the chance to adequately defend yourself in court, you are given two options: continue to maintain your innocence and face the full consequences of the legal system or agree to a reduced sentence by accepting a plea deal and admitting guilt.
This was the choice given to sixteen-year-old Kalief Browder. But unlike so many others in the same position, he had the courage to say no to the plea deal. And so the system destroyed him.
Browder took his own life. And the country took notice.
If you didn’t follow the Kalief Browder story as it unfolded, Time produced a beautiful documentary series exposing the entire debacle that is now available on Netflix. Falsely accused of stealing a backpack and unwilling to take the DA’s plea bargain, Browder was placed in the infamous Rikers Island prison while the system routinely delayed his trial.
It took three years for Browder to get his day in court. Two of those three miserable years he spent behind bars were in solitary confinement, a traumatizing experience that he never recovered from. His time outside of solitary confinement was spent being brutally beaten by both guards and other inmates.
Once it was made clear that Browder was innocent, the damage had already been done. The physical and psychological horrors he endured weren’t magically erased when the system realized they had screwed up.
Browder took his own life. And the country took notice.
Plea deals prey specifically on the most economically and socially vulnerable.
What an apt analogy to the contemporary police state. Do you think that the screen writer, perhaps like George Orwell, had some inside information?
The one thing I got out of this article was an old TV series to check out. So far I have not found it for free, but here is the link at Amazon for the 1967 TV series: “The Prisoner” .
“We’re run by the Pentagon, we’re run by Madison Avenue, we’re run by television, and as long as we accept those things and don’t revolt we’ll have to go along with the stream to the eventual avalanche…. As long as we go out and buy stuff, we’re at their mercy… We all live in a little Village. Your Village may be different from other people’s Villages, but we are all prisoners.”— Patrick McGoohan
First broadcast in Great Britain 50 years ago, The Prisoner—a dystopian television series described as “James Bond meets George Orwell filtered through Franz Kafka”—confronted societal themes that are still relevant today: the rise of a police state, the freedom of the individual, round-the-clock surveillance, the corruption of government, totalitarianism, weaponization, group think, mass marketing, and the tendency of humankind to meekly accept their lot in life as a prisoner in a prison of their own making.
Perhaps the best visual debate ever on individuality and freedom, The Prisoner (17 episodes in all) centers around a British secret agent who abruptly resigns only to find himself imprisoned, monitored by militarized drones, and interrogated in a mysterious, self-contained, cosmopolitan, seemingly tranquil retirement community known only as the Village. The Village is an idyllic setting with parks and green fields, recreational activities and even a butler.
The Jason Stockley verdict only highlights the problems we have with policing the police.
Police privatization would be better than the current state of affairs where the perpetrators of crimes magically claim “sovereign immunity”, and can not even be charged. People working for private security firms would not be able to claim the Satanic principle of moral relativism (also called .sovereign immunity.) to avoid responsibility for their actions.
Better yet would be to disband the police. Most of them should be charged with crimes relating to the violation of our rights and IMHO they do very little else than violate our rights about 90% of the time. If you don’t agree either you don’t know what the police do, or you don’t have a clue as to what your rights are or the legitimate purpose of government.
Throughout most of our history we (the militia) have acted as the “police”. The founding fathers warned us about standing armies, like the army in blue that we now have lording over us for the Deep State.
On Friday, Jason Stockley was acquitted of first-degree murder charges stemming from the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith. Many of the people of St. Louis have responded to the verdict with protests that have turned violent.
Mr. Stockley, who was a St. Louis police officer at the time of the shooting, was accused of premeditated murder almost six years after a high-speed chase ended with his shooting Mr. Smith, a black man, to death. Prosecutors further contended that Mr. Stockley planted a gun on the victim to make the shooting appear justified. Additionally, dash cam footage during the chase records Mr. Stockley declaring to his partner that he was “killing this [expletive], don’t you know it.”
Mr. Stockley waived his right to a trial by jury, instead receiving what is called a bench trial; that is, a trial heard and decided on solely by a judge. This judge took a month to hand down his verdict, and the 30-page ruling is certainly an interesting read.
