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Pokemon GO Players Help Businesses Recover

Pokemon GO is a game focused on getting out and doing things. In the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns, along with protests and riots that rocked the world, businesses were left in ruins. Niantic (the developer of Pokemon GO) is getting the Pokemon GO community involved in the recovery efforts. But how can Pokemon GO players help businesses recover?

For those who don’t know, Pokemon GO is an augmented reality smartphone game that allows players to catch in-game monsters (the Pokemon) by traveling to real-world locations. Two big mechanics of the game are PokeStops, which allow players to acquire items and quests, and Gyms, which players can conquer for their team and place their Pokemon to guard.

Naturally, these real-world locations attract many Pokemon GO players. Many of the locations are civic or cultural landmarks such as parks and churches, but Niantic has also allowed businesses to pay a fee to make their operations into “sponsored” PokeStops, thereby drawing Pokemon GO-playing customers.

Pokemon GO Players Help Businesses Recover
Image Credit: Niantic

But now Niantic is taking a different approach—one that will let Pokemon GO Players help businesses recover. “At Niantic, we are passionate about bringing communities together and lifting one another up, through the good times and the challenging times,” the company said on their blog. “We understand that many local businesses have experienced unprecedented hardship over the past few months, and we want to help.”

It’s one thing for a big company like Niantic to help businesses, but where to the players come in? The blog continued: “We are inviting Pokémon GO players to nominate their favorite small, local businesses to participate in the Niantic Local Business Recovery Initiative. As part of our efforts to assist the economic recovery of local businesses, we are committed to supporting 1,000 nominated businesses by providing them complimentary promotion in Pokémon GO for one year.

In other words, Niantic will turn the winning storefronts into PokeStops and Gyms in the Pokemon GO game. The businesses will even have access to exclusive in-game promotions. This will raise awareness of the small businesses, draw more traffic to the stores, and help them on the road to economic recovery.

The nominations are open until 31 July, so if you’re a Pokemon GO player head on over and nominate your favorite local business that’s in need of a boost! If you don’t play Pokemon GO, then take a moment to appreciate how people voluntarily help each other in new and innovative ways.

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Why is Housing So Expensive?

Something that VIA frequently gets requests for is help with rent payments. Why is it difficult for so many people to afford housing? Why is housing so expensive? The standard answer is that it’s those lazy landlords, sitting on piles of money and smoking cigars, who are to blame. This seems to make sense at first glance—after all, aren’t the landlords the ones who are charging the rent? But lets take a closer look by examining a case from a simpler time: that of Pa Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie.

Pa Ingalls, though frequently short on luck, was an entrepreneur at heart. Anticipating that a thriving town would one day stand on the rolling grasslands, he picked a deserted spot nearby and started building a farm. This is called homesteading—in the words of John Locke, Pa Ingalls had “mixed his labor” with the land, and in doing so made it his property. He had built a nice little farm when disaster struck—worse than a prairie fire or drought. The United States government decided that it owned the land that Pa Ingalls had built on, and he had to leave to make room for indigenous Americans (who were, incidentally, forced to moved from other land that the government had also decided it owned—but that’s another story).

Fast forward a hundred and fifty years, and we see that the cause of the Ingall’s housing crisis is the same as our own: the government. At the simplest level, a person who needed a house could simply go to an unowned spot of land and build a shelter—not an ideal long-term solution, but everyone has to start somewhere. This simple expedient is forbidden, however, because the government has decreed that it owns all the land in America. Why, when it has not done anything at all to the land to make it the property of the government? Because, that’s why—and if you build a house on it, you’ll only be kicked off and have your house stolen—if you’re lucky.

In a free market, the high price of housing would cause people to want to build more housing—because they want the profits.

Fortunately, in a complex economy, there are people who are much better at building a house or apartment than the average person. In a free market, the high price of housing would cause people to want to build more housing—because they want the profits. But with more housing available, the price would decrease, since renters would have more options. So what stops that from happening? Again, the government. In addition to directly increasing the cost of housing—such as through property tax—the government indirectly increases the cost. Zoning laws, building codes, and other rules and regulations prevent new housing from being created when it is needed. Not coincidentally, this makes some people demand that the government Do Something, which usually leads to more government control over people’s lives.

