April 18, 2009
Today I interview James Ostrowski, libertarian extraordinaire, lawyer, writer, and tea party organizer. Mr. Ostrowski is the founder of Free Buffalo (2005), and author of the tea party manifesto, “How We Can Win the Second American Revolution Without Firing a Shot.” He’s been fighting the political machine for 35 years.
ILANA: The tea party protests across the country are all fueled by that indomitable America spirit. And that’s good. However, most tea protesters have yet to arrive at the principles that undergirded the American Revolution. Explain.
OSTROWSKI: What we have now in America is so far from the original idea that it would be unrecognizable to the Founders. The old Republic slipped away long ago and while it’s not possible to pinpoint the date, I like to say 1917. That year we entered World War I. War leads to higher taxes and the level of federal spending has never returned to pre-World War I levels. Domestically, the twin evils of the income tax and the Federal Reserve started to kick in around then too. So, forget Obama, we need to clear away the dead wood of the Progressive Era to even begin to see what a true Republic would look like. I don”t think most tea protesters are there yet but perhaps they can be persuaded. In any event, we need to go far beyond simply bashing Obama and pork.
ILANA: I was coming to that. You”ve warned of tea parties that focus their attack on Obama and the “Democrats”; whose “own positive agenda is rather thin and focuses on Pavlovian rank and file buzz words like “pork.”” Or tax tweaks to the exclusion of slashing government. You”ve cautioned of phonies who aim, in your words, “to return power to the same set of degenerate creeps who set the stage for the God Obama’s final sacking of America””Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Tom DeLay, Dick Armey, Lindsey Graham. What sort of agenda will help restore the republic and ward off the Republicans?
OSTROWSKI: I lay out a bold but simple plan, which starts with bringing the troops home and using the savings to begin to liquidate the federal welfare state by buying out Socialism Security recipients with lump sum payments. That paves the way for repeal of the 16th Amendment. Of course, we need to end the Fed and allow the market to determine the forms of money. The market usually chooses gold and silver. Now, establishment Republicans will not go along with that but I am convinced the rank and file will. We kill two birds with one stone.
ILANA: Do address the other obstacle to reclaiming the republic: the gatekeeper pundits who”ve been wrong for the past decade about everything; the authors, groups, websites and publications that have consistently dished out Republikeynsian statism—-and who”d like Americans to believe that their warfare state is just dandy, and that nipped-and-tucked Republican stimulus and bailouts would be fundamentally different from the equivalent Democratic obscenities.
OSTROWSKI: Well, the funny thing is, don”t they sound a lot more like us now that the Republicans are out of power? But yes, the whole gang of wealthy conservative pundits who helped give us the disaster of the Bush Administration and the pathetic Republican Congress need to be held accountable. People need to be encouraged to support the authors, thinks tanks and blogs that got it right the last eight years, not the recent converts to limited government.
Again, you can”t separate war from big government. The total American credit card debt is about the same as the projected cost of the two Asian land wars. We need to make that connection clear: you can”t separate foreign policy from domestic policy and the economy.
ILANA: We were bequeathed a republic, not a democracy. You”ve written: “Only a republican government can be truly limited. A republican government may only exercise powers delegated by the people that the people actually possess.” What do you mean?
OSTROWSKI: Pure democracy is a form of ethical nihilism. Not sure where that comes from”Rousseau probably”but voting is like trying to stop a hurricane with your breath. The main function of voting is to give big government an excuse to push you around. The thugs always have the trump card as we hear constantly now: we won the election!
The Founders were Lockean liberals who believed that we had natural rights and could combine to delegate certain powers to the government such as self-protection. But in natural law, no man can steal from another so you can”t delegate that power to the government and create a welfare state. Similarly, the people don”t have the right to counterfeit, so they can”t delegate that power to the Federal Reserve. And the people do not have the right to rule the world, so they can”t delegate to the government the right to create a global military empire.