Regardless of any personal feelings or opinions I might have about the case, I think we can all agree that the not-guilty verdict is hardly surprising. Indeed, in the last four months alone, in addition to Mr. Stockley, officers in Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Wisconsin were all acquitted of charges relating to shooting deaths they were involved in.
Rather than dwelling on the racial implications of these cases—implications that are numerous and heartbreaking and that I am in no way qualified to expound upon—I’d like to talk about the problems inherent in relying upon the State to police itself.
Basically, the bureaucrats created an illegal slush fund, and then used the money illegally.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) must be anxious to get on my list of government bureaucracies that shouldn’t exist.
The bureaucrats have engaged in some really silly and petty behavior (such as confiscating Airsoft toy guns because they might be machine guns), and they’ve engaged in some behavior that is criminally stupid and dangerous (running guns to Mexican drug gangs as part of the “Fast and Furious” fiasco).
If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Another
Now we have another example. Though it’s so bizarre that I’m not sure how to classify it. Basically, the bureaucrats created an illegal slush fund, and then used the money illegally.
The New York Times has been on top of this story. Here are excerpts from the latest report.
For seven years, agents at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives followed an unwritten policy: If you needed to buy something for one of your cases, do not bother asking Washington. Talk to agents in Bristol, Va., who controlled a multimillion-dollar account unrestricted by Congress or the bureaucracy. …thousands of pages of newly unsealed records reveal a widespread scheme — a highly unorthodox merger of an undercover law enforcement operation and a legitimate business. What began as a way to catch black-market cigarette dealers quickly transformed into a nearly untraceable A.T.F. slush fund that agents from around the country could tap. …One agent steered hundreds of thousands of dollars in real estate, electronics and money to his church and his children’s sports teams, records show. …At least tens of millions of dollars moved through the account before it was shut down in 2013, but no one can say for sure how much. The government never tracked it.
Oh, by the way, the BATF was breaking the law.
Federal law prohibits mixing government and private money. The A.T.F. now acknowledges it can point to no legal justification for the scheme.
But you won’t be surprised to learn that there have been no consequences.
…no one was ever prosecuted, Congress was only recently notified, and the Justice Department tried for years to keep the records secret.
And it’s also worth noting that this is also a tax issue. As I’ve noted before, high tax rates encourage illegality.
Though cigarettes are available at any corner store, they are extraordinarily profitable to smuggle. That’s because taxes are high and every state sets its own rates. Virginia charges $3 per carton. New York charges $43.50. The simplest scheme — buying cigarettes in Virginia and selling them tax-free in New York — can generate tens of thousands of dollars in illicit cash. By some estimates, more than half of New York’s cigarettes come from the black market.
By the way, I can’t help but wonder why the federal government is engaging in all sorts of dodgy behavior to help enforce bad state tax laws. Yes, I realize the cigarettes are crossing state lines, but so what? The illegal (but not immoral) behavior occurs when an untaxed cigarette is sold inside the borders of, say, New York. Why should Washington get involved?
In other words, I like the fact that borders limit the power of government. It’s why I don’t like global schemes to undermine tax competition (why should Swiss banks be required to enforce bad U.S. tax law?), and it’s why I don’t like the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act (why should merchants in one state be required to enforce the sales taxes of other states?).
But I’m digressing.
Let’s get back to the Bureau’s misbehavior. Here’s some additional reporting from the U.K.-based Times.
A US government crime-fighting agency ran a secret bank account that its employees used to buy luxury cars, property and trips to casinos. Officers for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), charged with investigating smuggling and gun crimes, built up a slush fund worth tens of millions of dollars through illicit cigarette sales, ostensibly as part of an operation to catch traffickers. The scandal is the latest controversy to hit the agency, which has been criticised in recent years for lack of accountability and allowing the flow of guns and drugs to go unchecked. …Cash from the slush fund generated at an ATF field office in Bristol, Virginia, …funded activities such as a trip to Las Vegas, donations to agents’ children and the booking of a $21,000 suite at a Nascar race.
