Identity Crisis: So who exactly are the Libertarians?

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

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?

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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.

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“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.]

Financial reform? Definitely not.

SUMMARY: Tom Vendittelli, candidate for Congress in New York’s 13th Congressional district, rips apart the recently-passed financial reform bill.

This week the U.S. House of Representatives passed a financial “reform” bill.  Unfortunately, the bill will do nothing to avoid a future financial collapse, because it does not address the core problems of our economic system.
The legislation that has passed the House this week is only distracting and, ultimately, further destructive to our already fragile economy. If we want to be serious about financial reform in this country, we need to concern ourselves with the Federal Reserve. As long as we have a bank that operates outside the oversight of the people’s representatives in Congress, and which acts as a lender of last resort for banks and politicians, we can expect more of the same.
The Federal Reserve Bank acting as a lender of last resort is what creates the moral hazard that makes excessive risk seem so appealing.  When there is a Federal Reserve that will create credit out of thin air for a “too big to fail” bank, there is no real risk of failure. The only real risk is the public anger that arises when average Americans realize they have been swindled by politically-connected organizations in collusion with their supposed “representatives” in Congress.
Artificially low interest rates set by the Fed under Alan Greenspan caused massive over-investment in housing and other sectors of our economy, which resulted in a bust that really signaled the end of an economic era. Under the new financial reform bill, the Fed will be further empowered, with even greater oversight and influence over the economy than they already possessed.
Considering the Fed was in no small part responsible for the bad investment and excessive risk that led to the collapse of our economy in 2008, why are they now being given even greater powers? This is akin to having the fox guard the hen house. To make matters worse, in an act of brazen mass hypocrisy, 114 Congressmen who had previously cosponsored legislation to audit the Federal Reserve (H.R. 1207), voted to strip the audit out of the financial reform package at the last minute. So much for oversight.
If we want true financial reform, for the sake of our freedom and liberty, we need to examine the Federal Reserve in depth and find out what they are doing behind closed doors. This week the United Nations announced that they should dump the dollar as a world reserve currency because it has been “unable to safeguard value.”  A move like this would have direct negative consequences on the value of our currency.  This is yet another signal that the Fed has failed, with disastrous results not only to the economy at large, but to our personal finances as well.
The Federal Reserve, at best, didn’t see the collapse coming; at worst, they are in collusion with some of the most powerful money interests in the world. Neither is a situation that warrants giving them greater influence over the economy.
This huge mistake of a bill is now moving onto the Senate. If anything, this has been instructive, as it shows us exactly whom the politicians in Washington work for. Rather than grant greater powers to the Federal Reserve, it is time to declare the 100-year experiment in American central banking to be a dismal failure, and return to the sound money of our Constitution. The future of freedom and prosperity demands it.
[The author, Tom Vendittelli, is a candidate for Congress in New York’s 13th district.  This is the first of a three part series on financial reform.]

