April 19, 2023

Don’t RESTRICT Freedom! – Protecting Liberty In The Digital Age – with Connor O’Keeffe – [Ep. 165]

Don’t RESTRICT Freedom! – Protecting Liberty In The Digital Age – with Connor O’Keeffe – [Ep. 165]

Protecting national security while guarding individual rights is a role of government. However, Big Government often overrides our rights when deciding how to manage real or perceived threats. The recently proposed RESTRICT ACT is a perfect example of...

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Protecting national security while guarding individual rights is a role of government. However, Big Government often overrides our rights when deciding how to manage real or perceived threats. The recently proposed RESTRICT ACT is a perfect example of government overreach and invasive micromanagement of citizens. Linda’s guest, Connor O’Keeffe from the Mises Institute, shares examples of why this legislation does more to restrict freedom than to preserve it. Don’t let your freedoms be restricted with the RESTRICT ACT. Listen today and learn how you can protect your rights.

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The opinions expressed by guests on this podcast do not necessarily represent those held or promoted by Linda J. Hansen or Prosperity 101, LLC.
The opinions expressed by guests on this podcast do not necessarily represent those held or promoted by Linda J. Hansen or Prosperity 101, LLC.

Linda J. Hansen:  Welcome. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the Prosperity 101 Breakroom Economics Podcast. My name is Linda J. Hansen, your host and the author of Prosperity 101- Job Security Through Business Prosperity: The Essential Guide to Understanding How Policy Affects Your Paycheck, and the creator of the Breakroom Economics Online course, the book, the course and the entire podcast library can be found on Prosperity101.Com. I seek to connect boardroom to break room and policy to paycheck by empowering and encouraging employers to educate employees about the public policy issues that affect their jobs. My goal is to help people understand the foundations of prosperity, the policies of prosperity, and how to protect their prosperity by becoming informed, involved, and impactful. I believe this will lead to greater employee loyalty, engagement and retention, and an increased awareness of the blessings and responsibilities of living in a free society. Listen each week to hear from exciting guests and be sure to visit Prosperity 101.Com.

Thank you so much for joining with me today. Restrictions to freedom seem endless lately, especially for conservatives, as we look to protect our national sovereignty, we must be aware of things that look good on the surface, but may not be good as we delve into the details. My guest today is Connor O'Keeffe. He is a Writer and Video Producer at the Ludwig Von Mises Institute, where he writes about Money, War, Politics, The News Media and more. He has a master's in economics from George Mason University and a bachelor's in geology. And I thank you so much for joining me today. Connor, I asked you to be a guest on the podcast after I read a very insightful article you wrote entitled The Restrict Act Launches a New War on Free Speech. And as people have watched as the news media and everybody's talking about the Chinese spying on us through TikTok and the lack of security in so many of our social media apps and our online programs, people have looked to fix that. But as usual, government and their way of fixing things often makes the problem worse. So I really appreciated the article you wrote and I'm so glad you're here today to explain this all to the listeners. Thank you for joining with me, Connor.

Connor O’Keeffe:  Thank you for having me.

Linda J. Hansen: Well, it's a pleasure and again for listeners, this article is titled the Restrict Act Launches a New War on Free Speech and you can find it on the Mises Institute website at mises.org. But Connor, tell me what inspired you to write this article and why you felt people needed to know the dangers with The Restrict Act.

Connor O’Keeffe: Sure. So the reason I wrote this specific article was well, at the time, this was in the news. This bill was introduced in early March, but by late March, it had really captured the news cycle, at least for about a week. And I found a lot of the coverage of the bill to be pretty good, but it would talk a lot about the importance of free speech. And for me and a lot of my colleagues at the Mises Institute, we believe that free speech and a lot of these human rights are better communicated and defended in the frame of property rights. And so I wanted to kind of contribute to the conversation by reframing it, you could say, within kind of that lens of property rights so that we could kind of help people see that there are specific ways that your specific freedoms will be impacted by this bill. And so that's kind of what I set out to do. And throughout the article, you'll see, I kind of disagree with just about all of the arguments for this bill and kind of go step by step, try to cover a lot in a short amount of time. But I really wanted to get to the core of what specifically this would do to our freedoms, to our liberties, and our property rights, which I think is the best way to kind of frame that out. So that's what I set out to do.

