WELCOME to the Liberator Online!
In This Issue
* NEW PROGRAM: “Epic Liberty” Seeks Thousands of New Campus Libertarian Activists
* America’s Nuttiest Warning Labels
* Gallup Poll: American Trust of Federal Government at All-Time Low
* Creating Wealth Through Destruction?
* Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson: Cut Military Spending by 43%
THEY SAID IT:
David Letterman on air travel.... Jerry Brown on the nanny state.... John Stossel on government failures and 9/11....NPR on Ron Paul.... Ron Paul on 9/11...
PERSUASION POWER POINT #314
* The Unanswerable Argument for Liberty
ASK DR. RUWART
* Does the General Welfare Clause of the Constitution Justify Big Government?
ONE-MINUTE LIBERTY TIP
* Word Choices: Public or Private, Peaceful or Violent?
WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH THE ADVOCATES
* FREE OPH KITS for libertarian student groups!
* Join the Advocates on Twitter.
* Join the Advocates on Facebook.
by Sharon Harris
NEW PROGRAM: “Epic Liberty” Seeks Thousands of New Campus Libertarian Activists!
Imagine the incredible boost for the liberty movement if thousands of new student libertarian activists were discovered on America’s campuses in the next 12 months -- and signed up to work for liberty!
That’s the goal of our ambitious new program Epic Liberty.
Epic Liberty will motivate large numbers of student libertarian activists to use our acclaimed Operation Politically Homeless (OPH) outreach kits on their campus, again and again -- discovering new libertarians every time! And it will encourage and reward other vital outreach as well.
Consider: There are now more than 500 libertarian student groups on America's college campuses. Many of these groups are small, but their potential impact is enormous.
Last year we began distributing OPH kits to libertarian student groups -- at no charge to them. Our only stipulation was that they use them a minimum of three times within a year. As I write, we've sent OPH kits to 376 campus libertarian groups in 46 states and DC.
And students are putting those kits to work – finding new libertarians, new members, and building their presence on campus.
This was a great first step in advancing the cause of liberty on college campuses. But we see potential for so much more.
That's why we’ve launched Epic Liberty: to support campus libertarian organizations by making outreach more efficient, fun, and exciting than ever before.
Epic Liberty uses social media to add an exciting new fun and competitive element to student activism. Epic Liberty will offer cool prizes and fun challenges to reward both individual students and campus organizations for their vital work of spreading the ideas of liberty. And Epic Liberty will document student successes, so we all can learn from their experiences.
Epic Liberty seeks to inspire a huge increase in campus libertarian outreach, leading to identifying and recruiting thousands of new activists for liberty.
Do the Math: Thousands of New Student Libertarians!
Hundreds of OPH kits in action on campuses across America can mean amazing things for the future of the liberty movement.
From more than two decades of experience with OPH, we know what OPH can do. We can make a reasonable and reliable estimate of what to expect from a typical OPH booth.
The potential is incredible. Just do the math. Remember, we’ve distributed 376 OPH kits so far.
* If just 250 kits are used three times this year, we'll see 750 OPH events in the coming 12 months. (Many student groups will, of course, do many more than three.)
* If these 750 OPH events identify an average of 20 students who score in the libertarian quadrant of the Quiz (a reasonable estimate based on past experience), that's… 15,000 libertarian-leaning students identified!
* And if these student libertarian groups can sign up just half of these liberty-loving students in libertarian organizations and activities, that's 7,500 new liberty activists -- identified and participating in libertarian activities -- in just one year!
What would be the effect of 15,000 or more new libertarian supporters on campus? Of 7,500 or more new student libertarians engaged in political activism in 2012?
Amazing Success Stories
We’re already getting some great OPH success stories that prove that OPH and Epic Liberty work! Here are two examples that crossed my desk just this week:
* The Young Americans for Liberty chapter at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign signed up 102 new students in ONE DAY -- using OPH!
* The YAL chapter at the University of Houston–Clear Lake were “ecstatic” when over 20 students gave contact information at a single OPH event. “Overall, I can honestly say implementing OPH is one of the best methods of recruitment for those of us involved in spreading the message of more personal responsibility and less government. Words cannot describe the feeling I had as I witnessed the growth of the liberty movement firsthand,” said activist David Torres.
