Archive for June 2012

Coloradans React to the ObamaCare Ruling

At yesterday’s rally (see my previous post), I interviewed several participants. Here’s what they had to say:

Getting the Cling of Word Press

I’m thrilled that I switched to Word Press (installed on the server I use) to run my web page. It’s truly remarkable software. I would recommend it, and nothing else, to those starting a new blog. It is such a different online world from when I started “blogging” in 1998! (It wasn’t actually “blogging” back then, because the term hadn’t yet been invented, assuming Wikipedia correctly reviews the matter.)

Soon after switching to Word Press, I got deluged with spam comments. So I turned on moderation. (Others I know installed Disqus to handle comments, but I dislike adding anything that requires users to set up yet another account.)

So now I get “only” a handful of spam comments each day. Still, it’s a little odd, given that I moderate all comments and don’t find it remarkably difficult to weed out the spam.

I must wonder who it is presenting these comments for my moderation. Consider the following:

You actually make it seem really easy along with your presentation however I in finding this matter to be really one thing that I feel I would by no means understand. It kind of feels too complicated and extremely broad for me. I’m having a look ahead to your subsequent publish, I will attempt to get the cling of it!

I’m afraid I don’t quite get the cling of what these spammers hope to accomplish. But perhaps I need merely look ahead to the spammers’ subsequent comment. Will it be submitted to this very post?

Coloradans Rally Against ObamaCare, SCOTUS Ruling

Today around two hundred Coloradans rallied at the state capitol in Denver to protest ObamaCare and the Supreme Court decision upholding the individual mandate under the Congressional taxing authority.

Read Tim Hoover’s article over at the Denver Post—then check back here for the most important information (which Hoover ignored). I refer to the talks by Dr. Jill Vecchio (shown in the photo) and constitutional scholar Rob Natelson, the video of which is embedded below.

Vecchio explained that ObamaCare forces doctors to violate the Hippocratic Oath:

Natelson, one of the leading experts on the original meaning of the Constitution, argued that the Supreme Court’s ruling constitutes sophistry:

Below are a few additional images from the rally; see my Picasa album for more. (You’ll notice that I posted the photos as Creative Commons.)

Bob Beauprez meets Vecchio:

Bill Faulkner and Jason Letman:

Felix Diawuoh, an immigrant from Ghana:

Jeff Crank, Colorado director for Americans for Prosperity (the group hosting the rally):

More soon!

Coloradans Lead the Fight for Liberty in Medicine

Yes, I’m disappointed by today’s ObamaCare ruling by the Supreme Court. (You can find my further remarks over at The Objective Standard blog.) I am not terribly surprised by the ruling; John Roberts was merely following today’s common conservative legal theory to the effect that the Supreme Court should do whatever backflips are necessary to jam congressional legislation into the framework of the Constitution. (I’ll have more to say about this later.)

Here, I wanted to first point out that this is hardly the end of the fight, and second thank those Coloradans who have played such an important part in the fight to establish liberty in healthy care.

This is not the time for defeatism, for disillusionment, for pessimism, or for sulking. This is the time to stoke one’s motivation and help rally the lovers of liberty to the cause of freedom in medicine.

I think the Supreme Court erred in its judgment today. But the Supreme Court defines the limits of Congressional action, not its ideal state. Just because the Court allows it, doesn’t mean Congress must enact it.

Now the battle must move to the cultural arena—where it has always been fought at the most fundamental level. In a way, today’s ruling brings a certain clarity to the issue, for who can deny that we face a basic choice between liberty in medicine and government-controlled medicine? Either the individual is in control of his own life, his own health, his own choices, his own body, or the government is.

The fight to bring about liberty and free markets in medicine is just beginning.

And the side of liberty already has tremendous momentum, thanks in large part to the work of scholars and activists here in Colorado. I want to take this opportunity to thank some of them and link to some of their work.

Dave Kopel and Rob Natelson

Legal scholars Kopel (shown in the photo) and Natelson did tremendous work explaining the limits of the “necessary and proper clause.” Notably, the Supreme Court ruled that ObamaCare is not permissible under that clause (but rather under Congress’s taxing authority).

Kopel has also written extensively about the implications of ObamaCare, as in an article for the Volokh Conspiracy.

Earlier this year I interviewed Kopel about the mandate.

Paul Hsieh

Radiologist Paul Hsieh cofounded Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine. He coauthored an article chronicling the history of government intervention in medicine, and he continually writes blog posts and articles on health policy.

