Category Archives: Activism

Gage Skidmore on Photography, Creative Commons, and Rand Paul

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Gage Skidmore, a semi-professional photographer from Arizona. —Ari Armstrong

Armstrong: According to your Facebook bio, you started out as a photographer in 2009, when you documented Rand Paul’s Senate run. Your work has also appeared in numerous publications, including Forbes, Wired, and Reason. Do you work as a full-time photographer now, or is that a part-time occupation? Do you mean to make photography your long-term career? What is the scope of your photographic work presently?

Skidmore: I started doing political photography with Paul when I was sixteen years old. I had been involved in the liberty movement since the end of 2007 when his father ran for the 2008 presidency, but I didn’t get involved with his campaign as a photographer until 2011 when he ran for President again.

I’ve never seen photography as a job; I have always seen it as a hobby, something that I do on the side for personal enjoyment or just to make a little money. Recently I’ve done some freelance work for various candidates for office in Arizona, where I live now, and for other organizations like the Western Center for Journalism, as well as Reason magazine, which ran a cover image of mine of Gary Johnson for its 2012 election issue.

I really am not sure where my photography will take me, but I’m always looking to continue my photography adventure as long as I find it to be something that is worthwhile to share with people, and is still fun for me as well.

Armstrong: Every time I need an image of a libertarian or conservative politician or intellectual, I find that the best image is almost always one of yours. Then I discovered that you’ve also photographed celebrities such as Tom Cruise at ComicCon. What prompted you to start releasing so many of your photographs through Flickr under the Creative Commons license?

Skidmore: The scope of my work involves for the most part two things that I enjoy the most—politics and pop culture conventions.

I originally bought my first professional camera for the purpose of going to the San Diego ComicCon in 2009, because I wanted to take somewhat professional photos for the purpose of releasing them under the Creative Commons license, and also because I wanted to see my photos used to illustrate celebrities on Wikipedia on pages where photos didn’t exist.

I’ve always enjoyed seeing my work used in a positive way, and especially enjoy when I’m actually credited for taking the photo. And as far as Flickr goes, I think that is just the most mainstream photography website at the moment, besides Facebook (which isn’t known for its photo quality). But I would really hope for Flickr to make some changes to its business model that would allow its content creators to gain the ability to make money by selling prints, or something of that nature, in the same way that YouTube rewards its content creators for providing content there.

Armstrong: I’ve released a few CC images (my best is of Christopher Hitchens), but nowhere near as many as you’ve released. I find the CC community interesting; I feel grateful, as a blogger, that I have access to so many great images, and I feel a sense of responsibility to contribute my own CC images when I can. What are your thoughts on the Creative Commons?

Skidmore: I can understand people’s reasoning about wanting to tightly control their content, especially if that is how they make their living, primarily by selling photos. I’ve never gotten that serious about it, to the point where I need to sell a photo to eat the next day. I’m not pursuing photography as a college student, either, so I basically see the Creative Commons as a way to release my photos for public consumption, and have them used in the most wide ranging way possible. I have gotten some criticism for this, but I think with the expansion of literally everyone having a cell phone camera, and the fact that someone can easily go to the store and buy a semi-professional camera, the world of photography is constantly changing. These changes will likely have a detrimental effect on the professional photography business as a whole. Depending on one’s perspective, this may be a good thing, or it may be a bad thing, but I tend not to consume myself with that type of stuff.

Armstrong: Which shot or shots of yours do you find particularly interesting, or which have a fun backstory?

Skidmore: I had a hard time thinking about a good photo back story, but I thought about when I first started doing political photography and documenting some of the early campaign events with Rand Paul. One of the first events I went to was a Tea Party event in Hawesville, Kentucky. I can vividly remember arriving at the event, and standing out in the cold November or December climate in front of this towering court house. Back then, the Tea Party was really at its peak, but standing among the crowd was Dr. Paul himself, then just a small town ophthalmologist. There was no other media, no other person taking any photos, at least semi-professionally, and hardly anyone even bothered to introduce themselves to Rand except every now and then between speakers at the event. This was actually also the first time I got to shake Rand’s hand, and his campaign handler at the time introduced us to each other.

Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing a true grassroots movement of liberty-minded individuals who have come to embrace this one time small town doctor as one of the serious contenders for President of the United States. I am so glad to have been able to participate in some way when he first came on the scene, and am especially grateful for the kindness he has shown to me over the years, especially in the beginning when I was just some teenage fan following him around and taking photos.

Armstrong: If someone wanted to hire you to photograph an event, would you be open to that? If so, what’s the best way to reach you, and what sort of processes and costs should a client expect?

Skidmore: If someone would like to hire me for an event, I absolutely would be open to doing so, and the best way to reach me is through email, which I’ve made publicly available on pretty much all my personal websites. I like to make things as easy as possible for potential clients, so they name a price, and I’ll usually accept it, as long as it’s within reason.

W. Earl Allen Died Doing What He Loved

earl-allen-1W. Earl Allen, long a libertarian activist in Colorado, died August 9 in a plane crash. The Denver Post reports, “A Broomfield flight instructor and his student died Saturday when the small plane they were flying crashed near Steamboat Springs. Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg identified the two as William Earl Allen, 62, and a flying student, Terry Lynn Stewart, 60, of Houston.” This is devastating news to the many people who knew and loved Earl.

Of those aspects of his life with which I was familiar, three of Earl’s loves stand out: His love of liberty, his love of flying, and his love of public speaking. I knew him from his political activism. In answering a survey a couple years ago, Earl said he read Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose when he was a college teacher, and he owns “three copies of Atlas Shrugged, one of which is falling apart at the seams due to overuse.”

Earl promoted a free-market in health care while at a 2010 rally (see the 2:55 mark in the video). In 2009, he joined me and other activists to protest legal restrictions on beer sales. Following is a photograph from that event; Earl is at left, with Amanda Muell, Justin Longo, Dave Williams, and me.
earl-allen-beer

Regarding his flying, Earl was featured in a 2011 student video about his career as a flight instructor.

Earl’s death is a great loss to his family, his friends, and his fellow advocates of liberty.

August 13 Update: I just received an email from Earl’s wife with the following notice: “William Earl (Earl) Allen was born on March 18, 1952 in Provo, Utah and passed away on August 9, 2014 in Routt County, CO at the age of 62. He is survived by his wife Maralyn Mencarini; his mother Donna Sharp (Norman); siblings Edward (Madalyn), Eric (Ying), Esther (Nathaniel), and Evan (Rachel); eight nieces and nephews; and six great-nieces and nephews. . . . As an expression of sympathy, memorial contributions may be made at https://secure.eaa.org/development/index.html to the EAA Young Eagles Program.”

