Here’s What Charlottesville Was Really All About

Originally published here.

News reports on the tragic incident that killed one person in Charlottesville and the events that led to this death continue to dominate the news cycle. But while media outlets leaning both right and left spin the stories to better suit their narrative, libertarians sit and watch in awe. Have we not warned our friends, colleagues, and readers enough about the dangers of seemingly competing political groups escalating against each other in the name of power?

On one side, we have members of a group of individuals who usually hide their faces and yes, use violence as a tactic to instill fear and make their message heard. They are known as “antifa” and their acts of violence are well known. On the other side, we have yet another group of often young, collectivist, seemingly frustrated, and obviously angry Americans who frequently see the answer to their problems in the national socialist philosophy. On Saturday, a member of this group violently murdered a demonstrator with his car, single-handedly putting the “alt-right” group on virtually every front page in the country.

Still, to libertarians, both groups often sound and act the same. And that’s no coincidence, for when politics is at stake, individuals tend to use the weapons provided by the state to seek influence.

These groups do not resort to the free market principles of open and peaceful competitiveness or the idea that you’re free to associate with a certain individual or group or not without being forced into action. They do not wish to persuade. Instead, they use the state’s tool: coercion. And that’s what makes groups focused on gaining political influence so dangerous.

As a monopoly over the use of force, the state is capable of obtaining revenue by extortion. Subjects who refuse to pay are penalized. So it’s no wonder that those who seek political power in search for a way to impose their preferred view upon the remaining population are often so violent.

And what’s worse, political groups such as antifa or the alt-right all claim to have the solution to problems at hand. If only they had access to political power, they proudly claim, the country would have all and any maladies soon addressed and the nation would then be “healed.”

But libertarians understand that states are inefficient precisely because they claim to have the power to work on behalf of all without taking into consideration differences among individuals.

It’s because the government acts without regard for human action, or in other words, what makes individuals act the way they do, that power structures are incapable of solving problems efficiently. So if a group is seeking access to this type of power, you know they don’t understand the basics not only of human nature but of politics itself. Or perhaps, they understand it so well and are so tyrannical that they are willing to impose their will no matter how many people are directly harmed (or yes, even killed) as a result.

When such clashes occur and they take over the news cycle, we must remember that these battles aren’t about virtue-signaling, which side is “less bad,” or how libertarians should act in the aftermath. Anyone who’s dedicated to a free market-oriented philosophy that takes into consideration the sanctity of voluntary interactions understands that the fight over political power is always fruitless at best, and extremely harmful at worst.

So instead of pointing fingers and calling names, now is the time, more than ever, to embody liberty and liberty only.

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Alaska Moves Closer to End Raw Milk Ban Statewide

Like drugs, raw milk has become the stuff of mad regulators. “It’s bad for you,” therefore, it needs to go — whether you like it or not.

But raw milk is what it is: raw. It isn’t for for everyone — just like fried food, vegetables, or drugs. Why try to set a standard that isn’t universal and can’t be met by all?

Over the years, brave lawmakers like former congressman Dr. Ron Paul as well as current Kentucky Representative Thomas Massie attempted to put an end to the raw milk ban madness. But despite their best efforts, little was accomplished on the federal level.

That’s where state lawmakers enter the picture.

In Alaska, for instance, state lawmaker Geran Tarr is fighting the federal raw milk ban by pushing a bill through the House that would legalize the sale of raw milk across the Last Frontier state. The bill, known as House Bill 46 was introduced in the House on January 13. It stipulates that individuals across the state are free to sell raw milk to consumers.

This bill would render the federal ban on the sale of the “dangerous” product useless, while allowing Alaskans to make their own decision for themselves.

According to the bill, raw milk sellers would only be required to add a warning to the product’s label stating that the contents are not pasteurized and that they may cause health concerns.

Currently, the sale of raw milk is prohibited in Alaska. But individuals are allowed to purchase cow shares if they want to consume unpasteurized milk. This legal option makes it difficult for the common consumer to have access to the product.

With this bill, this requirement would be lifted, allowing raw milk producers to sell directly to the final consumer.

HB46 should soon be referred to a committee and once it receives a committee assignment, it needs to pass by a majority vote before it moves to the House and Senate for a vote.

If signed into law, the ban upheld by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would be nullified in practice.

To this day, the FDA maintains the ban by claiming that raw milk poses a health risk due to the susceptibility to contamination tied to cow manure. They claim that the possibility milk may be contaminated with E. coli is enough reason to keep consumers from making their own choices.

