Author: Ryan Lau

Ryan is a first-year sophomore at the University of Vermont, double majoring in philosophy and psychology. He is 71 Republic's Editor in Chief and a member of the Board of Directors. The works of Konkin, Goldman, Rothbard and Tolstoy have influenced his anarchist beliefs and led him to seek a way to bring those ideas into reality.

A Libertarian Isn’t Fiscally Conservative and Socially Liberal

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

We heard the watered down message, repeated like a scratchy old Monkees record stuck on the same song. Just when even the staunchest supporters couldn’t stand it anymore, there it was once again, straight from the mouth of Gary Johnson in 2016. “Libertarians are fiscally conservative and socially liberal!” The old rhetoric spewed its way onto the podium of American discussion, forever tainting the very idea of liberty.

Eventually, after enough people gave the former governor a fair bit of criticism on his little slogan, he modified it slightly. Over time, “socially liberal” evolved to “socially whatever you want”. Though closer to accurate, this never fully replaced the original label. Throughout his 2016 Presidential campaign, Gary Johnson fervently declared the idea of being fiscally conservative and socially liberal. This was a way of grabbing voters from both the conservative and liberal camps. However, he failed in both arenas. Instead, his magnet of ideas turned repulsive, shunning many who were strongly by his side.

The Flaw of Being Socially Liberal

On its surface, social liberalism sounds like an incredible libertarian ideal. It allows for consenting adults to act liberally if they so choose, right? Well, not necessarily. Often times, the modern liberal movement has thrown a number of wrenches into true social freedom.

A prime example of such action is the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. In general, American liberals showed disdain for the business after it refused service to a gay couple. With a clear stance, they fought hard to ensure that the business owners would need to serve all customers to avoid discrimination. Yet, this position falls in stark contrast to the idea of social freedom. Forcing a cake owner to make a cake gives him or her a positive obligation to provide for someone else.

This runs opposed to the libertarian doctrine, which states that nobody must do anything for another. It, of course, strongly suggests that individuals help and serve each other out of human compassion. But once a mandate exists, the action is no longer free. On the other hand, the gay couple is still free to buy a cake from anyone else in town. Though the owner committed an immoral action, he did not in any way limit their freedom. Social liberalism, thus, can run counter to the notion of freedom.

An Unappealing Doctrine

Clearly, libertarians believe in social freedom, rather than liberalism. The latter, though, makes libertarianism very unattractive to personal social conservatives. Many who may flock to libertarianism are wary of drugs, homosexuality, or prostitution, for example. Despite this, they may recognize the right for all of the above to be legal. Though they do not approve, they view it not in their power to stop these actions.

Surely, social freedom keeps with these beliefs. It alone allows people of vastly different beliefs and backgrounds to coexist without harming each other. Unfortunately, social liberalism does not do the same. Though perhaps permissible by personal social liberals, it simply is not okay to the personal social conservative to forcefully push a liberal social agenda. Thus, social liberalism will leave out many people willing to accept actions they do not approve of.

Fiscally Conservative: Just as Bad

Upon hearing the words “fiscally conservative”, many may think of very limited spending. After all, Republicans have tried for decades to paint a picture of small government. But, beneath it all is a warped image of debt.

In name, many Republicans oppose spending increases, but does this mean they are for serious cuts? Usually, this isn’t the case. In the modern Republican Party, Senator Rand Paul is a radical. A strong voice against government spending, many view him as the most fiscally conservative member of the chamber. Upon further scrutiny, though, he does not value economic freedom. In his 2016 Presidential campaign, Paul vowed a 14.5% flat income tax on all Americans, with nothing on the first $50,000. He supported a strong military and a sizable social safety net.

Most of the other Republicans were, thus, even less fiscally conservative. Libertarians want nothing to do with this. Opponents of all wasteful spending, they oppose a bloated military and, generally, social safety nets too. Fiddling with the progressive tax code, as most conservatives do, is not fiscally responsible.

What is a Libertarian?

Without a doubt, a libertarian is not fiscally conservative and socially liberal. In fact, a pure libertarian is neither of these things. Rather than the minute tweaking of budgets, they support drastic overhauls of the federal budget and an elimination of the deficit. Rather than social pressure on conservatives, they support the freedom of all. Johnson began to make progress when saying “Socially whatever you want”. But nonetheless, there was a considerable way to go.

Rather than separating fiscal and social issues, it is simpler to examine them together. One key principle binds libertarians; they believe one may do as he or she pleases, as long as the action does not directly prevent another from doing the same. Economic restriction and heavy government spending, thus, are inadequate. Social limitation on conservatives and liberals alike are also unjust. Libertarians are not some form of watered-down blend of the two parties. They are not a moderate group that takes the best of both worlds; such an idea suggests that either world has much good in it. All in all, a libertarian, both fiscally and socially, is but one thing: free.

