Why I Am a (Small “L”) Libertarian by Val Muller

Once in a while, people seeing the Gadsden flag on my car ask me what it’s all about. Does it mean I’m a Tea Partier? What is the Tea Party? Does it mean I’m a racist? An anarchist? What do libertarians believe? A few years ago, I was afraid to express my views. It just wasn’t cool to be anything other than a bleeding-heart liberal, and the whole “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” made me fear that if I expressed my views, I’d have no friends. Both Democrats and Republicans seem to be offended by libertarians, after all.

But over the past few years, as I’ve started coming out of my political shell, I’ve been approached by a surprising number of people—many of whom I would never have suspected of sharing my views—thanking me for standing up and speaking my mind. They confide in me, often in private, that they share my feelings about the nature of our excessive government and the way in which voters are being manipulated by both parties. Many fear that expressing their views will automatically label them “racists” or “ignorant,” and though they may share my views, they are certainly not vocal about sharing them with others. I am writing this in part to dispel the hateful, thoughtless name-calling that leads citizens to live in fear of expressing their opinions, and to  express logically—without charged emotion or mudslinging—my beliefs and those of like-minded thinkers.

Divisive Politics
As an independent thinker, I have voted for both Democrats and Republicans. I have been disappointed by members of both parties, and I’m usually stuck voting for “the lesser of two evils.” What I’ve been most disgusted by in past years is the way both parties set citizens against each other. During presidential election season, I feel like I’m living in a perpetual high-school pep rally. “You’re the other team—you’re inherently bad! We’re going to whoop you good!” Indeed, the way most political commercials (and news coverage, which nowadays is anything but news on both sides of the spectrum) present candidates is in the most divisive way possible, riling up viewers the same way students are riled up by the drum-beat of a pep rally. “Look how terrible the other side is! Remember that you hate them! We’ve got to defeat them!”

This type of “communication” is destructive and wrong. If you ask most people to explain their beliefs without considering one party or the other, most people will agree on most things: people who work hard should be able to keep their money, the government should not intrude on our rights, bureaucracy and red tape lead to inefficiency, people should help those in need, people should be able to live the way they want to without imposing themselves on others and without being imposed upon.

The things people disagree on are minor in comparison, and most issues could be solved by logical discussion and clear-headed compromise. Not to mention the fact that most issues would go away if people were just left alone. But if this were the case—if people were able to solve political issues in a non-divisive, rational way—those with power would lose their power. And so the (mostly federal) government—both parties—perpetuate a culture of hatred in order to secure their own power. By design, our government has been progressively growing—millimeter by millimeter, and now meter by meter—so that the system is now so unwieldy that any change must now be pushed through via cumbersome legislation. And that means more regulators and bureaucrats, all indentured to those legislators for their jobs. Those in office have nothing to gain by creating a more efficient system that actually solves problems. No, this would leave no ills of the world to cure at the next campaign cycle, and so they continue to grow a system that forces people to turn to the government whenever there’s a problem that needs to be solved. The system grows as if on autopilot, decreasing in efficiency—in perpetuity.

Leave Me Alone, But Don’t Withhold Information
Libertarians have adopted the porcupine as their mascot. Not as cumbersome as the elephant or as stubborn as the donkey, the porcupine perfectly embodies the personality of a libertarian: leave me alone. And it’s as simple as that. Most of the “hot issues” that are tearing this country apart could be solved by that very phrase: leave me alone. If you don’t like the idea of abortion, then don’t have one. If you don’t agree with gay marriage, then don’t marry someone of the same gender. If you truly think these issues are against All Things Moral, then live your life the way you believe, and leave everyone else to be smitten by their God in the way He most sees fit. The opposite is true, too. Don’t take people’s tax dollars and force them to pay for things they may be opposed to. Let people keep more of their tax money and trust them to fund private charities and organizations that are vetted and monitored by actual human beings with a monetary interest in the outcome.

As an example, take Democrat Grover Cleveland. He had the right idea when he vetoed congressional relief for Texas farmers after a nasty flood. He said there was no warrant for government aid in the constitution, and such aid would deprive citizens of the opportunity to show themselves to be charitable. The outcome of his decision? Citizens around the nation rallied together—the same way we have benefit fundraisers today—to give the farmers the aid they needed to rebuild.

