Tag: teen

America is Less Culturally Free than it Realizes

By Ryan Lau | United States

In American politics today, Republicans and Democrats dominate the national stage of conversation. More often than not, media and government crush dissenting ideas, and this is not surprising. In fact, it makes perfect sense that those in power would not cede that power to anyone else. However, it appears that in America, the issue with the two party duopoly runs much deeper than a simple government power. In fact, coercion and violence are both big parts of American culture. The alleged land of the free does not practice their principles, in the political realm or in its society.

A Coercive Start

As young as infancy or early childhood, many American children learn the principles of coercion. This comes through many of the traditionalist, “sit down and shut up” mindsets that both schools and parents practiced. Specifically, the old adage “Do as I say, not as I do” is highly detrimental to the American public. By nature, children will learn from figures of authority, and will imitate those figures in an attempt to learn from them. A psychological fact, this is not necessarily good or bad. Instead, it is entirely dependent on the lessons that they learn before they reach an age where they can think more for themselves. Yet, the lessons and examples have much to be desired.

An Assault of Adolescence

Moving into adolescence, free thought begins to become more prevalent. However, free thought, just like coercive thought, is not necessarily good or bad. Rather, it depends on the messages that it brings. In these critical years to a child’s development, they often associate with increasing levels of coercion and violence. Now, this is not to say that every teen will develop violent tendencies. However, it turns out that such violence and coercion spread like a plague.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released statistics about the epidemic of teen violence. In their study, they looked at data involving both threats and action, and the stats were horrifying. For instance, one in every twelve teens made a threat to use a weapon against another each year. Thirty percent of all teens were either bullied, or were a bully. Though many schools have taken action in recent years against this coercive culture, it is not enough.

In fact, the prevalence of these acts may, if anything, be increasing as social media use also rises. Recently, the American Journal of Public Health conducted a study about the causes of teen violence. It showed that adolescents are far more likely to commit a violent act or crime if one or more close friends had done so. Specifically, they were 183% more likely to have hurt someone badly enough that they needed medical attention, and 140% more likely to have pulled a weapon on another. This is not a culture of true freedom, as freedom requires that each individual has a  negative right to liberty. By using violence in such staggering numbers, American teen culture shows it has little in common with freedom at all.

Violence: An American Way of Life

Unfortunately, it appears that these violent tendencies simply do not go away with age. Killing in America occurs 87 times every day. The violent crime rate in Washington DC exceeds 1% of people annually. Battlefields in Afghanistan often see lower casualty rates than a typical day in Chicago. It simply baffles me how people can call America the land of the free, how they can worship the alleged culture of freedom. In reality, a culture of freedom is one that protects the rights of its citizens.

Consequently, it must recognize the importance of life, liberty, and property. Yet, American culture does none of these. Clearly, life and liberty are irrelevant to many Americans. But the extent of the violation of rights goes far beyond this, and applies to every voting, law-abiding, taxpaying American. By supporting politicians who start wars and impose unjust taxes upon citizens, Americans are, in their own way, supporting violence. By following laws which require them to pay services to a government which will do the same, they are supporting violence. Yet, they often brush this off with a casual excuse about society and its traditional function.

Thus, cops, criminals, and almost everyone in between are guilty of such violence. In doing so, they contribute to the culture, furthering its grip on this country. Surely, the “land of the free” truly has a long way to go in order to live up to its name.

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Libertarians Need To Engage With Politics If They Ever Wish To Go Forward

By Jadon Buzzard | United States

Three years ago, I had the opportunity to read Basic American Government, by Clarence B. Carson. I remember it like it was yesterday. I didn’t want to read that American government book; it seemed pretty boring. Yet I did, and it changed my life.

Eventually, I began to enjoy it immensely, leading me to pour over its pages for simple pleasure reading. The ideas expressed within it were new to me, and yet they made sense. The author spoke of the inefficiency and immorality of many modern governmental programs. Economically, the author took a stance I hadn’t been seriously exposed to until that moment: Libertarianism.

Clarence Carson reduced the role of government to the simple protection of natural rights, as tariffs, regulation, and subsidies were all proven to be both ineffective at bringing about their respective goals and directly violate basic natural rights.

After finishing the book, I began to explore different avenues to learn about this interesting subject. I began to think critically about current events, forming opinions and using argumentation to support my political stances. I began to read literature on Libertarianism, listening to podcasts, and engaging in discussion with my friends and family about many key issues. This period of my life was key, for it allowed me to get excited about this new subject, which would come to shape my worldview and many of my activities later on. Learning about Libertarianism pushed me to action, inspiring me to strive to make a difference in my community.

Yet certain individuals seem hesitant to take a strong stance when it comes to Libertarianism.

I have quite a few friends, many of whom share my political beliefs when it comes to governmental intervention in the economy and the drug war, who choose to keep silent. This phenomenon seems to reflect the nationwide perception among youth that their voices don’t matter, or that philosophy and politics are rather boring. They’d rather engage in activities other than those which involve the direct actions our government takes in the economy, actions that can have severe political and moral implications on those same youth.

