Anthony Priestas Transcript

Interview with Anthony Priestas, an attendee at the Green Dragon meet-up in Boston — conducted at Boston University faculty pub, Allston, Massachusetts on June 15, 2010. Interview Time: 81:07 A.J. Bauer: So, what’s your background first of all. What year were you born? Anthony Priestas: 1975 AB: And, are you from Massachusetts originally? AP: No, I was born in Ohio — Sandusky, Ohio — but moved to Florida when I was three or four months old. And so I consider Florida my hometown. AB: What part of Florida? AP: It’s the Tampa Bay area. I spent, I guess, most of my childhood in New Port Richey. AB: What are you researching and getting your doctorate in? AP: It’s in earth science; my bachelor’s and master’s are in geology. AB: And where did you do your bachelor’s and master’s? AP: Florida State. AB: Did you work or have a career before returning to school or have you been consistently in school throughout? AP: No. I actually, not to get into the life story or anything, but I didn’t go back to college until I was 26. AB: That’s when you started your undergrad? AP: Yeah. I came up through the community college system. I was a very poor high school student; I was interested in the military; I was in naval ROTC but didn’t have the, I don’t know, but didn’t have the grades to make it to college. So I ended up joining the National Guard, which I held on to for about nine years, but the jobs, other than being in the National Guard, was pretty much just odd jobs. I’ve worked pretty horrible jobs like telemarketing. I’ve done landscaping. I’ve worked at Burger King for like a year and a half. I worked a casino job as a cashier — a couple of casino jobs and I finally, when I lost my job at the casino I didn’t know what I was going to do so I went back to school. Then I started getting interested more in mathematics and physics and science and things of that nature, but I didn’t think I was particularly good at it — it was something that always scared me in high school. I found out I liked it, got into geology and it took off from there. And then transferring to Florida State and so forth. AB: That’s fascinating! So you had been working as a casino, what were you doing at the casino? AP: I was a cage cashier, so I balanced the boat’s money every night. AB: This was a ship? A gaming ship? AP: Yeah it was one of those booze cruises — they take you out, you lose your money and the bring you back broke and drunk. Right? AB: [laughing] That is awesome. AP: It was good. It was good while it lasted. AB: So when you went back to school you had no idea that you’d be going into geology and things like that? AP: Oh no. Just explore, do some exploratory classes. And I had a friend, a buddy who was sort of like a non-traditional student — he was an ex-Marine and he had convinced me to take an intro to geology class with him because it was with a professors who we were particularly fond of. And I did and I thought whoa this is really interesting, understanding how the world works, and mechanisms and systems and such. AB: Literally how the world works. AP: Yeah, literally how the world works, like a machine. And you know, just took it from there. AB: That’s great. So thinking back, what is your first political memory? The first memory that you have that you consider political. AP: I guess I was a senior in high school — and I’d never really been a political person, I’d always been the type of person that held the viewpoint of politics is extremely tedious and boring and almost inconsequential to my day to day life. I’m really wrong about that now, but when I was in high school it was in ‘93, so this was when Bush Sr. was trying to re-run for office against Clinton and there was the Ross Perot thing that was — I actually liked Ross Perot when I was a senior, and I wasn’t able to vote at the time because I was only, well it would have been close I would have been 17, but my birthday is November 4 though, which tends to be election day. But if I would have voted I think I would have ended up voting for Clinton back then. But I’m not really sure why, again I didn’t have much interest in politics — I saw Clinton on TV playing the saxophone... AB: So Clinton playing the sax played well with you? AP: Yeah and you heard this stuff like he tried pot but didn’t inhale, but just for somebody to admit that they did that I thought well that’s kind of cool, he isn’t some stiff old guy. So I had pretty much the same sentiment as my other classmates. Maybe that Bush Sr. is getting us into these wars and Clinton is the guy that cares about the people and so forth. I did like Perot though, because, and again I didn’t understand the difference really between conservative and liberal and Republican and Democrat. I’m not sure what I considered myself, but I know I would have voted for Clinton. But I liked Perot because I thought if the economy is such a big issue to everybody and this guy is a businessman, maybe it makes sense to put him in office to take care of the economy. And although I thought the charts and things and antics — a lot of people thought that was very silly — but I kind of liked it because he’s showing you data, it’s not just rhetoric. And, I also found out that he had driven himself to the debates instead of being chartered by public funds and stuff, and maybe that, that stands for a lot for me. It means a lot; not that I realized in back then, but considering that I’m libertarian now, I guess maybe that’s a sentiment that I held a lot of value to but didn’t really understand it or couldn’t put it in any kind of context. AB: You say you consider yourself a libertarian — how long have you considered yourself a libertarian? And I guess the question before that is how long have you been interested in politics or involved in it? AP: I’d only really gotten involved in politics with the Obama campaign, and the defeat of McCain in the last election. I had heard the word libertarian a few times, but I tended to dismiss libertarians as crackpots. I think based mostly on hearsay — you know you hear whispers, people talking about libertarians are all nuts and third party people are typically nuts and — I think my impression of libertarians was they’re just a group of people who want to see pot legalized so they can sit around and smoke dope all day legally. So again without researching or anything, these were common misconceptions I had in my own head. But I think, even though I would have voted for Clinton, I ended up just being a Republican. When I finally did get my voter registration card I registered myself as a Republican. AB: When was that? AP: I don’t remember exactly, but maybe sometime within the next four years or something. AB: So sometime in the mid-90s? AP: Yeah. But again, I didn’t follow it. I think I voted down party lines and that kind of thing. But this last election, with Obama and everything, I don’t know, I supported McCain right? And then McCain lost and I was trying to understand why that happened, why everybody was behind Obama and what is it about Obama that he won and what is it about McCain that he lost. And then it was — I guess that’s when