U.S. Inflation Statistics and You

According to figures released today by the Commerce Department, Americans have experienced a 2% price increase in the last three months. Without accounting for food and energy prices, inflation is at an overall 1.3 % in the last three months. Interestingly, when looking at food and energy prices, we see there has been a price increase of 18.7 % when viewed against March of 2009. This means you are paying almost a fifth more for food and energy from last year.
What does all of this mean? For one, it means the cost of living is on a sharp rise. It would normally be hard to explain in a weakened economy how we are seeing such a sharp rise in prices. People are spending less overall than they were in previous years, as many struggle with the effects of a down economy. This should have the effect of lowering prices and the cost of living, and it would, if not for the inflation factor.
Many in the mainstream like to define inflation as a rise in prices. This assessment ignores the cause and identifies the symptom. Inflation is more accurately defined as an increase in the supply of money. As laws of supply and demand dictate, when there is more money competing for the same amount of goods, prices rise. So we actually see rising prices as a result of inflation. Simply put, the Federal Reserve, our nation’s central bank, prints more money, and we in turn have to pay more to feed our families, heat our homes, and fuel our vehicles.
This is by no means a new phenomenon in American history. Since the Federal Reserve bank opened for business in 1914, the dollar has lost 95% of its value. This is a confusing track record for a “quasi-government” agency who is mandated to maintain low inflation and stable prices. All Americans can likely attest to the fact that cost of living is on the rise, while wages struggle to keep up, if they keep up at all. For many Americans, jobs have been lost and wages have actually decreased as part of employer austerity measures. Small businesses are disappearing.  How are Americans supposed to keep up with the harmful effects of inflation, such as an 18.7% price increase in food?
The truth is, though the Federal Reserve might be inflating the currency, (printing more money), so they can bail out Wall St. and help our government fund trillion dollar wars and entitlement programs without raising taxes, the people who are harmed most by inflation are the poor and middle class. Whereas a wealthier family might not have a great deal of trouble adjusting spending habits to accommodate a 20% price rise in food, a family with a strict budget or on a fixed income might now find themselves unable to meet their other monthly obligations. A family in the lowest income brackets might find themselves suddenly unable to make ends meet. This family may be confused, and rightly so, as they haven’t lived more extravagantly – they just find the prices to provide for daily needs have skyrocketed. Such are the hidden and insidious effects of inflation. Inflation is nothing less than a hidden tax on the people, harming those most vulnerable in our society.
Inflation also punishes people who save and invest by diluting the value of the dollar.  Why should you save your money in a bank account, likely bearing under 1% interest, when through inflation, the dollar is becoming less valuable?  If you save money, you literally lose money.  Americans find themselves in a situation of spend, invest, or lose money.  The higher the rate of inflation, the faster money is being devalued.  At what point does even the wisest of investments fail to keep up with inflation?  Through a reckless Federal Reserve monetary policy, we can only expect inflation to be on the rise.
Even more startling than the 18.7% price increase reported by the Commerce Department today are the numbers that show the United States money supply, M3. These figures are no longer published by the Federal Reserve on their website, perhaps because they are “the best description of how quickly the Fed is creating new money and credit”, according to Congressman Ron Paul.  According to Shadowstats.com, a website which still estimates M3, in the below chart, you will see M3 hit 18% between 2009 and 2010. Meaning, the total money supply was at times increasing by 18+% monthly.  It  has been estimated that the monetary base has more than doubled through Fed action.  Although inflation can be unpredictable in proportion to the money supply, it can come as little surprise that we have experienced an almost 19% price increase between this year and last year.

John Williams' M3 Estimate

Sadly, with the way the Federal Reserve and a willing Congress have irresponsibly increased the supply of money and credit, we should only expect more inflation in the near future. With these numbers in front of us, and as evidenced by the ongoing collapse in Greece and the EU, we should not think the recession is over, as so many claim it is. On the contrary, through the “magic” of inflation the true problems have only been papered over with new money.  There is much evidence that this time it is not going to work, and this is why we see the collapse continue in other economies around the world.  This illustrates the potent danger a “quasi-government” organization like the Federal Reserve can wreak on our economy through endless creation of new credit.  When powerful interests such as banks and financial institutions get into trouble, they call on the Federal Reserve to “bail them out”.  The Fed, free of public scrutiny, is more than happy to do so by creating new money.
No person or group should have control over the supply of money and credit.  These kinds of things are best left to the free market.  The free market long ago chose gold and silver as the best money. The framers of the U.S. Constitution knew this, as well as the inherent dangers of paper money, like our federal reserve notes of today.  They had experience with runaway inflation during the war for Independence, and that is why our Constitution strictly calls for gold and silver to be used as money.  One of the most important qualities of gold and silver, and a key reason the Fed and most politicians oppose sound money, is that they can’t be easily counterfeited.  Instead of granting more power to the Federal Reserve, as is being discussed in Washington, we should begin talks about instituting a sound monetary policy based once again on gold and silver.  This will go a long way to putting us on a sound financial footing for the future, while rewarding smart financial behavior instead of failure.