My Favorite Libertarian Charitable Deductions This Season
Having long ago reached the point of having more money than time to support the libertarian movement, I take great care in picking out organizations to support. Although I do make gifts to a wide variety of groups, some of which focus on only one or a few important issues (such as Antiwar.com and the Institute for Justice), and others which don’t give me any tax deduction (such as the Center for a Stateless Society, Strike-The-Root, and The Voluntaryist), my largest contributions are monthly pledges to support 4 activities I consider essential to the future of liberty. Three of these activities occurred to me as a result of reading Malcolm Gladwell’s THE TIPPING POINT: he identified every successful movement as requiring 3 types of people: Salesmen, Connectors, and Mavens.
(1) Advocates for Self Government is training the Salesmen. It has been number one on my list for years, because it is helping to develop what I consider most missing from our movement, people with the skills to persuade others to libertarianism. We have a great idea, but a serious lack of people with the ability to persuade non-libertarians. The late Marshall Fritz started this organization in the mid-1980s and Sharon Harris is doing a tremendous job of running it today. Its wonderful and free e-newsletter, the Liberator Online, is chock full of easy-to-absorb ideas and tips for promoting libertarianism (I use Harris’ ONE MINUTE LIBERTY TIPS and Mary Ruwart’s SHORT ANSWERS all the time), as is its website (start with the Libertarian Dozen), and it sponsors some great outreach tools, including the World’s Smallest Political Quiz and Operation Politically Homeless. They spend my dollars very wisely and productively.
(2) Future of Freedom Foundation is my favorite Connector. In a movement filled with organizations that snipe at each other and refuse to work together, FFF sends out a daily email with links to many of the best articles written, drawing freely from all those organizations that hate each other. I only started donating recently when they hired Sheldon Richman as Vice-President: Sheldon is a great Maven, Connector, and Salesman all by himself, and as a long-time editor of the Freeman for an organization whose name I seem to have forgotten, drew many of the finest minds in the movement (including me) to write for him, as I’m sure he will now do for FFF and its monthly journal. If you don’t have time to keep up with what everyone is writing about, just keep up at FFF and you should be just fine.
(3) Independent Institute is my favorite Maven. While there are plenty of fine libertarian organizations providing ongoing reporting of current events and commentary (in fact, Anthony Gregory’s commentaries for II are among my favorites), the Independent Institute is doing scholarly work as well, including fine peer-reviewed studies and full length books on important topics. For example, John Goodman’s PRICELESS is the most useful book on health care available for libertarians wanting to be informed and informative when talking to others. I could have chosen some of the fine organizations associated with George Mason University, also doing scholarly work, but I’ve found myself reading more II publications than those of any other organization when trying to advance my own understanding, and feel I owe the money to them.
(4) Students for Liberty is my final cornerstone. Sadly, most people harden quickly in their basic outlook on public policy, and if you don’t reach someone before they’re out of college, it gets extremely hard to reach them later. Notice how Ron Paul, the oldest of all candidates, had a base of support consisting primarily of young people, which is one reason he never had a chance with the establishment Republican Party. Now Ron Paul’s people started an auxiliary for the young, but to be perfectly frank, I think the movement needs to go beyond identification with a single hero or leader: I want the young people themselves to lead. At SFL, they do: their blogs are active and intellectually stimulating, differences are discussed instead of buried, anarchy isn’t a prohibited word and is thoughtfully debated, and optimism abounds, as it must for a movement such as ours to succeed. There are elements of maven (book publishing), connector (regional and even international conferences), and salesman (advice on speech and attire critical for young people trying to be taken seriously). I’m happy to include them in my big 4.
Let me add that, whenever possible, you should sign up for monthly pledges rather than giving large individual sums. All of these organizations are forced to spend unnecessary time contacting former donors for future donations, and monthly pledging saves them time and allows you to ignore their begging, knowing you are already an ongoing supporter. Plus, you don’t feel as much of a pinch when your gifts are individually smaller. I know whereof I speak on this: trust me.
Happy Holidays: I hope my advice on cutting your income tax liability next year has been helpful.