#IAmUnitedLiberty: Dan Mitchell is the Guardian Angel of the American Taxpayer

Full disclosure: Dan and I are both alumni of the University of Georgia (UGA) and play on a UGA alumni softball team together, so I count him as a friend. I only bring it up because he asked me during this interview if I was going to mention the UGA connection and, while I hadn’t planned on it, I suppose I should because it is how I knew him before I found out he was “kind of a big deal” as we like to say on the softball team. So, while he’s difficult to watch UGA football games with given his propensity toward pessimism — which I think is really just to get a reaction from me, usually successfully — he’s a great softball player and pitched an amazing game a few weeks ago that allowed us to beat the pants off a very solid Richmond Spiders team. So he’s not only a genius in the field of tax policy and a formidable emissary of small government — all detailed rather hilariously at his blog International Liberty — he’s a tremendous softball player and a proud Georgia Bulldog. Go DAWGS!

World renowned tax expert and Cato Institute scholar Dan Mitchell thinks of politicians as characters in old cartoons that, when faced with a decision, suddenly find they’ve an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, both handing out advice as to the right move.

He sees himself, flashing a grin that signals you shouldn’t take him too seriously, as the angel. “My job is to convince [politicians] to do what’s right for the country, not what’s right for their own political aspirations,” he says.

#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.”

#IAmUnitedLiberty: Grover Norquist’s quest to reduce the size of government and keep your taxes low

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.

Grover Norquist is one of the most well-known figures in conservative politics. Americans for Tax Reform, the organization he founded in 1985, has become a powerhouse in politics, driving the conversation on taxes, labor policy, and regulation.

United Liberty caught up with Norquist last weekend at FreedomFest in Las Vegas and asked him how he got involved in politics and the conservative movement as well as where he thinks the movement is headed over the next few years.

“I was active early on in politics. Back in [the 1970s], I worked on the Nixon campaign because I was concerned about the Soviet Union, and I just stayed involved in politics. If you decide to get involved early, it just kind of stays with you,” Norquist told United Liberty.” It’s kind of like learning to play tennis. Once you’ve learned, whenever there’s a tennis game, you join. If you’re involved in politics, every time there’s an election or a fight, you get in.”

Norquist explained that the central issue he’s working on at the moment is reducing the size and scope of government, especially at the state-level where there are plenty of opportunities due to the fact that Republicans control nearly half of the state legislatures.

#IAmUnitedLiberty: Liz Harrison’s story about how Liberty is in her blood

Grandmother Armbruster

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

Maybe it would be nice to say that a politician inspired me to get involved in politics. Given the nickname I use, some people might assume it would be Barry Goldwater. Or maybe because I use a quote from Phyllis Schlafly to describe the media company I founded — “Offering a choice, not an echo” — perhaps she could be my inspiration.

Neither are the case, of course.

I never met the person that has inspired me to promote Liberty, and honestly know very little about her. What I do know is that she was a suffragette, and once women were granted the right to vote, she immersed herself in political life. She never ran for office, but she certainly didn’t keep her opinions to herself — much to the chagrin of her husband, who served as a police officer.

When she lost her sight, and later, the ability to walk, that didn’t stop her. She still involved herself in political society, and encouraged her daughter and grand-daughter to do the same. They weren’t nearly as active as she was, but they did pass down that important message — women must not be silent, and must be engaged in the battle to protect Liberty.

#IAmUnitedLiberty: Alice Salles’ love for her father led her to love liberty

Alice Salles and Dad

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

It’s hard for me to come about the specific moment I got involved with the “liberty movement” because liberty was a concept I learned about as I grew up.

It really came to me because of my father.

Fighting for liberty, which conveys fighting to keep the government where it belongs - meaning far away from your personal affairs – is something I was familiar with from an early age, but as my father grew old and frail, I distanced myself from politics, thus distancing myself from its highest end: liberty.

After his death, I lived most of my late teen and early adult years emerged in other activities. Politics was just not that cool.

When I moved to Los Angeles, I made many liberal (in the leftist sense, not in the classical sense) friends. Politics was all-of-a-sudden everybody’s cup of tea. Why? Well, because of some candidate named Obama.

I even showed up at the 2008 Democratic Convention.

But as I got involved with what was going on, I slowly began gravitating toward the philosophers and economists my father used to rant about when I was a child. Obama seemed cool all right, but I had a natural tendency to look the other way, even after the many years I spent as an oblivious cinephile-slash-film-student-slash-barista-slash-blogger in Hollywood.

At some point in 2010, during an online exchange via Twitter with some folks I knew, and others I had never heard of before, familiar names were brought up: Adam Smith, John Locke and John Stuart Mill – who were some of my father’s favorite philosophers – but it was the name of another free thinker that caught my attention: Friedrich Hayek.

#IAmUnitedLiberty: How Reality TV Influenced Stephen Littau’s Libertarian Views


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.

In 1999, I was living in a small studio apartment in Phoenix by myself and three years into my career. As the 2000 campaign was underway, I wanted to learn about the candidates. The news wasn’t terribly informative as it mostly covered how well the candidates were polling rather than where they stood on the issues.

