What's Wrong With Buffalo: A Rothbardian Analysis

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Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.

~ Frédéric Bastiat

Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.

~ H.L. Mencken

The wheels of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.

~ old English proverb

Note: This essay was prepared in connection with a lecture the author gave at the 20th Anniversary of the Ludwig von Mises Institute [1] in October, 2002. It was published in Political Class Dismissed: Essays Against Politics (2004). The views expressed are the opinions of the author and are based on the facts stated within.

Introduction

When economist Murray Rothbard died in 1995, William F. Buckley, Jr. wrote a mean-spirited u201Cobituary,u201D the upshot of which was that Rothbard died u201Chuffing and puffingu201D with u201Cas many disciples as David Koresh.u201D Buckley’s gift of prophecy is no better than Mr. Koresh’s was. Eight years later, while Buckley yet lives, Buckleyism is fading; while Rothbard is gone, Rothbardianism thrives. Rothbard has prevailed over Buckley in the war for the future as there are thousands of young and bright Rothbardians and Buckley’s influence is waning. Rothbard’s success can be seen today in three websites devoted to his ideas: Mises.org, LewRockwell.com and Antiwar.com. All three are among the most popular political websites in the world, and growing fast. These websites and the Mises Institute’s other publications have been gracious enough to publish over seventy of my articles.

I want to thank Lew Rockwell and Jeffrey Tucker for their heroic efforts in preserving and expanding Misesian and Rothbardian thought, and for allowing me to participate in this celebration. Mises’s fellow Austrian School economist Friedrich Hayek said that in politics, the worst rise to the top. Conversely, the best have risen to the top in anti-politics. I have had the fortune, and sometimes misfortune, of working for, in or with most of the major libertarian institutions, publications and organizations and I can assure you that the Mises Institute is the best of the lot. They are unwilling to abandon or modify their beliefs for monetary, political, or personal advantage. Can a higher compliment be paid to a think tank?

Lew Rockwell suggested the original title for this essay — u201CRothbardian Lawyer Confronts the Stateu201D — and as I pondered that title, I realized that he wanted a personal statement from me, a statement about how Rothbard’s philosophy has influenced me in my life and career. Taking that concept even further, I came to see that the corpus of Rothbardian thought went a long way toward explaining and making sense of many of my own experiences in law and politics, both before and after becoming a libertarian. Finally, and in a broader historical context, I realized that the general outline of the sad recent history of my hometown can only be explained from a Rothbardian framework. After all, I had discovered that framework in my search for an explanation of that sad history.

Having what some psychologists would call a u201Cscientist-typeu201D personality, I suppose I always thought I came by libertarian views through pure cogitation; through the use of u201Cgeometric logic,u201D in Captain Queeg’s [2] famous term. Looking back on it now, though, I can see there was always an emotional component, a personal factor. Yes, the logic was there, but what prepared me to see and accept it while others passed?

A Political Family

I grew up in a political family in Buffalo, New York (Erie County), in an old Irish neighborhood — u201CSouth Buffalou201D — in a highly-politicized city in the most highly politicized state in the union. My mother, Mary (Sullivan-Waldron) Ostrowski, became a nurse, then nursed six children the old-fashioned way: at home. My father, William J. Ostrowski, a product of Buffalo’s Polish East Side, was a state judge from the time I was four years old. In a sense, I am a product of the Buffalo area’s three leading ethnic groups — Polish, Irish and German, as my Polish grandmother grew up in Germany and spoke German and Polish. My maternal grandfather was born in Ballyhaunis, Ireland and came through Ellis Island in 1905.

My father ran campaigns for judgeships when I was 3, 5, 6, 10, 12 and 18. I myself, ran for either public or party office when I was 19, 20, and 21. Additionally, I was an active volunteer in numerous other campaigns starting when I was 16. These included Ramsey Clark’s campaign for Senator in 1974 and Morris Udall’s ill-fated Presidential campaign in 1976.

I was too young to do much for McGovern in 1972, but I do recall putting up a sign for him on the front door. My teenage years were one long political internship. At the same time, my parents followed the national news closely on television. Walter Cronkite was on every day at 6:30 p.m. as I recall. I suppose I started being aware of what Uncle Walter was talking about around 1967 or so — just in time. The sad events of 1968 — the assassinations of King and Kennedy, the riots, the Vietnam War and the election of Nixon — are very clear in my mind. So, from the age of ten or so, I was able to observe local politics up close and personal, and national politics from afar, but with the benefit of often-graphic television coverage.

That is what I was looking at; where was I looking from? I break this down into the personal, the familial, and the geographic. While it is difficult to reconstruct one’s frame of mind 30 years ago, I think it is fair to say I was an idealistic boy, animated by Catholic notions of right and wrong, continually reinforced by my parents at home. At school, I had absorbed the standard idealized version of American history which highlighted the benign purposes of government and the rapacious motives of the robber barons and capitalists. You knew the u201Cgoodu201D presidents by the size of the wars they fought.

I had also absorbed the Democratic milieu that surrounded me. To my knowledge, there had never been a Republican in my family on either the Polish or Irish side. So early on, I had a left-liberal perspective with, however, a strong libertarian streak. Since Richard Nixon was president for my early teenage years, I developed a strong distaste for the Republican Party that I have never shaken. To me, the Republican Party meant two bad things: the Vietnam War and Watergate. Nothing that has happened in the last 30 years (or months) has caused me to change my mind. In a larger sense, these two events irrevocably shattered the myth of the noble and benign government I had learned about in school. Rothbard would later write:

Watergate, as politicians have been warning us ever since, destroyed the public’s u2018faith in government’ — and it was high time too. Watergate engineered a radical shift in the deep-seated attitudes of everyone — regardless of their explicit ideology — toward government itself. . . . government itself has been largely desanctified in America. No one trusts politicians or government anymore; all government is viewed with abiding hostility, thus returning us to that state of healthy distrust of government that marked the American public and the American revolutionaries of the eighteenth century. [3]

My perspective was familial as well. My father was a highly respected municipal judge who wished to achieve higher judicial office. I was biased in his favor, of course, but he did have excellent qualifications for the job, being universally respected in the legal community and having a law degree from Georgetown and a rare masters degree in law from George Washington University. His later acceptance into the prestigious American Law Institute confirmed this early belief of mine. [4] Even in those years, his fine reputation was a matter of public record. The Buffalo Courier-Express editorialized in 1973 that u201CJudge Ostrowski continues to generate viable ideas on the improvement of court operations, without the slightest hint of self-interest, partisanship or desire for personal acclaim. . . [he] has consistently given the city’s taxpayers more than they bargained for.u201D [5] However, when it came to higher office, in my father’s way, it seemed, always stood the local Democratic Party political machine. Whence came my first real education in how politics works.

My father was passed over for higher judgeships year after year, a fact which puzzled and pained me and my family. While this was happening, a contest occurred for Chief Judge of the Buffalo City Court. This position was to be filled by the judges themselves, pending election. My father had four votes; the party’s choice had five votes, and another candidate had two votes, with six needed to appoint. Suddenly, the two swing votes switched to the machine candidate. The two swing votes that allowed the machine to keep control of City Court, with its numerous patronage jobs, just happened to get the party’s support for the next two state court vacancies. This was an early lesson in how judicial politics works (badly).

Geographically, though I didn’t realize it until my teenage years, we lived in a once-thriving city that was in the midst of slow but steady decline that continues to this very day. I first became aware of this decline in my high school years when my long public bus trips to and from St. Joe’s brought me into regular contact with the poorer parts of town.

The Political Machine

It didn’t take long for a close observer of Buffalo politics to realize that the real power in government was actually outside the government. Real power, at least in local politics, was held by the county Democratic chairman, affectionately known as the u201CBoss.u201D The Boss was always a lawyer, usually Irish, who often held some well-paying, part-time board position with light duties. The Boss and his troops were responsible for installing the mayor and other public officials. So, on big decisions, machine politicians would take their direction from the Boss. If they weren’t the types to take such direction, they wouldn’t have made it that far in the first place.

In theory, the Boss was democratically elected by county committeemen elected by voters of the same party. In reality, they didn’t call him Boss for nothing. The Boss was essentially an autocrat. Like any autocrat, he had allies and constituencies to please, and sometimes even superiors to answer to (his big money contributors). However, in general and on most matters, he called the shots and everyone else aimed accordingly. They did so willingly because they perceived that, by all members of the political machine working together under the direction of one man, their collective political power would be maximized. That’s why they call it a u201Cmachine.u201D A similar managerial principle allowed Caesar, leading 50,000 well-disciplined troops, to defeat 250,000 Gauls in 52 B.C. at Alesia. In Buffalo, the relatively small but highly disciplined and motivated machine was consistently able to impose its will on the disorganized and demoralized masses.

Why did the troops want the machine’s political power maximized? First, to increase their own pro rata share of that power; second, for money, which is the fruit of political power, and third, for prestige, in the local dialect, u201Cwhack.u201D I could see little evidence that the accomplishment of valuable programs, the passage of beneficent laws and the establishment of justice were prime motivating factors for the Boss and his troops. As political scientist Clarence N. Stone would later explain:

In general, policies that benefited everyone, friend and foe alike, had little attraction to the urban bosses. . . . Their benefits cannot be allocated on the basis of favoritism and don’t generate individual obligations to the machine. [6]

At the time, however, I did not have the intellectual tools to fully understand the political machine. Suffice it to say, I did reach the conclusion that the machine was a cohesive group of people working toward the goal of increasing their own power and wealth at the expense of everyone else in the community. Thus, I had formulated a primitive version of the theory of the nation-state — developed by Franz Oppenheimer, Albert Jay Nock, and Rothbard [7] — as the organization of the political (coercive) means of acquiring wealth:

There are two methods, or means, and only two, whereby man’s needs and desires can be satisfied. One is the production and exchange of wealth; this is the economic means. The other is the uncompensated appropriation of wealth produced by others; this is the political means. . . . The State is the organization of the political means. [8]

Perhaps the clearest example of the machine’s brazen economic motivation was the no-show job scandal that hit Buffalo in the early 1970′s. I came to know the details well because a family friend was charged in the scandal and I attended his trial. (He was acquitted.) The scheme worked this way: a few higher-ups in City Hall would give people jobs and tell them they don’t have to show up, merely kick-back half their salaries to the ringleaders. They called it the u201C50-50 Club.u201D

A year or two later, there was the Model Cities scandal. The scam was similar, although this time the thieves didn’t bother to cut in the u201Cworkers.u201D They put 62 non-existent employees on the payroll and pocketed the funds. [9] These scandals involved only renegade elements of the machine and were notable for their illegality. [10] Most of the self-seeking activities of the machine were perfectly legal. The no-show job scandal, however, is a useful symbol which captures the essence of machine politics: get as much money as possible for the least amount of productive work.

What is the u201Cworku201D involved in being a member of the machine? There is one main requirement: absolute loyalty to the Boss. If you possess that sole u201Cquality,u201D the Boss will guarantee you a light-duty job or other goodies. While loyalty is an essential and venerable human virtue, absolute loyalty to a political Boss is a vice. The Boss is the head of an organization whose primary purpose is to seek power over others and control over their money. On a more technical level, the Boss needs loyalty because the Boss often has to do ruthless things, support questionable characters for jobs and offices, and support policies injurious to the public welfare. He can’t very well have a bunch of altar boys hanging around him. That being the case, it must be true that, in general, the Boss’s most loyal troops tend to be ruthless and amoral characters. They would also tend to be those who were most lacking in marketable job skills. The least skilled have the most to gain from selling their souls to a political boss. [11]

Political patronage is defended on the ground that the democratic process needs troops to run campaigns, gather petition signatures, and support candidates. It would be difficult or impossible to perform these functions without providing an economic incentive to campaign workers. This theory is a feeble rationale for legalized graft. We would be better off if those whose primary motive is personal gain stayed out of politics altogether. Presently, those parties and candidates who are already in power have a huge advantage in the electoral process, since they have access to the labor and contributions from their own employees anxious to keep their jobs. Moreover, the patronage system reveals the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of electoral politics today. If the prime actors in the process are those primarily motivated by their own economic welfare, as opposed to the general good, their nefarious goals will tend to be achieved at the expense of more public-spirited citizens who will always be outnumbered and outspent. And so it goes.

This model of self-serving machine politics did not exactly satisfy the idealistic young boy. I believed there must be something better than that. I struggled to develop an alternative philosophy of politics, though I was too intellectually immature to accomplish that goal. The best I was able to conjure was that governmental action must be undertaken for the good of all and not for the benefit of small numbers of people at the expense of the rest. Unfortunately, since I did not have a good grasp of economics, I was unable to define what policies were in fact in the general interest. Also, my theory was nave, since it failed to take account of the problems identified by the Public Choice School — rational ignorance and rational apathy. [12]

As explained in more detail below, the average citizen has little incentive to become politically active (rational apathy) or even knowledgeable about politics (rational ignorance). Therefore, politics tends to be dominated by those relative few who have a large and direct stake in the outcome of elections. I had mistakenly assumed that private citizens would become active in politics for the sole purpose of achieving governmental action that would benefit all of society, without any personal reward. Only much later did I learn that such republican virtue, ranged against a system which offered a seemingly endless supply of economic goodies to the highest bidder in exchange for loyalty to the machine, would almost always be overwhelmed by special interest forces and incentives.

Reform Politics

In any event, armed with my nave view that citizen reformers, motivated solely by republican civic virtue, could take on and defeat the machine, I spent several years supporting independent, reform-minded candidates. These efforts were predictably unsuccessful. It is very difficult to defeat incumbents who use tax money to buy votes and who have access to their employees and contractors to supply campaign funds and volunteers.

One of the few victories came in 1976. My father risked his political life — the local paper called it u201Cpolitical suicideu201D — and outsmarted the Democratic machine by running as a Republican and Conservative. Benefiting from tremendous support from Buffalo’s large Polish-American population, which always felt snubbed by the machine, [13] he won by 20,000 votes. Lacking big-money contributors, he ran a clever grassroots campaign, heavy on leg-work and community support. He won while spending the lowest sum in memory for a campaign in the large Eighth Judicial District encompassing eight counties.

My father didn’t know it at the time, but we also had a u201Cdirty tricks squad.u201D Besides leaking information to the press about prominent Democrats supporting my father, the kids and friends would get together and crash Democratic rallies and hand out placards for my father. At a rally attended by then-candidate for Vice-President, Walter Mondale, fists nearly flew. Another incident stands out in my mind. I got wind that Daniel Patrick Moynihan was going to campaign for the U. S. Senate at a local shopping plaza in a heavily Democratic district. Naturally, I was there when he arrived, handing out my father’s literature. If the shoppers thought I was with Moynihan, who was I to disabuse them of that notion? Caught off guard, Moynihan’s advance men looked on with displeasure but could do nothing as I was breaking no law. One of the advance men, then a mid-level operative for the machine, has gone on to fame and fortune: Tim Russert, host of u201CMeet the Press.u201D

The next year, I was part of a campaign that at the time was designed to fail, but which nevertheless illustrates my thesis here. In New York, candidates for state judge are selected by a cumbersome convention process instead of a primary election. In theory, anyone could run for delegate; however, in order to be able to select a judge, you would have to run over a hundred candidates in a multi-county area. The machine routinely did this, using well-known public officials who would be difficult to defeat.

In 1977, Timothy Lovallo, a law student, and I, a college student, took on the challenge. Our intent was to show how absurd the system was and urge an open primary election in its place. We recruited over one hundred delegate candidates, mostly private citizens, gathered thousands of signatures, and achieved ballot status. At the primary election, however, only three of us were elected, the three who happened to have prominent political names. At these conventions, the party hacks are told for whom to vote, and they do so, often mispronouncing the unfamiliar names of the candidates written on a slip given to them at the meeting. A recent series in the Buffalo News made public what had previously been an open secret: state judgeships usually go to those who contribute the most money to the local party chairman. So it is that state trial judges are selected in New York. It’s enough to give you butterflies in your stomach.

The 1977 state judicial convention was yet another educational experience for me. I had no candidate to nominate until the morning of the convention when a prominent trial lawyer and former Bar Association president did me a huge favor and allowed me to put his name into nomination. One hack made up the lie that I had not asked my candidate’s permission in advance, but only after they had invited my candidate to speak. My candidate was the class of the field, however, he got only three votes. Our stunt in crashing the party’s party did, however, succeed in stealing the news coverage away from the three machine candidates. Miffed, another hack spread yet another lie — that I had called my own candidate an u201C[expletive deleted].u201D Why would I do that to a man who had just done me a big favor? What struck me about the convention was how two public officials told two different lies about me in retaliation for challenging the machine’s natural right to pick state judges.

