Question: Should parents be licensed? Given the cost to society of parents shirking their obligations to their children, to entrust children to just anyone able to bear that child seems negligent. The state does, after all, forbid chronic drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel again. On the other hand, to give discretionary power to the state over such a personal matter seems very dangerous. Is there any middle ground that would better protect kids from abusive or neglectful parents and protect society from the growing scourge of poor parenting?
Question: Is running prisons a legitimate function of government or should they be privatized? Private prisons are a billion dollar industry here in the United States, but should they be left to private companies or should the government handle them instead?
Question: Does freedom of speech apply to government officials? In August 2013, Rolling Stone caused a furor by putting accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover. In response, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino wrote to the publisher of Rolling Stone, telling him that doing so "rewards a terrorist with celebrity treatment" – treatment the magazine should have given to the survivors. Other government officials were similarly critical of Rolling Stone. My first reaction was that these government officials had no place saying anything about a publication. But then I wondered, doesn't the First Amendment still apply to them? In other words, do government officials have freedom of speech?
Question: How should European colonizers be judged for their treatment of Native Americans? Some people, especially conservatives, give blanket praise to Columbus and European colonizers, notwithstanding their conquest and displacement of native populations. Those Native Americans are sometimes denigrated as ignorant, brutal, and/or lacking any concept of property – and hence, as unworthy of the protection of rights. Many others consider the Native Americans either noble savages or at least the rightful owners of the land. They condemn European colonization as unethical conquest or even genocide. Are either of those approaches correct? What counts as a fair judgment of European colonizers in their behavior toward Native Americans? How should European colonizers have treated native persons?
Question: What are the most significant values destroyed by statism? In other words, what values would be available to us – or more available – in a laissez-faire, rational society that are limited or unavailable to us today? What are some of the major (and perhaps under-appreciated) values destroyed or precluded by government overreach? To put the question another way: How would a proper government improve our lives?
Question: Should free-market reforms be gradual or instantaneous? Many advocates of free markets concede that reforms toward capitalism should be gradual. For example, Yaron Brook said recently about abolishing Social Security, "There is no way to eliminate it tomorrow. There is no way to eliminate it... cold turkey." But why not? What's wrong with the "cold turkey" approach? Is the concern simply that the only way to get people to accept reforms is to make them slowly? Or would it be somehow unjust to cut off people's entitlements suddenly, given that they've come to depend on them?
Summary: How does censorship work in China? What can ordinary people access or not? What is the Chinese government most concerned to conceal? What are the consequences of speaking out? What do ordinary people think of the censorship? Robert Garmong, an American living and working in China, will answer these questions and more.
Summary: Is "big government" the fundamental problem of American politics? Historian Eric Daniels will explain why this common formulation is misleading, wrong, and even dangerous to liberty.
Question: Is a "social contract" the proper basis for government? The idea of a "social contract" is often used to justify all kinds of government interventions for the so-called "greater good." What does it mean to say that society is founded on a social contract? What are the practical implications of that approach to politics? Was John Locke a proponent of this view?
Summary: Colorado is experiencing yet another very destructive – even deadly – fire season. What can people do to prepare for that? How can they mitigate the risk to their property? How can they make sure that people and animals are evacuated safely?
Summary: What do online marketing companies know about you? How do they gather data? Should you be alarmed by that? If so, what tools can help you protect your privacy online?
Question: Are high taxes comparable to slavery? On Facebook, some friends suggest that America is becoming more like Nazi Germany. Others share images comparing Americans workers to slaves picking cotton in the antebellum south due to our ever-higher taxes. I think these comparisons go way too far: Americans are still some of the freest people the world has ever known. No doubt, our freedom is being chipped away, but are we really like slaves?
Summary: Many people assume that college campuses are – and should be – gun free zones. Jim Manley explains why concealed carry permit holders should be permitted to carry on campus.
Question: What should the state's role be in dealing with abused children? The state needs to remove children from homes where they're being abused--where their rights are being violated. But what should it then do with them? Should the state care for them until it can find a new home for them? How should it provide that care? If it cannot find a new home for a child, what happens to that child? Should the state raise the child to adulthood?
Question: How do government controls encourage short-range thinking in business? In your discussion of the principle of sustainability in December 2011, you said that government controls encourage people to think short-range – to grab what they can and run with it – including in business. Why is that? What are some examples?
