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Posts Tagged ‘Libertarianism’

5000 Columns

Although the original goal for my blog was to periodically share information with congressional staffers and journalists, the audience has expanded and the site has now become the primary outlet for my work on public policy.

And today is a milestone of sorts since it is my 5,000th column, something I would not have predicted when I posted my first entry back on March 29, 2009.

So that gives me an excuse to update the readership data from 2015.

Back then, based on visits as a share of population, I noted that I was most popular in Washington, DC. Though perhaps “most popular” would be the wrong term since I’m sure some readers from that corrupt city do not like my message.

In any event, those numbers were not surprising since DC is filled with people who work on public policy, so they have a reason to read my work. And I also wasn’t surprised that Virginia as in second place since that’s the home of many people who work in DC-related public policy.

And that hasn’t changed based on these updated numbers showing where I get the most readers and fewest readers.

For what it’s worth, I’ll make the claim that Colorado is the most libertarian-leaning state based on this data. The folks in the Centennial State read my writings without having a work-related reason. So I hope they all paid close attention to my column about TABOR.

And New Hampshire would be in second place based on that analysis, which probably isn’t too surprising since it’s the home of the Free State crowd.

The data on international readership is even more interesting, in part because I have access to data on both visits and page views. Here are the numbers, both expressed as a percentage of the jurisdiction’s population.

The most striking result is that Vatican CIty (which wasn’t even in the top-20 three years ago) is where I have the highest percentage of readership. Though I definitely don’t think this means “most popular” since my columns about the economic views of Pope Francis have been less than flattering (see here, here, here, here, and here).

Measured by page views, however, the Cayman Islands and Monaco take the top two spots. Given my work on tax havens and tax competition, I’m guessing that these readers actually like my writings.

Indeed, you’ll notice that “offshore” jurisdictions are very well represented, whether based on visits or page views.

The second-most striking result is that Iceland appears on both lists and even ranks above the United States for page views. In my fantasies, I’ll assume the striking women of Iceland are avid readers. In reality, it’s more likely to be the burly fishermen.

Another odd outcome is that there’s a high level of page views from the Faroe Islands. Are they big fans of their private Social Security system? My writings on Australian pension reform may also explain the high level of visits from Down Under.

Since I’m writing a narcissistic column today, I’ll close with by sharing my recent interview with “Spanish Libertarian.” He asked several very good questions about the challenges of trying to expand freedom.

P.S. There are some places where people don’t appreciate my work. I’ve never had a single visit or page view from Niue, Norfolk Island, Svalbard, or Tokelau. Given the very small populations of those obscure jurisdictions, I’ll try not to take it personally. Oh, and I’ve also never had a visitor or page view from North Korea. But I’m assuming that nation’s totalitarian government blocks access so citizens don’t get exposed to this or this.

P.P.S. I’m no Cal Ripken or Lou Gehrig, but I have a personal streak. I’ve written a column every day since November 10, 2009. I realize the world won’t end if I skip a day, but maintaining this streak is a way of forcing myself to stay productive. Now I have to figure out how to be effective.

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As part of my collection of libertarian humor (both pro and con), I provide an answer to the age-old question of “why did the libertarian chicken cross the road?”

Sticking with that theme, here’s some amusing satire from Babylon Bee.

Clad in his favorite Sunday Gadsden flag T-shirt, local libertarian believer John Revere reportedly screamed, “AM I BEING DETAINED!?!” to every person who attempted to shake his hand during the greeting time at Beech Reformed Church over the weekend. He bellowed the phrase at the top of his lungs to each of the fourteen people who happily greeted him and grabbed his hand during the mandatory time of saying hello, witnesses confirmed. …“You can’t be too careful,” he said. “Deep-state government shills are everywhere, and as soon as you let your guard down, you find yourself in a dungeon getting waterboarded at Guantanamo Bay.” …Revere had…tithed his 10% to the church using an untrackable crypto-currency, sources confirmed.

This is probably the same guy who is the annoying libertarian at Thanksgiving dinner.

But sometimes libertarians can be pathetically awkward rather than merely annoying.

