The Lesson of Liberty Safe: Don’t Just Lock Your Back Doors, Brick Them Over

Photo by Daniel Leininger. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Photo by Daniel Leininger. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Most Americans likely harbor little sympathy for Nathan Hughes.  He was arrested in Arkansas on August 30 on felony and misdemeanor charges relating to the January 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol.

Whether Hughes is guilty or not I can’t say, but it’s clear that he made a big mistake when it came to securing his firearms. That mistake was trusting the company which built his gun safe — Liberty Safe — to keep his access codes private. Liberty Safe turned over a code allowing law enforcement to unlock the safe and take the weapons.

There’s some disagreement over whether the code was specific to Hughes or whether there’s a “master code” that unlocks all Liberty Safe products. If we’re to believe Liberty Safe, it’s the former, and they’re acting to let customers “expunge” their codes from the company’s servers.

There are also, of course, calls to boycott Liberty Safe for complying with the FBI’s warrant instead of fighting it, but let’s be honest: It’s hard to fight the feds and hard to blame a company for complying rather than going to war.

The solution to this problem isn’t boycotting Liberty Safe specifically. It’s to avoid putting yourself in any situation where someone else has a “back door” into your stuff.

There’s a saying in the cryptocurrency community: “Not your keys, not your crypto.” It refers to the difference between “custodial” wallets run by centralized exchanges and “non-custodial” wallets to which the wallet owner, and ONLY the wallet owner, has the private keys. Cryptocurrency kept in those “custodial” wallets can be seized any time the government goes to the exchange with a court order. But unless the owner gives up his private key, crypto in a “non-custodial” wallet is secure.

With the advent of the “Internet of Things,” there’s a temptation to let second or third parties control access to one’s things. If you forget a password or whatever, they can help you get back in. The problem with that is they can also help someone else get in, unintentionally (a hacker, for example) or intentionally (usually a government).

Governments hate your privacy. They want to be able to know what you’re doing, or take your stuff, at will and without inconvenient safeguards.

That’s why we see so many government efforts to mandate “back doors” in encryption or even outlaw some forms (non-custodial crypto wallets, end-to-end encrypted email and text messaging, etc.) altogether. And don’t even get me started on “Know Your Customer” laws and the requirement that banks report “suspicious” transactions rather than awaiting a demand accompanied by a warrant before they hand over their customers’ data and cash.

It’s not criminal to value one’s privacy and want to keep one’s belongings secure from theft by criminals or governments (but I repeat myself).

Take a look around your house, with special attention to your computer and phone. Is your crypto secure? How about your email? Find ways to stop trusting your money and information to other parties’ honesty, competence, courage, and good will.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Disapproval Voting is a Sign of Decline

Sacking of Rome, by Karl Bryullov
Sacking of Rome, by Karl Bryullov

A couple of numbers from FiveThirtyEight‘s polling roundups:

56% of Americans polled disapprove of US president Joe Biden.

56.1% of Americans polled disapprove of former (and hoping to be future) US president Donald Trump.

Those two are their respective parties’ 2024 presidential nomination front-runners, and it’s not even close.

US vice-president Kamala Harris, who’s best positioned to replace Biden on the Democratic ticket if he drops out or dies in office, is just a wee bit less unpopular than those two with a disapproval rating of “only” 51.3%

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who’s running against Biden for the Democratic Party’s nomination, is less unpopular yet — but more so with Republicans (23% unfavorable) than with Democrats (41% unfavorable).

On the Republican side, second-placer (so far) Ron DeSantis bests Trump with an unfavorable percentage of “only” 48.6%. Former US vice-president Mike Pence is even less popular than Trump or Biden at 58.5%.

I’m not old enough to remember people actually wearing “I Like Ike” buttons, and I’m just old enough to have trouble remembering who it was — it may have been Dick Morris — who said in the early 2000s that if your unfavorable rating is above 35%, you shouldn’t bother running for president.

This year, the only “serious” “major party” candidates who seem to be getting under that wire are on the Republican side: Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley (34.2%) and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott (24.7%). And one suspects that if either gets any traction, those unfavorable ratings will spike upward.

Looking at Gallup statistics, I see that the average disapproval rating for elected presidents upon taking office from Eisenhower to Obama was 11.3%, and that average was dragged way upward by Bill Clinton (20%) and George W. Bush (25%).