The Founders were not anarchists but they still had a dim view of taxes. To tax people for purposes other than core government functions is theft and tyranny. Jefferson said that in his own words in his First Inaugural.
ILANA: You write in your manifesto, “How We Can Win the Second American Revolution Without Firing a Shot”: “The vast majority of Americans now support Red Coat government.” Explain, with reference to the dangers and deceptions of Republican poseurs, especially. I can”t help thinking that Republicans are the real obstacle to winning the “Second American Revolution.” With Democrats, what you see is what you get. They really are as odious as all that. (Imagine if Democrats were the only obstacle Ron Paul revolutionaries faced.) Disagree?
OSTROWSKI: True. Democrats tell the truth; Republicans lie. Democrats tell you they think government is great and they deliver. They make it bigger. Republicans tell us they hate big government but they lie and give us government often bigger and more oppressive than the Dems. George Bush is Exhibit “A,” but every Republican president since Hoover made government bigger. I often ask people: name the last conservative regime that made government smaller? Never got an answer!
Regarding Red Coats, our president is more powerful than King George was and his empire is larger. Our taxes are higher and our corporate state economy takes British Mercantilism to a much higher level.
ILANA: Tell our readers, with reference to the only rights the government is supposed to safeguard, why a “true republic can only have a free market economy.” Why “can”t a republic have a global military empire”?
OSTROWSKI: A republic exists to protect our natural rights including property. The market is basically the free exchange of property or property titles. So, a market economy is not optional in a republic, it’s a necessity. Pragmatically too, in a mixed economy like ours, so many voters are bought off by checks and favors of various kinds that it becomes almost impossible to dislodge the regime. So, that’s another reason to stick to a market economy.
Why can”t a republic have a global military empire? Among others reasons, empires require huge armies and bureaucracies and oppressive taxes which violate our right to private property, the right to keep what we earn. Empires, as Washington taught us, invite retaliation and thus the government betrays its only true purpose by jeopardizing the lives and security of its citizens by pointlessly manufacturing foreign enemies.
ILANA: In your manifesto you quote Tolstoy, who “wrote the politician’s credo”:
“I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means – except by getting off his back.”
Unlike Neal Boortz, a Republican in libertarian’s clothing, you”re clearly not a proponent of the political process. Before he joined the Fox News tea-party fest, the talk show host had pooh-poohed the tea protests, touting the political process instead. In a blog post, “Tea Parties”Give Me A Break,” Boortz advocated “registering voters who actually produce and contribute to our society,” rather than protesting. Why is politics a rigged charade?
OSTROWSKI: Well, I”ve been in the trenches for 35 years, since I was a kid. The game is rigged like a poker game where you are the sucker. They gerrymander districts. They use our tax money to buy votes and extract donations. So, even if you get a good candidate, you are outspent ten to one and outmanned ten to one since they use “off duty” government employees to campaign against you. I”m an election lawyer so I know they try to knock you off the ballot or at least tie you up in court. Finally, all the net-tax consumers vote. The rest of us are often too busy or too discouraged. The machine wins 90 percent of the time.
ILANA: On the pragmatic level, you”ve devised a 12-step program for how each one of us can start to restore the American Republic (as opposed to the Republican Party’s America).
More symbolically, you exhort Americans to take a pledge—-one bearing no resemblance to the pledge members of the “Stupid Party” are always beating us on the head with. (No surprise: The Pledge of Allegiance was written by a socialist, Francis Bellamy.)
What is it?
OSTROWSKI: I pledge allegiance to the principles of the American Revolution, stated by Jefferson, and for which the Minute Men and Washington’s Army fought: that government’s only purpose is to protect our natural rights to life, liberty, and property; that any government that does “more” than protect our natural rights must thereby violate those same rights and become a tyranny that the people have the right to alter or abolish. I pledge to resist that tyranny by peaceful means if at all possible.
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