In 1978, I myself ran for State Assemblyman in the Democratic primary against a well-known and entrenched incumbent. I was the ripe old age of 20 and a college sophomore. It was not a quixotic effort, however. We meant to win, knock off an important soldier of the machine, and thereby weaken the Boss. The strategy was based on three factors: an expected strong ethnic vote in the Polish-American parts of the district; my family’s name-recognition based on my father’s status as a judge; and the fact that my family lived in the Irish portion of the district and I, being half-Irish, expected to do well there.

Nevertheless, the machine had all the other advantages: money, troops, and people on the payroll who always vote in primaries. And yes, they had people I had never met, and who knew nothing about me, bad-mouthing me behind my back. The incumbent won, 54—46 percent, with his entire edge coming from one small older Irish neighborhood with lots of people on the machine’s payroll. Even with all my unusual advantages, the aforementioned plus a small but energetic cadre of supporters, my reform campaign was doomed. Several other independent efforts that year spent far more money and received even fewer votes. As one analyst writes, u201Cissue-oriented u2018amateurs’ seldom could muster sufficient strengthu201D in primary elections against machine candidates. [14]

[Years later, I would learn yet another lesson about political retaliation. I was a lawyer in New York City and had opened my own office in the shadow of the World Trade Center hoping to get a start as a criminal defense lawyer. Essential to this was to get on the assigned counsel panel for a few years. I noticed that a member of the selection committee was a State Assemblyman from New York City who was a friend of the man I had run against seven years earlier. In 1978, this fellow had the gall to come all the way from New York City and show up at my next-door neighbor's house in Buffalo to campaign against me. A real nutcase. When I saw his name on the committee's letterhead, though, I laughed it off. No way would he hold it against me years later. No way would the other members let him. For not the last time in my career, I had underestimated the malice of the machine mentality.

The nutcase was not present for my interview (intentionally?). I was informed at the meeting that I had been approved. The next morning, however, I received a call revoking the approval. In the course of a few hours, the committee was now thinking I had lied about leaving a prestigious New York law firm on my own volition. I didn't know and they wouldn't tell me who told that lie about me, but I had a good guess. Even when that lie was refuted, another false allegation was made against me. This time, I knew who my enemy was — the clown who had campaigned against me in 1978. He apparently showed up at the meeting after I left and convinced the committee to revoke my approval. Believe it or not, he accused me of (pre-law school) misconduct in the Assembly campaign years earlier. I was never told what the alleged misconduct was. (There wasn't any.) I was merely told, after many months of delay, that the committee was not able to substantiate the charges and I was finally let on the panel. Nevertheless, the delay caused me no end of problems getting my law practice up and running.

After this controversy ended, I was advised by several politically-savvy lawyers to, in effect, grin and bear it; don't make waves; that's the way the world is and so on. I followed that advice back then. I now realize that was a mistake. I would not make the same mistake twice. This essay is proof of that. I now believe that if you tolerate an injustice done to you, you become a co-conspirator in that same injustice and you allow the miscreants the liberty to practice their arts on other victims in the future. I now follow Virgil's dictum, adopted by Ludwig von Mises as his personal motto: Tu ne cede malis sed contra audentior ito. (u201CDo not give in to evil but proceed ever more boldly against it.u201D)]

On the rare occasions when independent candidates were elected, the system did not change. They usually quickly made peace with the machine or replaced it with their own, engaging in the same old self-serving patronage and special interest politics. What was lacking in these reformers, including my pre-Rothbardian self, was a cogent theory of politics that explained why reform was futile and why radical change is needed. So long as I was locked into a left-liberal mindset, I could never fully grasp the nature of Buffalo’s political system or imagine any alternative to it. I did not realize that it is the liberal welfare state itself that gives rise to corrupt political machines.

The Contradiction

I grew to loathe the machine, yes because it had unfairly thwarted my father’s career, but more importantly because it was just plain bad. So there I was, a liberal who wanted to fight machine politics. This was an insoluble contradiction.

Liberalism is the political philosophy of virtually all politicians in Buffalo of either party. There are Republican and u201Cconservativeu201D officials and politicians in Buffalo; however, fundamentally, all are economic liberals. All believe in the basic philosophy of liberalism which gives the state a large amount of control over the economy so as to, according to the fantasy, serve the cause of equality, ease the alleged hardships of laissez-faire, and watch over the u201Cgreedyu201D capitalists to insure they don’t exploit the people or foist overpriced or shoddy goods and services upon them. (Who will guard the guardians, though?)

To my knowledge, there is not a single Republican politician in Erie County who would support ending corporate welfare, the minimum wage, the u201CWar on Drugs,u201D or special legal privileges for unions. The party that claims to support private property would allow the police to break into our homes in the middle of the night to seize drugs — private property; then would allow the courts to forfeit those homes for containing the traces of a smoked joint. Ah, the Party of Lincoln, Nixon and Rockefeller. There is no Republican official or politician in Buffalo who believes in a libertarian or Jeffersonian approach to government based on private property, individual rights and decentralization. On the contrary, the current fad among local politicians is centralization and regionalism.

The political machine, whether Democratic or Republican, is an outgrowth of liberalism. It seeks to manage the distribution of the economic goods controlled by the state to enhance its own power. The amoral nature of the machine’s distribution process mirrors the immoral nature of liberalism’s initial seizure of wealth and power from society and the market. Once property has been seized from its rightful, Lockean owner [15] (the person who first finds, possesses or produces wealth or property), it is, from the point of view of morals, up for grabs. The most ruthless people, usually part of a political machine, grab the fastest and hardest. They have no shame.

Thus, liberalism begets the machine. The machine then expands and strengthens the liberal state, which in turn expands and strengthens the machine. But of course. Liberalism is the notion that spending other people’s money is heroic; patronage politics is the practical application of the general principle. The machine politician pulls the trigger of the redistributionist gun loaded by some dead intellectual or philosopher who no doubt would disdain the hack politicians he created. This is why one cannot be a u201Creform Democratu201D or u201Creform liberalu201D in any meaningful sense. This is why u201Creform Democrats,u201D like former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, metamorphose into machine Democrats.

Contrary to the belief of some, the rise of the welfare state did not render the machine obsolete. Rather, as the New York Times concluded in 1968, u201Cpatronage has vastly expanded in the last several decades because of the tremendous growth of government, spiraling government spending, and the expansion of government’s discretionary powers to regulate, control and supervise private industry.u201D [16] Professor Wolfinger, after describing the numerous ways a modern welfare/regulatory state can confer benefits on the connected, concludes that u201Cthere is no necessary connection, then, between expanded public services and a decline in the advantages of political help on the number of people who want to use it.u201D [17] He emphasizes that the middle class and wealthy businessmen are as likely to seek favors from the machine as the poor and downtrodden were before the rise of the welfare state.

u201CReformeru201D John Lindsay added a huge number of patronage jobs after defeating the Democratic machine for Mayor of New York City in 1965. Reform turns old machines into new machines, in the words of Theodore Lowi. [18] As Professor Stone observes, u201Creformers . . . were often quite willing to use patronage to further their programmatic goals, as well as their personal aims.u201D [19] As I would learn shortly, the only route to stamping out ruthless, corrupt and self-serving machine politics is radical libertarianism. Sometimes the truth is so simple that we miss it. Eliminate the economic goodies the state can dispense and you end patronage politics. There is no other way.

After I wrote these two paragraphs, evidence that confirms my thesis fell into my lap. I picked up the local left-wing alternative paper, Alt Press, Sept. 19, 2002. There I found numerous criticisms of the incumbent County Executive for filling government jobs not with the public good in mind, but solely to enhance the power of his political machine. A later column in the same paper accused the Mayor of Buffalo of using HUD funds for political patronage (February 27, 2003). The analysis of the article is correct as far as it goes:

Despite the fact that Buffalo received [over one billion dollars]. . . there is little to show for it. [HUD money] has long been considered fuel for political patronage jobs. . . . The City of Buffalo topped the list of local municipalities when it came to the percentage of [HUD money — 51 percent] tied up by u2018soft costs’ [patronage]. . .

When we look at the agencies in question, however, we see some of the sacred cows of the left: the county hospital, the local community college and public housing. Since, at the behest of the left, such services as medical care, education and low-income housing have been taken out of the market and u201Cprotectedu201D from the harsh calculus of profit and loss and the rigors of competition, the political bosses are free to dump their soldiers there without fear of the consequences. They will in no real sense be held responsible for these consequences precisely because they hold power over the victims, the taxpayers. They have the power to force the taxpayers to pay for public hospitals and schools, regardless of how poorly they perform. Liberalism begets the machine. Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it. As Mencken said, u201CDemocracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.u201D

Let me spell this point out as directly as I can for the benefit of my liberal friends. Liberals support public hospitals and such because they believe that private persons acting in the free market are not responsible enough to provide for their own medical care and therefore they should not have control over or responsibility for medical care. Their funds have to be taxed, taken from them and removed from their control. It is this very transfer of control over funds from private persons to the government that is the cause of the misuse of those funds they frequently complain about. Since they have ended our control over these funds, we can no longer prevent their use for purposes and projects we oppose, for example, enhancing the machine’s power. In sum, liberals have created the very problems they now decry. If the taxpayers’ funds now earmarked for public hospitals were returned to the taxpayers’ pockets, it would be metaphysically impossible for politicians to misuse them.

Now, my liberal friends may well reply that citizens can still exercise control over spending through the democratic process. To quote self-help guru Dr. Phil, u201CHow is that working for you?u201D I believed the same when I was 16 years old. As they used to shout at us at high school football practice: u201CWAKE UP!u201D Since the citizens of Buffalo have somehow been failing for over 40 years to rein in patronage and machine politics and cut taxes, isn’t it time to ponder whether the fault lies not with individual citizens, but with the system you created?

This is why it doesn’t work: Let’s take a guy who makes $85,000 as the assistant to the president at the local community college. If he loses his job, he is out of a cushy, high-paying job. To keep that job, he is certainly willing to spend up to $5,000 in political contributions and spend many hours pounding the pavement for candidates who will ensure his continued employment. Now, let’s take a citizen working at the local supermarket for $20,000. He pays about $750 in county taxes. Let’s say he thinks the assistant’s job should be eliminated. To attempt to do so, he would have to spend about fifty hours organizing, lobbying, writing letters and so on. Assuming that his leisure time is worth his hourly wage, the economic value of this effort is 50 hrs. x $10 = $500.

How much will he save by having this job cut? Let’s assume there are 200,000 taxpayers in the county and that the total cost of the $85,000 position (with pension, benefits and office, etc.) is $120,000. That amounts to a savings of $1.66 per taxpayer. Thus, our citizen must spend $500 of resources (time) to save $1.66. Further, he has no guarantee of success. In fact, given that the fellow with the job will expend far greater resources opposing his effort, the reformer is highly unlikely to succeed. Let’s say he has one chance in ten. Thus, we can calculate the economic value of his effort as 0.166 cents — seventeen cents. Unless he is crazy, the citizen will not undertake this effort and the bureaucrat will keep his job and the machine will go on and on and on . . . . [20]

The very same dynamics governed the rise of Big Government in the first place. Let’s assume that there is no position of assistant to the budget director. One who seeks to create and fill that position faces virtually the same economic incentive to lobby to create that job as he does to maintain that job. The citizen’s incentive to stop the job from being created is identical to his incentive to eliminate the job after the fact. Unless there is an ironclad understanding of the strict limits of proper government, the natural dynamics of the democratic process will continually expand the state in socially harmful ways.

Thus it is that small governments tend to become Big Governments and Big Governments tend to become ever larger. They tend to grow unimpeded until they are destroyed either by military defeat or internal revolution. Such revolutions tend to occur only after government has grown so large that it begins to destroy the society and economy that support it, thus loosening the inhibitions of the people and increasing their inclination toward drastic measures. Though this process has occurred in communist states, in mixed economies such as ours, paradoxically, the market remnant of the economy is usually able to produce wealth at a rate sufficient to counteract the impoverishing impact of government growth. Such is Buffalo. The economy is a mess, but not so much that people will hit the streets:

While governments, political parties, and labor unions are sabotaging all business operations, the spirit of enterprise still succeeds in increasing the quantity and improving the quality of products and in rendering them more easily accessible to the consumers. [21]

Discovering Liberty

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

To grasp these truths, I had to escape from my economic liberalism. Alas, I was not destined to remain a George McGovern/Ramsey Clark liberal forever. The beginnings of a better approach to politics had been there. I nearly worshipped Thomas Jefferson and his tersely-stated libertarian political philosophy as expressed in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. From watching American boys die on television every night, I came to abhor war, u201Cthe health of the state.u201D My father had also spoken out against the Vietnam War in a speech in 1970 before my brother Mike’s high school graduating class. It was the commencement address at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, from which he had graduated early in 1943 to enlist in the Army and fight crack German troops in pitched battles in the Vosges Mountains. [22]

I would come to hate war in all its permutations: Cold War, hot war, Civil War, drug war, poverty war. u201CWaru201D is the term politicians slap onto all their harebrained schemes to improve the world by use of massive aggressive force. War is a bore, but the bored always want more.

To quote Rothbard:

It is in war that the State really comes into its own: swelling in power, in number, in pride, in absolute dominion over the economy and the society. Society becomes a herd, seeking to kill its alleged enemies, rooting out and suppressing all dissent from the official war effort, happily betraying truth for the supposed public interest. Society becomes an armed camp, with the values and the morale — as Albert Jay Nock once phrased it — of an u2018army on the march.’

Also, from my father, I developed a strong civil libertarian and anti-drug war position. He took the Fourth Amendment very seriously, and once caused a huff by refusing to be searched at Attica Prison where he went to hold court (for the convenience of the prison). What I lacked was a comprehensive political philosophy. More specifically, I lacked an understanding of economics, which I suppose is true of all left-liberals. I have never met a leftist or liberal who evinced real interest in or a thorough understanding of economics, the science of human action. Otherwise, they would cease to be left-liberals.

In college, I had read Mill’s On Liberty and Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom and found much of interest in them, but they did not inspire. There was something missing. Then I stumbled on Ayn Rand’s essays which knocked the liberal wind right out of me, at least on economic issues. I had never heard of Ludwig von Mises before scanning Rand’s bibliographies. But it was in the bibliography of Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia that I ran across another figure I had never heard of but would later learn was the founder of the modern libertarian movement: Murray Rothbard.

I started reading Rothbard and other libertarian writers in 1979 and had the opportunity to hear Rothbard lecture at the 1980 Cato Institute Summer Conference. Other lecturers included Buffalo historian Ralph Raico and economist Thomas Sowell. I had the privilege of attending Rothbard’s ten-week seminar on the history of economic thought in 1984. I can only hint at Rothbard’s genius in this essay. Consider this prediction he made in 1956, in the context of expressing his opposition to the dangerous and expensive Cold War and William F. Buckley’s endorsement of u201CBig Government for the durationu201D and a u201Ctotalitarian bureaucracyu201D to fight communism. Rothbard wrote to Buckley:

Time is on our side and we will realize that we need not dig in for a long and bloody battle to the death with an enemy [the Soviet Union] that is even now withering from within. [23]

In 1983, I invited Rothbard to speak at Brooklyn Law School. His topic was a libertarian view of the Reagan Administration. He stunned the liberals and leftists in the audience who thought libertarians were u201Cto the rightu201D of Reagan. Breaking down policy into three areas: civil liberties, foreign affairs and domestic issues, Rothbard proceeded to argue that, contrary to popular opinion, Reagan, far from getting the government off the backs of the American people, was actually increasing its size and power. While criticizing Reagan for not cutting taxes and regulations nearly enough on the domestic front — no surprise there — he shocked the audience by attacking Reagan u201Cfrom the leftu201D on civil liberties, the war on drugs and foreign intervention.

Of course, it was not Rothbard’s views that shifted from u201Cleftu201D to u201Crightu201D on the misleading political spectrum; [24] rather, it was the audience’s confused categorization of those views that had shifted. Most people find it hard to place libertarians on the political spectrum. I have always entertained a bit of a conspiratorial view that it is the purpose of the spectrum to render libertarians non-existent or, even worse, u201Cto the right of Attila.u201D This is absurd, of course, as libertarians were the original left! [25] They were the original revolutionaries. They continued to be considered u201Cto the left,u201D opposing World War I and conscription. Only when FDR’s New Deal came along did anti-New Deal libertarians such as H. L. Mencken come to be seen as u201Crightist.u201D Since FDR’s program was modeled on the rightist Mussolini, [26] the categorization of libertarians as rightists seems a bit odd. Finally, if we are rightists, why do so many of us agree with leftists Gore Vidal and Noam Chomsky on post-9/11 foreign policy matters?

