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The Freedom Advisor

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Freedom at a Profit?

Dear Advisor,

I have noticed that in freedom activism, there is a bias against making money, profit. I have repeatedly encountered the expectation that someone working for freedom should expect to provide his goods or services for free. I am not talking about individuals footing the bill for getting to a protest gathering, bearing normal expenses. I am talking about people getting angry when they are asked to pay for gas on the trip, or pay for buttons or other freedom-related merchandise they have asked for. I have even seen cases where free meals were expected. The complaint is always that "it isn't about making money; it's for freedom".

I have spent a lot of my own money on things other people said they wanted. Am I being unreasonable is asking enough payment to at least cover expenses? Or should I just view this as my contribution to the movement?

But if that's the case, why am I the one expected to contribute my time, and my money, and my materials? What's wrong with making money?

Is it about freedom, or free rides?


Hi Money-Grubber,

It's nice to have an opportunity to address the issue of freedom activism and making money, because we've noticed the same things you have, and have been frustrated about it too. But let's start at the beginning.

It isn't clear to us that there's a "bias against making money" as you put it. Freedom-oriented individuals understand the need to earn income to be able to support one's life and obligations, after all. What seems to be the problem is earning money by doing freedom-oriented activities, or covering expenses involved in same. It can be very challenging to do so.

It seems to us that part of the problem is that a lot of pro-freedom people don't earn a lot of money, for differing reasons. For some, it's a matter of choice, because it's difficult to earn a lot of income and not become a Thought Police magnet in some way. Irrespective of the reason, without some discretionary income, it can be challenging to be active in the movement. What can be offered in a gesture of goodwill can become an expectation on the part of others, which can lead to misunderstandings. You are of course right that asking for compensation for expenses is perfectly reasonable. But if someone isn't used to that and has an expectation of being provided for in some way (even freedom-minded people can fall into this habit), doing so will likely be an unpleasant shock. This can become even more uncomfortable when those involved are friends. But it still is reasonable to expect a person to carry one's weight, so to speak, unless an explicit agreement such as, "I'll cover the gas on this trip" has been reached. Perhaps in the future making the terms clear before beginning a project of activity might be helpful for you.

When making some good to sell, it doesn't seem unreasonable to set a price that covers your costs. But what if no one is interested in the product at that price? You can ask any price you wish, but you can't demand someone buy your product. Oftentimes, it seems pro-freedom people do charge prices that allow only minimal profit, as a courtesy to like-minded travelers, but perhaps that's part of the problem: it encourages an expectation that is counter to market forces, and it keeps freedom activists from gaining materially from activities they value.

Short of taking explicit orders for merchandise in advance, it's hard to gauge what the demand will be for any given product. Expect that the level of sales will be lower than the expressed level of interest when you pitch an idea. Be conservative when investing time, effort, and materials into projects, to help avoid getting burned. Research the market for similar items, their construction, and cost, to make sure you won't get into a situation where you can't profit.

One of the more sad things we have observed recently is that some individuals in the freedom movement put expediency ahead of principles. This manifests itself in several ways, including some of the things you've described here. No self-respecting libertarian would want a "free ride." I've known many liberty-lovers in very dire straits who still insisted on giving value for value. If a self-proclaimed freedom fighter expects you to cover his costs, then that tells you a lot about where his principles really are. It's harsh, but it's better to cut your losses regarding such individuals before things really get difficult in this country.

More on Child-raising


I revisited your article on raising children in liberty and would like you to comment further. I agree with a good portion of your ideas but take exception to the idea that spanking is always a contradiction.

If I were to teach my kids that hitting is bad then turn around and spank them when they disobey my dictates I would be a hypocrite. I however teach my kids that violence is not acceptable in resolving most controversies but that there are occasions when force must be used to prevent a person from taking advantage of your rights. Therefore when my kids do ignore the pre determined rules and the corrective action to resolve those rule violations they will know that force will be used to protect my rights. This does not frequently take the shape of hitting and I don't want to give an impression that I am justifying using force to bend the will of my children. I just want to hear your response to my concern that some freedom loving liberty teaching parents may give an erroneous impression to their kids that force is never an acceptable response to the violation of a persons rights.

Thank you,

Hello TM,

Thanks for writing. You've hit upon one of the more challenging aspects of noncoercive parenting, in our opinion. There are times when using force becomes necessary as a last-ditch solution ... but when we find ourselves in such a situation we feel we've failed somehow by not reaching a resolution before getting there.

