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Category Archives: Libertarianism

Theres no right to infect – Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Posted: July 21, 2020 at 1:06 pm

"I don't need a mask!" declared the San Diego woman to a Starbucks barista. The woman apparently believed she had a right to enter mask-free, contrary to the coffee bar's policy.

A surprising number of Americans treat expectations of mask-wearing during the coronavirus pandemic in a similar way as if these expectations were paternalistic, limiting people's liberty for their own good. They are dead wrong.

Their thinking reflects what we might call "faux libertarianism," a deformation of the classic liberal theory. Libertarianism is the political and moral philosophy according to which everyone has rights to life, liberty and property and various specific rights that flow from these fundamental ones.

Libertarian rights are rights of noninterference, rather than entitlements to be provided with services. So your right to life is a right not to be killed and does not include a right to life-sustaining health care services. And your right to property is a right to acquire and retain property through your own lawful actions, not a right to be provided with property.

Libertarianism lies at the opposite end of the political spectrum from socialism, which asserts positive rights to such basic needs as food, clothing, housing and health care. According to libertarianism, a fundamental right to liberty supports several more specific rights, including freedom of movement, freedom of association and freedom of religious worship. Neither the state nor other individuals may violate these rights of competent adults for their own protection. To do so would be unjustifiably paternalistic, say libertarians, treating grown-ups as if they needed parenting.

Why do I claim that Americans who resist mask-wearing in public embrace faux libertarianism, a disfigured version of the classic liberty-loving philosophy? Because they miss the fact that a compelling justification for mask-wearing rules is not paternalistic at all not focused on the agent's own good but rather appeals to people's responsibilities regarding public health. This point is entirely consistent with libertarianism.

Consider your right to freedom of movement. This right does not include a right to punch someone in the face, unless you both agree to a boxing match, and does not include a right to enter someone else's house without an invitation. Rights extend only so far.

Once we appreciate that rights have boundaries, rather than being limitless, we can see the relationship between liberty rights and public health.

Your rights to freedom of movement, freedom of association, and so on do not encompass a prerogative to place others at undue risk. This idea justifies our sensible laws against drunk driving. So even a libertarian can, and should, applaud Starbucks and its barista for insisting on mask-wearing during the coronavirus pandemic.

The fallacy of faux libertarianism is thinking that liberty rights have unlimited scope. That would mean there could be no legitimate laws or social norms since all laws and norms limit liberty in some way or another. Then the only legitimate government would be no government at all. And if no social norms were legitimate, then each of us would lack not only legal rights but also moral rights. In that case, we would have no right to liberty or anything else.

I am no fan of libertarianism, which I find problematic. But it is far more compelling than its incoherent impostor, faux libertarianism. Mask up, people, before you enter crowded, public spaces!

David DeGrazia is the Elton Professor of Philosophy at George Washington University.

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The Disastrous Handling of the Pandemic is Libertarianism in Action, Will Americans Finally Say Good Riddance? – CounterPunch

Posted: at 1:06 pm

We have now reached peak Libertarianism, and this bizarre experiment that has been promoted by the billionaire class for over 40 years is literally killing us.

Back in the years before Reagan, a real estate lobbying group called the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) came up with the idea of creating a political party to justify deregulating the real estate and finance industries so they could make more money. The party would give them ideological and political cover, and they developed an elaborate theology around it.

It was called the Libertarian Party, and their principal argument was that if everybody acted separately and independently, in all cases with maximum selfishness, that that would benefit society. There would be no government needed beyond an army and a police force, and a court system to defend the rights of property owners.

In 1980, billionaire David Koch ran for vice president on the newly formed Libertarian Party ticket. His platform was to privatize the Post Office, shut down all public schools, privatize Medicare and Medicaid, end food stamps and all other forms of welfare, deregulate all corporate oversight, and sell off much of the federal governments land and other assets to billionaires and big corporations.

Since then, Libertarian billionaires and right-wing media have been working hard to get Americans to agree with Ronald Reagans statementfrom his first inaugural address that, [G]overnment is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.

And Trump is getting us there now.

Every federal agency of any consequence is now run by a lobbyist or former industry insider.

The Labor Department is trying to destroy organized labor; the Interior Department is selling off our public lands; the EPA is promoting deadly pesticides and allowing more and more pollution; the FCC is dancing to the tune of giant telecom companies; the Education Department is actively working to shut down and privatize our public school systems; the USDA is shutting down food inspections; the Defense Department is run by a former weapons lobbyist; even the IRS and Social Security agencies have been gutted, with tens of thousands of their employees offered early retirement or laid off so that very, very wealthy people are no longer being audited and the wait time for a Social Security disability claim is now over two years.

The guy Trump put in charge of the Post Office is actively destroying the Post Office, and the bonus for Trump might be that this will throwa huge monkey wrench in any effort to vote by mail in November.

Trump has removed the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, and fossil fuel lobbyists now control Americas response to global warming.

Our nations response to the coronavirus has been turned over to private testing and drug companies, and the Trump administration refuses to implement any official government policy, with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar saying that its all up to individual responsibility.

The result is more than 140,000 dead Americans and 3 million infected, with many fearing for their lives.

While the Libertarian ideas and policies promoted by that real estate lobbying group that invented the Libertarian Party have made CEOs and billionaire investors very, very rich, its killing the rest of us.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt put America back together after the Republican Great Depression and built the largest and wealthiest middle class in the history of the world at the time.

Now, 40 years of libertarian Reaganomics have gutted the middle class, made a handful of oligarchs wealthier than anybody in the history of the world, and brought an entire generation of hustlers and grifters into public office via the GOP.

When America was still coasting on FDRs success in rebuilding our government and institutions, nobody took very seriously the crackpot efforts to tear it all down.

Now that theyve had 40 years to make their project work, were hitting peak Libertarianism and its tearing our country apart, pitting Americans against each other, and literally killing hundreds of people every day.

If America is to survive as a functioning democratic republic, we must repudiate the greed is good ideology of Libertarianism, get billionaires and their money out of politics, and rebuild our civil institutions.

That starts with waking Americans up to the incredible damage that 40 years of libertarian Reaganism has done to this country.

Pass it on.

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Justin Amash’s Tenure as the Libertarian Party’s First Member in Congress Will Be Shortlived – Reason

Posted: at 1:06 pm

Amash isn't runningfor anything. After Rep. Justin Amash's brief foray into seeking the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination, many thought that Amasha Tea Party Republican turned Trump-era independent and, now, Congress' first and only Libertarian membermight try to hold his seat representing Michigan in the House of Representatives. That's not to be.

