What’s In A Name?

The terms anarcho-capitalist and anarchist are quite common to libertarians. We hear the terms and think of such figures as Lysander Spooner and Murray Rothbard. Yet to the general populace, these words represent something very different. The terms harken back to history classes where students learned about the self-proclaimed Anarchists who threw bombs, engaged in violence, and had a much-different view towards the free market.  In a lighter sense, the majority grew to accept that to be an anarchist is to experience youthful phases of rebellion against society and “the man”. This is drastically different from the libertarian view, where an individual who identifies as an anarchist or an ancap is one who believes in a completely voluntary society with  no government coercion.

While I don’t claim either one of those titles, this is certainly a case in which libertarians need to play a better semantics game as it relates to outreach to the general public. The second that one identifies themselves politically as an anarchist or an ancap in a conversation with a non-political acquaintance, one of two things will happen: either the subject will be changed or a deluge of confused questions will be asked; in my experience, the former tends to happen more often. Anarchism has such violent connotations; do we really want ourselves associated with that, even if we attach the term capitalism?

There are much better terms to use to describe the belief in a free society or laissez-faire economics. Relying instead on the political label of voluntaryist may require some explanation, but doesn’t create preconceived notions. Explaining first and foremost that you are an advocate of a free-market economy (a real one without impediments created by the Federal leviathan) is also another solution to the semantics problem that we find ourselves facing.

The general public finds itself more cynical of the status quo every day and is looking for another answer out there. Terms need to evoke a certain kind of hope, and that can only be accomplished by using self-descriptions that haven’t already been manipulated to represent a negative, or dangerous, point of view. I’d argue that even capitalism is a bad term. It was first defined by Marx in Das Kapital and has always had a negative connotation: one that evokes the image of the fat executive smoking a cigar while stomping on the poor. Furthermore, the Left claims that the bailouts and Keynesian economics “saved capitalism”, an exemplar of oxymoronical statements. If the bailouts and Keynesian economics saved capitalism, I wonder what their notions of real central planning are.

It’s not hard to be savvy about your terminology if you know who you are talking to. Efforts must be made in every way possible to win the hearts and minds of the public, especially in terms of viability of libertarian candidates. When I run for office, I don’t want people to be associating me with Gavrilo Princip just because someone mentioned to them that they were a libertarian who had anarchist leanings. Likewise I assume that libertarians in business or the non-profit sector of the economy would rather not have their productivity associated with destruction and violence.

Make a conscious effort to use new terms, or only use self-descriptors such as “anarchist” or “anarcho-capitalist” amongst other libertarians, where they will be understood for what they mean. It will make a world of difference in the long run, and could contribute to living in a much more free society one day.

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How Can You Be Pro-Life And…?

I recently wrote about my belief that the pro-life movement could benefit greatly from a more pragmatic approach. Even though the article wasn’t a broader pro-life argument, it attracted a lot of common questions that pro-lifers, especially those who don’t fall into the stereotypical religious-based camp, face. How can a libertarian support government regulation of abortion? How can a self-professed feminist support restrictions on “a woman’s body”? Do you care about life after birth? First of all, I reject the assertion that being opposed to abortion puts any kind of requirement on a person to hold any other view. To suggest otherwise is simply an attempt to defeat an opponent by falsely implying hypocrisy – which, I should point out, doesn’t do anything to refute the underlying argument.

That being said, the liberty movement is always going to be at odds over the issue of abortion, and I think that pro-life libertarians need to be able to defend their position. Personally, I don’t care in the slightest if other feminists think that I’m not “feminist enough” for being opposed to abortion, but I do care about women’s issues, and would like young women afraid to identify as feminists to know that you don’t have to fit a certain leftist ideal to be one. And, of course, assertions by the left that “pro-life” is a misnomer if we don’t support universal healthcare or any other leftist cause célèbre are always going to be prevalent and must be addressed.