I’ve shared Part I and Part II of the life of a libertarian dork. Well, here’s Part III.

Ouch. No wonder some leftists accuse us of being dorks.

P.S. I like to think I’m more of an opportunistic – but probably deluded – libertarian.

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I often share quizzes and tests to help people determine whether they are libertarian. Though I wonder if these two sentences are all people need to know.

But maybe the right approach is to use pictures. So here are five images that summarize libertarianism.

Let’s start by looking at the one group of people who don’t instinctively appreciate the non-aggression principle of libertarianism.

Now let’s look at a quote from the great Thomas Sowell.

This resonates with me because I’m not a lifestyle libertarian. I personally don’t like drugs, gambling, cigarettes, and prostitution, but it would never occur to me to support government coercion to prevent others from making their own decisions with their own bodies, property, and money. I just wish other people shared my tolerance.

This third image nicely illustrates the libertarian view that politicians like to create and exploit divisions in society to help distract from the reality that the real enemy is big government.

We don’t need everyone to love everyone, but we definitely should learn tolerance and adopt by a live-and-let-live mindset.

Here’s a uncomfortably accurate image from Reddit‘s libertarian page. Our ideas are great, but we often tend to be quirky and unconventional (or even “autistic dorks“), which makes it more challenging to win new converts.

The above image reminds me of the the Mel Gibson comparison I shared back in April.

Last but not least, here’s an image from the libertarian meme page on Reddit. A very apt summary of how the country operates.

Amen. This image should be paired with this poster. I imagine these kids would agree.

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There’s a big controversy about whether business owners with traditional religious beliefs should be coerced by government into doing business with gay couples who want to get married.

Back in 2015, I explained that the real issue is freedom of association, not whether gay marriage is right or wrong (I’ve always wondered why government should have any role in marriage, but that’s a separate topic).

It’s time to revisit this issue now that the Supreme Court has released its decision on the case involving a Colorado baker who didn’t want to decorate a cake for a gay wedding. The Wall Street Journal opines that the decision was in favor of the baker, but on very narrow grounds.

The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 Monday for a baker who refused to custom-bake a cake for a same-sex wedding out of sincere religious belief. …this apparent victory for religious freedom may be short-lived. …While seven Justices on the High Court held for Mr. Phillips, the majority decision could have gone the other way had some facts been different. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy notes that Mr. Phillips was “entitled to a neutral decision-maker.” …As is his wont, Justice Kennedy strains to avoid a clear and decisive ruling. While “religious and philosophical objections [to same-sex marriage] are protected, it is a general rule that such objections” don’t allow the denial of services “under a neutral and generally applicable public accommodations law,” he writes. Perhaps the best that can be said is that florists, make-up artists, photographers and other people of faith have lived to fight another day. A ruling against Mr. Phillips would have been catastrophic for religious liberty, but the majority’s muddle provides only gossamer protection. …The message is that governments can punish religious beliefs as long as they keep their animus toward religion in the closet.

Since I’m not a lawyer, I’m not sure what to think about the Court’s contorted decision.

But as a libertarian, I think the government should not be involved.

Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe understands what the issue is all about. Here’s some of what he wrote shortly before Trump’s inauguration.

Freedom of association is a vital human right. …I support…the singers who refuse to sing for Trump, the fashion designers who refuse to design, the landlords who refuse to rent, the dancers who refuse to dance. No one should be forced to play a role in a celebration they want nothing to do with, or to hire themselves out to clients they would prefer not to serve. …if a caterer turns down a request to prepare the meals for Trump’s inauguration? Or a florist declines to provide the floral arrangements? Or a calligrapher says “thanks but no thanks” to addressing the invitations? I’d back them, too, and for reasons having nothing to do with Trump or Republicans or inaugurations — and everything to do with freedom of association. The right to discriminate — to choose with whom we will and won’t associate — is vital to human liberty. A dressmaker who can’t say no to a commission to design a gown isn’t free, and it doesn’t matter whether the gown is for a first lady or for the brides in a lesbian wedding. A liberal baker who declines to create a lavish cake decorated with the words “Congratulations, President Trump” is entitled to as much deference as a black baker who declines to decorate a cake with the Confederate flag, or a Muslim baker who declines to decorate a cake with the message “No Muslim Immigrants.” …Tolerance and pluralism are important values in a free society. So are choice and association. Your choices may not be mine; my preferred associations may not be yours. In a diverse, live-and-let-live culture, our differences are manageable — as long as government doesn’t interfere.