Following a Detroit News report Thursday night that Amash's congressional campaign was inactive, Amash tweeted:

I love representing our community in Congress. I always will. This is my choice, but I'm still going to miss it. Thank you for your trust.

Amash adviser Poppy Nelson had told The Detroit News earlier that Amash "hasn't been campaigning for any office and doesn't plan to seek the nomination for any office."

The paper notes that Amash's campaign "raised only $24,200 for the quarter ending June 30another indication he's not running for federal office. He previously raised over $1.1 million toward re-election."

Amash was first elected to Congress in 2010 and has served five terms.

Nicholas Sarwark, former chairman of the Libertarian National Committee, told The Detroit News that with Amash "as our first Libertarian congressmanI would like to keep that seat. But I understand if he thinks there's a better way for him to advance the Libertarian Party and improve the conditions of this countrythat he has to do what he thinks is right."

More horrifying scenes out of Portland.Earlier this week, it was federal agents shooting impact munitions at protesters in Portland, Oregonhitting one man directly in the head, knocking him over and putting him in the hospital. At the time, Sen. Ron Wyden (DOre.) accused the feds of acting like an "occupying army." Now, unidentified federal agents wearing camouflage have been driving around Portland, snatching people off the streets, and taking them away in unmarked vehicles.

"Federal law enforcement officers have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters since at least July 14," Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.

Personal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off.

The tactic appears to be another escalation in federal force deployed on Portland city streets, as federal officials and President Donald Trump have said they plan to "quell" nightly protests outside the federal courthouse and Multnomah County Justice Center that have lasted for more than six weeks.

Another good reason to wear a mask. A May 22 memo from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) explores the agency's fears that widespread mask wearing will thwart federal facial recognition programs. The memo was "drafted by the DHS Intelligence Enterprise Counterterrorism Mission Center in conjunction with a variety of other agencies, including Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement," and brought to the public's attention by The Intercept.

In its own words, the intelligence memo discusses "the potential impacts that widespread use of protective masks could have on security operations that incorporate face recognition systemssuch as video cameras, image processing hardware and software, and image recognition algorithms."

"Violent extremists and other criminals who have historically maintained an interest in avoiding face recognition" may "opportunistically seize upon public safety measures recommending the wearing of face masks to hinder the effectiveness of face recognition systems in public spaces by security partners," the feds fret, while noting that they have "no specific information" about this actually happening.

The Homeland Security memo also "cites as cause for concern tactics used in recent pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong," notes The Intercept.

D.C. efforts to decriminalize psilocybin draw interference. Yesterday members of Congresswhich still has veto power over local D.C. lawsdebated a proposal to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms in the District. "We certainlydon't want to be known as the drug capital of the world," said Rep. Andy Harris (RMd.), who had introduced an amendment to forbid D.C. from putting the issue up for a vote this fall.

"We all can agree that policies that increase the availability of psychedelic drugs in the nation's capitalthat's dangerous," Rep. Tom Graves (RGa.) said at the House Appropriations Committee hearing.

Not all of the committee agreed.

"If the district's residents want to make mushrooms a lower priority and focus limited law enforcement resources on other issues, that is their prerogative," said Rep. Mike Quigley (DIll.).

Harris ultimately withdrew his amendmentfor now. "This is a new issue to the committee," he said in a statement. "Between now and the meeting of the conference committee this fall, the issue of whether this will be on the ballot will be resolved. Fortunately, in that time, members will also have time to learn more about this complicated medical issue."

America is seeing a dramatic shift in party affiliation. Since the start of the year, "what had been a two-percentage-point Republican advantage in U.S. party identification and leaning has become an 11-point Democratic advantage, with more of that movement reflecting a loss in Republican identification and leaning (down eight points) than a gain in Democratic identification and leaning (up five points)," notes Gallup:

Currently, half of U.S. adults identify as Democrats (32%) or are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party (18%). Meanwhile, 39% identify as Republicans (26%) or are Republican leaners (13%).

These results are based on monthly averages of Gallup U.S. telephone surveys in 2020.

Another federal execution took place yesterday:

It's impossible to reform policing without taking on police unions.

Florida man does a few things right.

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You don’t have the right to put others at risk by not wearing a mask – Newsday

Posted: at 1:06 pm

Newsday is opening this story to all readers so Long Islanders have access to important information about the coronavirus outbreak. All readers can learn the latest news at newsday.com/LiveUpdates.Your subscription is important because it supports our work covering the coronavirus outbreak and other strong local journalism Newsday provides. You can find the latest news on the coronavirus outbreak at newsday.com/LiveUpdates.

"I don't need a mask!" declared the San Diego woman to a Starbucks barista. The woman apparently believed she had a right to enter mask-free, contrary to the coffee bar's policy. A surprising number of Americans treat expectations of mask-wearing during the coronavirus pandemic in a similar way as if these expectations were paternalistic, limiting people's liberty for their own good. They are dead wrong.

Their thinking reflects what we might call "faux libertarianism," a deformation of the classic liberal theory known as libertarianism. Libertarianism is the political and moral philosophy according to which everyone has rights to life, liberty and property and various specific rights that flow from these fundamental ones. Libertarian rights are rights of noninterference, rather than entitlements to be provided with services. So your right to life is a right not to be killed and does not include a right to life-sustaining health care services. And your right to property is a right to acquire and retain property through your own lawful actions, not a right to be provided property.

Libertarianism lies at the opposite end of the political spectrum from socialism, which asserts positive rights to such basic needs as food, clothing, housing and health care. According to libertarianism, a fundamental right to liberty supports several more specific rights including freedom of movement, freedom of association and freedom of religious worship. Neither the state nor other individuals may violate these rights of competent adults for their own protection. To do so would be unjustifiably paternalistic, say libertarians, treating grown-ups as if they needed parenting.

Why do I claim that Americans who resist mask-wearing in public embrace faux libertarianism, a disfigured version of the classic liberty-loving philosophy? Because they miss the fact that a compelling justification for mask-wearing rules is not paternalistic at all not focused on the agent's but rather appeals to people's responsibilities regarding public health. This point is entirely consistent with libertarianism.

Consider your right to freedom of movement. This right does not include a right to punch someone in the face, unless you both agree to a boxing match, and does not include a right to enter someone else's house, without an invitation. Rights extend only so far. They do not encompass prerogatives to harm others (without their consent) or violate their rights. Once we appreciate that rights have boundaries, rather than being limitless, we can see the relationship between liberty rights and public health.