Summary: Could an amendment to the US Contitution provide an effective check on government power? Stephen Bailey, a Republican congressional candidate in 2010, has a proposal for a constitutional amendment that deserves consideration.
Question: How should a public school teacher discipline unruly students? Since school attendance is mandatory, what is the proper and moral way to handle discipline in class? I'm a Spanish teacher in public school, and I hate to threaten or punish the few unruly kids. But for the sake of students who are truly interested to learn Spanish, I have to resort to methods like assigning detention and taking away phones for students who are not interested in Spanish. They are in my class only because they are pressured by their counselors. How can I deal with disruptive students in a way that respects their rights?
Question: When would creating a political party advance the cause of liberty? At the moment, creating a new political party might not make sense in the United States because the Republicans and Democrats dominate the elections and the media. But when would be the right time to do so, if ever? In other countries, even tiny parties are discussed in the news, and they can win a few seats. Under those circumstances, does it make sense to create a political party advocating for individual rights? If so, what would be a good name for such a party?
Question: How would antibiotic resistance be handled in a free society? Bacteria acquire resistance to antibiotics by exposure to low doses of antibiotics. Such low doses may come from misuse of antibiotics, for example when taken to combat a cold or flu (which are viral infection against which antibiotics do nothing) or by not completing the full course as prescribed by a doctor. Antibiotics are indeed awesome drugs which have saved millions of lives. But resistant bacteria pose a serious health problem, often causing serious and difficult-to-treat illness in third parties. What would be the proper way to address this problem in a free society?
Summary: The government heavily regulates food and drinks commonly regarded as dangerous or unhealthy. What motivates such regulations? Why are they so widespread? How can they be fought?
Summary: What is the work of a prosecutor really like? In this interview, former Arizona prosecutor William E. Perry discussed the cases he prosecuted and various issues in criminal law – including the role of juries, standards of evidence, the drug war, confessions, and plea bargaining.
Question: Isn't mandated child support basically just welfare for needy children? What is the moral difference between compelling parents to support their children and compelling all people to support the needy in society? Many critics of the welfare state believe that parents should be compelled to support their children with basic levels of physical sustenance and education, such that failing to provide these constitutes violating children's rights. But how is that different from compelling people to support other needy or vulnerable people? Is the blood relationship what creates the obligation to support the child – and if so, how?
Question: Should government employees be permitted to unionize? In your 16 December 2012 discussion of "right to work" laws, you said that business owners should have the right to refuse to hire union members (or to fire them). How would that work for government employees? In a free society, could legislators (or departments) forbid government workers from being union members? Could they require union membership?
Summary: Many people support restrictions on spending in elections, particularly by corporations, in the name of "transparency" and "accountability." Institute for Justice attorney Paul Sherman takes a very different view. He argues persuasively that any restrictions on campaign spending are violations of freedom of speech. He has successfully argued that view in courts across the country.
Question: Is it wrong to manipulate your finances to qualify for welfare? An acquaintance of mine – who is moderately wealthy – feels justified in manipulating her finances to get government aid whenever possible on the grounds that it is "getting back" some of what she has paid. For example, she had her elderly mother buy a new car for her own use, in order to have her mother deplete her savings faster and qualify for Medicaid. However, while she had paid much in tax, her mother collects more in social security every month than she ever paid in taxes. Is it rational to view this as "getting back" money that was taken inappropriately, or is it actually immoral and self-destructive?
Question: Do right-to-work laws violate or protect rights? Some states are attempting to pass "right to work" laws, despite massive union opposition. Under such laws, employers cannot require employees to be a member of a union – as often happens due to federal law. These laws aim to empower employees against unwelcome unions. Are these laws legitimate – perhaps as defense against unjust federal law or a step toward freedom of contract? Or are they indefensible because they violate the rights of employers to dictate the terms of employment?
Question: Is there a right to die and/or a right to be killed? Does a person have a right to die? If so, under what conditions? Moreover, does a person unable to kill himself (due to illness) have a right to be killed by a willing person?
Question: Should pensions to government employees be guaranteed? Many cities and states are running into fiscal trouble and are reneging on promises to pay pensions to retired government employees, such as policemen. Should those promised payments be guaranteed, even if that means raising taxes or cutting back elsewhere? After all, those payments are part of a contract made between the employer and the employee. Or if money is tight for the city/state government, should the retirees have to share the same risk of default as anyone else the government owes money to?