Rothbard is the latest admitee to the pantheon of libertarian immortals joining: Locke, Trenchard and Gordon, Jefferson, Bastiat, Spooner, Thoreau, Mencken, Nock, Rand, Mises and Hayek. Standing on the shoulders of these giants, Rothbard became the most consistent, most passionate, most scholarly, most dedicated, most radical, most single-minded defender of individual liberty and the free market in history. I had always been an individualist in politics. I had always believed that the individual had strong rights against the state. (How can you be an American and not believe that?) Once Rothbard convinced me that the right to private property is an individual right and the basis for numerous other rights I held dear, my conversion to the libertarian view was complete.

From Rothbard and his colleagues and forbearers, I learned that capitalism (the free market), by protecting private property and freedom of contract, encourages people to use their abilities and resources to produce goods and services that are most likely to be urgently demanded by others. Capitalism, unlike competing systems, does not depend on the quality of its overseers. Capitalism’s overseer is the price system, which, far from being dependent on the will of a small number of politicians, is the mathematical expression of the totality of human knowledge about the value and scarcity of goods, services, and resources. Capitalism allows people with different backgrounds and talents and levels of ability to trade for mutual advantage in accordance with the principles of specialization and the division of labor.

Capitalism does not require central planning; rather, capitalism is what happens naturally and spontaneously when there is no such planning. As seen, for example, in prisoner of war camps where cigarettes became money, markets arise spontaneously from individuals acting to advance their own interests. Markets are natural; they just happen. The political formula for establishing a capitalist system is: don’t just do something, stand there. Competing systems require finely-tuned planning; capitalism doesn’t need the right plan; it doesn’t need a plan at all. Capitalism is a complex and harmonious melding of all our individual plans. Capitalism requires no change in human nature or the natural tendency of people to act to further the welfare of themselves and their families.

A beautiful, recent example of what I am talking about comes from Iraq. In the interstices between the death of the old regime and the U.S. military dictatorship attempting to consolidate power, guess what happened. In the absence of a state, spontaneous order broke out as Iraqi businessmen moved fast to provide needed goods and services and rebuild infrastructure. And all this without a central plan. Astonishing. Not only did they not need the American corporatocracy to help out; it turned out that the Pentagon-run Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance was their biggest obstacle, preventing the businessmen from starting vital new ventures. The good news: the U. S. bureaucrats didn’t have time yet to reinstate the old tariffs. u201CPrices are better because there’s no government now,’ [a merchant] said, expressing no regrets.u201D [27]

As this example illustrates, capitalism is a system that arises naturally and spontaneously; is governed by the price system, not by politicians or dictators; encourages people to be productive and cooperate with others; and works well with people as they are. No re-education camps are required. As the above example also shows, governments are good at confiscating and obstructing; business is good at facilitating and producing. Unlike the socialist or liberal state, which tends to grow in spite of poor performance, the market is self-correcting. Deficiencies in one market enterprise can be remedied by profit-seeking entrepreneurs offering goods and services that remedy or overcome such deficiencies.

In contrast, socialism acts, as it must, through the coercive apparatus of the state. Anarchic socialism is an oxymoron. (Sorry Noam Chomsky.) Since the socialist state uses force to compel people to participate in its economic machinations, such persons are necessarily abused and exploited. Otherwise, why would they need to be compelled? The wealthiest business cannot force a bum to spend ten cents on its products, but the socialist state can extract millions from the wealthiest business without breaking a sweat.

While capitalist decisions are made by individuals and firms that know more about their particular circumstances than anyone else could possibly know, socialist planners know little or nothing about the persons and institutions they deal with and thus are forced to make and enforce arbitrary general rules that apply the same to different people and different circumstances, regardless of the absurd or unjust consequences.

Socialism does not work because, in the words of Frédéric Bastiat, people are not clay. They always react and respond to the state’s use of power against them (or for them) in ways that result in unintended and negative consequences from the state’s point of view. This is called u201Cblowbacku201D in foreign policy matters, however, there is also domestic blowback such as the crime wave unleashed by the u201Cwar on drugsu201D and the Great Society’s destruction of the family structure of the poor.

Instead of allowing the price system to be a vehicle of rational economic planning by individuals and firms, socialism sabotages the price system as much as possible. In its extreme form, socialism would eliminate prices for capital goods — by seizing them — and thereby cause economic annihilation. [28] Even socialism’s less extreme interventions damage the price system. Taxation, inflation, subsidies, occupational licensure, collective bargaining mandates, and so on, distort market prices and cripple their ability to convey accurate information about preferences and scarcities.

The magnitude of socialism’s failure corresponds to the extent it has been tried. Where totalitarian socialism has been tried, for example, in the Soviet Union and Communist China, the result was mass murder, mass starvation and economic chaos. Where democratic socialism has been tried, for example, Great Britain, it managed to turn its economy from world class to second-rate. The mixed economy of the United States, not being quite as socialist as that of Britain and Western Europe, has not damaged our economy quite so much. Within the United States, those locales with the largest governmental intrusion into the market have generally experienced the lowest growth. Buffalo and Erie County, having one of the most heavily taxed and regulated economies in the United States, have been losing jobs and people and hope for decades.

The undeniable popularity and political success of various forms of socialism, from liberalism to communism to fascism, are in part the result of various fallacies and misconceptions and ignorance, often willful. More important, however, are the emotional factors favoring socialism: the desire to spend other people’s money, envy, the futile desire to be rid of economic worries, [29] and finally, the childish desire for utopia or for a secular religion of the state that purports to solve all of life’s problems. These desires, however, as demonstrated above, are at war with logic and reality. That is why socialism always fails in practice.

Let’s look in more detail at why socialism, or liberalism as we call it in the United States, is so popular. The reasons are not complicated. First, socialism allows people to spend other people’s money. Let’s avoid the word u201Cstealu201D other people’s money, because only libertarians see it that way. Nevertheless, however socialists justify this spending, even they realize they are taking other people’s money. Yes, I know some socialists deny the very concept of private ownership. But even they realize that socialism takes money and property that is possessed by some and transfers possession to others so they can spend or use it.

Reason No. 1: Socialism allows people to spend other people’s money without feeling guilty about it.

Second, there is a related but distinct craving that animates socialism, as noted by many commentators. Envy is a strong emotion that has a powerful impact on society and politics. Envy is u201Ca painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.u201D (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary). Because no one admits to acting on the basis of envy, the term u201Cequalityu201D — robbed of its original and legitimate meaning, equality of liberty — is used instead. Socialism is the perfect political expression of envious people as it purports to rein in u201Cgreedyu201D and wealthy capitalists and usher in social and economic equality. When socialists and liberals want to steal people’s money, they call the victims u201Cgreedy.u201D

Reason No. 2:Socialism satisfies the deeply-felt and widely-held emotion of envy.

Third, free market capitalism emphasizes the individual’s responsibility for his own economic welfare. Socialism professes to place this responsibility outside the individual and with the state. Many people are happy to be rid of this burden and glad to be able to blame others for their problems. Unlike Reasons No. 1 and No. 2, this reason for the popularity of socialism is one trumpeted by its proponents. They do not see the obvious downside of the structural reduction of individual economic responsibility: laziness, profligacy, passivity, and worst of all: boredom! Life in the advanced welfare state is a big bore. Check your brain at the door; pick up your check on the way out.

Reason No. 3:Socialism purports to relieve people of the burden of worrying about their economic well-being.

Finally, in a secular age, socialism acts as a substitute for religion. Traditionally, religion would offer solace to people facing the numerous traumas of life. Now, for millions of people, socialism plays that role. u201CFor who would bear [Hamlet's] whips and scorns of time, the oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, the pangs of despised love, the law’s delay, the insolence of office and the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes, when heu201D could overcome all these problems with socialism?

Utopian socialism — all socialism is utopian — purports to offer a solution to virtually all human problems. In contrast, the claims of capitalism are seen as too modest, and hard work is required as well. There is no need to quote a Marxist on the all-encompassing promises of socialism. Lyndon Johnson will do fine. In an Orwellian speech given on May 22, 1964, President Johnson promised that his Great Society would u201Cpursue the happiness of our people,u201D conquer u201Cboredom and restlessness,u201D and satisfy the u201Cdesire for beautyu201D and the u201Chunger for community.u201D All this and beat the Viet Cong, too. Amazing!

Reason No. 4:Socialism is a secular substitute for religion and offers people (false) solace against the traumas of this life.

These are some of the main reasons why socialism, in spite of its spectacular failure, remains so popular, even in a society such as ours whose fabulous wealth is the result of the shrinking capitalist remnants of the economy.

Killing the Goose

Now, with the benefit of libertarian theory and half a lifetime’s experience with local politics, let me return to the subject of how the local political machine works and with what consequences for the community.

The discussion that follows pertains specifically to Buffalo but is based on analytical tools of general applicability. The analysis therefore could likely be applied to other urban political machines, particularly those in the Northeast u201CRust Belt.u201D The Northeast political scene does differ from other locales because, as Mancur Olson [30] has suggested, the older a regime, the more corrupt it will be. New York State has existed in its present form for well over 200 years. Buffalo has existed for over 170 years. The special interests have had all that time to get their clutches onto the mechanisms of power and advantage. In contrast, the regimes in the post-bellum South and in the West are newer and therefore the interest groups have had less time to do their dirty work. In that sense, this analysis of Buffalo politics offers these newer polities a preview of coming attractions.

Once the machine installs its choices into public offices, it becomes those officials’ chief mandate to expand the power of the machine by expanding government. u201CControl of city and state government [provides the machine] with a formidable array of resources that, by law, custom and public acceptance, could be exploited for money and labor.u201D [31] Since the machine controls the government, the more money and jobs and contracts the government can dole out, the more powerful the machine becomes. Thus it was that, year after year, local government in Buffalo and Erie County tended to grow. This came, of course, at the cost of higher taxes and more extensive regulation of the private economy. By u201Cregulation,u201D I mean the prohibition of peaceful activities which have harmed no one or the compulsion of behavior the non-performance of which would harm no one. Essentially, regulations involve the confiscation of valuable economic resources in non-monetary forms: time, labor, mental energy, and property. A regulation is a non-monetary tax.

Higher taxes and increased confiscation of wealth by regulations reduced the amount of capital available to invest in private enterprise. Private economic activity diminished. Entrepreneurs were driven away. Young, ambitious and well-educated people fled to states with freer and therefore more vibrant economies. All around the country, ex-Buffalonian clubs thrive. There are so many ex-Buffalonians living in Charlotte, North Carolina that they meet at bars to watch the Buffalo Bills games.

The most critical factor in the success of an economy is the amount of capital invested in productive enterprises. Other than working harder, longer, or smarter, the only thing that can increase wealth is capital investment that improves the productivity of labor. The state cannot increase capital investment. Any capital that the state provides to private or public enterprises can only be derived from the prior coercive seizure of capital from a productive private entity or person. Nor is this transfer a zero-sum game, since capital is transferred from a productive private entity which acquired that capital by satisfying the preferences of customers, to another entity which has not met that test but a different one: political pull. After this coercive transfer, there will be much less capital.

Further, in an economy where capital is seized from some and given to others, the producers of capital will tend to have a lower incentive to produce it in the future, and the recipients of the largesse will also have a lower incentive to produce capital in the future. A policy that reduces the incentive of all economic actors to produce wealth is insane, unless, of course, the policymakers are lining their pockets at the expense of the public at large. (They are.)

With respect to the other factor in the wealth equation, human capital, the analysis is the same. Human capital is the sum total of all useful economic skills a person can have. The state can only reduce, not increase, human capital. Investment in human capital thrives in a society in which people are free to live their lives as they choose and free to dispose of their property as they choose. Just as property owners have the maximum incentive to invest in their property only when they wholly own its capital value, we as individuals only have the maximum incentive to invest in ourselves when we wholly own ourselves.

An important aspect of self-ownership is ownership of our income-earning potential. Since the state in these times takes a large portion of our income, extra-large in Buffalo, this necessarily causes a reduction in the incentive to increase or improve our personal economic productivity. Similarly, the recipients of government subsidies also will have a lessened incentive to increase their human capital. Why should they work hard to improve themselves when they can benefit from the hard work of others? Thus, just as the state reduces the incentive of all to invest in economic capital, it reduces the incentive of all to invest in human capital. [32] To illustrate this theory, consider that under laissez-faire the inner city was a place where people were busy trying to improve their lives; it was bustling with hope. The inner city today is a place of passivity and despair.

Virtually all public policies predominant in Buffalo in the last 40 years destroyed or reduced the amount of financial, physical and human capital invested in the private economy: high taxes, intrusive regulations, state-created monopolies (education, medicine, and transportation), special legal privileges for unions, and the seizure of private property through eminent domain. In a modern economy, capital is mobile and flows to where it can make the greatest profit. Buffalo is not that place. Buffalo, like other Northeast Rust Belt cities, is not the place where new capital will be invested. Buffalo is the place where old capital, fully depreciated, will be abandoned. That is why people and businesses have been fleeing for over 40 years. When I read, after writing the first draft of this essay, that Buffalo ranked last out of 50 cities in entrepreneurship, I was not even slightly surprised. [33]

Ironically, these dire consequences actually strengthened corrupt local political elites. First, independent-minded persons of means, the political machine’s natural enemy, are driven away. This leaves few potential opponents of the old regime. Many of the businessmen who remain are bought off with grants, contracts, special tax breaks, [34] and regulatory and prosecutorial leniency. VIPs are rarely the targets of law enforcement agencies in Buffalo. Second, with the decline of the economy, the goodies offered by politics are seen as more attractive. In a town where high-paying private sector jobs are scarce, a high-paying sinecure becomes a very valuable commodity. Competition for these jobs is fierce, thus providing the political machine with many fresh troops to do battle with the ever-diminishing remnant calling for change. It is no contest.

Thus it is that even though Buffalo has been in a state of precipitous and continuous decline for over 40 years, and the causes of that decline are apparent, virtually nothing is being done about it. Nor is anything likely to be done about it in the near future. Unless drastic changes are made now, the Detroitization of Buffalo will continue. The free market has sent the people of Buffalo all the messages and signals they could possibly ask for about the need to change the way they do things. For example, legions of parents have waved goodbye to their children at the airport as they moved away forever to North Carolina, Texas or Tennessee. Unfortunately, the clumsy political technology of democracy is unable to provide the frustrated populace with a viable alternative to the rapacious political elite who ran Buffalo into the ground in the first place and are still in charge. Is this why Jefferson suggested a revolution every 20 years or so? I have often thought there is nothing wrong with Buffalo that couldn’t be cured by giving the top 50 political people a one-way ticket out of town.

Bailing Out the Machine

As the Buffalo economy has been killed off by politicians and their allied special interests, the political class has been creative in seeking out other sources of revenue with which to perpetuate themselves while staving off the complete governmental collapse that would bring them down with it. Increasingly, subsidies from Albany and Washington have bailed out the local politicians. Obviously, subsidies flow from economically more successful communities to those that are less successful like Buffalo. Logically, confronted with such differential success, a well-intentioned analyst would find out what worked in one area, then apply that formula to the failed communities. This has not been done because members of the political class will never admit that they are the problem and they need to go away. Instead, they seek to mulct the productive citizens of other locales and bring the money to Buffalo so their feeding frenzy can continue, even after the local economy has been eviscerated. The taxpayers in those other communities have no say in the matter. Their own degenerate politicians are eager to trade their wealth for the votes that the Buffalo political machine can muster in state and local elections. It is still true that as Erie County goes, so goes New York State. Just ask Mario Cuomo.