Linda J. Hansen: Well, it's a very educational article, and I learned a lot when I read it and I'm so glad that it came across my eyes, because I'd been wondering about the details of the Restrict Act. And I, like so many people, don't always have the time to go through and read line by line every single bill that comes up into our Congress. But helping to educate people on this is so important. In your article, it says, the Restrict Act seeks to give the Commerce Department broad new authorities to, quote, identify, deter, disrupt, prevent, prohibit, investigate, and mitigate information and communications technology products in which any foreign adversary has an interest and that pose an undue or unacceptable risk to US National security or the safety of US Persons. The bill defines foreign adversaries as China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea. But it allows the executive to add and drop foreign regimes from the list without oversight from Congress. Anytime I think we have the executive branch not having to answer to Congress, we have a problem. And we can see that so often in what is happening in our nation today, with this administration especially. But it seems like an executive order here, an executive order there, one stroke of the pen and another freedom is lost. So for the average individual who wants to post things on social media, who wants to write articles or books or maybe wants to be able to view things, even if they're not creating these pieces of information, but they want to view them, what does this mean to the average individual here in America?

Connor O’Keeffe: Well, it's hard to know specifically, but it's not good. I think one of the or probably the biggest issue that I saw with this bill is just how vague it is. So it's not laying out clear things that are going to be criminalized. It kind of uses this sort of spirit of going after essentially software and hardware that are owned by the governments of foreign adversaries. Like you said earlier, they identify six nations, but they kind of add to that with these sort of vague qualifiers where it's, like, owned by these foreign adversaries or operating within the jurisdiction of a foreign adversary, which means a company that has operations in China like that, that's covered under this or anything that falls under the laws of a foreign adversary. So it very quickly kind of falls into this very vague, hard to define legal structure, which I think is exactly what the government wants here because that gives them a lot of freedom to kind of define this in the way that they want. I think it's hard to say, like, it's going to mean x, you're doing this right now and that won't be allowed anymore because they're not really giving themselves any limits here. And that's kind of what I think is so concerning. I don't particularly trust politicians when there are clear limits, but here there are none.

Linda J. Hansen: Well and whenever we think about the government having vague definitions of what they're looking to do, we need to be a little careful about that, because as we look in the constitution and we think about the declaration of independence, our founding documents were very, very clear that we have rights and it was government's job to protect the rights and to not interfere with our rights. The role of we the people in determining the definition of freedom or determining the future for our country is very, very important. And I think that in this age we have as a culture, as a world, in a sense, especially since COVID kind of been brainwashed into thinking that government is the solution to our problems, that the government will take care of us, the government will do this, and the government will do that. And I still remember seeing the saying it's not the government's job to take care of my health care, it's the government's job to take care of my rights, to protect my rights. And there's so many things that are not specified in the Constitution that are left to the states or to the individual. And yet it seems like so often we are seeing legislation and executive orders and rulings in courts that just change that horribly to the point where individuals have no rights. And the Restrict Act I think, is one of those that we really need to be wary of.

I have featured several times on this podcast people who have been canceled in one way or another. Maybe their businesses were canceled. They were taken to court because they wouldn't shut down or maybe they didn't follow a mask mandate or whatever. I've also followed the story of James Stooke, maybe you've heard of him, your American flag store where they were making flags, custom flags with custom designs on them. They were American flags with custom designs, like on the bottom right corner. And everything was fine until a customer asked for a design that had the picture of Donald Trump in the bottom right corner. And pretty soon their sales tanked because Facebook suppressed all their ads, didn't let their posts be seen, PayPal held all their money, Shopify removed things off their websites. We see big tech going after them just because their business didn't fit the narrative. And thankfully, James has fought back. And now in the state of Tennessee, he's working with state lawmakers there to create legislation that would protect business owners and individuals from such disastrous consequences of canceling and this heavy hand of government in the details of our life.

So we've got that on one side, we've got messaging, we've got the whole central bank digital currency coming in. And I just read today about the nations that have already started pursuing CBDC, the central bank digital currency, which means there is no cash. There is no cash. We can't put a quarter, which may be too little nowadays due to inflation under the pillow for the tooth fairy, but we can't pay a teenage kid to mow our lawn with a $10 bill or something. We can't use cash. And this is just wrong. It takes away all of our privacy. So we think about our digital privacy, which is being restricted through the restrict act. We think about our economic privacy, which is being restricted with a central bank digital currency, and then our opportunity for commerce and self-expression, our first amendment rights, the entire bill of rights actually is being threatened by so many of these policy proposals and these things that the government is doing now. So if you would say to the listeners what they should be doing right now to fight against The Restrict Act, what would you tell them?