Amanda Muell Founded Networking Group Liberty On the Rocks

When Amanda Muell (see photo) founded Liberty On the Rocks, I didn’t think it would become be very important. I was very wrong. Chapters of the group have become key places for free-market activists to network, share ideas, and listen to outstanding speakers. (Note that I run Liberty In the Books, a project of Liberty On the Rocks.)

Here, as part of a series on free-market activism, Amanda discusses her activism. (As always, an interview does not imply agreement.) Please see my “activism” category for additional interviews and discussions about political activism.

Ari: What inspired you to start Liberty On the Rocks?

Amanda: My initial inspiration for starting the happy hours was to meet other people who were interested in free markets and liberty. When I saw the success of the model (i.e., meeting in pubs and taverns) and recognized the benefits of getting people together socially, I decided it was necessary to set up similar groups across the country.

Ari: What is the value in liberty activists meeting socially?

Amanda: When liberty activists and enthusiasts meet regularly in a social atmosphere, it makes it much easier for them to stay informed on current issues and up-to-date on how they affect our liberties. From these interactions, attendees become better informed, better versed in discussing the issues, and more motivated to defend liberty than they were before they were thinking about it on a continual basis. Also, by getting together socially, liberty activists can connect with enthusiasts who are looking to volunteer, learn, or take on a bigger role. This in turn helps to increase the size and effectiveness of the movement for liberty.

Ari: What tips do you have for the budding free-market activist? Why should others get involved?

Amanda: My first tip is to encourage people to do what they are passionate about. Doing something out of “duty” is much more difficult than doing something because you want to do it.

Secondly, it’s important to always consider your audience when discussing issues related to free markets and liberty. Attempt to tailor your message depending on the individual you are speaking with—and always ask lots of questions! Be sure to refrain from insults (it won’t get you anywhere), be respectful, listen and never claim to know something you truly don’t. Try to discuss these subjects from an angle that suits the other party. They may not be interested in the same topics as you, but they will care about making their own decisions for their family, maintaining a healthy bank account, etc.

Tip number three is never cease to learn! Join an economics book club or a liberty-oriented discussion group. Watch videos on Youtube and/or read books on relevant subjects from sources you trust. Join or start a Toastmasters club to increase your ability to persuade. But always continue to learn and challenge your opinions and understanding of liberty.

Lastly, it’s important to focus on the bright side as much as possible. The road to freedom will be long and arduous, but the end goal is worth the continued fight, even if it takes many years and doesn’t happen as quickly as you’d like it to. So don’t give up, no matter what you do, and always celebrate the victories, no matter how small.

I encourage anyone passionate about his or her freedom, family, wealth or future to get involved in the fight for liberty in whichever way suits them. Because we live in society we have no choice but to accept the desires of those around us, or attempt to affect change by influencing their opinion toward freedom. So if you are unhappy with the direction which we are headed (and you should be), educating yourself and those around you is the only sure fire way to ensure that change ensues. This can be effectively accomplished through peaceful parenting, which will help raise the next generations in a manner unfit with our system of government, which uses force, violence and intimidation to get its way.

In addition, other experiments such as the Free State Project and the Seasteading Institute will likely have dramatic impacts on the movement, as they attempt to experiment with different systems than the one we have today. This can be tremendously more effective than simply talking with others, as any successes will prove how effective and just a free society can be. And just as immigrants have flocked to the rich and opportunistic United States, they too will flood the borders of any society producing jobs, financial safety, and freedom. If this seems like a dream too big to accomplish, remember that anything can be done if the people will it. So never stop believing, and without a doubt, don’t give up!

Brian Schwartz Blogs for Freedom in Health Care

Brian Schwartz works as a scientist, and in his off hours he blogs for the Independence Institute’s free-market Patient Power Now site. By focusing his intellectual activism on health policy, he has become an expert in that area, excelling at analyzing complex reports and incorporating that material into popular articles.

My interview with Brian is one of several I’ve recently released. Please see my “activism” category for additional interviews and discussions about political activism.

Ari: What originally inspired you to take an interest in political liberty?

Brian: After my freshman year of college I read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, and Frédéric Bastiat’s The Law. From these I realized the injustice and harmful effects of government policies that violate people’s rights.

As a student as a small liberal arts school, I was surrounded by students who considered their left-wing political views to be “tolerant.” It was really an “emperor has no clothes” revelation for me that their “tolerance” for voluntary exchange and relationship ended when money entered the picture. To me this was an arbitrary and meaningless distinction in terms of whether or not to recognize the right to freely associate, or not associate, with others.

My primary outlet for developing my ideas were columns for the school newspaper and other publications. A friend pointed out how rare it was that I had articles published in campus publications that various people called “Common Sense” (conservative) and “The L-Word” (liberal).

Ari: How did you get into blogging for a think tank about health policy? How’s that going?

Brian: In 2006 the Colorado Senate Bill 208 became law. This bill established a “Blue Ribbon Commission” on health care reform that would evaluate reform proposals from citizens and organizations.

When the Commission solicited proposals in 2007, I had recently read David R. Henderson’s excellent book, The Joy of Freedom: An Economist’s Odyssey. The chapter on health care policy was my first real introduction to the topic. In short, my response was “Health care and insurance in this country are really messed up, and bad government policies are responsible. This is just wrong!”

I had recently returned to Colorado from a fellowship Washington, D.C., where I frequented Cato Institute and Reason magazine events. Working as an engineer, I still had an appetite to for free-market activism. When I heard about the health care Commission, I remember having the fleeting thought that I could become “a free-market health care guy.”

At this point, early in 2007, the Commission’s activities were in the news, and I wrote my first op-ed about health care. Before submitting it anywhere, I ran it by Linda Gorman, Director of the Independence Institute’s Health Care Policy Center. She liked it made some suggestions, and the Boulder Daily Camera published it. Looking at the article now, I can see how my current deeper understanding of health care policy would allow me to make the same points in a more concise and effective manner.

In early March I asked Linda if anyone was writing a free-market health care reform proposal for the Commission’s consideration, and said that if there was one, I’d like to contribute to it. Linda said she didn’t know of anyone. By the next week, after some prodding from you [Ari], I decided to submit a free-market proposal myself.