The Decline of Buffalo

In 1900, Buffalo was one of the leading industrial and commercial cities in the United States and ranked eighth in population. The remains of that splendid era still exist: cultural institutions founded by wealthy industrialists; fabulous mansions designed by nationally-known architects, including several by Frank Lloyd Wright; one of America’s first skyscrapers, designed by Louis Sullivan; and a fine park and parkway system designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The peculiar historical and geographic factors that contributed to Buffalo’s rise are beyond the scope of this essay. What is relevant here is that Buffalo rose to prominence in an era of relative laissez-faire: no federal income tax, low state and local taxes, and no special legal privileges for unions. In 1900, all government spending was six percent of national income. [35]

There was little of the type of business regulation that came with the so-called and misunderstood u201CProgressiveu201D Era. Those who believe that the Progressive Era was a well-intended improvement over laissez-faire are the victims of a major historiographical con job. As Rothbard writes:

[O]ne of the main driving forces of the statist dynamic of twentieth century America has been big businessmen, and this long before the Great Society. Gabriel Kolko, in his path-breaking Triumph of Conservatism, has shown that the shift toward statism in the Progressive period was impelled by the very big-business groups who were supposed, in the liberal mythology, to be defeated and regulated by the Progressive and New Freedom measures. Rather than a u201Cpeople’s movementu201D to check big business; the drive for regulatory measures, Kolko shows, stemmed from big businessmen whose attempts at monopoly had been defeated by the competitive market, and who then turned to the federal government as a device for compulsory cartelization. [36]

According to Rothbard, u201CThe famed Progressive Era, an era of a Great Leap Forward in massive regulation of business by the state and federal government from 1900 . . . through World War I was essentially put through by the Morgans [J.P.] and their allies in order to cartelize American business and industry.u201D Big business used government regulation to gain a competitive edge over small business, Rothbard argued. u201CIf these policies are designed to tame and curb rapacious Big Business, how is it that so many Big Businessmen, so many Morgan partners, the Rockefellers and the Harrimans, have been so conspicuous in promoting these programs?u201D [37]

Buffalo’s greatest statesman, Grover Cleveland, a progressive in the truest sense of the word, helped pave the way for Buffalo’s glory days. Cleveland was the last of the Jeffersonian presidents (1885—1889, 1893—1897). Before that, as Mayor of Buffalo, he helped fight the corrupt political machine, or u201Cringu201D as it was then known, and its patronage and pork barrel politics. [38] In a campaign speech, he said, u201CIt is a good thing for the people now and then to rise up and let the office holders know that they are responsible to the masses.u201D [39] Cleveland was so successful fighting the machine that he was elected Governor of New York in 1882. [40] Cleveland’s Jeffersonian philosophy as President was described by historian John V. Denson:

Cleveland stood for sound money and the gold standard, and he was opposed to the protective tariff. He advocated the increased respect and sovereignty of the States as a check on the power of the central government. Cleveland generally supported the ideas of a limited federal government and the strict construction of the constitution, a free-market economy, and the separation of banking from government. [41]

The historical example of Grover Cleveland shows that libertarian ideas are not alien to Buffalo; rather, they are what made Buffalo great in the first place!

When did Buffalo start to decline? Some historians point to forces beyond local control to explain Buffalo’s decline. Was it the devastating psychological impact of the assassination of President William McKinley at the pinnacle of Buffalo’s success — the Pan-American Exposition in 1901? No, Buffalo maintained its economic vitality and population growth for many decades after that tragic event. As late as 1951, Buffalo was ranked eleventh nationally in industrial production and third in steel production. [42] In 1955, it was reported that Buffalo was the largest milling center in the world and that nine top manufacturing companies had plants in Buffalo. [43] In 1957, the Buffalo Evening News reported that business activity was at an all-time high. [44] A comprehensive economic study published in 1962, and reviewing data through 1958, concluded that Buffalo was in u201Crelatively good economic health.u201D [45]

The most popular excuse is to blame the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, which diverted boat traffic away from Buffalo and into the Welland Canal to the west. [46] The Seaway probably caused a loss of business to Buffalo’s railroads, which previously had relayed Midwest goods to the port of New York City. On the other hand, the Seaway reduced shipping costs for Buffalo manufacturers. Not only did they avoid railroad costs, but, as commentator John G. Rogers noted at the time, they could now avoid the exorbitant shipping costs of the corrupt New York City waterfront. Even if the Seaway caused net harm to Buffalo’s economy, which to my knowledge has never been proven, a healthy, growing economy would have been able to reabsorb idled workers or capital. The absurdity of this excuse is best seen by noting that somehow Buffalo couldn’t recover from the Seaway u201Cshock,u201D but West Germany and Japan were quickly able to build world class economies from the ruins of World War II.

Speaking of that War, one local politician, reaching back 55 years, blames the Marshall Plan for Buffalo’s decline; presumably because it helped our competitors rebuild their economies. There are so many things wrong with this argument that I cannot fully describe them all here. [47] For one thing, it ignores the enormous stimulus defense spending gave to Buffalo during and after the War. [48] Also, contrary to popular mythology, the Marshall Plan did little to help European economies and was mainly a corporate welfare program for American companies looking to extend their World War II gravy train of tax dollars. That’s why Senator Everett Dirksen called it u201COperation Rathole.u201D What got Germany up and running after the War was not the Marshall Plan but a return to a market economy and a sound currency urged by Wilhelm Rpke, an admirer of Ludwig von Mises. [49]

Even if the Marshall Plan did help European economies, that effect would have, on the whole and in the long run, helped the Buffalo economy by making valuable products available for sale here and creating wealthy foreign markets for our own goods. The aforementioned politician probably would not understand this, since aggressive ignorance of economics seems to be a requirement for being a politician in Buffalo. This example makes a larger and more important point: In the free market — as long as we exclude fraudulent transactions — which are not market transactions but crimes — everyone wins. Another’s gain is not your loss. In contrast, politics is the classic zero-sum game, where one person’s gain, for example, a recipient of corporate welfare, is the taxpayer’s loss.

While I do not accept the St. Lawrence Seaway excuse, Buffalo did coincidentally start its decline shortly after its opening. Let’s say about 1961, the beginning of President Kennedy’s administration (much beloved in Buffalo). Here, I use population as a rough surrogate for economic vitality. Erie County’s population, as a percentage of the country’s, held steady from 1920 through 1960, but its decline started shortly thereafter and was evident in every subsequent census. See Figure No. 1.

Figure No. 1
Population of Erie Co. as a percentage of the U.S. population

1920

1930

1940

1950

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

0.59

0.61

0.60

0.59

0.59

0.54

0.44

0.38

0.34

The 1960s brought many changes to Buffalo, mostly bad. These included the destruction of middle class neighborhoods to make way for expressways, the construction of monstrous public housing projects, u201Curban renewalu201D projects, and u201Cwhite flightu201D to the suburbs — in part a response to court-ordered school desegregation. u201CWhite flightu201D was also a response to deterioration in the quality of life in the city. [50] Two enormous public-housing high-rises were built near downtown, resulting in the destruction of viable neighborhoods and the displacement of thousands of people. [51] As in other cities, these projects became warehouses for every type of social pathology. [52] One observer described the preparatory demolitions as leaving u201Ca 29-block scar on the face of the city.u201D [53] And that was the high point of this misguided exercise in Soviet-style economic planning.

In 1960, the u201Creformersu201D created a new, more centralized form of county government, with a county executive. Predictably, County spending has skyrocketed ever since. In 1962, the state took over the formerly private University of Buffalo and turned it into an enormous socialist/liberal think tank, an intellectual bulwark of the liberal welfare state. Only a few years before, a prescient community leader had warned: u201CLet’s keep it privately supported. Let’s keep it independent. Let’s keep it out of politics.u201D [54]

We can see how politicized the University became by analyzing the voting affiliation of the current law school faculty. The law faculty is often one of the more conservative bastions in the modern left-oriented university. Yet, it would be difficult to find a conservative of any kind on that faculty. Further, while 50 percent of the voters in Erie County are registered Democrats, that number soars to 86 percent for the University’s full-time law faculty. Even the adjunct faculty, which by definition could be expected to represent the community, does not: 66 percent of adjunct faculty members are Democrats. Accordingly, taxpayers are forced to subsidize political ideas they oppose so that their children can return from school with hostility to their parents’ values.

The political machine supported or acquiesced in all these projects. Union power was at its peak, as evidenced by frequent major strikes, sometimes involving multiple companies. The early 1960s also saw the beginning of a trend toward one-party Democratic government in the city and later in the county. The last Republican mayor of Buffalo was elected in 1961. This, however, was a fluke because there were two prominent Democrats running against him. In the 1950s, the Republicans were still competitive in the city; by the late 1960s, they were not. [55] The lack of real competition in city politics only exacerbated the trend toward political machines consuming ever greater amounts of tax dollars as shown in Figure No. 2.

Figure No. 2
GROWTH OF PER CAPITA GOVERNMENT SPENDING, 1960—2000 (2000 Dollars)

~

1960

2000

% Increase

Buffalo
$890

$3,290

369%

Erie County
$374

$1,078

288%

N. Y. State
$712

$4,184

587%

United States
$2,933

$6,353

216%

Total
$4,909

$14,905

303%

It is no accident that Buffalo’s decline began in the decade of the 1960s, the great liberal decade. While Buffalo was shooting itself in the foot with home-grown liberal policy mistakes, it was also the victim of economic liberalism on the state and federal levels. Throughout the decade, economic liberals ran the state government (Nelson Rockefeller) and the federal government (Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon). For skeptics on Ike’s and Nixon’s economic liberalism, here’s a snapshot of their records:

Dwight Eisenhower

  • Increased federal spending 30 percent
  • Created the Department of Health, Education, & Welfare (and spending)
  • Extended Socialism Security to 10 million additional persons
  • Supported federal highway legislation
  • Created NASA
  • Started student loan program (a/k/a, program to raise college tuition so no one can afford it)
  • Inflated enough to knock 9 cents off the value of your 1952 dollar

Richard Nixon

  • Increased federal spending 70 percent
  • Created EPA, OSHA, and Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • Started u201Caffirmative actionu201D
  • Created Office of Minority Business Enterprise
  • Imposed price and wage controls
  • Made your 1968 dollar worth just 78 cents by the time he left office
  • Proposed minimum national income (and you thought that was McGovern’s idea)

Thus, in the 1960s, Buffalo was the victim of a multi-pronged, economic-liberal pincer movement joined in by all four levels of government — city, county, state, and federal, fully supported by the local political machine, and, unfortunately, endorsed by most of the voters as well. The combined impact of these liberal assaults delivered a blow to Buffalo from which it has never recovered.

Excuses, Excuses

Some analysts point to the aging industrial infrastructure and how companies left town or closed down instead of rebuilding in Buffalo. This begs the question: why did these companies move elsewhere instead of staying in Buffalo? They left Buffalo because the sum total of political interference with wealth creation — high taxes, extensive regulations, grants of monopoly power to unions, and bias in the courts against business [57] — was perceived to be greater than in other locales, usually to the west or south, sometimes out of the country. u201CBetween 1960 and 1975. . . manufacturing industries in the Northeast lost 781,000 jobs, while those in the South and West gained nearly three times that number.u201D [58]

All things being equal, companies prefer to stay where they are since moving involves large one-time costs. Things were not equal, however. Buffalo was worse. This is borne out by an analysis of the largest employers in Erie County as of the year 2000. [59] The first four are governmental units. The fifth and eighth are health care concerns that derive much of their funding from the government. Over sixty percent of the employees of the top fifteen employers worked for the government or were paid a substantial portion of their salary by the government.

Another argument that is made is that Buffalo started to lose industry when ownership passed from local citizens to national corporations. True, these national corporations had no sentimental attachment to Buffalo. However, neither did they have any sentiments against Buffalo. Rather, they presumably made a purely economic calculation that they could make more money elsewhere because the amount of wealth siphoned off by the Buffalo political elite was too large.

Some blame the weather for Buffalo’s plight. However, Chicago’s winter is comparable yet Chicago is bigger and wealthier. Toronto and Minneapolis are north of Buffalo and thriving. The severity of the weather in Buffalo is greatly exaggerated by the national media. They always talk about the Blizzard of ’77, not mentioning that this was by far Buffalo’s worst storm of the century. Buffalo’s summer is far superior to the endless summer steam baths of New York City, Washington and Atlanta. Finally, the list of climate-related disasters that rarely or never occur in Buffalo is long: hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, catastrophic floods, killer heat waves, u201Curban heat islands,u201D mudslides, forest and brush fires, fire ants, and killer bees. Blaming the climate for Buffalo’s decline is a red herring.

It is commonly said that Buffalo has suffered from an inordinate number of major planning errors. These include building a football stadium in the suburbs rather than downtown and doing the same with the new state university campus. Expressways destroyed viable neighborhoods and critical portions of Olmstead’s park and parkway system. An ugly convention center was built that closed off a major element of Buffalo’s original radial street plan. The architectural police are still hunting down those responsible for that debacle.

It is true that the Buffalo political elite lacks vision and tends to make poor decisions on major projects. Incompetence and philistinism do play a role in these things. However, a Rothbardian analysis sees much more. Though the community as a whole suffered from these mistakes, certain discrete special interests benefited. Certainly, the fellow who owned the swamp that the Amherst Campus of S. U. N. Y. was built upon made out like a bandit. The construction companies and unions that built those expressways thought they were a great idea.

The problem with all these decisions is that they were political, that is, some people with political power were able to force these decisions on unwilling others by means of laws, taxes, regulations, and eminent domain. In contrast, since market-based planners cannot force others to participate, market actors have a natural incentive to make sure that all directly involved will benefit from their plans. They also have a strong incentive to make their projects palatable to the general community from which their customer base will be drawn.

It is pointless to complain about an endless series of projects that wasted tax money as if there was something that can be done about it other than funding government through user fees and voluntary contributions. (See, Chapter 29.) It is better to consider that tax dollar wasted as soon as it leaves your pocket. Thereafter, it will surely be spent by strangers on some mlange of programs and policies that you oppose and over which you do not have and never can have effective control. Conversely, it is critical to realize that from the point of view of the recipients of your tax dollars, they are never wasted. To the fellow who sold that toilet seat to the Pentagon for $1,000, that money was not wasted. To the fellow who used tax money to create a work of u201Cartu201D featuring a religious icon dipped in bodily fluid, that grant was not wasted.

Thus, tax money is always wasted from the point of view of taxpayers’ highest and best use for their own money, but is never wasted from the point of view of tax recipients. Many will be stunned by the former claim, yet, it is obvious. The point of taxation is to take from people control over a portion of their income to spend it on things the taxpayers would not. If taxpayers would voluntarily spend their money on the same things, isn’t it a little silly to have an army of tax collectors out there spending billions of dollars each year collecting taxes? Thus, it is true: tax money is always wasted from the point of view of taxpayers.

The fact that taxpayers are u201Crepresentedu201D does not alter this conclusion. To my knowledge, no one ever asked taxpayers if they wished to be represented as a rationalization for taxing them. My guess is most taxpayers would say, u201CNo thanks. Keep your representation and keep your tax bills, too.u201D Similarly, don’t be misled by various opinion polls that have people approving more spending on this or that government program. The fallacy in such polls is that they don’t carry the notion of choice far enough. Let’s ask this question: u201CWhere do you want your share of tax money spent: on [some such program] or returned to you as a refund?u201D You may respond to such arguments by calling them unrealistic and noting that there is no political system that allows such freedom of choice to each person. But there is such a system. It’s called the free market!

Let me pause here to point out that this analysis would not have taken the Founding Fathers by surprise. They too had a dim view of taxation, fighting a war over it, as I recall. They were only willing to tolerate it because they viewed it, like government itself, as a necessary evil; because they thought taxation with representation by the taxed (only those with property voted) would restrain taxation; and because they counted on government being limited to its few proper functions such as courts, police, and national defense. According to Jefferson, u201CThey are not to lay taxes ad libitum for any purpose they please.u201D Jefferson also said that u201Ca wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.u201D [60] Jefferson would be aghast to find out that today the state controls a large portion of our income and tells us in intricate detail what we can and cannot do with the rest of it. I am convinced that if the Founding Fathers had lived to see the ultimate failure of their Revolution and their Constitution to secure the promise of the Declaration of Independence to limit government to protecting the individual’s right to be left alone, they, too, would be radical libertarian opponents of the state.

Now add the political dynamic. The beneficiaries of any government program generally derive all or much of their income from that program and will fight to the death to keep it. In contrast, the typical taxpayer pays only a tiny fraction of his income in taxes to pay for any particular program. Thus, while tax recipients will struggle mightily to keep their programs up and running, taxpayers will be rationally apathetic and will choose not to fight them because so little is at stake and they are unlikely to succeed in any event. Thus, those who derive much or all of their income from taxes tend to dominate politics. That’s Buffalo in a nutshell.

The local elite’s last u201Cbrilliantu201D idea was to spend about $100 million of public money to encourage Adelphia Communications to build an office building downtown. The idea never made any sense, except for Adelphia and its allies, yet, it received almost universal support from local politicians and opinion leaders. The local newspaper refused to run my column condemning the project. (See Chapter 5.) Only the unexpected self-destruction of Adelphia saved the taxpayers from this costly pork barrel project.

Let’s look in detail at one enormous u201Cmistakeu201D made by the Buffalo political elite: building a single subway line from Downtown to the Main Street campus of the state university, six miles to the northeast. This was a stupid idea from the beginning. Buffalo is a city, and Erie a county, where you can get almost anywhere you want to go in 20 minutes by car. Why build an unnecessary subway line for $600 million? And why build it from downtown to the campus? Few students lived downtown and there was plenty of shopping at a plaza across from the campus. Finally, the project required that businesses along Main Street be effectively shut down for years. Why waste $600 million for such a foolish project?

First, we can state the obvious: the politicians who supported this project expected to personally benefit or else they would have chosen differently. They expected to benefit by receiving the votes and campaign contributions of the two main special interest groups that supported the project: construction companies and unions. These interest groups professed to believe that the project was in the public interest, of course. People never admit they simply wish to rob the public purse. The sincerity of such beliefs could only be tested in a free market: would these special interests have put their own money behind the project? Not a chance.