Your rights to freedom of movement, freedom of association, and so on do not encompass a prerogative to place others at undue risk; to endanger others in this way is to violate their rights, which you have no right to do. This idea justifies our sensible laws against drunk driving. So even a libertarian can, and should, applaud Starbucks and its barista for insisting on mask-wearing during the coronavirus pandemic. Whether or not the woman who said she didn't need a mask had a right to ignore her own health, she had no right to put other customers and Starbucks employees at risk either directly, by possibly spreading infection, or indirectly, by flouting a norm of mask-wearing that is reasonably related to public health and protecting other people from harm and rights violations.

The fallacy of faux libertarianism is thinking that liberty rights have unlimited scopes, that one's right to freedom of association, for example, means a right to get together with anyone, at any time, under any circumstances, even if doing so endangers others. If liberty rights had unlimited scopes, then there could be no legitimate laws or social norms since all laws and norms limit liberty in some way or another. That means that, if faux libertarianism were correct, then the only legitimate government would be no government at all, which is to say anarchy as opposed to civil society. And if no social norms were legitimate, then each of us would lack not only legal rights but also moral rights. In that case, we would have no right to liberty or anything else.

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Unlike libertarianism, which is a coherent outlook, faux libertarianism refutes itself by destroying any intelligible basis for rights to life, liberty, and property. I am no fan of libertarianism, which I find problematic at various levels. But it is far more compelling than its incoherent impostor, faux libertarianism. Mask up, people, before you enter crowded, public spaces!

David DeGraziais the Elton Professor of Philosophy at George Washington University. This piece was written for The Baltimore Sun.

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The Libertarian Case for Immigration (and Against Trump) – Lawfare

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PDF Version.

A Review of Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom by Ilya Somin (Cato Institute Book, Oxford University Press, 2020)

***

To hear President Trump tell it, open borders is a mantra of the radical Left. In his new book, Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom, the always engaging and resourceful Ilya Somin, a professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, proudly claims the open borders ground from a different end of the political spectrum. Somin offers a compelling and ingenious justification for free global movement, from the standpoint not of politics, let alone the radical Left, but instead from a libertarian, small-government perspective.

Recent events have also made Somins book more timely than ever. Immigration took center stage, for example, in the Supreme Courts June 2020 decision invalidating the Trump administrations attempted rescission of President Obamas Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program (see my Lawfare analysis here). And immigration law could soon be heading for a new chapter. A potential change in control of the White House and the Senate in the wake of the November elections could jump-start legislative immigration reform to help the Dreamers currently benefiting from DACA protections, as well as the rest of the United Statess estimated 12 million undocumented noncitizens.

I favor changes stemming from a moderate reformist perspective that relies principally on the political branches, checked by judicial review where appropriate. Somins bracing prescription, by contrast, is ultimately unduly strong medicine.

However, Somin makes a powerful argument for a broader right to free movement less dependent on the vicissitudes of politicsan argument with moral, political, economic and legal facets.

In keeping with Somins consistent approach to libertarian ideas, Free to Move champions international migration and critiques the economic, law enforcement and sovereignty rationales for immigration restrictions. Somin argues that people should be free to move across borders if they choose. Moreover, they should be free to do so for a range of reasons, including economic self-interest and the search for more responsive governance. According to Somin, free movement will enhance economic, social and political well-being. While most defenses of immigration restrictions cite economic and law enforcement concerns with open borders, Somin pushes back on these justifications for limits on immigration.

Somin also counters the sovereignty-based case for immigration curbs. The sovereignty position, as refined by the political philosopher Michael Walzer in his classic study, Spheres of Justice, holds that political and social entities must have the power to regulate the entry of free riders who would consume resources without contributing labor in return. Moreover, participants in self-government have the right to control the character of the entity that they govern. Walzers character does not necessarily mean a narrow focus on culture, and the theorist acknowledges that a state has a duty to admit refugees at risk of harm elsewhere.

Character in Walzers sense may extend to population density; residents may believe that a more dispersed population is more conducive to habits of leisure or a more relaxed pace of life. They may choose lower levels of immigration to preserve this attribute. Of course, there are responses to each of these character-based arguments. But Walzer would argue that a sovereign state must have the power to choose its own character after deliberating about its options.

Although Somins probing of all three rationales is salutary, he is ultimately more successful, as Ill explain, on the economy and law enforcement fronts than on the more basic question of sovereigntys role in immigration restrictions.

Somins titleFree to Movecaptures his theme: the virtues of people voting with their feet for a better life and better institutions. The phrase voting with your feet entails expressing a preference for particular goods, services or approaches by choosing to buy or otherwise support them instead of their rivals. People can also vote with their feet for particular political or economic systems. In Somins book, voting with your feet describes the choice of immigrants to leave one country for a better life in another. For example, as Somin recounts, he and the rest of his Jewish family suffered from anti-Semitism in the former Soviet Union. After suffering for too long under the U.S.S.R.'s oppressive regime, Somin and his family managed to vote with their feet for greater liberty in the United States. Somin explains that Soviet officials feared that large-scale foot voting would highlight the profound flaws in the Soviet system. That is one reason they limited would-be foot voters exit from Russia.

For Somin, foot voting often bests its more familiar counterpart, ballot box voting. Ballot box voters are subject to manipulationboth foreign and domestic. Moreover, each has only a small voice in selecting political representatives and the policies those representatives enact. In contrast, foot voters can often make a decisive and immediate change for the better. They can do this by leaving countries dominated by despotic and corrupt regimes and relocating to countries with more responsive institutions. Somin suggests that foot voting can act as a positive force in destination countries, bringing new experiences and initiative. In addition, foot voting can be a force for positive change in immigrants countries of origin.

Somin is most compelling in deflating the economic rationales for immigration restrictions. As Somin notes, immigrants generally spur employment and increase economic activity. Free movement across borders would allow people to select a spot to call home that would maximize their productivity. Unfortunately, many countries all over the world suffer from oppressive governments and pervasive corruption. These ills act as a tax on individual effort and creativity, stifling economic development and human flourishing. Able to set up shop in a country with better institutions, an immigrant can leverage her skills, acquire new skills and capabilities more readily, and boost the economic vitality of her destination country. Relying on other advocates for free movement across borders, Somin refers to the value added to individuals efforts when they relocate to countries with better governance as the place premium. Somin argues persuasively that this place premium, replayed in the lives of multiple eager newcomers to the United States, will exponentially increase both national and global wealth.

