Not A Joke: How An Academic Hoax Revealed A Scandal In Our Universities

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A Guest Article by: Roy Meredith  10/16/2018

In our supercharged media environment, events that happened only three weeks ago feel like old news. There’s one story, however, that you shouldn’t let slip past your radar. You may have heard of the major hoax three liberal academics played on multiple widely-respected journals in the humanities and social sciences. The trio – Peter Boghossian, James Lindsay, and Helen Pluckrose – spent a year authoring and submitting twenty fake academic papers to test the rigor of controversial disciplines such as gender studies, race studies, and women’s studies. All their conclusions were purposefully outlandish, flagrantly immoral, or both.  

One of the papers they submitted rewrote passages from Mein Kampf using the terminology of intersectional feminism. Affilia, a social work journal, accepted it. Another suggested that dog humping in public parks was evidence of rape culture, and that men could be trained out of rape just like dogs. Not only did the feminist geography journal Gender, Place & Culture publish it, the reviewers honored the article as an outstanding contribution.  

By far, the most hilarious submission was “Moon Meetings and the Meaning of Sisterhood: A Poetic Portrayal of Lived Feminist Spirituality,” an autoethnography from the perspective of a bitter, recently divorced feminist scholar. Sandwiched between the meandering tangents about menstruation, capitalism, and the potential connections between witchcraft and beer were poems generated by an internet bot. The slapdash prose should have been a dead giveaway, including gems such as, “We aren’t nice women. We’re fierce and free. We’re the witches of brewsters past.” The phony paper took less than six hours to write, but you can probably guess what happened next: The Journal of Poetry Therapy published it without suggesting any revisions.

By the time the Wall Street Journal exposed their project on October 2nd, the trio already managed to have seven of their papers accepted for publication. Seven more were still under consideration. Just six had been rejected.  For context, only two or three peer-reviewed articles over the course of one’s career are necessary to get tenure in many regional universities. That’s a breathtaking success rate for people with no professional background in those fields, and yes, it should worry you.

Lindsay has freely admitted that he and the others reasoned backwards from absurd conclusions, scouring academic literature for work that would buttress their claims while coddling the reviewers’ left-of-fringe political sensibilities. This is the opposite of what we expect from careful scholarship. Within several fields, however, a fashionable idea has taken hold that asperses scientific objectivity as a tool of social oppression.  Don’t just take my word for it. Back in May, the Journal for Cultural Anthropology’s official account tweeted, “good morning. All research is political. Have a great day everyone!” Curricula infused with these ideas are dangerous social experiments, and not the least because a common faith in objective reality enables us to hold those in power accountable.  

As a graduate student of social work, I find this troubling for another reason. Clinical social workers, for example, often partner with clients who suffer from mental illnesses that require evidence-based interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Others work as policy analysts and wield considerable authority in designing welfare programs. Who seriously believes monthly meetings in designated “womb rooms” and praying to Norse goddesses are effective interventions for women in dysfunctional relationships? Poorly-vetted material in our curricula undermines our ability to troubleshoot effectively with our clients and consider the full range of options they have for improving their lives.

I commonly encounter such misinformation at my school. Microaggression theory, for instance, is especially pernicious in its current iteration, because it encourages people to become hypersensitive to perceived slights and read them as signs of unconscious hostility. This behavior, known in clinical literature as mind reading, is widely recognized as a cognitive distortion. Why, then, is it being promoted in social work school? On some campuses, university administrators have even established bias response teams to intimidate the unfortunate faculty members who have the guile to teach engagement with opposing viewpoints.

Liberals of all stripes – especially libertarians – should recognize that such “theories” function primarily as ammunition for stigmatizing dissent. Unfortunately, many have leaked from academia into everyday parlance; it is now impossible to openly discuss topics such as potential links between cultural norms and poverty without giving offense, even though the people who suffer the brunt of these underdiscussed problems are among the most marginalized in society.  

I urge my fellow university students to take notice. Don’t just sit silently in class when you hear unjust or far-fetched ideas among your peers to avoid social ostracization. Remember, too, that as students at American universities, we already enjoy many unique socioeconomic privileges. The most consequential among them is proximity to scholarship that changes lives.  The impulse to protect our own reputations by taking the path of least resistance is understandable, but it is not a moral course of action. The time to speak up is now.

 

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The Why Not Of Democratic Socialism

democraticsocialismno

Kris Morgan 9/6/2018

Democratic Socialism is a phrase that has been popularized by Vermont Senator and former Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders. The word ‘socialism’ sets off red flags in the minds of Libertarians and Conservatives alike. This is understandable given the body count of the 20th century that traces back to socialist countries. Nevertheless, supporters of the ideology claim that those opposed are merely associating their form of socialism with that of totalitarian dictatorships. Whether we agree with this statement or not, one thing is for certain; Democratic Socialism is gaining in popularity and if we are going to successfully push back against that tide, we should not engage in hyperbole. The Democratic Socialists of America webpage has two major tasks for the visitor to explore. It behooves us to listen to their message and highlight where we disagree and offer alternatives.

Number one on the to-do list is providing medicare for all. The text reads “In the capitalist system, you have to pay to get care or go without, and under a democratic socialist system, we would collectively provide care as a society.” It would be great to reach a point where everyone has access to quality healthcare. However, there are two major points worthy of examination.