Six hundred million dollars is a large sum of money to waste. At the same time the subway was being built, Bethlehem Steel, once the fourth largest steel plant in the world, was gradually shutting down. The loss of Bethlehem in 1983 was the biggest blow to Buffalo since the McKinley Assassination. In my mind, the building of the subway and the closing of Bethlehem are causally connected. That $600 million wasted on the subway line, translated into tax cuts for private business, could well have provided Bethlehem with the funds needed to clean up and modernize its enormous plant in Buffalo. We will never know.

The local political elites treated Bethlehem like a cash cow. A corrupt political machine formed in Lackawanna, just south of Buffalo where the plant was located. This machine fed off the huge property taxes Bethlehem paid. At one time its property taxes provided Lackawanna with 65 percent of its income. Lackawanna was originally known as the u201CSteel Cityu201D; its colloquial name soon changed to the Steal City. Lackawanna politicians were often in trouble with the law.

The politicians and the unions thought they could milk the steel plant since it isn’t easy to move a mile-long, lakeside industrial plant. While this was true, the company played its own chess game. For a while they could afford to pay the price of this political extortion racket. World War II had wiped out the competition. After the War, however, Germany and Japan caught up quickly, and international competition forced Bethlehem to respond. They chose not to invest in new technologies in Lackawanna and spent their money elsewhere. Then, when the plant had substantially depreciated, they closed up shop. [61] The politicians and unions were left wondering what had hit them and never acknowledged that it was their own greed.

It is no doubt true that Buffalo has also suffered from being located in New York State, which under the Rockefeller and Cuomo regimes became a model for Big Government at the state level. Nevertheless, Buffalo and Erie County have maintained bloated payrolls and high taxes compared to many other areas of the state. Also, the rise of Big Government state-wide has at all times been fully supported by the local machine, since such a development expands the patronage pie. Erie County votes have often been a critical factor in the election of liberals like Mario Cuomo and Hillary Clinton. This excuse, too, must be rejected.

Economic Impact of Unions

Since the u201Crightu201D of workers to force employers to collectively bargain with them is considered sacred in Buffalo, let me spell out the Misesian/Rothbardian view of the matter. Mises was not shy in his assessment:

[W]hat is euphemistically called collective bargaining by union leaders and u2018pro-labor’ legislation is . . . bargaining at the point of a gun. It is bargaining between an armed party, ready to use its weapons, and an unarmed party under duress. It is not a market transaction. It is a dictate forced on the employer. [62]

Henry Hazlitt argued that:

[I]f a particular union by coercion is able to enforce for its own members a wage substantially above the real market worth of their services, it will hurt all other workers as it hurts other members of the community. [63]

In his monograph, u201CWhy Wages Rise,u201D [64] economist F. A. Harper compiled data showing that American wages had been rising since 1855, long before unions reached their peak in private sector membership in the 1940s. He also notes the close parallel between rising wages and rising productivity from 1910 through the 1950s. Wages follow productivity which follows capital investment. Workers who are paid substantially less than the value of what they are producing will be bid away from those chintzy firms by other u201Cgreedyu201D entrepreneurs who see that they can pay them more and still make a profit. In the long run, and in the economy as a whole, it is market competition and capital investment that determine wage rates.

Thus, in Buffalo, union workers gained at the expense of their non-union brethren, who were left with less capital bidding for their services, and ended up working harder for less or not working at all. I note that even at Bethlehem’s peak there was always a large group of unemployed. The locals apparently did not have a clue why this occurred and didn’t bother consulting Mises, Rothbard or Hazlitt.

Mises points out the undeniable truth that unions are only useful to their members when they constitute a modest portion of the labor force: u201Cunionization can achieve its ends only when restricted to a minority of workers.u201D What good would it do to raise the wages of all workers by ten percent when those same workers must pay more for everything they buy to pay for everyone else’s raise?

It is ironic that unions have created an image for themselves as standing up for the interests of the u201Clittle guy.u201D The reality is that, like any other special interest group, unions obtain benefits for their own members at the expense of non-members, who make less money or who remain unemployed, and at the expense of consumers, who pay higher prices for goods and services. Unions have often allied themselves with gangsters. Unions often discriminated against racial or ethnic minorities, whom they perceived as their competition for jobs. In Buffalo, unions were always allied with the political machine that has ruined our economy. Isn’t it time to remove the halo over unions?

Let me make it clear that I have no objection to unions per se, any more than I object to other private, voluntary organizations like the Catholic Church or the Rotary Club. I don’t even object to unions engaging in actions that violate antitrust laws. (Libertarians oppose antitrust laws for too many reasons to detail here.) If workers want to get together and peacefully attempt to maximize their collective economic influence, fine with me. What I object to is the fact that the state has given unions special legal privileges at the expense of non-union workers, businesses and consumers.

Unintended Consequences

The laws of economics cannot be evaded or avoided any more than the laws of physics can be ignored. Human beings are free to engage in any action that is physically possible. Neither physics nor economics says otherwise. People are free to jump out of airplanes without parachutes, and people are free to enact minimum wage laws. We are, however, absolutely unfree when it comes to avoiding the consequences of our acts as dictated by physical or economic law. The jumper will be crushed to death by a collision with the ground which unleashes an amount of energy strictly determined by his mass and speed and the density of the ground. The minimum wage law will cause all those perceived by employers to be unable to produce sufficient gross revenue to justify their wages, not to be hired, or, worse, to be fired. It will cause unemployment. Our only options with respect to natural laws are to ignore them at our peril or study them so we can adjust our behavior accordingly and be happy.

Buffalo’s political class and those members of the public who lend them support, have chosen to ignore economic laws. Therefore, not only do they fail to achieve their stated goals, but the consequences of their policies tend to be the opposite of those goals. This is the well-known principle of unintended consequences, described by Mises:

All varieties of interference with the market phenomena not only fail to achieve the ends aimed at by their authors and supporters, but bring about a state of affairs which — from the point of view of the authors’ and advocates’ valuations — is less desirable than the previous state of affairs which they were designed to alter. [65]

As Mises points out, their only choice then — assuming they are not going to adopt laissez-faire, repudiate their entire program and commit political suicide — is ever greater intervention. (As previously argued, the politicians and their allies personally benefit from their public policy u201Cerrors.u201D) Every time a Big Government program fails, the politicians urge yet another one to cure the original problem. Thus, government grows ever larger while the private economy shrinks. Government creates its own demand. The results will always be the same.

As alluded to at various points throughout this essay, the inherent tendency of the state is to grow. There are five main reasons for this which are, unfortunately, structural features of political life:

1. rational apathy — the incentive for some people to increase the size of the state outweighs the incentive the rest of us have to fight them;

2. government control over political ideas — the state uses its control over education and other idea-disseminating organizations to propagate support for further government growth;

3. government creates its own demand — because the state’s various interventions into the market economy always fail, ironically, they increase the demand of the uninformed majority for even further interventions to cure the problems caused by the prior interventions;

4. the productivity of the mixed economy — given the inherent tendency of the state to grow, only extreme dissatisfaction among the populace will rouse them to act; however, even a partially free market produces enough wealth to mollify the people;

5. government has a monopoly on the use of legal force — government grows because it can. Given the universal human desire to accomplish goals with the least possible exertion, politicians have an irresistible urge to use the state’s powers to continually expand the amount of wealth they control. Anyone who objects can always appeal to the politicians’ judges and can expect to be told, u201CGet lost!u201D

To summarize, so many bad decisions have been made in Buffalo because politics controls so many aspects of life here and those who control politics tend to make decisions that will enrich and empower themselves and their allies. They get away with the scam because their decision-making process is not constrained by the discipline of profit and loss calculations.

This process of self-serving decisions being made by the political elite is exacerbated by the absence of a strong class of independent-minded persons of means. They have been gradually driven away, and thus the local political elite’s only foe is a ragtag group of citizen activists, usually leftists, who are rarely successful. The leftists’ instinctive populism usually leads them in the right direction in opposing the establishment’s plans. However, because of their egalitarian fantasies, economic ignorance, and love of central planning, their alternative proposals are rarely an improvement.

The few independent figures in Buffalo’s public life are disorganized, without funding, and often legally harassed — unlike the VIPs. By their nature, political machines tend to retaliate against those who challenge them. Remember, a political machine exists to use the government to enrich and empower its members at the expense of non-members. The whole enterprise is morally bankrupt and rationally indefensible. Thus, when opponents arise, the machine does not and cannot reason with them; rather, it continues to use the tools it has always used. It uses the state to punish its enemies. If the machine’s modus operandi is to use power for its own benefit at the expense of society, it will not hesitate to use that same power against those who threaten the machine. It has at its disposal the legal command posts of society — the police, the prosecutors and the courts.

For example, in Brooklyn, the machine responded to a lawyer named John K. O’Hara, who had angered politicians with a lawsuit over election fraud, by prosecuting him for a technical election law violation and having him disbarred. [66] Buffalo is no different. One local gadfly was prosecuted 11 times in a row for allegedly harassing politicians. The charges were dismissed each time. [67] Another was arrested on election night on trumped-up charges of harassing poll workers. I have carved out a niche representing people who have been victimized by the machine’s unlawful firings. In recent years, it has been common for the machine to retaliate against the spouses of its political enemies, a practice the courts have held unconstitutional.

For having the temerity to help a former professor sue the local state law school, I was subjected to a three-year civil contempt suit, culminating in a trial in federal court at which I was the chief witness against myself. I was a poor witness, at that, as I stated no facts which remotely constituted contempt of court. To fully understand this bizarre proceeding, we have to return to a subject alluded to earlier. Query: Was this case yet another example of the local power elite retaliating against its opponents?

Judicial Politics in Buffalo

To many, the term judicial politics is a contradiction in terms. In reality, the judiciary is thoroughly political. The machine in Buffalo treats judgeships as just another form of political patronage. The qualifications of the candidates are a secondary factor, as I had learned as a teenager. Selection of judges is based on prior contributions to the party, connections to the party, prior service to the party, and a commitment to hire staff recommended by the party. Sometimes, judgeships are used to reward a racial or ethnic group or women for their loyal support for the party. If we define affirmative action in its pejorative sense [68] — the promotion of lesser-qualified candidates on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, or religion — it must be true that it conflicts with the goal of finding the best people for the job.

Unfortunately for me, the two judges assigned to my case were both, in my opinion, [69] affirmative action hires. I vividly recall that when one was appointed, her appointment was praised since she was the first female on the federal bench in Buffalo. Likewise, when the other judge was appointed, the newspaper announced that he was the u201Cfirst Polish-American judge in the Western Judicial District of New York.u201D I had the misfortune of dealing with both of these judges in the aforementioned contempt case filed against me.

My client, former law professor Jeffrey Blum, had sued the University at Buffalo law school for denial of tenure for political reasons. The law school is an influential local political/legal institution. Many of the area’s lawyers and judges went to school there. As noted earlier, the law school is controlled by left-liberals and shares a similar outlook with the local liberal political machine. The connections between the machine and the law school are numerous. Machine legislators keep tax money flowing to the school; the school hires local politicians as lecturers and gives well-publicized awards to u201Cright-thinkingu201D local judges and lawyers. (Make that, left-thinking.)

I appeared in the case only as an informal assistant to Blum, as he was chief counsel on his own behalf. During the case, he was accused of unlawfully disclosing, in a letter, information he had received during pretrial discovery. He vehemently denied this. I was joined in the contempt motion, although I had not seen the file at issue and was not the author of the letter. The motion against me was a fishing expedition, an improper use of a contempt proceeding or any lawsuit. A lawsuit without a factual or legal basis is itself a tort (non-contractual civil wrong). Perhaps this was just a case of bad lawyering. The motion for contempt was brought, however, by one of the top law firms in Buffalo. No, the utter baselessness of the motion against me led me to wonder whether one of the purposes of the motion was to punish me for helping a man who was challenging the local power elite. In any event, they did this apparently with full confidence that they would not be sanctioned by the friendly judges assigned to the case. They were right about that.

The moving parties justified their motion by saying they wanted to know what legal advice I gave to my client. I contended that I could not reveal discussions with my client because they were privileged. At the hearing of my motion to dismiss the contempt proceeding as frivolous and violating attorney-client privilege, u201Cthe first woman on the local federal bench,u201D without ruling on my motion, proceeded to ask me to reveal the privileged information! Not only did this reveal her ignorance of proper legal procedures, but her visible anger when I refused to do so revealed her bias as well. u201CI’m not going to play games here. . .u201D, she said, without intimating how claiming attorney-client privilege constitutes a game. (I later moved for recusal of the judge on the grounds that the lead partner of the firm that brought the motion against me had served on the committee that recommended that she be hired in the first place.) [70] Without any factual or legal basis, and without any accusation that I had done anything wrong, she ordered me to appear before the district judge to show cause why I should not be held in contempt. Another lawyer who was informally assisting Blum was also named in the motion failed to appear in court at all. Nonetheless, he was not ordered to appear before the district judge.

I renewed my motions for dismissal and sanctions before the district court but when oral argument came I could see I had wasted the paper. Ignoring my arguments, the judge gave a stern lecture about what serious allegations these were. What else could he do? The professor moving for contempt was represented by a politically-powerful law firm whose founder had attended college with the judge. The firm regularly represents politicians, public officials (including judges) and politically-powerful unions and gets paid well for it. They are big political contributors. They hire the children of judges. They hire the attorney-clerks of federal judges before whom they regularly appear. They serve on unpaid but important government committees such as those involved in judicial selection. All lawyers are equal before the courts, but some are more equal than others. During the course of the lawsuit that firm would hire one of the judge’s law clerks. Ironically, before all this happened, I had navely told Blum that I thought this judge would be fair: he did not attend the law school and he was a Republican as well, perhaps not close with the liberal Democrats there.

So I was forced to bring my father — the best lawyer I knew — out of retirement to represent me. My brilliant lawyer, after an exhaustive review of the court file, soon came to the core of the issue. Where was the other lawyer who was served with contempt motions and who never appeared? Funny that the politically-connected firm that had brought the motion against the missing lawyer hadn’t asked where he was at the initial court appearance. This was surely the first time this highly-regarded firm had ever made that error. Hmmm. I told my father I wasn’t sure, but I had heard he was a political friend of the district judge. We later found out how friendly they were. This lawyer had had an unethical ex parte (secret) communication with the district judge. The judge told him, u201CDon’t worry, Frank, you’re out of the case.u201D My father courageously confronted the judge with this information and information that the lawyer had helped the judge with a prior campaign, and asked him to recuse himself.

The judge denied having had the conversation, so we decided to depose the lawyer in question and get him under oath. Here’s where the rubber meets the road. The law firm representing the professor, who had previously sought to u201Cinquireu201D of Frank about his involvement with the alleged discovery violation, now sees where this is going and decides to bail out their friendly judge. They move to kill the deposition! They filed papers before the female magistrate; we filed voluminous papers against the motion and waited. The magistrate granted the motion to cancel the deposition on the grounds that u201Cno briefs were submittedu201D in opposition to the motion. However, in the same order, she mentioned the very papers that were not u201Csubmittedu201D by their file document No. 268. A call to her legal assistant to clarify the mystery was met by a stonewall response: u201Ctake it up with the district judge.u201D

We did that by filing an objection to the magistrate’s order. We also moved before the magistrate to reargue her order. (By that time, the court file contained four copies of the papers allegedly not u201Csubmitted.u201D) Both efforts were fruitless, as the district judge denied the objection and held the motion to reargue u201Cmootu201D (which was a lame excuse since it was not moot). No oral argument was held on any of the four motions or objections relating to the deposition, which is highly unusual in federal court. Of course, the district judge should have recused himself for obvious reasons. Violating the ancient rule that no one should be the judge of his own cause, he killed the deposition that, I believe, would have established grounds to prove him a liar and have him removed from the bench. That, ladies and gentlemen, is an example of how our vaunted federal courts u201Cwork.u201D What it came down to was raw power; might makes right; their army was bigger than mine.

Next, we filed a complaint of judicial misconduct. The lawyer in question filed an affidavit that denied the ex parte communications and denied telling us about them. We went to the FBI. Contrary to Justice Department rules, they went to the highly-politicized local U.S. Attorney’s office that proceeded to advise that perjury is not a crime. In my appeal for sanctions against the firm that moved to hold me in contempt, I was rudely treated by the illustrious Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Learned Hand’s [71] successors would not let me make my argument, instead asking me, in Kafkaesque fashion, what I was doing there and implying they had no jurisdiction because the district judge had never formally denied my motion for sanctions. (He had ignored it.)

