On December 7, 1972, Apollo 17 would make its way back from the last manned mission to the Moon. From a distance of 45,000 kilometers (28,000 miles), the crew of that flight decided to take a snapshot of our lovely home, Earth. The photo would be called “The Blue Marble” and it would be one of the few photos we have that encapsulates our planet in its intrinsic glory.

awsdThe image quickly became iconic, representing the frailty of humanity’s propensity towards division. It simply depicted Earth and challenged us to think differently about our role in it. The ecological harm done to the planet takes no notice to the borders we put up against each other. The ecological harms we put on Earth transcend borders, and likewise affect the lives of all inhabitants on this planet. The response to this understanding was the growth of the modern environmentalist movement. Despite being considered a leftist scourge by some, the underlying principle environmentalists share is completely accurate, and best expressed by Carl Sagan. “A new consciousness is developing which sees the earth as a single organism and recognizes that an organism at war with itself is doomed.” Our conflict with each other and the Earth is a loss-loss, whether it is the rage of war, divisive hierarchical structures, and in this case, environmental degradation. In this respect, environmentalism should not be a politically-divisive philosophy, but instead it should be an all-encompassing philosophy that takes particular notice to the balance of Earth’s ecosystems.

All living organisms require resources from the ecosystem to meet their needs and wants. With this in mind, notice must be taken concerning the extraction, use, wasdand conservation of those limited resources, along with their ultimate impact on the environment. We cannot be ignorant that humans have undeniably made a permanent impact on ecosystems across the globe, so much so that the scientific community is currently contemplating the declaration of the Anthropocene.

As libertarians, we rightfully believe that individuals flourish in a free and open society. When our liberty is protected, instead of curtailed, we all reap the benefits of pursuing our happiness. But with the understanding of how interconnected global ecosystems are, environmental issues effect all of us involuntarily. Environmental degradation is a legitimate concern. I believe libertarians have an important role to play in the movement. Here are 12 things libertarians can do towards a sustainable and environmentally sound future. (more…)

chanceIn 2004, Alberta finally managed to repay $23 billion of public debt. A remarkable Calgary man named Ralph Klein pulled us kicking and screaming through austerity measures to give us a fiscally-sound future. With the success of what he called the “Alberta Advantage” and the boom of Alberta’s economy (namely the oil and gas industry), he declared that “Never again will this government or the people of this province have to set aside another tax dollar on debt.”

Yet here we are in 2015, on the edge of a fiscal crisis. When Klein resigned in 2006, he was replaced by Ed Stelmach. Stelmach and the Progressive Conservative (PC) government reversed the fiscal course Albertans had struggled for nearly a decade: an $8.9 billion surplus. In Stelmach’s 5 years of being Premier, that surplus was reduced to billions of dollars in public debt, causing the Wildrose Party (a fusion of fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and libertarians) to rise in popularity. Alison Redford became the next Progressive Conservative Premier in the fall of 2011, and a general election was held in the spring. This resulted in a PC majority government, with the Wild Rose Party as the Official Opposition. It was clear that if Redford continued the frivolous public spending of the Stelmach government, the Wildrose Party would become a fiscally conservative alternative to the PCs.

The next two years have shown grand political drama, with the situation going from bad to worse. The Redford government continued to conciliate the anxious public sector unions by increasing public spending; deficit spending was clearly the order of the day. The grievances of Albertans met a boiling point by 2014 when the corruption of the Progressive Conservatives was leaked to the public. Whether due to the misuse of government planes or Redford’s luxurious sky palace, Albertans were rightfully angered. The discontentment of the Albertans was reflected in their vanishing support from the PCs and in favor of the Wildrose Party. Amidst the scandals and the internal revolt within the PC party, Alison Redford resigned as Premier on March 19th, 2014. She was replaced by the interim leader Dave Hancock, who held the position until Jim Prentice overwhelming won September’s leadership election. (more…)

In the aftermath of the Ottawa shooting last October, I wrote an article on how the emerging Islamophobia is a threat to our country’s multiculturalism and could lead to the infringement of civil liberties. This shooting has no doubt sent the country into a state of polarization regarding whether liberty or security should triumph as a response to the tragedy. One side views liberty as indispensable in the aftermath of the shooting and therefore vouches to maintain an adherence to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The other side views the event as a failure in the security of Canadians and therefore vouches to ramp up the powers of the government to combat the fears of future threats.