At that point I didn’t know what the proposal would consist of, as problems with health care policy involve a tangled web of federal and state legislation and regulations. Figuring out which issues to focus on was certainly a “drinking from a fire hose” process. I spent much of my evenings and weekends educating myself and writing, and eventually took a couple of vacation days off from work to finish the proposal.

By the end of April the (now defunct) Rocky Mountain News published an op-ed of mine summarizing the proposal. By the end of the year I’d had health care articles published in the Denver Post, and again in the Rocky Mountain News and Daily Camera.

In late June Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, arranged a lunch with me, you [Ari], and Linda Gorman to discuss (then) Governor Bill Ritter’s plans for health care policy in Colorado. I don’t think I’d met Jon before, or if I had it was very briefly. So I wasn’t prepared for Jon’s onslaught of crude jokes directed at me. I thought it prudent not to reply in kind with a “mom joke” of some sort, though he might have appreciated my playing along. But I think I “passed” in Jon’s eyes by merely being surprised and amused, rather than hurt or offended.

Anyway, by the end of the lunch Jon agreed to have my published health care articles posted on the Independence Institute site. They have been ever since. Jon also suggested that the II would support a blogger to follow and critique Colorado health care policy developments.

At the time I suggested that you do it, but eventually I changed my mind, and you had your own projects going on. In February 2009 at the Leadership Program of the Rockies retreat I asked Jon if the offer was still open. He said he’d think about it.

About a month later I saw Jon at a Americas Future Foundation event in Denver, and he asked me if I would do the health care blog. I called him soon after, suggested a monthly pay rate, and he accepted. The rate was probably less than he had in mind. PatientPowerNow.org went on-line in April 2008.

Ari: How do you mesh your professional and personal life with your activist life?

Brian: My main profession is in physics and engineering, so I keep my activism out of the office. To bring politics into the office is just not wise professionally. While “water cooler” conversations about policy issues are tempting to contribute to, I either refrain from participating or limit myself to a quick comment and then get back to work.

Ari: What tips do you have for the budding free-market activist? Why should others get involved?

Brian: If you value political and economic liberty, then integrity requires that you act to promote them. This does not necessarily mean that you must personally become an activist. Rather, you can donate money to organizations and causes that you think effectively promote liberty.

One reason for doing this is that, if you don’t enjoy any forms of activism, you probably won’t be good at them anyway. Related to this is your comparative advantage. Say you love your full time job, and it pays well. Or that you can make money freelancing in something you like more than activism. The extra time doing what you like can translate into extra income, which you can then donate to a free-market organization.

For example, say you’re good at computer programming—as a disproportionate fraction of free-marketers are—and are excited by your idea for an iPhone app. But free-market activism drains your energy. Then it’s certainly better to enjoy working on what you like, the iPhone app, and donate some of the revenue from it to an organization you like.

If you do get involved in free-market activism, I recommend that you:

Utilize your strengths. Think of your local community (or national community) of free-market activists as a sports team. Not everyone can, or should, play the same position. So figure out what position or positions you’d like to play. For example, you could write op-eds, blog, be on talk radio, talk to local groups, organize talks and other events, attend events and video the opposition doing silly things (e.g., WhoSaidYoSaid.com), or design websites.

Get to know people in your local free-market community. If there are local activists that you admire and would like to emulate, then figure out how to meet them so you can pick their brain. If there’s a Liberty on the Rocks chapter near you, attend. Even if you want to be active, but are not sure how specifically, then getting out to meet people is a good way to figure it out, too. You might start out by helping out on someone else’s project.

Being part of your local or state level free-market community also makes activism less solitary. Speaking for myself, this helps me stay motivated. It’s good to provide and receive positive feedback to others.

Specialize. It’s easier than you think to become a local expert on a specific topic influenced by state and local policy, such as education, energy policy, transportation issues, or health care. If you do this, you can quickly become a “go to” person for interviews on local talk radio shows or newspapers.

Once you know one policy area very well, you’ll realize how little you know about other ones. It takes a while to know the nuances of a specific policy issue, how to respond to common arguments against freedom, how current policies the interfere with free-markets cause problems, and how more market-oriented solutions work elsewhere or have worked in the past.

If you can, choose a field that is somewhat related to your profession. You’ll have more credibility that way. For example, Paul Hsieh, MD [read the interview] specializes in health care policy and heads Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine. But be careful not to mention your employer when advocating policy. Whatever your views, your employer mostly likely doesn’t want to be associated with them.

Learn persuasion techniques. I’m not talking about psychological tricks, but ways to communicate your ideas more effectively. I highly recommend Michael Cloud’s CDs and book on the matter.

On writing in general, I recommend On Writing Well by William Zinsser.

Write about topics that irritate you. On a recent EconTalk podcast, George Will explained how he chose topics to write about by quoting William F. Buckley: “The world irritates me three times a week.” Okay, I admit that this is kind of negative, but I find that if something irritates me enough, it’s more difficult not to write about it than to write about it.

Dr. Hsieh Stays Active for Liberty in Medicine

For his regular job, Paul Hsieh works as a radiologist. In addition to pursuing a demanding career in medicine, Dr. Hsieh has also become one of the nation’s foremost advocates of free markets in medicine. He blogs daily for Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine, and he contributes articles to The Objective Standard and other publications.

Last year I conducted several interviews on political activism, including one with Dr. Hsieh. I am publishing those now. Please see my “activism” category for additional interviews and discussions about political activism.

Ari: Briefly, how did you get into free-market activism?

Paul: I began in January 2007 in response the Colorado state legislature’s decision to appoint a special commission to create a “universal health care” plan for our state. A group of local free market advocates decided to organize the “Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine” (FIRM) project to speak out against government-run “universal” health care, and to support genuine free-market health reforms.

Our founder, Lin Zinser, attended and spoke out at numerous meetings of that state commission. She also participated in several panel discussions, town hall meetings, community groups, radio shows—all to discuss and promote free-market health reforms.

For my part, I wrote several letters to the editor and op-eds on health care policy for local and regional newspapers. After this particular issue died in the 2008 state legislature, we’ve continued working on this topic when health care policy heated up as a national-level issue following the election of President Obama.

Ari: Will you please summarize what your activities entail, and how specifically you became interested in health policy?

Paul: I mostly write letters to the editor, op-eds, and articles for various venues. My op-eds have appeared in outlets including the Christian Science Monitor, Washington Times, Washington Examiner, Denver Post, and PajamasMedia. Some of my longer articles have appeared in The Objective Standard, which is a quarterly journal of culture, arts, and politics.