They scoffed when I said they had jurisdiction because the motion had been denied u201Csub silentio.u201D Incredibly, the same court later pretended to rescue my confusion and discover a proper basis for jurisdiction: sub silentio denial of the motion. Though the judge never discussed my motion for sanctions, the Second Circuit said he exercised proper discretion in denying a motion he never denied. The court devoted exactly one short paragraph to a case I had delineated in a fifty-five page brief. When the judge in question had been a prosecutor, the Second Circuit did not hesitate to reverse a conviction because he had misstated facts to a jury. After he joined the judicial club, however, the court exhibited little interest in that same character flaw.

If this story seems unbelievable, join the club. I couldn’t believe it either and it happened to me. Incredulity is the common reaction when I tell people about this case. Incredulity was my reaction at every point.

I spent some time on the details of my case so that the reader does not have to accept my own interpretation of what happened and so you can judge for yourself. Nevertheless, it is not as complicated as it sounds. Basically, a politically-connected law firm was allowed to maintain a frivolous contempt case against a politically-independent lawyer whose client was suing a politically-powerful legal institution. When it was discovered that the court itself had let a political friend off the hook, but allowed the same case to drag on against me, the legal establishment coalesced to contain the damage, in violation of numerous legal rules and principles. In sum, those who control the courts said, u201CIt’s my basketball, you’re not playing.u201D They treated federal court like a private club.

Let me emphasize that there are fine men and women on the bench in Buffalo, including on the federal bench. They are there in spite of the system, not because of it. They are good people in a bad system. They are accidents. However, when judges are installed by political machines, they will tend in office to serve the political interests of those who put them where they are. These judges will be tempted to rule in favor of the political elites and against their enemies, even if they have to totally disregard the law, truth and morality. When their chicanery is discovered, the whole governmental apparatus, as in my case, is likely to respond by closing ranks to protect the political insiders against the outsiders.

Influence over the judiciary is yet another way that the local political elite protects and perpetuates itself. Judges selected by the political power structure have an uncanny knack for finding a way to rule in favor of the power structure in litigation. This is not to say that in the run-of-the-mill court case litigants do not get a fair shake. They often do. However, when a politically-connected party faces off against an unconnected party in litigation, politically-selected judges tend to serve their benefactors well.

This is a truth that most lawyers recognize but are afraid to publicly admit. Stalin got more criticism from the Politburo than today’s judges get from those who practice before them. How is it that in a democracy with a First Amendment we allow judges to punish lawyers who dare to criticize them? Other judges on appellate courts then decide whether the lawyer’s free speech rights have been violated. Power corrupts. Those who know best what is wrong with the courts are afraid to speak out, lest those same courts take away their law licenses.

Should I have been incredulous about my treatment in the courts? Should I have known better? Oddly enough, more than one person advised me over the years that, if I continued to represent political gadflies and continued to speak out against the powers that be, I would be subject to retaliation. What did they know that I did not? Pondering that question, I have to plead guilty to navet. I plead guilty to not applying libertarian insights into the nature of political power to my own circumstances. I plead guilty to expecting the judicial system to work according to its promises and not according to its nature. I confused ideals with facts. I forgot the lesson of Aristotle that each thing acts according to its nature. I will remedy that lapse now by examining the nature of today’s courts.

American Justice?

Let’s begin at the beginning by pointing out a fact that is so obvious that it is almost entirely forgotten. It is taken for granted that, for the sake of peace, justice and order, the courts must have a monopoly on judicial power within the boundaries of their jurisdiction. Yet, the ability of today’s courts to achieve any of these values with the monopoly power they possess is subject to serious doubt. Even if justice implies a court system with the monopoly power to do justice, the converse is not true. The mere existence of monopoly judicial power does not imply that it will be used justly. Whenever that monopoly power becomes unhinged from true justice, as it did, for example, in Stalin’s Soviet Union or Hitler’s Germany, that monopoly judicial power thereby becomes a great evil. One suffering under Hitler’s or Stalin’s u201Cjudicialu201D edicts would have wished to have recourse to some judicial competition, to say the least.

Order is a term frequently used but rarely defined. The concept of order is substantially similar to the concept of peace. For example, when people use the term civil disorder, they are usually referring to riots and other forms of widespread acts of violence against persons or property. In another sense, order involves not merely peace, but the provision of some assurance that peace will continue and that disputes will be amicably resolved. However, what people want is not merely some reasonable assurance that disputes will be resolved, but that they will be resolved with at least a rough approximation to justice: the correct application of the right principles to the reasonably known facts. While the state in all its forms, even dictatorship, provides a means to resolve disputes, its capacity to resolve them justly is subject to serious dispute. Why should we think the state, even a democratic state, will resolve disputes justly?

An immediate and intractable problem arises. It is claimed that a state with a monopoly on dispute resolution powers is the very prerequisite of a civilized justice system. So such power is bequeathed upon the state or seized by it. Now we have a situation in which, if one wants dispute resolution services, one must go to the state. What are the ramifications of this monopoly? Like any monopolist, the state will tend to charge more for its services than private arbitrators would. Moreover, since its revenue is guaranteed, and the courts have little incentive to attract or please its u201Ccustomers,u201D government courts have little incentive to incur the costs of producing justice: the intellectual, moral and physical effort required to achieve true justice. Thus, overall and in general, state-provided justice will tend to be expensive, time-consuming, and of relatively poor quality. There is the story of the local judge who, confronted with having to wade through hundreds of pages of summary judgment motion papers, instead lazily told the lawyers, u201CThere must be an issue of fact in there somewhere. Motion denied.u201D

The biggest problem, however, with government courts arises from the unusual nature of their product. Sure, a state monopoly car company would sell overpriced and poorly-made cars. A government monopoly over the law, however, is much worse. The product of the government courts is the definition of the legal rights and powers of all persons and institutions in society, including themselves and the government of which they are a part. Therein lies the problem. As Hans-Herman Hoppe argues:

u201CUnder the assumption of self-interest, every government will use this monopoly . . . to its own advantage. . . . Hence every government should be expected to have an inherent tendency towards growth.u201D [72]

Thus, government courts will tend to expand the rights and powers of the government, while shrinking the rights and powers of the citizenry. Individual Americans have only slightly more ability to halt this perpetual growth of the state than did their sad counterparts in Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany, though, unlike them, we remain free to squawk about it, for the time being anyway. This theory is confirmed by history. The United States government has been growing steadily ever since 1776, with the reliable, continual and unsurprising endorsement of its own courts. Constitutions do not thwart this process since the courts themselves define what they mean. That is, the government resolves any dispute as to the extent of its own powers:

u201C[A]ny written limits that leave it to government to interpret its own powers are bound to be interpreted as sanctions for expanding and not binding those powers. In a profound sense, the idea of binding down power with the chains of a written constitution has proved to be a noble experiment that failed.u201D [73]

Thus, government courts, unconcerned about securing or satisfying customers, tend to be more concerned about looking after their own interests and the interests of their allies. They adopt, for example, elaborate and fairly inflexible rules of procedure, most of which seem designed to serve the needs of the court, not the litigants. Litigants are forced to hire expensive attorneys, usually specialists who know their way around in that particular court. Dispute resolution agencies which cannot monopolize business tend to adopt much simpler procedures. This banal example makes the larger point. Government courts, being monopolies, tend to serve their own interests, not those of the litigants, in all aspects of their work, from procedure to substantive decision-making. This lack of solicitude is the direct and inescapable result of the very monopoly powers we are told courts must have!

A further point: it is rarely remarked that government courts are subject to the same special interest group dynamic that plagues the other two branches of government. Most citizens want courts that mete out justice. Yet, a small group of people view the courts as a means to increase their wealth, power and prestige. Which group will tend to prevail over the other? We need only apply the concept of rational apathy that earlier led us to conclude that the fellow who wanted an easy job in a bureau would prevail over the citizen who wished to have lower taxes. That is, those who view courts as the means for securing high-paying, powerful and prestigious employment, or who regularly transact business in the courts — such as lawyers, large corporations, large institutions, and various legal special interest groups and political parties — have a far greater incentive to be involved in the process of selecting judges and determining court rules, policies and philosophies than the average citizen does. Thus, the courts will tend to reflect the views of the legal special interests rather than those of the general public.

Ideally, the courts should resolve disputes justly. Justice is not a meaningless abstraction; it can be defined. As I see it, justice is the resolution of disputes based on the application of the proper or correct legal principles to the knowable facts within a process that is speedy, cost-effective, and as simple as the circumstances permit. Most critical for our present purposes is the application of the correct legal principles. Will government monopoly courts tend to apply the correct principles of law consistent with justice? What gives government courts their cachet in the first place is not proof of their philosophic wisdom but, rather, the fact that they or their allies or predecessors have managed by political or military means to drive out the competition and establish a monopoly. It is not at all clear why the power to establish a monopoly of a good or service by means of political power or military force is proof of the ability of the monopolist to deliver a high-quality product, in this case, justice. Quite the contrary. Justice and power are usually at odds. The whole point of justice is to restrain power. To rely on those adept at power politics to guarantee justice is, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to seek the triumph of hope over logic and experience.

If we define justice from a Lockean or Jeffersonian perspective as protection for the individual’s rights to life, liberty, and property, we may be skeptical about whether those who establish a court system by coercion, and seek to staff that system and thereby forcibly impose their legal principles on the entire country, will be at all solicitous of pacific Lockean or Jeffersonian legal principles. Governments tend to be founded and staffed not by apolitical or antipolitical libertarians or Jeffersonians but by power-hungry Hamiltonians who tend to have much more expansive plans for government beyond merely keeping the peace and recording property titles. Even if we assume that government monopoly courts were established with the best of intentions, like the other two branches of government, they quickly come under the control of the various special interests which seek to use the courts to unjustly advance their own welfare at the expense of others. For these reasons, in actual practice the courts have been absolutely hostile to Lockean/Jeffersonian/libertarian principles, as theory and common sense would have predicted. [74]

Turning to yet another problem with the justice system, we often evaluate its performance based on its ideals and rarely look at its actual performance. Because power corrupts, corruption, bribery, and favoritism regularly plague the state’s legal system. For example, in 1999, 580 people were convicted of u201Cofficial corruption, including thirty-two federal law enforcement agents.u201D [75] In 1998, 42 police officers in Cleveland were charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. [76] Other law enforcement agents accused of corruption that year included:

  • Three Detroit police officers who were charged with conspiring to rob approximately $1 million.
  • In Starr County, Texas, the sheriff, a justice of the peace, and five county jailers who were charged with bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery.
  • Nine current or former New Jersey police officers who were charged with racketeering involving protection of prostitution and illegal gambling. [77]

In January, 2002 a New York judge was arrested and charged with soliciting a $250,000 bribe. [78] In April of 2003, another New York judge was arrested with several others and charged with systematically fixing divorce and child custody cases. [79] Since all the parties to judicial corruption have a strong incentive to keep it a secret, is the known corruption merely the visible part of a giant iceberg?

In addition to overt corruption, there is a more sinister and largely invisible form of corruption that only close observers of the courts can discern. Judges in a democracy tend to be political animals. It matters not whether they are elected or appointed. The notion that appointed judges are apolitical is a fantasy entertained mainly by nave and self-appointed u201Ccourt reformers.u201D In truth, the politics involved in appointing judges is usually more covert and insidious than that involved in electing judges. The public rarely learns about why judges were appointed. Who pulled what strings? Who owed what to whom? Who will owe what to whom in the future? Even politically astute lawyers often do not know the answers to these questions.

The selection of elected judges to run for office is more transparent. They are generally lawyers associated with local political party organizations. They owe their loyalties to such organizations. However, they usually have at least some organic connection to the local community, else they would lack the support to be elected. Lawyers appointed to judgeships usually are more wedded to secretive elite circles. Is that why elites almost unanimously favor appointing judges? [80]

It has long been common knowledge that nominations for the elected position of state trial judge are often based on which candidates gave the largest contributions to the party. This fact is often cited by those who favor appointing judges. The partisans of appointing judges were surely deflated by the news that Governor Pataki recently appointed to the New York Court of Appeals a man who gave the Republican Party $219,000. [81]

It is a common belief that federal judges, who are appointed, are less political than state judges who are usually elected. However, every federal district judge in Buffalo started out as a politically-appointed United States Attorney or Assistant United States Attorney. Most had previously held or campaigned for state elective office. The local party chairmen are heavily involved in the selection of federal judges. The notion that judges who were themselves politicians, who are recommended by politicians (the party chairmen) to please their contributors, appointed by a politician (the President), and confirmed by still more politicians (the Senators), are or can be apolitical is one of the grand myths of American government. It is nonsense.

Whether judges are elected or appointed, they are all products of a political power structure. They therefore bring to the bench the general mindset of that power structure. They will tend to favor the interests of the power elite because of a similar outlook, loyalty, gratitude, or a desire for future appointments and other favors from the power brokers for themselves and their families and associates. Even federal judges, appointed u201Cduring good behavior,u201D [82] in effect, for life, tend to look out for the interests of the power structure whence they came. Perhaps from modest backgrounds, they are now accepted into elite circles. Having achieved judicial power, many become social climbers, seeking the acceptance and the numerous and subtle favors elite circles can now confer. While such judges may fairly adjudicate disputes between ordinary private persons, when such persons litigate against the state, or members of the power elite, they will tend to discreetly favor the elite. They are usually clever enough to disguise the favoritism.

Though my comments will probably cause consternation throughout the legal and judicial establishments, much of what I write was corroborated by one of New York State’s most distinguished jurists speaking at my father’s retirement dinner in 1991. He made a special point of noting that, in his decision-making process, my father had not been u201Cresult-oriented.u201D He was not like those judges who u201Cdid not have in mind the role they must play in administering justice.u201D That is, my father did not have a preconceived personal, political or philosophical axe to grind but sought out neutral justice in the cases before him. Yet, if this attitude was predominant in the courts, this jurist would not have considered it a notable virtue of my father’s career.

When a private person or entity has a dispute with the state itself, the dispute must be resolved by the state’s courts, else it ceases to be a state with the monopoly power to resolve disputes. We must, however, point out, in the spirit of the Emperor’s New Clothes, the long overlooked but obvious fact that such dispute resolution is a sham and mockery of justice. We are told that no one should be the judge of his own cause, yet the state, in disputes with its own citizens or subjects, is always the judge of its own cause. That this is not so because the state refers such disputes to its judicial branch is a silly and stupid argument. Similarly, I suppose, the next time I have a dispute with the United States I will insist that the dispute be resolved by an arbitrator selected by me.

In sum, the monopoly state provides no assurance that disputes will be resolved justly, merely that they will be resolved. Of course, all disputes at all times and all places are resolved one way or another. Yes, but at least the state does so without the use of force. This too is a myth, an illusion. The state resolves all its disputes by the use of force. Yes, but the force is so overwhelming that it does not have to be used, merely threatened. Even this is false. The police use force (beyond mere handcuffing) against half a million Americans each year. [83] In a typical year, 373 people are u201Cjustifiablyu201D killed by law enforcement officers. [84] Additionally, many innocent people and criminal suspects have been unjustifiably assaulted and/or killed by law enforcement agents.

A 1998 report by Human Rights Watch studied police behavior in 14 large American cities from 1995 through 1998. The report concluded:

Our investigation found that police brutality is persistent in all of these cities; that systems to deal with abuse have had similar failings in all the cities; and that, in each city examined, complainants face enormous barriers in seeking administrative punishment or criminal prosecution of officers who have committed human rights violations. Despite claims to the contrary from city officials where abuses have become scandals in the media, efforts to make meaningful reforms have fallen short. [85]

Yes, but at least only the state uses force — the disputants do not. Here, we are pretty far from the notion that the state does not use force to resolve disputes. But even here the state comes up short. Many law enforcement agents themselves are killed or assaulted. Each year, about 135 law enforcement officers are killed in the line of duty in the United States. Another 50,000 police officers are assaulted. Many judges, litigants, jurors, lawyers and witnesses involved in criminal and civil litigation have been murdered, assaulted or threatened by disgruntled parties.

Many episodes of social violence have resulted from a perception that government courts or law enforcement officers have not resolved disputes fairly or protected citizens adequately. In 1992, there was a major riot in Los Angeles sparked by dissatisfaction with an acquittal in a criminal trial. [86] The riot resulted in 54 persons killed, 2,383 injured, 13,212 arrests, and 11,113 fires. [87] A similar riot occurred in Liberty City, Florida, in 1980 after a jury acquitted four police officers charged with homicide.

The state’s abject failure to resolve conflicts without the use of force by itself, by litigants and by their sympathizers in the community is rarely acknowledged.

Thus, the state does not assure that disputes will be resolved justly and without using force. Many scholars define u201Cwaru201D as a conflict resulting in at least 1,000 combat deaths. By that measure, the United States justice system, the world’s most highly-touted, has a u201Cwaru201D every two years! All told, the number of people killed or injured as a result of the state’s enforcement of its laws is truly enormous. [88] This is far from the civilized, peaceful and orderly system of schoolboy legend.

