Equal Freedom For Men and Women!

In Chile this year’s International Women’s Day was marked by president Michelle Bachelet’s announcement of a new Ministry of Women and Gender Equality to be installed this year. Aimed at ending gender inequality and violence and discrimination towards women, the ministry will propose and implement public policies to combat the perceived gender gap as part of a National Program of Equality. Other measures that have been passed recently include the obligation for political parties to have at least 40 percent of their candidates be female. Female participation in the Chilean labor force has historically been below that of comparable countries, although it has been on the rise in the last decade.

BacheletOn the surface Bachelet may seem like a brave crusader for justice on this issue, and perhaps she even perceives herself as such. Yet it is worth examining what she is really advocating for. After all, no matter how noble one’s goals, the specific actions taken to achieve that end should themselves stand up to ethical scrutiny, even aside from the question of their effectiveness. In fact the nobler the goals the more important choosing the right steps toward them becomes. What is that old saying about the road to hell?

Being a Socialist Party president it is easy to identify the ideological bias upon which Bachelet’s actions are based. At the root of this ideology lies the utopian idea that society can be molded and formed into perfection from the top down. This basic premise has many ramifications, all founded on the idea that paradise can simply be legislated into existence by the stroke of a pen. In short it is the sort of thinking that leads to 40,000 new laws taking effect in a single country in a single year.

After any initiatives aimed at the aforementioned are implemented the resulting statistics will undoubtedly be employed to tout the policies’ alleged benefits, as if there is any honor in changing human behavior by way of coercion. You got someone to do X after threatening him or his property? You must be a master persuader!

In the case of Chile there is ample evidence to suggest that cultural factors have much to do with lower female participation. If there is a little to no discrimination, then, and if it is by women’s own volition that they are underrepresented in the job market, how can government force be morally justified? One of the most well-known reasons for women to choose to work less or not at all, for instance, is having a partner. Does that mean the State should forcibly insert itself into family relationships in the name of gender equality?

Anyone who has written anything on this controversial topic has likely upset at least a few sensitive souls. This article will probably be no different, even if the intention has merely been to trigger critical examination of one’s viewpoints in lieu of the usual discourse replete with name-calling and populist rhetoric invoked by those with a political axe to grind.

As freedom advocates in the midst of debates about the rights of one group or another, let’s never lose sight of what ought to be central in these discussions: the protection and advancement of those individual liberties that are innate within each and every one of us. If that leads many women to pursue professional careers, more power to them. If they prefer to focus their attention elsewhere, however, that should be equally respected. Other women – even those that happen to occupy some political office – have no business telling them how to live their lives.


The Self-Regulating Power of the Market

A common objection to a libertarian society is the “without the government corporations would rule the planet” argument. The theory goes something like this: having few or no laws would give business free reign to run roughshod over our rights since the people have no recourse if they are violated. By extension the idea of limited (let alone no) government is quickly dismissed as a utopian illusion thought up by naïve dreamers who think corporations are run solely by selfless do-gooders.

Fortunately those that have taken a more than slight interest in the message of liberty know better. The majority of libertarians are not corporate apologists but rather critical thinkers who understand that while no system is perfect, centralizing power into the hands of a relative few is least likely to genuinely protect people’s rights. Besides, while government can – and routinely does – secure your compliance with the threat of “legitimate” violence, a business that fails to live up to its promises can either step up its game or watch while its customers take their business to a competitor.

Libertarian theory basically holds that built-in market mechanisms reward good business practices and penalize bad ones, thereby removing any need for government intervention. After all, a free market has no barriers to entry that would stop an entrepreneur from filling the void left by competitors. In many cases however, one does not need to go that far at all. Since reputation is key to the survival of any business the free flow of information protects customers from mistreatment. In this information age that has become truer than ever.

ReclameAquiHere in Brazil a good example is a website and mobile application called ReclameAqui (“complain here”). Dissatisfied customers use such websites to post their grievances about a product, service or poor customer service and businesses can respond promptly on the same platform. While there are many ways for a customer to express his or her discontent ReclameAqui has gained particular popularity, enabling people to post complaints in a matter of mere minutes with a few clicks.

The specific information required filters out many false complaints and any that might slip through can be pointed out by businesses in their response on the website. Legitimate complaints often result in the customer receiving a call from a customer service representative who takes care of things over the phone. New businesses are constantly listed on the site as requested by users. Other free features include a listing of the overall best companies, daily, weekly, and monthly rankings, and a tool to compare two or more firms – all based on customer feedback.