Read more student reports on OPH here
To keep up with Epic Liberty’s progress, sign up to “like” Epic Liberty on Facebook
. And keep reading the Liberator Online -- we’ll share news here.
What You Can Do
I hope you’re as excited as I am by the potential of Epic Liberty.
Students: Learn more about Epic Liberty
Make sure your campus libertarian organization has a FREE OPH kit
Non-students: If you’re excited by this program, I invite you to help us make it a success with your financial support. Epic Liberty, like all Advocates programs (including this newsletter you’re reading) is made possible only by the generosity of liberty-loving donors like yourself.
You can learn more about our work, and make a donation
to this great cause (We’ve got some great thank-you gifts
for your generosity.)
Help us help libertarian students reach the voters, activists, leaders, candidates of tomorrow -- right now-- by rewarding and encouraging proven, effective outreach with Epic Liberty!
* * *
The purpose of the Liberator Online
is to build a stronger movement for liberty. We do this by providing information about the libertarian movement and how to best communicate the ideas of liberty. Thank you for being a part of this!
Learn more about the Advocates
and our work for liberty.
Learn more about libertarianism
-- the philosophy of liberty.
-- Sharon Harris, President | Email
by James W. Harris
America’s Nuttiest Warning Labels
Yipes! We almost let one of our favorite events -- the annual Wacky Warning Label Contest
-- slip by.
For 14 years, this contest has brought to light some of America’s weirdest and funniest product warning labels – and explained the very important story of why they exist.
This year’s winners were chosen by a studio audience on FOX Business Channel’s “Stossel,” hosted by legendary libertarian journalist John Stossel. The contest is sponsored by the Center for America
went to a label found on a common dust mask that warns users: “Does not supply oxygen.”
Take a deep breath of oxygen and read about the runners-up.
a brochure that came with a children’s bike. The brochure is filled with pictures of small children riding bikes, many with training wheels, but the brochure cautions: “Warning: The action depicted in this brochure is potentially dangerous. The riders seen are experienced experts or professionals.”
a label on a cover for a hot tub that says: “Warning: Avoid Drowning. Remove safety cover from spa when in use.” Useful advice... if you’re an idiot.
And some of the runners-up had us scratching our heads. Like this dire alarm that comes with a fountain pen: “Warning: Pen caps can obstruct breathing. Keep out of mouth.” Once again, good advice, no doubt, but… do we need it?
Are Americans as stupid as these labels seem to indicate? No, and that’s the point of the Wacky Warning Label Contest. It's designed to publicize how, in our lawsuit-obsessed nanny-state nation, manufacturers and marketers feel the need to go to extreme, sometimes ridiculous, efforts to try to avoid frivolous lawsuits. From, say, someone who pops a pen cap in his mouth, chokes, and sues, because the manufacturer failed to warn him that wasn’t the intended use.
The costs of frivolous lawsuits are ultimately passed onto consumers, in the form of lost jobs, lost products, and higher prices. And that cost is shocking, says contest founder Bob Dorigo Jones..
"Every family of four in America pays a 'litigation tax' of more than $9,000 a year on products and services we buy," Jones says
Ouch! Somebody should… warn us.
MORE: Here’s a short video clip
from “Stossel” where John Stossel and Wacky Warning Labels Contest founder Bob Dorigo Jones talk about the out-of-control litigation problem in America that makes these deranged warnings necessary.
To see the warning labels and/or products in this year’s contest, click here
We'll leave you with a few nominees from the past to ponder:
* “Caution: Cape does not enable user to fly." -- on a Batman costume.
* "Remove child before folding" -- on a child car safety seat.
* "Not for use on moving vehicles" -- the warning on the "Off-Road Commode," a portable toilet seat that attaches to a trailer hitch.
* "Danger: Avoid Death" -- a warning on a small tractor.
* "Harmful if swallowed -- a warning on a brass fishing lure with a three-pronged hook.
* "This product moves when used" -- a warning attached to a Razor motorized go-cart. Hey, it's a go-cart -- what did you expect it to do?
... and one of our all-time favorites:
* "Do not use for personal hygiene" -- on a flushable toilet brush.