This controversy should have nothing to do with sexual preference. One of my former interns is gay, but does not want to force others to associate with him.

Being a gay libertarian…you are a pariah among your peers. …So-called civil rights groups like the American Civil Rights Union…say…that “when businesses are open to the public, they’re supposed to be open to everyone.” …Well, folks, I am gay myself – I am even married – and I stand by Philipps’ right to discriminate against whoever he wants. That, of course, makes me a traitor, a turkey voting for Thanksgiving – and if I were African American, it would also make me an Uncle Tom. …many liberals stand by the ACLU’s faulty reasoning… Faulty because it implies that, once you start selling a product or service, you automatically lose your right to freely and voluntarily interact with other people. It’s opened to the public, so it suddenly becomes public “property”… Following that logic, a Muslim baker would be forced to make a cake with Mohammed’s face on it – an unspeakable moral crime in Islam – Hooters would have to hire anyone as a server and gay bathhouses would have to welcome female patrons. …the infamous Jim Crow laws not only maintained an apartheid-like state for African Americans, but they also dictated how private businesses needed to interact with these people. …instead of having government force businesses to serve anyone, I want it to let them discriminate in the open. This way, I know exactly where not to do business. Because even if I were heterosexual, I would very likely boycott businesses that discriminate on arbitrary traits like sexual orientation or skin color. It’s not a crime – no one’s life or property is endangered by this refusal of doing business – but it goes against my moral standards of treating every human being as an equal.

Excellent analysis. Indeed, I’d like to take partial credit. Except Pierre already was a solid libertarian when he started working for me.

Here’s another column with the same perspective, which appeared in the Federalist.

…it should be simple to appreciate why religious people who deeply oppose socially changing marriage to include same-sex couples would not wish to endorse or participate in a same-sex wedding. …Masterpiece Cakeshop, as with many caterers, florists, and photographers, has merely declined to participate in an event or associate their brand with that event. Why do LGBT activists perceive this as a direct attack on the validation of their relationships? …I would not seek employment or request a table at a Planned Parenthood event and expect them to accommodate me. Why would I help them raise money or support their business model? If I encountered an individual morally uncomfortable with participating in an activity with me and my boyfriend, such as couple photos or planning a party, it would be uncomfortable for me to force her. …I would be taken aback by a rejection, I would feel it is my responsibility to choose another photographer rather than force another person to violate her faith for my satisfaction.

Interestingly, some folks on the left openly express their affinity for discrimination. Here’s Michael Moore exercising his right not to do business with theaters in North Carolina, along with a comment by someone who wants Moore to be philosophically consistent.

Ouch, that retort had to leave a mark. Though Moore isn’t bothered by hypocrisy, so he probably doesn’t care.

And speaking of hypocrisy, I wonder what my friends on the left think of the following examples of discrimination.

Here’s freedom of association in action, as reported by the Washington Times.

A boy whose letter to President Trump made national headlines last month reportedly wanted a pro-Trump cake for his birthday party, but his mother was unable to find a baker willing to fulfill the order. …his mother “made him one herself, because she couldn’t find a bakery willing and able to do it.” Michael P. Farris is president, CEO and general counsel of the Alliance Defending Freedom, …wondered why bakers are allowed to decline to make birthday cakes supporting Mr. Trump, but not wedding cakes supporting same-sex marriage. …“The fact is that these cake shops have freedom of speech,” he continued. “They have the right to decline to use their artistic talents to celebrate events or promote messages that violate their beliefs, even if it offends a nice little kid.”