In 1987, with the implementation of 21 CFR 1240.61(a), the sale and consumption of unpasteurized milk was effectively banned federally by putting an end to the transportation of raw milk across borders or even within borders. If Alaska wins this battle, it would be a victory for liberty.

Originally published by The Advocates for Self-Government.

Police Mistake Cat Litter for Meth, Won’t Apologize to Driver

Not all that glitters is gold. But how about sand? Is it always meth? To sheriff’s deputies in Harris County, Texas, it certainly is.

According to a local ABC affiliate, Ross LeBeau made a right turn without coming to a complete stop in December of 2016, prompting local deputies to pull him over. LeBeau reportedly admitted to having a small amount of marijuana in his vehicle, but the “confession” was only produced after deputies said they were able to smell it. As the driver was arrested, deputies proceeded to search his car, finding 252 grams of sand.

“Meth!,” they must have thought. “We busted this guy!” It’s almost as if we can see them celebrating once they found that bag of sandy material. And we can! After all, the police reminded the public of the importance of “routine traffic stops” following the arrest.

While LeBeau denied having any meth in his car, deputies didn’t listen. Later, when the sandy substance was taken in for tests, lab workers found that the “meth” was really just cat litter. Seriously.

Thankfully, his arrest over meth charges was dismissed. Still, police continue to claim deputies acted appropriately, mentioning that field tests showed the sandy product was indeed, meth. Never mind the fact field drug tests used by law enforcement are completely bogus.

While LeBeau’s attorney claimed local law enforcement agencies are low on cash to purchase good testing devices, the problem with mistakes like this is that, more often than not, these arrests ruin the lives of people who would have otherwise been contributors to society.

Ultimately, drug laws have nothing to do with legitimate criminal activities such as murder or theft. Instead, all the drug laws do is to create crime out of a commercial and voluntary transaction.

In addition, drug laws help to create drug epidemics, artificially impacting the supply and demand of certain substances, and ultimately putting addicts in grave, deadly danger.

In the case of LeBeau’s story, this botched arrest may have been resolved, but law enforcement still hasn’t apologized for the mistake. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to the libertarians reading this piece. After all, it’s more common to see pigs flying — or at least trying to — than government and their employees taking responsibility for their mistakes.

Originally published by The Advocates For Self-Government.

Donald Trump, school choice

Trump Wants Feds to Participate in School Choice, Here’s Why This is a Bad Idea

It’s not always easy to tell when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is serious about a policy. So it’s not a surprise to hear many are skeptical over the real estate tycoon’s recent announcement.

This Thursday, Trump unveiled his school choice plan while speaking from the Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy charter school. During the event, Trump promised to “be the nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice” once he’s elected.

“I understand many stale old politicians will resist,” Trump continued, “but it’s time for our country to start thinking big and correct once again.”

But despite the enthusiasm, Trump’s official website lacks detailed information about his school choice policies. What we know so far is that the Republican candidate would direct $20 billion in federal education spending to policies that would give students the opportunity to attend any school of their choosing, whether it’s a traditional public school, a public charter, or a private institution.

But school choice, much like any other service, works best when left to the states. That’s where local communities are given the opportunity to tweak the system so it may meet their own needs. Centralization, after all, forces states to play by the federal government’s rules, stifling the advances sparked by competition between state policies.

According to Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey, Trump’s heart is in the right place. After all, school choice is “the key to empowering parents to get the education that is best for their unique children, and for educators to teach how they want and try new, innovative approaches.” But when it comes to allowing the federal governments to set the rules, McCluskey adds, things might get messier:

“The federal government has no constitutional authority to meddle in education, and as it has proven over the last several decades — including by coercing states to adopt the Common Core — once it starts paying for education it starts controlling it, telling everyone what to do and how to do it.”

Instead of giving the power to the federal government to dictate how school choice should work, an increase in power that could even give federal regulators the power to “impose mandates on curriculum and more,” even when it comes down to homeschooling.

At first, the idea sounds promising. But once you allow federal regulators to impose their own agenda, school choice rules may change over time with each new administration, jeopardizing the future of children who need school choice the most.

So instead of taking his support to school choice to the White House, Trump is better off leaving it to the states, where legislators are more accessible and parents have the opportunity to demand attention.

174 Heroin Overdoses in Six Days in One City: What You’re Not Being Told

Originally published here.

Over the course of six days in mid-August, 174 people overdosed on heroin in Cincinnati, Ohio. Earlier this month, 26 residents of Cabell County, West Virginia shared the same fate in a four-hour span. And between May and July of 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky, the number of heroin and opioid overdoses tripled.