Gallup Poll: American Trust of Federal Government at All-Time Low
Since 2003 Gallup pollsters have asked Americans to rate various businesses and industries, along with the government, in terms of how positively or negatively they view it.
Although the federal government has been near the bottom of the list in previous years, this year, for the first time ever, Americans rated the federal government dead last on a list of 25 business and industry sectors.
A representative sampling of Americans was asked
whether their overall view of 25 industries or other sectors of the economy was very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative, or very negative.
Respondents view the computer industry the most positively. Indeed, all five of the top-rated sectors this year are related to either computers or food.
By contrast, only 17% of Americans have a positive view of the federal government, as opposed to fully 63% who have a negative image. This is an astounding drop from 2003, when 41% of the public expressed a positive view of the federal government.
Only the oil and gas industry -- with the BP Gulf of Mexico disaster still fresh in mind -- has a higher negative percentage: 64%. Other poorly ranked sectors were also involved in recent disasters or controversy: real estate, healthcare, banking, and the legal field. Advertising, television, and radio -- constantly criticized by many Americans -- rank far above government on the list.
This corresponds with other recent Gallup polls, which find support and respect for the federal government's to be at all-time lows. Gallup recently found that Congress has the lowest approval rating in Gallup history, and that public satisfaction with the state of the nation is also nearing all-time lows.
And no, it didn’t start with Obama. According to Gallup:
“The deterioration in Americans' views of the federal government began in 2004 -- correlated with a downturn in President George W. Bush's job approval rating and rising concerns about the Iraq war and the economy. Views turned slightly more positive in 2009 during Barack Obama's first year as president, but dropped back down last year and again this year, likely reflecting rising concerns over the economy as well as the increase in government spending and power.”
Meanwhile, as we recently noted, polls also show an increase of support for limited government and libertarian ideas. And that surely is no coincidence.
Creating Wealth Through Destruction
In a recent issue we commented on the “broken window fallacy” that seems to pop up every time there is a natural disaster. That’s the weird but often-heard argument that the destruction created by such disasters will ultimately benefit society, because it will create jobs and replace older assets with new ones.
Right on schedule, this claim surfaced during the horrible destruction caused by Hurricane Irene.
Recently free market economist and libertarian Donald J. Boudreaux pointed out the absurdity of this argument in a public letter
to economist Prof. Peter Morici, who touted the great economic benefits that allegedly would flow from the gift of devastation brought to us by Hurricane Irene.
“In your guest blog-post
yesterday at CNBC you argue that the destruction caused by hurricane Irene will spark a ‘process of economic renewal [that] can leave communities better off than before.’ …Central to your argument is your claim that, because of the rebuilding, ‘the capital stock that emerges will prove more economically useful and productive.’
“In other words, whenever assets still in use are destroyed, wealth will thereby be created -- that is, people whose assets are destroyed will be made richer -- because these destroyed assets are replaced with ones that are newer and more productive.
“I hereby offer my services to you, at a modest wage, to destroy your house and your car. Act now, and I’ll throw in at no extra charge destruction of all of your clothing, furniture, computer hardware and software, and large and small household appliances.
“Because, I’m sure, almost all of these things that I’ll destroy for you are more than a few days old (and, hence, are hampered by wear and tear), you’ll be obliged to replace them with newer versions that are ‘more economically useful and productive.’ You will, by your own logic, be made richer.
“Just send me a note with some times that are good for you for me to come by with some sledge hammers and blowtorches. Given the short distance between Fairfax and College Park, I can be at your place pronto.
“Oh, as an extra bonus, I promise not to clean up the mess! That way, there’ll be more jobs created for clean-up crews in your neighborhood.
“Donald J. Boudreaux”
So far as we know, Prof. Morici has not taken Boudreaux up on his kind offer.
Incidentally, Don Boudreaux is unquestionably the most prolific letter writer in libertydom. You can read more of his crisp, to-the-point letters to various publications -- many of which are marvels of wit and compressed economic wisdom -- at the excellent Café Hayek blog
Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson: Cut Military Spending by 43%
The media and the GOP Establishment are still ignoring libertarian Republican Presidential candidate Gary Johnson and locking him out of the debates.