Other, more “hardcore”, libertarians argue that we cannot engage with our political system because it is unjust. They remind us that government as an institution is inherently evil and will always violate individuals’ rights by its very nature.

I strongly disagree with both of these often-employed arguments involving political engagement, especially among libertarians. I contend that political engagement, whether at the federal, state, or local level, is a worthwhile goal, and ought to be the route every serious libertarian engages in at one level or another.

Let’s start with the idea that politics is boring, and that there are many other activities which may be more enjoyable. First, I argue politics is enjoyable no matter what your preferences are. Politics encompasses almost every single topic area, from food to video games to scientific discovery. Why? Because government intervention exists in every one of those areas, and a libertarian ought to oppose most of those regulations.

If you’re truly passionate about writing, for example, form an opinion about the government’s copyright and intellectual property laws. Whether you agree with these laws or not is virtually irrelevant at this point. If you are truly passionate about the subject, you ought to do everything in your power to see that it is more widely available and enjoyed. Government intervention is inherently tied to this, and thus politics provides you an avenue through which you can both learn about your favorite topic and allow it to flourish, no matter what it is.

My second argument here is that tastes and preferences are malleable. You are not restricted to one set of enjoyable activities from birth until death; preferences change with experience.

This has two implications: first, you can actually change your tastes and preferences to match activities which are better for you long-term. Political engagement, I argue, is beneficial in the long term because of the knowledge you glean and the effects that it has on the overall economy. Thus, even if you don’t enjoy politics now, you ought to work on changing your preferences to match that which will provide you with the most long-term happiness.

The second implication is that your preferences will naturally change as you discover new things. Give politics a try, you may end up enjoying it more than you thought you would. Read literature on political philosophy (The Ethics of Liberty, by Murray Rothbard, is a great start). Start talking with people about the different ideas you encounter. When you’re ready, bring it to the governmental level by calling your representatives and senators. Be vocal about policies you agree with, and challenge policies you believe are immoral or ineffective. Utilize effective argumentation here, especially when criticizing another person’s political beliefs or policy. As the saying goes, attack the argument, not person.

Ultimately, my contention here boils down to a key issue: politics is certainly not boring, and even if it is, it doesn’t have to be.

This brings me to the next set of libertarians that often oppose involvement in our governmental system. These individuals tend to employ a philosophical approach, arguing that any connection with government is wrong since government is inherently immoral. I have two separate responses to this argument, the first examining the alternatives to political engagement, the other involving a direct justification for engaging in the system.

Let’s start with the alternatives. If one does not engage with the system, he or she can either take no action or take violent action outside of normal means. The first results in, well, nothing. Keeping arguments and ideas inside, never allowing them to push you to action, violates the purpose of those ideas. Your political stances exist to motivate you to some sort of action. Even if you don’t want to run for office, you still ought to support and criticize policies in our current governmental system. Refusing to engage at all reveals a deeper fact: perhaps you don’t care as much about your beliefs as you originally thought. Either way, action is warranted.

This, however, brings us to the other alternative of violent action outside of the normal process of government. I’m not talking about civil disobedience or seceding from society, both of which are justifiable political actions. Rather, I’m speaking of a violent overthrow of the current government in order to institute a “truly libertarian” society.

This approach is flawed on many levels. A violent overthrow necessarily undermines the property rights and self-ownership of many individuals who have taken no coercive action. Violence always implicates bystanders, who could be harmed or killed in the process. This is extremely counter-intuitive; the violent “saviors” of property rights have transformed into the very tyrants they abhor. This approach also assumes that all of government is always unjust. Is this really the case? Even if it is, are you sure enough about your conclusion that you’re willing to expose innocent people to extreme risk simply to bring about your preferred political outcomes? It seems to me that such action does not logically follow, given the inherent risks involved.

The second critique I have against these individuals involves my justification for political engagement.

First, I argue that one is only implicated in the immorality of government system when either his policies undermine natural rights or he is directly profiting off of immoral governmental systems. Neither of these are necessarily the case. Libertarians’ policies often oppose governmental bureaucracy and many libertarian activists are currently supported by grassroots donations. One certainly does not have to accept money offered to them by the government, and even if they do accept it, they don’t have to accept all of it. Some can be donated back to the people it was taken from, or utilized in spreading the Libertarian message. The impact here is that it is possible for a true libertarian to work inside government without undermining his belief system.

Finally, even if we accept that all of government is immoral, working within government is the best way forward in light of the alternatives. Many libertarians don’t willingly support working within the government they oppose, but because the alternatives are counter-productive, they’ve been coerced into doing so. Political engagement is the only way to successfully implement libertarian ideology in a consistent and safe manner. Slow transitions will have to work, we must make them. It’s easy to lose motivation when there is no mob pushing us into a shootout with the government. But again, violence doesn’t solve, and it can often alienate individuals who would otherwise wholeheartedly join the movement. Thus, political engagement is justified because it is the result of coercion from the current government and the undesirability of the alternatives.