Even the likely retrospectively most unpopular president overall of the Eisenhower-to-Obama era, Richard Nixon, entered office with a stunning disapproval rating of only 5%!

Something has changed in recent years, and that change manifests in two important ways.

First, politicians in general are obviously becoming a LOT less liked and trusted. I don’t think that’s because politicians are worse now than they were in, say, 1952. I think it’s because people are paying closer attention.

Second, these days, it’s hard to make a case that voters are voting for the politicians they like best for the nation’s higher office. Instead, they’re mostly voting against the politicians they hate the most, and for politicians they hate just a little bit less.

The predictable result is that these days, instead of running on their own policy proposals, presidential candidates run on claims about their opponents. Trump is an “insurrectionist.” Biden runs a “crime family.” Ignore my IDEAS, folks! Focus on how naive, stupid, or dastardly my OPPONENT is.

Which explains why, policy-wise, it’s hard to tell one president from the next without a scorecard.

I can’t help but think of this phenomenon as a huge neon sign reading “TERMINAL DECLINE” flashing brightly over any polity it shows up in.

That sign means it’s time to stop worrying about WHO’S next, and start thinking about WHAT COMES next.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


The Raw-Dealed Actor/Teacher Show

Photo by Keizers. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The Wall Street Journal now realizes that income inequality can be a source of social problems.

No, its famously pro-proprietor commentators haven’t signed up for union cards.  Two different editorials in the August 28 opinion pages come not to praise labor organizing but to bury it, whether it’s South American schoolteachers whose policies “put unions above children” according to Mary Anastasia O’Grady in “Socialism Sinks Venezuela’s Schools,” or Sacramento screenwriters hitting up California for what an unsigned editorial dubs “Jobless Benefits for Susan Sarandon.”

What stands out is the unlikelihood of suddenly developing a tender concern for workers in fields without Sarandon-style stars to draw attention to their cause during the most contentious film industry strike in decades (followed closely by O’Grady decrying the use of schoolchildren as “a good prop for communists” while capitalists are equally happy to use a captive audience to prop up their own profits). Sarandon and actors struggling from a lack of comparable name recognition have more clout joining together. Meanwhile, loyal audiences perennially show up for Sarandon vehicles like The Rocky Horror Picture Show or Thelma & Louise precisely because they get more than a movie ticket’s face value out of them.

More insidious is the Journal‘s implication that pro-strike partisans are only “now seeking to put their thumb on the bargaining scale” after the “level playing field for unions and management” put in place by the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947.  In fact, as Murray Rothbard has observed, “it was the Taft-Hartley Act” itself that was responsible for “taming as well as privileging” unions and leading them “into the cozy junior partnership with Big Business and Big Government that we know so well today.”

The Journal views subsidies for strikers as inadvertently providing “even more incentive to use artificial intelligence to replace workers” than the course of technological progress resisted by flesh-and-blood thespians.  Yet it was cybernetician Stafford Beer, in the aftermath of his efforts to build a participatory computerized economy for leftist leader Salvador Allende in Chile, who foresaw moving past “the cultural myths that all technology is dehumanizing.”

Beer asked why “we shall prefer to sit a hundred pupils uncomfortably in front of a human teacher who hopes he understands relativity … than to give the individual pupil access to videotape recordings which he can replay to his hearts content, of Albert Einstein — who could be as lucid as the day.”

Half a century after Beer noted that “a computer can be interrogated, explored, used, continuously and in different ways by a few hundred pupils at once,” devices orders of magnitude more powerful are still being misused to “condition the pupil to give the right (in quotes) answers to a set of trivial questions.” O’Grady dictates that Southern-hemisphere socialists “track students” and “administer standardized tests.” Yet as Beer hoped, “the machine could be used as a real liberator” at a truly free, and thus fair, bargaining table.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


  1. “OPINION: The raw-dealed actor/teacher show” by Joel Schlosberg, The Richmond Observer [Rockingham, North Carolina] September 5, 2023
  2. “The Raw-Dealed Actor/Teacher Show” by Joel Schlosberg, CounterPunch, September 7, 2023
  3. “The Raw-Dealed Actor/Teacher Show” by Joel Schlosberg, The Newton Kansan, September 8, 2023