Imagine if our Medicare/Medicaid system were funded by individual, willing contributors. They would demand an immediate audit, and much of the waste and embezzlement would be found and stopped. After all, intelligent individuals (not a group of people putting faith in a faceless—and, dare I say, brainless?—government) would want such a system to be intact for themselves and their children. With our current system, no one really “owns” the problem, and there is no incentive to truly fix the system. After all, problems create jobs… for politicians.

Take welfare fraud. Yes, there are people who genuinely need to be on welfare. I believe there should be a safety net to make sure no one starves to death or freezes out on the street. But I also believe, like most libertarians, that such a need could be best served by the local community that knows the specific problems and the best ways to deliver the needed aid. While there are citizens who truly need welfare, there are plenty who game the system, living in planned poverty, gaining as much of other people’s money as possible while doing as little work as possible. They have admitted to it. If these beneficiaries accepted money from a private charity—one they had to look in the eye, a charity in their community with people who cared and wanted to help them better their position in life—it would be much more difficult to continue taking other people’s money without making any effort to become self-sufficient. In this way, our government has set up a system that encourages dependency. And why not? People who benefit from the system in perpetuity are also voters, and they will vote for the legislators who promise to continue providing their benefits. This is just fine with those in power. Why teach someone to be self-sufficient when you could instead create a perpetual dependent, someone whose dependency makes your own job more necessary? He who robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on Paul’s support at the ballot box. Who wants to teach a man to fish when that man can instead be beholden to you for his daily ration? Thus, the government creates dependency to grow its own power.

Sounds kind of like slavery to me.

What about all those useless projects that taxpayers funded as part of the stimulus package and other general government brilliant ideas? The bridge to nowhere in 2000. The tunnel to nowhere as part of the recent stimulus package. The study about alcohol use among Chinese prostitutes. Painting a building that was scheduled for demolition… There are many more, all government-funded and all just as ridiculous in light of actual needs that could have been served by such funds (for instance, our national infrastructure of bridges and roads is ready to crumble).

Would these projects have been approved if the stimulus was funded by private benefactors? But once again, the government is so large and unwieldy that no one knows what’s going on until the stupid decisions have already been made. Libertarians see unintended consequences before they happen. Many cried out against the Affordable Care Act not because they are heartless and want others to suffer, but because they saw how such an act would negatively affect the economy. Indeed, have you noticed that since the implementation of the ACA, most new job opportunities are part-time only—not requiring that the employer provide health care? That’s right—for the first 6 months of 2013, 97 percent of new jobs created were “part time” only (George Mason Mercatus Center).

Healthy Skepticism
Part of being a libertarian is a skepticism of the government—a healthy skepticism. Books like 1984 and Brave New World were not inspired by pure fantasy. Remember The X-Files? Trust no one. Somehow, Hitler came to power and convinced his followers to exterminate Jews. Somehow, Mussolini came to power, as did Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot… When everyone is thinking the same way, it’s easy to be drawn in. In fact, a sad statistic is to look at 20th Century wars, which killed around 35 – 40 million people. These were actually declared wars when one blatant cause was fighting another declared enemy. Tragic, indeed. But 130-150 million people are estimated to have been murdered by despots and communist regimes—by government—with no wars declared, just dictators being dictators.

As citizens, the power of education and information can prevent this from happening—but only if people stay informed and don’t just accept what they’re being told. For me, with this in mind, a recent statement by President Obama was especially disturbing. He said, at a recent commencement address, “Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave, and creative, and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.” Being a libertarian means remembering that our “experiment in self-rule” was designed against an oppressive regime, and we know what they say about repeating history…

Whether people hear something so frequently they start to believe it, or fear speaking out, whether they convince themselves to follow what they know is wrong, or through silence have given their consent, people throughout history have allowed bad ideas to grow into terrible outcomes.

Libertarians believe that questioning those in power is imperative—they do not blindly follow the Right or the Left, and in fact there are disagreements among libertarians about many issues. Healthy debate is—healthy. Forming factions—Right and Left, Republican and Democrat—leads to a tribal mentality in which people abandon all reason and resort to name-calling and polarized division. Anger and fear. The name-calling is the last resort of a group of people who have abandoned reason and simply want to strike out at any opposition. They don’t want to recognize that they share common ground with the “enemy.” Just as politicians hope, these factionalized groups don’t want to admit that the government is actually the enemy. It is causing inefficiencies in order to cause anger and fear, to divide the people, to grow its own power and thereby disempower citizens—to perpetuate its own existence.