Some of my work has also been cited by Investor’s Business Daily and major political blogs such as Instapundit and Real Clear Politics.

Our web page offers a summary of our published op-eds and articles.

My interest in health policy was driven initially by a specific state-level political initiative. But since then, I’ve found that topic of health policy (including what constitutes genuine health care “reform”), encompasses some more important fundamental issues—such as the nature of individual rights, the propriety (or lack thereof) of government “entitlement” programs, and the proper role of government in our lives.

Because of my tight work schedule (and personal inclination), I’ve mostly concentrated on writing. I do relatively little public speaking. Nor have I chosen to accept invitations to appear on TV or radio. Of course this may change in the future as my own personal goals and circumstances change.

Ari: What personal rewards and benefits do you find come with free-market activism?

Paul: Some of the key benefits include:

1) I’ve gain a much better understanding of some of the fundamental ideas (such as the nature of individual rights and the proper role of government) by having to think about and articulate them to others.

2) I’ve met some truly fine people who are also interested in free-market health care reform (and more broadly in the restoration and preservation of American freedoms in general).

3) I’ve become a better writer.

4) I’ve gained a greater sense of rational optimism about our future. Although I recognize that the battles ahead will be difficult, my activism has helped give me hope that the fight can be won. By being active, one is helping to steer the debate in the right direction, rather than being a helpless passenger at the mercy of others driving the discussion.

Ari: How do you mesh your professional life with your activist life?

Paul: I do all of this writing on my own time, typically during evenings, weekends, and vacation time.

My employers are fine with my activist work, provided that I don’t presume to speak for them on any political issues—a perfectly reasonable and understandable position. Hence, my author byline always states that I’m a co-founder of FIRM, but does not mention my professional practice affiliation.

My physician colleagues at work know of my views. But my various medical practice partners encompass an extremely wide range of political views, varying from religious conservative to libertarian to mainstream Republican and Democrat to socialist. So I’m merely another person in a politically diverse group and it doesn’t affect our professional relationships with one another.

Ari: What tips do you have for the budding free-market activist? Why should others get involved?

Paul: Budding activists should get involved for personal, selfish reasons. They shouldn’t view activism as grim painful “duty” where they are “taking one for the team.”

Instead, they should find ways to make activism a positive enhancement to their lives. This will include finding areas of interest (perhaps specializing by topic or geographic region) and finding vehicles that suit their time and personality (writing vs speaking vs. technical or support activities).

It also requires a realistic approach to one’s goals. You can’t expect to publish columns in the Wall Street Journal after a month. Rather, one should start small and work your way up. A budding writer might start with blogging, then move up to letters to the editor, then op-eds, then longer articles. A budding speaker might start with small community groups or local Rotary Clubs, then try local radio and TV, etc.

Also, one should network with other potential allies and find ways to provide mutual intellectual and emotional support for each others’ projects.

Finally, be patient and persistent. And savor the small victories when they arise!

These tips will go a long way towards helping budding activists preserve their “staying power,” rather than burning out too quickly and quitting from frustration.

Congressional Challenger Kevin Lundberg Discusses Political Activism

Months ago I interviewed Congressman Jared Polis about activism related to congressional politics. Although he replied promptly, I delayed in publishing his answers until yesterday. (Sorry!) Because Polis now faces a challenger for his seat, Kevin Lundberg, I thought it was appropriate to ask Lundberg a comparable set of questions. His answers follow.

Disclaimer: Those I interview do not necessarily endorse any of my views or writings. (Nor does this interview imply I agree with Lundberg’s positions.)

Please see my “activism” category for additional interviews and discussions about political activism.

Ari: In general, how much do members of Congress tend to bow to party politics, and how much to they tend to make up their own minds based on their independent research and ideological convictions? How do you intent to deal with party pressures should you win the seat?

Kevin: My experience is at the state legislative level, and that is enough to know that the normal trend is for legislators to go with most of the flow. I have spent ten years resisting that trend. It is not a good idea to be a lone ranger, for all legislative issues require a lot of group effort, but one must find likeminded people to help withstand the pressures of establishment politics. In Colorado I helped found and run the Republican Study Committee of Colorado to provide a viable alternative to the establishment trends that inevitably grow more government. In Washington I intend on joining the Republican Study Committee, and similar alliances. I also have learned that it is essential to know what is negotiable, and what are non-negotiable principles, and stick with those principles.

Ari: By the time somebody gets to Congress, many of his or her views and commitments are already set. To what degree is it worthwhile for somebody trying to advocate a set of ideas and policies to interact with members of Congress? Should they instead focus on educating other activists, the general electorate, and lower-level candidates still formulating their worldviews? Obviously you have expressed strong convictions on various matters. How to do plan to weigh the views and advice of constituents in light of your established views?

Kevin: It is always a balance between one’s personal ideals and the district’s overall needs and opinions.

The best way to influence elected officials is before the election. I am honest and forthright with the voters before and after the election, but that is not always the case for every candidate. Before this election is over I trust careful voters will examine my principles for good government and weigh it against the values of my opponent. Remember, now is the time for this conversation.

After the election I will not change my tune. I intend to listen as carefully as I can and then cast my votes according to that information I have gathered and the principles of good government I have clearly outlined during the campaign season.

Ari: How do you plan to interact with constituents?

Kevin: Even as I have tried to do in Larimer county with my state legislative duties, I need to spend as much time here in the district and not in D.C.. I also will make constituent services a high priority for my staff.

Ari: What are the best forums for somebody to interact with a member of Congress? Town halls? Letters? Phone calls? Fundraising events? What are the best ways to interact with you now and should you win the seat?

Kevin: Town halls, and other public meetings are the most effective, but letters, calls, and to a lesser extent, emails all have an impact. I have attended a Monday morning breakfast in Larimer county just about every week of the year for all of my legislative career. It was the event Congressman Bob Schaffer started when he ran for Congress. He attended most weeks while in Congress. I hope to continue that tradition. In addition, I know I must conduct town halls all around the district, and keep an open door policy, even as I have as a state representative and state senator.

Ari: What approaches and arguments work best with a member of Congress? Which ones prove ineffective?

Kevin: For me the most effective arguments are: Is it constitutional? Will it really be in the best interest of the people in the district? Will it reduce government and enhance liberty? Telling me that some big contributor wants something is about the last thing I want to hear and has little effect on my opinion.

