Foundation for Economic Education

#IAmUnitedLiberty: Carl Oberg saw first-hand how the sausage is made by bureaucrats and that turned him into a libertarian

Carl Oberg

Note: This is one in a series of profiles of UL contributors and friends and how they became involved in the “liberty movement.” Share your story on Twitter using the hashtag #IAmUnitedLiberty.

Carl Oberg has a great story about how he became involved in the liberty movement and, eventually, signed onto work as the executive director of the Foundation for Economic Education. Simply put, he saw first-hand how federal bureaucrats are influenced by special interests to make policy.

“I worked for seven years for the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C. So, I was a federal bureaucrat,” Oberg told United Liberty over the weekend at FreedomFest. “And seven years of federal bureaucrat work taught me that I needed to be more of a libertarian, basically.”

Oberg says that his work was in trade policy and he traveled around the world to learn how trade policy is put together, or, as he put it, how the sausage is made. “I learned that it’s a messed up process. It’s a process that’s captured by special interests. And it’s a process that really doesn’t make any logical sense,” he explained. “It’s there to serve corporate interests in America.”

In his down time, Oberg said that he began reading the websites of various libertarian-leaning organizations, including the Foundation for Economic Education, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and the Cato Institute.

“I started going to Cato events on my lunch hour in D.C., and started to educate myself. Finally, in December of 2007, I quit my job and I went back to grad school at George Mason University, and got a master’s in economics,” said Oberg. “While I was there, I interned at Cato and interned at a couple other places in D.C.”

The Truth about the Minimum Wage

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Some Personal Post-Election Thoughts

Since the election ended on Tuesday night and into yesterday, I’ve been reading many comments from my friends and family on Twitter and Facebook. They’re dejected. They don’t see how things could get any worse at this point. Others are casting blame wherever they can to avoid the realities that we now face.

Contrary to my friends, I’ve been fairly optimistic since the results became clear. But I still have a few quick things to say about the election and the future of the Liberty Movement. Some of what I have to say may burn bridges, however, I feel these things need to be said by somebody. You don’t have to agree with my conclusions — some of which are setting the record straight, others are more personal — but I believe we’re at the point where throwing in the towel is not an option.

This a little sporadic, but let me start with Gary Johnson.

As I mentioned yesterday, the narrative among Republicans who apparently cannot do math is that Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president, cost Mitt Romney the election. As I write this, President Obama is over 50% in Colorado, Ohio, and Virginia. In Florida, Johnson’s total vote is smaller than Obama’s margin of victory. And even if Johnson’s total does windup between the margin that Romney lost, Obama still would have won the Electoral College.

I’ll note again that 70% libertarians (small-L) planned to vote for Romney. Only 14% planned to vote for Johnson, pulled roughly 7 points from each Obama and Romney. In other words, voters who were casting their ballot for Johnson were not automatic for Romney. He would have lost anyway.

Once again, Gary Johnson did not throw the election to Obama. He was not Ralph Nader. End. Of. Story. Find another narrative.

United States of Complacency

Obama and Romney

Yesterday, my friends at the Foundation for Economic Education noted a recent article by the Christian Science Monitor explaining how the “debate about job creation is becoming one of the central themes of this year’s election campaign.” While it’s true that the economy, which includes “job creation,” is something to which some voters are paying attention, those running things in Washington are trying to find any excuse to talk about other issues.

The record of President Barack Obama on the economy should be the primary focus of voters at the point in time. With the real unemployment rate at 15% (the U-3 rate, which is what media outlets report, is at 8.3%), a budget deficit approaching $1 trillion for the fourth consecutive year, and the fiscal cliff looming; it’s hard to defend Obama’s record. In fact, as Dan Mitchell recently explained, Obamanomics has been a failure.

Congress must shoot down the defense authorization bill

A few days ago, I wrote that the compromise is the Senate over the detainee language in the defense authorization bill was a good thing. Well, after reading more about it, it’s clear that Americans are still in danger of being detained indefinitely by their own government without formal charge, as Sheldon Richman of the Foundation for Economic Education explains at Reason:

Permit me to state the obvious: The government shouldn’t be allowed to imprison people indefinitely without charge or trial. It shouldn’t be necessary to say this nearly 800 years after Magna Carta was signed and over 200 years after the Fifth Amendment was ratified.

Yet this uncomplicated principle, which is within the understanding of a child, is apparently lost on a majority in the U.S. Senate. Last week the Senate voted 61-37 in effect to authorize the executive branch to use the military to capture and hold American citizens indefinitely without trial—perhaps at Guantanamo—if they are merely suspected of involvement with a terrorist or related organization—and even if their suspected activity took place on U.S. soil.

The provision, which is included in the National Defense Authorization Act, was drafted without a public hearing by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). Sen. Mark Udall (D- Colo.) sponsored an amendment to remove the power, but the amendment was defeated. A related provision requires that terrorism suspects who are not citizens be held by the military rather than being tried in a civilian criminal court. (The executive branch can waive this requirement after certifying to Congress that the waiver is a matter of national security.)

Eugenics: The progressive movement’s dirty little secret

Many of today’s so-called progressives try to highlight diversity and civil liberties, but not too long ago many following this philosophy were engaged in the eugenics movement. Art Carden and Steven Horwitz remind us in this month’s issue of The Freeman:

According to the received account of the Progressive Era, an enlightened government swept in and regulated markets for goods, labor, and capital, thereby protecting the hapless masses from the vicissitudes of unrestrained laissez-faire capitalism. The Progressives had faith that experts would rise above self-interest and implement wise plans to create a great society. The resulting state-level workplace safety regulations, restrictions on child labor, and minimum wages restored dignity and safety to the trod-upon and exploited workers.

Despite the widespread acceptance of this narrative, there are many reasons to question whether it accurately portrays the motivations and hopes of some Progressive-Era reformers. In a 2005 article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, “Eugenics and Economics in the Progressive Era,” the economist Thomas C. Leonard offered a completely new historical account of the sources of Progressive-Era labor legislation and the intentions of its supporters. Leonard’s work, including an important 2009 article coauthored with legal scholar David E. Bernstein for Law and Contemporary Problems, “Excluding Unfit Workers: Social Control Versus Social Justice in the Age of Economic Reform,” indicates that lurking behind what many people see as humanitarian reforms was something much uglier.

The Cost of the War on Drugs

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The CATO Institute’s Robert Levy on Big Government

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Last night, Jason and I were able to attend the inaugural “An Evening With FEE” in Atlanta.  The evening’s special guest was Roberty Levy, senior legal scholar in constitutional studies and chairman of the board of directors at Cato Institute, who addressed some of the Supreme Court cases that radically grew the size and scope of government, as well as eroded freedom.

This video is about 40 minutes long, but certainly worth every second.

Great Myths of the Great Depression

There won’t be any posts on UL today since I went to a lecture last night given by Lawrence Reed, president of the Future for Economic Education, on the “Myths of the Great Depression.”

Like many libertarians, this is an era in American history that has perked my interest. I own several books on the subject, FDR’s Folly and Three New Deals are among my favorites. I’ve also read most of Murray Rothbard’s, America’s Great Depression. Reed’s lecture was excellent, he touched on the picture that textbooks falsely paint of Herbert Hoover, FDR’s ignorance of economics and how extreme economic intervention by both created the Great Depression and prolonged it.

Here is a video similar to what Reed discussed last night:

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