lkjUnfortunately, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada have opted for the latter response and have been on a crusade to strengthen Canadian security from extremist and terrorist activities. In the pursuit of strengthening our security, the Harper government has put forward Bill C-51 (or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2015) as an attempt to make a multitude of changes. Some of these changes range from amending the Criminal Code of Canada, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, to enacting the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act. In any regard, these changes are unnecessary, vague, and disgracefully illiberal for a country such as Canada. While my fellow Canadian colleague, Vanessa Walsh, has recently discussed how anti-liberty this legislation is in a great article, I seek to showcase some of the more specific issues with Bill C-51.

For starters, the Security of Canadian Information Sharing Act authorizes the Government of Canada and other government institutions to disclose information about Canadian citizens amongst each other “in order to protect Canada against activities that undermine the security of Canada.” This could indirectly lead to a governmental information sharing network that has the ability to easily lead to the establishment of databases on individuals, whether it is their health records or educational background. Though specific government institutions have access to this information already, checks and balances on the distribution of this information amongst non-related government institutions is absent, because there is no process of independent review to be found in the legislation. And like many pieces of anti-terrorism legislation around the world, the definition of what undermines security is very vague. And due to this vagueness, the privacy rights of Canadian citizens can easily be infringed upon, whether Aboriginal or Quebecois sovereigntists, purely because of the clause that mentions the undermining of “territorial integrity” as a threat to Canadians.

The Secure Air Travel Act also raises many concerns regarding the undermining of Canadian civil liberties. In this act, instead of sharing information between different Canadian government institutions being theBill C51 issue, the issue is sharing information between nation-states, particularly Canada’s no-fly list. Like the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, there is no independent review in the process to protect the sovereignty of the Canadian people’s information, nor is there any way to challenge the placement of Canadian citizens on the no-fly list in the first place. (more…)

No matter where you are, whether it’s Fort Lauderdale or Daytona Beach, you may notice some hungry homeless man and decide to give him a bite to eat. But, wait, stop right there! Put down the bagel, because many cities across the United States have banned giving food to the homeless. So much for altruism!

Unfortunately, this is just one example of how the government undermines our food freedom. Last May, the Institute for Justice released a report called The Attack on Food Freedom, highlighting a multitude of ways the government harms our food freedom in the United States and Canada. The state of food freedom has gotten so bleak that organizations like the Farm-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund have risen to the task of legally defending food producers who face troubles with government authorities.

But, what is “food freedom”?

Simply put, food freedom is the right to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, share, cook, eat and drink what an individual wants.

For that reason, food freedom is inseparable from economic freedom, as restrictions on the food we produce, exchange, and consume limit an individual’s ability to flourish by their voluntary means. Despite some of the food freedom (or food rights) movement’s victories, the government’s rampant infringement on our food freedom is still in full-swing. They continue to stifle our basic necessity to nourish our bodies, putting the livelihoods of the tired and hungry masses in jeopardy. This issue must be addressed.22-300x200

Property rights are imperative in the fight for food freedom because the absence of property rights has negatively impacted the freedom to produce food. In many municipalities around North America, local governments have bylaws prohibiting property-owners from taking full advantage of their land to produce food. For example, a Floridian couple was forced to dig up their 17 year old organic garden due to their local government deeming front-yard gardens off-limits. Local ordinances such as this do not just harm suburban gardens, but they also put innovative ideas like urban agricultural practices into question.

If individuals are refused the right to produce food on their property, then the government is taking away a unique opportunity to empower urban communities to produce food for themselves.

The lack of property rights also harms food producers experiencing negative environmental externalities (an environmental cost on a third-party such as soil erosion and the runoff of pollutants) as they are unable to legally address the costs put on their food production, and thus are subjugated to the poor environmental practices of others.