Kudos to Mr. Farris. He wants sauce for the goose to be sauce for the gander. But more important, he wants the right sauce, i.e., nobody should be coerced by government to associate with others.

The New York Post highlights another example of how freedom of association works.

Bartenders at a West Village hot spot served up discrimination — with a liberal twist — refusing to serve a customer because he was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, according to a lawsuit. …Greg Piatek, 30, an accountant from Philadelphia, claims he was snubbed…by workers at The Happiest Hour on West 10th Street over his conservative fashion statement… “Anyone who supports Trump — or believes what you believe — is not welcome here! And you need to leave right now because we won’t serve you!” Piatek claims he was told as he was shown the door by a manager. …Piatek’s lawyer Paul Liggieri called the incident “humiliating,” saying it was his client’s “saddest hour.”

I think Mr. Piatek is being a snowflake. If some establishment didn’t want to serve me because of my libertarian values, I would shrug my shoulders and find a place that did value my cash.

I just wish folks on the left had the same perspective. Moreover, I wonder if they’ve considered the implication of their approach. This humorous item from Libertarian Reddit could become reality if the government had the power to force all of us to do business with each other.

And here’s another story showing how people choose to discriminate.

Brian Ashworth…was in the office when one of his employees walked back to tell him that a woman and four or five men…were in the dining room of Ace Biscuit & Barbecue… One wore a “Make America Great Again” shirt, and another had a shirt promoting the British white nationalist punk band, Skrewdriver. A third man sported a shirt that said, “Pinochet Helicopter Company,” a reference to former right-wing Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, accused of tossing Communists and other political opponents from aircraft. …the group was behaving, minding its own business. …”One employee said to me, ‘Brian, be cool. Let them eat,'” the restaurant owner recalled. …Suddenly, the young man in the Skrewdriver shirt threw up a Nazi salute, which the others reciprocated, he said. “That was it. Oh my God, are you kidding me? ‘Get out of here. You’ve got to go,'” Ashworth told them, admittedly in unkind words. …They countered that they had rights, and Ashworth conceded they had rights but said, as a business owner, …he reserves the right to deny service to other groups. His employees don’t have to serve them, he said.

Amen.

I imagine most of my leftist friends will agree with the restaurant owner’s decision, but there’s part of the story that may cause them heartburn.

“I got a round of applause from the customers who saw me throw them out,” he said. “A round of applause is good, but it doesn’t keep anybody safe.” …He decided to close for the day, for the safety of his staff and customers. …Ashworth brought his two .45-caliber pistols to work… He supposes he’ll keep bringing them to work until he feels safe again.

Last but not least, Marissa Mayer explains for FEE how she doesn’t think government should get involved solely because someone does not want to do business with her.

This week I was denied a service because the company’s values are at odds with the values that Alliance Defending Freedom stands for — values I personally hold. And guess what? I’m okay with that. …Using my work information, I signed up for an online course created by Moceanic, a team of talented fundraisers who have created a coaching and training business to help writers better connect with donors. …What I didn’t know when I signed up for the course, however, is that Moceanic does a lot of work with organizations such as the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and LGBT activist organizations. …ADF and these organizations don’t exactly share the same values. …I received an email notifying me that they had refunded the cost of the course with no explanation as to why. I was a little perplexed by the email… That’s when I starting digging deeper into the brains behind Moceanic, and it didn’t take long for me to discover the values statement on their website. …”we reserve the right to choose not to train people working directly for, or on behalf of, organisations whose missions or values do not align with ours.” …I get it… Moceanic shouldn’t be forced to coach me on how to speak in a way that generates excitement and engagement for a cause that they disagree with any more than Jack should have to create a cake celebrating a marriage that conflicts with his beliefs.

Marissa is intellectually consistent and practices tolerance.

Too bad the same can’t be said for many other people.

I’ll close by noting that we all discriminate. We discriminate in the foods we buy, the friends we choose, the people we love, and the businesses we patronize. And I don’t think the government should coerce us to make different choices.

That being said, we also should recognize that some choices are fine and some choices are bad.