With all of that in mind, I would like to address the question at hand in relation to the above issues. So, how can you be pro-life and be…

A feminist

Those man-hating feminists! How dare they want to vote! Wait…

On this point, it’s important to put the disclaimer that I’m by no means an expert in feminist thought. At college, I studied political science, not women’s studies, but I’m familiar with a lot of the core of feminist thought as it relates to politics, and to a lesser extent, to society. I believe that historically, women have been disenfranchised by a male-dominated power structure. Women still face a higher risk of being victims of sexual crimes. Rape culture shames and discourages victims from reporting sexual crimes. Women are less likely to run for political office, and more likely to be treated badly by the media if they do run. Women are judged more harshly than men for engaging in similar behaviors. It is within recent memory that women were able to open credit cards without their husband’s approval. Some of our grandparents can remember when women couldn’t vote.

She would like you to know that she’s an autonomous citizen and doesn’t like you oppressing her by feeding her and making her stay in her crib.

However, none of these conclusions suggest or require that support for abortion, which pro-lifers such as myself view as the taking of a human life, be a feminist litmus test. And while pro-life feminists are rare, we do exist. As I discussed in my previous column, I think that it is anti-woman to try to restrict access to contraception or assume that all women have to be, or should be, mothers.

Abortion is a separate issue. Just because the unborn baby is dependent on the life of its mother doesn’t mean that it’s not a life. All children and many adults are dependent on someone else to live. That doesn’t mean that we get to kill them. I was born premature. In many states, I could have been aborted at the time I was born, and in fact, my mom’s doctors suggested aborting me to give the larger twin (my sister) a better chance of living (for the record, we both survived, as you may know if you’ve checked out our contributors page).

Baby Mary Ann after being told the doctors wanted to abort her… er, me.

I do recognize that abortion is complex, and often an emotionally-charged decision. I have a hard time supporting a ban on abortion in the cases of rape, but I would prefer that rape survivors are routinely provided access to emergency contraception. Taking away the perceived need for abortion would certainly eliminate a lot of the complex moral dilemmas involved.

A libertarian

As most of you probably know, I’m a “small-l” libertarian. I don’t claim allegiance to the Libertarian Party, nor do I agree with them on everything. However, as a liberty-minded individual, the question of how I can support government “regulation” of abortion is often brought up. It is true that I do favor less government regulation in nearly all cases.

I have no idea what’s going on in this picture. Please take my libertarian card now.

However, it is disingenuous to suggest that pro-life libertarians are examples of only supporting bans on things we don’t like. I don’t oppose abortion because I don’t like it; I oppose it because I believe it to be the taking of a life. I don’t like prostitution or drugs, but I don’t think people should sit in prison for engaging in those behaviors.

I’m not an anarcho-capitalist. I’m a small-government libertarian conservative, and I’m more likely to support a return to state and local control than an attempt to “get government out” altogether. I absolutely support state legislation against violent crimes that harm individuals, and property crimes that deprive individuals of their property. Even if I don’t like said individuals, I don’t support crimes being done against them. I don’t support legislation of victimless crimes, for the most part, and I don’t support federal legislation of most all crimes. But abortion doesn’t fall under those categories. The rebuttal of “if you don’t support abortion, don’t get one,” really doesn’t apply. Lots of people might think that it’s a husband’s right to punish his wife by striking her, but I certainly don’t want to leave that interpretation up to their choice.

I do recognize, as I’ve said in comments on my previous article, that abortion is something that is always going to be debated. I believe that, at the absolute least, abortion should be restricted past what is, admittedly, a difficult concept of “viability.” I believe life begins when the fetus begins developing. I recognize, however, that proving when life begins is always going to be somewhat a matter for philosophy, not science. Like nearly all issues, I think that complex questions about abortion should be left to the states.

Finally, this takes me to the ubiquitous final question.

How can you be pro-life and not support other “life” issues?

Issues commonly brought up include lack of support for alternatives to abortion (which I covered in my previous article,) and support for war. War is not the same thing, unless you believe that killing foreign combatants is the same thing as murder. I don’t. I think that war is sometimes a necessary evil. It does show a lack of respect for the idea of life if people don’t care if innocent people are killed in war. But that, surely, is a rarity among people who support wars.

The only point I will concede to this argument is that it may be a misnomer to call anti-abortion supporters “pro-life.” However, pro-abortion supporters typically prefer the term “pro-choice,” even if they don’t always support choice in cases of school choice, or personal health choices like drinking large sodas, or the choice to carry weapons. I don’t think that’s necessarily hypocritical of them. It’s understood that “pro-choice” typically refers to abortion, and it’s understood that “pro-life” typically refers to abortion. Let’s not get caught up on trying to trip up our opponents based on their wording.