First, the present medicare program is due to go bankrupt by 2026, despite the fact that it does not cover all citizens. A piece in the LA Times noted “The report from program trustees says Medicare will become insolvent in 2026 — three years earlier than previously forecast. Its giant trust fund for inpatient care won’t be able to fully cover projected medical bills starting at that point.” The Democratic Socialists would likely develop a financial plan designed to resolve this issue. However, we must keep in mind that no government program is ever presented as if it will be poorly managed and leave us bankrupt. Yet here we are, over $21tril in debt; not because of a single party or even a single office, but because of the system as a whole.

Second, though libertarians recognize and sympathize with the current state of medical services, we identify the problem as being government interventionism in the first place. Mises.org has a great piece showing step-by-step how the United States has empowered and enriched private entities at the expense of the people, resulting in higher costs and fewer services. Our solution is to end the practices that lead to the current state of affairs to begin with. We want to trust communities and markets with the ability to solve problems. Contrary to the popular belief that we have a do-nothing answer, we would remove artificial barriers so individuals can make investments and increase efficiency of current services. Models that don’t result in greater output than input end in bankruptcy, whereas political failures continue until change is advantageous for those in power, regardless of the damage they cause.

Next on their list of objectives is stronger unions. Notwithstanding the lack in details, their ideas still warrant attention. Not surprising, capitalism itself is made the target.

“Capitalism pits us against each other and workplaces are fundamentally authoritarian unless workers can self-organize and build collective power. This is why people build unions, and why employers undermine them. It is also why the capitalists as a class constantly work to undermine unions and promote narratives about unions that frame them as unnecessary, undemocratic or ineffective. We are forming a national project to fight back and build power in the economy, since outside of Wall Street, workplaces are the place where the owning class extract resources from the working class.”

Yes, under capitalism there is competition. The nature of this competition is largely peaceful, with workers determined to prove themselves more valuable than each other, and entrepreneurs working on meeting demand most efficiently. While it can be argued this is less than perfect, it is much more preferable than competing for power over each other. In free markets the goal is to trade one’s economic efforts for material gain. In socialism, the goal is to pander to, or seize, power and force everyone to do what we want. Talk about pitting us against each other!

Libertarians are not anti-union per se. Our objections only arise where force is being used. Rules which make it illegal for an employer to end associations with those wanting to form unions go against individual liberty. Freedom in these decisions would make it possible for workers and employers to weigh their options and do what is in their best interest. If a skill is valuable and rare enough, those who have it have a bargaining chip. Industry leaders would understand that negotiating is in their best interest under those circumstances. Economic problems persist where skills are not scarce, but law restricts entrepreneurs from opting out of negotiations. Demand for such labor diminishes under artificially higher costs, and lower-level employees assume added responsibilities, or technology fills in the gap. Opportunities for unskilled workers to gain experience, skills, and knowledge fade.

These Democratic Socialist stepping stones are just a launching pad to encompass key aspects of life. In their view, eventually everything would be transformed from spontaneous order to a centrally-planned, democratic decision making process. In their words, “Democratic socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives.”

Trade by itself is here to meet public needs. In markets, our highest order needs and wants are expressed in the pricing system. Consumers willing to buy products at high prices signal producers to direct more resources towards said goods, and the result is lower prices and a supply and demand reaching as close to equilibrium as conditions would allow.

Who determines if the public’s needs are being met in Democratic Socialism? Or, in the existential sense, how do we determine what exactly the public needs to begin with? Life is infinitely complex and peoples’ wants and needs are in a constant state of change. Running everything in a democratic manner would never allow for the flexibility needed to match these conditions, not to mention whatever the politics involved would look like. The only way to adapt to is to untie our hands and let us react to changes. A handful of us cannot possibly know what all of us need, and if they did, the bureaucratic process of democracy is far too slow to adjust.

Whatever the intentions are of democratic socialists, the course of action they have chosen will not make the world a better place. Our economy is already riddled with trade cycles, endless deficits, regulations, wars, etc, we don’t need more. The move to provide medicare for everyone is a step in the wrong direction. In bad times, just as in good times, the real solution is increased capital investment to make labor more productive and directed to meet real demand. This only occurs under conditions of freedom. The government’s job is simple; get out of the way and deal with people who infringe on private property rights. Stop running deficits, eliminate tariffs, allow interest rates to reflect economic realities, and stop inflating bubbles.

The task of taking purposeful economic action is on the people. For example, if more medical services are really what we want, then new models should be constructed and invested in privately, so that in the event the planners are wrong, they fail as they should. Under conditions where entrepreneurs hit their mark, they have a solvent system in play and get to remain. In spite of popular opinion, no form of socialism is synonymous with sharing, it’s about institutionalized theft. Scarce resources are not something we should want politicized under any circumstances. Political decision-making is precisely what got us to where we are today, and we should not be entertaining the notion of expanding it.

 

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Social Media Censorship; Mainstream Media Lies

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By Franc Turner  August 26, 2018

I’d like to preface these next thoughts by saying that I disagree with practically everything that Alex Jones has said in recent years. That said, I’ve heard that the alternative media radio host has been banned from Facebook, YouTube, and Apple all on the same day, within the span of 12 hours. All of his content, thousands upon thousands of videos, podcasts, live streams, etc; all deemed to be “unfit for human consumption” i.e. removed because it might offend a listening ear. In other words, they’re worried about losing ad revenue for their social media outlets.