States’ Rights
There are issues that need to be addressed through law, one way or another. Libertarians recognize this and advocate for states’ rights. This country was designed to give states more power than the federal government. Things like drug legalization, education, abortion, and gun laws should all be decided at the state level. This country has fifty laboratories to try ways of government. People can consider policies and economic opportunities, rights and intrusions, and vote with their feet. By looking at one state’s laws and policies (and the results of them), another state can decide which ones to adopt and which to avoid. California immediately jumps to mind. Its laws and policies, much more intrusive than those of other states, have led it its economic collapse. The federal government, if it was smart or cared about being efficient and effective, could learn from such a cautionary tale. People who want more government in their lives can move to a state with a higher tax rate and more state government programs. People who believe they can spend their money more effectively can move to a state that is less intrusive.

The Importance of Consequences
The reason some of the poor decisions of legislators are not immediately apparent is the lack of consequences in general, a trend libertarians bemoan. The reason a free market (not crony capitalism) works is there are no bailouts. If people and businesses make stupid decisions, they should have to face the consequences. With no implied government bailouts or requirements, lenders would not make bad loans. The same can be said for any decision made by an individual. If our society simply let people face the true consequences of their decisions, people would become much less careless—overnight!

Take, for instance, the issue of texting while driving. Sure it’s illegal in most states, and of course it’s a dumb idea. What if, instead of making it illegal, we told people that if they caused an accident while texting, they had to pay for all the damages. All of the expenses that resulted—the damaged cars, the medical/funeral bills of the victims. As it stands now, there is a “bailout.” Careless people can rely on their auto insurance to insulate them from the true consequences of texting while driving. Knowing they had to pay the true cost of such a decision, the behavior would stop quickly. With health insurance, we see a similar trend. Insurance companies have all kinds of charts and schedules so that no one really knows—or cares—what the true cost of health care is or should be. During a hospital stay, a dose of Tylenol might cost dozens of dollars—the cost of many bottles at the store. Why do people put up with such costs? Because insurance usually pays for it, and the hospital knows it can get away with charging that amount. Health care is an extension of crony capitalism. Policies and legislation have distorted the true costs and thus allowed inefficiency and ineffectiveness into the system. Schools, too, demonstrate our modern lack of consequences. Many schools make it difficult to fail—and not in a good way. Things like social promotion to the next grade level and floor grades (mandatory scores even for work not turned in) make it easy for students to face few, if any, consequences of not doing their work or not really learning. If we return to the age when students are allowed to fail, it would make them take their work more seriously.

Conclusion
Libertarians might be called racists, but they simply want to question the policies of those in power. They hate equally any policies that remove rights, whether those policies are implemented by someone who is Black, White, Yellow, or Brown. They are equal-opportunity critics.

Libertarians might be called cold-hearted because they advocate letting businesses keep more of their money and disagree with legislation such as minimum wage laws. In reality, libertarians simply understand that free market economy—not the crony capitalism that has taken firm root in America—will take care of these issues. With supply and demand, businesses and workers will reach a compromise. Workers will refuse to work under terrible, low-paying conditions, but employers will refuse to pay excessive salaries and benefits for basic jobs. If a business cannot attract enough qualified workers at a certain wage, they will have to raise their wages or risk going out of business. A happy medium will be reached without government interference, and that medium will change with changing economic times. Without government intervention via legislation requiring banks to fill certain quotas in approving mortgages, and without the government implying backing of terrible, high-risk loans, the housing crisis wouldn’t have happened. When people own businesses, they make sure their decisions are smart and well-founded, and they consider the consequences. When the government creates legislation, businesses stop thinking for themselves—whether out of force or habit—and make stupid decisions that affect everyone involved. Libertarians want to end crony capitalism and let businesses fail (yes, they can fail!) or succeed on their own merits—on whether they can provide goods and services to the community at a price the community is willing to pay. Those businesses that flourish will provide jobs and goods to the community. Those that fail (because they cannot efficiently and effectively provide for a community’s needs) will go out of business, leaving an opening for a new entrepreneur.