Question: Is it moral to choose to live in a socialist country? A person might move to England to study at a conservatory or move to China for a job. Would it be moral to do that – meaning, to move to a socialist country and make use their government institutions? Would there be some kind of obligation to "pay back" what the person gains from that country's taxpayers, such as by donating to organizations that promote capitalism in that country? Or would it be immoral altogether, such that a person should pursue whatever opportunities he can in America (or where he is)?
Question: In a free society, would people be obliged to support or obey the government? Ayn Rand defined government as "an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area." She said that a government has – and must have – "a monopoly on the legal use of physical force." Given that, must a person support the government – morally or financially – in order for his rights to be protected? Would a person have to swear loyalty, pay taxes, vote in elections, or serve in the military? What would be the status of an anarchist – meaning someone who regards all government as illegitimate – in such a society?
Question: What's wrong with anarcho-capitalism? Libertarian anarchists – such as Murray Rothbard, Roy Childs, and Stefan Molyneux – claim that anarcho-capitalism is the only political system compatible with the "non-aggression principle." Is that right? Must any government initiate force by excluding competing defense agencies, as anarchists claim? Should governments be abolished in favor of private markets in force?
Question: Is it proper for state or local government to enact laws that a federal government should not? A proper government is one that fulfills and is limited to the role of protecting citizens from initiations of force by other individuals or other nations. However, in a free and proper society, is it proper for local and state governments to enact laws that go beyond the proper functions of a federal government? For example, in a properly-governed United States, could states enact certain laws that regulate behavior beyond what the federal government could enact, perhaps based on the religious or other values held by most people in that community – on the assumption that any person who disagreed could leave the area?
Question: Is it wrong to accept Social Security disability benefits when I could work? I'm blind. Although I can work, my recent job at the IRS seemed to be so soul-draining and vexing that I determined to look elsewhere for employment. However, jobs are limited right now, and I am not sure what else I want to do at this point. Was it right for me to quit my job before having the next one lined up? In the meantime, is it moral for me to receive Social Security? Have I gone from being a maker to a taker?
Question: What is the proper role of government in adoption, if any? Many religious people recoil at the notion of gay marriage due to its implications for adoption. They fear that the government will then allow gay couples to adopt on a broader scale. I suspect that the government is taking too great a role in adoption, and that's what causes this particular controversy. So what role should the government play in adoption? Should it screen parents and forbid some people from adopting? More broadly, what would adoption look like in a free society?
Question: Should the government regulate advertising to children? Most people think that advertising products to children is morally wrong, if not coercive. They say that the government should regulate or even ban such advertising to protect children and parents from pushy advertisers. In the case of junk food, for example, people claim that children are not old enough to understand the damage that junk food does to their health. Therefore, they claim, children must be protected. While I can understand forbidding advertising drugs or liquor to children, to forbid food advertisements seems like a violation of individual rights. So should the government have any role in regulating advertisements directed at children?
Question: Shouldn't freedom be "free"? I often hear the bromide "freedom isn't free," or some variation of it, such as, "there's a price for freedom." But isn't freedom actually free? A person acts by right in pursuing his own life and happiness, and criminals do not have any right to coerce or threaten others. If freedom is the political expression of rights in a social or political context, it follows that there should be no "cost" to exercising one's rights. It isn't a sacrifice to not violate others rights, since respect for them is a selfish virtue, nor would it be a sacrifice to voluntarily fund a proper government that protects one's rights, since the benefit outweighs the cost. Am I correct in thinking freedom, properly understood and protected, is indeed free, or not? If I am, what do people mean when they say, "freedom isn't free," and what's the proper response?
Question: Is it moral to work for the IRS? Is it morally wrong to work for government agencies like the IRS (or equivalent tax bureaus), IAS (Indian Administrative Services), or the EPA? I'm an advocate of free markets. Would I be a hypocrite to work for such illegitimate government agencies?
Question: Should "stealing valor" be a crime? Rencently, a man was arrested by the FBI in Houston and charged with "stolen valor." This is the charge made against someone who falsely poses as a decorated soldier. Is it proper to make this a crime? Why or why not?
