This week’s column is, of course, about the chaos and brutality in Ferguson. I wrote it as a primer for those learning about the problem of police misconduct essentially for the first time, so you may find it useful to share with family and friends who are still figuring things out.

As the police use of tear gas and First Amendment limitations continue in Ferguson, Missouri—the small town wracked by protests following the still murky police killing of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown—there are a number of reasons to believe this story is just the tip of the iceberg.

Here are 5.

1. Because we only care about policy brutality when we’re forced to care.

Though the largely peaceful protests in Ferguson have unfortunately been tarnished by the actions of a few looters, its citizens have accomplished a rare feat: They have made the whole country care about police brutality.

Let’s face it: Normally, we don’t care enough. While libertarians have been talking about police militarization for years and the black community is well aware of racial bias in the justice system, most of us too easily forget, or are simply unaware of, the many cases of police misconduct that occur on a regular basis.

Here are stories from the last month alone:

  • EMTs have to stop four NYPD officers from beating a handcuffed, emotionally disturbed patient on a stretcher
  • Six Philadelphia police charged with robbery, extortion, and kidnapping
  • Harrisburg, PA police order a man with a video camera to leave the area while they body slam a drunk man
  • LAPD officers under investigation for ferociously kicking and punching a woman placed in a holding cell under suspicion of petty theft
  • NYPD officer charged with breaking into a woman’s apartment and beating her

Have you heard of any of these? I hadn’t. And without the protesters in Ferguson, Mike Brown would be just another entry on that much-abbreviated list of recent incidents.

2. Because we arm police like soldiers and then wonder why they act like soldiers.

This is a topic which Radley Balko has amply addressed for years (seriously, read this), but this comment from the past week really nailed it:

Give a man access to drones, tanks, and body armor, and he’ll reasonably think that his job isn’t simply to maintain peace, but to eradicate danger. Instead of protecting and serving, police are searching and destroying.

Following the reports of police violence in Ferguson, President Obama and administration officials condemned police misconduct. But the fact is, they’re complicit: The military equipment, vehicles, and weapons which so often contribute to police brutality are frequently presents from the federal government (to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year, with minimal proof required that these weapons are in any sense “needed”).

The Pentagon has confirmed that some of the equipment used by police in Ferguson is from their stockpile.

Read the whole thing here.

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America is constantly abroad, constantly seeking monsters to destroy—monsters which, like the hydra of mythology or Marvel, only seem to multiply as we launch war after endless war.

As much as we may want to say, “America is coming to help,” it’s never that clear-cut, and innocent civilians too often pay the price.

As ISIS commits atrocity after atrocity, it is easy to wonder if this tragedy might have been prevented had the 2003 invasion of Iraq never occurred—if we’d listen to the wisdom of Founding Fathers like Adams…and Washington, and Franklin, and Jefferson, and Madison, and more.

Adams’ explanation of the dangers of foreign intervention is now writ large in the violence in Iraq and the suppression of civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism here at home:

[America] well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power.

She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.

For more than a decade, bipartisan U.S. foreign policy has been marked by fighting for causes that are not our own—and mired “beyond the power of extrication” in the inevitable mess which ensues.

The basic posture of our government toward our citizens has changed from liberty to force, as anyone with knowledge of the National Security Agency alone well knows.

And rather than standing as a beacon of hope and liberty for the world, American foreign policy has too often become one of failed and bloody micromanagement, a bull in the china shop that is the Middle East.

I don’t know how to “fix” Iraq. But I do know that what we’re doing—what we’ve been doing for more than decade now—isn’t working.

Maybe we could start over with the advice of John Quincy Adams, and once again make our motto “Freedom, Independence, Peace.”

Read the whole thing here.

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This week’s column is inspired by the past weekend’s Young Americans for Liberty Convention.

I spent this past weekend with more than 300 college students from more than 200 universities spread across all 50 states. They’d sacrificed five days of summer break to travel to Washington, DC on their own dime to sit in a classroom for nearly 12 hours a day, taking endless notes.

Why? Because they’re really into liberty.

The event was the sixth annual Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) National Convention. As a YAL employee, I’ve attended each and every convention we’ve held since the first one in 2009, and it’s given me a unique and inspiring inside look at the youth movement for liberty.

From that experience—plus years of broader involvement in college activism and polling data which supports the following observations—here are 3 things you need to know about young people and liberty in America today.

1. Freedom is popular. A recent Reason-Rupe poll confirmed what we’ve seen at YAL for a while: Millennials are the most libertarian generation yet. Yes, libertarian, not liberal.

As the poll showed, two-thirds of young Americans (ages 18 to 29) think the government is wasteful and inefficient. Nearly as many (63%) understand that government regulations favor special interests, not the general public. Strong majorities favor cutting government spending, regulations, taxes, and overall size.

Millennials are also uniquely pro-liberty on social issues like marriage and the drug war, with a majority agreeing that the government shouldn’t dictate what we eat, smoke, or drink. They are also very suspicious of both major parties, with more than half identifying as political independents.

All of this is fantastic news—and it’s not just this one poll which shows the promise of the Millennial generation. Another recent survey from Pew Forum received a lot of attention because it categorized Americans into eight cross-partisan political typologies.

None of them are explicitly called “libertarian,” but the two that have the strongest representation of young people? Well, they sound pretty libertarian to me (or at least close enough to be persuaded in that direction): The “Young Outsiders” and “Next Generation Left” both want government to get out of our personal lives, and while the first group is definitely fiscally conservative, even the latter category understands far more than many older left-wingers that DC can’t keep spending like we have unlimited free money.

Read the whole thing here.

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