That’s where voluntaryism comes in. Right now, all we who are more fortunate can do is help people pay the high costs that government has imposed on everyone. But in a truly free society—one without Big Brother telling everyone what to do—how would housing be provided for the less fortunate? The possibilities are nearly endless. Simple charities—to build new housing or pay bills—would be one way. Subsidized or even no-cost housing could be made available by businesses—people are much more likely to shop at a store they live right next to than one across town. Microliving in low-cost rental living pods, house-sharing agreements, and other creative voluntary arrangements would flourish. The answer to “why is housing so expensive?” can be summed up in one word: government. But in a voluntaryist society, the solutions to the housing problem are limited only by human imagination and initiative.

This article was originally published by Being Libertarian.

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Innovation Meets Charity: VIA Teams Up With Sierra Leone-Based Charity Using Bitcoin

Voluntaryism in Action (VIA) is now set to work with a charity team based in Sierra Leone, Toni Lane Compassion Charity. The organization was formerly known as Kids Compassion Charity, but was renamed in memoriam of Toni Lane Casserly, the fairly well-known cryptocurrency enthusiast and blockchain pioneer, advocate for Self-Sovereign Identity, and co-founder of the organization. Sierra Leone is a small country in Africa which, not unlike much of the continent, has been devastated by decades of corruption, civil war, disease, and famine.

VIA is partnering with the local charity team and co-founder Mustapha Cole in utilizing cryptocurrency to maneuver around the bureaucratic restrictions of international funding and sending direct supplies. The team in Sierra Leone receives the funds in just minutes and are able to convert it to their local currency, saving time in and money compared to cumbersome and expensive international transaction costs.

Thanks to our supporters, VIA has donated a few thousand dollars so far, but the fundraiser for donors who want to continue to support Toni Lane Compassion Charity is here: (http://www.viaction.org/causes/Sierra-leone-aid). VIA funds have fed over 35 children and their families, supplying them with hundreds of kilos of rice, vegetables, and cooking supplies. Additionally, donations will be utilized to enable self-sufficiency in Sierra Leone, including a community farm and a school where students can learn about technology and coding.

We will continue working with Toni Lane Compassion Charity, and supporting their drive to raise the children of Sierra Leone out of the ashes of poverty and hunger and into prosperity. Those who are inspired by the work of Mustapha, Toni, and their team and would like to be supporters are able to donate one time at the link above, or become monthly supporters of VIA. Monthly supporters can cancel or edit their monthly giving at any time.

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May 2020 Organizational Update

In the month of May, the world continued to struggle with Covid-19, but with an end in sight to the restrictions, the nation turned to a mixture of outrage and solidarity as news broke of another injustice. Between the outrage and some of the violent responses to protests, chaos erupted in the midst of protest and devastated homes, businesses, and lives.

We responded with an ongoing charity to restore small businesses. Despite the outpouring of emotion during a difficult time for our country, we saw some positivity in a new partnership we are proud to assist and continuous involvement in the community. This is what we have to look back on in the past month:

● We partnered with Toni Lane Compassion Charity, a charity team based in Sierra Leone that utilizes cryptocurrency to maneuver around the bureaucratic restrictions of international funding and sending direct supplies. More here: https://viaction.org/causes/sierra-leone-aid

● We kickstarted our charity drive to assist in rebuilding small businesses that had devastating damages from the riots in major cities. Link to donate here: https://viaction.org/rebuild

● Assistant Director Justin Glassman and Content Creator Sam Wade hosted the first monthly live Q&A in VIA Community. They answered questions from the community regarding plans for VIA and how they came to join VIA.

● We continued to use the funds from the Covid-19 relief projects to assist more families struggling with the crisis.

● The T-Shirt Design Contest has been extended and is ongoing as we continue to receive more submissions.

● Shelter Point Distillery shared our article about their project to assist hospitals with the need for hand sanitizer. Article can be read here: https://viaction.org/wire/news/distilleries-are-producing-hand-sanitizer

● Steubens Ltd. pledged to donate 20% of merchandise profit to our active Facebook fundraiser. You can shop here: steubensltd.com

In the coming months we look forward to continuing to assist and partner with those across the globe in voluntaryism efforts and becoming more connected with our community, and to see more progress in June.

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Voluntarily Funded Police Agencies

The killing of George Floyd sparked another debate about the power of the police in the United States. Although the focus was quickly turned to race, with accompanying rioting and looting, the fact is that police violence continues to be inflicted on Americans regardless of skin color. While racial disparities due to racism and other factors certainly are a component of the problem, it’s not the root of it. The root is in the imbalance of power between the police and the people.

The police have what’s called “qualified immunity,” meaning that you can’t sue them when they violate your rights. They’re subject to internal police discipline—the discipline of other cops who have every incentive to go easy on the offender. In essence, police form a class that is protected by the government from direct consequences of their wrongdoing, being allowed to get away with crimes that anyone else would be arrested for.