Libertarians might be called ignorant. Just because they question programs that benefit a segment of the population doesn’t mean they just aren’t educated enough to see the benefit of helping said population. In fact, it’s usually quite the opposite. While libertarians recognize the need to help others, they realize that government programs—full of pork and embezzlement—are never the most efficient way to do so. When they call for a recall or resignation, they do so because they see their rights trampled. Taking away one person’s money or rights to help another is a violation of freedom. Charity is voluntary. Mandatory charity is not charity. It’s robbery.

In fact, Libertarians don’t like when the government makes value judgments at all. Why should one income bracket pay a higher percentage than another? Many libertarians favor a flat tax, or even a value-added tax in place of any and all income and property taxes. A tax that affects everyone equally will cause more people to question the necessity of wasteful programs—and make many realize how much more efficiently private citizens can create programs.

As a hard worker, I resent that the government makes a value judgment, telling me that as I earn more money, a higher percentage of my money will be taken. I burn the candle at both ends, working a full-time job and then coming home to work two business endeavors of my own that deprive me of sleep and leisure. Why, then, should someone who comes home from work, lounges in front of the television, and sleeps for eight hours a night be told they owe a smaller percent of their income to the government? A flat tax would still mean I would pay more money than someone who makes less than me—we would simply be taxed at an equal rate, making everyone have an equal stake in the decisions the government makes, and removing the government’s ability to make a value judgment on how we should spend our time. Those in power fear this idea. If everyone had a stake in what the government did with its money, more citizens would start to question inefficient, ineffective, and corrupt programs. Citizens would demand these programs be audited and even shut down. And that would mean less power for those in charge.

And for legislators, less power means no more job.

Libertarianism is for anyone who questions the motives of those in power—those career politicians who continue to create problems they can then “fix” (if only you’ll elect them for another term). It’s for anyone who has ever looked at the Republican and Democratic candidates and felt that voters weren’t truly being presented with an actual choice. It’s for anyone whose property rights have been trampled, for anyone who has spilled gasoline while attempting to use the new EPA-approved plastic “no spill,” “environmentally-safe” containers. It’s for anyone who has walked through pesticide-treated grass without knowing because the landscaping company, following government mandates, provided the bare minimum number of “pesticide application” signs. It’s for anyone who has waited too long at the DMV, or showered too long while trying to rinse off shampoo with a low-flow showerhead, or wondered why the USPS removed clocks from their lobbies, or wondered why the government treats its citizens like children who just can’t make smart decisions on their own.

Libertarianism is for people who question why taxpayer-funded EBT cards can be used on unhealthy snacks at convenience stores—and wonder whether, if EBT users had to spend their own money, they would be more prudent with the way they spent it. It’s for anyone who has ever thought, “if my employer would just stop with the paperwork and let me actually do my job, think of all the things I could accomplish!” It’s for dreamers and entrepreneurs who can conceive new, more efficient ways of providing goods and services and wish it were easier to start a business. It’s for those who believe the best way to help others is not to lower everyone to the lowest common denominator, but to allow every person to reach his highest potential, thereby increasing opportunities for everyone. It’s for those who believe that freedom is the greatest enjoyment in life—the freedom to worship as you please, to live as you please, where you please, with whom you please—and that the greatest travesty on earth is when a government steps in and, regardless of the reason, threatens to take that freedom for the benefit of anything other than the individual’s right to work hard for his own betterment and enjoy life as he wishes to live it.

Contributor Spotlight: Svetlana Kortchik

We have the pleasure of featuring “Sixteen Days Ago” in our anthology, Forging Freedom. The story appears in the section, Imagining Freedom: Fictional Tales of Freedoms Lost, Sought, and Won.

Tell us about yourself.

I was born in Russia in a small Siberian town called Tomsk. When I was growing up, we moved around a lot and I spent a lot of time in Kazakhstan and Ukraine. I moved to Australia with my mum when I was 16 and have lived in Sydney ever since. I have degrees in computer science and history, and have worked as a computer programmer for many years. At the moment I am taking a year off work and concentrating on traveling and writing.

Tell us about your story in Forging Freedom.

My story is about breaking free from the ties that bind us to our lives and pursuing a future far from the familiarity of home. It’s about making difficult choices and living with the consequences. I was inspired to write this story after watching a documentary about Ellis Island in its heyday and the destinies of thousands of migrants who walked through its gates in search of a better life.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

As a child I was fascinated with books and read non-stop. I drove my parents crazy reading at meal times and in the middle of the night. I’ve even been known to skip school so I could finish a particularly interesting book. I first started writing at university. It was mostly poetry and an occasional short story in Russian. I had a long break from writing after graduating but took it up again when I went back to university to do my history degree. I am glad that I did because writing is one of the things that make me happy.

