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Northern Virginia just got buried by more than two feet of snow.

This has two implications. First, I’m going to have a fun time shoveling my driveway.

Second, I’m going to add to my collection of humor that pokes fun at libertarians.

And now, courtesy of a left-leaning, quasi-populist softball buddy, we have our new addition: The tyranny of government snowplows!

Now that we’ve all enjoyed a good laugh (because some of us libertarians can be very doctrinaire and dour, and thus deserve to be teased), it’s worth noting that plenty of places, such as private communities, shopping centers, etc, do rely on the private sector.

And it’s no mystery that the snow in those places is generally cleared faster and at lower cost.

That being said, most libertarian types are far more tolerant of local governments spending money on things that arguably might be public goods.

Indeed, one of our principles is that things tend to go awry (like the water scandal in Flint) when responsibility and accountability are blurred because of involvement by state government or the federal government.

So most of us will tolerate snow removal by local governments, even if we would prefer the private sector.

P.S. I also have a collection of pro-libertarian humor.

P.P.S. Just in case you want to vicariously share my snow-shoveling misery, this picture will give you an idea of the size of the problem.

Though it is nice that one of the cats is helping to point the way.

And another one of the kitties seems rather fascinated by the walls of snow.

For what it’s worth, this snow definitely beats the December 2009 storm and also is heavier than the February 2010 storm.

P.P.P.S. Since I’m not as smart as my neighbor, who parked at the end of his driveway, I have hours of work ahead of me. Too bad there aren’t any criminal, unlicensed teenagers looking for work.

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After the grim pessimism of yesterday’s topic, it’s time for something lighter.

In the past, I’ve shared lots of libertarian humor, both from a friendly perspective and a critical perspective.

Now it’s time to add to that collection. We’ll start with a great video from the folks at Reason. They have a parody trailer for a libertarian version of Star Wars.

Excellent job. I’m surprised this video doesn’t already have 100K-plus views. Please share it.

The first segment of the video reminds me of the libertarian chicken.

Also, for those who may have missed the reference, the “Free to Chewbacca” segment at the end is based on Milton Friedman’s great Free to Choose program. You can see Chewbacca’s part within the first five minutes of Episode One. But you should watch the entire series.

Our next video could be considered a follow-up to the Hayek love song I posted five years ago. It warns that faith in government and politicians puts a nation on a road to serfdom (I’ve argued that the VAT does the same thing!).

Quite amusing and clever.

To be sure, the Hayek videos that everyone should watch are the rap versions about his debates with Keynes. Part I and Part II are both superb and very economically sound.

Now let’s switch to a short video about shopping in Texas.  Sort of reminiscent of this joke about the difference between conservatives, liberals, and Texans.

It’s not as good as this classic video mocking gun-free zones, but still worth watching. And you can see other humorous gun control videos here, here, and here.

For inexplicable reasons, you can’t actually watch the embedded version of this next video featuring Ron Swanson. You’ll have to click through and watch it on Youtube (at least that’s what I have to do on my computer), but it’s worth that extra step.

There’s also another great Ron Swanson at the end of this post, though once again you’ll have to click through and watch it on Youtube.

P.S. Here’s a different version of the how-the-world-sees-libertarians poster I shared in early 2012.

And if you like this type of humor, you’ll enjoy seeing whether you (or libertarians you know) belong in one or more of these 24 categories.

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One of the great things about being a libertarian is that you have no desire for government sanctions against peaceful people who are different than you are, and that should be a very popular stance.

You can be a libertarian who is also a serious fundamentalist, yet you have no desire to use the coercive power of government to oppress or harass people who are (in your view) pervasive sinners. For instance, you may think gay sex is sinful sodomy, but you don’t want it to be illegal.

Likewise, you can be a libertarian with a very libertine lifestyle, yet you have no desire to use the coercive power of government to oppress and harass religious people. It’s wrong (in your view) to not cater a gay wedding, but you don’t want the government to bully bakers and florists.