These economic gains are realized not only by destination countries but also by sending countries. Immigrants send back remittances that lift the economies of their countries of origin. Moreover, communication by immigrants with friends, relatives, and entities in sending countries exposes countries to new political and economic ideas. That exposure can impel political, social and economic change in immigrants countries of origin. In this way, freer immigration can also ultimately reduce the push factors of ineffective governance and static economies that drive immigration in the first place.

Foot voting also serves the ends of justice. Without foot voting, persons at risk of persecution will have far more limited remedies. Although the United States is part of international refugee agreements that provide asylum for persons with a well-founded fear of persecution, U.S. refugee protections have marked gaps. U.S. asylum officers are in the main dedicated and capable, but judicial review of asylum decisions at the U.S. border is exceedingly limitedlimits that the Supreme Court upheld on June 25 in Department of Homeland Security v. Thuraissigiam (2020) (see Aditi Shahs analysis here). Modifying these curbs, as Somin would advocate, would ease obstacles for persons at risk. Moreover, Somin makes an intriguing case for including economic refugees under asylum protections, arguing that economic want is often a symptom of oppressive and corrupt institutions.

Somin also argues that two concerns frequently raised by immigration opponentscrime and terrorismare not convincing reasons for immigration restrictions. As Somin notes, immigrants are generally more law-abiding than U.S. citizens. In addition, since Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist acts by domestic sources, including white supremacist groups, have far exceeded terrorism on U.S. territory by noncitizens. President Trumps favorite targetsso-called sanctuary citiesare actually safer than their counterparts with more restrictive policies. In outlining this information, Somin provides a valuable antidote to slogans that seek to polarize the debate and demonize immigrants.

Somins well-aimed arguments would make a difference on pressing immigration issues. As Chief Justice John Roberts noted in his opinion for the Supreme Court in the DACA case, immigrants are productive and are already part of usinterwoven in positive ways with U.S. families, workplaces, educational institutions and other stakeholders. Forcibly removing people with such strong U.S. ties diminishes the rest of us and disrupts our way of life. It is self-defeating in the clearest sense of the term. For similar reasons, Somins argument supports comprehensive immigration reform that would allow the other 11 million people here without a lawful status to stay in the United States.

The justice reasons Somin outlines also support admitting far more refugeesat least 100,000 annually per his recommendationcompared with the paltry 18,000 that President Trump and his restrictionist immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, have grudgingly permitted. Admitting refugees saves lives and promotes freedom. It also sends a strong signal that the rest of the world should do the same. In contrast, the Trump administration has modeled fear, insecurity and intolerance, setting a sorry global example. (Similar damage stemmed from recently announced curbs on international students keeping their student visas while taking online courses during the coronavirus pandemic; thankfully, on July 14 the Trump administration rescinded those limits.)

If the Supreme Court had adopted Somins argument that the U.S. Constitutions bar on intentional discrimination should also apply to immigration, Trump v. Hawaii (2018) would have ended with a different result. In that case, the Supreme Court upheld President Trumps travel ban directed primarily at majority-Muslim countries. Somin singles out the travel ban for special disdain, pillorying the scant justifications the administration offered and the Supreme Court accepted.

Despite Somins intrepid invitation, substantially increased immigration might cause problems. To his credit, Somin doesnt blink at these risks. Instead, he suggests fixes that he calls keyhole solutions. For example, suppose a society was concerned that substantially greater immigration would be a drain on public benefits programs. Somin asserts that the government would have the right to limit immigrants access to such programs, at least temporarily. Indeed, this is largely what the United States currently does. A country worried about electoral volatility caused by a significant infusion of immigrants could limit the franchise to citizens. Of course, this is also U.S. policy.

More controversially, Somin suggests that such worries could justify an extreme keyhole solution: keeping immigrants as perpetual guests by barring any pathway to citizenship. Here, Somin arguably makes a concession that is inconsistent, if not incompatible, with U.S. values and recent history. Since 1952, all U.S. lawful permanent residents have been eligible for naturalization. Until then, Japanese immigrants to the United States could not become U.S. citizens. A return to those shameful days of permanent tiered participation in the American polity would be calamitous, not just for immigrants, but for the United Statess self-conception and its standing in the world. Even an exponential rise in foot voting would not justify such ignominious exclusions. A sovereign state should have the right to restrict immigration to some degreetheres a middle ground between draconian curbs that Somin rightly opposes and Somins prescription, which entails accepting both unrestricted immigration and a limited range of fixes that violates basic values.

Although Somin critiques the position that the power to restrict immigration is a necessary element of state sovereignty, the intrusive keyhole measures that Somin views as permissible undercut his discounting of sovereign interests. Only very potent sovereign interests would justify permanent tiered participation and denial of the franchise.

Somins critique of sovereignty argues against the restrictionist views of Trump and Miller but does not rebut the case for measured immigration limits.

Somin and nonlibertarian champions of open borders such as the political philosopher Joseph Carens are correct that immigration status is an accident of birth. Carens elaborates on liberal philosopher John Rawlss concept of the veil of ignorance. Under this view, the criteria for allocating goods are just if all people would freely choose to be governed by those criteria in a case where they did not already know what goods the criteria would grant to them. This original position of ignorance would guarantee fair chances to all.

Building on this foundation, Caren points out that no one earns being born in the United States, the United Kingdom, or Germany, as opposed to a country with a more corrupt and despotic regime. At the same time, this arbitrary aspect of immigration mirrors the allocation of other goods such as parental wealth, connections and expertise. A child does not choose her parents, but we do not require the state to separate families to winnow out the advantages that a child accrues from her parents status and achievements. In addition, a child does not earn the wealth she may eventually inherit from her parents. Progressive social theory supports inheritance taxes, at least for the super rich. But libertarians like Somin oppose confiscatory inheritance taxes, thus allowing that particular accident of birth to perpetuate inequality. Somin and other libertarian immigration theorists pick and choose which accidents are worth correcting for. This inconsistent treatment of accidents of birth undermines Somins critique of immigration restrictions.

Ultimately, Somins accident-of-birth critique does not undercut the sovereignty-based case for the power to restrict immigration. Somins critique may well inform efforts to temper restrictions through measures such as DACA and comprehensive immigration reform. However, Somins argument leaves substantial uncertainty about the future effects of uncontrolled immigration. A sovereign state could reasonably wish to hedge against that uncertainty.