As increased opioid use and overdoses become a trend, the natural response from law enforcement in most of the country is to come down harder on drug traffickers and users. This amounts to taking on the same approach to drug use and commerce that has been directly associated with the increase in incarceration among poor and non-violent blacks and Latinos.

According to the National Seizure System’s data, there has been an “80 percent increase in heroin seizures in the past five years” in America, from “3,733 kilograms in 2011 to 6,722 kilograms in 2015.”

But the fact opioid overdose rates continue to rise could be an indicator that despite high enforcement activity — which has increased the seizures of drugs in the past few years — heroin and other types of opioids remain popular and fairly accessible.

As the epidemic grows, so does the demand, especially in poor areas of the country, a trend that is forcing traffickers to adapt. Now, officials say dealers are adding the elephant tranquilizer carfetanil to some of their heroin strains, and in other instances, heroin is being laced with fentanyl, a powerful pharmaceutical painkiller that is now also sold on the street.

According to an NPR story, “[f]entanyl-laced heroin is worsening the nation’s overdose crisis,” and the problem is so out of control that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued an alert in March claiming fentanyl is “the most potent opioid available for medical use.” They warned that drug dealers had been adding the drug to their batches of heroin “to increase the potency of heroin that has been diluted.”

But instead of decreasing drug access, smaller supplies of pure heroin give way to ample supplies of tainted, dangerous strains.

As users find it difficult to find help, either due to their economic status or because they are afraid of being arrested, more local law enforcement organizations are beginning to announce different approaches, promising to help — not arrest — those who come to the police asking for help. But these actions alone don’t make a dent in the fallout from the drug war, mostly because official policy remains the same. Instead of freedom, governments demonize both drug users and those who provide addicts with the substance of their choice. Instead of gaining options, addicts lose hope.

In order to understand why the opioid epidemic has become so widespread, we must first look at why it became an epidemic in the first place.

Higher Demand Forces Cartels to ‘Improvise’

Excitement around the marijuana legalization campaign has been slowly growing across the country. Now, an individual is able to obtain marijuana legally in 25 states, as well as in Washington D.C. But most other drugs remain illegal.

As some former gang members prefer to focus on cannabis sales, opening their own dispensaries and stepping out of the shadow market, others see an opportunity for high profits and, consequently, remain in the streets.

According to the DEA, the opioid business has been booming for Mexican cartels.

In the past two-and-a-half years, Mexican gangs have increased the production of fentanyl, a potent, synthetic opioid analgesic, as well as its acetyl fentanyl variation. Taking the idea of supply and demand into consideration— one of the most fundamental concepts of economics —you might conclude that the increase in production is directly associated with the increase in demand. Taking the fact that since 1999, the rate of unintentional overdose deaths tied to opioids has quadrupled, it appears that the demand for opioids continues to grow, and as more people abuse the drugs, more overdoses are reported.

The high demand also helps to explain the low quality of available illegal opioids. Since pure heroin is more expensive and rare, dealers become creative, diluting the substance or adding other components to make the supply more powerful.

Seeing an opportunity to earn high profits by selling heroin, tainted heroin, or related drugs on the growing American market — while also eliminating competition — these smugglers have been responsible for higher death rates, as well. But is the blood only on their hands if they are simply responding to market demands?

Prohibition Fuels Crime, Violence, and Heroin Overdoses by Boosting the Black Market

In an article for The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf writes that “drug warriors helped to fuel the opioid epidemic.” In The Economics of Prohibition, economist and professor Mark Thornton writes that “prohibition results in more, not less, crime and corruption.”

In the black market that results from prohibitive policies, Thornton explains, organizations use violence to “enforce contracts, maintain market share, and defend sales territory.” While few paid attention to heroin when it was criminalized with the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Act in 1914, Thornton notes, over time, the illegal heroin market grew into an organized and monopolized structure precisely because heroin users were forced to go to the black market for their needs.

These “institutionalized criminal exchanges” create unsafe drugs, which is why we are seeing an increase in tainted heroin-related overdoses. Were heroin legal, economic historian Chris Calton writes, there would be competition among providers to ensure consumers their heroin brand is safe.

When goods are made illegal,” Calton continues, “smugglers will continue to trade them, but the ability to establish brand consistency is suppressed.”

In Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy, economist Thomas Sowell explains that brands “are a way of economizing on scarce knowledge, and forcing producers to compete in quality as well as price.”