In other words, very different people can choose to be libertarian, yet we’re all united is support of the principle that politicians shouldn’t pester people so long as those folks aren’t trying to violate the life, liberty, or property of others.

And when you’re motivated by these peaceful principles, which imply a very small public sector and a very big private sector and civil society, it’s amazing how many controversies have easy solutions.

Consider, for example, the legal fights about transgendered students.

Writing for Reason, Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune highlights a controversy in Illinois.

…in Palatine, Illinois,…the public school district had to decide how to handle a transgender student who was born male but lives as a female. …The school district has largely accepted her identification, letting her play on a girls’ sports team and use the girls’ restrooms. But it draws the line at the locker room, where it says other students must be protected. Its solution is to provide a private space this student must use to change clothes.

This seems like a reasonable compromise, but some bureaucrats in Washington aren’t happy.

This remedy doesn’t satisfy the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education, which this week decided that restricting locker room access to “Student A” is a violation of Title IX, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs.

But Steve says the bureaucrats are actually being reasonable.

The feds’ solution is a sensible compromise. It suggests that the district provide curtained changing areas, available to all, without forcing anyone to use them.

And this issue isn’t a rare as one might think. Here are some passages from a CNN report, which also agrees that the issue boils down to the provision of privacy curtains in locker rooms.

In 2013,…California became the first state to allow transgender students to choose which bathrooms and locker rooms to use. …a negotiated solution by putting up privacy curtains in the girls’ locker room. Similar arrangements have kept schools from running afoul of anti-discrimination violations. At Township High School District 211, however, the line between accommodation and discrimination came down to this: whether the student would be able to choose to use the privacy curtains, or whether the school could force her to do so.

And here are some excerpts from a separate CNN story from Missouri.

The 17-year-old Hillsboro High School senior wears skirts, makeup and a long wig styled with bobby pins. She even started using the girls’ locker room to change for gym class, despite the school’s offer of a single-occupancy restroom. …it became clear she was not welcome in the locker room. Because Perry has male anatomy, many students simply see her as a boy in a wig changing in the girls’ locker room — and that makes them uncomfortable. …the guidance is pretty clear as far as the federal government and LGBT advocacy groups are concerned: Transgender students should be allowed to use the restroom and changing room that accords with their gender identity.

And if every student has a private changing area, which is what Steve Chapman suggested, there shouldn’t be a problem. Heck, you wouldn’t even need a boy’s locker room and girl’s locker room.

But Steve wasn’t being sufficiently libertarian because there’s an even better solution. Why not simply engage in real education reform, give all families vouchers, and then let them choose schools on the basis of many different factors (academics, convenience, cultural programs), one of which might happen to be how they deal with transgendered students.

Some schools presumably will be very accommodating while others may be rather unwelcoming, and parents can take that information into account when deciding where to send their kids.

Here’s another controversy that could be easily solved with the application of libertarian principles. Voters in Houston recently rejected a law that would have mandated (among many other things) that people could choose bathrooms based on their preferred gender.

Here’s some of what was reported by the New York Times.

…voters easily repealed an anti-discrimination ordinance that had attracted attention from the White House, sports figures and Hollywood celebrities. The City Council passed the measure in May, but it was in limbo after opponents succeeded, following a lengthy court fight, in putting the matter to a referendum. The measure failed by a vote of 61 percent to 39 percent. Supporters said the ordinance was similar to those approved in 200 other cities and prohibited bias in housing, employment, city contracting and business services for 15 protected classes, including race, age, sexual orientation and gender identity. …In Houston, the ordinance’s proponents…accused opponents of using fearmongering against gay people, and far-fetched talk of bathroom attacks, to generate support for a repeal. The ordinance, they noted, says nothing specifically about whether men can use women’s restrooms. …Opponents of the measure…said the ordinance was so vague that it would make anyone who tried to keep any man from entering a women’s bathroom the subject of a city investigation and fine.

Scott Shackford of Reason explains that opponents used emotional arguments against the referendum instead of making a principled libertarian case against government intervention.