Hsieh wrote an article for today’s PJ Media in which he argues:

Ultimately, the political fight against ObamaCare must be part of a broader fight for limited government that respects our freedoms. The proper function of government is to protect individual rights, such as our rights to free speech, property, and contract. Only those who initiate physical force or fraud can violate our rights. A properly limited government protects us from criminals who steal, murder, etc., as well as from foreign aggressors. But it should otherwise leave honest people alone to live peacefully, not deprive us of our freedoms in the name of “universal health care.”

Jill Vecchio

Vecchio, another medical doctor, has delivered numerous talks on health policy. She recorded a multi-part video commentary on ObamaCare.

Linda Gorman

Gorman, an economist with the Independence Institute, has written about health policy for many years. I have benefited enormously from her detailed and technical understanding of health laws and their implications.

Brian Schwartz

Schwartz writes for the Institute’s Patient Power Now blog. He keeps abreast of the latest news related to health care, and he shares this news with the wider community.

Thanks to the amazing work of these scholars, doctors, and activists—and many other Coloradans who have made the case for liberty in medicine—much of the public is aware of the dangers posed by ObamaCare and open to serious discussions about replacing today’s government-controlled health care with a free market.

That is the cause for which we must continue to fight.

Contra Gasland Deception, Colorado Water Always Featured Natural Methane

A couple of years ago the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission debunked major claims of the Gasland anti-industrial propaganda film:

Gasland features three Weld County landowners, Mike Markham, Renee McClure, and Aimee Ellsworth, whose water wells were allegedly contaminated by oil and gas development. The COGCC investigated complaints from all three landowners in 2008 and 2009, and we issued written reports summarizing our findings on each. We concluded that Aimee Ellsworth’s well contained a mixture of biogenic and thermogenic methane that was in part attributable to oil and gas development, and Mrs. Ellsworth and an operator reached a settlement in that case.

However, using the same investigative techniques, we concluded that Mike Markham’s and Renee McClure’s wells contained biogenic gas that was not related to oil and gas activity. Unfortunately, Gasland does not mention our McClure finding and dismisses our Markham finding out of hand. . . .

Laboratory analysis confirmed that the Markham and McClure wells contained biogenic methane typical of gas that is naturally found in the coals of the Laramie–Fox Hills Aquifer. This determination was based on a stable isotope analysis, which effectively “finger-printed” the gas as biogenic, as well as a gas composition analysis, which indicated that heavier hydrocarbons associated with thermogenic gas were absent. In addition, water samples from the wells were analyzed for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX), which are constituents of the hydrocarbons produced by oil and gas wells in the area. The absence of any BTEX compounds in these water samples provided additional evidence that oil and gas activity did not contaminate the Markham and McClure wells.

I have not researched what “part” of the contamination of the Ellsworth well was allegedly “attributable to oil and gas development,” nor what sort of development that was, nor what the settlement was. In general, if there is objective evidence of a tort, the government properly intervenes to protect property rights (in light of any contractual relationships) and ensure just compensation for damages.

To me what is most interesting about the document, though, is that it demonstrates that usually methane in water is attributable to natural causes, not industrial development.

Recently I was talking with my father Linn about this, and he shared some anecdotes buttressing this fact:

Your great-grandfather Glenn Linn owned land south of Collbran, Colorado, until around 1963. As a child I spent many summers on this ranch. Of course, I have many fond memories spent in the mountains and one of the exciting memories is when we crossed the small stream running in front of the cabin Glenn would throw a match into the stream. A loud roar would ensue from the surface gas exploding.

In the 1960s the surface gas near The DeBeque bridge was very useful to the ranchers. In the cold winter the ice would freeze on the river which would force the ranchers to chop ice in order for the livestock to drink. Those lucky ranchers who had access to the river near the surface gas simply had to light the gas which kept the water clear of ice. Ranchers and cattle were both happy.

Your grandfather Otto Armstrong related that the train would stop just past the town of DeBeque so that the passengers see a geyser raise several feet into the air caused by surface gas. This must have been a great spectacle with the train engines of the 1920s and 30s bellowing smoke and a geyser spouting water feet into the air.

But we all know what’s going on here. The anti-industrial environmentalists will damn any sort of energy development that alters the natural environment in any way, no matter how much energy production contributes to human life and flourishing. And they’re not about to let the facts get in the way.