Because I have the taste buds of a child, I discriminate against restaurants with spicy food. Plenty of my friends tease me for my limited tastes, but I can’t imagine anyone (other than my mother when I was a kid) wanting to force me to eat foods I don’t like.

But what if I wanted to discriminate against people simply because of their race or religion? In that case, I would hope my friends would cease to be my friends and instead would upbraid me for my moral failings (I also hope some of them would be like Daryl Davis or Matthew Stevenson and try to rescue me from such odious forms of collectivism).

However, I wouldn’t want them to enlist government coercion. Believing in free speech also means allowing reprehensible forms of free speech. Believing in a free press also means allowing awful viewpoints. Believing in freedom of association means allowing disgusting forms of discrimination.

So bake a cake or don’t bake a cake. But if you have a bad reason for not baking a cake, you won’t be getting my business (even if your discrimination is economically rational).

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I’ve taken several tests and quizzes on political philosophy. Not surprisingly, I usually wind up being some type of libertarian.

But sometimes I get odd results. For instance, the Political Left/Right Test, put me exactly in the middle, and another political quiz pegged me as a “moderate.”

The former might be reasonable since libertarians have some right-wing views and some left-wing views. But the latter quiz concluded that I had “few strong opinions,” which is a nonsensical result.

Anyhow, I found another test. This new survey is called the Political Compass Test, and it’s based on the theory that the traditional left-right economic spectrum is insufficient.

…the social dimension is also important in politics. That’s the one that the mere left-right scale doesn’t adequately address. So we’ve added one, ranging in positions from extreme authoritarian to extreme libertarian.

And here’s the four quadrants that are created by their two lines.

While no system will capture everything, I have no objection to their theoretical construct.

But I think two of the examples they provide are somewhat crazy.

First, Hitler was the head of the National Socialist Workers Party and he belongs on the left side of the horizontal axis. Second, it’s absurd to have Thatcher anywhere near Stalin and Hitler on the vertical axis.

I also think Friedman should be moved more in the libertarian direction, but at least they have him in the correct quadrant.

Now let’s look at my results. I’m somewhat disappointed because I’m not way on the right for economic issues. And I’m even more irked that I’m barely on the libertarian side for social issues.

For what it’s worth, some of the questions were more about attitude and outlook rather than policy. And since I’m the boring kind of libertarian, perhaps that’s why I don’t get a strong score.

Let’s close by looking at my score compared to various famous people. I’m closest to Gary Johnson, which strikes me as a reasonable result.

But some of the other results are very bizarre. First of all, Milton Friedman magically moved. Now he’s very libertarian on social issues, but squishy on economics. Needless to say, that’s nonsense.

But not nearly as nonsensical as Benito Mussolini being on the far right for economic policy. That’s crazy. He was a strident opponent of capitalism.

Likewise, they have Hillary Clinton on the right side of the spectrum for economic policy. The person who did that must have been on some crazy drugs at the time.

And I’m not a Trump fan, but I think it’s laughable to have him ranked as more authoritarian than Mugabe, Mao, and Castro.

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Why are there so few liberty-oriented societies compared to the number of places with statist governments?

And why does it seem like the size and scope of government keeps expanding around the world?

If I’m feeling optimistic, I’ll disagree with the tone of those questions. There are reasons to be cheerful, after all. the Soviet Empire collapsed and there’s solid data that global economic liberty has increased over the past few decades. And for those who care about evidence, there’s a slam-dunk argument that smaller government means more prosperity.

But if I’m feeling pessimistic, I’ll look at grim numbers suggesting that the burden of government automatically will expand because of demographic change. And I also worry about eroding societal capital, with more and more people thinking it’s okay to live off the government. And let’s not forget “public choice,” the theory that explains why politicians have an incentive to make government bigger.

I go back and forth on whether the glass is half full or half empty, and I’m not sure which side is winning. All I can say for sure is that Americans are getting increasingly polarized as we have big fights about the proper role of government.

Which is why I’ve always thought decentralization would be a good idea. No just for policy reasons, but also for domestic tranquility. All the leftists could move to places such as California, Illinois, and New Jersey and vote themselves Greek-style government. And all the advocates of limited government could move to more laissez-faire states such as New Hampshire, Texas, and South Dakota.