But That’s Not All
And what about the overall BATF bureaucracy? Well, it’s getting some unfavorable attention. Keep in mind that this scandal is on top of the “Fast and Furious” scandal of the Obama years.
The ATF has said that it has “implemented substantial enhancements to its policies, and has markedly improved leadership, training, communication, accountability and operational oversight”. Under the previous administration, it was widely derided for a botched weapons operation known as “Fast and Furious”. The agency allowed licensed firearms dealers to sell weapons to illegal buyers, hoping to track the guns to Mexican drug cartel kingpins. But out of the 2,000 firearms sold, only a fraction have been traced. The secret account scandal has renewed calls from across the political spectrum for the department of about 2,000 agents to be reformed or shut down.
Last but not least, I think we have a new member of the Bureaucrat Hall of Fame.
Thomas Lesnak, a senior ATF investigator, began the scheme. …Mr Lesnak retired with his pension and was not reprimanded.
Just like Lois Lerner and the IRS, engaging in corrupt and crooked behavior and then escaping any punishment.
Maybe the two of them should hook up? They’d make a great couple. I’m sure they could even figure out a way to make taxpayers finance their wedding and honeymoon.
P.S. The “Fast and Furious” scheme was just one of the scandals that occurred during the Obama years, but it may have been the most foolish. Didn’t anybody at the BATF realize that it wasn’t a good idea to funnel weapons to Mexican drug gangs?!?
P.P.S. The silver lining to that dark cloud is that we got a couple of good one-liners about the Obama Administration’s gun-running scandal from Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon.
Reprinted from Intentional Liberty
Basing one’s morality around legality is no way to live.
One of the greatest evils that I see Christians constantly doing is supporting any sort of evil that you can imagine “because it is the law”. Well I have news for you, writing words on paper can not turn evil into good. The biggest offenders that I see are the thugs in blue. They like the guards at Auschwitz are “order followers” that have not yet seen a “law” that they will not enforce.
One of my favorite sayings comes from the now defunct web-comic A Softer World. “It was a sweet day when I realized,” reads the comic, “legal and illegal had nothing to do with right and wrong.”
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I wish I could say it was because I had faced some grand moral dilemma that had brought me to a greater understanding of the crucial distinctions between when a thing is legal and when a thing is right, or when a thing is illegal and when it is wrong. There are certainly a lot of issues alive in our culture at the moment that seem to turn on those distinctions.
The Difference Between Legal and Right
But my recent thinking about right and wrong, legal and illegal, wasn’t inspired by any of that. Instead, it was inspired by a friend’s casual reference to the popular podcast, My Favorite Murder. I find true crime stuff intriguing, was about to get into the car for a three hour drive, and wanted something to listen to, so I downloaded a few episodes and listened to them in the car.
It’s a fine podcast and a funny one. I like it. The hosts–two comedians–discuss and theorize about a few different murders in every episode, covering everything from the details of the crime, to the investigation, to different theories about unsolved cases. The three-hour car trip flew.
But I felt increasingly uneasy.
For me, listening to this podcast in the way that I was doing it was wrong. So I stopped.
I wasn’t uneasy because I was suddenly worried about potential murderers lurking in every dark corner. I was uneasy because I wasn’t sure that listening to this podcast was right for me. I was driving along safely and happily listening to people talk about some of the worst things that humans have done to each other. I wasn’t doing it to learn anything, or in hopes of making the tragedies less. I wasn’t even doing it in order to practice my Smithian ability to sympathize with the sufferings of others.
I was being entertained. By murder. Real murder.
Somehow, the distinction between reality and the fictional murders in the Marvel Comics Universe that I enjoy so much, or in the mysteries I read so often, began to seem too much for me to treat the one as I treat the other. For me, listening to this podcast in the way that I was doing it was wrong. I didn’t want to be the kind of person who treats tragedy as entertainment.
So I stopped.
It is perfectly legal to listen to My Favorite Murder. It should be. And I can imagine all kinds of people with all kinds of good reasons for listening to it that would make me nod and agree that it’s the right thing for them to do. I’d object loudly if any Helen Lovejoys read this column as a reason to condemn the podcast and petition to have it taken off the air.