Policy debate, which I competed in at both the high school and collegiate levels, taught me that the impact of an argument is critical. What is the impact here? Young people need to get involved in both in local and state politics. They need to become familiarized with the arguments employed both for and against government intervention and a minimalist state. And how can we expect young people to engage in political discussion when adults often brush politics aside? Both young and old need to realize the importance of engaging with these arguments. This is especially important for libertarians, as we are often underrepresented in the legislatures and the judicial system. The only way that will change is through direct involvement in those bodies. Young people can have a huge influence on the government in upcoming years. The question is, will they take advantage of the opportunity?

Your Child is an Addict

By Mason Mohon | USA

Welcome to the glorious new world. We have an absurd amount of computer processing power and information in our pockets, at all times. We all carry around our phones with us all the time, constantly checking and looking for new information. The information age is kind of great. I can pull out my phone and text my friend in Sweden, look up an academic paper, or watch whatever episode of The Office that my heart desires. What isn’t to love?

Studies show that there isn’t much not to love. As The Economist recently reported, teens are backing off from what is usually considered “bad behavior.” That is, we are consuming fewer drugs, having less procreative sex, and beating each other up less. All across the developed world, this trend is repeated, with the average age of first consumption of alcohol increasing by two years in Australia since 1998. The pub and nightclub industry has lost the interest of young people in Britain. In the U.S., the teen birth rate has fallen down by two-thirds. In the U.K., about 3000 youngsters were in convicted custody when ‘07 rolled around. In 2016, that number has fallen below one thousand. Clearly, things are getting better. There is so much less to fear when teenagers aren’t going out and having abusive drunk sex.

Shoko Yoneyama, an expert on Japanese teenagers at the University of Adelaide, has gone as far to call it “kind of boring.” Everyone is a nerd now.

But this is coming at a cost. We are turning into really, really sad people. When I say that, I don’t mean that we are becoming sad as in lame (although the argument can clearly be made in favor of that), but rather we are becoming literally sad. We are frowning more, getting stressed more, and shockingly, we are killing ourselves more. The Wall Street Journal reported that depression is up 400% since 1990, and this seems to be more or less linked to our increased usage of life-easing tech. Dr. Ilardi, the author of the article, said the following:

Excessive screen time lulls us ever deeper into habitual inactivity, overstimulates the nervous system and increases production of the stress hormone cortisol. In the short term, cortisol helps us react to high-pressure situations, but when chronically activated, it triggers the brain’s toxic runaway stress response, which researchers have identified as an ultimate driver of depressive illness.

It is like we are playing a slot machine. We are constantly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram in search of satisfaction. We hope the next post to slide by will amaze us, and that’s the science of it. Dan Sanchez described experiments where both rats and humans would relentlessly press a lever that activated pleasurable feelings in their mind. He quotes Kelly McGonigal,  who says the following: “When the brain recognizes an opportunity for reward, it releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine tells the rest of the brain what to pay attention to and what to get our greedy little hands on. A dopamine rush doesn’t create happiness itself — the feeling is more like arousal”

Our phones aren’t making us happy, they are merely arousing us to the potential of an award, and this has become extremely addicting for us. The aforementioned WSJ article said the following in relation to a group of 1000 students who pledged to give up screens for a day: “Most students dropped out of the study in a matter of hours, and many reported symptoms of withdrawal associated with substance addiction.” We have traded addiction to alcohol for addiction to phones and other kinds of tech. The results are extremely detrimental. Although evidence that the two are causally related is lacking, suicides in the U.S. increased by 24% in a period between 1999 and 2014.

Even though studies haven’t conclusively shown it, the link is clear. Face to face human interaction is important for us to have. We are engineered to pick up context clues from another human standing or sitting across from us while conversing. Taking that away and putting it into the world of phones makes even the most intimate conversations completely impersonal. It is clearly taking a toll, and it is a problem we need to fix.

But how do we fix this? Surely, it would only throw gasoline on top of the fire to ask the state to sweep in and solve things. What the solution has to be in personal responsibility. We need to both take care of our own minds and bodies by being careful in the amount that we consume, and we need to band together with families and friend groups to work together and keep each other accountable. There need to be support groups for screen usage just like we have for addictions of other kinds.

There is a lot that you can do in your own life, too. If you’re eating or getting coffee with someone, don’t check your phone. Don’t even set it on the table. See if you can go an hour or two throughout the day without it. We seem to be more addicted to our phones, using them every ten to fifteen minutes, than just about any other drug.

This is a problem we all need to work together to fix. Practice responsibility, and practice limiting yourself. When it gets down to it, we are dying for face to face human interaction and dying without it.