Allowing the drug market to go legit by eliminating prohibitionist policies, as well as regulations that criminalize commerce and use, could give addicts and consumers at large better, more accurate, and therefore safer information on their drug of choice. Opening the markets could also give users the opportunity to enjoy other benefits of the free market, such as specialized clinics and other facilities that allow users peace of mind while consuming these products in a controlled and secure environment.

It’s because prohibitionist policies were put in place that drug markets became violent; prohibition breeds monopoly — and monopoly can only be sustained through force.

If, much like the laws of physics, the laws of economics cannot be ignored, we must look at the current opioid epidemic as a consequence of the bad economics of drug prohibition. And the natural answer to this is more freedom — not more law enforcement involvement.

Pokemon Go Creators Face Lawsuit Over Possible Property-Related Crimes

Originally published here.

It’s no secret that Pokemon Go, the augmented-reality game, is currently one of the most popular apps in the country. But as users become involved in accidents due to their outdoor adventures trying to catch Pokemon characters, reports related to individuals being chased away and at times even shot at for trespassing are also becoming more common.

Now, a man from New Jersey is escalating the fight against Pokemon trespassers by suing the company behind the game—not the actual players. If he has it his way, individuals who own property listed as a Pokestops or Pokemon gyms in the app could be added to the list of plaintiffs.

According to the suit, Pokemon Go encourages players to go after Pokemon characters placed close to or at private properties without the owner’s consent. The suit also states that at least five individuals approached the plaintiff asking if they could have access to his backyard in the past. Interestingly enough, the suit alleges these individuals knocked “without plaintiff’s permission,” confusing anyone who believes that knocking and formally asking for access means that he was properly approached and that his property was never trespassed against.

To players, however, the concern brought up by the New Jersey man may seem illegitimate since the system alerts users they should not trespass, warning that attempting to gain or gaining “access to any property or location where you do not have the right or permission to be” should be out of the question.

Despite the warning, Niantic Labs, Nintendo, and The Pokémon Co. have all been named in the suit. California’s federal court should soon rule on whether the man who filed the complaint will be able to legally keep Pokemon hunters off his property.

The game, which has been downloaded more than 30 million times, generating over $35 million in revenue, continues to be both praised and criticized for the several consequences of its launch. But blaming the company behind the app for a potential trespassing incident might not have a positive outcome after all.

Pokemon Go players have an opportunity to learn a thing or two about property rights and voluntary cooperation while playing, taking the example of other players who have been involved in delicate incidents while catching Pokemon into consideration while roaming the streets in search of new characters. Instead of putting the blame on the game, why not help players understand that playing safely can also be fun? All they have to do is follow the company’s instructions and play responsibly.

After all, suing Niantic Labs over risks potentially associated with the act of playing the game is like suing a weapon manufacturer for a potential gun injury incident that hasn’t even materialized.

Allowing players to take responsibility for their actions could be yet another reason to believe Pokemon Go is one of the best things about modern life.

Sanders Defends Unconstitutional War in Syria, Backs Obama’s ‘Kill List’

Originally published here.

During a town hall meeting on Monday, Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders defended President Barack Obama’s “kill list,” a top secret list of individuals who can be summarily killed on sight without due process. In 2012, The New York Times reported that President Obama hosts a meeting every Tuesday to decide which suspected terrorists will be added to his “kill list.”

A the time, President Obama was harshly criticized by libertarian Republican Senator Rand Paul over the unconstitutional procedure. Paul argued that one single bureaucrat should not act as both the judge and executioner.

During his famous 2013 filibuster, Sen. Paul famously said: “The people on the list might be me.”

But to Sanders, Obama’s kill list is not all that bad. When asked whether he would have an extrajudicial kill list as a sitting president, Sanders replied:

“Look. Terrorism is a very serious issue. There are people out there who want to kill Americans, who want to attack this country, and I think we have a lot of right to defend ourselves. I think as Miguel said, though, it has to be done in a constitutional, legal way.”

But when asked whether he though that what is being done now is constitutional, he replied:

“In general I do, yes.”

Appearing to suggest that Obama pursued constitutional means by targeting individuals without due process, he also seems to confirm that he would do the same.

When asked whether he endorsed Obama’s decision to deploy another 250 soldiers to Syria, Sanders replied by parroting arguments typically spewed by neoconservative politicians:

“I think the—look. Here’s the bottom line. ISIS has got to be destroyed, and the way that ISIS must be destroyed is not through American troops fighting on the ground. ISIS must be destroyed and King Abdullah of Jordan has made this clear, that the war is for the soul of Islam and it must be won by the Muslim nations themselves.

