The Tools Our Fathers Left To Us

A Personal Reflection
Though I had to work a little last weekend, I was thankfully able to spend the bulk of Father’s Day with my wife and seven-year-old daughter. At morning church service, I shed a few tears for my own father, whom I miss very much. My perceptive little girl knew exactly why I was troubled, and offered a small hand against my back to console me.
Following service, we lit a few candles, and she asked about Dad. She never got to meet him; my father was gone far too early in his life, and, sadly, before hers had even begun.
From time to time she will ask about him, the curious man in the photo, placed in a position of honor on the shelf in my office. But old photos never quite do the story justice.
Being the day that it was, I showed my daughter some things around the house, now innocently taken for granted, that once belonged to my father, as well my grandfathers:
My pop’s old wooden desk and fountain pen; his father’s gold pocket watch, received from his father (my great-grandfather) for his 21st birthday; a comfy old 1930s reading chair; a poker-playing card table; a bright yellow step stool; and that 1964 Dodge Dart parked and covered in the driveway (that my father-in-law helped to refurbish).
I shared with her the colorful collection of delicate, old trout flies, tied by grandpa’s own hands, and my dad’s catfishing rods, too. My daughter will learn this summer, and chose the same rod with which I caught my first fish.
Then there are the tools, those well-cared-for Tools. Now the pride of my workshop, still shiny and sharp and strong and sturdy. All good as new, and all American, too. Of course, you couldn’t buy anything else back then.
And in the corner stands my grandfather’s impressive woodworking chest, finely appointed with chisels and planes and levels and picks and rasps and his initials stamped into each handle. He carried the box on his shoulders to the bus stop for 30-odd years, as he went off to build patterns for planes and trains.
All of this will one day be yours, I promised her. She smiled and seemed impressed, I suppose, as much as any little seven-year-old girl could be. Our little stroll down memory lane had done much for my spirit, and it had become a memorable day in its own right.
That evening, with my daughter safely tucked into bed, my thoughts returned to my forefathers and my own childhood. I thought about the life they had made for us, through their sweat, sacrifice, and resolve.
I thought about these Tools that had forged my family, put a roof over our heads, and fish in our bellies, these tools that had built our life, as we once knew it.
Things being what they are today, my wife and I now wonder if we can possibly deliver for our child the same life and opportunities that our parents had secured for us. It was our promise to give our children better, remember, as our fathers had done for us.
This was the real American Dream, a simple tradition of values, like self-reliance and hard work  and perseverance. And I shudder to think what our forefathers would say of the mess we have made of it. Things being what they are today.
Next week we will celebrate our other fathers, our Founding Fathers, and the 235th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. I shudder again, to think what they might say of the America we prepare to pass on today.
Indeed they had bequeathed the most precious gift in the course of human history, when they left to us our constitutional guarantees of liberty and natural rights. The same guarantees for which generations of fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers had worked, fought, and died.
And they warned us that the people we sent to represent us in government would one day conspire to take it all away. This is why the Founders left to us something else equally treasured, outlined within our federal and state constitutions: the Tools to defend and preserve those very freedoms.
The electoral process;
The right to dissent through speech, the press, and assembly;
The right to petition for redress of grievances;
And if all else fails, God forbid, the second amendment.
Now it has fallen to us to implement these tools. We must dust them off and begin anew, to reclaim our rightful place as the leaders of our governments, whether local, state of federal. Yes, you and me.
It is our duty to act, just as surely as it is our sacred responsibility to provide and care for our sons and daughters. For if we cannot provide Liberty, we will be hard pressed to provide anything else of genuine value or consequence.
We have the Tools. All that is left is to summon the Will to wield them. And so We Shall.
This solemn promise I make to my Daughter, steeled by the indelible memory of our Fathers.
#

Identity Crisis: So who exactly are the Libertarians?