Again, I’d like to point out that I don’t think Mr. Jones has had anything even remotely enlightening or relevant to say lately. However, the fact that WHAT he says has been “banned” throughout the social media world has set a rather concerning precedent for anyone who doesn’t fit into the cookie-cutter paradigm of “general consensus” concepts, ideas, or expressions. This may have been the purpose of having someone like Jones on the airwaves in the first place. Here’s someone who was completely anti-authoritarian, questioning the motives behind all of those in power, and gradually made to appear crazier and crazier. He ultimately became a caricature of himself, of “conspiracy theorists,” and of alternative media outlets in general; thereby, giving the greenlight to remove any voices who may use these various platforms to go against the grain.

It seems the only outlets allowed to have opinions (political or otherwise) in the 24-hour news-cycle world are Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN. Anything else is “fake news” and subject to censorship. If I remember correctly, all three of these organizations were cheerleaders, initially, for the Bush Jr. administration when the War in Iraq was in its infancy. They all willfully parroted the blatant lies of WMD’s that brainwashed the country into believing Iraq was a threat to the United States, and also believing that perpetuating the never-ending War on Terror was a just cause.

During those years, before it became cool to criticise Bush Jr.’s Presidency, Alex Jones was an anti-war/peace activist who called out the Neoconservatives/Republicans with every action they took. This was a time when no one else (at least in the mainstream media) had the balls to do so (with the exception of maybe Jon Stewart). The fact that Jones is now basically a talking-piece for every Neoconservative policy and agenda should, at the very least, make a person wonder why that is.

I personally think that this is all an attempt to take anyone who questions official news and equate them with the likes of Alex Jones or whoever else they choose to censor. It seems as though the goal is to make the idea of questioning the “official” anything, in and of itself, seem “crazy,” “off-hinged,” and “dangerous.”

The reality is the opposite. It’s the “officials” who have done nothing to shed light on all of the government-sanctioned bloodshed and brutality inflicted upon specific geopolitical regions for the past seventeen years, against people and nations who had nothing to do with the events of 9/11. Instead, the “real” news is too concerned with what Stormy Daniels is saying, what Roseanne is saying, what gender Bruce Jenner is, where alt-right vs. antifa fights are breaking out, and what our puppet presidents are tweeting.

While some people may argue that these are private corporations, and they have the “right” to censor whatever they want on their platforms, these same people are also arguing whether or not football players have the right to kneel during the national anthem. And the reason given is, you guessed it, FREE SPEECH; despite the fact that NFL teams are also private organizations. The whole “violating the terms of service” isn’t the issue here. Individuals who are just now being deplatformed are, for the most part, saying the exact same things that they’ve always been saying since the beginning of social media. Yet, they are only now being taken down by popular demand i.e. media hype and taking words out of context to make it all fit a certain narrative. While at the same time, other major organizations are saying/doing very similar things on these platforms and not given the ax. Social Media is cherry-picking who they decide to ban on these forums of apparent “free expression” and the voting population is cherry-picking what constitutes free speech/expression.

The bottom line is: as a society, we either believe in freedom of speech or we don’t. And if you believe that it is ok to censor thoughts and beliefs that you personally don’t agree with, then you are also saying that it is ok for those in power to censor what YOU have to say, simply because they don’t agree with YOU.

Questioning and voicing your opinion, no matter how unpopular your particular views are… is a good thing. Never be afraid to say what you believe, for that fear is the essence of authoritarianism.

 

 

Mass Shootings, Gun Control, And The Misdirected Masses

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Franc Turner  August 8, 2018

“We’ve now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” – George Orwell

I was recently doing some statistical analysis for my own curiosity and amusement. My thoughts on these matters may not be very popular, but I think that it is rather important to consider uncommon perspectives when it comes to the “leaders” of this nation enacting legislation due to the momentum of perceived public outcry, demand, and public relations.

With the heated atmosphere of anti-gun vs. pro-gun, gun violence, the NRA, mass shootings, rallies, town hall meetings, Democrat vs. Republican screaming matches, etc., I wanted to research the numbers that relate to the topics at hand. Through a little bit of digging, I was able to look up the data from every mass shooting in this country, from Columbine to Parkland, and every mass shooting in between. And when I say “mass shooting”, I am using the Congressional Research Service’s definition of the term in which four or more people are killed, not including the perpetrator. I started at Columbine because that incident seems to have been the jumping-off-point of the exponential trend of similar events happening more frequently in the public consciousness.

I gathered the numbers of individuals killed in each of the 58 shootings. Through some simple and straightforward mathematics, I totalled the number of individuals killed in mass shootings from Columbine (1999) to Parkland (2018). The total number of people killed in mass shootings in this country during that nearly two decade time span is 535. (https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/mass-shootings-mother-jones-full-data/).

That number made me wonder how many individuals are shot and killed by police each year in this country. Unfortunately, people didn’t keep records of that kind of thing until three years ago, as far as I could find. For 2015, the number of people shot and killed by police was 995. For 2016, the number was 963. And for 2017, it was 987. This year, so far, there have been 531; for a grand total of 3,476 in the past three years alone. While it can be argued that many of those instances are “justified in the line of duty”, many others have transpired like that of the Daniel Shaver shooting.

The 24- hour media circus also made me think back to the (never discussed) number of civilians estimated to have been killed in the 17-year-long “War On Terror”, which is between 1-2 million, conservatively; none of which had anything to do with the events of 9/11 (a day which was used as the catalyst for these indiscriminate regional massacres), while the majority of those killed are women and, yes, CHILDREN. And I would bet that the current number is more likely to be much higher, as those estimates are from a few years ago .

This also caused me to think back to events such as Kent State, Ruby Ridge, and Waco, TX; all of which took place in the not-so-distant past, carried out by your own benevolent government. Again, if you’re unfamiliar with those incidents, I suggest you read about them.