Ari: “Public Choice” economics talks about the problem of “concentrated benefits, dispersed costs.” How will you distinguish between special-interest appeals (at the cost of everyone else) and policies truly in the best interests of the country as a whole? How do you hope other members of Congress do that? Or is the problem intractable?

Kevin: From my vantage point I cannot judge other members of Congress, but, as I answered in question five, special-interest appeals do not hold much weight with me. Ask any full-time lobbyist in Denver, they can confirm that I do not bend to accommodate some special interest if it is not first, and foremost, the best choice for the people in my district.

Congressman Jared Polis Discusses Political Activism

Last year I asked Congressman Jared Polis to answer some questions about politics and activism, and he was kind enough to reply. Unfortunately, I got behind on my projects and kept delaying the publication of the interview. I am pleased to make it available now. Obviously, I am aware of the fact that Polis is now locked into his next reelection campaign, so, I will pursue the possibility of asking Polis’s opponent, Kevin Lundberg, a comparable set of questions. (Incidentally, with the recent redistricting, I was drawn out of Polis’s district and into that of Ed Perlmutter.)

Over the next few days I’ll release several other interviews about activism. I have already published an interview with Melissa Clouthier about Twitter activism. Please see my “activism” category for more.

Disclaimer: Those I interview do not necessarily endorse any of my views or writings. (Nor does this interview imply I agree with Polis’s positions.)

Ari: While you’re a “Boulder Democrat,” you also show an independent streak, in that you criticized the auto bailout, you’ve attended free-market events, and you’ve suggested liberty-oriented solutions to immigration and drug policy. But obviously there’s a lot of pressure to conform to the party line in DC. In general, how much do members of Congress tend to bow to party politics, and how much to they tend to make up their own minds based on their independent research and ideological convictions?

Jared: Currently, all members of Congress are nominated by parties in their districts. In most districts, selection by the majority party is tantamount to election due to the gerrymandering. In more competitive seats, the champions of both parties battle it out in a general election.

Most behavior I see is less about towing the “party line” than it is about the fact that members of Congress are products of the districts that elect them. Members are a product of the communities they hail from, and have similar values to most members of those communities.

With resources like the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, my staff and I have access to a significant amount of independent research to help us inform decisions, but we are also avid consumers of media, as well as students of public opinion.

Ari: By the time somebody gets to Congress, many of his or her views and commitments are already set. To what degree is it worthwhile for somebody trying to advocate a set of ideas and policies to interact with members of Congress? Should they instead focus on educating other activists, the general electorate, and lower-level candidates still formulating their worldviews?

Jared: We are far from experts on every topic, so most likely if a constituent approaches us about a policy or idea it will be one worth considering. I sign onto bills frequently that are brought to my attention by constituents and that I might not know about otherwise. Obviously a visit with a member of Congress will not likely result in them changing their value system, but try to pitch the policy based on their existing value system. For instance, if the member is extremely religious, theological arguments may be most effective. If the member makes decisions based on science, use science and data in your presentation. It always helps to show how an issue directly affects a member’s constituents.

On most issues, politicians are followers of the general electorate so surely moving the general electorate is the most effective way to move elected officials.

Ari: How many letters do you receive on average during a month? How many of those does a typical member of Congress actually personally read?

Jared: I have received anywhere from 100 (slow month) to over 1,000 (in the midst of health care debate) per month. A summary of what the letters are about is prepared including a tally on each issue and presented to me weekly (including phone calls to the office and emails from constituents). If the letter has a new legislative idea or relates to something important in the district, I generally see it.

Ari: What are the best forums for somebody to interact with a member of Congress? Town halls? Letters? Phone calls? Fundraising events?

Jared: All of the above. Activists shouldn’t limit themselves. Most members will schedule a meeting with constituents who are visiting DC. Showing up at town halls and other public events can also be effective but not as much if the same person shows up at five town halls. For it to look like a movement it has got to involve different faces and voices.

Ari: What approaches and arguments work best with a member of Congress? Which ones prove ineffective?

Jared: It is best to research the member of Congress you are approaching so you understand their values and decision-making process. The wrong approach can backfire and move the member in the opposite direction.

Ari: “Public Choice” economics talks about the problem of “concentrated benefits, dispersed costs.” How do you and other members of Congress distinguish between special-interest appeals (at the cost of everyone else) and policies truly in the best interests of the country as a whole? Or is the problem intractable?

Jared: Let me know if you figure this out! One example is tax reform. The vision is that a revenue neutral reform that eliminates loopholes and limits deductions could bring would create a substantially lower, flatter and simpler income tax rate for individuals and corporations. The difficulty in getting there is that, while most people would appreciate a lower rate and not having their decisions centrally incentivized out of Washington, each one of those loopholes and deductions has its own constituency that tries to preserve it. Thus the only likely approach is all or none, once some exceptions are made for tax expenditures then it is harder to make excuses about why others are not included. Tax reform was successfully accomplished in 1986 but the tax code has grown by leaps and bounds since then.

The challenge to free market conservatives is to attack tax expenditures—the loopholes and deductions—as vociferously as they do traditional spending. Whether you’re giving someone a special benefit through the tax code or through a direct flow of cash, they’re both spending. They both come with a cost to the Treasury. Yet many conservatives insist that there’s a distinction.

Melissa Clouthier Talks Twitter Activism

Melissa Clouthier, better known as @MelissaTweets on Twitter, is responsible for getting me onto Twitter. Now I love it. Indeed, Twitter has become my primary way to track news and opinions. Here Melissa explains how and why she became one of the most important right-leaners on the social media site.

First, though, I must offer my apologies to Melissa; I’ve been sitting on this interview for months. Originally, I had the idea of including it in a short book on activism, but my schedule got quite out of hand, so now I’ll publish this interview (and others ) on my web page as part of a series on activism.

Disclaimer: Those I interview do not necessarily endorse any of my views or writings.

Ari: What do you see as the basic value of Twitter and other social media, in terms of political activism?

Melissa: Social media is made up of people who create the stories. People are now the content creators and through group involvement, help create the narrative. Stories that used to be ignored and buried by the mainstream press . . . well, they can’t be anymore. I love fighting the narrative. Even better, I like shaping it and framing it. Common people, working together, have power. It’s wonderful.

Ari: How did you become such a force on Twitter?