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America Is Safer than It Has Been in Decades

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

Nearly two weeks ago now, a gunman opened fire on innocent people at The Borderline Bar in Thousand Oaks, California. 12 people died in the attack. Not long before, another crazed individual slaughtered 11 and injured 7 at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. The year’s mass shooting count continues to rise. At the same time, so does the number of people crying for gun control. Quite possibly, the copycat effect is in play. Surely, there is a direct connection between these two figures, as many gun control advocates cite incidents such as these, as well as the Parkland school shooting, as evidence to support tighter gun regulations.

The Olden Days of Unlocked Doors

One particular argument, however, takes this sentiment in a quite irrational direction. Through the fear and mass hysteria come cries that we are not a safe country anymore; in the olden days, you could leave your doors unlocked, but now, kids can’t even go to school or a movie anymore without the fear of a shooting. I do not, in any way, seek to belittle the emotions of these children, who have every right to hold fear deeply. But, their fears often come from excessive media coverage, rather than an increased state of danger in America.

First, allow me to preface with the notion that one mass shooting is too many. Similarly, one shooting of any kind is too many; shootings at the hands of police, criminals, terrorists, and deranged school shooters alike are horrific and worth considerable attention. Likewise, so are deaths by the knife, or car, or sword, or bomb, or gas.

We do not, unfortunately, live in a society of daisies and rainbows, where suffering is little more than a myth. Death exists, and without a doubt, is a regrettable part of everyday life. Once again, this is in no way stating that we should show tolerance towards bringers of death: such a suggestion is intolerable. Nonetheless, we must take this into consideration when looking at the following statistics regarding violent crime.

Are We Facing an Epidemic?

First and foremost, the odds of dying in a mass shooting in a given year are far lower than one in a million. In fact, in 2016, there were only 71 deaths from mass shootings (excluding war casualties). Once again, this figure is 71 people too many, but it is clear that we are not living in a culture of mass shootings, where deaths from them are normal and expected. In 2018, though the year is not over, the figure has not changed dramatically, sitting at 68, even after the 23 in recent weeks. With a population of over 325 million and rising, the odds thus lie below 1 in four million of being a victim of a mass shooting.

This definition of mass shooting, though, is relatively narrow. It involves an incident with four or more casualties at the hands of one shooter (or two, acting in tandem). It also excludes domestic violence and gang assaults, as well as awry robberies. Essentially, this is a figure that gives the odds of being the victim of a random act of violence.

Violent Crime’s Steady Decline

What would happen, then, if I was to expand the lens to all acts of violent crime? Perhaps, then, it would become clear that today’s America is far more dangerous than that of the past. Yet, it appears that, compared with 30 years ago, America is actually considerably safer.

Since 1991, the violent crime rate in America has dramatically fallen. Then at 758.2 incidents per 100,000 people, it has nearly halved, now sitting at 382.9 incidents per 100,000. The same pattern occurs when looking at violent crimes committed by youth. In fact, the decline is even more dramatic. In 1993, Americans aged 12-17 committed 1.1 million violent crimes. Since then, however, the figure has fallen to a mere 182,000. Murder and robbery follow a similar pattern, decreasing by about half since the early 1990s.

A Public Misconception: America is Safer

On the contrary, though, public perception of crime has actually taken a turn for the worse. A Pew Research study from the 2016 election polled voters about their perception of crime since 2008. Shockingly, the voters were not capable of determining the truth about crime rates. 59% of those surveyed, including 78% of those who voted for Donald Trump, believed that crime has worsened in the 8 years under President Obama. A plurality of Hillary Clinton voters agreed, despite the fact that both violent crime and property crime has drastically dropped over this span.

Without a doubt, America is safer than it has been in decades. Media, however, often sensationalizes the instances of crime that do occur more than they did previously. Gang violence in Chicago, for example, does not receive the attention that mass shootings in schools do, simply because there are more instances of violence. A media outlet could not possibly report in any detail on the inner happenings of gangs in cities.

The Copycat Effect

What is particularly interesting here, though, is the possibility of the copycat effect. Essentially, this states that when the media focuses so heavily on the name, story, information, and actions of the killer in a mass shooting, it inspires others to copy the action. These copycats may try to outdo the original killer or become more (in)famous.

A 2015 report states that as many as 20 to 30% of mass shootings are the result of the copycat effect. The effect, according to the report, lasts around two weeks. Moreover, it is worth noting that gang violence mass shootings receive less media attention and are less likely to cause a copycat effect. By the law of averages, the percentage must go up for acts such as theater and school shootings. If media did less to focus on and almost memorialize shooters, they could save lives.