The point is that your own government kills more people in a matter of a few days (on the average) than all of the mass shootings that have taken place in this country in the past 20 years, combined. And yet, there is almost zero outrage about this blatant and disturbing fact. There are no marches, no rallies, no town hall meetings, no wall-to-wall media coverage. Your own government is committing mass murder on a daily basis and will continue to do so while they con the citizenry into bankrolling the whole thing.

For the past couple of years, I’ve found it fascinating to watch the willfully oblivious masses feed right into the “Us vs. Them” political mindset; with each and every new hashtag spreading like a zombie outbreak from “World War Z.” People seem to find comfort and peace of mind through recreational outrage, as instructed by the various news agencies.

The individuals who support the two major political gangs (Republicans and Democrats) in this country have compared the “opposing” faction’s de facto leader to Hitler. I’m guilty of it too, but I’m biased because I think that that every President we’ve had in the past 40 years has been a fake-smiled, friendly-faced fascist. But since Trump is the current figurehead, I’ll use that particular cult-of-personality as an example. For many self-proclaimed Democrats, Trump is Hitler-incarnate. And yet these masses of people are also demanding that Trump’s government enact legislation to ban the population from having certain firearms which they deem “only military and law enforcement should have.”

So, basically it’s, “Trump is Hitler! You can’t trust anything he does! Give HIM all of your guns! That’ll show him! VICTORY!” They also want universal background checks, mental health screenings, and more. And Trump, himself, has even stated that he would like the government to be able to take weapons from anyone whom they deem to be a threat, without due process. His exact quote was, “Take the guns first, go through due process second.” And there’s a certain percentage of Trump supporters who will go along with anything he says because they still believe he’s going to “Make America Great Again”, which is useful for the continued perpetuation of the incremental obsolescence of the Constitution as a safeguard against government overreach.

This is the same Trump which recently sold $350 billion dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia. So, it’s ok to give Saudi Arabia weapons, but not ok for American citizens to have weapons? That makes perfect sense. And I’ve heard arguments such as, “Europe has strict gun control and these kind of events don’t take place over there. It’s uniquely an American phenomenon.” Didn’t the deadliest mass shooting in recent memory happen in France just a few years ago? That one in which 137 people died, causing everyone to change their profile picture to have the colors of the French flag?

And all of this is aside from the fact that our government, along with other major governments of the world, are holding the citizenry of the entire planet hostage under the threat of nuclear annihilation. It’s not the people doing these things, it’s their governments.

Do we really want Trump’s government to be the only ones who have guns? It has been argued by many (whom you may never hear speak on any major news outlet) that the purpose of government is to cause the problems which they, in lock step, offer to “fix”; hence, creating an artificial “need” for themselves to “protect” you from each boogie man they’re conditioning you to fear. “The people can’t be trusted to protect themselves, so let’s make ’em all rely on those in power to do that job for them.” Genius, I tells ya.

Pollution, war, poverty, hunger, scarcity, oil, hatred, hardship, violence, drugs, waste, etc..; these are not combatted by governments, but carried out and perpetuated by them. Max Igan described this trend as applying to even the simplest aspects of our daily lives. Take something as simple and seemingly straightforward as seatbelt laws. “If you don’t wear a seatbelt, you pay a fine. If you don’t pay the fine, you’ll go to jail. If you don’t let them take you to jail, they’ll come and arrest you. If you don’t allow them to arrest you, they’ll kill you.”

Whether it’s in the wake of mass shootings, terrorism, war, or any other reason, actions taken by governments are not just about creating safety, security, protection, and harmony in everyday life. They’re also often about creating, enforcing, and conditioning obedience within the population, so they don’t question who’s got the keys to the shackles around their ankles.

The bottom line is that human beings have a right to defend themselves. Period. And the ironic thing is that any kind of gun ban would be enforced at the barrel of a gun (the same guns which they are banning). I was always a person who believed that people should lead by example. Therefore, if the governments of the world would like their citizens to disarm, they should first destroy each and every one of their own weapons, starting with every nuclear weapon.

A few months ago, half a million people marched on Washington to beg their imperial overlords to take away more of their own rights. If people are genuinely concerned with saving the lives of children, then stop allowing your own government to kill innocent people around the globe with impunity, and stop pretending like you or the government have the moral authority to “allow” other people to have the right to defend themselves. A human being doesn’t have to ask permission to do that, it’s self evident.

The world has literally gone insane, my friends.

 

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Election Science

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Aaron Hamlin, 7/25/2018

Freedom in the US depends heavily on the judgment and integrity of those we elect. But if the ballots we cast are somehow defective, then we could be electing the wrong people. If so, then the freedom we strive for is in serious danger.

Unfortunately, there is ample evidence that the way we cast our ballots is defective. We use a voting method called plurality voting where we choose only one candidate, and the candidate with the most votes wins. This seemingly innocuous restriction to pick only one candidate causes us severe problems.

When we lack the freedom to choose all the candidates we might want, bad things happen. For instance, if there are multiple freedom-minded candidates, our support gets divided and quality candidates can lose to an opposing candidate. And if other parts of the electorate share our views but fear that a candidate of higher integrity can’t win, despite bringing good ideas to the table, then that high-integrity candidate may be unfairly marginalized as the electorate votes for second-rate, but more electable, candidates.

The way that this plurality voting system forces us to cast our ballots leaves us vulnerable to vote splitting and the spoiler effect. Independents and parties like the Libertarian Party are forced to drain their precious resources on onerous signature requirements just to get on the ballot (Georgia’s ballot access laws being a prime example).