Melissa: Hmmm… I don’t really view myself as a force on Twitter. I view myself as a news aggregator and information-sharer. I only have influence to the extent that what I share people find valuable. The people, they’re the force. I am just using the medium to share information that I hope informs, entertains, motivates, etc. If I cease to share valuable information, I’ll cease to be helpful and cease to be relevant.

Ari: What other sorts of activism do you pursue, and how does Twitter fit into that?

Melissa: Well, I have reported from all sorts of Tea Parties. I’ve wanted to understand the movement, observe it, and share it honestly with people. I also try to teach as many people as possible how to do this. We need more bloggers, more Twitterers, more citizen journalists to keep our local, state and federal government honest. So, equipping the workers is a big part of my activism too. I love to teach.

Ari: What tips do you have for the new Twitter activist?

Decide who you want to influence. Do you want to be a thorn in the flesh of your local city council or school board? Follow those people and anyone in your community (follow by location) and then expose.

Be loud, fearless, direct, kind (don’t ever say anything online you wouldn’t say in person), fair and truthful and most of all, relentless. Don’t give up. Public officials will change their behavior. They’ll challenge you (I’ve fought with elected officials). They’ll get frustrated. Oh well. They’re public servants.

Carve out a niche. Maybe you only want to share information. That’s wonderful. Maybe you want to create a parody account to torment the corrupt Mayor or something. There are really no right or wrongs. The key is to have a goal, pursue it and be truthful.

Ari: How do you blend activism with your professional and family life?

Melissa: I couldn’t do this without buy-in. I’ve taken my family to Tea Parties. I’ve taken my kids to political rallies. I’ve introduced them to politicians and activists. They know they can change the country with involvement. Because I travel a bit, they need to know that I go because it’s important. We talk through the issues and what’s at stake. Still, it’s a challenge. I’m a mom first, and so they’ll get irritated with me if I miss something. Still, I want them to be idealistic and involved and realize they can make a difference. Kids learn by example.

Thankfully, as a chiropractor, I can work when and how I want to. My patients have to be flexible too, but they’re loyal to me and I am to them. So, I go in a morning or two a week and see as many folks as possible. It’s a wonderful profession and it keeps me in touch with real life—real worries, real priorities. For a long time, I could separate my online life from my patients. Not now. Now, they know what I’m up to. Still, it’s okay. I love all people, even people who believe differently politically. Everyone has the same concerns, ultimately.

Ari: Why do you do it?

Melissa:I’ve blogged for over six years. It started out as something to do, something I was interested in that could keep my mind busy while I had a baby. And then there was the bank implosion and I researched it and discovered that horrendous public policy by Chuck Schumer, Chris Dodd and Barney Frank resulted in this horrible, horrible mess. And then the bailouts and the debacle of the McCain campaign. I was absolutely disgusted with the Republican party. I was horrified by what I saw was our first socialist President—Barack Obama. And then, against my hopes, Obama was far worse and more destructive than I could imagine. I’m still profoundly distressed about the effects of Obamacare. It’s going to be the long term destroyer of America if let go.

The leftists never stop. They are always pushing. They have made incrementalism a high art form. And now, nearly half of American households receive a check from the government every month. This is a disaster. I’m not sure if we’re past the point of no return, but if not we are very close. We’re already a debtor nation. It’s appalling.

So, we have to work to restore American greatness and that’s an individual proposition. People need to believe in themselves again. People need to know that there are consequences for behavior both personally and for big banks and for everyone. So, we have many fights—not just politically or policy-wise, but for the hearts and minds of Americans.

I’m just one small person, but I’m not going down without a fight. I’m a mother. My children deserve better and I’ll fight to the death for them. And that’s what I’m fighting for—for their survival. But more than that, I’m fighting for their future greatness. I know, sounds idealistic and maybe silly. But I’m not cynical about this political world. Together we can make a difference, we ARE making a difference. And that’s why I fight.

Ari: Thank you for being such an inspiring activist!

Hayek and the Tea Party

On April 2, I participated in a panel organized by Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks for the Association of Private Enterprise Education. (FreedomWorks paid my way to the event.) I filmed the talks, and now I release them with Kibbe’s permission.

First, Matt Kibbe discussed the decentralized nature of the Tea Party movement:

Second, Trey Fleisher, an economist at Metro State, offered a somewhat pessimistic take on the Tea Party, noting that individuals often lack the incentive to take up political causes:

Third, Wayne Brough, an economist with FreedomWorks, argued that new technologies make it increasingly easier for individuals to participate in politics:

Finally, I reviewed Hayek’s 1949 essay, “The Intellectuals and Socialism,” talking about how ideas spread through a culture generally and how they spread to and throughout the modern Tea Party:

The Renaissance of Liberty Begins in Colorado

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published April 13 by Grand Junction Free Press.

Over the last century the federal government has claimed sweeping powers over our lives. It has spent the nation into debt that races past yearly productive output, continued its decades-long march to nationalize health care, and seized control of our economic and personal lives far beyond the powers enumerated in the Constitution.

Unfortunately, the typical individual can exercise little if any meaningful control over national politics. Sure, we can try to elect better people to Congress and then hold them accountable. But congressional districts are large, the District of Columbia is far away, and national politics is dominated by special-interest groups seeking political favors. What, then, is the alternative?

Citizens of the original states created the federal government to handle national defense, prevent the states from imposing economically damaging protectionism, and handle a few other jobs beyond the capabilities of the state governments. The federal government was never supposed to turn into the monolithic power it has become. Indeed, the Tenth Amendment explicitly reserves “powers not delegated” to the federal government “to the states respectively, or to the people.”

Every school child learns that the Founders separated powers among the branches of the federal government, but, just as importantly, they separated powers among levels of government. Federalism—the separation of state and federal powers—is a central doctrine of American government. It is high time we fought to restore American federalism, not as an end in itself, but as an important means to protecting individual rights. We in Colorado can and should play a pivotal role in that fight.

A good indicator of the loss of federalism is the role of federal spending in state budgets. Colorado’s Joint Budget Committee reports that, for fiscal year 2011-12, federal funding accounts for over $5 billion of the total $19.6 billion budget, or 26 percent. Over half of that federal spending goes for health care.

But why should we in Colorado have to beg the federal government to hand over a portion of our own money to our state government? Such federal spending turns federalism on its head. Every year we witness the grotesque spectacle of Colorado’s elected officials dancing like marionettes to the demands of federal politicians who hold the purse strings.