Of course, the big argument that seems to come up on this point is about healthcare. Is it hypocritical to support legislation restricting abortion and not support government intervention to improve the quality of life for people who have been born?

First of all, there is a fundamental distinction between supporting the government punishing crime and requesting that the government subsidize, well, anything. I don’t support government-funded healthcare, certainly not federal-government funded healthcare, because that’s not the role of the government. Our founding documents talk about the pursuit of happiness, not its guarantee. The government has the ability to provide for the protection of its citizens, in fact, that’s the very idea of government. However, it has neither the responsibility nor the right to feed, clothe, and hold their hands from cradle to grave.

Richmond’s Gun Ban Defeat

On the eve of July 4th, an event took place that restored my faith in democracy. A public meeting had been called in Richmond, Illinois to debate the merits (or lack thereof, judging from the unanimous responses of the residents) of a proposed ordinance that would have banned many weapons from the environs of the village. It had only been recently decided that this would be a topic of debate, and thus many of those that were there were only notified briefly before by a Herculean effort on behalf of Melissa Denker and the McHenry County Young Republicans.

Upon pulling up to the Richmond town hall, I saw a large gathering of men and women, most wearing pro-Second Amendment and NRA t-shirts. While my GPS hadn’t told me I was at my destination, I gathered that this was the meeting place judging from the attire they were wearing. The meeting room filled up rather quickly and as soon as the mundane topics of business, the minutes and a report on the purchase of a lawnmower, were complete, village president Peter Koenig read the legislation in full which led to many understandable outbursts and questions from trustees on what certain firearms paraphernalia were and how they functioned. The crowd seemed enthusiastic to let the trustees know what detachable magazines and the so-called “barrel shroud” actually were, as opposed to the definitions given to these items by the media earlier in the year.

After some discussion of the terms, the public voiced their concern- and were unanimously opposed to the ordinance. It wasn’t only the public that had common sense at this meeting; Trustee Craig Kunz said that he “would have a hard time voting [the ordinance] up or down if I don’t know what the hell it [means].” At this statement, applause broke out. One resident asked if there was any other constitutional right that the board would take advice in legislating on from Springfield or Chicago politicians. Another resident posed whether or not the board would be ready for the lawsuit that would be filed by the residents and the National Rifle Association, and where they would find the money to fight that lawsuit. Other residents appealed to the right to own firearms such as the AR15, stating that it’s much easier for women and the disabled to manipulate due to its considerable lack of recoil compared to other firearms commonly used for self-defense. Another man, who owned a machine shop that made tools for the housing industry, appealed to the board on economic terms, stating that as a result of the housing bubble burst and the considerable lack of business, he had purchased $500,000 in machinery to manufacture custom AR rifles, and that he would be possibly be able to re-hire the four people he’d had to lay off since 2007. The ordinance would have effectively shut down his new venture.

While I’m certain there were one or two trustees who would have voted in favor of the law, the public outrage about the ordinance led to a unanimous rejection, 6-0 with one abstention due to absence.

The residents of Richmond declared their independence from the big city politicians and made sure that their elected officials heard them loud and clear. While many times it seems the deck is stacked against the people, this was one case at the local level where interest of the public was able to prevail. Local government tends to have the biggest impact on our lives and it’s where we can make the most difference, if we stand up like the residents of Richmond, Illinois did.

One of the disaffected residents warns the Richmond, IL trustees what will happen if they approve a gun ban on July 3, 2013. The measure failed, unanimously.

One of the disaffected residents warns the Richmond, IL trustees what will happen if they approve a gun ban on July 3, 2013. The measure failed, unanimously.

The Unseen Effects of Regulation, Part II

To aid myself in becoming more rounded, I subscribe to multiple trade magazines that cater to those who make a living from a wide variety of industries, from law to logistics to small business. In my perusal of these magazines, one big thing sticks out to me: the number of articles in regards to compliance with regulations. As I mentioned in my first article, there are many physical products that don’t exist as a result of such regulations. However, in this article, I seek to reveal the unseen mental, rational, and commercial possibilities that could exist but don’t as a result of such deleterious, even if well-intentioned statutes.