Of course, here major parties give themselves either a complete pass or much easier signature requirements. Even more, major parties—instead of fixing the problem—have chosen to retaliate against outside competition.

We’d find this unlevel playing field unacceptable in the economic marketplace. So shouldn’t we also find it unacceptable in the political marketplace?

Undoubtedly so.

Fortunately, we can solve this violation of our rights by using a ballot that gives us the freedom to select—not rank—as many candidates as we want. The person who receives the most votes still wins, but more votes are cast. This is called “approval voting,” and it can fundamentally improve our elections.

Studied academically since the late 1970s, the evidence of approval voting’s advantages over our current plurality voting system is overwhelming. One major advantage is that approval voting always lets you vote for your favorite. No matter what. This means that when candidates bring good ideas to the table they get the support they deserve—regardless of their name recognition or perceived viability.

No longer could debate commissions bar competitive independents and third parties. Public scrutiny won’t allow this injustice for candidates who are able to get over 20 or 30% in approval voting polls. Imagine further that the US’s largest third party (the Libertarian Party) is able to win seats in national office and more than the occasional seat in local office. The same is true for liberty or freedom-minded independents.

The merits of approval voting haven’t gone unnoticed in libertarian communities. The straw poll for the Republican Liberty Caucus in 2016 used approval voting. The Texas Libertarian Party not only uses approval voting itself but also explicitly includes approval voting on its official platform. And the National Libertarian Party has been using approval voting to elect its national officers. Even the Western Conservative Summit uses approval voting for its straw polls. The word is catching on to oust plurality voting and replace it with approval voting.

The Center for Election Science values a level playing field for all candidates, regardless of party or ideology. We want a system where good ideas are able to rise to the top. This means that in addition to studying voting methods and research, we’re also using this evidence as our cue to take action. Taking action is the only way we can ensure that we really have the freedom we claim. Notably, that includes changing the way we elect people to government office. The Center for Election Science is helping local activists run ballot initiatives to get approval voting in their cities.

Do you, too, hope to see a system where good ideas receive the support they deserve and all parties are operating on a level playing field? If so, here are some ways you can help us make this a reality:

  1. Invest in our work to bring approval voting to a city near you with a tax-deductible donation
  2. Share our content on Facebook and Twitter to help your friends learn how they can make their ballot more free
  3. Join our movement for a more fair, more free ballot by signing up to receive our monthly newsletter

Together, we can create better elections and a smarter democracy.

The Center for Election Science is dedicated to helping the world use smarter election systems. They are a nationally-based, nonpartisan, 501(c)3 nonprofit comprised of voting system experts and activists. They incorporated in California in 2011.

They do this because the collective decisions we make through voting dramatically impact our day-to-day lives. Smarter collective decisions whether in government or in organizations promise to provide us all with a better quality of life.

-Aaron Hamlin

 

This article was originally created by The Center for Election Science for FreedomFest 2018. However, the content was quickly removed from the FreedomFest 2018 webpage after the event concluded. Ask A Libertarian deems this information to be important and decided to share it with you here, with approval of The Center for Election Science.

 

 

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How To Finally End The Culture War

culture

Jacob Chesky, 07/06/2018

Social politics are spiteful.

Almost anyone will admit this about American political discourse, but what’s the solution?

Some use Facebook posts to lament a lack of civility in political discussions. Others might tweet a call to action, encouraging their followers to have genuine conversations with people of opposing beliefs and to learn from them instead of having bitter arguments.

But will these actually solve the problem? Do we just need to try harder and be better in order to discuss social issues in a kinder and more productive manner?

No.

No amount of determination to have a civil attitude will help, because nearly everyone is still approaching the issue from a grossly inappropriate perspective: trying to force others to live according to their own values.

Here are the common positions that are being debated today in American politics:

In general, the left wants to

  • Restrict freedom of speech by censoring “hate speech,” silencing those they believe to have evil views, enforcing particular speech (such as using certain gender pronouns), etc.
  • Restrict “cultural appropriation”
  • Enforce environmental laws of questionable effectiveness on private people and businesses
  • Heavily restrict or eliminate private gun ownership and carry
  • Restrict freedom of association if they feel a “marginalized group” is being discriminated against by private business owners or others
  • Enforce “affirmative action” instead of allowing individual employers to make their hiring decisions freely

In general, the right wants to

  • Enforce particular forms of patriotism
  • Heavily restrict immigration, sometimes to the point of trivializing human rights of non-US citizens
  • Enforce traditional family structure and gender roles
  • Outlaw various forms of sex work
  • Restrict the use of drugs and other substances (although most make exceptions for substances that aren’t as culturally frightening to them, such as alcohol or tobacco)

Both sides usually hold these polar opposite views in good faith, believing that they can fix society if only they could have their way. Unfortunately, if we approach social issues with the idea we can solve them through legislation, we will never be able to have civil discourse with those who disagree.

Why?

Because as soon as anyone senses someone is willing to use the heavy hand of the law to trample their personal freedom and enforce their idea of what’s right, they feel threatened and indignant.

You might expect those who’ve experienced this to learn to respect the liberty of others, yet if the conversation turns to a topic they have strong feelings about, those same people often also reveal a willingness to be the aggressor in this culture war.

Some ask, “If we don’t outlaw or restrict gun ownership, how will we stop gun-related deaths?” Others wonder, “If we allow homosexuals to marry, won’t that threaten traditional family structures and values?” Or, more fundamentally, “If I truly believe in my religion or worldview, shouldn’t I support legislation that will make the law reflect my beliefs?”