Image: Creative Commons by Tim Hurst

Land-Use Restrictions Set Stage for Mortgage Crisis, O’Toole Argues

Randal O’Toole recently visited the Independence Institute to discuss his new book, American Nightmare: How Government Undermines The Dream of Homeownership.

In an interview, he argues:

I looked at the financial crisis [in the book] and showed that the crisis wasn’t caused by things that people often attribute it to, such as low interest rates, subprime mortgages, or other national features. They really were only housing bubbles in some states: California, Oregon, Washington, Florida. A few other states had housing bubbles, but the other states didn’t have bubbles. And all of the states that had bubbles had one thing in common. They had land-use restrictions that prevented homebuilders from meeting the demand for housing. And that caused housing prices to shoot way up.

My view is that these regional restrictions worked in conjunction with federal policies to create the bubble.

“Inviolate” Right to Jury Trials Undermined by High Plea Rate

Colorado’s Constitution states, “The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate in criminal cases” (Article II, Section 23).

How does that square with the fact that 97.6 percent of all Colorado felony convictions result from plea bargains, not jury trials?

Today’s Colorado Springs Gazette features my article on the subject. My thesis is this: “By threatening the accused with drastically more severe potential penalties if they exercise their right to a trial by jury, prosecutors undermine that right and sometimes compel the innocent to plead guilty.”

The statistics on which my article was based come from a document requested by the Independence Institute under the Colorado Open Records Act. I’ve put the entire Excel document on my web page.

I summarize some of the major findings as follows:

Colorado criminal statistics for the years 2006 through 2011 show that Colorado prosecutors rely on plea bargains to reach convictions an overwhelming 97.6 percent of the time, according to documents obtained by the Independence Institute through a Colorado Open Records Act request.

According to those documents, only 4,241 felony convictions resulted from a jury trial, or 2.4 percent of the total of 175,015 felony convictions. A total of 6,101 felony cases went to trial, so the conviction rate at trial was 70 percent.

Drug cases accounted for 54,321 felony filings (23 percent) of 238,987 total filings. In terms of convictions, drug cases accounted for 43,034 (25 percent) of the total. Of the 790 drug cases that went to trial, 611 resulted in a conviction, meaning that only 1.4 percent of drug convictions resulted from a jury trial.

In the article, I cite an ABC News report as well as a New York Times article.

My hope is that the report will spur other journalists and researchers to examine the figures for previous years in Colorado as well as for other states, and then to dig deeper into long-term trends and modern practices.

Image: Creative Commons by Andrew Bardwell

Westminster Police Used Dog for “Drug Checkpoint”

My wife and I drove past signs stating “Drug Checkpoint Ahead” on the night of June 12 as we headed northwest on Highway 36; the signs were placed before the Church Ranch exit, which we use on our route home.

Here are the basic facts already established about the incident based on direct observation and news accounts (see also my first, second, and third reports):

  • The police pulled over 23 vehicles, arrested one man for felony marijuana possession, and issued three citations.
  • The police did not stop every passing vehicle; rather, they pulled over people for an alleged “identified violation” (and yet, again, they issued only three citations).
  • My wife witnessed the police in the process of searching six vehicles, two along Highway 36, and four more along Church Ranch. I do not know how many vehicles in total the police searched.
  • The Department of Homeland Security was involved in training the Westminster police to conduct these sorts of “drug checkpoints.”

The new information is that the Westminster police used at least one police dog in the course of the “drug checkpoint,” and Randy Corporon, a defense attorney and fill-in host for Grassroots Radio, had a conversation with Trevor Materasso of the Westminster Police.

There’s a humorous aside regarding the bit about the drug dogs. Complete Colorado features a headline, “Homeland Security trained police dogs for HWY 36 checkpoints?!?” Accompanying this headline is a photo of a police dog. However, the link goes to my article about Homeland Security; there is no mention of a dog. So yesterday Ken Clark invited me on to Grassroots Radio to discuss the police dogs, and I had nothing for him on that topic. (Clark is one of the show’s two regular hosts.)

But it turns out Westminster Police did use a police dog, though my wife and I didn’t see it.

In the June 22 North Jeffco Westsider (front page, “Police enforce drug checkpoint”), Ashley Reimers cites Materasso: “One of the biggest resources we use in these checkpoints is K-9 units. We have a dog on scene that alerts us as to whether or not . . . drugs are in the vehicle, and then we search the vehicle.”