The authors of the articles that I read in those magazines have an air of respect, even fear, for bureaucrats who are paid to write statutes that mandate or ban certain products in an innocuous legal language that could be twisted to such ends as to exact the most money from a businessman or lawyer branded a “violator”. I’ve read articles on proposed legislation in states like Illinois and Connecticut that would mandate that all firearm owners have a specific type of liability insurance, solely based on the fact that they had the temerity to own guns, a right firmly enshrined in the Constitution and multiple Supreme Court decisions. I’ve read articles in trucking magazines about how USDOT regulations make it extremely difficult to be an owner-operator.

The thoughts that run through my mind are not only those of sheer frustration about how difficult government makes people’s lives, even if the results are unintended consequences, but what that space could be devoted to otherwise. As mentioned previously, this is the unseen. Could there be different content in place of these? Could there be an advertisement in that space which would be mutually beneficial to both the publisher and the company that bought it? Could there be an article explaining a new and innovative business practice that would make the reader more efficient of a farmer, lawyer, or commercial driver? Furthermore, if the author is focusing on regulations and his column is geared towards the explanation and discussion of the implications of such laws, could they perhaps have more time to write about topics that would pertain more to the job than hindrances of it?

The frustration in this country seems to be moving slowly from apathetic mumblings to real action. The past few years have shown Americans that central planning does not work, both in terms of monetary policy and regulations, as shown by quantitative easing and healthcare reform, respectively. The American people are at the precipice and the next decade will determine the fate of the United States in the 21st century.

What the various disaffected professions served by the multitudinous publications I read need to do is take a lesson from the unions and organize. They need to collectively bargain, so to speak, at their statehouses and in the halls of Congress. For too long, the rent seekers have owned those arenas. It’s time for a change. Their livelihoods depend on it. As the working men and women who are affected time and time again by regulation make up the majority of our country, our future depends on it as well. Regulations on law only make it more difficult for me to sue for damages. Regulations on trucking only make it more difficult to transport goods from point A to point B efficiently. Egregious regulation on agriculture makes it more difficult for me to purchase food. America is known in many parts of the world for its standard of living, without which, it would not be this oasis that everyone wants to come to.

While I find it tragic that Cubans drown trying to escape oppression every year by using makeshift rafts to make it to the mainland United States, it speaks to the view that this is a land of opportunity and promise. I however don’t take this view for granted as the United States is not the exception: tyranny can and has manifested itself in the past within our borders and it is doing so once again due to the lack of the proactivity of the very people whom depend upon the opportunity and promise inherent in our land.

In Defense of Pro-Life Pragmatism

This week, the internet has been abuzz with talk of a Texas state senator’s filibuster. State Senator Wendy Davis stood on the floor of the Texas for over twelve hours and delivered an impassioned defense of the necessity of abortion in the face of a bill that would have banned all abortions past twenty weeks of pregnancy. “#StandwithWendy” began trending on Twitter (copying the much more catchy “Stand with Rand“). Commentators nationwide have praised Sen. Davis for “standing up for women’s rights.”

Senator Davis during her filibuster.

Conservative (and conservative libertarian) women like myself greatly resent being told that our rights are ultimately about whether we want an abortion. We’re often very annoyed with such condescension on the issue of abortion. However, quite frankly, conservatives have done a very poor job of defending their pro-life stance in the face of arguments about women’s rights.

So how can we fix this?

First, for the purpose of this article, I am assuming that the gender gap exists. However, I do not believe it is natural for women to align themselves more often with liberal causes.  I am also assuming that readers are in general agreement with me that abortion is wrong. I’m not going to attempt to change anyone’s mind on the broader issue of abortion because I don’t have the time or the desire to do so. Rather, what I want to accomplish is for conservatives to take a good, hard look in the mirror and see what we’re doing very wrong and how we’re allowing ourselves to be put into a stereotype of not caring about women.

Recognize and point out that calling abortion an issue of “a woman’s body” is intellectually dishonest.

Life is not life only when we want it. Conservatives need to step away from responding with talking points and slogans (“I’m pro-life”) and actually take some time to articulate the reasoning behind them. Some states can charge people with double murder for killing a pregnant woman. Many women experience lasting depression after miscarriages. Not wanting to carry a fetus to term doesn’t make it more or less of a life. As conservatives, we have to challenge the idea that abortion is as simple as someone making decisions that only affect them.