Instead, media should place greater emphasis on the stories and legacies of victims. Though America is safer than it has been in decades, we are deeply flawed, with much room to improve. Clearly, the media has a role to play in this path. By reducing the copycat effect, they may save numerous lives. Uncomfortable though it may be, it’s time for the media to have that discussion and begin action.

Perhaps the names and stories of killers are profitable. Perhaps they bring about a larger viewer base over the opposing network. But we at 71 Republic declare that profit is second to human life. Media, upon recognizing the copycat effect, should immediately cease glorifying, or even naming, school shooters in the wake of attacks.

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Bitcoin Floor Falls, Bottoms at $5600 USD

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

Shortly before noon on Wednesday, Bitcoin took a major downturn. After remaining (relatively) stable in the low to mid $6000 USD range for several months, the cryptocurrency plummeted to a mere $5600. This represents roughly a 10% drop in value instantly.

In its history, Bitcoin has shown greater jumps in both directions. However, this breach following a period of stability is relatively unprecedented.

Wednesday’s price marks the lowest Bitcoin exchange in over 12 months, dating back before the surge to nearly $20,000 USD in December of 2017.

Shortly before the drop-off, analysts had mixed expectations on the future of Bitcoin. Some expected the prices to rise modestly, exceeding the $7000 USD mark in the near future. But other analysts were less optimistic. Crypto analyst Willy Woo, for example, believes that market will not bottom out until sometime in 2019’s second quarter.

Individual Twitter users, on the other hand, were not so sure of either solution. In a poll that Woo posted, there was no clear consensus on Bitcoin’s forecast. Some users believed that the bottom was here, while others believed there was more to fall first. Interesting, a plurality actually conceded to not having any idea what would happen next.

The market downturn is not exclusive to Bitcoin. Other cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum, have also seen considerable losses. Wednesday morning, the altcoin opened above $200 USD, but by noon EST, it was a mere $180.

Since the fallout, Bitcoin has recovered slightly, returning to a value of $5805 USD before falling once more to $5730. It is likely that today, as well as the near future, may lead to a continuation of this morning’s volatility.

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Hillary Clinton 2020? Third Bid in Play, Says Ex-advisor

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

Less than a week after the decisive 2018 midterms, the 2020 campaign season is already beginning. On Monday, West Virginia State Senator Richard Ojeda announced a 2020 bid against President Trump. Last week, Ojeda lost his House race, but now believes himself ready to run again.

Now, more significantly, a familiar name in politics is entering the realm of discussion once more. That’s right: we may see a Hillary Clinton 2020 run. After losing in the 2008 Democratic primary and 2016 general election, a close former advisor believes she is going to make another bid for the office.

Ex-advisor Mark Penn and Democratic politician Andrew Stein wrote an article Sunday in the Wall Street Journal detailing her potential run. They believe that this time, Hillary will run on a distinct platform: the “Hillary 4.0”. This, they believe, will set her apart from her three moderate incarnations of the past. In order to win the nomination, they believe she will need to portray herself as more liberal than ever before.

Due to claims of Russian interference and a popular vote win, Clinton did not believe the election was fair. Thus, she may be dissatisfied still with the loss and unwilling to end her political career to defeat by an outsider.

Throughout the campaign season, Penn and Stein detail, she had high approval ratings. Among Democrats, she had 75% support. However, much of this may have been because of the alternative: Donald Trump. Many of the progressive members of the Democratic Party voiced strong words against Clinton. As a result, she may find it difficult to regain their support a third time. This is especially true when candidates such as Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, and Kirsten Gillibrand have speculated runs. Nonetheless, they believe her desire to be the first female president will prevail.

Conway Encourages Hillary Clinton 2020

Interestingly, the announcement drew sarcastic support from Kellyanne Conway. The first woman to successfully manage a presidential campaign, she believed Clinton to be an easy target. As Trump has already defeated her once, she believes that he can do so again.

Conway took to Twitter on Monday to voice her support for a Hillary Clinton 2020 bid, saying: “Dear God, please, yes”.

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The Constitution Is as Effective as Gun-free Zones

By Ryan Lau | United States

Allegedly firm supporters of gun rights in the conservative camp use an interesting argument. In reality, they often do indeed support some limitations on the right to bear arms. However, for the sake of argument, allow me to table this point and deal only with those who truly support full gun rights. One of their arguments goes like this:

  1. Many politicians advocate that we create gun-free zones in places such as schools and public places, with the goal of combating gun violence.
  2. People willing to commit murder are willing to break the law (as murder, usually, is illegal).
  3. Gun-free zones come in the form of other, less serious laws.
  4. If someone will break a felony law such as murder, then another, less serious law will not deter them from still killing.
  5. Therefore, regardless of morals, creating gun-free zones are not an effective way to combat gun violence.