These are legitimate questions, but most people respond to these thoughts by calling on the state to enforce their solutions to every social issue. They don’t accept that the world and the people in it are fundamentally flawed and cannot be fixed. The government can’t fix society. Education can’t fix it. As long as humans as we know them continue to exist, so will evil and social disagreements.

So how can we truly solve social issues? Right and wrong do exist. There are correct solutions and incorrect ones. Yet a sin or a social evil is not a crime if it doesn’t specifically harm anyone else’s person or property. Attempting to outlaw every vice will only continue to make the discussion around culture vitriolic and futile.

Perhaps the only solution is to forget about legislating every opinion and belief we hold. We could begin minding our own business and focusing on leading principled lives instead. We could change the conversation around social issues by promoting our most precious and deeply-held values in our own lives and in the conversations we have with our family, friends, and acquaintances.

We could stop slinging insults and threats of legislation toward those we disagree with, then getting angry when they retaliate in kind.

Perhaps one day, we will finally ditch this fruitless culture war in favor of a worthwhile ongoing discussion.

 

 

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Kneeling, Patriotism, And The Constitution

kneeling

Kris Morgan 5/27/2018

Ever since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner, the NFL has been rife with controversy. First, the players who have joined him are seen as being disrespectful to our country and the military. Second, the NFL’s recent move to fine players for doing so is viewed as an infringement on their freedom of speech. As we shall see, those holding these beliefs are wrong on both counts.

Let’s examine the claim that kneeling is disrespectful to the military. What’s interesting about this charge is that it does not come from kneeling players. It comes from politicians like President Trump, and others who feel it prudent to listen to him, rather than to the players themselves. So what did Kaepernick say was the motivation? “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Not only did his message have nothing to do with the military, but according to Sports Illustrated a Green Beret was in contact with Kaepernick discussing a way to get his message across without disrespecting the flag, the troops, or the country. The football sensation originally sat down on the bench during national anthem, until informed by Nate Boyer kneeling would be more respectful. While it’s true Mr. Boyer received some criticism from his peers in Special Forces, others have also praised his view. Whatever the case, what matters here is intention more than accuracy. While we can disagree on whether kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner is disrespectful, it is a mistake to believe it is the intention.

Now, let’s suppose you don’t care about intentions and find the act of kneeling disgraceful. Of course, you have the right to refuse to purchase tickets to NFL productions, to change the channel when a game comes on, or make any other changes in your life that you see fit. But what does the First Amendment say about it?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Clearly, Congress cannot make a law punishing players for kneeling. But contrary to popular misconceptions, the NFL can punish players for damaging their reputation. Under natural law and under our constitution, every person has an equal right to free speech. If a player can say ‘I choose to kneel in protest at this time’, there is no reason their employer cannot say “I refuse to associate with this person’ or ‘I don’t like them, but I also need them to have a football league. Maybe I can discourage their behavior with a fine.’ (assuming it is not addressed with in player contracts)

Both acts are expressions of ideas that deserve equal protection. The NFL is not infringing on free speech by determining the conditions upon which they will interact with others; everyone in the world does this every day. However, there is an issue related to free speech that desperately needs to be highlighted.

The Huffington Post reported: “The Department of Defense doled out as much as $6.8 million in taxpayer money to professional sports teams to honor the military at games and events over the past four years, an amount it has ‘downplayed’ amid scrutiny, a report unveiled by two Senate Republicans on Wednesday found.” There is no question this is a free-speech issue. Unlike the situation involving the players and the NFL, in this case law is being used. Tax law. Where we put our money is symbolic of the things we like, including ideas. But don’t take my word for it. The Supreme Court had a similar position when answering the question of campaign finance.

In 2002 the Supreme Court ruled that limitations on campaign finance violate free speech. According to csmonitor.com, those opposed to regulating the funding of campaigns argued that “corporations should enjoy a First Amendment right to spend money and advocate political and policy positions during election seasons just as individuals can.” If blocking corporations from spending their money in a way they see fit is a violation, then we must also conclude collecting tax payer dollars to finance the advancement of any idea, such as taking a pro-military stance, is as well. Those saying we should boycott the NFL (such as President Trump) over kneeling players have to choose between accepting this position or admitting their priorities place personal bias over justice.

At this point, you may be thinking, ‘but I do support the military, so it’s not something I have a problem with.’ Whether the Armed Forces are a force for good or evil is debatable. The questions you should be asking yourself here are, ‘how would I react to my money being taken from me to push ideas I disagree with? Whether I personally support the message or not, is using other people’s money against their will to advance causes they despise an honorable and just thing to do? Is the fact that I agree with the message even relevant?

 

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Mises vs. Hobbes: Fortnite Edition

miseshobbes

Kris Morgan 5/17/2018

For those of you who don’t play video games, Fortnite is is the hottest game around. In fact, Forbes reported in October 2017 that it “may have hit the 10 million player mark faster than any other game in history, thanks to its inclusion of Battle Royale.” Battle Royale is a player-vs-player mode in which 100 gamers battle each other. Once connected to a server, players parachute onto a map and search for guns, shields, building materials, and other items and attempt to eliminate each other. If you would like a visual, click here to see gameplay. Aside from being an incredibly successful and fun activity, it is also an excellent portrayal of Thomas Hobbes’s perception of humanity without governments.

Hobbes believed if left alone, human beings would be in a never-ending state of war with each other. Life would be short — full of conflict and chaos. This belief lead him to support the absolute monarchy form of government. Stanford.edu informs us that “his main concern was to argue that effective government—whatever its form—must have absolute authority. Its powers must be neither divided nor limited.”