Stop acting like rape is no big deal.

Some conservatives think that abortion should not be allowed in cases of rape. Some think there should be an exception. Either way, this is always going to be the rebuttal of the left (“what about rape?”), and we have to realize that this is a very sensitive topic. Unlike in cases where abortion is an issue of convenience, there is no choice involved in this. Pregnancy by rape is something that, by its very nature, is thrust upon a woman against her will. Flippantly dismissing these cases is wrong and offensive to rape survivors. It also doesn’t look great for our “we really don’t hate women” cause. And while we’re on that subject…

Think before you speak!

Let’s summarize some of the things that Republican politicians have said about rape and abortion. Rape victims shouldn’t need abortions because rape kits are abortion tools. Pregnancy rarely comes from “legitimate” rape. Pregnancies resulting from rape are a blessing from God. Going through a rape is “something similar” to a man’s daughter getting pregnant out of wedlock.

Disregarding the fact that these are all blatantly false (some laughably so), just look at how much the left has taken these comments and repeated them ad nauseum. I don’t think that these patently false and rather heartless comments are representative of any mainstream conservative view. But by speaking without thinking about what they’re saying or knowing what they’re talking about, these politicians have made it even easier for the left to tell women “conservatives don’t care about you.”

And while we’re on the subject of knowing what you’re talking about…

Being blatantly anti-science doesn’t help anything.

I strongly believe that conservatism which seeks to impose ideas about how individuals should live their lives is not true conservatism. Conservatives traditionally want smaller government. Liberals may say that they don’t want to run your life, but that promise ends when you want to drink a big soda or homeschool your children. Conservatives may be hypocritical about our small government stance sometimes, but at the very least, it is at the core of our philosophy.

With that in mind, the pro-life movement must separate itself from efforts to ban or discourage birth control, punish premarital sex, or promote motherhood as the ideal for all women. I realize this is controversial for a lot of pro-lifers. But abortion is not wrong because it’s taking away from women’s “natural inclination to be mothers,” it’s not wrong because it’s stopping the “natural process of pregnancy,” and it doesn’t happen because people have sex before marriage. Abortion is wrong because it’s the taking of a life. If we stray from that fundamental argument, we get ourselves caught up in actually telling women what to do with their bodies.

On a related note, if we are ever going to provide alternatives for abortion, we simply can’t argue that birth control also shouldn’t be an option. I am not opposed to birth control. But for the conservatives who are, can we at least agree that birth control would be the lesser evil? The same goes for emergency contraception. While we’re on the subject, emergency contraction doesn’t actually cause abortions. Neither does regular hormonal birth control (not that oral birth control pills are the only form of contraception).

So stop saying these things! We’re fighting a losing, anti-science, anti-reason battle, if we try to convince people not to even use contraceptives. And guess what? Abortions still happen when abortion is illegal. Since Roe v. Wade and subsequent court decisions, abortion has been legal nationwide. Regardless of who we put on the Supreme Court, there is quite a bit of jurisprudence to overthrow in order to change that. If we really want to be pro-life, we can’t just focus on the legal status of abortion (which may not change, soon, or ever!), but also on reducing it overall. As much as we may not like it, that’s going to include not trying to block women’s access to birth control.

Rhetoric matters.

We should be able to accept that having an abortion is a complex, highly emotional decision, and not something that women do because they’re horrible monsters. Stop calling women who feel they need an abortion “baby killers.” Stop saying that rape victims need to accept their “blessing from God.” Yelling at women, telling them they’re murderers, and trying to physically block them from going inside abortion clinics doesn’t help.

One of the few pro-life protest images available that doesn’t include gruesome images of aborted fetuses.

Recently, anti-abortion activists in my hometown were proudly passing around a personal story from a woman seeking an abortion who had been so disturbed by the protesters outside of the abortion clinic that she left… and went to a clinic a couple of counties away. That is not a win! You know what might actually help? Providing women with options so they don’t feel like abortion is their only choice. Screaming, shouting, and condemning is not going to win people over. Nor is it going to do anything to convince women who are drawn to the left that the right doesn’t really hate them.