I think what the President is talking about is having American troops training Muslim troops, helping to supply the military equipment they need, and I do support that effort. We need a broad coalition of Muslim troops on the ground. We have had some success in the last year or so putting ISIS on the defensive, we’ve got to continue that effort.”

But Sanders was never asked to comment on Obama’s disastrous policy toward Syrian rebels. Namely the very program Sanders seems to defend, which provided ISIS militants with expensive US military gear and even Toyota trucks. At the time, Sen. Rand Paul was, once again, one of the lonely voices standing against Obama’s plan.

After spending $4 million of US taxpayer dollars per rebel, only five “moderate rebels” were left in Syria, but MSNBC’s Chris Hayes appeared unwilling to press Sanders on the failure of Obama’s unconstitutional and undeclared war in Syria.

No, the FBI Does Not Want to Simply Break Into a Terrorist’s Phone

The case involving the FBI and Apple continues to draw immense media attention. But what many outlets have chosen to mostly ignore is the fact that one of the most important claims made by the FBI is actually fraudulent.

At least that’s what the American Civil Liberties Union is claiming.

In the FBI’s court order handed to Apple, the federal agency claims that it requires Apple’s assistance to unlock the iPhone 5c that belonged to the San Bernardino shooter. Syed Rizwan Farook is tied to the December terrorist attack against government workers in San Bernardino, California that left 14 people dead, and the FBI has his phone in their possession for investigative purposes.

Read more here.

Suffocating Regulations Keep the Poor Out of the Housing Market

When discussing the lack of affordable housing, many are quick to refer to the government to ask for help.

Affordable home advocates often urge officials to take on more projects—and create more laws—in order to aid those who cannot afford their own homes, but often ignore the root of the problem altogether.

A recent piece of research carried out by Mercatus Center’s Sanford Ikeda and Emily Washington shows that instead of urging officials to take on new projects, what is truly needed to make housing more affordable across the board is to simply remove regulatory obstacles.

Read more here.

Ron Paul Debunks ‘Clash of Civilizations’ Rhetoric

In Ron Paul’s latest Liberty Report speech, the former congressman reminded his viewers that fear is never the best policy.

As Washington D.C. wages a war against a sham enemy known as “radical Islam,” Paul said, Americans fall prey to the politics of fear, allowing the US government to strip them of their liberties as officials claim to fight a “great war for survival.”

“We’re to believe,” Paul explained “that the ugly and vicious violence of a very small percentage of the 1.7 billion Muslims around the world, without an army, navy, or air force, is on the verge of engulfing America and Western civilization.”

Since the purported enemy stands opposed to our values, we’re urged to fight their frail influence in the name of the Western concept of Christianity, liberty, and free markets. Yet the same politicians that tell us we should support the US efforts against “radical Islam” are the ones fighting against free markets at home.

Ron Paul continued:

“One cannot deny that a group exists that associates itself with Islam and preaches violence in combination with extreme religious beliefs. Al Qaeda and ISIS do exist. Claiming that they alone are responsible for the great ‘clash’ is purposely misleading. That misunderstanding is required by Western propagandists to gain public support for their wars in the Middle East, and for a continuation of the American Empire. Unfortunately, so far it has worked pretty well.”

To Paul, fear as a policy serves only to strengthen the government’s monopoly. Keeping Americans afraid of what radical Islam could do to their way of living puts them in a vulnerable spot, forcing them to go to government to ask bureaucrats for more security.

“Exaggerations and propping up groups who falsely claim to represent 99 percent of Muslims, serves the interests of those in the West who want the clash of civilizations for their own selfish purposes. Current US and Western support for ISIS in Syria, even though it’s denied, is designed to remove Assad. This policy is in the tradition of our foreign policy of recent decades.”

Those who promote wars, Paul reminded his audience, are often quick to seize any available opportunity to gain the support of the people. This vicious cycle allows illegal, preemptive wars to take place, creating more friction and hatred in the Middle East against America.

This monopolistic and authoritarian approach makes us all less safe as a result.

“If what is said by the neoconservatives about Islam is true, nuking Indonesia would seem logical. Two hundred and three million Muslims could be wiped out rather quickly. What many fail to admit is that ISIS deliberately manipulates Islam to inspire violence by some, which helps them gain recruits for their cause. This is not a reflection of the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. It’s like claiming that the KKK represents sound Christian theology. Many evangelical Christians support preemptive war in the Middle East, but that doesn’t mean that Christians must give up the notion that, as Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers.’”

To know how both sides of this “clash of civilizations” benefit from the current politics of fear, watch Paul’s special report below.

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Originally published here