Political Class Dismissed: Essays against Politics

Article excerpt

Political Class Dismissed: Essays Against Politics by James Ostrowski Cazenovia Books * 2004 * 352 pages * $15.00 paperback

People have arrived at the freedom philosophy through a great many intellectual paths. Lawyer James Ostrowski was a conventional liberal of the George McGovern stripe until after graduating from college. He harbored some strong civil libertarian beliefs, but by his own admission lacked a comprehensive political philosophy and was clueless about the fundamentals of economics. "Then," he writes, "I stumbled upon Ayn Rand's essays, which knocked the liberal wind right out of me."

Hooked on free-market thinking, Ostrowski began to read Murray Rothbard and other libertarian writers. While a student at Brooklyn Law School, he invited Rothbard to give a talk on the Reagan administration, a talk that bewildered most of the students since he criticized Reagan from "the right" for not doing nearly enough to downsize government and reduce taxation, and from "the left" for continuing numerous government assaults on civil liberties. Ostrowski was not at all bewildered, since he had come to understand the consistency of Rothbard's arguments in favor of liberty.

After embarking on a legal career that has included several brushes with the political establishment, Ostrowski discovered his considerable talent as an essayist and has developed into something of a modern-day Thomas Paine. Political Class Dismissed gathers together 50 of his essays published from 1992 to 2003. They cover a wide array of political and economic topics, all written from a solidly libertarian viewpoint and administering a powerful assault on the prevailing statist orthodoxy.

The first and longest essay in the book is titled "What's Wrong with Buffalo." Ostrowski was born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y., and has seen the city continually decline over his lifetime. He pulls no punches in identifying the cause: the corrupt political machine that has dominated local politics for decades. He explains:

In a modern economy, capital is mobile and flows to where it can make the greatest profit. Buffalo is not that place. Buffalo is not the place where new capital will he invested. Buffalo is the place where old capital, fully depreciated, will he abandoned. . . . Ironically, these dire consequences actually strengthened the corrupt local political elites. First, independent-minded persons of means, the political machine's natural enemies, are driven away. . . . Many of the businessmen who remain are bought off with grants, contracts, special tax breaks, and regulatory and prosecutorial leniency. …