Imagine a league of independent state governments that stood up to such federal tyranny. Imagine state legislators who grew a spine and said enough is enough. We look forward to the day when state legislatures routinely pass resolutions condemning federal abuses, then start passing laws to the reaches of their authority to stop those abuses.

To take one possible strategy, Colorado could pass a law saying that we will turn down all federal funding in our state, once a certain number of other states have passed a comparable law.* Then we can demand that the federal government reduce its tax burdens and simply let citizens keep their own money.

Of course, the goal is not to replace federal tyranny with state-level tyranny, but rather to turn all governmental entities into protectors of individual rights rather than the biggest threat to our rights. The same state governments that would stand up against federal abuses of individual rights would also be more amenable to protecting rights themselves. So how do we achieve that?

We must continue to develop a culture of liberty in Colorado. We must stand up for individual rights to life, liberty, property, and voluntary contract and association. We must unflinchingly defend freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and religious worship, and freedom to use the fruits of our labor as each individual decides. We must demand that government act to protect individuals from the coercion of others, from murder, theft, assault, fraud, and every form of force that one person might initiate against another. At the same time, government must cease acting as the primary instigator of coercion, stripping us of our wealth and our liberties.

Many of the seeds of our future liberty renaissance have already been sown. Many new liberty-oriented groups have arisen in the last few years, and older groups have gained a new vitality. As a single illustration, last week over fifty people gathered at Denver Liberty On the Rocks to listen to philosopher Diana Hsieh explain why, yes, people deserve what they earn, contrary to the nonsense of John Rawls. We are starting to return to the tavern-style, take-it-to-the-streets, energetic and principled activism that marked the work of such American legends as Sam Adams, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Paine.

We must make the principle of individual rights a living force in the minds of our countrymen. We must make coercion—the initiation of force—something that the people denounce, despise, and reject. Then we must elect pro-liberty state legislatures that protect our rights and stand up to federal abuses.

As F. A. Hayek wrote, “We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage.”

Linn Armstrong is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son, Ari blogs at AriArmstrong.com in the Denver area. 

* Obviously we’re talking about federal funding funneled through state legislatures, not federal funding for legitimate federal programs that happen to have a presence in Colorado. Here is a related tidbit I came across: “[F]or every $1.00 the feds send to the states, states increase their own future taxes between $0.33 and $0.42.” —AA

Mises’ Lessons for Gentlemanly Disputes

Many years after Nobel economist Friedrich Hayek visited Professor John Van Sickle in Boulder, I sat in the same living room where the two men had conversed.

Both Hayek and Van Sickle were friends and students of the great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises. Van Sickle had saved many letters to and from Hayek, Mises, and other free-market economists of their day. I got the chance to look through these letters and reproduce them. They now reside in the archives of the Foundation for Economic Education. (I’ve told this story before; I’ve received permission from Jerry Van Sickle and FEE to reproduce those letters at my discretion.)

I was glancing through those letters for possible use in an upcoming presentation, and I happened upon a letter for Mises that I think admirably illustrates the gentleman’s way of handling a dispute. (I read the letter during a time when a friend of mine was coming under some mean-spirited and frankly ridiculous attacks.) The letter is dated March 2, 1955.

Mises stuck to his principles and did not shy away from criticizing perceived errors and slights sharply and directly:

[M]y formulations are to be taken on the one side and should be opposed to the middle-of-the-road formulations of [Milton] Friedman… and others on the other side. To proceed in a different way is tantamount to the adoption of the official position of the New Deal philosophy. Then one does not discuss the economic meaning and function of inequality, but takes it for granted that inequality is bad and discusses whether it should be abolished altogether or whether some “loopholes” should be left. There is nothing that I could contribute to such a debate. … If you assign my formulations a lower rank than to those of other participants, then please forget about them, set aside the letters I wrote you and do not expect me to attend the meeting.

Several things here are noteworthy. Mises did not refrain from blasting Friedman over fundamental disagreements. Yet he did not refrain from debating the matter with Friedman, so long as he could debate on equal footing.

Mises closed with an equally interesting paragraph:

I want to emphasize that my attitude on this question in no way reflects upon our long established friendly relations and does not at all affect the high esteem in which I hold you personally.

In other words, even though Mises thought Van Sickle was setting up a conference in such a way that slighted Mises in favor of the “middle-of-the-roaders,” Mises maintained a remarkably cordial tone, even as he pointedly explained the reasons for his irritation. (Of course, that doesn’t imply one must always deliver roses to one’s ideological opponents.)

I think Mises’s approach goes a long way in explaining why he was so widely loved, and why he remains so influential.

From Van Sickle Documents

Ideas of the Tea Party Survey

Self-identified Tea Partiers are welcome to reply to this survey. Readers are also encouraged to alert their Tea Party friends about it.

Ideas of the Tea Party Survey

The goal of this survey is to better understand where Tea Partiers get their ideas. If you are a self-identified Tea Partier, you are welcome to respond to this survey by February 10, 2012. By responding to this survey, you grant Ari Armstrong the right to publish your responses, in full or in part, without restrictions. However, you may request that your replies remain anonymous for publication purposes. Please email replies to ari (atsign) freecolorado (dot) com.

1. What is your name? Do you grant permission to publish your name with your survey responses, or do you prefer to remain anonymous for publication purposes?

2. What city and state do you live in?

3. What is your primary occupation?

4. If you have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, please list your major(s) and degree(s).

5. Did you become politically active through the Tea Party movement? How long have you been active in politics?

6. Besides the Tea Party label, how do you usually describe yourself in terms of your political commitments? If any of the following apply, please list them: conservative, Republican, independent, Christian conservative, fiscal conservative, free-market activist, libertarian, classical liberal, Objectivist.

7. Through what channels do you share your ideas with others? If you use any of the following means, please briefly explain how: social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), electronic email list, radio show, podcast, blog, regular newspaper column, occasional letters to newspapers, organize or participate in politically-oriented meetings or discussion groups.

8. What (if any) ideological or political organizations do you contribute to financially or volunteer to support?

9. Were you exposed to free-market ideas in college? If so, please briefly explain how.

10. What are your main, regular sources of politically-related ideas and information? Please list the most significant radio shows, TV shows, publications, blogs, organizations, or writers that you turn to on a regular basis.

11. Have you read any books since the rise of the modern Tea Party movement that have strongly influenced your political ideas? If so, which ones?