What’s the strangest place you’ve ever been?

Australia is definitely the most unusual but also the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited. It was definitely love at first sight when I moved there as a teenager. I love the climate, the ocean, the people, the lifestyle. I feel very lucky to call Australia my home. Out of all the places I’ve been to in Australia, Fraser Island is probably the most interesting. It is the largest sand island in the world and with its sand dunes, rainforests and freshwater lakes, it is absolutely amazing. It is the only place in the Eastern Australia where you can still see purebred dingoes in the wild.

What’s your favorite scene or location in the work you’re currently promoting, and why? 

The novel I am currently working on is based in Kiev, where I spent a few years as a child. Writing about the places I love so much has been incredible. Khreshchatyk, in particular, holds a lot of childhood memories. It is the most famous street in Ukraine and until a few years ago it was cobbled all the way through. It’s one of the symbols of Kiev with its tall buildings, upmarket cafes and beautiful chestnut trees. Whenever I’m in Kiev, it is usually one of the first places I visit.

What book or author has been most inspirational for you, and why?

I have always loved Alexandre Dumas and his perceptive, thought-provoking novels. His books transport us into the times long past and let us experience customs that are very different from our own. His world is full of adventures, heroic escapades and intrigues, as well as acute insights into life and relationships. My favourite novel is the Count of Monte-Cristo. It portrays human spirit at its strongest, capable of withstanding great hardships only to come back more triumphant than ever. The contemporary author that I admire the most is Paullina Simons. I love her novel, The Bronze Horseman. It’s a tale of war and survival that shows that true love does conquer all.

If you were to be stranded on a desert island, what non-survival item would you bring along that you couldn’t live without?

My laptop. It would allow me to write and read all my favourite books. And if by some miracle the desert island happened to have broadband, I would be able to check my Facebook, Skype my family and friends and possibly get rescued, too.

Are you working on any other projects at the moment?

I am currently working on my first novel, which is based in German-occupied Ukraine. Having lived in Kiev for three years, this story is very close to my heart. Writing and researching it has been a remarkable and at times overwhelming experience.

Forging Freedom was published September 17 on Constitution Day. The book features fiction and non-fiction stories from authors around the world.

Written by veterans, entrepreneurs, citizens, and writers from all walks of life, the book contains fictional tales of freedoms lost and won, essays on the current state of freedom throughout the world, and stories of freedoms imagined in a distant future or whimsical world. 

“The contributors of Forging Freedom come from all walks of life, but are bound by their burning passion for liberty,” Michelle Malkin, author, blogger, and small business owner, “Read this book. Share these stories with your children. Keep the flame burning!”

Reason Magazine’s Katherine Mangu-Ward called the anthology, “A fun, fast, and fascinating read for anyone who loves liberty.”

Forging Freedom is available on Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle), BarnesandNoble.com, and from the Freedom Forge Press publisher direct store.

 

Harry Reid Says Tea Partiers Are “Anarchists” and “Fanatics”

Today the US Senate began debating the House-passed bill that would fund government operations through December 15 in a “continuing resolution” budget process and also defund the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The Politico reports Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, referred to Tea Party advocates and conservatives as “fanatics” and as “anarchists.”

Point of order, Mr. Reid. An anarchist believes that there should be no government. But the chart below captures government spending on a per capita basis since nigh unto the beginning of the Republic. (Yes, the chart is adjusted for inflation.) Clearly there is no lack of government presence in our everyday lives. The 20th Century, with the rise of the liberal progressive movement, saw an explosion of federal spending and a far expanded role for Uncle Sam. Even to the point where the FY 2013 US Government budget is nearly twice the level of spending that was incurred to finance World War II.

So to refer to people who believe in budget reductions and a more modest role for the federal government as “anarchists” clearly fails to establish any logical nexus with reality. Ah, but this is politics and budget making in Washington DC! What hath logic and reality to do with budgets?!

But as you see the line of spending per person marching ever upward, the numbers don’t tell the complete story. What is the government doing with all this money? As progressive statists like to ask, “if it weren’t for the federal government, who would build roads?!” But the federal government doesn’t spend any considerable portion of its budget on road-building.