I do not like being told that it is my right (and the only thing I should care about) to take the life of a child (at the very least, one I chose to conceive). I also don’t like listening to conservative politicians try to argue against abortion by using wrong, unscientific, or sexist arguments, lumped in with dismissal of other women’s health issues like birth control. I’m not calling for a compromise. I’m just calling for using methods that actually work.

3 Steps

The following article is a guest post by Rob Bryan of The Rob Report.

“What’s your major?”
“Business.”
“What do you want to do with that?”
“I don’t know.”

“I don’t know.” That answer seems all too common among millennials. We all don’t have a clue. At least this person was better off than I was when I entered North Carolina State University back in 2007. My major? Undecided, or, as NCSU calls it, “First Year College.” This doesn’t seem strange to many people; in fact, it is often the norm. Young people graduating high school don’t know what they want to do so they go to college because it’s what they feel they are supposed to do.

Four years later students graduate and attempt to find a job. Unemployment for recent grads remains well over 10% according to the BLS, not to mention underemployment. Meanwhile thousands of jobs in STEM fields go unfilled, many of them related to Computer Science.

We have kids who can’t make up their minds going into college, and kids who can’t find jobs coming out of college, yet we continue to feed the cycle by giving government backed loans to finance this process.

Many have written about student loan debt and it is a great threat to the millennial generation. We are saddled by debt both public and private. We hold over $1 trillion in student loans and bear the cost of our parents’ and grandparents’ social security, medicare, and medicaid.

Ladies and gentlemen, we need to get serious about this now. The problem is big, it’s tough, but it’s not insurmountable. There are steps we can take that will begin to move us in the right direction:

  1. Stop promoting a four year degree path (as the only path). Every time I hear a politician talk about education they touch on increasing the number of kids attending four year universities. While this might be great for universities’ prestige and professors’ salaries, it isn’t good for the people. Yes we do need to do a better job preparing those who want to attend a four year university, but when we act like it is the only path available you denigrate those who make other life choices. We need to prepare young men and women to be successful, and that means more than just sending them off to a university to be saddled with debt and dubious job prospects. Exploring opportunities by taking classes or obtaining a technical degree at a community college is just one way to save money and help a student decide on a potential career path.
  2. End the blanket of cheap credit. There are no market indicators in higher education (IE interest rates are flat), but there certainly should be. Remember that housing crisis where the government offered cheap credit for no real reason other than political gamesmanship? Well, it’s the same thing here. Would fewer people go to college? Yes, but we need to face reality: not everyone needs a four year degree. Today one in six waiters, bartenders, or secretaries have a four year degree. Imagine if in-demand degrees offered lower rates on loans. It wouldn’t prohibit those who want to pursue their passion, but it would help send signals to those who need help finding their way.
  3. Embrace online learning. The other day a WSJ article was sent to me pointing out the growth of online education. The writer noted that this provides great opportunity for keeping education costs down as the cost of education has risen at 4x inflation. He goes on to explain how Georgia Tech is instituting a Computer Science graduate program that can be completed online. While this is revolutionary, we need to make sure that we are embracing online education at all levels of teaching. Technology gives me optimism with Kahn Academy, iTunes U, Sugar Labs, and similar outlets learning is cheaper, easier and always challenging!

These are just a few ways that we can begin to take a bite out of the massive challenge ahead. The crucial part is that we begin to address this now, before this balloon bursts. We can look to Spain, Egypt, and Iran for countries with a highly-educated populous, but massive unemployment. Taking these few steps in education will help bring more people into the workforce with skills that are actually desired by the employers before we end up in a similar situation ourselves.

Can I Get Your Number?

At the store I work at part-time, while it is merely an entity that sells tools and other implements necessary to construction or home improvement, those who run it have been able to grasp a concept that many involved with political action seem blind to: obtaining and updating the contact information of the customers. In the case of activism, voters and activists are as vital to the success of political ventures as the target market of the store is to its long-term success.

Any time one makes a return, purchases an extended service plan, or signs up for our preferred customer membership or to receive our catalog, they must provide us with their address, phone number, and if applicable, email.  The importance of creating and retaining contact lists has always been crucial in retail, yet is overlooked in many of the campaigns or groups I’ve had involvement with in the past two and a half years, with the notable exception of the one I volunteered for this past spring.  While I routinely criticize the poorer or less efficient aspects of the business I work for in private, the collection of contacts en masse is something I applaud in public.