Over the course of the 2010 campaign season, the question most asked of me personally by voters was a seemingly simple one:
“What do you stand for?”
The “you” in this context meant the Staten Island Libertarian Party (SILP) and our candidates in particular, or alternatively, the Libertarian movement at large. Our chapter’s boilerplate reply, crafted by committee for accuracy and consensus, was equally simple:
“Limited government, personal liberty, free markets, and state’s rights.”
Indeed, our positions on these issues constitute key planks of the SILP platform. All pretty straightforward stuff.
Further, it’s reasonably certain that Libertarians universally embrace the first two pillars noted above. The national Libertarian Party (LP), which bills itself as the ‘Party of Principle,’ has it distilled down to this mantra: ‘minimum government, maximum freedom.’
Kinda catchy, right? You’d think so.
Yet among the hundreds of New Yorkers with whom I spoke, and who claimed to have some insight into Libertarian philosophy, the pendulum of perception regarding Libertarianism swings wildly, from a party of right-wing extremists, to one of far-left anarchists. (A similar affliction confounds watchers of the Patriot/Tea Party movement, but that’s another op-ed for another time.)
After 40 years, one wonders if the Libertarian Party still struggles to define itself in this world of three-second sound bites. Or maybe the electorate is just hopelessly hardwired for 2-party tyranny. After all, conventional punditry has long proclaimed that a third-party vote is a wasted vote. Worse still, they insist, it is a “spoiler” vote that will only throw the election to the enemy (whoever that is…).
Whatever the reasons, all manner of misconceptions and misnomers abound regarding Libertarians and their beliefs; prominent media outlets, slanted all across the political spectrum, can’t seem to get it right with any regularity.
We’ve also found that the name Libertarian itself can cause something of a misdirect. Many voters make that phonetical leap of logic that Libertarian = Liberal. While there is some genuine basis of truth in that, there is one significant exception.
It is classical liberalism to which we pay homage. Modern liberalism? Not so much. The term was hijacked long ago. Many of the policies now associated with self-styled social liberals lie 180-degrees from the original tenet and meaning of liberalism. Of course, the exact same thing can be said for many so-called conservatives, who profess (with a straight face) to be today’s champions of small government and individual rights.
So much for principle.
To some extent our current case of mistaken identity is self-inflicted. Like any large national party (reportedly the largest independent), we have our own undeniable factions. A veteran New York state LP member once advised that ‘getting Libertarians to agree on anything is like herding cats.’
Not surprisingly, our public persona (as well our political unity) is vulnerable to far-flung chapters with competing interests, brought about through disparate geo-cultural values, social-driven agendas, and myriad policy emphases. And they don’t always align neatly. Yes, even in the great State of New York.
I will argue that this is as it should be, insomuch that Liberty teaches individualism and self-determination. It also preaches tolerance of, and respect for, different political and ideological points of view.
But in the marketing parlance that is endemic in modern politics, it becomes difficult to uniformly promote a “brand” when the “product” is inconsistent across the marketplace. And so it follows that in an army of independent thinkers, there is going to be a lot of inconsistency.
So, you may ask, what then are we selling?
What are the ‘Principles’ that drive the Staten Island Libertarian Party?
Let me quickly remind that I do not necessarily represent the views of the national LP mother ship, nor our friends in Manhattan, Greater Rochester, and Hudson Valley et al. Neither do I speak here for my Staten Island member colleagues; they rather excel in doing that themselves.
The following notes, then, are simply my own observations of the dominant themes in the year since I began working with this remarkable group of patriots:
Our extremely knowledgeable membership holds a deep, abiding respect for the Founders of this country, and the well-documented Originalist intent of our United States Constitution. We would do well not to forget that our liberties have other protections, too, in the Constitution of the State of New York.
We are determined to hold accountable all transgressors of said constitutions, with special days of reckoning reserved for elected officials, as they have sworn an oath to uphold them.
Taxed Enough Already. We witnessed with total astonishment an unprecedented fiscal recklessness in the wake of a near-catastrophic economic collapse. And this on the heels of an already unprecedented build-up of debt during two wars. Is it their plan to see this nation insolvent?  Is it possible to return to pre-Great Society levels in federal spending.
In New York we need hard caps on taxes; property, income, and sales. But then also cut and cap state and municipal spending.
Our discussions on sound money principles and fiscal restraint are epic, and alone worth the price of admission. [btw, meetings are free; membership is only $20 per year]
Speaking of monetary policies, exactly who are these unelected, unaccountable persons at the Federal Reserve, and what exactly are they doing with our dollars? With whom? And why? Demand transparency.
We are for private enterprise. We know what makes America run, and who creates real jobs of opportunity and advancement. And it ain’t the government.
We advocate the removal the job-killing restrictions and business-crushing regulations that stifle the entrepreneurial spirit, and stagnate our district’s economic recovery.
There are strategic opportunities right now to attract new employers to this district, too. Incentivize companies. Reinstate business credits. Address the area’s transportation needs by opening up to private competition.
Fiercely anti-statist. From table salt to salty language, small farms to firearms. Quite simply, ‘don’t tread on me.’ Let’s neuter the nanny state. We are a Sovereign People.
We support State’s Rights. The needs and desires of New Yorkers are as different from those in Iowa as they are in California. Have we not yet learned that one-size federal legislation does not fit all? We are not the United States of America, but these United States.
Likewise, the needs and desires of Staten Island are as different from Fire Island as they are from Rikers Island. Government that governs best is local.
The neo-federalists may not enumerate which products we must purchase, and then penalize our families should we choose not to comply. Exactly what part of the Tenth Amendment does this central government gang not understand?
The U.S. Department of State does not have permission to sign global treaties with world bodies, which ultimately compromises the national sovereignty of the People. For the record, neither does the president.
Nor does the United Nations have permission to pass judgment on our sovereign states’ laws; dictate how we raise our children; control the trade of private firearms; or allocate the amount of carbon exhaled on this planet.
No more foreign entanglements; military, financial, political, or otherwise. We’ve got enough challenges right here at home.
Education reform. The current framework is definitely not what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he advocated a public system of education for our children.
Empowerment before entitlement. Let us foster prosperity and self-worth through personal independence. And work to eliminate government dependence, and the indifference and indignity that flow from it.
Why does a term limits law that New Yorkers overwhelmingly approved in 2010 not go into effect until 2021? Are 34 incumbents really that special that the law should not apply to them?