The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO)…ordinance also includes sexual orientation, genetic information, and gender identity. …HERO…is more broad than federal laws, which don’t include sexual orientation and gender identity and have a much more restrictive view of what counts as a public accommodation. …Opponents of HERO warn that if the referendum passes, men will claim to be women to hide in bathrooms and assault your little girls. …There’s no argument suggesting that individual and business freedom of association is being hampered by the law. There’s no argument that we have so many more ways to culturally apply pressure to fight bigoted behavior in the private marketplace that Houston doesn’t need additional laws.

And Shackford makes the key libertarian argument that private companies and private individuals shouldn’t be coerced by the government.

…it’s a shame the ordinance lumps in both government and private behavior. Government shouldn’t discriminate in employment and accommodations for any of these categories, and if that’s all the law did, it would be great. But for private businesses and for private restrooms, leave it to citizens to work out the issues on their own.

In other words, the entire controversy disappears (at least in the private sector) because people would have freedom of association. They could decide to have unisex bathrooms. They could decide to have traditional bathrooms. Or they could be like Facebook and have dozens of bathroom options based on categories I don’t even understand.

P.S. If you want to figure out whether you’re libertarian, there are several tests, ranging from very simple exercises (here and here), to ones that will take 5-10 minutes, or ones that require answers to dozens of questions.

P.P.S. Before answering any of those tests, you may want to read this.

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What’s the difference between libertarians and conservatives? I’ve touched on that issue before, citing some interesting research which suggests that the underlying difference involves cultural factors such as attitudes about authority.

But let’s narrow the question and look at the specific issue of how conservatives and libertarians differ on people’s right to make decisions about their own bodies.

By the way, this is not a discussion of abortion, which involves another person (or fetus, or baby, or clump of cells, or whatever you want to call it). Since there’s no consensus libertarian view on this issue (other than not having it subsidized by the government), I’ll let others fight it out over whether mothers should be able to abort.

Today, I want to look at whether people should be free to control their own bodies in cases when there’s a much more clear-cut case that there is no harm to others.

The obvious example is drug use. Libertarians believe that people should be able to use drugs, even if we happen to think they’re being stupid.

And I can’t help noting that more and more conservatives are realizing that the Drug War does more harm than good.

But let’s use a different example. The Washington Post recently reported that the government of India wants to prevent low-income women from improving their lives.

The issue is whether these women should be able to act as surrogate mothers.

India is one of the top countries in the world for couples searching for surrogacy that can be done far more cheaply than in the United States and elsewhere. It is a booming — and largely unregulated — business in India, with thousands of clinics forming the backbone of an estimated $400 million-a-year industry.

Before I continue, I can’t resist pointing out that – if we use words properly – the industry is regulated. But the regulation is very efficient because it’s the result of private contracts, not government edicts.

That being said, let’s not get distracted. The main issue is whether these voluntary contracts somehow are exploitative.

Critics have long said that fertility clinics and their clients exploit surrogate mothers — often poor and illiterate women from rural areas who are paid little.

But how on earth is this type of arrangement bad for Indian women?!?

A surrogate mother profiled in The Washington Post was paid $8,000: an amount 12 times what she made as a garment worker.

The article doesn’t specify whether the surrogate mother was paid 12 times what she earned in a year, or whether the pay was for the nine-month period of pregnancy.

Regardless, the woman clearly was a big winner.

Yet this practice somehow arouses antagonism among India’s political elite.

India’s Supreme Court recently labeled it “surrogacy tourism” and called for a ban. The government submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court on Wednesday saying that it “does not support commercial surrogacy” and that “no foreigners can avail surrogacy services in India,” although the service would still be available to Indian couples.

I’m not sure why Supreme Court Justices are lobbying for legislation. Maybe India’s system somehow enables that kind of grandstanding.

But it’s not good for poor Indians, or the Indian economy.

