I was recently featured in the Libertarian Party’s newsletter; which gave me pause to reflect on my journey.
For those who do not know, I am the founder of Save Scranton: A grassroots effort to bring attention to the economic distress, financial woes and corruption in Scranton, Pennsylvania. We are currently heading up a campaign to force the city of Scranton into bankruptcy through a ballot initiative.
What began as a hobbyist activity, has ballooned into a movement that has garnered national attention. The notion that I would become a political activist used to be laughable to me. I had hopes of starting a technological empire based on machine learning and data science. Nevertheless, I found that the disruptive thinking that has become a mainstay of technology is largely absent within government; the result being, an institution with legislative power that incrementally reduces the liberty and wealth of the people.
It took the tyrannical behavior of the Scranton government (with its value-destroying policies and sky high corruption) to awaken something within me. I realized that, until government spending and intrusion is reigned in, we are all – as Americans – just waiting for the proverbial pendulum to drop.
For a long time, I was an armchair libertarian.
My ideas concerning libertarianism were true (largely for myself) but did not necessarily have any bearing on society. We libertarians are quite talented in elucidating our positions concerning the proper role of government and the importance of fiscal restraint. Nevertheless, the Libertarian Party has a membership of roughly 20,000. I am aware that the membership of the party does not necessarily exemplify the reception of libertarianism in society at large – but it does prompt the inquiry into what a libertarian society might look like. So what do libertarian policies look like? What would libertarian activism look like?
Save Scranton is a model for all libertarians to prove that libertarianism can have practical application in real time. The Scranton government has managed to run up debts upwards of $500 million. This, coupled with the fact that they have a dwindling population of 75,000 (down from 140,000), one-third of whom subsist on fixed income, means the city is drowning in taxes and fees – with zero prospects for economic growth. The residents have largely resigned themselves to being a “blue collar” town, destined to be taken advantaged by the local government; their only respite is to one day move or simply die from old age. I cannot conceive of anything more offensive to human dignity, liberty, or the great American experiment.
Despite the malaise exhibited by some of the people of Scranton, and a local government that periodically makes attempts thwart my progress; I was able to rally the locals, obtain local and national coverage, and create a ballot initiative that is the first of its kind. What this has taught me is that whatever condition our country happens to be in, it will largely fall on us who know better to do something. It shocks me that organizations like Black Lives Matter (which have such a feeble ideological positions) obtain far more coverage and recognition than libertarianism. Why should these people be more zealous than libertarians? I am convinced that libertarianism is not merely an ideology or interesting political philosophy – because its core tenets touch the very fabric of our lives. To put it bluntly: Our lives and the lives of our families, friends, and everyone we care about, are literally on the line if we fail to change way the government operates!
This has always been the case, but we in the west are lulled into a false sense of security! You would think that the lessons of history would be instructive is this regard; yet, we somehow forget that bad things do happen, countries collapse, and all empires have fallen. I am sure we’ve all accepted the fact that America will one day collapse, but we naively believe it will not be in our lifetime.
With a collapsing state pension, looming FDIC crisis, and entitlements upwards of 80 trillion; I am not sure what conclusion we can draw except that the chance to salvage our society, or watch it crumble, is quickly getting away from us: this is why I am bankrupting Scranton!
I have taken the most unpopular political position – because it is what is necessary! The excessive taxation and regulation of this country has ruined our society. Couple that with giant inefficiency, and bureaucratic organizations that, not only fail to execute their mandate, but also drain society of trillions in real cost and opportunity cost. These policies have their basis in the notion that we can tax our way out of our fiscal problems; but sadly, even if we increased taxes by 30% and decreased social security by 50%, we would still be at a large deficit. The only way out of this crisis is through growth; and the only way we can have growth is by breaking down the barriers that have been erected to block new entrants from coming into the market. Why were these barriers erected? The government is so large that is has created taxes, regulation, and fees to attempt to sustain itself and maintain the status quo.
Scranton will file for bankruptcy, lower its taxes, and create a business-friendly environment that will be a model to others. How do I know this? Because I will make it happen.
Gary St. Fleur
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