Uncertainty about the effects of uncontrolled immigration is pervasive because no significant state currently allows free movement across its borders. As a result, available data is quite limited on the effects of an open-borders policy. In this sense, the economic and other benefits Somin cites from relatively controlled immigration do not constitute solid evidence that like benefits would flow from unbounded movement.

Truly uncontrolled immigration could cause substantial disruptions, at least in the short run. For example, even if immigration to the U.S. increases by a relatively small fraction of the hundreds of millions of people who wish to enter prosperous democracies such as the United States, that increase would roil the budgets of gateway areas, such as New York, Florida, Texas, and California. In the short run, these gateway areas would have to foot the bill for the education of immigrant children and other public services, without sufficient aid from the federal government. In fact, that is already the case, albeit to a smaller degree. The strain on the budgets of gateway areas would require wrenching budgetary choices. A sovereign state should have the power to limit the frequency of such dilemmas. Perhaps some states would choose to gamble that the favorable economic results that Somin cites from todays controlled immigration would yield equally favorable outcomes for uncontrolled immigration. However, neither law nor ethics should require states to make that gamble.

Political theorist Sarah Song, elaborating on Michael Walzers theory of sovereignty, views control over immigration as central to democratic self-determination. For Song, people of a state practicing self-government can choose to be risk averse and impose moderate limits on immigration. They can decide to steer clear of both open borders and draconian immigration curbsagain, as with Walzer, subject to the duty to admit refugees. Song views the power to make that choice as a necessary incident of self-government.

While Somin critiques Songs view, that critique is the least convincing portion of Free to Move. At bottom, Somin tries to pile ever more weight onto the already burdened accident-of-birth position. But that hoary argument cannot bear the load. Somin fails to acknowledge that his more extreme keyhole solutions, including precluding a path to citizenship, would install a two-tier model of political participation antithetical to current U.S. values. In viewing tiered participation as a small price to pay for foot voting, Somin underestimates tiered participations costs for a democratic politys underlying values. Those costs thus make the case for an alternative to Sominsa moderate regime that combines measured restrictions with ample refugee protections, judicial review, and the availability of comprehensive immigration reform to legalize the undocumented population.

This objection is, however, a minor point when weighed against Somins sophisticated and spirited alternative to a restrictionist system urged by Trump, Miller and other champions of reduced immigration. Somins arguments for foot voting skewer the economics and law enforcement tropes that make restrictionism rhetorically attractive to many in America today. The books combination of rigorous thought and engaging argument makes Free to Move a must-read for those interested in the future of immigration law and policy.

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The Libertarian Case for Immigration (and Against Trump) - Lawfare

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We have now reached peak Libertarianism and it is literally killing us – AlterNet

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We have now reached peak Libertarianism, and this bizarre experiment that has been promoted by the billionaire class for over 40 years is literally killing us.

Back in the years before Reagan, areal estate lobbying groupcalled the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) came up with the idea of creating a political party to justify deregulating the real estate and finance industries so they could make more money. The party would give them ideological and political cover, and they developed an elaborate theology around it.

It was called the Libertarian Party, and their principal argument was that if everybody acted separately and independently, in all cases with maximum selfishness, that that would benefit society. There would be no government needed beyond an army and a police force, and a court system to defend the rights of property owners.

In 1980, billionaire David Koch ran for vice president on the newly formed Libertarian Party ticket. His platform was to privatize the Post Office, shut down all public schools, privatize Medicare and Medicaid, end food stamps and all other forms of welfare, deregulate all corporate oversight, and sell off much of the federal governments land and other assets to billionaires and big corporations.

Since then, Libertarian billionaires and right-wing media have been working hard to get Americans to agree with Ronald Reagansstatementfrom his first inaugural address that, [G]overnment is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.

And Trump is getting us there now.

Every federal agency of any consequence is now run by a lobbyist or former industry insider.

The Labor Department is trying todestroy organized labor; the Interior Department is selling off our public lands; the EPA is promoting deadly pesticides and allowing more and more pollution; the FCC is dancing to the tune of giant telecom companies; theEducation Departmentis actively working to shut down and privatize our public school systems; the USDA is shutting down food inspections; the Defense Department is run by aformer weapons lobbyist; even theIRSandSocial Securityagencies have been gutted, withtens of thousands of their employeesoffered early retirement or laid off so that very, very wealthy people are no longer being audited and the wait time for a Social Security disability claim is now overtwo years.

The guy Trump put in charge of the Post Office is activelydestroyingthe Post Office, and the bonus for Trump might be that this willthrowa huge monkey wrench in any effort to vote by mail in November.

Trump hasremovedthe United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, and fossil fuel lobbyists nowcontrolAmericas response to global warming.

Our nations response to the coronavirus has been turned over toprivate testinganddrug companies, and the Trump administration refuses to implement any official government policy, with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar saying that its all up toindividual responsibility.

The result is more than 140,000 dead Americans and 3 million infected, with many fearing for their lives.

While the Libertarian ideas and policies promoted by that real estate lobbying group that invented the Libertarian Party have made CEOs and billionaire investors very, very rich, its killing the rest of us.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt put America back together after the Republican Great Depression and built the largest and wealthiestmiddle classin the history of the world at the time.

Now, 40 years of libertarian Reaganomics have gutted the middle class, made ahandful of oligarchswealthier than anybody in the history of the world, and brought an entire generation of hustlers and grifters into public office via the GOP.

When America was still coasting on FDRs success in rebuilding our government and institutions, nobody took very seriously the crackpot efforts to tear it all down.

Now that theyve had 40 years to make their project work, were hitting peak Libertarianism and its tearing our country apart, pitting Americans against each other, and literallykillinghundreds of people every day.

If America is to survive as a functioning democratic republic, we must repudiate the greed is good ideology of Libertarianism, get billionaires and their money out of politics, and rebuild our civil institutions.

That starts with waking Americans up to the incredible damage that 40 years of libertarian Reaganism has done to this country.

Pass it on.

Thom Hartmann is atalk-show hostand the author ofThe Hidden History of American Oligarchyand more than30 other books in print. His most recent project is a science podcast calledThe Science Revolution. He is a writing fellow at theIndependent Media Institute.

This article was produced byEconomy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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Ted Cruz: Future of conservatism is populist and libertarian – Washington Examiner

Posted: at 1:06 pm

Sen. Ted Cruz said the future of conservatism after President Trump leaves office can be both populist and libertarian.

The Texas Republican weighed on ideological debates among conservatives, saying the future of conservative politics can be a combination of libertarian beliefs and populism during a Tuesday interview with the Washington Examiner about his podcast, The Verdict, co-hosted by conservative commentator Michael Knowles.