The state itself exacerbates and stimulates conflict. Its legal system does this directly and its policies do this indirectly. As Hans-Hermann Hoppe and others have argued, the state’s policies, based as they are on coercion and confiscation, create a moral atmosphere which encourages the development of aggressive personalities. [89] Further, the state’s legal system is so complex that few understand it. This reduces respect for the law, diminishes its moral force, makes conflicts more likely and makes them more difficult to resolve. Inordinate complexity also allows judges to mask politically-motivated decisions in a dense fog of arcane legal reasoning. In most areas of human knowledge, increasing complexity is a sign of progress, an indication that greater information has been acquired. Not so with the law. The law’s crucial function is to guide people in their interactions with other people; to reduce disputes and misunderstandings; and to make possible the expeditious and just resolution of disputes that do arise. Further, since the ultimate foundation of respect for the law is community sentiment, the essential principles of law must be readily understood by most people. The modern statist legal system has failed in this critical function. No one fully understands it, not even the most brilliant lawyers and judges. Legal specialists do not even grasp all the intricacies of their own fields.

Thus, today’s court system consistently fails to deliver on its promise to provide peace, order and justice in exchange for the monopoly power it has been given. It resolves disputes slowly and expensively. Its legal principles are often inscrutable, its procedures arcane. Like the legislative and executive branches, it panders to special interests. [90] The courts have consistently put their stamp of approval on the ever-increasing growth of government and the resulting shrinkage of our liberties.

Much of today’s legal system consists of arbitrary rules arbitrarily applied. This is largely the result of the abandonment of the simple axioms of Lockean justice that animated the American Revolution: self-ownership and ownership of justly acquired property. Over the years, these axioms of justice were jettisoned for the wonderful, wacky world of virtually unlimited legislation by political hacks, endorsed by the judges they install and best described by one-time Buffalo newspaperman Mark Twain: u201CNo man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.u201D Once you deny that individuals own themselves and their property, no rational or moral stopping point to government action can be conjured. The whim of the legislator and judge controls. That was not the original idea.

The founders were extraordinarily well-schooled in history and political philosophy. Jefferson, for example, read the classics — Homer, Plato, Cicero, and Virgil — in the original Greek and Latin. Jefferson and his colleagues understood what we, even after witnessing the slaughterhouse of the twentieth century, have yet to learn: that history shows that government officials abuse their power for their own interests and that, to avoid the endless tyrannies of the past, they had to construct a political system which diffused power — not only among branches and levels of government, but between government and the people.

For instance, Jefferson believed it was of critical importance that the federal government and its courts not be the final judge of the extent of their own powers. However, as Woodrow Wilson correctly observed, u201CThe War between the States established . . . this principle, that the federal government is, through its courts, the final judge of its own powers.u201D [91] Another Jeffersonian mechanism for dispersal of political power was the right to trial by juries that decide both the fact and the law (6th and 7th Amendments). Over time, however, the right of juries to decide on the law itself — jury nullification — particularly in cases where application of the letter of the law would produce rank injustice, was eviscerated by judges who thought nothing of overriding the clearly expressed views of attorney-founders Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams and John Jay. Thus, today’s courts are not your founders’ courts. The republican founders’ ingenious diffusion of power has been defused. [92]

My brother of the bar Jefferson, unlike today’s often timorous and obsequious lawyers, did not hesitate to criticize the federal judiciary:

We have made them independent of the kingdom itself. They are irremovable but by their own body for any depravities of conduct, and even by their own body for the imbecilities of dotage.

In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life if secured against all liability to account.

From the citadel of the law, they can turn their guns on those they were meant to defend, and control and fashion their proceedings to their own will.

It has long been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression . . . that the germ of dissolution of our Federal Government is in the constitution of the Federal Judiciary — an irresponsible body (for impeachment is scarcely a scare-crow), working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief over the field of jurisdiction until all shall be usurped from the States and the government be consolidated into one. To this I am opposed.

The Consequences of Politicized Courts

What conclusions can be drawn from this extended discussion of Nine University at Buffalo Law School Professors v. James Ostrowski and its underlying dynamics? First, if you go up against the local power elite, you may get slapped around. You might end up on trial for contempt in federal court even though, in Kafkaesque fashion, there is no accusation that you did anything wrong. If they can do this to a lawyer whose father is a retired judge, imagine what they can do to you. Second, if you litigate against the power elite, you will tend to lose. Only a fool would deny that this is because the power elite picks the judges. Finally, if in the course of such a suit you find fault with the court itself, with the government itself, you will get squashed like a bug. All of these consequences were predictable given the nature of the political machine and the politicized court system it dominates.

Politics in Buffalo is seamless; it pays no attention to the civics book delineation of three separate and independent branches of government. Politicians use the courts for patronage and power. Judges too often reciprocate by giving the connected and the powerful favored treatment and by treating political u201Ctroublemakersu201D harshly. This favoritism in turn strengthens the machine and allows it to fend off its enemies. In the battle to take Buffalo (or your town) back from the power elite, don’t expect any help from the legal command posts of society.

This discussion of judicial politics in Buffalo is admittedly disturbing. If I am right, judicial politics is merely a subset of politics per se, albeit a form of politics whose machinations are subtle and secretive. As we have seen, politics in Buffalo closely follows the Oppenheimer-Nock-Rothbard model: politics is the accumulation of wealth and power by the undeserving through non-economic means. Again, if I am right, this discussion casts grave doubt on the long-standing claims by political scientists, legal philosophers and judges themselves, that, given a monopoly on the provision of dispute resolution services, the state can and will provide justice for all. As we have seen, not even the prestigious federal courts are immune from self-serving and heavy-handed politics and from flouting their own highest legal principles.

This isn’t the time or place, and there isn’t the space here, to reconstruct the court system or re-invent the judicial wheel. What can be said is that merely by limiting government to its only proper function, protecting individual rights and adjudicating disputes, the entire atmosphere in the courts will immediately improve. With our entire society de-politicized, naturally the judiciary will tend to be less political as well. Judges will then tend to be drawn from Jefferson’s u201Cnatural aristocracyu201D [93] — an aristocracy of brains, integrity and accomplishment, not political pull. People like my father — straight-A student, president of his class in college, war hero at age 19, [94] getting a masters degree in law while working and raising a family, and, most importantly, incorruptible — will be sought out for high judgeships instead of being snubbed.

If the overall power of the state is shrunk accordingly, the powers of courts will also shrink as will the commensurate desire of special interest groups to influence their use of that power. If we eviscerate the liberal welfare state, the political machine which now plays the major role in installing judges, will expire, or at least shrink to insignificance. By doing nothing more than this, we will have gone a long way toward curing what is wrong with the courts.

Turning the Tables

In 1995, I was tried for contempt in federal court in Buffalo as a result of a motion that was made in 1993. Appeals and collateral legal proceedings lasted until 1999. Aside from the two judges directly involved, numerous other federal judges, trial and appellate, expressly or implicitly endorsed the proceedings. Numerous judges were given a chance to stop the madness or allow me to receive justice after the fact. Only one out of dozens spoke on my behalf and he was outvoted. So it is fair to say I was put on trial by federal court and was denied any form of redress, including attorney’s fees, by federal court. I was put on trial because I was helping a friend sue UB Law School. I was put on trial because a politically-connected law firm was so confident of its standing in federal court that it wasn’t worried about being sanctioned for filing a frivolous suit. I was put on trial because I properly asserted a claim of client confidentiality under the code of legal ethics.

Federal court put me on trial, and I had no choice but to submit because I had no influence over their court. Federal court put me on trial and caused me to spend an enormous amount of time, energy, and money defending myself. My personal and family life was disrupted and my law practice was severely damaged. There were many sleepless nights. I was forced to read drivel from a third-rate judge attacking my father, one of the finest lawyers Buffalo has ever produced. I was defamed behind my back by cowards!

In this essay, I have turned the tables around. I have put the federal court on trial. They too will be tried in a court they cannot control: the court of public opinion.

Can you fight u201Ccity hallu201D? I think you can. But if you fight city hall in city hall, you’re bound to lose. Fight them on your own terms, on your own turf, and in a manner and time of your own choosing. I did. The pen is mightier than the gavel.

The Machine and the Mafia

To grasp the true nature of the political machine, I find it helpful to draw an analogy to the Mafia. With apologies to von Clausewitz, [95] the Mafia is the continuation of politics by the same means less effectively applied. A mafia is a group of people who, perceiving themselves as inadequate to achieve their goals through production and trade (the market), band together to use unlawful force and fraud to increase their power and wealth at the expense of their betters, who, after all, have produced the very wealth the mafia seeks to purloin. The political class is like a mafia, except that, while the Mafia must resort to unlawful force and fraud, the force and fraud utilized by the political class has the sanction of the law.

The force used by the political class is not overt, since its potential is overwhelming and its subjects usually comply without resistance. The main mechanisms of force are taxation, penal codes, regulation, and eminent domain. People generally obey these directives because they fear being arrested, imprisoned, fined or worse. Is the Mafia so different? Its members rely mainly on fear and intimidation as well, only rarely resorting to a slaying outside a restaurant or inside a barber shop.

Thus, it cannot be denied that the political class uses force and the threat of force. What about fraud? The fraud used by the political class is of a more general nature than that used by the Mafia in its penny stock and telemarketing scams. Politicians lie about their capacity to use the state to improve peoples’ lives. Politics is the art of determining how organized force is to be used in society. Force is essentially a negative thing. It destroys things and prevents things from happening. Life, however, requires the production of positives such as wealth, knowledge, ethical values and social bonds. While politicians tell the people, oxymoronically, that government, above and beyond keeping the peace, can be a force for good, government cannot be that, since its only tools are negative such as taxation, regulation, and confiscation.

Politicians continually try to convince people that the impossible is true: that (lawful) violence and the threat of (lawful) violence can produce wealth, peace, happiness and social harmony.

Politicians lie, and voters delude themselves with those lies. Politicians lie because they are greedy for power; voters are seduced by those lies because they are greedy for other people’s money. If you gave a politician truth serum and asked him what he did for a living, he would quote Tolstoy:

I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me and assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all possible means — except by getting off his back.

If you gave truth serum to those who vote for these liars and asked them why they vote as they do, they would quote Frédéric Bastiat, who described government as u201Cthat great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else.u201D

Thus, the entire program of the politicians is a lie and a fraud. It is the greatest fraud of our time. It is false in general and it is false in every particular instance. Therefore, I have established that the tools of the political class, the political machine, are indeed like the Mafia’s — force and fraud. One difference: unlike the political machine, the Mafia doesn’t target spouses.

Nor should anyone be surprised by my comparing politicians to gangsters. The Godfather series firmly ensconced that truth into popular culture:

Michael Corleone: u201CMy father is no different than any other powerful man — any man who’s responsible for other people, like a senator or president.u201D

Kay: u201CYou know how nave you sound…senators and presidents don’t have men killed.u201D

Michael Corleone: u201COh, who’s being nave, Kay?

Moreover, organized crime and politics have intersected in Buffalo. [96] Buffalo’s mob boss, Stefano Magaddino, was one of the most powerful in the country and ruled Western New York rackets for 52 years (1922—1974). Along with Meyer Lanksy and Lucky Luciano and others, Magaddino invented the Mafia. [97] In a manner reminiscent of Don Corleone, local politicians including at least one Congressman would visit Magaddino in his funeral home office to pay their respects. And yes, they would call him u201CGodfather.u201D [98]

On one occasion, local judges were at a Buffalo bar when several Magaddino lieutenants were arrested for illegal gambling. [99] And how many cities can boast that one of their own politicians was caught in the 1957 raid at Apalachin? Buffalo can: Magaddino’s second-in-command, John C. Montana, a taxi company owner and former city councilman [100] from Buffalo. Take that, Chicago! To close the circle of Mafia, politics and unions, Montana attended the meeting with James V. Da Luca, Secretary-Treasurer of the local Buffalo Hotel & Restaurant Workers’ Union and four other union officials.

It is often thought that the Mafia competes with the state, each promoting its own protection racket. The truth is more complex. The Mafia exploits a variety of state programs and policies for profit. The Mafia, including the Buffalo mob, got its big start selling booze during Prohibition. After repeal, they went into illegal drugs. If these products had remained lawful, as they had with little fanfare for decades, the Mafia would not have grown so powerful. The same is true for gambling, a major source of revenue for the local mob. If our financially irresponsible politicians did not hypocritically feel the need to regulate private, consensual financial behavior, the Mafia would have been deprived of yet another huge source of revenue.

There are still other reasons why the Mafia became just another failed government program. Lord Acton said, u201Cpower corrupts,u201D which it certainly does. We might also add that power is corruption, power here defined as the use of force to prevent people from using their own liberty or property as they so choose. The Mafia has infiltrated or exploited government programs which gave some people arbitrary and illegitimate power over others. Unions are the prime example. The law gives unions monopoly power over businesses and, indirectly, over non-union workers. Predictably, the Mafia rushed into this lucrative opportunity, took over many unions and used that union power to make millions.

Other Mafia programs have included rigging bids for public contracts and purchases. In so doing, the Mafia exploited the weaknesses of bureaucratic control over large spending projects. For example, the New York Post reported on December 17, 2003, that u201Ca mob-connected central New Jersey plumber gouged the MTA (New York subway system), overcharging by as much as $10 million with the help of three crooked MTA officials.u201D Since, unlike private businessmen, these bureaucrats were not spending their own money, the Mafia was able to circumvent their rules at a cost to the taxpayer but not to the bureaucrats.

It is with respect to unions, however, where the analogy between the state and the Mafia becomes eerily close. Has the Mafia threatened to break people’s legs in order to gain and keep control over unions? Yes. What does the state do with respect to unions? It also threatens to use force against those who defy its rules giving special privileges to unions not possessed by the general public, that is, the ability to force others to bargain with them. Though it never gets that far, if a businessman defied a court order issued under labor laws, and resisted a federal marshal’s attempts to arrest him for contempt, he very well could get his leg broken — with a bullet. Yes, the Mafia got into the labor racket, but the feds created it in the first place.

The Buffalo mob declined in power after the death of Magaddino in 1974. Nevertheless, as late as the early 1990s it controlled a powerful local construction union whose national affiliate donated $4.8 million to the Democratic Party and Bill Clinton. [101] (We may justly wonder who was more embarrassed about this link, Clinton or the union?) It appears that the union between politics and the Mafia is unions.

The American Mafia would not have risen to power and wealth in Buffalo or elsewhere were it not for the rise of the modern u201Cprogressiveu201D state with its large budgets, extensive controls over the economy and labor markets and its hubristic attempt to regulate private morals. Along with Buffalo’s high taxes, the Mafia’s additional u201Ctaxu201D on Buffalo’s economy significantly contributed to the area’s decline.

The Road to Hell . . . .

Political bosses and machine politicians justify their behavior by saying they are serving the greater cause of liberalism. Of course they would say that. People have a deep-seated need to believe they are doing the right thing. Several questions remain, however. What is so morally ennobling about a belief in liberalism, based as it is on dubious emotions like greed, envy and fear? Do these men and women engage in self-serving machine politics to serve the cause of liberalism, or do they subscribe to liberalism so they can engage in self-serving machine politics? Only they can answer that question.

If liberalism is a good thing, and Buffalo has been governed by liberal politicians and policies these last 40 years, why has Buffalo declined so dramatically? Could it be because liberalism consists of robbing Peter to pay Paul, and divides the community into net winners and net losers, but rather stupidly allows the losers to move out of state? At least Stalin had the good sense not to let the victims of his policies or their money escape. Ultimately, machine politicians cannot escape culpability for the decline of Buffalo merely by citing their alleged good intentions. In the end, people are responsible for what they do. The politicians just happened to choose a philosophy that benefits themselves at the expense of their community. They maintained their program long after its failures were obvious to anyone not blinded by greed and power-lust.

Summary and Conclusion

In my youth, I was given a rare opportunity to observe Buffalo politics at close range. I didn’t like what I saw. A small group of people, tightly organized, had seized the reins of political power and used that power to enrich themselves and their allies. They treated all agencies of government, even the most hallowed, the judiciary, as mere political patronage to be exploited to maintain and expand the machine’s power. Since the goodies handed out by the machine come directly or indirectly from the private economy, the amount of wealth extracted from the economy increased year after year. This gradually drove out or shut down industry and business. The machine’s powers never waned, though, as they drew new strength from outside subsidies and faced an ever-shrinking number of persons of independent means and minds who could oppose them.

Looking back on it all, I now see that I have been battling the machine, in one form or another, in one manner or another, for 28 years. So far, while I have won a few skirmishes, the machine has won the big battles. At the same time, the machine has been at war with the people of Buffalo. The machine has won all those battles. They have done quite well for themselves, but left the usual costs of war: broken lives, shattered dreams, thousands of exiles.