The website is full of success stories written by happy ReclameAqui users and serves as a great resource for consumers at any and every stage of the purchasing process including post-purchase. A friend who bought an e-reader six months ago used the site to see if anyone else had experienced the problem she was dealing with. When she found out the bookstore answered positively to almost all issues she listed hers and was promptly invited to pick up a new one in the store.

The claim that the market regulates itself is not just wishful thinking on the part of libertarians. Nor does it say that all businesses are run by morally upstanding people or that every single employee always puts the customer first. But examples like these show that the consumer can bring forces to bear that a business ignores only at its own peril. And so long as the strong arm of government does not impede or block competition, success in business depends on staying in the good graces of the consumer.

Liberdade! The Brazil Liberty Seminar

Reporting from Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state of Brazil, where I am helping spread the message of liberty with the Language of Liberty Institute:


The Brazil Liberty Team, left to right: Patrick Reagan, Mart van der Leer, Juan Carlos Hidalgo, Glenn Cripe

On Tuesday morning our Liberty Team left the city of Porto Alegre, capital of Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state in Brazil. After a 5-hour bus ride we arrived in the city of Rio Grande, one of the country’s busiest maritime ports. For our wonderful hosts’ group Clube Atlântico, founded about 6 months ago, it was the first time they received international guests. Nonetheless, thanks especially to the efforts of Camilla, Eduardo, Heber and Everson we felt so welcome and comfortable it was like meeting old friends!

In a city known for its strong unions related to the port and city, the group has encountered aggressive opposition from left-leaning (student) groups. Though such groups apparently don’t shy away from vandalizing property in order to make a point, the Liberty Seminar was not interrupted by a confrontation. After a word of welcome from Clube Atlântico’s president Henrique, Glenn introduced the Language of Liberty Institute to the audience followed by Patrick’s empowering speech about educational alternatives and homeschooling, and a talk on marketing liberty by Mart.

After the break the attendees were treated to an eloquent presentation by CATO’s Latin America expert Juan Carlos Hidalgo on how economic freedom leads to economic growth and betters people’s lives. The 35 students that attended the seminar, hailing from all over Brazil, left feeling encouraged and inspired to redouble their efforts for the cause of liberty. During the post-event dinner with our new friends we were told that the event had also attracted new members to the group.

Encountering the sort of opposition we saw in Rio Grande was a new experience even after organizing over 40 programs all over the world, including many former Soviet countries. Still, it is easy to see the amazing opportunity in the city considering the port and the university that attracts students from all over the country. In this hostile environment communicating the message of liberty effectively will be especially important, but if it succeeds the city and its people face a very bright future.

The next day we continued our Liberty Tour and went on our way to Pelotas a little farther inland. The local EPL (Estudantes Pela Liberdade) chapter Clube Austral, founded late last summer, hosted us in the Mercosul lecture room of their university. The event was followed by a dinner at a restaurant called Cruz de Malta, reminding us of our most recent trip with the Language of Liberty Institute.


Early Thursday morning we got on the bus for a long trip through the country en route to Santa Maria – the site of the tragedy at club KISS when a fire cost over 200 young people their lives. Eighteen months later the building is still boarded up, with pictures of students and flowers on the sidewalk reminding everyone of what happened that night. If anything good can be said to come out of such a tragic event, the students and locals bonded and found a lot of support with one another. The local government, however, has made safety requirements so onerous as to prevent any other clubs from continuing or opening up business since, in a city full of young people looking for entertainment.

Authentic Brazilian churrasco!

Authentic Brazilian churrasco!

Presenting the empowering and uplifting message of liberty against such a backdrop felt all the more like a blessing. We were joined by Helio Beltrão, founder of Mises Brazil, who gave us his perspective on net neutrality and other current issues in Brazil. The typical Brazilian churrasco (barbeque) hosted by the local group Clube Farroupilha (lighthouse), which has already attracted more than 100 members in only six months, concluded an inspiring and fun evening.

The billions of taxpayer dollars that went into soccer stadiums and infrastructure in remote areas for the upcoming World Cup seem to have spiked skepticism of government policy among Brazilians. It seems, then, that now is a good time for people like our new friends to seize the moment and show people why liberty is the way. The timing for the Brazil Liberty Seminar could not have been any better.

N.B. To see pictures of the Brazil Liberty Seminars, be sure to visit the Language of Liberty Institute’s Instagram profile at instagram.com/languageofliberty !