"I think properly understood, those concepts are complementary, and they're not antagonistic. So I am a conservative, an unabashed conservative. I'm also a populist. I am deeply a populist," Cruz began. "And I also have deep libertarian principles. Look, if you're protecting liberty, that is the foundation of our country. That is the foundation of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. When it comes to populism, I think the most fundamental and important shifts in the last decade in politics is that Republicans have become the party of the working class."

The idea of conservatism "conserving" libertarian beliefs, or classical liberalism, has recently been challenged by some writers. Sohrab Ahmari, a conservative opinion editor for the New York Post, advocated for a "common good" conservatism in May 2019. In an opinion piece for religious publication First Things, he wrote, "Here is the problem: The movement we are up against prizes autonomy above all, too; indeed, its ultimate aim is to secure for the individual will the widest possible berth to define what is true and good and beautiful, against the authority of tradition."

"There's some people who want to use the word populism to say, 'Well, we should just have socialism.' No, socialism is not populism. That's not good for the workers. Socialism is tyranny of government. Every socialist government across the globe has produced poverty and misery and suffering and death," Cruz said.

Earlier, Knowles said the ideological future of conservatism should focus on "ordered liberty" and unite against those "who want to tear down, not just one policy or another, but actually the symbol of our country itself, the star-spangled banner," echoing his previous essay in the American Mind titled, Its Good to Be Against Things.

Cruz did not answer when asked if he plans to run for president after Trump leaves office but called his bid for president in 2016 the "most fun" he's had in his life.

"We'll see. I probably won't make any announcements on this show. But look, it's no secret. I ran for president in 2016. We came very close. I'll tell you this: It's the most fun I've ever had in my life. And I enjoyed every minute of it," he said, adding he believes the United States needs leaders to defend the country in the future.

When asked, the Texas Republican also said he likes the idea of using his podcast to communicate with people similarly to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's fireside chats.

"I am excited about the podcast as a tool. I like the fireside chat analogy. And look, FDR used that powerfully, used the new medium of radio to connect directly with the American people in a time of crisis," he said.

[Read more: Ted Cruz: Unlikely Samuel Alito will soon retire from Supreme Court]

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Are the British conformist or libertarian? Our face mask response is telling – The Guardian

Posted: at 1:06 pm

Later this week, the wearing of masks in shops and supermarkets will become mandatory in England. The question then will be how quickly the public accepts this new law whether face masks become a social norm could be of vital importance to public health.

The science behind the benefits of mask wearing is pretty solid. Masks principally protect others. You wear them because you dont want to pass on a nasty virus that you may not know you have. Pretty simple. Mathematical models suggest the more people that wear masks, the lower the transmission rate (effective R). And when we look abroad, the evidence supports this contention.

Mask wearing is, without the apparent necessity to enforce laws, almost ubiquitous in China, Japan, and south-east Asia. In a country once called the deferential nation, you might expect this policy would go down with relative ease. But a cursory glance at newspaper articles shows English commentators bristling at the suggestion of mandatory mask wearing. According to the Conservative MP Desmond Swayne, face masks are a monstrous imposition that threaten our fundamental liberties; the New York Times, meanwhile, reports that people in England would rather be sick than embarrassed.

For masks to be effective, people need to conform to wearing them. More than 80 years ago the behavioural psychologist Floyd Allport described what he called the J-curve hypothesis of conforming behaviour. He suggested that when a rule came into effect, almost everyone conformed, but a recalcitrant few resisted the rules with all their might, even to the point of breaking the law. They were usually a very small minority.

Allport looked at how motorists behaviour changed as they approached a crossroads and whether a stop sign was present or absent. Where a stop sign was absent, 17% of drivers stopped, 71% slowed down, and 12% kept going without slowing down. Put in a stop sign, however, and 75% of drivers stopped, 22% slowed a lot, 2% slowed a little, and just 1% didnt change their speed at all.

To achieve good compliance to a rule, Allport suggested, the purpose of it must be understood and the specifics must be crystal clear. The governments prevarications over masks with politicians regularly appearing without masks, and Michael Gove seemingly contradicting the mandatory policy later set out by Boris Johnson may have made this new rule anything but clear.

According to social psychologists, behavioural norms have two dimensions: first, how much a behaviour is exhibited, and second, how much the group approves of that behaviour. Getting people to wear masks requires social approval. The challenge for the government will be increasing social approval of mask wearing and doing it quickly. The medical historians Dorothy and Roy Porter once wrote that the subtle art of the administratively possible was at the heart of enforcing public health policies that threaten individual freedoms. Where this falls short, or where a policy is a matter of urgency, authorities may resort to using the threat of sanctions to quickly shift people towards perceiving something as a social norm which is why police in England will fine people for non-compliance.

We have a complex relationship with rules and public health in Britain. In the 19th century, when vaccination for smallpox was made compulsory, dissenters writing in 1854 declared that such a measure, unspeakably degrades the freeborn citizen, not only depriving him of liberty of choice in a personal matter, but even denying him the possession of reason. Those laws, which George Bernard Shaw later described as nothing short of attempted murder, were eventually repealed early in the 20th century for a number of reasons, including a belief that they were ineffective, that the side effects were worse than the diseases, and they were an assault on liberty. In much of the rest of the world, mandatory vaccination laws remain in place. Britain was, at least then, less deferential than Walter Bagehot might have anticipated.

Britains response to the introduction of mandatory seatbelts was rather more obedient. Those opposing the law argued, among other things, that it would be unenforceable. Proponents countered that the British were a law-abiding people and the measure would be virtually self-enforcing. And this proved to be the case when it was introduced in 1988. The compliance rate remains around 95%.

Americans, by contrast, responded more slowly. After seatbelt laws were introduced in the US at around the same time as the UK, initially only around 50% of Americans complied with them. Nowadays, compliance is around 90%. This same attitude in the US can be seen with the adoption of masks, where disputes have escalated even leading to a fatal shooting.

So, is Britain a land of feisty liberty-seeking individualism, or a deferential state? Perhaps it is neither. Notions of risk, public health, and adherence to norms, whether mandated through law or not, are playing out differently across the globe. Moving from east Asia, across Europe to the US, we can witness a gradient of mask use. In past times we might have viewed this as a gradient of the tradition of individualism, of non-conformity with social norms, of resistance to state authority. In Britain today we might instead see this as an expression of confusion, of a lack of concern for others, of limited social solidarity.