But that must not be much a police dog, given the police searched six vehicles that we saw and made only one arrest for drugs.

Today I went back on Grassroots radio to discuss this detail and hear Corporon’s additional insights.

Mostly Corporon verified previously reported facts, including Materasso’s claim that police pulled people over for “identified violations.” One example Corporon gave of an alleged violation was an illegal u-turn.

However, it seemed to me that Corporon was overly credulous regarding Materasso’s claims. My wife and I witnessed no cars pulled over on the other side of Highway 36, as would have been the case for an illegal u-turn. Moreover, as previously noted, the police issued only three citations (and made one arrest) out of 23 stops. These alleged “violations” were evidently mere pretexts, for the most part.

Again, the issue is not whether such police activity passes muster in court, but whether these “drug checkpoints” inappropriately harass citizens “guilty” of nothing more than going about their business.

Image: City of Westminster

New Group Seeks Voter Integrity

At Monday’s Liberty On the Rocks Flatirons event, Jeff Kelly discussed his new group, “Colorado Voter Protection.”

Kelly said his group’s goals are three-fold: first, to clean up the voter rolls; second, to “recruit and deploy honest, trained poll watchers”; and, third, to prevent voter fraud.

Regarding that last point, Kelly said he’d like to see legislation requiring the verification of citizenship, minimizing mailed ballots, and requiring voter identification.

Flatirons Liberty On the Rocks Takes Off

Over 40 people attended the June 18 meeting of the new Liberty On the Rocks chapter in the Boulder area. (See my Picasa album.)

Founders of the group, Mike Shelton and Bryan Cutsinger, discuss their goals in a short video:

Brad Beck, founder of Liberty Toastmasters, discussed principles of effective communication.

Homeland Security Trained Westminster Police for “Drug Checkpoints”

What is Homeland Security doing training local police to operate “drug checkpoints”?

Today the Denver Post published an editorial condemning the Westminster Police “drug checkpoints” that I wrote about last week. The editorial follows Vincent Carroll’s June 15 piece on the same topic for the Post‘s opinion blog.

The Daily Camera, which the Post cites, published the first newspaper account (to my knowledge) of the “drug checkpoints”:

Westminster police stopped 23 cars and made one arrest at a high-profile drug checkpoint in the Boulder-bound lanes of U.S. 36. . . .

Of the 23 stopped, it’s unclear how many were searched for drugs, but three traffic tickets were issued, and one man was arrested on suspicion of felony marijuana possession, [police investigator Trevor] Materasso said.

The Post also cites a Colorado Independent story that contains the information about Homeland Security:

In a Friday email to the Independent, Materasso added that the drug stop operations have not been designed by the Westminster force in isolation but are a product of interactions with federal agencies.

“The operation [was] established based on training provided by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and Homeland Security, which has guidelines, protocols and procedures to ensure Constitutional rights are not violated. These govern how we conduct this type of operation.”

The Post rightly retorts, “[J]ust because a policy does not, strictly speaking [and according to the courts], violate constitutional rights hardly means it earns an A-plus for respecting civil liberties.”

I checked in with Cory Lamz, one of the two Camera reporters who covered the story, and he said his paper got a news tip about the “drug checkpoints” and that multiple staff members also saw the signs as they drove by on Highway 36. Once he started working on the story, he said, he saw my initial post on the subject and then asked my wife and me for a statement.

What I want to know is this: What does training local police to search innocent people’s cars for drugs without substantial reason have to do with “Protecting the Homeland”? In this case, the threats against which Americans need protection are the police abuses encouraged by the Department of Homeland Security and the other agencies involved.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Westminster’s “Drug Checkpoint” Fishing Expedition

June 17 Update: Vincent Carroll wrote about this issue Friday for the Denver Post. He hopes these sorts of checkpoints don’t become a policing habit, and he agrees I make “a number of compelling arguments” in the post below:

On Tuesday night, my wife and I passed two signs stating “Drug Checkpoint Ahead” as we drove northwest on Highway 36, just before the Church Ranch exit. (See yesterday’s initial report.)