In order for this argument to hold true, it must be both valid and sound. For it to be valid, the conclusion, point 5, must be undeniably true, if we assume that the premises, points 1-4, are also true. For it to be sound, points 1-4 must actually be true, therefore proving point 5 the same.

A Valid and Sound Argument

First of all, let’s examine whether the argument is logically valid. Point 1, of course, establishes what the action is doing: creating gun-free zones. It also makes the goal clear: combating gun violence. Points 2 and 4 explain that someone willing to break a law, murder, will do so again. As point 3 explains, a gun-free zone is a law. If we assume true that murderers do not follow laws and gun-free zones are laws, then it logically follows that murderers will not follow gun-free zones. If the gun-free zones do not reduce the murder rate, then they cannot be an effective means of combating gun violence. So, the argument is valid.

Similarly, the argument turns out to be sound, for all four of the premises are true. Gun-free zones, of course, cannot exist in the public sphere without a law creating them. Certainly, their only meaning is to deter gun violence. Therefore, points 1 and 3 are correct.

Point 2 is also correct. Barring instances such as military and police killings, taking the life of another human being is illegal. The government, though, does not consider these cases murders at all. In fact, they define murder as unlawful killing. Thus, every murder involves breaking a law, proving point 2 true.

As for point 4, one merely needs to look at the sentencing for various crimes. For a mass shooting, the punishment is either life in prison without parole or death. So, there is simply no way that an additional sentence would make this worse; an added fine or lengthened sentence mean little to someone who will never be free. This points to the fact that there is no reason for a murderer to follow the laws pertaining to gun-free zones. As a result, it is clear that point 4 is true, making the argument valid and sound.

The Constitution Comparison

Surely, the above argument holds true, provided that it is both valid and sound. Then, of course, the same reasoning must hold itself to be true in other, similar circumstances. If I can substitute the subject and object, but the logical premises remain the same, then the argument is also still valid and sound. Let’s see what happens when placing this analysis in the scope of abiding by the Constitution.

  1. Many politicians advocate that we create a Constitution to restrain government, with the goal of combating a growing, tyrannical state.
  2. People willing to authorize killing are willing to break the law (as murder, usually, is illegal).
  3. The United States Constitution comes in the form of United States law.
  4. If someone will authorize killing, then words on paper will not deter them from still authorizing killing.
  5. Therefore, regardless of morals, creating a Constitution is not an effective way to combat government growth.

Why is it, then, that so many people see the first one to be true, but not the second? Assuming the premises to be true, the conclusion is necessarily also true. Moreover, just like above, the premises themselves were true. The Constitution, thus, is no more effective than gun-free zones. Anyone who uses this argument against gun-free zones should also recognize its futility in other areas, especially that of the Constitution. The size of government has increased continually, and no sign or words on paper can stop it.

So, the Constitution, designed to prevent the growth of government, does not do so. Now what? Admittedly, this is a bold claim; the document’s futility undermines nearly 250 years of status quo. Without the Constitution, many traditional aspects of our society fall apart. Voting for change becomes nil if the politicians have no reason to ignore such change. Since the dawn of America, the government has grown continuously, showing little regard for any such limitations, regardless of party.

Subversive Innovation

However, hope is not lost. Rather, it comes from an entirely different avenue: subversive innovation. In 10 years, innovators who simply ignored the will of the state have done more for the liberty of the commoners than any politician has done since the dawn of the Libertarian Party. In 2009, as a response to the government’s control and manipulation of currency, Satoshi Nakamoto responded with an online, decentralized currency: Bitcoin. Since then, transactions have become easier, and many people have grown rich off of a coin not tied to fiat.

Following suit, a few years later, Ross Ulbricht joined the stage. With his platform, The Silk Road, he allowed consumers to avoid the regulation that they disapproved of on the state. Predominantly, users bought small amounts of marijuana, years before most politicians even considered its legalization.

Not long after, Cody Wilson jumped into the fray with Defense Distributed. By 3D printing guns with his files, consumers could escape the crippling regulatory action of the government. Without hurting anyone, he won a battle for decentralization.

A Common Characteristic

What do all of these, so far, have in common? Two things jump out right away. First of all, they all had a tangible effect on common people who did not need to understand the complex workings of the system. With very basic knowledge, they could help themselves and make their own lives easier.

Moreover, none of these actions required a vote, or anything political. The innovators did not act to support or oppose the government; they acted to help the people, without consulting the government. Their actions have aided many more than the vote has, even though the latter has had far longer to take effect. While the Libertarian Party garners 2% in some Senate race, subversive innovators change the world. While Nicholas Sarwark runs a good meeting, Max Borders helps to create a future where people do not need the state because they live on floating seasteads.

The vote, a natural extension of the Constitution, is as ineffective as gun-free zones. It has, for nearly 250 years, led the country further into darkness. Why, then, does anyone expect it to lead us back to the light?

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