The machine has destroyed Buffalo with the efficiency of a modern air force. The machine’s policies and programs have left the inner city and industrial areas looking like a war zone with abandoned and decaying housing and factories. At night, some neighborhoods become war zones, thanks to young men who in earlier years would have found work in the factories. They ply different trades now.

In a war, however, the only thing that matters is who wins the last battle. In recent months, I have detected the beginnings of a major change in Buffalo. I am beginning to hear people say things about Buffalo politics that I have been saying for decades. Is the last battle imminent?

My exposure to libertarian ideas, particularly those of Murray Rothbard, finally gave me the analytical tools I needed to understand what went wrong in Buffalo and why. As predicted in the Austrian theory of economics, perfected by Rothbard, Buffalo became an economic powerhouse around the year 1900 in an era of relative laissez-faire. With no federal income tax and government’s share of the economy at less than ten percent, there was an enormous amount of capital available for investment in Buffalo’s burgeoning heavy industry.

What the uninformed all along the political spectrum do not grasp is that wealth can be increased only by the investment of financial, physical or human capital. All government action, above and beyond mere peacekeeping and dispute-resolution, destroys or reduces economic and human capital and reduces the incentive to create such capital. Big Government makes us poorer. Exhibit u201CAu201D for that proposition is Buffalo, New York, which in the last one hundred years went from laissez-faire capitalism to Rust Belt welfare state; from economic dynamo to basket case and laughing stock on late night talk shows.

As noted earlier, while the growth of government gradually damages the economy, the remaining market element continues to produce enough wealth to avert that level of desperation needed to drive radical change. Is there any escape from this treadmill? Is Buffalo’s only hope for change that we first endure a Great Leap Forward [102] into full socialism with its resulting poverty, starvation, and despair? Wouldn’t it be easier to read about Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot than to live under them? Talk about political bosses! Leaving aside that unlikely and unpleasant scenario, unless the people of Buffalo and Erie County wake up, they and their children and their grandchildren will face death-by-a-thousand-cuts economic torture at the hands of the ruthless local political machine for decades to come.

Let me close on a positive note. Though Buffalo, once a world-class economy, has fallen behind, the world has been slow to grasp the true cause of prosperity — individual liberty. Other cities, regions and countries have moved ahead of Buffalo merely because they are slightly less unfree than we are. Neither history nor geography nor present economic conditions places a limit on our future. If we can stop the political class from siphoning off our wealth, economic and human capital will flow in so fast that the only problems will be what to do with all that wealth and all those talented people.

Ironically, it is the radical nature of my vision that gives Buffalo a chance to leap ahead of the competition. Sloughing off the failed but comfortable status quo will take courage and daring, rare commodities in human affairs. That is why philosopher Brand Blanshard called courage the u201Cbest loved virtue.u201D We admire courage, Blandshard wrote:

[B]ecause it is the antidote to the emotion that is at once the deepest, the most universal, and the most disagreeable known to man, the emotion of fear.

Presently, Buffalo is mired in mediocrity, stagnation and fear. There is fear of change, fear of new ideas, and fear of freedom, which is, in the end, fear of life itself. This fear is continually exploited by the ruling elite, which tells us: everything is fine; everything is under (our) control. Sell us your political souls and we’ll take care of you. But the last 40 years say otherwise: the political elite take care of themselves; to hell with everyone else.

The power elite controls the present. They have built a seemingly invincible Berlin Wall around our freedom. The future, however, will belong to those who have the courage and daring to choose individual freedom and the free market. The future will belong to those who have the insight, the foresight and the courage to say: u201CPolitical class: dismissed!u201D

Notes

[1] Ludwig von Mises was the economist who predicted the fall of communism 69 years in advance. See, "Die Wirtschaftsrechnung im Sozialistischen Gemeinwesen" [Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth]. Archiv fr Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik. 47 (1920) 86—121. Translated into English by S. Adler and reprinted in Collectivist Economic Planning (1935). Reprint of S. Adler translation with a Foreword by Yuri N. Maltsev and Introduction by Jacek Kochanowicz. Auburn, Ala: Praxeology Press of the Ludwig von Mises Institute (1990).

[2] Humphrey Bogart’s character in The Caine Mutiny.

[3] For a New Liberty (1978), p. 318—319 (emphasis in original).

[4] In 1976, my father was one of two out of eight state judge candidates rated u201CA-Superioru201D by the bar association. He was later appointed to the New York Judicial Conduct Commission by two different Chief Judges and has a building named in his honor in Washington, D. C. across the street from the Supreme Court.

[5] December 10, 1973.

[6] u201CUrban Political Machines: Taking Stock, PS Online, September, 1999.

[7] Cf. Franz Oppenheimer, The State: Its History and Development Viewed Sociologically (New York: Vanguard Press, 1926); Nock, Our Enemy, The State (Tampa, FL: Hallberg Publishing Corp., 2001); Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1982), pp. 161—72.

[8] Nock, Our Enemy, The State, pp. 59—60 (emphasis in original).

[9] Buffalo Evening News, Aug. 28, 1974, p. 1.

[10] These days, it is no longer necessary for the political class to engage in illegal graft. The state now has so much power over the economy that its members can satisfy their greed lawfully. For example, before a recent scandal brought Adelphia Communications down, the Corporation was slated to receive a public subsidy of about $100 million to build an office complex in downtown Buffalo. There is no need to steal illegally when you can do so legally.

[11] Cf., F. A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (University of Chicago Press), 50th Anniv. Ed. 1994, Chapter 10 — u201CWhy the Worst Get on Top.u201D

[12] E.g., Mancur Olson, Power and Prosperity: New York: Basic Books (2000), p. 93—94.

[13] For an exhaustive study concluding that Buffalo’s large Polish-American population received little in return for their loyal support of the Irish-led Democratic machine, see Carl Bucki, u201CA Stacked Deck: Frustration Politics in Buffalo’s Polish Community,u201D Senior Honors Thesis, Cornell University, 1974.

[14] R. Wolfinger, u201CWhy Political Machines Have Not Withered Away and Other Revisionist Thoughts,u201D 34 The Journal of Politics 365, 369 (May 1972).

[15] John Locke, The Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690).

[16] June 17, 1968, 1, 30.

[17] Wolfinger, supra at 368.

[18] u201CMachine Politics: Old and New,u201D in American Urban History, ed. A. Callow (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), p. 268.

[19] Stone, supra.

[20] There are a small number of people, with no direct financial stake, who view politics as a recreational or social activity; they enjoy it for its own sake. They are, however, few in number and do not change the analysis here. In fact, such political hobbyists tend to be liberals.

[21] Ludwig von Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics (Contemporary Books, Chicago, 3rd rev. ed. 1966), p. 859.

[22] See, Keith E. Bonn, When the Odds Were Even: The Vosges Mountains Campaign, October 1944—January 1945 (Presidio Press, Novato, California). About the Campaign, Lt Col Chris Anderson, USAF, writes:

From a historical perspective, the American offensive into the Vosges is significant. For the first time in history, an army failed to defend these mountains. When the odds were even, the Americans outfought the Germans because of superior training, leadership, and overall tenacity.

Maj James Gates, USAF adds: u201CThe terrain, weather, and enemy strength favored the Germans, yet US troops successfully overcame these disadvantages to defeat a battle-hardened and tenacious foe.u201D

[23] Quoted in Justin Raimondo, An Enemy of the State (Prometheus Books: Amherst, N.Y., 2000), p. 102.

[24] The technical reason why the spectrum is gibberish is that it is not based on one parameter the quantity of which is the criterion for placement along the spectrum.

[25] See, Joseph R. Stromberg, u201CTensions in Early American Political Thought,u201D The Freeman (May 1999, Vol. 49, No. 5).

[26] See, Srdja Trifkovic, u201CFDR and Mussolini: A Tale of Two Fascists,u201D Chronicles, Aug. 2000.

[27] Warren Vieth, u201CIraq on the Capitalist Frontier,u201D LATimes.com, June 9, 2003.

[28] Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis (Liberty Classics: Indianapolis, 1981), p. 112, et seq.

[29] In Human Action, Mises incisively analyzes the relationship between capitalism and insecurity: u201CIt is certainly true that the necessity of adjusting oneself again and again to changing conditions is onerous. But change is the essence of life. In an unhampered market economy the absence of security, i.e., the absence of protection for vested interests, is the principle that makes for a steady improvement in material well-being.u201D 3rd Rev. ed, p. 852. (Emphasis added).

[30] Power and Prosperity: New York: Basic Books (2000), p. 98.

[31] R. Wolfinger, supra at 368.

[32] See, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Theory of Socialism and Capitalism (Kluwer 1989).

[33] Buffalo News, Dec. 22, 2002, p. C6.

[34] Which are a violation of equal protection of the laws.

[35] Source: Tax Foundation.

[36] u201CThe Great Society: A Libertarian Critique,u201D in The Great Society Reader: The Failure of American Liberalism, edited by Marvin E. Gettleman and David Mermelstein (New York: Vintage, 1967).

[37] u201CThe Case Against the Fedu201D (Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1994) pp. 86—88.

[38] F. Walter, u201CGrover Cleveland and Buffalo,u201D (Buffalo and Erie Co. Historical Society, Vol. XI, 1963).

[39] Id. at 7.

[40] Id.

[41] Reassessing the Presidency: The Rise of the Executive State and the Decline of Freedom (Mises Institute, 2001), p. xix.

[42] See, Mark Goldman, City on the Lake, (Prometheus Books, 1990), p. 167.

[43] Newsweek, Aug. 15, 1955.

[44] December 31, 1957, p. 1.

[45] J. Thompson, et al, u201CToward a Geography of Economic Health: The Case of New York State,u201D Annals of the Assoc. of American Geographers (March 1962), pp. 1, 17.

[46] Others blame Buffalo’s brown fields, but surely they are a symptom of decline, not its cause. Companies on the decline whose capital is dwindling will naturally tend to neglect to maintain their properties. At the same time, economic decline reduces property values, making it cheaper to abandon industrial properties than to clean them up. Conversely, thriving economies bid up the price of land, encouraging owners to keep it free of contaminants that might reduce its utility and market price.

[47] See, Jeffrey Tucker, u201CThe Marshall Plan Mythu201D Free Market, September 1997, Volume 15, Number 9 (also available online).

[48] G. Hooks, L. Bloomquist, u201CThe Legacy of World War II for Regional Growth and Decline: The Cumulative Effects of Wartime Investments on U. S. Manufacturing, 1947—1972,u201D Social Forces, Vol. 71, Issue 2 (Dec. 1992), pp. 303, 326 (among cities, Buffalo was the fifth biggest u201Cwinneru201D of defense largesse resulting from the War).

[49] See, H. A. Scott Trask, u201CThere is no Third Way,u201D Mises.org, Jan. 6, 2002.

[50] See, W. Frey, u201CCentral City White Flight: Racial and Nonracial Causes,u201D American Sociological Review, Vol. 44, Issue 3 (Jun., 1979), p. 425.

[51] High Hopes: The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York at 286—288.

[52] See, Neil Kraus, Race, Neighborhoods and Community Power: Buffalo Politics, 1934—1997, pp. 97—98.

[53] Id. at p. 113 (Kraus).

[54] Alex F. Osborn, Buffalo Evening News, Dec. 31, 1957.

[55] Kraus, supra at pp. 49—50.

[56] The percentage increases for Buffalo and N. Y. are somewhat overstated because of an apparent increase in state subsidies to the city since 1960, an increase that is duplicated in the statistics.

[57] For example: excessive personal injury verdicts against deep pocket businesses and bias in favor of tenants and against landlords, which, ironically, actually harms tenants in the long run. See, J. Ostrowski, u201CFree the Landlord,u201D Free Market, April 1993.

[58] F. Romo, M. Schwartz, u201CThe Structural Embeddedness of Business Decisions: Migration of Manufacturing Plants in New York State, 1960 to 1985,u201D American Sociological Review, 1995, Vol. 60 (Dec.: 874).

[59] Source: Business First Top 25 Lists, 2001.

[60] First Inaugural Address, emphasis added.

[61] Bethlehem continued to maintain a small coke oven and a galvanized steel operation until 2003.

[62] Human Action, supra at 779.

[63] Economics in One Lesson (Arlington House: New York, 1979), p.143.

[64] Studies in Economics No. 7, Institute for Humane Studies (1978).

[65] Human Action, supra at p. 858.

[66] Carla T. Main, u201CA Stench Grows in Brooklyn,u201D New York Post, March 10, 2003, p. 25.

[67] Kern v. Clark, (2nd Cir. June 2, 2003).

[68] I have no objection to affirmative action in the sense of seeking out qualified applicants from groups previously overlooked.

[69] Based on my observance of their performance and the publicity that accompanied their appointments.

[70] They also had previously served on that committee together for the purpose of filling a prior vacancy on the bench.

[71] 1872—1961, U. S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit (1924—1951), co-founder, American Law Institute.

[72] Democracy: The God that Failed, Transaction Publishers: New Brunswick, 2001), p. 15.

[73] Murray Rothbard, For a New Liberty, (Collier Books: New York, rev. ed. 1978), p. 67.

[74] See, Henry Mark Holzer, Sweet Land of Liberty? (Costa Mesa, CA: The Common Sense Press, Inc., 1983).

[75] Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, 2000, pp. 411—412.

[76] FBI Press Release, Jan. 14, 1998.

[77] Id.

[78] New York Post, Jan. 26, 2002.

[79] New York Times, April 25, 2003.

[80] See, the Buffalo News, Sept. 26, 2003 (editorial).

[81] u201CLocal judge bypassed for state highest court,u201D Buffalo News, Nov. 5, 2003.

[82] U. S. Constitution, Article III, Section 1.

[83] u201CUse of Force by Police: Overview of National and Local Datau201D (National Institute of Justice, 1999), p. 5.

[84] u201CPolicing and Homicide, 1976—98: Justifiable Homicide of Felons by Police and Murder of Police by Felons,u201D Bureau of Justice Statistics (2001).

[85] u201CShielded from Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States,u201D 07/98.

[86] See Chapter 12 — u201COur Urban Policies are a Real Riot.u201D

[87] R. Peters, u201CCombat in Cities: The LA Riots and Operation Rio,u201D July 1996, Foreign Military Studies Office.

[88] We often forget the costs of the initial war that created the state in the first place, as well as the costs of the state’s constant preparedness to ward off enemies foreign and domestic to keep its grip on power.

[89] A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism (Kluwer 1989).

[90] If you read or hear about people attacking my analysis, they will most likely be members of legal special interest groups that benefit from the current judicial regime.

[91] Constitutional Government in the United States, p. 178.

[92] See, J. Ostrowski, u201CThe Rise and Fall of Jury Nullification,u201D 15 Journal of Libertarian Studies 89 (Spring 2001).

[93] Letter to John Adams, October 28, 1813.

[94] He was awarded a medal for his efforts on December 25, 1944, in risking his life to delay a surprise German advance. u201CMany lives in his withdrawing company were saved . . . u201D Regiment of the Century — the Story of the 397th Infantry Regiment of the 100th Infantry Division (1945), p. 195.

[95] u201CWar is the continuation of politics by other means.u201D

[96] Not to mention the U. S. Army employing Lucky Luciano in Sicily and alleged Anti-Castro CIA-Mafia ties during the 1960s.

[97] Richard Lindberg, u201COrigins and History of the Mafia u2018Commission’u201D (Search International, Inc. 2001; published online).

[98] Joe Griffin, Mob Nemesis: How the FBI Crippled Organized Crime (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2002, p. 67).

[99] Id. at 84—85.

[100] Also, a former member of the zoning board and delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention. See, A. L. Reuter, u201CReport on the Activities and Associations of Persons Identified as Present at the Residence of Joseph Barbara, Sr., at Apalachin, New York, on November 14, 1957, and the Reasons for the their Presenceu201D (Commissioner of Investigation, State of New York, April 23, 1958), p. 41.

[101] E. Methvin, u201CA Corrupt Union and the Mob,u201D Weekly Standard, Aug. 31, 1998.

[102] This is what Mao called his brilliant idea to bring modernization to China. According to the BBC, u201CThe Great Leap Forward was held responsible for famine in 1960 and 1961. Twenty million people starved, and Mao Zedong withdrew temporarily from public view.u201D

James Ostrowski is an attorney in Buffalo, New York and author of Government Schools Are Bad for Your Kids: What You Need to Know and Political Class Dismissed: Essays Against Politics, Including "What’s Wrong With Buffalo." His latest book is Direct Citizen Action: How We Can Win the Second American Revolution Without Firing a Shot. See his website.

The Best of James Ostrowski

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