Here’s the statement my wife sent to Cory Lamz of the Daily Camera on the matter (a bit of which was quoted in the paper):

Here’s what I saw. We were heading westbound on Highway 36, and we saw two signs that said ‘drug checkpoint ahead.’ We exited on Church Ranch to head home, and there were two cop cars that had two civilian cars pulled over on the shoulder of the highway, just past the exist. They had orange cones flagged out for those cars. The trunks and doors were all open, so they were obviously doing a search. Then we were on Church Ranch, heading west, and we got to the Eagle Landing apartment complex—there’s a traffic light there—and to the left of the traffic light (by the apartment complex), there were four cop cars and four civilian cars. There were two cop cars paired with two civilian cars on each side of that road. There were cops mulling about, trunks open, people standing nearby.

The reporting of Lamz and Joe Rubino adds some important details about what happened:

Westminster police stopped 23 cars and made one arrest at a high-profile drug checkpoint in the Boulder-bound lanes of U.S. 36 on Tuesday night. . . . [T]hree traffic tickets were issued, and one man was arrested on suspicion of felony marijuana possession, [Westminster police investigator Trevor] Materasso said.

Materasso told the reporters that the cars were pulled over “for some identified violation,” but that’s obvious nonsense. If the cars had been pulled over for real violations, the police would have issued 22 citations rather than three. Quite obviously, the police pulled over these vehicles on mere pretexts in order to search the cars for drugs. This was a fishing expedition, pure and simple. Or, to put the matter another way, Westminster police used tax dollars to flagrantly violate the rights of Colorado citizens. (And please let nobody claim that these rights violations are fine just because the police can get away with them in court.)

Moreover, assuming that three of the drivers were in fact violating traffic laws, the police could have pulled them over and cited them without the “Drug Checkpoint” setup.

The police, then, pulled over 23 vehicles at a “Drug Checkpoint” and made one arrest. That’s a four percent success rate. And apparently the guy arrested didn’t actually have large amounts of marijuana, or Materasso surely would have trumpeted that fact.

To state these facts a different way, the police pulled over 19 drivers for no significant reason. For the “crime” of going about their business, they were harassed and intimidated by the police. That’s wrong. (And this is not the first time the Westminster police have employed this tactic.)

And how much did this cost taxpayers? Clearly the Westminster Police Department needs a budget cut, if they best way the police can spend a Tuesday night is to harass and intimidate innocent drivers.

Know Your Rights

The silver lining to this incident is that at least it has prompted many Coloradans to talk about police actions and abuses.

Mark Silverstein of the Colorado ACLU told the Camera:

One of the disappointing facts about the state of people’s awareness of civil liberties is many, many, many people don’t know they have the right to say “no” to a search. If a cop stops you and says, “Mind if I look in your trunk?” it’s your choice.

The ACLU offers some good material on the subject. The ACLU advises:

Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible. Turn off the car, turn on the internal light, open the window part way and place your hands on the wheel. Upon request, show police your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. If an officer. . . asks to look inside your car, you can refuse to consent to the search. But if police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, your car can be searched without your consent. Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you can ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, sit silently or calmly leave. Even if the officer says no, you have the right to remain silent.

The state ACLU also published a multi-part video; here’s the first part.

The group Flex Your Rights offers the video, Busted: The Citizen’s Guide to Surviving Police Encounters.

Of course the problem of overzealous policing is a concern to citizens on the right as well. Grassroots Radio invited me on Wednesday from 5:30 to 6:30 to discuss the issue; I joined host Ken Clark and Randy Corporon, a defense attorney sitting in for Jason Worley. Listen to Part I (starting at minute 23) and Part II.

I argued the following (starting at minute 33 in the first hour):

Here’s my concern. With these quasi-random checkpoints, either for drugs or alcohol, without any other . . . serious cause of wrongdoing, or reason for the police to think you’ve done something wrong; with things like no-knock raids (which, as we know here in Denver, sometimes the police don’t even get the right address for those); with things like TSA doing these invasive types of searches, even for young children—my fear is that Americans are being conditioned to a state in which, instead of the police officers working for the citizens, and protecting our rights, and being our servants, instead we’re in a state where usually we’re afraid of the police officers, and afraid that we’re going to be intimidated or harassed, even when we’re doing nothing wrong. . . . While I dislike the checkpoint that I witnessed last night, in and of itself, I worry about this growing trend toward—it seems like police have control over the citizens, instead of vice versa.

Corporon, a defense attorney, added some excellent points about asserting one’s rights.

His main advice was to “shut up” if the police are questioning you without the presence of your attorney. He said his biggest headache is when clients call him after they’ve already gone down to the police station and given a statement, without legal representation.