Connor O’Keeffe: Well, I like how you kind of frame that with the concept of rights. I think that's kind of at the core of this. And like I said earlier, me and my colleagues, we like to bring things back to property rights because that's really where we see the origin of rights. Rights are not something that are given to us by the constitution, they're recognized by the constitution they come from. We would start out our right to own ourselves or self-ownership. We are the only ones with anything resembling a property claim on our bodies and from that, we're able to justly acquire property. And so the right to own your property is something that we all have. And the fact that the American government is just about the best at recognizing that, doesn't mean that's something unique to Americans. And yet the restrict act is one of many examples where the government is just trying to, I guess, restrict our right to property a little bit more. And these things usually come up and it tends to be centered around some kind of crisis or a threat, something that people are afraid of. That's usually the perfect situation for our rights to disappear a little bit more is if people are afraid. And something about the current status quo has gotten to a level where people want some kind of change. So, like, COVID was the perfect example. People were afraid of this new virus. They didn't really know what was happening. And all we knew is that life in February 2020 had to change, going into March 2020, there has to be some kind of change. That's kind of the perfect situation for these sort of power grabs, these further restrictions on our rights, on our property rights to take place. And so this bill meets that criteria. It's using the threat of not just of foreign power, but foreign powers to kind of justify another rollback of our property rights. And it's yet another example of kind of this insane idea that to protect the rights of Americans, we need to attack the rights of Americans. Just because you can identify a threat, that doesn't mean that any solution or the first solution that government presents is the right way to go about dealing with a threat.

And I really think that for people that own businesses, the whole name of this podcast, Prosperity 101, there was a colleague of mine, Sean Rittenhauer, he wrote a book that was just published recently where he really tries to, using economic theory, get to the core of what causes prosperity. And obviously there's a lot of different factors. I'm sure you're very knowledgeable about that whole topic. But really what his book sort of culminates around is the idea that at its core, what we need are entrepreneurs with property rights. We need people that own and can control resources so that they can divert them or to different lines of production and who have skin in the game, who are subject to the profit and loss test so that it encourages good valued lines of production and discourages bad lines of production that nobody actually wants. And that core to prosperity is always under attack by the government as it rolls back our property rights more and more. And I really think that so it's almost like, from a value free perspective, like if we want to have prosperity purely economically, we need entrepreneurs with property rights. And I think that if the entrepreneurs themselves aren't standing up for their property rights, what hope do we have? I really think that people need to start thinking very hard about what they own, what they have control over. And to give some of that control up, I think that should be a high bar. You need to be convinced that that's actually the best way to handle a threat or a situation. I guess in terms of specifics, I mean, there's always like the call your congressman, especially if you have some group like the Northern Auto Workers of Ohio or whatever, but really, I would say that familiarize yourself with kind of these concepts of rights and stand up for your rights.

Linda J. Hansen: Well, standing up for our rights is so important, but in order to do that, we do need to know our rights. And I have one of the posters that I have available on my website. It's simple. It has the bill of Rights, and underneath it says, are you voting for a person who will protect your rights? So often now, I feel like many adults and probably most children do not even know our rights as American citizens. They've never read the Bill of Rights. They've never read the Constitution and this is partly why we have such a disaster happening in America right now and in the domination of this globalization and one world government and just a lack of individual freedom here in America and around the world. And whether it's the right to choose, whether or not we would want a vaccination, whether it's the right to start a business, to hire someone, to work remotely or somewhere, whatever our rights are to own a home, the rights to free speech, the rights to have a firearm, second Amendment rights, the right to a fair trial, the rights to remain silent. I mean, all these things that are in the bill of Rights are basically threatened when big government decides they know better. And the best government is the government closest to the people. My former boss, colleague, friend, mentor, Herman Cain used to always say, the best way to solve a problem is ask the people closest to the problem. And so the best way to protect freedom is to ask the people what freedoms they value.

And I think right now in America, people have lost sight of freedom. We are so used to government being this big parent that we have lost sight of freedom and what it really means to have personal freedom as guaranteed in the Constitution. And when we think back to putting government at the state level, the local level, we have these divisions within our government that really protect the people and give us safeguards to liberty, and we need to pay attention to that. And so I love it that you brought up entrepreneurs and business owners because they're really the engine that drives society. And if we think about our economy, there is no economy without healthy businesses. There is no economy because it's only through business development, growth, profitability that we can create revenue that pays taxes, that pays people, that it's the engine of our nation. So whether you're a solopreneur or you're an owner of a large business that employs hundreds, you are the backbone of American society, and the backbone of our economy. And government is squandering our money and squandering our rights. So you mentioned contacting our elected officials, but to get more information about this act and how it would affect them. Where would you recommend people go? Of course we want them to go to your article, but what other sources would you recommend so people can learn more about this?