And that’s too bad, because he’s making more sense – and proposing more rock-solid policy ideas -- than any other candidate except fellow libertarian Ron Paul.
On August 30, Johnson declared
it was a “fantasy” to suggest a balanced U.S. budget can be achieved without deep reductions in military spending. So the former New Mexico governor announced his plan for more than $300 billion in cuts in defense and defense-related expenditures.
Johnson said, “Given that we are borrowing or printing 43 cents of every dollar the government spends, balancing the budget means we have to begin with the premise that all spending has to be reduced by 43%. And that means looking at everything government does, including the huge portion of the budget we call defense spending.
“Nearly half of all the money spent world-wide for military purposes is spent by the U.S., and much of the remainder is spent by our allies and strategic partners -- not our adversaries. With an unsustainable national debt and an economy on the ropes, we neither can nor should be picking up half the world’s defense tab.
“The first and most important question, of course, is whether we can protect America from legitimate threats while reducing ‘defense’ spending by more than $300 billion? The answer is: Absolutely. We do so by getting out of wars we should not be in, stopping the nation-building we are asking our military to do, and by prudently scaling our procurement, forces and the overall defense budget to match what we legitimately need to protect ourselves.
“As with the entire federal government, reducing what we spend requires reducing what we do, and there is ample room to restrain what we do in the name of defense and, in the process, make ourselves safer.”
To read more of Gary Johnson's defense cut proposal, including his suggestions on how and where to cut, read the rest of this excellent post
at his campaign blog.
* * * * * * * *
Intellectual Ammunition is written by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris. His articles have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, and he has been a Finalist for the Mencken Awards, given by the Free Press Association for "Outstanding Journalism in Support of Liberty."
They Said It...
HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN:
"Homeland Security says you may no longer have to remove your shoes when you fly. Welcome to the golden age of travel." -- David Letterman, Sept. 7, 2011.
GOVERNOR BROWN VS. THE NANNY STATE:
"While I appreciate the value of wearing a ski helmet, I am concerned about the continuing and seemingly inexorable transfer of authority from parents to the state. Not every human problem deserves a law." -- Democratic Governor of California Jerry Brown
, vetoing a bill requiring children to wear helmets while skiing.
WHO FAILED ON SEPTEMBER 11:
“The attacks on 9/11 were largely a failure of government. Our so-called "intelligence agencies" knew nothing about the plot. The Immigration and Naturalization Service, charged with keeping track of foreigners who overstay their visas, didn't pay attention to the 19 hijackers. And as Rep. Ron Paul points out, history did not begin on Sept. 11. Part of the failure was America's interventionist foreign policy, which needlessly made enemies. So government failed on 9/11, and yet the politicians' answer to failure is always the same: Give us more money and power. And we do. When will we learn?” -- libertarian journalist John Stossel
, “Ten Years After,” syndicated column, September 7, 2011.
RON PAUL: THE MOST HONEST AND SENSIBLE REPUBLICAN:
“At the Tea Party Express/CNN debate in Tampa, Florida… [Ron] Paul was actually the most honest and sensible of all the candidates. While no one else would specify what they would actually cut, Paul made it abundantly clear. We don't need troops stationed in 130 countries, says Paul. Nor do we need to launch wars of choice with prolonged occupations. Paul hasn't specified exactly how he would achieve the needed amount of savings to balance the budget, but at least he's willing to talk about what programs we could do without. Every other Republican refuses to admit that Americans might have to actually give up anything.” -- journalist Ben Adler
, National Public Radio / The Nation magazine, September 13, 2011.
RON PAUL ON 9/11:
“Yes, the attacks of 9/11 deserved a response, but the manner in which we responded has allowed radicals in the Muslim world to advance a very threatening narrative about us and our motivation in occupying their lands. … [We] chose a course of action that led to the further loss of 8,000 American lives, 40,000 wounded, and has left hundreds of thousands seeking help from the Veterans Administration. We are $3 to $4 trillion poorer. Our military is spread dangerously thin around the globe at the expense of protection here at home. Not only that, but we have allowed our freedoms to be greatly threatened and undermined from within. The PATRIOT Act, warrantless searches and wiretapping, abuse of habeas corpus, useless and humiliating circumstances at the airport, are just a few examples of how we have allowed the terrorists to win by making our country less free. … The truth is that ending these misguided wars and occupations will make us safer, more prosperous and more free.” -- Ron Paul
, “Foreign Occupation Leads to More Terror,” Texas Straight Talk.