A related video I’ve seen advises, Don’t Talk to the Police. See also my write-up of Boston T. Party’s talk at the University of Colorado about “You and the Police.”

Corporon also advised people never to voluntarily consent to a police search of one’s vehicle. He pointed out that consenting, when the officer has neither cause nor a warrant, only encourages abusive practices.

“Be polite,” Corporon urged.

He pointed out a great reason to roll your window only part-way down: in addition to protecting the driver from overly-intrusive policing, it offers the officer assurance that the driver can’t reach out the window aggressively.

Clark added that his personal practice, as a holder of a concealed carry permit, is to always have his permit in hand with his other paperwork—with his hands on the steering wheel—and to tell the officer right away that he has a permit. (Please note that I’m not an attorney and am not offering legal advice, but merely reporting what others said.)

The upshot is this. As a citizen, you need to assert your rights. By asserting your rights, you encourage decent policing and remind police officers that they work for us, not the other way around. You also need to defend your rights, to speak out against rights violations and injustices. Finally, we need to think seriously about the sort of political system that fosters rights-protecting government activity—and the sort of political system that fosters oppression and systematic rights violations by government agents. Yes, it is a large task, but it is a necessary one if we wish to continue to live in the Land of the Free.

Image: City of Westminster

Drug Checkpoint Outrage

I was shocked and outraged to see two “Drug Checkpoint Ahead” signs this evening along Highway 36 northbound ahead of the Church Ranch exit (in Westminster, Colorado). Even worse, the police had pulled over two vehicles along Highway 36, and another four vehicles along Church Ranch, and were in the process of searching those vehicles.

I do not know which police agency or agencies were involved in this frankly fascistic violation of the civil rights of the citizens. I called the “Administration” and “Desk Officer” lines of the Westminster Police Department but got a recording. (This was at 10:21 pm; I doubted that those at dispatch would be in a position to answer my questions on the subject.)

Apparently the police were pulling over cars totally at random; they did not pull me over (as they all seemed to be occupied searching others’ vehicles).

What is especially angering about this is that the police are spending MY tax dollars for the purpose of violating people’s rights.

Ironically, I witnessed this travesty as I returned from Liberty In the Books, where we had just reviewed an extraordinary set of lectures by Ludwig von Mises on the importance of limiting government to the protection of rights. In those lectures Mises criticizes America’s first “experiment” with Prohibition; I will conclude with his commentary:

[T]he notion that a capitalist form of government can prevent people from hurting themselves by controlling their consumption is false. The idea of government as a paternal authority, as a guardian for everybody, is the idea of those who favor socialism. In the United States some years ago, the government tried what was called “a noble experiment.” This noble experiment was a law making it illegal to buy or sell intoxicating beverages. It is certainly true that many people drink too much brandy and whiskey, and that they may hurt themselves by doing so. . . . This raises a question which goes far beyond economic discussion: it shows what freedom really means. . . .

[O]nce you have admitted [that government should stop people from drinking too much], other people will say: Is the body everything? Is not the mind of man much more important? Is not the mind of man the real human endowment, the real human quality? If you give the government the right to determine the consumption of the human body, to determine whether one should smoke or not smoke, drink or not drink, there is no good reply you can give to people who say: “More important than the body is the mind and the soul, and man hurts himself much more by reading bad books, by listening to bad music and looking at bad movies. Therefore it is the duty of the government to prevent people from committing these faults.”

Liberty Is the Greatest Inheritance

The following article originally was published June 8 by Grand Junction Free Press.

When I was a small child I always thought my grandpa was nuts for saying the older you get the faster time goes. But it’s true. My dad Linn [shown in the photo] and I started writing this twice-monthly column for the Free Press back in July of 2005. For seven yearns we’ve written about free markets, free speech, political races, taxes, gun rights, and a host of other topics. Our main goal has been to advocate individual rights and political liberty.

The time has gone fast. Now it’s time for us to move on to other projects. Now that my dad is in semi-retirement, he’s busier than ever; among other things, he teaches classes on workplace safety and emergency response to violence. I’ve started writing more for The Objective Standard, where you can read my blog posts and occasional article for the print journal.

I wanted to take this opportunity to say farewell to our Free Press readers. But we’re not going anywhere geographically; we’ll continue to advocate the ideas we believe in (though some of our critics might wish we’d simply shut up). See my web page at AriArmstrong.com for ways to stay in touch. Perhaps you’ll see my dad around town.