Nearly 65 percent of the federal budget goes to transfer payments–a literal taking of money from some and distribution to others. These are the big item programs that many are familiar with: Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and paying interest on the existing national debt. These programs require no annual appropriation from the Congress, no debate on program effectiveness, no debate on financial sustainability, and no debate on appropriate spending levels. The annual budget growth for these programs is as close to being “on auto pilot” as one can get.

To the 65 percent of the budget above, another 25 percent pays for defense expenses. A large military presence with over 900 installations and more troops deployed outside of the US in non-combat operations than in combat roles is a debate for another day. (E.g., for an unknown reason, the US maintains approximately 9,000 troops in the UK–perhaps to colonize our former mother country?)

If you’ve done the math, then you know that there’s only about 10 percent of the overall federal budget pie left. That’s 1 dollar for every 10 collected for federal support of education, federal law enforcement, even to build all the roads that the progressives insist we must pay higher taxes for. This is the portion of the budget Congress actually debates on an annual basis with any real impact to spending.

This is the small part of the budget that funds the IRS to produce Star Trek parody videos and harass the Tea Party that Harry Reid loves so much. This is where the Department of Homeland Security finds billions of dollars to stockpile more ammunition per person than the US Army. This is where the Environmental Protection Agency finds money to harass farmers. This is where NASA is funded not to conduct manned space missions but to engage in Muslim outreach, to make them feel better about their historical contributions to science. This is where the NSA finds funding to violate the Bill of Rights’s Fourth Amendment guarantees against government spying on its own law-abiding citizens. And on, and on, and on.

All of these things are examples of government encroachment on our freedom to conduct our everyday lives without government interference. We believe one of the things that has made America great is the power of the individual to strive to make the world better–using his or her individual freedom and a free marketplace. So we hope that Mr. Reid can forgive us if we have a very difficult time believing that he has any credibility whatsoever when he starts a food fight at the lunch table and calls anyone a “fanatic” or an “anarchist” who simply wants to curb the federal government’s ever-increasing lust for more money and more power at the expense of individual freedom and liberty.

Contributor Spotlight: Kevin G. Summers

We have the pleasure of featuring “American Excalibur” in our anthology, Forging Freedom. The story appears in Ancestors & Inspirations: Essays, Accounts, and Creative Nonfiction.

Tell us about yourself.

I live on a farm in Rappahannock County, Virginia where I’m teaching my kids (and myself) to live off the fat of the land as much as possible.  We work hard, but it’s a good life.  When I’m not farming, I’m either writing or teaching writing.  I’m proud to say that two of my students have stories in this anthology.

Tell us about your story in Forging Freedom.

My essay is about John Brown, the first white man to take up arms in an attempt to end human slavery.  It is a little-known fact that during the Harpers Ferry Raid, John Brown was wearing a sword once owned by George Washington.  My essay chronicles my personal quest to locate the sword, as well as some thoughts on the symbolism of both the sword and Brown’s sacrifice.  Most history teachers just say that Brown was crazy, but I don’t think that’s true.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Ever since I was a small child.  My mother was taking master’s classes at George Mason University, and half the time she drug me along to class.  I was sitting in the back while she was being lectured by John Irving and John Gardner and James Dickey, and then we would go out to this pizza joint afterwards and talk about writing.  I was drinking Coke while everyone else was drinking beer, and I thought that these were the coolest people in the world.  I wanted to be just like them.

Who is your favorite character in your book, and why?

John Brown.  Why?  Because he wasn’t afraid to do what he thought was right, what he believed God wanted him to do, even though everyone else in the country thought he was wrong.  He was willing to sacrifice everything in order to make other men free.  That, friends, is what America is supposed to be all about.

What’s your favorite scene or location in the work you’re currently promoting, and why?

The climax of my story, The Bell Curse, takes place at the Shore-Leave science fiction convention.  This is a real convention outside of Maryland where I’ve been an author guest several times.  It amazingly author-friendly, and it was fun to set a scene amongst Trekkies and Trekkers and the like.

What book or author has been most inspirational for you, and why?