More than 6,000 surrogate babies are born in India per year, about half of them to foreign couples, according to one industry estimate. “We are taken aback by the government’s stand against foreign nationals,” said Jagatjeet Singh, a surrogacy consultant in New Delhi. “On one hand, the government is promoting foreign investment and the medical tourism industry. And on the other, they are talking of banning foreign nationals from coming to India for surrogate babies. There are dual standards.”

My guess is that richer people in India (such as members of the political elite) don’t like being reminded that their nation is poor.

They’re probably somewhat chagrined and embarrassed that they live in a country where thousands of women will jump at the chance to rent their wombs to foreigners.

But even if that’s an understandable emotion (I’m a bit ashamed when foreigners ask me about FATCA, for instance), that doesn’t justify laws banning voluntary exchange between consenting adults.

Moreover, renting a womb isn’t like working in a strip club or being a prostitute. As a libertarian, I don’t want to criminalize those professions, which just makes life harder for women in difficult circumstances. But we can all understand why there’s some degree of shame associated with stripping and hooking.

Heck, I can even understand why some folks don’t like voluntary kidney sales. It’s human nature, after all, to prefer a world where nobody is ever tempted to make big decisions for reasons of financial duress.

Earning money by being a surrogate mother, by contrast, seems perfectly benign. Perhaps somewhat akin to guys who make money by going to sperm banks.

P.S. A related issue is “sweatshops,” which some folks want to ban even though that denies poor people an opportunity to climb the economic ladder and improve their lives.

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I don’t understand why some people are hostile to libertarians.

After all, our philosophy is based on the notion that we want government to be limited so it is less likely to reach into your wallet or your bedroom.

At the risk of oversimplifying, libertarians think it’s okay for government to safeguard life, liberty, and property from force and fraud, but we’re very leery about giving additional powers to the government.

Seems like a reasonable governing philosophy to me, but some people object to being treated like adults and they lash out with very silly attacks on libertarianism.

Consider this article in Slate, which makes it seem as if libertarians are hypocrites if they accept – and express appreciation for – assistance from firefighters.

…an Okanogan, Washington man named Brad Craig thanks firefighters for saving his home. It’s a nice moment, though if you look closely you’ll notice that Craig happened to be wearing a t-shirt that given the circumstances is quite ironic… The shirt says “Lower Taxes + Less Government = More Freedom.” …10 different government organizations are mentioned in the AP story about the large-scale coordinated response that worked to Craig’s benefit.

Wow. I’m not sure whether the author is malicious or clueless, but this is remarkable. He’s basically saying that if you want less government, you must be a hypocrite if you support or benefit from any government.

Which is the same as me asserting that leftists are hypocritical to buy I-Phones because their support for more government means that they therefore must favor total government and no private sector.

There are, of course, some libertarians who persuasively argue that we don’t need government fire departments. And some who even argue that we don’t need any government.

But even if Brad Craig (the guy with the t-shirt) was in one of these categories, that doesn’t make him a hypocrite. Many poor and middle-class families would like a voucherized education system so they could afford to send their kids to private schools. In the absence of such a reform, are they hypocrites for sending their kids to government-run schools?

Obviously not.

Here’s another example. The government today takes money from just about all of us to prop up a poorly designed Social Security system. Are the workers who have been coerced into that system hypocrites if they take Social Security benefits when they retire?

Of course not.

Jim Treacher of the Daily Caller also weighed in on this topic. Here’s some of what he wrote.

I can express a desire for less government interference in my life without rejecting the need for firefighters. Or police, or roads, or Stop signs, or whatever. I understand that it’s actually possible to advocate individual liberty while still admitting the need for government. People have been saying such things for hundreds of years.

Well said.

Let’s close with this look at how libertarians are the reasonable middle ground between two types of statists. I don’t fully agree with all the characterizations (many leftists favor corporate welfare and are not tolerant of other people’s personal choices, for instance, while there are folks on the right who aren’t very committed to economic freedom), but it’s worth reviewing.

If you want to figure out where you belong, there is a short way, medium way, and long way of answering that question.