Fortnite involves constant competition for resources, always looking over one’s shoulder for enemies, and rarely sitting in one place longer than a few seconds. There is no time to mourn the loss of dead teammates if you are playing on team mode. Others will not hesitate to kill you and loot your inventory if you drop your guard. But Fortnite and Hobbes both make the same common mistake so many others fall prey to. They have chosen a single characteristic of humanity and used it to define the entire species. People are extremely dynamic and infinitely complex; labeling our species with a single trait is extremely narrow and leads to mistakes. Ludwig Von Mises articulated this point in his world-renowned work Human Action.

In his Treatise on Austrian Economics, Mises created a systematic approach to economic analyses based on the axiom of action. Stated simply, any time a person acts, they do so because they are trying to remove some uneasiness. He wrote, “His mind imagines conditions which suit him better, and his action aims at bringing about this desired state. The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness. A man perfectly content with the state of his affairs would have no incentive to change things.”

Unlike Hobbes, Mises never claimed to know the exact outcome of unmitigated actions. In the era of specialization, it’s easy to conclude him a simpleton and Hobbes brilliant as a result. However, as we shall see, leaving the possibilities open was much wiser than the notion humanity can be accurately portrayed in a narrow lite.

What Thomas Hobbes refused to recognize is that cooperation is another tool for gaining resources, which left no room in his framework for a marketplace. We can forgive the programmers of Fortnite for that omission since its purpose is merely to entertain. As for Thomas Hobbes, being born in 1588 relieves fault for not witnessing the Industrial Revolution work to build wealth, shred infant mortality rates, and build a middle class with a quality of life he could not have dreamed. Those alive today who subscribe to the Hobbesian view have no excuse for overlooking the positive effects of a liberalized economy.

The consequences of allowing personalities like Mr. Hobbes’s influence us are in motion today. The idea of liberty can be very frightening to someone who believes humanity without rulers would be violent and chaotic. However, we can’t forget that for a government to be formed in the first place, the population must want peace more than conflict. If those two things are true, freedom is not something to be afraid of.

In fact, a Misesian would argue that since the people form the government, and they do so because they value peace and eschew friction, it is the idea of conflict that makes people tense. Forming a state is just one approach to resolving that issue. Without one, or under one with limited powers, the population would find alternate means to live in harmony.

For too long, on too many issues, our population, out of fear, has been making decisions on that diminish our basic freedoms indefinitely. The media makes money off showing us all how dangerous it is out there, how there are criminals lurking at every corner, but when we look at our day-to-day life, the peace vastly outweighs the conflict. We have more wealth in the modern era than any other time in history, and it takes cooperation to build it. We need more Misesians and less Hobbesians.

 

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Four Dead In Ohio

Kent State Shooting

By Jennifer Flower  4/23/2018

Imagine being a college student and seeing your sibling, high school classmates, or even acquaintances drafted into military service without any say in the matter. Imagine being worried you could be drafted into a war overseas you didn’t understand the reasons for fighting. Imagine then 1,000 National Guard Troops descending on your campus. It seems far-fetched today, but in reality, we are still debating, discussing and protesting many of the same issues that came to a head 48 years ago today.

A group of students were protesting the Vietnam War spreading into Cambodia. The students and police had increasing confrontations, with the police accusing some students of throwing things at them. The Ohio National Guard was called in on May 2nd. The confrontations escalated over the next two days, culminating in the tragic death of several students.

In the days leading up to the Kent State Massacre, there was vandalism in downtown Kent, Ohio. Police officers claimed to have been hit by bottles thrown by protesters. Bars had to close early and a curfew was imposed on the residents. The Kent State ROTC Building was also burned down. No one to this day knows with certainty who started the fire, but it is now believed to have been a group of radical protesters who were not students.

Governor Rhodes further inflamed tensions by calling the protesting students “the worst type of people that we harbor in America.” A group of fully equipped National Guard members using tear gas and bayonets eventually opened fire on a crowd of students. Four students were killed and nine were injured. Two of the murdered students, not even involved in the protests, were simply walking to class.

The father of one of the victims on the day after the shooting said “Is dissent a crime? Have we come to such a state in the country that a young girl has to be shot because she disagrees deeply with the actions of her government?”

No accounts indicate that the students committed violence against any person. However, It does appear that the student protesters initiated force through vandalism, violating the Non-Aggression Principle. The perpetrators should have been held responsible for the damaged property.

This option of obtaining restitution from the protesters, however, was taken off the table the moment the National Guard began firing on unarmed students. During the protests, there were up to 3,000 protesters and approximately 1,000 Guardsmen on and around Kent State University. But it’s unclear how many active protesters there were at the time of the incident, as there were students and onlookers walking around campus and simply walking to classes. There were 77 Guardsmen. 28 fired upon the crowd, shooting 70 rounds over a 13 second period.

Freedom of assembly and speech are what Libertarian theory consider Natural Rights and they are protected in the First Amendment to the Constitution. The students absolutely had a right to protest the Vietnam War and to peacefully assemble to demand their voices be heard. They did not have the right to commit vandalism.

The National Guard escalated the confrontations all the way up to shooting indiscriminately into a crowd of students. There is no justification for that and indeed the shooting did not make students at other universities around the country think twice about protesting the war. It only served to escalate and inflame the already heightened tensions of protests around the country.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. We still have tensions on college campuses as to the direction of free speech on campus. Should students be required to stay within “free speech” zones on campuses? If they’re on the grounds of a public university, should students be free to openly exercise their first amendment rights of assembly and speech without interference since it should be considered public land?