Stephen King’s On Writing.  I’d imagine that quite a few authors would list that book.  For me, this is the book that I go back to whenever I’m feeling discouraged about my work.  He’s the best selling author in the world, but he remembers when he was living in a trailer and wondering how he was going to pay his medical bills.  He remembers what it’s like to be a struggling author and his words are honest and inspiring.  I would also list Drawing Out The Dragons by James A. Owen.  It’s a book about Owen’s struggles to overcome any creative setback due primarily to his outlook on life.  James Owen is a superhero, and his book is worth checking out for any creative person.

If you were to be stranded on a desert island, what non-survival item would you bring along that you couldn’t live without?

My wife and kids.  There’s no need to rescue us, we would be just fine.

Take any two of your favorite stories, what interesting mashups could you see (hero/villain hero/hero cooperation villain/villain domination)?

Moby Dickhead by Herman Vonnegut.  The tale of Kilgore Trout, an embedded reporter on the whaler Pequod.

Where can readers find you? (blogs, website, facebook, twitter, etc.)?

www.kevingsummers.com, www.facebook.com/KevinGSummersauthor, www.twitter.com/KevinGSummers

 

 

 

 

 

Forging Freedom was published September 17 on Constitution Day. The book features fiction and non-fiction stories from authors around the world.

Written by veterans, entrepreneurs, citizens, and writers from all walks of life, the book contains fictional tales of freedoms lost and won, essays on the current state of freedom throughout the world, and stories of freedoms imagined in a distant future or whimsical world. 

“The contributors of Forging Freedom come from all walks of life, but are bound by their burning passion for liberty,” Michelle Malkin, author, blogger, and small business owner, “Read this book. Share these stories with your children. Keep the flame burning!”

Reason Magazine’s Katherine Mangu-Wardcalled the anthology, “A fun, fast, and fascinating read for anyone who loves liberty.”

Forging Freedom is available on Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle), BarnesandNoble.com, and from the Freedom Forge Press publisher direct store.

Forging Freedom Released on Constitution Day

Today the United States celebrates the 226th anniversary of its Constitution, the world’s shortest and oldest national governing document. After its experience with colonial rule and a failed loose confederation of states shortly following the American Revolution, representatives from the states gathered to define the operating principles and lay the foundation for a pragmatic government that could still effectively manage national affairs but not become so large as to usurp the powers of the states or threaten the rights of citizens. (Celebrate Constitution Day by checking out some US Constitution fun facts).
The President has been recorded as referring to the Constitution as a “charter of negative liberties.” He only has it half right, which makes him fully wrong. Yes, the Constitution may be thought of as a “negative charter” because it limits the powers of the national government. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights even use the words “no” and “shall not” a total of 59 times in the space of only 5,000 words. But where the president is wrong is his assumption that limiting government somehow translates to negative liberties. Quite the opposite: citizens are free and liberties are maximized when the government’s powers are limited.

Nearly 21 months ago, we began work on a project to give people from all walks of life an opportunity to tell their stories on what freedom means to them. Some did so by telling stories from their family history, some shared from their talents with prose and story plots, and some shared their experiences while advocating for the idea that a limited government increases prospects of freedom for all.

The resulting project is our inaugural book, Forging Freedom, which we dedicated “To those who deny themselves power so that others may be free.” We are proud of our authors, and we are proud to be releasing the book on a date marked by a day long ago when men of power representing the lands and states they loved dearly joined together to create an operating document for our federal government. Their efforts were aimed at ensuring that government’s power remained limited so people could remain free.

You can find Forging Freedom in paperback and for Kindle readers on Amazon.com or at our publisher’s store tab at the top of the page.

 

 

Obama’s Syria Address Another Example of Misunderstanding America’s Founding Values

President Obama discussed American exceptionalism during his Syria speech. But he knows nothing of America’s true exceptionalism and its role in preserving freedom.

In the closing lines of his address to the nation attempting to justify the use of military strikes against Syria, President Obama showed yet again how little he understands (or values) America’s founding principles, which are essential to freedom.

The president said this:

America is not the world’s policeman.  Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong.  But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.  That’s what makes America different.  That’s what makes us exceptional.  With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.

Here we pause for just a moment to remind you–and the president, of his earlier remarks regarding “American exceptionalism.”

“I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I expect the Brits believe in British exceptionalism; just as the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Which at its core meaning is to say, he does NOT believe in exceptionalism at all. If everyone is exceptional, then no one is. As the word suggests, “exceptional” refers to something being unusual or an “exception” to the rule.