But unlike laws—which ought to be thin enough and general enough to apply to (as close as possible) all of us (as often as possible) all of the time–moral reasoning about what is right and wrong, should be thick and specific. It should be contextual—about the time and circumstance and the people involved—in a way that laws should not be.
That’s why, when I found myself in a real life enactment of the classic philosophical conundrum of the “trolley problem” recently, it was easy to decide what to do. I was headed pell mell down hill at top speed on my bike. A family—Mom, two elementary school kids, and Dad with a baby in a baby carrier—were headed down another hill, equally pell mell, right for me.
You can’t make a law for that kind of situation.
Of course I hit my brakes, ditched my bike, and crashed onto the asphalt. Because, for me, taking that damage myself was the right thing to do, rather than risk injuring the family headed towards me. It wasn’t a question of calculating the costs the family would experience if I hit them, and contrasting that with the benefit I would accumulate from avoiding a severe case of road rash and a spectacular set of bruises.
It wasn’t right to hit them. So I did my best not to.
You can’t make a law for that kind of situation. It’s too clunky. And it probably would have been legal for me to hit them, anyway. But it would not have been right.
Right and wrong aren’t inflexible rules; they are responses to the world as we move through it.
Sometimes, maybe most times, all you can do is do the best that you can, in the given circumstances, to make the kind of decision that allows you to be the person you can live with being. That’s why I’m never impressed when a public figure—caught doing something shady—reminds us that he or she hasn’t done anything illegal. It may well be true, but mere legality is a lousy way to be a human being.
Much of human life, possibly most of human life, and almost certainly the most important parts of human life, are not usefully discussed in terms of what is legal and illegal. We know that. That’s why we write books like Les Miserables and make movies like Loving. Right and wrong have nothing to do with legal and illegal. They are complicated and personal. Right and wrong aren’t inflexible rules; they are responses to the world as we move through it and to people as we interact with them.
Sarah Skwire is the Literary Editor of FEE.org and a senior fellow at Liberty Fund, Inc. She is a poet and author of the writing textbook Writing with a Thesis. She is a member of the FEE Faculty Network. Email
Our lack of Constitutional knowledge means that believing in protecting the rights of minorities does not actually protect them when they are outvoted.
This may be one of the most important ideas that you are presented with this year. Knowledge is the answer to the dilemma that the country finds itself. Americans are currently one of the most dumbed down populations on the face of the earth. In that vein I ask you to take a look this 8 hour Constitution Class presented by Michael Badnarik: Constitution Class taught by Michael Badnarik
The United Nations “war on drugs” exemplifies the tyranny of the majority better than anything else that I can think of at this time. We have also had a devastating and continueing war on firearms that was made possible by the tyranny of the majority. The criminals over at BATF have played not a small part in this continueing trampling of our rights by the majority.
Constitution Day—September 17—marks the anniversary of its 1787 signing. Students will be taught about it…but not because of its importance. It is now a mandatory topic for every educational institution receiving federal aid. However, what won’t be taught is the irony of that requirement, which originated from the man then-described as the Senate’s leading Constitutional scholar, while clearly conflicting with the Constitution.
In 2004, Senator Robert Byrd (D.-WV) added this requirement to a pork-filled spending bill that was blatantly inconsistent with Americans’ general welfare. It also clearly overstepped the 10th Amendment’s restriction of the federal government to only its enumerated powers.
His “solution” aside, Byrd was correct about Americans’ inadequate Constitutional knowledge. As one National Constitution Center poll concluded, only one in six of us claimed detailed knowledge of the Constitution—despite the fact that two-thirds said it was “absolutely essential” to have.
Lack of Knowledge Is a Dangerous Thing
In other words, Americans know too little about our Constitution to maintain the freedoms it was designed to protect. Instead, our ignorance leads us to sacrificing rights out of undue deference to majority rule.
Alexander Hamilton asserted that “Real liberty is not found in the extremes of democracy.”
