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Utilizing policy research towards the American ideal of liberty

The sorry state of economic freedom in the United States made for a bleak newsletter two weeks ago (republished in the Carolina Journal). Even I felt downtrodden with the reality that the United States, as of this year, was most likely outside the top 30 nations in the world.

With hindsight, I should have offered a plan or solution for readers. In their absence, one is inclined to view national and state woes as too much to come to grips with, and apathy is the natural response.

You may be inclined to find liberty solely through personal initiative, and I encourage people to do that, from homeschooling to migration. However, if you are interested in engaging in the policy and legislative process, you can do so and achieve better results with a targeted, methodical manner.

Before addressing that, though, one does well to clarify the goal of such activity. As noted in the John Locke Foundation mission page, the goal is "a North Carolina of responsible citizens, strong families, and successful communities committed to individual liberty and limited, constitutional government."

My favorite explanation and inspiration for efforts in that direction comes from Lawrence Reed, president of the Foundation for Economic Education. In his pamphlet, "The True Meaning of Patriotism," he notes that patriotism is not a feeling and not necessarily a love of country. It is more than showing up to vote, and it is not a blind trust in government officials. That is precisely why policy research organizations exist to shine the light of transparency.

Patriotism is, as Reed explains, support for the ideas that gave birth to a country. He is a patriotic American because he reveres "the ideas that motivated the Founders and compelled them, in many instances, to put their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor on the line… Freedom — understanding it, living it, and teaching it. That, my fellow Americans, is what patriotism should mean to each of us today."

To put that into action, please consider the strategies in Rules for Patriots by Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks. Targeted primarily at a Tea Party audience, Kibbe notes that "We the people are a force more powerful than one any special interest can create," and the self-organizing, bottom-up nature of the movement has been its greatest asset. There is "no man in charge" to be corrupted by D.C. elites.

The primary vehicle that Kibbe recommends is a local chapter group. That way you don’t have to go it alone, and each group can retain its autonomy while still learning from the others. Fortunately, such groups already exist in most areas, and you can find one through, Freedom Force International, or Otherwise, you can form your own group, and Rules for Patriots offers guidelines for how to structure such an organization to target centers of influence.

The second key vehicle for influence, beyond a local pro-liberty advocacy group, is a place in the dialogue. Even if you’re working full-time, you can still write a blog for free, and the blogosphere is gradually overwhelming mainstream media with its raw and varied material. Diane Rufino of the Pitt County Tea Party has two of my favorites, For Love of God and Country and Know Your Constitution.

If maintaining a blog seems too onerous, many blogs welcome intermittent submissions. For national or broader discussions, I am pleased to recommend, which is a mix of conservatives and libertarians. For North Carolina concerns, you are welcome to email me or another staff member directly, and we will consider either placing your letter in one of our newsletters or on our blog, The Locker Room. You can also email us or one of our five local blogs with news tips or topics that you believe merit attention.

Since newspapers still hold a large audience, letters to the editor also remain valuable. Little gives me more satisfaction than seeing people take our research and use it to make others aware of the challenges we face, and here is one example (second from the top) from Lewis Guignard in the Charlotte Observer.

So there is plenty you can do, and many people are eager for new supporters to join their ranks. I don’t promise immediate results, but I am optimistic about what a new wave of pro-liberty activists can achieve, particularly because a majority of people in the United States are on their side. As the prominent pollster Scott Rasmussen has documented, they still haven’t lost their desire for self-governance.


  • The misleading nature of cash-basis government accounting continues to gain media coverage, and rightly so. It would be illegal if carried out by a private corporation. This past week, John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation, commented on the Institute for Truth in Accounting’s latest ranking of state unfunded liabilities which placed North Carolina at 35th in the nation, behind all of its neighbors.
  • Do you know any individuals interested in exploring the philosophy of and political movement towards liberty? If so, please let them know that Students for Liberty will be hosting a regional conference in Chapel Hill on November 3, 2012. These conferences highlight the wave of articulate and passionate young liberty advocates and are for both students and non-students alike. The students organizing this event have also just published their first blog post, "Six Things Liberals Need to Stop Saying," if you’d like to get a sense for what they are up to.

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