Not only do government police enjoy protection from direct consequences of their actions, but their method of funding completely dissociates them from indirect consequences of their actions: police are paid with tax money. You do not have a choice about paying the police, no matter how poorly they protect you, and no matter how many times they mistreat and kill people. The police are paid with funds that are forcibly taken from you—and if you try to withhold your money, the police come to take it, or to put you in prison. There are currently no voluntarily funded police agencies. What this means is that the government police have a virtual monopoly on the provision of police service.

Would you want to finance the people who killed George Floyd? Because you do. Without your consent, your money is taken from you and given to them, enabling more of the same behavior.

It’s a fact of economics that when an organization has a monopoly the quality of the good or service decreases and the price increases. This is no less true in the area of defense and law enforcement. With no competition, there is no incentive to provide better service. It’s true that there are alternatives to police—there are private security agencies. However, due to the nature of government police, this is not true competition because you have no choice but to pay the government’s police.

When you hire someone to perform a service and they do not perform the service as expected, or they’re too expensive, or any other reason, you can hire someone else. In the last instance, you can attempt to either perform the service for yourself or do without. But no matter how bad the government police are, you cannot truly choose another service—or even choose to stop paying them.

Together, the virtual monopoly, the immunity from prosecution, and the forced funding mean that the police are almost totally insulated from the natural consequences of their decisions. It also enables activities that benefit the police but do not protect the citizens, like civil asset forfeiture (theft), detainment (kidnapping), “reasonable use of force” (assault), and as we see over and over, killing.

But the most likely scenario is that with private police agencies George Floyd would not have died, because police officers would see people as customers and potential customers instead of as criminals and potential criminals.

The question should now be asked: what are the natural consequences on the market of the actions the government police engage in? Ask yourself: would you want to voluntarily pay an agency whose employees could pull you out of your car and beat you without any repercussions? Would you want to support an organization that, when you ask them to check if your neighbor is alright, they shoot and kill her?

Would you want to finance the people who killed George Floyd? Because you do. Without your consent, your money is taken from you and given to them, enabling more of the same behavior.

If the Minneapolis Police Department had been one of several voluntarily funded police agencies competing for business, the officer responsible for Floyd’s death would have been immediately arrested. If the (private) MPD had any business sense, they would have arrested him themselves to demonstrate their trustworthiness and try to salvage their reputation with their customers. But the most likely scenario is that with private police agencies George Floyd would not have died, because police officers would see people as customers and potential customers instead of as criminals and potential criminals.

While racism certainly exists in the government police force, it’s not the core problem. The ultimate issue is that police officers are protected from the consequences of their actions. No amount of government action will make them accountable. No new government oversight committees or investigative powers will reform the police, because those bodies will have the same problems of immunity and involuntary funding. The only way to reform the police is to break the government monopoly: remove their immunity, remove their involuntary funding, and allow private agencies to freely compete for the honor of keeping Americans safe.

It’s time for voluntarily funded police agencies.

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Little Free Pantries Project in Toronto

It’s often during times of turmoil that we see the best that humanity has to offer, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been no exception. Businesses have been helping lower income families put food on the table, individuals are making masks for others, and volunteers are grocery shopping for those that are more at risk of catching the virus. This pandemic has devastated countless families financially, shuttered businesses, and taken the lives of hundreds of thousands across the globe. The virus’ impact has been nothing short of devastating, but just like any other troubling time in history, you can always find the helpers.

With unemployment spreading rapidly because of the virus and how governments have responded, many are finding it difficult just to keep food on the table. Knowing this, some individuals and local businesses in Toronto, Canada, have started a “Little Free Pantries Project.” If you’ve ever heard of a “Little Free Library”—usually a small cupboard on a person’s lawn filled with books intended to be exchanged between willful individuals—then you can gather the general idea.

Neighbors are encouraged to leave a donation if they are well off, and those that are in need can take what they need when they need it. The Toronto Little Free Pantries Project has been building and stocking these pantries across the city. So far they have helped erect 13 pantries and are encouraging others to follow their lead.

It’s small acts of kindness—even a Little Free Pantries project—that make a significant impact on those in need. That box of mac & cheese might be insignificant to you, but it may mean the world to a single mom struggling to feed her kids right now. This is how we help our neighbors in a noncoercive, voluntary manner. With a little ingenuity, kindness, and charity, we can help those that are in need, especially those that fall through the proverbial government cracks.

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