My sense, for what its worth, is that mask wearing will become more prevalent in England, more acceptable, less embarrassing, and will impact on the epidemiology in ways that are difficult to measure. Outliers will persist because full enforcement is too challenging, but they may be too few to matter. But another norm will persist for some time: our collective confusion about government interventions that should have been far clearer from the outset.

Richard Coker is emeritus professor of public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

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Chad Blair: There’s A High Bar For Legislative Candidates Without A – Honolulu Civil Beat

Posted: at 1:06 pm

Paul Shiraishi, a first-time candidate for office in Hawaii, is doing many of the important things needed to attract votes.

Hes got a great campaign website, for one, with the donate button featured on every page.

There are also great photos including Shiraishi in aloha wear with a kukui nut necklace, surfing, in his Marine uniform and with his grandmother.

He makes clear that he is offering a new, independent voice in the race to represent the state Senates 10th District (Kaimuki, Kapahulu, Palolo, Maunalani Heights, St. Louis Heights, Moiliili, Ala Wai).

Shiraishis biography is compelling, too: five years on active duty with the Marines, most of it in the Asia-Pacific region. Although born on Hawaiis ninth island i.e., Las Vegas he stresses local roots that extend three generations.

He studied economics and political science at UH Manoa, interned at the Hawaii State Judiciary and volunteered with Honolulu Habitat for Humanity.

At age 29 and ambitious, Paul Shiraishi would seem to have a good bet in getting elected to the Hawaii Legislature.

Theres just one very big catch: Shiraishi is running as a nonpartisan candidate in a mostly partisan field, for a legislative body that is heavily dominated by one political party.

According to election results going back decades, a nonpartisan candidate has yet to be elected to the Legislature. It is likely due in no small part to a state law that requires nonpartisan candidates to garner a precise number of votes in the primary election in order to advance to the general. (More on that in a minute.)

Shiraishi knows the odds and is not deterred.

If somebody doesnt necessarily agree with the Democratic Party, or maybe just wants to present competition to one-party dominance, they have nowhere to go, he said. They either pledge loyalty to Trump as a Republican, or they run as an independent. That is the only relative option.

Its not too hard to qualify for Hawaiis legislative primary ballot: A candidate must be a state resident for at least three years prior to election, submit a petition with 15 valid signatures from registered voters in the district, fill out nomination papers and a financial disclosure and fork over $250.

But, while Democratic, Republican, Green, Libertarian and other qualified independent party candidates have a good shot at advancing to the general election they merely have to win their race, and many partisan primary contests are uncontested or heavily favor incumbents nonpartisan candidates have one of two pathways, both largely beyond their control.

The first is to earn at least 10% of all the votes cast for the office in that particular primary. The second is to earn a vote equal to or greater than the lowest vote received by the partisan candidate who was nominated.

Heres how the State Elections Office explains it:

But is it a fair and reasonable formula? No, says one elections expert.

Its just dumb, says Richard Winger, editor of San Francisco-based Ballot Access News. I wish the Hawaii Legislature would get rid of it. There is no other state like it in the country for independent candidates, unless you include California and Washington, where the top two finishers advance.

Winger, whose expertise is recommended by the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures, said the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that states cannot go above 5% as a vote requirement for moving on from the primary to the general election.

Only Georgia and Illinois use the 5% figure, and Winger said legal challenges will likely lead to throwing out the requirement. (Alabama uses 3%.)

Hawaiis 10% law was challenged in 1988 by Ted Erum, a Kauai resident. But he lost.

He should have won, said Winger.

Minor parties such as Green and Libertarians have had greater success in challenging and changing election laws because they have members. But nonpartisan candidates are invariably solo operators, so its hard to lobby for their behalf, said Winger.

Still, nearly every state legislator in the country is either a Democrat or a Republican, with minor party and independents making with the exception of states like Vermont and Alaska few inroads.

And here at home Greens and Libertarians have yet to send one of their own to the Hawaii Legislature.

The primary vote hurdle likely scares off candidates running as an NP.

Of the 29 candidates running for 13 state Senate seats this year, only two are nonpartisan. Of the 131 candidates running for 51 state House seats, only three are nonpartisan.

Heres another hurdle: Even though Hawaii voters are not required to register their party affiliation with the state, primary voters can only pick the ballot of one party in the primary. Its called an open primary, in that voters may choose which partys ballot to vote, as the NCSL puts it.

This permits a voter to cast a vote across party lines for the primary election, says the NCSL. Critics argue that the open primary dilutes the parties ability to nominate. Supporters say this system gives voters maximal flexibility allowing them to cross party lines and maintains their privacy.

Sen. Les Ihara says he welcomes electoral competition.

Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

But here is whats undemocratic to me: In the general election this year voters could, if they so choose, vote for a Republican for the U.S. House, a Democrat for the state Senate and a Green or Libertarian or Aloha Aina party candidate for the state House. But in the primary they can only pull one partys ballot or the nonpartisan ballot.

The trend line may be moving away from party politics. While Congress, governor and lieutenant governor remain partisan races in Hawaii, all county offices are nonpartisan.

Sen. Les Ihara, 69, who has served in the Legislature since 1987 first in the House and since 1995 in the Senate says he welcomes Shiraishi to the District 10 race. Same goes for his Democratic primary opponents Vicki Higgins and Jesus Arriola.

My policy is to always have competition because you have to give voters a choice, said Ihara. I trust the voters will vote on who they think is best.

Thus far, in Iharas case it has always been him and the races have not been very close. He won the 2016 primary and general each with 70% of the vote.

Because about 8,000 people voted in the 2016 primary, Shiraishi figures he needs to get between 800 and 900 votes on Aug. 8 in order to go on to Nov. 3.

I hope Paul makes it past this years primary election, or else there is only the Democratic winners name on the general ballot, said Ihara. If its me, it might be my first ever unopposed general election.

And that may be the biggest reason Shiraishi is running, besides wanting to serve: to offer choice.

Win or lose, I really feel it should be easier to run as a nonpartisan and qualify for the general, especially given the state of politics in 2020, said Shiraishi, who said his politics lean conservative but he broke with the GOP over Trump. There is a frustration about divisive party politics with the president obviously but also with Democrats.

