This week I decided to go practical. (If you’ve been following me for a while, you may recognize some of this advice, but this is the Revised Version for Fall 2014.)

For many people, college is the first real introduction to politics. (Or maybe the second, if we’re counting your crazy uncle’s Thanksgiving dinner rants.)

Your roommate may be sounding you out on hot button issues. Your political science professors have probably let you know what their own perspective is. And—at least if my coworkers at Young Americans for Liberty are doing their jobs right—there are all kinds of political groups on campus trying to get you to join their club and share their views.

It can be overwhelming. But don’t panic.

When I got to college, I was absolutely clueless about political labels, frustrated that Facebook (at that time) only allowed you to choose from “conservative,” “liberal,” and “moderate.” At one point, I remember I agreed with a professor’s suggestion that maybe I was a neocon—mainly because I hadn’t the faintest idea what that meant.

But as time went on, I started researching my options.

The unlimited internet access of college—a step up from the never-ending AOL free trial scheme I had going on at home—was a big help, and the more I read and researched, the more libertarian I became.

If you’re in the same position of trying to figure out where you stand, here are a few suggestions for determining your own political beliefs:

1. Consider working on an issue-by-issue basis

What I mean is this: Pick a single policy area. It can be fairly broad (e.g. foreign policy, including our various warsdrones, etc.) or fairly narrow (e.g. the TSA).

Read up and follow news primarily on that single issue for a set period of time. Try to look at perspectives to the left and right of you, both modern and historic. Keep a running blog series or even just a Word doc with the important facts and interesting perspectives you encounter.

2. At the end of your set period of time, hash it out

Having looked at the evidence and persuasive arguments from people who disagree with each other, where do you fall? Don’t worry if right now, for example, your opinion on Issue A is more conservative and your opinion on Issue B is more progressive. Just make sure you’ve given all sides a fair shake and could explain to someone with no expertise on the subject you’re discussing why you think the position you’ve taken is the most convincing option.

Read the whole thing here.

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6 more big lies the government told us

Posted on September 4, 2014 at 12.04 pm

This is the second half of a two-part series. Read the first half here if you missed it last week. American trust in government is at an all-time low. Last week, I pointed out six big lies the government told us. Here’s six more.

1. We’re here to protect your rights

As many Americans have learned recently, there’s an epidemic of police brutality in America. With the help of the federal government, America police departments have been militarized, and too often they treat citizens like an enemy to defeat instead of a population to protect. As Senator Rand Paul wrote:

When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury—national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture—we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.

Police brutality is a systemic problem84 percent of cops say they’ve seen it happen—and it unfairly targets minorities. Protecting our rights, this is not.

2. Your stuff is yours to keep

Did you know the Supreme Court has ruled it’s legal for the government to take your house and give it to a business so they can use the land instead? Well, it did. While most people will thankfully never be subjected to this gross abuse of private property rights, the government could still legally take your stuff through civil asset forfeiture. Never heard of it? Most haven’t. As I noted a few weeks ago, civil asset forfeiture is basically a law that allows a police officer who finds you “suspicious” to just take your stuff. Once your property has been confiscated, the burden of proof is on you, not the police, to show that you didn’t get it from any criminal activity. You have no right to a lawyer and won’t get a day in court. Civil asset forfeiture happens a lot, because police conveniently consider large amounts of cash very suspicious indeed—but not too suspicious to dump it right into their own department coffers.

3. You can trust us with your future

More than half of Millennials believe we’ll never get any of the money we’re forced to pay into Social Security—and we’re right:

The management of entitlement programs, already weighted heavily in favor of the older population, has a very specific terminal point that coincides neatly with the Boomers’ deaths. The 2011 report by the Social Security trustees estimates that, under its current administration, the fund will run out in 2036, so there’s just enough to get the oldest Boomers to age ninety.

For Millennials, there’s nothing secure about Social Security. So when do we get to opt out and be responsible for our own futures?

Read the whole thing here.

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6 big lies the government told us

Posted on August 26, 2014 at 10.58 pm

This week’s column is the first of a two-part series of 12 reasons not to trust the government:

American trust in government is at an all-time low, and the continuing tension in Ferguson, Missouri isn’t doing much to strengthen the public’s trust.

Skepticism of the state is healthy. But it was happening long before Ferguson.

Here are 6 big lies the government has told us.

1. We know what we’re doing

Last week, the Washington Post reported that TSA agents will be taught that Washington, DC issues driver’s licenses. Why is this necessary? Well, TSA agents have repeatedly hassled travelers because the agents apparently don’t know what the District of Columbia is.

This story of government incompetence is just the tip of the iceberg:

These are not stories of an organization that knows what it’s doing.

2. This nanny state is for your own good

The war on drugs—like Prohibition—is supposed keep us safe from crime and addiction, right?

Well—also like Prohibition—it doesn’t.

When liquor was banned, violent crime spiked and alcohol consumption didn’t substantially decrease. The repeal of Prohibition is what actually made America safer.

The drug war works the same way. Since marijuana was legalized in Colorado, for instance, there has been a notable decrease in violent crime; and police can reroute their time and as much as $40 million annually to dealing with real criminals instead of people who buy pot. In Portugal, where all drug use was decriminalized more than a decade ago, drug use and addiction rates are way, way down.

3. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear

If any lie on this list is in the running to win “most obvious,” it’s this one—given what we know about the insane, illegal, and invasive things the NSA does.

Mass surveillance suppresses dissent and breeds conformity. It’s unconstitutional and more intrusive than we know. And even if you think you don’t have anything to hide, you do: The average American unknowingly commits three felonies a day because we’re so over-regulated. In short, it’s pretty clear we all have something to fear: our government.

Read the whole thing here.

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