12. For each of the following figures, please briefly explain whether you have heard of the figure, whether he or she has influenced you, and, if so, how:
a) Milton Friedman
b) Friedrich Hayek
c) Ayn Rand
d) Henry Hazlitt
e) Ludwig von Mises
f) Thomas Sowell

13. Besides the figures already listed, have any scholars, intellectuals, or religious leaders strongly influenced your political ideas? If so, please name them and briefly explain how they influenced you.

Thank you for your replies! Please feel free to forward this survey to others in the Tea Party movement.

Ari Armstrong

http://FreeColorado.com/

Denver Post Covers Liberty On the Rocks

If I didn’t know any better, I’d think the Denver Post is trying to woo the center-right slash conservative slash libertarian slash free-market readership. What else explains the appearance of the Post‘s Kurtis Lee, recently a transplant from the District of Columbia, at this evening’s Liberty On the Rocks’ event?

The real purpose of the evening’s festivities was to celebrate the third anniversary of the People’s Press Collective (to which this post will feed). Allow me to add my congratulations here, and to thank the organizers of PPC for creating a wonderful platform.

But Lee attended to gather reactions to the GOP debate (which I could barely hear on the bar’s echoing television sets). Lee wrote up an articlethat mentioned the event’s drinking game (with the word “jobs” acting as the trigger) and that included some substantive and interesting comments.

Regina Thomson told Lee she’s looking for a “constitutional conservative” and would favor Herman Cain if he had a chance.

I loved Santiago Valenzuela’s response. He said he’s looking for real immigration reform “that allows peaceful people” to work here and eventually earn citizenship. I agree with his position, as I’ve writtenelsewhere.

Valenzuela is a friend of mine, by the way, and he writes some great posts for Mother of Exiles. Interestingly, I also met a very nice fellow at the event who worked on Tom Tancredo’s campaign for governor. And one thing that amazes me about Liberty On the Rocks is how well it facilitates social mingling and networking among people with such diverse views. (I should also note here that I run Liberty In the Books, a project of Liberty On the Rocks, and got paid a bit to do so.)

Valenzuela’s reply about jobs was classic: “I’m also looking for a jobs plan that gets the government out of our busisness to allow job creators to do their thing.” He added that he dislikes Romney because he is the Father of ObamaCare.

Lee’s appearance is not unprecedented, however; last year, the Post‘s Chuck Plunkett actually spoke at a Liberty On the Rocks event — something that perked up the ears of talented leftie blogger Jason Salzman.

The Post needn’t worry; it’s left-leaning credentials remain unchallenged. But I do appreciate the Post‘s willingness to broaden its coverage and its readership, and I think it’s a much better paper for making the effort.

James Reflects on People’s Press Collective

People’s Press Collective, which aggregates conservative and free market writings in Colorado (and on which this post will appear), started with the idea of covering the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Thomas James, a cofounder of the project, reviewed its history and goals at a recent Liberty On the Rocks event.

James said of the DNC, “We were going to show what was really going on on the street, with protests and riots, and who knows what… the things that the media really didn’t want you do see.” (At the time, various organizers and pundits discussed the possibility of riots.) The organization’s coverage of the event runs through August of 2008.

And, for those who missed it, James also discussed the new hard science fiction novel about Mars he coauthored, In the Shadow of Ares:

My Interview with Sam Adams Alliance

As my regular readers may recall, I received a Sam Adams Alliance award in 2009. In anticipation of this year’s contest, Nic Hall of the Alliance interviewed past winners, including me.

The entry deadline for this year’s contest is January 28; I strongly encourage my activist friends to enter.

Following are a few of my remarks from the audio file. I appreciate Nic’s fine job of paring down my lengthy remarks.

“What I’m trying to do is serve as the go-between, between the intellectual theory of free markets and the on-the-ground activism. So I don’t do a lot of electoral politics, for instance. Nor am I in academia. But I try to keep tabs on what’s going on in the academic discussions about free markets and related issues, and distill that down and popularize it, and educate other activists so that we can be effective in moving the free-market message forward.”

“Since I started writing online [in 1998] there’s been an explosion of activity… So, even though I was one of the first online writers in Colorado, in terms of free market politics, recently I’ve been surpassed by a lot of other younger, hipper activists who have been faster to take advantage of social media… So I’m playing catch-up again even though I was one of the early ones online.”

“I’ve been interested in free market politics and the philosophical foundations of the free market since high school. And my dad had a fairly big influence on me, in that he gave me a couple of books when I was in high school. The first was Free to Choose by Milton Friedman, and the second was Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. My dad and I work together now; we write a column together for a small newspaper in Western Colorado called Grand Junction Free Press.”

“I’ve certainly been strongly influenced by Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. A funny thing happens with Ayn Rand: her ideas seem very exciting to youthful readers, but it’s easy to miss the subtlety of her ideas. So a lot of people read her and then sort of fall out of those ideas, because they’re not seeing the greater depth there. But I had the fortune of getting back into some of those ideas and exploring them in a more deep sort of way.”

“Anybody who reads [my book, Values of Harry Potter] will recognize that there are crossover themes between what I’m finding in Harry Potter and themes in Ayn Rand’s novels. Now, of course, I don’t want to make too much of those, however. But, when you’re looking at things like the importance of free will, the importance of heroes struggling after their values, then I think there are some real similarities. But then I of course go into the differences, too, and a big part of my motivation was to explore both the similarities and the differences.”

“You see activists burn out all the time, because they have unrealistic, short-term expectations, such as some grand political victory… And when that doesn’t happen they burn out and drop out. And that’s not really the way that activism works, usually, though there can be short-term political victories. But activism really is a very long-term, educational process. And, yes, we do some practical politics, but… we’re not going to shift the culture without educating the population. And this is an inherently slow process.”

“This is a big problem that I think a lot of potential activists have. They look out there and they see some expert, whether a great radio personality or a great writer, and they think, ‘Wow, that person is so great, that I could never do anything like that.’ But the fact is that that that person started somewhere. That person started out just doing college radio, or doing a podcast, or something like that. Everybody starts small and grows from there. So if you wait to become the expert before you start doing anything, you’ll never be the expert, because you’re not building the experience. So the way to learn how to write letters to the editor is to write a letter to the editor, then send it out to your friends for editing, improve it, and eventually you’ll be able to write it with a lot less trouble… People wait for other people to do the work for them, or to push them into it, and you can’t do that. It’s too late in the game now to have that luxury. You have to get out there and be self-motivated, and jump into the game, even if you don’t know quite how to swim yet. Because, damn it, you’re not going to learn how to swim until you get in the water.”

Listen to the entire interview!