America’s Constitution did not endorse majority rule. Our founders did believe in voting to select who should be entrusted with the power of government, but the more important and prior question they addressed was: “What powers do the people delegate to the federal government to exercise on their behalf?” That is why so much of the Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights, is devoted to what the government is not allowed to do, regardless of majority sentiment. As Jefferson said, our founders fought not for democracy, but for a government “tied down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”
In fact, our founders had a great distrust of majority rule. Alexander Hamilton asserted that “Real liberty is not found in the extremes of democracy.” James Madison said “democracies…have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” Thomas Jefferson warned that “an elective despotism was not the government we fought for,” and that “The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society.”
That is why the Constitution contains multiple non-majority rules to protect Americans against federal abuses, such as presidential veto power and the super-majorities required to change the Constitution. Its defense is the rationale for the Supreme Court’s power to strike down unconstitutional laws, regardless of how many congressional votes they received.
“Individual rights are not subject to a public vote.”
Despite our founders’ antipathy toward pure majority rule, many today feel that our founders’ opposition to unlimited democracy can be squared with political determination of everything by adding the phrase, “also protecting the rights of the minority.” However, as Ayn Rand put it, “Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).” Consequently, our lack of Constitutional knowledge means that believing in protecting the rights of minorities does not actually protect them when they are outvoted.
The unwise habit of deference to political majorities results in those rights being steamrollered whenever more than 50% vote to do so.
Since Americans don’t clearly understand their Constitutional rights against government abuse, the unwise habit of deference to political majorities results in those rights being steamrollered whenever more than 50% vote to do so. Examples are plentiful because—despite the Constitution’s imposition of strictly limited, enumerated federal powers—there is no area it does not now reach, if not dominate. And with our protections eroding, majority voting controls more and more of what our founders thought they had made off-limits to political determination.
Sadly, as we can’t effectively defend what we are only vaguely aware of, American inattention to the highest law of the land puts our most essential rights and liberties at risk. We may think we have inalienable rights, as the Declaration of Independence asserts. But those rights are protected by the Constitution only if we know what they are and we remember that the federal government was not granted power to take them away based on any simple majority vote. Unless we once again take our rights as seriously as our founders and vigorously defend the Constitutional safeguards that maintain them—even against majority pressures—the system of self-government our founders left us will continue to erode. But when we don’t even recognize the irony of a federal mandate to promote understanding of the Constitution, especially when it is inconsistent with the Constitution, we are unprepared to do anything to effectively preserve its protections against government abuse.
Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. His recent books include Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies (2014) and Apostle of Peace (2013). He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.
This type of thing happens with a lot more frequency than you think.
Woman fighting for prescription warnings after husband kills twins
Spend some time on this site. It chronicles and documents this medical crime:
A serious situation is developing in Houston as people operating with orders from an unknown source, are spraying a highly toxic substance, banned in several countries, on the people of of Houston.
The authorities are telling the people to don gas masks? Really? What if a family cannot afford gas masks? Also, Houston citizens need to be asking an important question: “Are there millions of gas masks available for purchase in Houston?” Further, if there is no other choice. why aren’t the federal relief funds being used to purchase gas masks for the citizens? And how would these gas masks be distributed?
I have handled and worn gas masks before they are difficult to put on and they are even more difficult to remove. What about the elderly or the infirm? What are they to do? What about the children, or infants, what is going to protect them? The spraying of these residents is the best example of depraved indifference that I have ever witnessed.
In short America, this is a slow burn genocide for the people of Houston. Now whether this genocide is intentional or an unavoidable tragedy, one can debate the circumstances surrounding this human holocaust. However, there is one unavoidable factor that cannot be debated. The mosquitos which are being sprayed, will not bite and infect all Houston residents, not even close.
CONVERSELY, EVERY HOUSTON RESIDENT WILL BE EXPOSED TO THIS BANNED NEUROTOXIN WHICH IS PROVEN TO CAUSE CANCER AND A WHOLE HOST OF COGNITIVE AND PHYSICAL PROBLEMS.
Which is worse, to get sprayed and have a 100% chance of being exposed to life threatening toxins or to do nothing and have a small chance of being bitten by a mosquito, that may or may not be infected with maladies? I would take my chances on being exposed to the mosquitos. …. Read more