Another prevalent issue regarding food freedom is the bureaucratic over regulation of food production. Big Business is better able to adapt to regulatory changes, so it is no surprise that small businesses, such as small-scale local farmers, will suffer heavily due to their constraints on resources and time spent chasing constantly changing standards. While food safety is certainly important, the government simply cannot do it well. In fact, it has been argued that the free market can do it better (by providing private food quality services). Because consumer preferences send indicators to business owners in the market, the call for greater food safety would certainly be addressed with substantial quality compared to the government’s outdated and scientifically illiterate understanding and methods.

Moreover, there have been many attacks on the individual’s ability to exchange and distribute food, which matters greatly to the welfare of communities. Even decent citizens collaborating in private food clubs experience the wrath of government crackdowns and raids; nearly treated in the same manner as illegal drug rings. With food trucks emerging as a competitive force against traditional restaurants, it’s no surprise that they have also been subject to spotty city ordinances and a legal grey area regarding mobile vending. Even distributing home-cooked meals is met with disdain from local and federal government agencies due to perceived food safety concerns.

3-300x228Simple products like kombucha, aged cheese, large volumes of pop, and, most notoriously, raw milk, have become targets in the government’s  crusade to mandate safety and health for the public. Even if a consumer is informed about his/her choice, the Nanny State attempts to limit that choice all too often. Amish raw milk producers, such as Dan Allgyer, have been met by raids of their private property from armed government agents, due to fears of food-borne illness (despite the lack of scientific evidence). I think you would agree that the government treating Amish raw milk producers in Virginia with the same contempt as they treat Islamic terrorist organizations in Pakistan is out of hand.

Now, even though local food producers are often the most vocal about food freedom, national and foreign food producers also face obstacles. Both domestically and internationally, barriers to the exchange of food do exist, whether they take the form of tariffs, quotas, or regulations. These barriers limit the food available on the market, whether it is stifling the entry of foreign wine into the country, or banning the interstate shipment of raw milk. In either case, it harms both the producer and consumer, all because the government is meddling in affairs that do not concern them, as usual.

To conclude, even the founding fathers of the United States were aware of the government’s threat to our food freedom. Thomas Jefferson once stated  that

“If the people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.”

This quote is timeless and holds just as much meaning now as it did in the 18th Century. Food freedom is not just for Kombucha-drinking, GMO hating hippies, but for everyone. We should all be free to produce, exchange, and consume food free from government intervention, whether it is raw organic goat milk or genetically-modified corn.

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, visit our guest submissions page. Like what you read here? You can sign up for a weekly digest of the SFL blog and subscribe for a weekly update on SFL’s events, leadership programs, and resources here.

unnamedOn January 1st, 1994, 21 years ago, Canada, Mexico, and the United States of America formed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President Ronald Reagan had already implemented the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement in 1988, so the extension of this agreement with Mexico became NAFTA. Despite controversial– and sometimes conflicting– studies, the agreement has been quite beneficial to the economies of North America.

NAFTA’s reduced protectionism has undeniably increased trade and investment across North America, not to mention lowered consumer prices. American export growth to Canada and Mexico has skyrocketed since ’94. Indeed, NAFTA has brought together these three countries to make the biggest “free trade area” on Earth, weighing in with a combined GDP of $20 trillion annually, which trumps the European Union’s output.

Furthermore, increased trade between the countries may point to better civil diplomatic relations. For skeptical fodder, NAFTA critics point to an initial job loss that correlated to the shuffle in North America’s labor market. In spite of the drop, each North American country has experienced improved employment opportunities and increased wages since NAFTA’s inception.

That being said, the 2,000-page NAFTA outline does need re-forming. Most of the document consists of varying tariff rates and trade barriers. It has certainly reduced protectionism across North America, but free trade is not just about reducing and managing protectionist policies; also, abolishing them. NAFTA has created an intergovernmental bureaucracy to manage this agreement, but bureaucracy breeds the same by nature, so… plain and simple, NAFTA should protect the voluntary exchange of goods and services.

Contradictory bureaucratic absurdities abound, including many provisions that allow the NAFTA governments to arbitrarily return to pre-NAFTA tariff rates, something that jeopardizes the progress made so far. A different provision reduces trade barriers for agreement partners, undermining other international goods; the document calls this “rules of origin,” wherein US-M-C goods receive “preferential tariff treatment.” Thus, commerce has fallen into political tyranny yet again.