Due to this frustration, I did the one thing I had often made fun of my dad for doing: I started listening to talk radio. One day there was a substitute host on The Rush Limbaugh Show. The host’s name was none other than Walter E. Williams.

As I listened to him, I realized he made so much more sense than anyone else on the radio. It was a shame that he didn’t have a show of his own, I thought. And though I had heard the term “libertarian” before, I didn’t have much of an idea about what they really stood for. Walter Williams was my first introduction to libertarianism and I was always thrilled when he filled in for Rush.

Still, Walter Williams ideas, as good as they were seemed a little abstract. The abstract, however; became more concrete as I started watching the reality show COPS (though, I don’t think they called it “reality” TV back then).

#IAmUnitedLiberty: James Maier’s dedication to liberty has forged lifetime friendships

James Maier

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.

I was raised in the stereotypical conservative household with two parents who worked stable jobs and who were voracious talk radio listeners. My dad worked in television and my mom worked for the local school district as a payroll clerk. Ever since I can remember, my dad always had Rush Limbaugh on in the car or in the house and I distinctly remember my parents always complaining about the Clinton administration from a very young age.

In grade school, I was the odd one. While other students in elementary school were reading fiction books, I read history; generally, about the War Between the States and later, the Second World War. My interests in history that started out at the age of seven later developed into an interest in politics. I read Newsweek and The Week, eagerly awaiting the next issue to be delivered by the mailman.

As far as politics was concerned, I took after my parents’ views on the world, adopting the conservative Republican mindset and in middle school, reading books by Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Michael Savage — commentators whose radio shows I also listened to religiously when I could. I also had teachers who encouraged me to stay strong to those beliefs, even when the majority of the other students who even cared about politics in middle school tended to be liberals.

#IAmUnitedLiberty: Jason Pye’s path to liberty and fight to shake up the status quo

Speaking at the FreedomWorks FreedomWorks’ Spring Break College Summit

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

Looking back at it all, I suppose it makes sense that I would be attracted to the liberty movement. I’ve always been skeptical about the status quo, always questioning what I’ve been told about by politicians from both sides of the aisle.

I was raised in sort of odd circumstances. My father passed away when I was 12 years old, leaving my mother to raise me on her own. The experiences of my childhood instilled in me a very real sense of independence, personal responsibility, and individualism.

We weren’t a very politically active family, though my mother was and remains a conservative Republican. She was more outspoken about politics than my father. Though we lived in Metro Atlanta, an area known for its conservative politics, her coworkers, were mostly Democrats.

She’d pick me up from school and I would spend afternoons talking with them. They called me “Senator Pye” because I was so incredibly opinionated, a trait that has stuck with me.

My mother quipped at me one day that I should listen to Neal Boortz, an even more opinionated, libertarian-leaning talk radio host out of Atlanta who frequently used his platform to knock Democrats and Republicans alike. I became an addict to his show by the time I was a senior in high school.

#IAmUnitedLiberty: Louis DeBroux’s life-long love of the Constitution and progressing journey to the liberty movement

Louis DeBroux and family

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

How did I get involved in the liberty movement? I guess it started when I was but a wee lad of no more than six or seven. My father would take me with him when he went to Patriots meetings in the big backroom area of that old Ryan’s restaurant. I would sit and listen to the men and women discuss the Constitution and government abuses of power. At the time I only understood it on an emotional level; these people loved their God and country, they swore allegiance to the Constitution, and were mad as hell that those in power were corrupting their country.

There were always copies of the Declaration of Independence, and of the Constitution, and pamphlets with new words and phrases that I did not yet fathom, like “sovereign” and “federalism” and “separation of powers,” and in time I would gain a better knowledge of what these things meant and why they were important. My father and I had a tumultuous relationship to say the least, but the one thing I can never deny that he instilled in me is a love of my country and a righteous anger for those that seek to undermine this grand experiment in self-government and individual liberty.

#IAmUnitedLiberty: Matthew DesOrmeaux, proverbial keyboard jockey for liberty

Matthew DesOrmeaux

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

It’s probably not the best idea to begin a story by warning that it’s probably not very interesting, at least relative to others in the same genre, but I always was one for breaking rules and  shattering convention. And so there we have it. While most of our other illustrious hosts and contributors have vivid narratives of activist campaigns, brushes with libertarian greatness, or inspired revelations, I’ve just been over here reading and writing my way to liberty.

My family was always Republican, though when I grew up my home state at the time, Louisiana, was heavily Democratic, just also very conservative. I met up with the Young Republicans in high school, but wasn’t very active or even an actual member. Although most libertarians are pro-choice, I was always very pro-life, even as I turned away from the church and became an atheist in my college years. I remember going to the Lilith Fair with my mother in 1998 and wearing a “VERY PRO-LIFE” t-shirt. In hindsight, I’m surprised we made it out of there alive.

Knowing I was bisexual since about age 16, I was never likely to end up socially conservative on anything else. There are many lovely LGBT conservatives, of course, but I find one remains more sane if one’s life experiences inform their ideology, rather than keeping them sequestered. So as a young Republican I preferred liberty on fiscal issues, and as a bisexual atheist I tended to liberty on personal issues as well.

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