Question: Where is the line between justice and vigilantism? When is it moral to take the law into your own hands – meaning pursuing, detaining, and/or punishing criminals as a private citizen? Suppose that you know – without a shadow of a doubt – that some person committed a serious crime against you or a loved one. If the justice system cannot punish the person due to some technicality, is it wrong for you to do so? If you're caught, should a judge or jury punish you, as if you'd committed a crime against an innocent person?
Question: When is it moral to break the law? Laws should be written to protect individual rights. Unfortunately, many laws today violate rights. When should I abide by a rights-violating law, and when is it proper to break it?
Question: Did Ayn Rand regard women as inferior to men? I admire Ayn Rand, and I've used her philosophy in my business and personal life, but I disagree with her view of women. In her article "About a Woman President," Ayn Rand said that "For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is hero-worship – the desire to look up to man. 'To look up' does not mean dependence, obedience or anything implying inferiority." Yet her view seems to imply inferiority in practice: Rand says that no woman should aspire to be U.S. President because that would put her in the psychologically unbearable position of not having any man to look up to. So, does Rand's view imply that women are inferior to men? What is the factual basis of her view, if any? Do you agree with her?
Question: Is overfeeding a child a form of abuse? In November, county officials in Ohio placed a third-grade child into foster care on the grounds that he's over 200 pounds and his mother isn't doing enough to control his weight. (See the news story.) The boy does not currently have any serious medical problems: he's merely at risk for developing diabetes, hypertension, etc. The county worked with the mother for a year before removing the child, and it claims that her actions constitute medical neglect. Now his mother is only permitted to see him once per week for two hours. Did the state overreach its proper authority in removing the child from his home?
Question: Is patriotism a virtue? Is patriotism towards America a virtue? Should a person "love America" – or is that just jingoistic nationalism?
Question: Are term limits necessary and proper for good government? Many people – usually conservatives – claim that term limits are essential to liberty. They say that the Founders never intended to have career politicians, and they blame the growth of government on those career politicians and their pork projects. Do you support term limits? Are they an important restraint on the growth of government?
Summary: On December 15th, 2011, Ari Armstrong, Paul Hsieh, and I testified at the Secretary of State's hearing on the proposed changes to Colorado's campaign finance rules. This podcast includes all our testimony.
Question: Should I support Gary Johnson for US President? What's the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Johnson deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election? Also, should supporters of Gary Johnson vote for him on a Libertarian Party ticket?
Question: Should I support Ron Paul for US President? What's the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Paul deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election?
Question: Should I support Newt Gingrinch for US President? What's the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Gingrinch deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election?
Question: Should I support Mitt Romney for US President? What's the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Romney deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election?
Question: Why do religious fanatics seek to impose their beliefs on others? Most religious fanatics aren't content to practice their religion for themselves: they seek to impose it on others by law. Why is that? Why is that wrong? What can be done to combat it?
Question: What should it mean for a person to be a citizen of country? Suppose that America were a free country, with open borders. What would be the difference between a long-term resident and a citizen? How would that affect a person's relationship to the government? How would a person (including someone born in the US) become a citizen? Could a person be a citizen of two countries?
Question: Should prisons be run by the state or private companies? After reading this Huffington Post article, I wonder whether prisons should be run by private companies or the state. I tend to think private is almost always better than anything state-run, but the current system of private prisons seems to be corrupt at best. More generally, what would a prison system look like in a free society?
Question: Should the state be involved in marriage contracts? Many people say that gay marriage shouldn't be a political issue, because the state shouldn't be involved in defining marriage at all. Is that right? Why or why not?
Question: Is it immoral to work for a company that uses government to eliminate or hamper the competition? For example, if a company has brought antitrust lawsuits against its competitors, should you refuse to work for them?
Question: Can lobbying be a proper career choice? Lobbying involves asking for various kind of favors from the government. Is that a profession that someone who values free markets should avoid like the plague?
Question: Is it moral to "defraud" a public library? There is an out-of-print book that I can't get for less than $100, a price I am not willing to pay. My library has a copy but they won't offer it for sale. Is it wrong to tell the library it is "lost" and just pay the fees, assuming they are reasonable? Does it matter that the library is an illegitimate government program that I'm taxed to support?
Question: Should JK Rowling repay the British government for welfare payments made to her? She famously wrote the first Harry Potter novel while "on the dole." She has been fabulously successful since then, but she likely could not have written that first book without state support. Should she now pay back all the government welfare paid to her during that period?