We don’t need a national divorce, not even the humorous version. We just need Swiss-style federalism.

But statists will never agree to that approach. And these two sentences from Reddit‘s Libertarian page succinctly explain the left’s opposition.

This guy nails it.

Libertarians have no objection to a bunch of statists creating some sort of socialist or communist mini-society, so long as it’s voluntary. Indeed, we’ve periodically had experimental societies in America based on Marxist principles. Starting with the Pilgrims (who learned from their mistake). And I still laugh every time I think about Bernie Sanders getting ejected from a hippie commune because he was too lazy to do his share of the common work.

But this tolerance isn’t a two-way street. Libertarians will let socialists create statist systems inside a free society, but the left won’t allow libertarian outposts in statist societies.

Heck, our statist friends don’t even like it when other nations have pro-market policy. That’s one of the reasons international bureaucracies always persecute so-called tax havens. Folks on the left may be misguided, but they’re usually not stupid. They know that statist systems will quickly fail if productive people have the ability to move themselves (or at least their money) across national borders.

The bottom line is that federalism is good because it means people can easily move when a government imposes bad policy. This is also a recipe for tolerance and tranquility, though only one side sees it that way.

P.S. The left is so hostile to tax havens that a bureaucrat from the U.S. Treasury accused me of “being disloyal” to America. A former Senator said my actions to defend low-tax jurisdictions were akin to “trading with the enemy.” And the bureaucrats at the OECD actually threatened to throw me in a Mexican jail for defending tax competition.

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My collection of “Libertarian Humor” is very ecumenical since I have “pro” jokes and “con” jokes.

Today, we’re going to add to the latter collection with three new items.

We’ll start with some satire about the theoretical Libertarian Party vs the real-world Libertarian Party. I get the feeling the guy on the right is an older version of Libertarian Doofus 1 or Libertarian Doofus 2.

Maybe this means we have to create a new type of libertarian. After all, the guy on the right doesn’t fit any of the 24 categories in this collection. Well, maybe three rows down and second from the right, but I don’t want to be judgemental.

For our second item, here’s some great satire from Babylon Bee about a libertarian driver’s heroic effort to avoid government-funded roads.

In a calculated move intended to demonstrate the power of the free market, libertarian man Patrick Wallace drove his SUV through dozens of other peoples’ back yards, across several open fields, over a stretch of rocky terrain, and even off a cliff into a small ravine in order to avoid using any government-funded roads, sources confirmed Thursday. According to witnesses, the man got into his vehicle to head to work, started it up, and immediately barreled across his lawn, down his neighbor’s side yard, through a row of back yards, and right into an adjacent wood, all while carefully preventing his tires from ever touching any road built by tax dollars. “What would we do without roads funded by government coercion? That’s easy,” the man told reporters later as he attempted to push his car out of a creek. “We’d be able to drive straight to work through any obstacles we wanted, without the state telling us we’re not allowed to launch over a gully to get to the office on time.” …After getting his car moving again, Wallace reportedly hurtled down the brook, across a steep ski slope, and burst through a cemetery, waving at the groundskeeper to get out of the way, before launching off a homemade ramp over a county road to his office. At publishing time, Wallace had fashioned a rope swing at the office in order to help him get to the Dunkin’ Donuts across the street without walking on “roads funded by theft.”

Reminds me of the libertarian police officer who tried to chase a criminal without stepping on government sidewalks.

Another example of why it ain’t easy being libertarian. We need a Nirvana where all infrastructure is private!

Lastly, we have an observation about the ongoing challenge of trying to stop statism.

There’s a lot of truth to this image. Most libertarians in the real world don’t worry too much about theory. They just want more freedom.

But in the world of professional libertarians, there are sectarian fights between Randians, Austrians, anarcho-capitalists, Rothbardians, liberaltarians, and many other niche groups. And they oftentimes don’t get along with each other.

No wonder we have a hard time getting others to agree with our agenda.

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