Regardless whether you are selling drills or ideas, your contacts are both your target market and those who will promote your product via word of mouth.  Contact lists cannot be underestimated in the long-term flexibility they will give you going forward.  A contact list is not merely about numbers; it is about what the numbers, the individual contacts, can contribute to you down the road.  Has a certain contact noted that they can phonebank? Has a certain contact noted that they can canvass?  Has a certain contact entertained the idea of making a tax-deductible contribution, in the case that your group has been recognized as a 501(c)3 organization? When obtaining their information, ask such questions and make note of them in order to better tailor your direct mail or email alerts.  The end result is not only that you waste less time and money in contacting them, but that you also recognize one of the most important aspects of customer service: treating the contact as an individual that your organization or campaign has established rapport with.

As mentioned in previous pieces, I was involved in a long-term tax reduction advocacy campaign with Americans For Prosperity- Indiana.  Their contact forms were the best I’ve ever seen, asking not only for the basic information such as someone’s name, address, email, and phone-number, but also posing questions as to whether or not the person would be interested in activism, and if so, what capacity they would specifically prefer to get involved in.  This struck me as significant, especially since I’d worked so many things in the past where such forms were never present, even at events that attracted decent numbers of people!

While Americans For Prosperity ultimately had success in the aforementioned advocacy campaign, the contacts that were collected will prove significant in future battles or local activism.  In that sense, a contact list is not only short-term, but something that can continue to serve long after the campaign is over, provided that the people who gave their information are still motivated and aware of what your organization is doing.  This can be accomplished by email alerts or direct mailings on a regular basis.

While extremely mundane in nature, successful businesses and advocacy groups have been able to keep customers, activists, and donors coming back respectively, via contact lists and effective follow-up communication. It is not a task that should be overlooked, whether you are in the business of selling physical products or your beliefs to the general public.

Lost Identity

When it comes to living and breathing politics, it becomes extremely hard to keep yourself from screaming at the top of your lungs. The web that our political system weaves in this country is complex and really starts to drag you down.

Lately, when getting involved with the Republican Party in my lovely state of Illinois, I realized why the party is failing in our state. It’s the ridiculous amounts of Republican ideologies that have started to fight  each other for a “power grab”. The Republican party has basically lost its identity and footing in understanding how to truly grab hold of voters. Before I ran for Precinct Committeeman, one of my college professors gave me something to think about; he told me to get involved, experience the system, change things, but always stay true to myself. I promised him I would stay true to myself and realized that it’s the hardest way to enter politics. Everything I do has to be logically thought out and reflected on myself before I create any sort of play in the game. The problem is when you start meeting and working with other people. Everyone is battling against each other for some kind of recognition, some kind of advancement that will benefit themselves and what they believe. They don’t play fair, like they teach you to do in Kindergarten ,and they want to accomplish what they need to by saying or being whatever will make it happen. I think my problem is that I’m not looking for recognition, advancement for myself, or to make people believe in words that come out of my mouth. I want to teach people to formulate their own opinions, while looking at the bigger picture. I want to put my blood into what I work towards because that’s one thing I can state is true to who I am. When you start working with people who selfishly care for the advancement of themselves and their followers, you see the holes in their work. Usually it’s half-assed and covered with a trail of money that will be disputed among the enemies they created by not understanding the terminology of true teamwork.

The Republican Party in my state likes to create sheep and destroy those that question what is currently going on. This is where members of grassroots small-government ideologies, like the Liberty and Tea Party movements, get annihilated by the establishment Republicans in the room. The GOP needs to realize the power in coming together on true issues that affect the citizens. Does the party ever realize that the sole reason they are in power is because of the voters? Usually they only recognize citizens when the votes to get elected matter, and schmooze them like a used car salesmen. The rest of the time, everyone fights back and forth to advance their opinion and themselves. Then you wonder why people have become fed up with our political system. The selfishness  that has engulfed the Republican Party has completely destroyed the identity that was originally created. The only way they can start to make a difference is recognizing how to truly sell a stance, get a community involved, and connect with the voters in a way that will make them want to understand what is happening to their country. The right change starts with incorporating technology and education within our county parties. Becoming a tactful group of people, speaking softly while carrying a big stick, and using true teamwork with proper leadership qualities will strengthen us.