My dad and I considered writing a farewell column together but decided against it. However, with father’s day coming up, I thought this would be a good opportunity to write a solo column about my dad. I mulled it over, and it strikes me that my dad taught me five main things in my life.

First, my dad gave me an appreciation of history. He has always been something of an amateur historian; for example, he’s done a fair amount of research about the old stagecoach trail near Mt. Garfield. Though it took me a while to pick up this interest in history—for years I didn’t see much point in studying the past—finally I caught on to its importance.

Even my name carries historical significance. “Ari,” a common Jewish name, in my case comes from Leon Uris’s book Exodus, a novelization of the founding of the modern state of Israel. Of course I read this novel, along with another historical novel of Uris’s, Mila 18, which pays tribute to the resistance fighters in Poland who struggled against Nazi oppression.

So my dad taught me that we can’t really understand ourselves unless we understand those who came before us.

Second, my dad always encouraged my healthy respect for the U.S. military. My dad served in Vietnam (and you can find video interviews about this if you Google “Linn Armstrong Vietnam”). [See also my dad's article about July 4 in Vietnam.] My dad was not my only influence in this regard; both of my biological grandfathers served in World War II, so I consider myself lucky even to have been born, with all the warfare in my family’s past. (A great-grandfather of mine also served in WWI.) I did not have to fight in any wars, but through my elders’ stories I am aware of the dangers and heartaches of war.

This respect for the military was important for me ideologically because it helped me resist the worst impulses of libertarianism, which at its worst becomes indistinguishable from the “blame America first” left, so far as foreign policy goes. Now I reject both the “nation building” of the neoconservatives and the strict noninterventionism of the libertarians, advocating instead a robust military defense of American lives and liberties.

Third, my dad gave me an appreciation for philosophy. When I was a kid he read Ayn Rand’s Anthem to me, and the story of individualism stayed with me and influenced my development. My dad also handed me Atlas Shrugged when I was in high school. I continue to take an interest in Rand’s philosophy (as well as in other schools of thought), and as I matured so did my understanding of those ideas.

Fourth, my dad also helped me develop an interest in economics. In addition to giving me Atlas Shrugged (which itself contains some interesting insights into economics), my dad handed me Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose. Though I have since come to disagree with some of Friedman’s positions, he introduced me to the basics of economic reasoning.

Fifth, my dad helped give me a lasting appreciation for liberty. Not only did he give me various pro-liberty books that strongly influenced me, he led by example by staying active in politics and helping to build up a great gun training program.

My father shared with me the ideas of liberty, as many fathers before him shared them. That is the reason why America’s founding principles remain a living force in our culture, whatever insults and setbacks those ideas have endured. Other fathers could learn something important from my father: the greatest inheritance you can bestow to your children is the living tradition of liberty.

Ari Armstrong writes for The Objective Standard as well as for his web page at AriArmstrong.com. For seven years he coauthored a column for Grand Junction Free Press with his father Linn.

My May 2012 TOS Blog Posts

Following are links to all of my Objective Standard blog posts for May of this year. I’ve put an asterisk by my personal favorites. Henceforth, I plan to publish updates every week or two. See my TOS category for a complete listing.

May 1, 2012
Institute for Justice Fights Theft by Police

May 1, 2012
* On May Day, Remember the Victims of Communism—and Condemn the Evil Ideology

May 2, 2012
* Occupiers Celebrate Communism, Socialism, and Anarchism for May Day

May 5, 2012
“Who the Hell Is Julia?” TOS’s Week in Review for May 5

May 8, 2012
Congress Should Reject Obama’s “To Do List” and Remind the President of his Proper Role

May 11, 2012
Europe Needs Real Liberty, Not Fake “Austerity”

May 12, 2012
France’s Real Problem—TOS’s Week in Review for May 12

May 17, 2012
* Sam Harris Couldn’t Help But Smear Ayn Rand

May 19, 2012
Greek Crisis Deepens—TOS’s Week in Review for May 19

May 22, 2012
Congratulations, SpaceX!

May 23, 2012
Gaiman: “Live as Only You Can”

May 29, 2012
Obama Should Defend Doc Who Located bin Laden, Not Feed Him to Pakistan’s Wolves

May 31, 2012
* Arnold Kling’s “Free Enterprise” Plan for American Fascism