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3 highlights from Penn Jillette’s Big Think interview on 2020, cancel culture, and friendship – Big Think

Posted: at 1:06 pm

In 2017, 40 percent of entrepreneurs were female, representing a 58 percent uptick in female-owned businesses from a decade prior. Fifty-six percent of college students are female, a complete reversal from fifty years prior, when 58 percent of men filled university halls. Yet in 2017, only 2.2 percent of venture capital (VC) money went to women-founded companies. Society has changed, yet the worlds of start-ups and venture capital are still predominantly run by white men.

Big Think was founded in 2007 by Victoria Montgomery Brown and Peter Hopkins. As with many start-ups, the fundraising process provides quite a story, one that Brown has now decided to tell. Her forthcoming book, Digital Goddess: The Unfiltered Lessons of a Female Entrepreneur (HarperCollins Leadership), reveals how this website came to beand how women can overcome barriers in a male-dominated business world.

Below are six lessons from Brown's chapter on raising capital when you have no money or product. Brown writes that there are essential qualities for starting a business that help you navigate the terrain, such as a having a strong vision and maintaining unflinching tenacity. While some of these came naturally to Brown, others were hard-fought lessons that changed her for the better. The chapterand the bookis a reminder that with perseverance and dedication to learning, anything is possible.

Use whatever will get you in the door

The greatest challenge every start-up faces is "first money in." Many investors are willing to back a good idea only when someone else has already committedand they like to know who that someone else is.

In some ways, being a female founder has its advantages. As Brown writes, a Boston Consulting Group study shows that female-run start-ups outperform male-run start-ups, generating 78 cents in revenue per dollar invested compared to men at 31 cents. That's solid data, but you still need to get in the door.

Brown leaned heavily on her master's degree from Harvard Business School. This helped tremendously for her first investor meeting with Founder Collective co-founder David Frankel. He was enthusiastic, but he wanted to know who else was interested. Brown turned to former Harvard University president, Larry Summers. His buy-in increased Frankel's interest; he became the lead investor.

Meeting with such heavyweights is no easy matter for entrepreneurs with no product or history in founding a company. As Brown writes, "Study after study confirms that people tend to equate confidence with competence." Presenting Big Think confidently made the impression needed to secure funding.

With two investors in, landing Nantucket Nectars founder Tom Scott and billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel was not as challenging as one might assume. Brown writes, "Getting the first investor feels impossible, but if you can pull it off, getting the second is sometimes surprisingly easy."

Quit your day job

This is one of the hardest aspects of being an entrepreneur. Not only do founders not have the capital needed to launch their company, they sometimes work for years without paying themselves. If investors are going to put money into your project, they have to know you're serious about success.

"People don't like to fund things if the entrepreneur and CEO don't have their entire skin in the game. You better have something big to lose, or how are people going to believe you are all in?"

With no income or savings, Brown quit her day job in order to devote her every waking hour to Big Think. Self-imposed deadlines made sure she hit her targets. Founding a company isn't comfortable; waiting for relief will only distract you from the work that needs to get done.

"If you truly want to start somethingwhatever it may bewaiting won't helpput yourself in a position where you must do it."

Three months after quitting her day job, money showed up in Big Think's bank account.

Build momentum

If you're trying to convince investors to believe in youand it is you that they're investing in, more than your productshow them traction, even when you don't have it. Go out and make it happen.

"Our investors needed to be intrigued by the idea and see its potential to succeed and to scale, but they also needed to see that I was actually in a place of discomfort if it didn't work out."

Securing funding before showing a minimal viable product (MVP) is no easy task. Brown knew that she had to show something. Big Think started as a video platform; she needed experts to appear on video. Through their networks, Brown and Hopkins contacted Richard Branson, Moby, the Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman, and famed architect Lee Mindel. They wanted them to be anchors.

Convincing high-profile business leaders, artists, and academics to partake in a new project is as daunting as landing VCs. When these figures inevitably asked about precedent for such an initiative, Brown turned a potential negative into a positive. "No one. We are reaching out to a very select, initial group of experts to kick-start it."

Making people feel critical to a project's success is a powerful way to get their endorsement, Brown writes. More importantly, it worked. A risky play between content generators and financial backers worked out. Big Think had momentum.

Do your research

As mentioned, investors are often more interested you than your product. As Brown writes, fundraising is "about creating a situation where investors get a real glimpse of who you are and why they should invest in you."

It's not a one-way street. You should also be interested in them.

"Be truly interested in the person you are meeting or don't bother meeting."

Brown advises looking beyond LinkedIn profiles and superficial bullet points. Investigate their interests, such as their passions and philanthropic pursuits. Understand why they might be interested in your venture and where it intersects with their business. Discuss topics outside of the investment opportunity. Engage them as people, not bank accounts.

"Helping others feel attractive and specialnot in a sexual way but in a human wayhelps them see you as a more attractive person, too. But you have to mean it."

Learn to say yes

The discomfort of being a founder includes stretching your boundaries. PayPal famously iterated numerous times before finding success. Flexibility is key if you want to survive. Sometimes that means admitting your limitations.

"Here's something major that HBS [Harvard Business School] taught me. You don't need to know how to do things, you need to know how to ask people to do things for you."

Finding the right people is one aspect of saying yes. By admitting your limitations, you say yes to help. But there's also saying yes to projects you're not entirely capable of pulling off.

After scoring a sponsorship with Pfizer, the second Big Think project was with MSNBC. The media company had a deal to provide expert-driven content with GE and SAP. They just didn't have a team to produce it. Being nimble, Big Think could turn it around quickly.

"Smaller companies with greater agility can take advantage of this situation if they just have the courage to step up and offer."

Instead of focusing on the negatives, such as not having a website or even equipment, Brown and Hopkins saw the opportunity. They said yes, and completed the project without a hitch, because they had the foresight to say yes.

Learn to say no

Not everything demands a yes, however. Discernment matters in the frenetic world of start-ups.

There are investors, there are people that connect you with investors, and there are charlatans. As the latter often suck up oxygen in any room they enter, it's easy to confuse bluster with their capabilities.

And so we meet "Jake," who in the early days of Big Think promised a lot, demanded more, and delivered nothing.

"He hadn't brought us any investors, he hadn't booked any experts, he hadn't helped us put together the deck, so what were we doing spending time with him? He felt sort of sleazy, like a smooth talker but not a doer."

Brown told Jake he was not getting equity without deliverables during their final meeting. This news did not go over well. Jake yelled and stormed out. Such momentary discomfort is a low price for not giving up even a piece of your business. Calling our charlatans demands that you say no. Thankfully, for the future of Big Think, one bad evening paid off in the long run.

Credit: Harper Collins

--

Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter, Facebook and Substack. His next book is "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."

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