Connor O’Keeffe: Well, there's a lot being written about it right now. I mean, you can always go read the bill, Its 50 pages. It's not all that easy to read, as a lot of bills are with the way they're structured. But it's been a big conversation piece. It's sort of, I think, floundering. Right now. I am kind of optimistic that the bill in its current form is not going to be able to pass. There's been a lot of outcry from all sides of the political spectrum, which is good and healthy, but I don't know, doing a little bit of research, you're going to find kind of a lot of the same points being brought up from a lot of different types of people if you just sort of Google around. But it's always, I think, best to go right to the source if you really want to understand what's in it.

Linda J. Hansen: Well, exactly and listeners, if you do want to go right to the source, you can go. It is Senate Bill: 686 and it was introduced by Senator Mark Warner and you can read the bill. So you can just go to the US Senate website or you can search the Restrict Act and you will be able to find out how to read the entire bill. And please be aware that this is not a protection of your freedom, it is actually threatening your freedom. And I love the final couple of sentences you had in your article, Connor. You ended it with saying the bill isn't protecting you from a threat. It is the threat, don't fall for it. And I just really want to encourage people to read your article. The Restrict Act launches a new war on free speech, which can be found at mises.org, mises.org. You can search for it there and some of the other things that Connor has written. But thank you, Connor, for alerting people to this grave threat to freedom, but also helping people understand that everything that looks good isn't necessarily good. And we appreciate your work, the work of the Institute. And do you have any other closing comments for people like maybe what employers can do to educate employees on this or any other closing comments that come to mind for you?

Connor O’Keeffe: I think I brought up entrepreneurship earlier and at the Mises Institute we were Austrian economists of the Austrian School of Economics, which is probably, I think, one of the only schools of economic thought where the entrepreneur is central to economic theory. Entrepreneurs are often absent from economic models, which is just ridiculous. But really, I think anybody in business, they don't have to actually be an entrepreneur but to understand the market process, it's such a gift just to understand how the world works is always good, but really for the people involved in it, I think educating yourself on how this all works, what the point of starting businesses, trying to make profits? Profits not being a bad thing is very important for people that own businesses. But everybody else that's kind of on the journey with them, the people working for them, they're researchers, capital owners, everybody. And then once again, once you understand how it works, also understanding your rights so that you can protect it and kind of keep this market process going.

Linda J. Hansen: Excellent, excellent. Thank you for that. Very good advice for everyone. Whether you are an entrepreneur, a business owner, or you may be an employee, because all of these policies affect everyone. No matter how far away people think government is from their daily life, it affects daily life constantly, and it affects our bank accounts, our ability to travel, communicate, everything. So thank you for highlighting this and reminding us. I'm just going to give the last phrase of your article again. This bill, the Restrict Act, isn't protecting you from a threat. It is the threat. Don't fall for it. And as I often remind people, all that glitters is not gold. And just because something's got a fancy title that sounds like it'll be great and protect us all from the evils of the world, it may be just a wolf in sheep's clothing. So again, be aware, be alert. There are ways to protect Americans without restricting our freedoms. So thank you for bringing that fact. If people want to reach out to you, how should they do so Connor?

Connor O’Keeffe:  So you can reach me. My email is Connor O'Keeffe. All lowercase. Last name is O-K-E-E-F-F-E. People often forget the second F@mises.org. So ConnoroKeeffe@mises.org.

Linda J. Hansen: Okay, reach me. Thank you so much. I appreciate your time for the interview. Hope to have you back again someday. Thank you for keeping your eye on this legislation and alerting people to the dangers of it. And thank you for fighting for freedom. We appreciate it.

Connor O’Keeffe: Thank you, Linda.

Linda J. Hansen: Thank you.

Linda J. Hansen: Thank you again for listening to the Prosperity 101 Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, share, and leave a great review. Don't forget to visit Prosperity101.com to access the entire podcast library to order my newest book, Job Security Through Business Prosperity: The Essential Guide to Understanding How Policy Affects Your Paycheck or to enroll you or your employees in the Breakroom Economics online course. You can also receive the free e-book, 10 Tips for Helping Employees Understand How Public Policy Affects Their Paychecks. Freedom is never free. Understanding the foundations of prosperity and the policies of prosperity will help you to protect prosperity as you become informed, involved, and impactful. I give special thanks to our sponsors Matthews Archery, Inc. and Wisconsin Stamping & Manufacturing. Please contact us today at Prosperity101.com to let us know how we can serve you. Thank you.