Question: Are compulsory juries moral? Is it necessary and/or proper to compel citizens to serve on a jury? If not, what is the best way to ensure the right to a trial by a jury of your peers, rather than trial by government agents? Should a free society have professional volunteer juries like the military?
Summary: On May 3rd, 2011, I testified in a hearing before Colorado's Secretary of State about the burdens of Colorado's campaign finance regulations. This podcast contains the full audio from my testimony, plus my answers to questions from the panel.
Question: Should a person with a pre-existing medical condition that disqualifies him from most major medical insurance plans sign up for a state-sponsored high-risk insurance pool? I'm a 1099 independent software contractor, and I'm responsible for my own health insurance. I have a pre-existing condition that disqualifies me from most of the major medical insurers. My current insurer offers few benefits, and the company is notorious for trying to deny claims. I was also diagnosed with a malignant tumor in my cheek. That's being treated, but I'll be all the more uninsurable in the future. However, the state where I live has a high-risk insurance pool available. Financially, this plan would be a much better deal than I have with my current insurance company. I would have to pay premiums, deductibles, and co-insurance, so this plan is not complete welfare. However, I'm obviously wary of becoming dependent on the government for such a plan, and I don't want to contribute to the continued socialization of the health-care system. I have some other options, like trying to find a job that offers benefits, but I love my current job. Am I trying to eat my cake and have it too by signing up for the state plan, which would allow me to stay in my current job without the worry of a major medical issue ruining me and my family financially?
Question: Why is receiving the counsel of an attorney a right while receiving health care is not? In both cases, you would receive something that you need for free from the state. So what's the difference, if any? Why should a repeat offender have access to free legal counsel at taxpayer expense while an innocent, law-abiding sick person shouldn't receive life-saving medication or treatment at taxpayer expense? In the former case, the criminal might lose his liberty, but in the latter case the sick person might die. So what I am missing?
Question: How should I deal with the idea of man-made global warming? What is the proper approach to the whole idea? I can't decide on my own whether it's true or false without educating myself in climatology. And how should I treat others who believe in it just because many university professors do?
Question: Are regulations necessarily different from laws? Regulations do not violate the presumption of innocence – they are jurisprudential signals. A law against murder does not violate the presumption of innocence; rather, it is a signal that denotes a consequence that will be levied upon the violator of the law. This is the same standard that regulations follow. A law is a "regulation" on behavior in the way that legislative regulations are, in fact, "regulations" on business behavior. Is this a correct assessment of laws and regulations?
Question: Is it immoral to bribe a government official? There are many approvals and licenses that are required to be taken by individual and/or companies for doing anything. But they are not granted unless you bribe the concerned government official. (They are not ashamed of asking you directly.) In that case, is it immoral on your part to bribe them as you have no way out?
Question: Should private citizens be legally obliged to keep government secrets? Should it be a crime for private citizens to divulge "top secret" information? That is, if I have no specific security agreement or contract with the government to keep information confidential if I come to possess it through no fault of my own? What if lives are at stake?
Question: Is it immoral to cheat on your taxes? It's essentially a lie to protect the products of your labor. So is it wrong just because it's illegal?
Question: Is it wrong to cheat a partly government funded institution? There are a couple of classes I would enjoy sitting in on at my university. They are large, and I would not be noticed. Would it be wrong to go without paying for them? I wouldn't do this with a private college, nor would I have qualms about a completely government funded school. But colleges are partly privately paid for. Would it be immoral for me to get some of that value without paying?
Question: Should government officials be punished for rights violations committed via their office? Should the constitution of a rational government in a capitalist society mandate punishment of those in positions of governance who use the power of government to violate individual rights? For instance, McCain-Feingold represents a massive individual rights' violation; that of free speech and association. McCain and Feingold violated their oath to defend the Constitution as did all those who voted for it; George W. Bush explicitly abdicated his oath in his signing statement. Should such people be punished for legalizing such an encroachment? Currently, only Treason is specifically mentioned in the Constitution as a criminal act requiring punishment
Question: Given the TSA's policies, is choosing to fly giving the sanction of the victim?
Question: I have a terminal illness (cancer) that's getting in the way of my daily life, which includes a full-time job and college. Is it moral to stop working and go on disability?
Summary: What does a principled political candidate say and do? Stephen Bailey – the Republican candidate for US House of Representatives for Colorado's Second District in 2010 – gives us a good example in this discussion of his principles and prospects.