* * * * * * * * * *
"They Said It..." is compiled by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris.
The Unanswerable Argument for Liberty
by Michael Cloud
Have you ever looked for an irrefutable argument for freedom?
Have you wondered whether there's an unanswerable, undeniable, irresistible case for liberty?
I have. So have hundreds of libertarians I've met during the last 40 years.
I've met more than a few who believed that they had found the “Philosopher's Stone”: the Unanswerable Argument for Liberty.
Praxeologists, Objectivists, Galambosians, Autarkists, Anarchists, Voluntaryists, Constitutionalists, and others.
During my twenties and thirties, I carefully read and reflected on their stuff. I took notes, asked questions, discussed their reasoning, and thought it through. During my forties and fifties, I checked out several new or refined “perfect” arguments.
When closely examined and carefully tested, none of the arguments made the grade.
How did I reach that conclusion?
By asking clarifying questions. By asking for real world examples. By testing the claims.
When someone says "X is Y," I would ask clarifying questions:
"What do you mean?" "What do you mean by X?" "What do you mean by Y?" "What do you NOT mean?"
When someone says "X is so," I would ask for real world examples: "Could you give me three examples of that?"
When someone says "X is the case," I would make up simple experiments to test the claim:
1. If a product label says “unbreakable,” how do you test the claim? You try to break it. As many ways as you can. If you can't break it, ask others for suggestions. If it's breakable, somebody has probably found a way to break it.
2. If a libertarian argument is touted as “irresistible,” try it on a dozen people. If anyone is indifferent to it, or repelled by it, then it's NOT irresistible.
3. If a libertarian argument is supposed to be “undeniable,” try it on a dozen people at Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts. Ask if they agree or disagree. If just one person disagrees... he's denying it.
One exception, one counter-example falsifies the "unanswerable" or "irrefutable" argument.
Discard the myth of the perfect libertarian argument.
Look for the real world evidence and argument for specific libertarian ideas and proposals.
For the evidence that drug prohibition makes things worse.
For the evidence and argument that minimum wage laws and government-mandated employee benefits drive up unemployment -- and hurt the poor people the most.
For evidence and argument that the government's urban renewal programs destroy more homes than they create. That they increase homelessness.
For the evidence and argument that prices are NOT going up, the value of money is going down.
When people see concrete, strong evidence and arguments that government social and economic programs waste money and make things worse, they will come, more and more to the cause of shrinking government to expand liberty.
* * * * * * * *
Michael Cloud is author of the acclaimed book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion, available exclusively from the Advocates.
In 2000, Michael was honored with the Thomas Paine Award as the Most Persuasive Libertarian Communicator in America.
Dr. Mary Ruwart is a leading expert in libertarian communication. In this column she offers short answers to real questions about libertarianism. To submit questions to Dr. Ruwart, see end of column.
Does the General Welfare Clause of the Constitution justify Big Government?
Ask Dr. Ruwart
I just read "The Unconstitutional Congress: The GOP Misses the Best Argument for Limiting Government
," a paper by free-market economist Stephen Moore, in which he asserts there is no basis in the Constitution for most Congressional spending.
While I agree with the idea that a small, limited, and inexpensive government would be the best scenario, it would appear that the General Welfare Clause of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution does in fact grant to Congress the spending power to “provide for the general welfare.”
Alexander Hamilton interpreted the General Welfare Clause as authorizing Congress to spend money for the general welfare at its discretion. George Washington supported this interpretation, so this is NOT a new idea!
In light of the language of the Constitution and the line of Supreme Court cases supporting the Hamiltonian view, how can Congressional spending be unconstitutional?
My Short Answer:
There is indeed considerable disagreement about the interpretation of the General Welfare Clause, which is Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. It reads:
"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises to pay the debts, provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare of the United States."
