Update from Director Casey Given

When incubating Young Voices, Students For Liberty worked from the beginning to make it a sustainable endeavor with its own branding and niche in the pro-liberty movement. We believe it has reached a point where we can spin it off, allowing Young Voices’ staff to focus solely on its mission in order to grow beyond its current scale. As of Monday, May 11, I will be working full-time to make Young Voices even bigger and better.

Although I am sad to leave Students For Liberty, I look forward to giving Young Voices a stronger focus on issues affecting young people today and bring us greater notoriety as the PR shop of note for the millennial generation.


Identity Politics is the Enemy of Equality

Australian campuses have become infested with victim politics.

There is a growing obsession with victim politics on campus. It seems that certain groups are protected and everyone else is ignored or punished.

Take the recent events at one of Australia’s top universities. Outrage spread across the University of Melbourne campus following the discovery of anti-Islam graffiti. The chalked slogans, which were swiftly removed, stated ‘Islam is not a race’, ‘Stop the mosques’ and ‘Trump for president’.

The response was swift and furious. The vice-chancellor published a statement on Facebook within hours, asserting that the distressing and hurtful slogans ‘run counter to the vision of a safe, inclusive, connected and respectful university community’.

The University of Melbourne Students’ Union chimed in, denouncing the ‘hate speech and discrimination’ evident in the graffiti. The union proceeded to organise a ‘Chalk for Diversity’ morning, providing a free breakfast to students who wrote positive messages around campus.But But furious reaction to the graffiti was in stark contrast to way in which students and the university administration responded to another case of bigotry, just weeks earlier.

Hundreds of anti-Semitic flyers were distributed at the University of Melbourne during the first week of this academic year. The flyers, which were anonymously placed on car windscreens, stated that the Holocaust was ‘the greatest swindle of all time’ and that Holocaust Studies is ‘replete with nonsense, if not sheer fraud’.

In this case, the vice-chancellor did not take to Facebook to condemn them. In fact, the formal response to this disgraceful act was near silence. Neither the university nor the students’ union have condemned the flyers, and no events were organised to educate students about the Holocaust.

Read the full article at Spiked-Online.


Mandating plain packaging on cigarettes doesn’t work

The Trudeau government’s plan to force tobacco companies to use plain packaging on their products is a paternalistic, nanny-state policy that will fail to reduce smoking rates.

Introduced by Julia Gillard’s Labor government in Australia, plain packaging is the public health lobby’s latest attempt to reduce smoking rates by stigmatizing tobacco products. Under such a policy, tobacco products are sold in specific, government-approved packages designed to minimize their appeal. All product branding is made illegal, with the various brands of cigarettes only distinguishable by the specific font and size of the text on the package. In Australia, the government mandated olive green packages, with health warnings prominently displayed.

The hope that this will reduce smoking rates is based on the absurd, and highly paternalistic, idea that smokers are unable to resist the lure of colourful boxes. Public-health experts assume that, given the universally accepted fact that smoking is bad for your health, smokers must be incapable of resisting the tobacco industry’s marketing.

Yet there’s no evidence to support this. In fact, a study by the European Public Health Association found “no significant association between design and marketing features of tobacco products and an early initiation of regular smoking.”

But what about evidence from Australia? In a peer-reviewed econometric study, economists Sinclair Davidson and Ashton de Silva said there was “no empirical evidence to support the notion that the plain packaging policy has resulted in lower household expenditure on tobacco than there otherwise would have been.” There was even some evidence to suggest household expenditure on tobacco had increased. This may be due to the increased sale of counterfeit tobacco, which is harder to distinguish when plain packages are used.

Indeed, the number of counterfeit tobacco seizures by Australia’s border protection agency increased by 60 per cent from mid-2011 to mid-2013 (a time frame covering the introduction of plain packaging laws). British newspaper The Sun even reported that Indonesian counterfeit tobacco smugglers were cheering when the U.K. decided to follow Australia’s lead.

Ironically, the same public health organizations advocating for plain packaging — despite the evidence it doesn’t work — are completely opposed to e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking. All evidence shows e-cigarettes are a far safer alternative to smoking, but Health Canada still warns Canadians not to purchase them.

Read the full article at the National Post.


Obama’s Student Loan Push Has One Big Problem

President Obama recently announced a new push to enroll people with outstanding student loan debt in programs that make it easier to pay back. Specifically, the Department of Education is promoting so-called “income-driven repayment” plans, where borrowers do not make a fixed payment every month, but instead contribute a certain portion of their income towards their student loan balance. These plans are not new—the White House’s initiative is mostly to raise awareness.

It is a good idea in theory, and will certainly make payments more manageable for borrowers. However, the scheme has one major problem for taxpayers: if students have not repaid their loans in full at the end of a fixed period (generally 20 or 25 years), any remaining balance is forgiven.Those who borrow the most receive a massive taxpayer subsidy.

President Obama’s latest push may be unnecessary, as income-driven repayment plans have become far more popular in recent years. In the last two years, the share of federal Direct Loan borrowers enrolled in income-driven repayment plans has doubled from 11 percent to 22 percent. The share making level payments (a fixed amount every month) or graduated payments (payments which go up with time) has declined from 84 percent of borrowers to just under three-quarters. People with student loans are rapidly learning about these plans, and using them.

Read the full article at Forbes. 

Puerto Rico 2

Puerto Rico Lurches Toward Default with No Solution in Sight

This must have been what Robinson Crusoe felt like.

Tossed upon an unknown shore in a storm, waking up to find an empty ship stuck on a reef in the Caribbean and then scrambling to salvage every little resource. Rebuilding your existence is easier when you’re not starting from nothing.

The Puerto Rican government stands amid a similar perfect storm. Monday, May 2 was the due date for the island to choose between either paying off or defaulting on debt it owed to creditors, but the territory’s Government Development Bank couldn’t make it happen.

Now, it’s going to be difficult for other territorial agencies to borrow in the short term — from the sewer agency that needs money for repairing leaky pipes to the highway agency borrowing for unexpected road work.

The May deadline for Congressional action to relieve the territory has come and gone with barely an acknowledging gesture. The population continues to fall as the productive members of society trade San Juan for New York, Miami and Washington. Nothing suggests the territory’s flagging economy will recover any time soon.

And so we creep closer to oblivion, day by day. New deals with creditors emerge and falter at an increasing pace. Officials tinkers with “essential” programs they deem deserving of the island’s remaining money, while everything else is considered a possible sacrifice.

In Puerto Rico, nobody is innocent from blame for the collapse, but you can’t point a finger at a single individual. From the outside looking in, the hope is the island’s problems might be quarantined.

Read the full article at the PanAm Post