And while I don’t want put my thumb on the scale as you take these tests, I’ll simply note that decent and humane people tend to be libertarians.

P.S. Here’s a more scholarly look at the difference between libertarians and conservatives.

P.P.S. And here’s my take on why there aren’t any pure libertarian societies.

P.P.P.S. Here’s my collection of libertarian humor.

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As far as I’m concerned, a key gateway test of whether someone might be a libertarian is whether they get upset when ordinary people are mistreated or brutalized by government.

Though admittedly any decent person should get upset by those examples.

So perhaps we need something more detailed to identify supporters of limited government, individual freedom, and personal responsibility. So when one of my friends sent me the “definitive political orientation test,” I immediately was tempted to see my score.

I don’t know if it’s the “definitive” test, but it seems reasonably accurate. As you can see, I’m about as libertarian as you can be without being an anarchist who wants zero government.

Though I should point out that there aren’t any questions on anarchism. I think the test probably assumes anarchism if your answers are both anti-welfare state and anti-defense.

This “circle test” is probably a simpler way of determining where you are on the big government-some government-no government spectrum.

But the most more sophisticated measure of libertarianism is Professor Bryan Caplan’s test. I only got a 94 out of a possible 160, which sounds bad, but that was still enough for my views to be considered “hard-core.”

And since we’re looking at online surveys, here are my results from the “I Side With” quiz. I don’t endorse candidates (as if anyone would care), but this quiz suggests that Rand Paul is closest to my views, followed by Scott Walker and Marco Rubio.

For what it’s worth, I’m not exactly shocked to see Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders at the bottom.

By the way, since we’ve shifted to a discussion of the 2016 race, I was the warm-up speaker for Governor Jeb Bush at a recent “Road to Reform” event in New Hampshire sponsored by Americans for Prosperity. Here’s what I said about fixing the budget mess in Washington.

You can watch the entire event and also see what the governor said by clicking here.

And for folks in Nevada, I’ll be the warm-up speaker for a similar event with Ted Cruz on August 14.

P.S. The most inaccurate political quiz was the one that classified me as a “moderate” with “few strong opinions.”

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After writing about such an emotionally charged issue yesterday, let’s change the topic and enjoy a bit of levity.

I’ve shared several examples of anti-libertarian humor, most of which are fairly clever because they seize on something that is sort of true and take it to the preposterous extreme.

Here’s something with a different flavor. It basically mocks libertarians for being naively idealistic youngsters who then “grow up” and stop being libertarian.

There’s enough truth to this that I laughed, though I think the trait of being overly idealistic probably applies to all politically minded young people.

I remember thinking “let’s abolish Social Security overnight” in my younger years, whereas now I think we need to transition to a system of personal retirement accounts.

Is this a sign that I’ve “grown up” and that I’m no longer libertarian, or is it simply a recognition that progress sometimes has to be incremental if we want to achieve libertarian goals?

I think the latter, so I don’t think the image is accurate. But it’s still funny.

Now let’s share some pro-libertarian humor, adding to an unfortunately small collection (here, here, and here).

Though I guess it’s only pro-libertarian by process of elimination because it describes what it’s like when people other than libertarians are in charge of government policy.

And since there’s plenty to criticize when looking at both Republicans and Democrats, you can see why this is appealing.

Now let’s close with some humor produced by libertarians. The always-clever crowd at Reason TV snagged an interview with President Obama. Sort of, keeping in mind that this video was released on April 1.

I especially like the jabs at Biden at the end.

And since I shared my collection of Obama jokes at the bottom of this recent post, let’s take this opportunity to recycle (and re-enjoy) these examples of Biden humor.

We have this caption contest, which led to a clever winning entry.

Here’s an amusing joke (with the naughty word redacted), and the late-night talk shows have produced some good one liners about the Veep hereherehere, and here.

And let’s not forget the laughs we all enjoyed when he asserted that paying higher taxes was patriotic.

Last but not least, Biden is (in)famous for his self-defense advice and he also featured in a few of these amusing posters.

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