The frustration I have is that achieving that “utopia” will probably not happen in my lifetime. Trying to clean up that complex web of stubbornness almost seems impossible. Then I realized that I can’t clean it all up at once, or by myself for that matter. The great leaders throughout history realized the inefficiency of working alone. They created these little groups in one big tent, but only the select few realize the value of the working as a united group. This is the opportunity of the Liberty movement to bring back the founding principles to the Republican Party. Not with fighting or taking over the GOP, but by uniting the party’s core beliefs in our Constitution.  It all starts with getting involved in your community and local government, educating, and spreading the word right in your neighborhood. Then the trees planted will start to grow.

Libertarians: You Can Have Opinions

If you spend any time reading the blogs authored by college-aged libertarian students, you are bound to read articles addressing their love for promiscuity, drug usage, and obscene alternative lifestyles for the sake of being alternative. The common argument these libertarians make is that their choices fall under the category of being “subjective values”; therefore, it is wrong to make any moral judgments condemning their actions.

It seems as if these libertarians, who claim to be adherents to the Austrian School, have never, in fact, read any works of the Austrian economists. Because of this, these libertarians are entirely ignorant of the ideology they claim to espouse. This ignorance manifests itself in to statements such as, “Subjective values mean you cannot judge people for their choices” and “It is anti-liberty to judge people for their choices.” Individuals who claim to be scholars of libertarian thought should at least be well-read on the elementary basics of their own beliefs.

There is a fundamental difference between subjective values and moral relativism. Libertarians have decided to conflate subjective values, in the economic sense, with moral relativism. This confusion stems from a lack of knowledge of the definition of subjective values. In economics, subjective value refers to a theory of value in which an object attains its value through the wants and desires of individuals. When economists claim that, “Everyone has different subjective values”, it is a reference how individuals have different wants, needs, and tastes in respect to goods and services. Moral relativism, on the other hand, is a philosophy which decrees that there is no truth: right and wrong do not exist. Therefore, to a moral relativist, you cannot judge people for their actions, as it is all subjective.

To individuals who have never studied Austrian economic theory, the terms may seem confusing at first. However, for people who liken themselves to be leaders of the liberty movement, with a depth of knowledge about Austrian economics, there is absolutely no excuse to confuse subjective values in economics to moral relativism. There is no reason, therefore, for libertarians to make insane proclamations such as, “You cannot be a libertarian and judge people for their choices” and “Judging an action as right or wrong goes against libertarianism.”

These college-aged libertarians truly believe that telling someone that doing heroin is a bad decision infringes on libertarianism. As well, daring to criticize the polyamorous lifestyle as being morally repugnant prods a response of, “Who are you to judge?” which would make Ayn Rand weep. Time and time again, the college-aged libertarians become outraged when an individual has the audacity to proclaim that there is an objective right and an objective wrong. According to these moral relativists, there is no right or wrong unless you criticize something that they believe is right, thus leading to your beliefs being labeled as “wrong”.

As well as conflating subjective values with moral relativism, the college-aged libertarians confuse being a libertarian with being a libertine. In their world, one must be have an unconditional acceptance of the drug-addled polyamorous lifestyle, with zero moral apprehension. Anything other than the unilateral advocacy of any and all alternative lifestyles is seen as an affront to freedom. To argue that a certain lifestyle is wrong is apparently akin to wanting the government to ban the lifestyle. To have any moral reservations, to believe in right and wrong objectively, and to proudly defend what is good against what is evil, is seen as enough to render an individual “not a libertarian”.

As a demonstration of the ridiculousness of the, “You cannot be a libertarian if you believe in judging people for their ‘different subjective values'” logic, it is important to note that Rothbard, the foremost anarcho-capitalist and Austrian School adherent, produced scathing remarks against the libertine lifestyle that these college-aged libertarians wholeheartedly promote. Under the new mantra of non-judgment being a prerequisite to libertarianism,  Rothbard could not be considered a libertarian. Apparently, his beliefs were entirely “anti-liberty” as they involved a level of critical thinking beyond the childishness of, “We all value different things. Every choice is equal. No judgment.” How horrifically ironic.