We're not exactly sure what you mean by "occasions when force must be used to prevent a person from taking advantage of your rights," so we'll describe a recent situation we had. After a busy weekend helping a friend, our daughter (who's 2) decided she didn't want to leave the house to go out for dinner. We didn't want to force her, so we created an alternative wherein everyone who wanted to eat got something to eat, and she didn't need to be carried out of the house against her will. However, if it had come time to leave for home and she was still resisting leaving the friend's house, we would have reluctantly done so. As you point out, her refusal to leave does not make it acceptable for her to delay everyone's departure. We make sure to explain the upcoming consequence to a child who's stubbornly refusing to cooperate, and try our best to create other solutions that are acceptable to all and which the child will voluntarily cooperate with, but if that's not possible, then we use the minimal force needed, and explain to the child why it's happening. We also validate the child's feelings of anger or frustration, so that there's no mixed signals on emotional responses to such uses of force, either.

Regarding your closing statement on giving an impression to children that "force is never an acceptable response to the violation of a persons [sic] rights," we certainly hope we've not given the impression we believe or advocate that! What we oppose is the initiation of the use of force. Using force in response to an initiating force is of course justified, as long as the force used is not extreme. In other words, if a playmate pushes a child down on the playground, pushing back is acceptable (although it may not be the best response), but drawing a gun and shooting the bully isn't. As a child matures and is able to understand more complex and abstract ideas, talking about various hypothetical situations often helps the child understand the issues involved. Our four-year-old understands the difference between initiating and retaliatory force (although his impulse control still needs some work), so instilling these ideas can and does work. Like much in parenting, it requires patience, consistency, and diligence.

"Ballistic Fingerprinting"

Hey Advisor,

With all this sniper stuff going down in DC (too bad they're not going after the Congresscritters!), I see that people are saying that ballistic fingerprinting of guns is the way to catch guys like this. I don't have any guns, and so I'm wondering, will something like that work? Will fingerprinting make is [sic] easier to solve crimes? Will it be another database to grab people's guns?


Dear Curious,

Excellent questions! Thanks for giving us the opportunity to weigh in on this issue.

For those who haven't followed the story, or don't know what "ballistic fingerprinting" is, allow us to briefly explain. The idea is quite simple, actually: each firearm, because of slight variations in manufacturing them, puts a unique pattern on the bullets fired from it -- rather like a person's unique set of fingerprints. If the fingerprint from each gun is placed into a database, the thinking goes, LEOs can use that to match a gun to a specific crime.

There are several flaws with this methodology, however. The first is that there are millions of firearms in the U.S. today which have no "fingerprint" on record (some states do require this for handguns, so all newer guns may have a print on file at the manufacturer). Do you think the gun community will happily cooperate with calls to bring in all their guns for fingerprinting? I don't either!! All guns will never be fingerprinted.

Second, these fingerprints can be rather easily thwarted. A fairly straightforward approach is to acquire -- without papers if at all possible -- alternate barrels for your firearms. Change them out so that each gets a reasonable amount of use. If you're ever in the position of needing to dispose of some evidence, it's much easier to get rid of a barrel than an entire gun. Another way is to take a steel bore brush and ram it down the barrel of the gun. This isn't recommended, especially for high precision rifles, as it can seriously mess up the accuracy of a gun. But under dire circumstances, such "wiping" could be necessary. Shotguns, as we understand it, don't leave a ballistic fingerprint -- and can be a fine weapon under certain circumstances.

Third, ballistic fingerprinting requires that the bullet be recovered. That often happens with handgun rounds, but may or may not with rifle rounds. Even if the bullet is recovered, if it's nicked a bone or metal, that could alter the fingerprint enough to render it useless.

And of course, even if ballistic fingerprinting worked perfectly, it offers no information as to the identity of the shooter. At best it will identify the gun, and so is no substitute for good detective work.

The Bushnev administration has already waffled on the issue of ballistic fingerprinting. Where they'll likely end up is anyone's guess. Even so, we don't foresee this becoming a serious threat to RKBA. It's simply not a good means of gathering reliable information, and there's no way to create a complete database.

A much better way to ID a gun is to get hold of the expended cases. For those security-minded RKBA types, coming up with a way to avoid leaving cases lying around is an ongoing challenge. Using a revolver is the best way, as the cases stay in the firearm until the shooter empties them out. We've seen detachable webbed bags that act as brass-catchers for various autopistols, and they look like a good solution, but we've heard they're bulky and most likely would be problematic in tactical situations. It's next to impossible to adequately police the area of a shooting in an emergency situation, with stress and time working against you, let alone remembering how many rounds you shot. If you think you'll encounter a situation where you'll need to use a firearm and leave as little information behind as possible, consider creating a "throw-down" gun (see Boston's Gun Bible II for information on this), or use a revolver so the issue of spitting brass isn't a problem. With rifles, the issue of ejected cartridges is much more challenging to address.

Now let us ask some questions of you, Curious. Why don't you own any firearms? What's your security plan for yourself and family? How do you intend to resist the encroaching tyranny when the time comes for freedom activists to do so? Please consider these questions, and check out Doing Freedom! articles on guns and gun-related issues. Most offer links to other good resources, as well. Read up and get ready.

Send your questions to The Freedom Advisor. Unless requested otherwise, all letters may be published here in Doing Freedom!.

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