You can see a discussion of this on Wikipedia here
Stephen Moore himself deals with the question in the study you cite, "The Unconstitutional Congress.” Moore writes:
“Most notable and tragic has been the perversion of the ‘general welfare’ clause of the Constitution. … Since the 1930s, the courts have interpreted this phrase to mean that Congress may spend money for any purpose, whether an enumerated power of government or not, as long as legislators deem it to be in ‘the general welfare of the United States.’ That is, this innocent clause has become the equivalent of carte blanche spending authority for Congress.
“This was exactly the opposite of what the drafters of the Constitution intended. It is almost beyond dispute that the Founders meant the general-welfare clause to be a limiting provision on government.” Moore continues this argument in his study, at the link given above.
However, from a libertarian point of view, taxation of any kind is both inefficient and morally wrong. Most libertarians believe that the private sector is a better provider of virtually any government service (for example, see my book,“Healing Our World
. The 1992 version can be downloaded free at Ruwart.com
; the 2003 edition can be purchased
from The Advocates).
In spite of some disagreement about the Constitution’s interpretation, many libertarians promote a “return” to the strict interpretation of Constitution on the grounds that we would have more liberty than we do now.
Here are three short articles for further reading on this topic, suggested by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris.
1. "The Unconstitutional Congress: The GOP Misses the Best Argument for Limiting Government
," by Stephen Moore. This is the paper discussed in Dr. Ruwart’s column. It makes an extremely powerful and persuasive Constitutional argument for slashing the size and scope of government.
2. “Ron Paul on the General Welfare Clause
” by Roger Pilon: In this short piece the Cato Institute scholar defends the position of Ron Paul (and many other advocates of a small and limited federal government) that the General Welfare Clause does not, as some say, allow for widespread government spending.
EXCERPT: “So what about the General Welfare Clause, the first of Congress’s 18 powers? To be sure, the clause was inartfully drafted, like several other provisions in the Constitution. But it was understood by nearly all as granting Congress the power simply to tax (in limited ways: see the full text). The terms 'common Defence' and 'general Welfare' were meant merely as general headings under which the 17 other specific powers or ends were subsumed.
3. “The General Welfare Clause and Stoned Teenagers
” by anonymous: This fun little piece was found in the comments section of bestselling libertarian author Tom Wood’s excellent blog. It’s so good I’m not just going to link to it, I’m going to reprint it here in its entirety:
“Here’s the best way to understand Article I, Section 8, the “general welfare clause,” and its abuses.
“Imagine that the parents of a 17 year old boy go out of town for a week, and they entrust him to take care of himself for that week. Before heading to the airport the parents leave car keys, a debit card and a note.
“The note reads:
You may use this card to withdraw money from the ATM, or use as a check card, to buy food, beverages and gas, but only use our bank’s ATM to avoid any fees;
you may have bread;
you may have milk;
you may have fresh veggies;
you may have fresh fruit;
you may have lean meat;
you may have fruit juice;
you may fill the car’s tank once;
you may use the car when it is necessary to get the things on this list.
P.S. You may not use the car or card for any purpose other than the purposes that we have stated.
“When the parents get home they find the place wrecked. Empty pizza boxes, fast food containers, cigarette butts and beer bottles are all over the place. They also discover half a dozen passed out teenagers, and the whole place smells of marijuana. The parents find Billy and demand an explanation.
“Billy pulls out the note and says, ‘You wrote that I could buy food. Well, pizza, burritos and cheeseburgers are all foods. You wrote that I could buy beverages. Beer and whiskey are beverages. ‘Gas’ could be open to any interpretation. Cigarettes and pot give off a ‘gas.’ You didn’t write that I couldn’t use the card to ‘buy food, beverages and gas’ for all my friends as well. Don’t worry, I only used the card and car when I deemed it necessary, like when I took a bunch of my friends to buy candy and popcorn at the movie theater every night, and hot dogs at yesterday’s Yankees game.’
“That’s the exact same reasoning and honesty that the federal government uses when it uses ‘general welfare’ or ‘necessary and proper’ as excuses to commit unconstitutional acts.”
* * * * * * * *
Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you'd like answers to YOUR "tough questions" on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart at: ruwart@theAdvocates.org
Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can't personally acknowledge all emails. But we'll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.
Dr. Ruwart's previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form
Dr. Ruwart's outstanding book Healing Our World
is available from the Advocates.