Does the president truly believes in American exceptionalism? Or was he merely using it as the tagline for a 15-minute commercial attempting to swing wildly unpopular opinion for his desire to start another military conflict in the Middle East?

American exceptionalism is not to say that the US is the world’s policeman or is unusual because it has economic or military strength. It does not mean that Americans are “better” than Obama’s Brits or Greeks–or anyone else for that matter. It doesn’t mean America deserves a larger seat at the world’s table of decision makers because we think we are special.

The true meaning of American exceptionalism can be traced back to the founding of the country and the values and principles that were infused into the Constitution as written in 1787.  America was exceptional or an exception to the rule at that time because in an age of kings and queens and despotic rulers, a country was founded where rule would be by the consent of the governed not by a “divine right of kings” or a “mandate from heaven” claimed by despots.

At a time in the world’s history of serfs and subjects, existing by the grace and mercy of a liege lord or a sovereign, the American Declaration of Independence boldy declared that “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” Put another way, rights were recognized as existing in nature, as blessings from a Creator, not as privileges that are granted by a government. In America the government’s purpose is to secure these rights, not to grant them in exchange for political favors.

The US Constitution limits government’s power–establishing the principle of governing by consent of the people or the idea that Americans are citizens, not subjects. But this principle is lost on one such as Barack Obama. He views the US Constitution not as promoting freedom and individual liberty. No, to him, the Constitution is like “a charter of negative liberties” because it only states what the government cannot do to its citizens; it does not charge the government to take actions (such as redistributing wealth) on  behalf of citizens.

Imagine the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights that you hold dear, whatever they may be (or all of them). Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to keep and bear arms in one’s own defense, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, right to a jury trial, freedom from testifying against yourself, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment (partial list). To Barack Obama these things are “negative liberties.” They do not grant the government the power to do what it wants, these rights only provide people guarantees of freedom from government action.

Thus, to Obama, and those that think the way he does, the Constitution is not a great document. It is not great because it tells the government it cannot infringe on people’s rights. The Constitution is flawed because it does not empower the government to act on the behalf of some, at the expense of others. Examples of what progressive statists have in mind of what the government should be empowered to do are similar to the “rights” that the Soviet constitution offered its subjects–or the rights that FDR attempted to propose in a “Second Bill of Rights” in the 1940s, such as a right to employment, a right to a living wage, healthcare, housing, education and social security–even food, clothing, and recreation.

But Liberty is:  the quality or state of being free (thank you Merriam-Webster):

a :  the power to do as one pleases
b :  freedom from physical restraint
c :  freedom from arbitrary or despotic control
d :  the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges
e :  the power of choice

Because to give the kinds of things to people that progressive statists want, the government needs more power, not less. They need the power to tell you what to eat; what to put in your car–if you even get to have one; power to decide if you will receive medical treatment, or the power to kill you if it deems you are too expensive and too useless to keep around. They need power to tell you where you can live, how big of a house is too much, when you’ve made too much money, how much electricity you will be allowed to consume, and so on.

But these are not liberties according to the common sense definition above. Freedom and liberty exist when people are not told what to do–this is the exact opposite. To Barack Obama, the obvious definition of freedom and liberty doesn’t come about by limiting the government’s power over its people. To him those are “negative liberties” (even though they apply only to the government). To Barack Obama, liberty only exists when the government has the power to grant its citizens the material things that will seem to bring them happiness. And while some may claim this fits into definition “d” above, that is not true. The things that the government grants must be produced by or paid for by someone. The arbitrary seizure of property in order to redistribute it to someone else fits clearly into a definition of “arbitrary or despotic control.”

The meaning of actual freedom–that is the real world definition and not that of a learned constitutional scholar–matches the idea present at America’s birth: that freedom exists in nature and it is government’s job to secure it for their people. Barack Obama’s interpretation is more in line with the vision that governments must take more power in order to grant rights to their people. But this idea, despite being forwarded by self-proclaimed “progressives” as they like to call themselves, is quite regressive. It diverts us back to the world from which America emerged as an exceptional nation–a world where citizens are subjects rather than the masters of their own destiny that they can be in a free society.

Barack Obama does not identify with the values that were forged into the American constitution. These are the ideas that allowed individual freedom to take hold and propel the country to its present stature. These ideas and values are foreign to him. Leaving us to ask, if Barack Obama knows nothing of the true exceptionalism from whence America came, how can he claim the moral authority to lead its government?