President Trump announced that the US military was bombing Syria in retaliation to an alleged chemical weapons attack on Syrian Civilians and the US Military recently killed “a couple hundred” Russians in Syria in February of 2018; which could have spiraled out of control almost instantly. Increased outcry against escalating military intervention has been seen from all ends of the political spectrum.

Those who don’t gain the wisdom of the past will repeat its mistakes. It’s ok if we, as a society, are still figuring out how to handle freedom of speech on college campuses. It’s ok to discuss exactly what that “red line” is that would require US intervention overseas. Any time we have the opportunity to learn from our past, we should strive to. It is how we will progress as a society. It should be clear that the Libertarian standard is to wage peace and speak freely, even the most unpopular opinions.

Tin Soldiers and Nixon coming
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in Ohio
– Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

 

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Why Blame The Police For Doing Their Job?

420

Jared Miller, 4/20/18

“Sin, regardless of how someone may define it, it is not a crime. Creating a victim, regardless if it is a sin, is a crime”.    – Larry Sharpe

For many, today is an excuse to smoke weed and pretend to be edgy. For others, it is an act of civil disobedience intended to highlight the absurdity of cannabis prohibition. Others like me, who don’t personally smoke, still share a sense of excitement about eventually winning back some measure of self determination in this area. But we still have a long way to go before we can say we’ve overcome the mentality that enables prohibition in the first place.

I recently made a snarky comment on a post from a police department criticizing the bust of a huge marijuana grow operation in Cleveland, Ohio. I was poking fun at the idea that these officers were keeping our children safe.

Someone I respect very deeply took issue with it, taking the all too common stance that one should fight the law and leave the police alone. “They are just good men doing their jobs. They don’t get to decide which laws to enforce.” I understand where he’s coming from, because I used to share that sentiment. On the surface it seems like the only respectable position. But it is wrong.

First, they do decide which laws to enforce. Police departments decide how to spend their resources. They decide what leads to follow and where officers patrol. Officers decide in the field, for example at a traffic stop, whether to let it slide or find every possible violation. They choose every day and in every situation which laws are important and which laws are not — which laws are worth enforcing and which laws are garbage.

Either they can “just do their job” as stalwart defenders of the law no matter what, or they can admit that they are intentional about which cases are worth pursuing. They shouldn’t get to hide behind their job to justify their actions in one situation, and opt to let someone off the hook in another. They always choose. And that can be a good thing. But when it comes to drug law, they generally choose poorly.

Often, the law was drafted with a specific moral goal in mind. So sometimes the officer is forced to make his choice either based on his moral code, or contradictory to it. In the latter case, he can compartmentalize his guilt by “just following orders.” At that moment, justice is no longer the goal, and the officer shows that he can be made capable, as we all can, of almost any action the ruling body sees fit to carry out. The inescapable conclusion is that morality is not just a poor basis for the formation of law. As a legal standard, it lays the foundation for all manner of injustice. When morality is the goal, anything can be justified.

What else is there? That’s a longer answer… but I’ll try to keep it short. Law exists to reduce or eliminate the ability of one person or group to do direct, intentional harm to another person or group. That’s all.

A law that causes more harm than it prevents stands in direct opposition to its proper role, and should be fought. If the person enforcing it is the one who causes the harm, then law enforcement should also be held accountable.

If an officer’s actions cause direct harm because he’s “just following orders,” he’s not more virtuous than a mafia thug that whacks a guy because it’s “just business.” In that case he just works for a more socially acceptable gang.

So what harm can an officer do in the course of “just doing his job?” The immediate effect is the most obvious. Individuals who have harmed literally no one by cultivating what should be an agricultural product are now felons. For the rest of their lives, they can’t vote, can’t own a gun, can’t find the meaningful employment that might help them live a life outside of “crime,” and will likely be imprisoned at the cost of the taxpayer for something that has not harmed anyone.

You might say the growers knew the risks when they started, and fair enough. But every one of those risks has nothing to do with the product itself, or the manufacture, sale, and use of the product. Every ounce of harm done by growing marijuana is done by enforcing a bad law.

And what about the extended effects? Instead of having legitimate, legal businesses, it has to be done on the black market. The number one cash crop of every drug cartel and street gang is marijuana. If you are concerned with fighting organized crime, the very first step is to cut off their income. In this case, that means fighting this terrible, destructive law.

That is to say nothing of the people actually using marijuana who are now criminals also. Before you say, “it’s not the same thing,“ prohibition requires that the user be punished at the same time as the producer. It’s all just different pieces of the same pie.

This is not meant to be anti-cop. I’m certain these cops aren’t bad men. They don’t have to be. History is littered with good men doing terrible things to others because “it’s the law.“  That is the real crime. Remaining complicit in that is what allows it to continue. It is absolutely right to say that the problem begins with the law forcing the cop into a false dichotomy between causing harm and potentially losing his livelihood.

Which is why sometimes both fighting a bad law and drawing attention to its enforcement are necessary. If you don’t believe that, I’ll assume you never go above 55 on the highway, or that you’d never oppose a cop enforcing any law, no matter how tyrannical. Where would you draw the line? If we have determined that a law is wrong, is the enforcement thereof not also wrong? With so many states taking a stand against federal marijuana law, and a majority of US citizens believing the law to be unjust, there has never been a better time for police officers and local departments to choose to devote their resources elsewhere.

 

 

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