#

These are just some of the topics discussed at our monthly assemblies. I think it is a fair snapshot (albeit through my lens) of what is important to the Staten Island Libertarian Party membership, and the neighbors that have visited with us.
Again, I encourage you to please read our party’s platform so you can get a better sense of where we stand. Maybe you’ll even decide to stand with us.
Better yet, swing by one of our Liberty Tree Town Halls for a firsthand look at what we’re doing, and then decide for yourself. This, too, is as it should be.

#

“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.”

[For further reading on classical liberalism, here are other links from Stanford and the Mises Institute.]

New fake rights distract from real rights being taken away

Finland has become the first nation in the world to declare that broadband internet access is a human right. The world should stand up and applaud! After all, we are living in an information society, and knowledge equals power, right? Finland’s Minister of Communications, Ms Suvi Lindén, says, “From now on a reasonably priced broadband connection will be everyone’s basic right in Finland. This is absolutely one of the Government’s most significant achievements in regional policy and I am proud of it.”
Now that a high speed internet connection is a basic human right (according to Finland), where does that right rank in relation to, say, the right to speak your mind? How about in relation to the right to privacy? Is it a “lesser” right; are they equal?
A few months ago I read that the EU was claiming there is a basic human right to a European vacation. They drew up detailed plans on how to subsidize holidays, saying there was a “right to be tourists.”
Antonio Tajani, EU Commissioner of Enterprise and Industry, continued, “Traveling for tourism today is a right. The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life”. [Emphasis mine.]
This sounds somewhat like our government claiming there is a human right to health insurance, though it is more accurately an economic good. The point is, all of these “fake rights” are distracting from the very real rights we are losing every day. We should take note that our new “right”to health insurance comes with the unprecedented mandate that Americans must buy insurance or face a stiff penalty.
Your rights as a human being aren’t something that can be invented, like the internet, and they aren’t something that can be bought or sold, like health insurance and vacation packages. Human rights are intangible. The highest ideals of liberty and decency. The right to speak one’s mind without fear of persecution from the government; the right to take the fruit of one’s own labor to his family uninterrupted; the right to be secure of your privacy in your papers and effects, within your home and business. These are the things we are losing while the world is granted the right to internet access.
It is my recommendation that we be wary of politicians suddenly discovering there are new rights that we had somehow missed until now. Instead, we should focus our attention on making sure our government does it’s most basic and important duty – to protect the freedoms of every American, and uphold the Bill of Rights.

we see politicians suddenly realizing we have,

Happy 4th of July!

I received the following via email from Chris Edes, former Chair of the Libertarian Party of New York. He gave me permission to share it here.

Friends,
Two hundred and thirty-four years ago a new nation was born, one based on the idea that all human beings possess inherent dignity and inalienable rights.  One based on the idea of liberty and justice for all.
Our nation faced difficulties extending that promise to all people, difficulties we have risen to and overcome.  Yet at the same time, all of us increasingly feel that promise slipping away.  In February of this year, a Rasmussen poll found that only 21% of voters believe our government has the consent of the governed.  Does the promise of liberty and justice still ring true?
Well, another Rasmussen poll came out yesterday.  It found that 54% of Americans still believe the U.S. is a nation with liberty and justice for all.  34% disagreed and 11% were not sure.  Yet what I found most striking was that more than three-quarters (76%) also said that if they could live anywhere in the world, they would choose the United States.
Not only that, but “There is no significant difference among party lines — more than 70% of Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated adults would rather live in the U.S. than anywhere else.”
Whatever our political disagreements and however disappointed we may feel in our government, Americans across all party lines overwhelmingly believe that the United States is the greatest nation on Earth.
I stand with them wholeheartedly.  Today I fly my flag as proudly as did our nation’s founders over two hundred years ago.  I’m convinced we can make this great experiment work, and fulfill the promise of Liberty.  I hope you agree, and I hope you’ll join with me today — in celebrating the birth of our nation, and thanking whatever Providence to which you may incline.
your fellow American,
Chris Edes

Thanks for your great words, Chris, and happy Independence Day to everyone!