One-Minute Liberty Tip
By Sharon Harris
Word Choices: Public or Private, Peaceful or Violent?
Perry Willis of the small-government Downsize DC Foundation recently argued that we should stop using two common [hrases because they “are deceptive, and cause mischief in the mind.”
Those prases are “the public sector” and “the private sector.”
I agree. Whenever possible, we should avoid using them, and use other words or phrases instead.
Why? As Willis notes, the word "public" is mostly used when referring to anything involving government. Like, for example, “public schools” or “public parks.”
The word "private" is always used when referring to the non-government part of our society: “private school” or “private beach” or “private club.”
So what’s wrong with that? Several things.
* The terms are inaccurate and misleading. Most “private” businesses are open to the “public.” Restaurants, schools, department stores… most are actually open to any and all potential customers. They are, in truth, more “public” than many government “public services” or “public institutions.”
* “Private” in this sense is used as a kind of subtle smear. “Private schools,” for instance, sounds exclusive, walled-off, separate from most of us. It sounds like something for the rich, for the elite, for the privileged.
Again, however, the truth is that most institutions referred to as “private” are very open to the public. Most private schools are reasonably priced and welcome students. A private charity helps members of the public who are needy. A private foundation sets out to solve problems that affect the public.
In contrast, many “public” institutions are run by government elites. As Willis notes: “access to so-called public institutions is often more restrictive than it is for so-called private property.” Think of “public” parks closed at inconvenient hours. “Public” universities that restrict access.
* These terms are often used inconsistently, in ways that benefit Big Government. Restaurants are typically called “public” restaurants, although they are privately owned. Same for many other businesses.
Yet by calling them “public,” we send a subtle but powerful message that the public -- more precisely, the government -- has some kind of ownership rights to regulate and control the business. It is subtle point, but pervasive.
* Similarly, the word “public” when applied to some government institutions like “public schools” or “public parks” implies some ownership by citizens. However, that is deceptive. Citizens are forced by government to pay for the maintenance of “public” institutions whether they want to or not, but they have no ownership rights. (Try selling your share of a “public” park.) They’re really not “public” parks or universities. They are in reality government-owned and government-run institutions.
* Finally, notes Willis: “Most importantly, using the word ‘public’ as another name for The State deceives people into thinking they have more control over The State than they actually do.”
He’s right. “Public” as a synonym for “government” implies that the government is “us” and “private” is "them" – a dangerous fallacy.
Willis suggests, instead, these substitutes for “the public sector” and “the private sector”: "the voluntary sector vs. the coercive state."
Willis writes: “The so-called private sector is based on peaceful, voluntary transactions and relationships. Therefore, we should call it The Voluntary Sector.
“The so-called public sector -- The State -- is based on violence and threats thereof. Do what we say or else we will hurt you. Everything done by the politicians and bureaucrats who run The State is based on coercion. Therefore, the term we use for this sector should reflect this coercive reality.”
Willis also suggests other terms: The Peaceful Sector, The Violent State, The Choice Sector, The Monopoly State.
I like this idea. The “peaceful sector” of our society offers choice and is non-violent. The “coercive state sector” offers no choice and operates through violence.
As Willis notes: “The Voluntary Sector uses peaceful means to give us a variety of choices. The Coercive State uses violent means to restrict our choices in a monopolistic way.”
It helps our cause to use language that makes this clear, rather than fudging, evading and disguising that fact.
Other terms you might consider: “the government-owned sector,” “government-controlled,” “state monopoly,” etc. Or “privately-owned” instead of “public,” when referring to businesses or other private organizations.
We have already seen one powerful example of such a switch in language catching on and bringing insights and value: “government schools” as opposed to “public schools.”
We should try to generate similar benefits in other areas.
Play with these terms, see what fits your needs and your personal style.
You can read the rest of Perry Willis’s excellent essay on these phrases here
* * * * * *
Sharon Harris is president of the Advocates for Self-Government. See more One Minute Liberty tips.
What's Happening with the Advocates
FREE OPH KITS FOR LIBERTARIAN STUDENT GROUPS:
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we're giving our acclaimed OPH (Operation Political Homeless) outreach kits
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If you're in a student libertarian group, click here
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