I started looking into everything in detail. But I started getting more libertarian without calling myself a libertarian at Florida State. I picked up a book by John Stossel and I was just engrossed by that book, it was amazing. AB: Do you remember what it was called? AP: It’s called Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity. And it’s the story of a guy who was a self-professed liberal for most of his career, won all of these Emmy awards when he was at ABC doing consumer reporting and helping get laws passed to protect people from these evil businesses — and then he realized that more and more a government did the worse it got. And he started thinking maybe this isn’t right and started challenging people’s sort of typical conceptions of how things are supposed to be. Like bottled water is better for you — but everything from that kind of picky stuff to the role of government in people’s lives and whether that actually helps you or hurts you and he kept finding out more and more that it does more harm than good and kept finding out that all this stuff that he believes in, that he’s like a libertarian. It profoundly changed me. AB: So you read this book after the 2008 election? AP: No, it was before. But I was still a Republican and I’m still in the mindset that better a Republican get in than not, and McCain has the most electability, so I’m going to go for McCain. AB: Did you support him through the primary as well? AP: I did. Yeah, absolutely. AB: So you were an early adopter of the McCain campaign. AP: Yeah, sure. And then afterward, then I started seeing things on the Internet about Ron Paul, which I think was the only place where you could get stuff on Ron Paul was on the Internet. And then I realized that I’d made a terrible, terrible mistake. A terrible mistake. AB: And when did you start seeing things about Paul? Was that after the election? AP: It was after the election, because this is now, after the election I’m actively researching I don’t know what my own political beliefs are, where I stand on each issue, based on my own values and my own reason and logical rationing. And I just thought I made a terrible mistake, if I knew what the hell I was doing I would have voted for Ron Paul. When I watched him in the debates and — I wasn’t listening to what he was saying. And again my mind is concentrated on, the only guys who stand a chance here are Romney and McCain, and actually so no I made a mistake — I was actually pulling for Romney in the beginning and when he lost, when Romney lost Florida he was basically out of the race and I went to McCain who was the next best thing. But yeah, I ended up telling myself that I made a huge mistake and that if I was smarter I would have been pulling for Ron Paul the whole time. AB: In terms of history of voting you said that you probably would have voted for Clinton but then in the next few years registered as a Republican, what was behind that switch? I guess what was behind your registering as a Republican if you said you were kind of thinking about Clinton. AP: Well, I guess, for the most part, right, I suppose it has to do with my family’s background. And I don’t really have a large family, it’s really just my mother, and she was a single mom and she had two boys, one of which she gave to my father because it was a financial burden to take care of two and so, but for some time she did have both of us — and she had told me that she had applied for benefits when we were really young and was denied. Now, she was working a minimum wage job at a retail store called Zare as a cashier. It was like three and a quarter an hour back then and she was denied these benefits despite having no man around and having these two kids and she couldn’t understand that. But she went to work every single day and brought home a paycheck and did what she could. Now she’s an assistant manager at T.J. Max, who is like a parent company of Zares. She makes 50 grand a year now; she’s got a nice townhouse close to the beach and so forth. It took her a long time to get out of the situation when she wasn’t as economically burdened as much, but she pretty much told me that the way she got out of it was by going to work every single day. So in other words not getting benefits from the government forced her to go to work and deal with her situation; she had to get a roommate for a period of time — who none of us liked — but she got a roommate. She had a very crappy car. The food was not very good — it was hamburger helper, hotdogs, that kind of thing. But I think that kind of instilled in me this idea that you have to work for yourself — and that the government shouldn’t be giving money to people who aren’t willing to work. You know, things like civil issues, social issues — gay marriage, drugs — I never had any thought about those. And I didn’t really care. I have in my life I have flip-flopped on the abortion issues, and I have also flip-flopped between, what do you call it, capital punishment. I was on one side or the other. But when I was in middle school I was religious for quite a period of time, and I think that affected some of my decisions, although I’m agnostic now. [chuckles] AB: What religion were you a part of back then? AP: Southern Baptist. Yep. They were pretty hardcore, man. AB: Was that a family thing? I mean, was your mother a Baptist? AP: No, no. In fact I used to try to convince my mother to go with me but she was like look I got to go to work, I don’t have time for this, get out of here. AB: What got you interested? Was it a friend? AP: Yeah, I had a friend who used to bring me to youth group and all of this. Initially it was, there are kids there — there’s some free chips and cookies there, there are some activities there, I’m going. But then I kind of got into it — I don’t want to use the term brainwashed, really, I think that’s a little harsh. But I started believing in what these guys were saying. It was middle school. But then I ended up dropping it pretty — like within high school I was basically an agnostic. AB: And you’ve been pretty steady with that since? AP: I’ve been very steady with that. I didn’t understand any of it, but my leanings were always towards Republicans because I thought that the idea of self-reliance and having to work for what you have and so-forth was better than all these government programs. I didn’t understand exactly why. I didn’t understand necessarily any details of how one program effects economy versus not having that program, but it was just something intrinsic — I don’t like that; whatever it is, I don’t like that. AB: So more a principle than a policy type thing? AP: Yeah. And again it’s hard for me to really elaborate where that came from, other than — and again my mom’s not political at all. She was not involved in any of this stuff — it’s not something we sat around and talked about in our household. It’s just something I knew — that she had to work her tail off and came out okay. I just figured — and she’ll tell me today, well if I can do it so can anyone else. If I had to work as a cashier and raise my boys with no husband, I don’t understand, unless your mentally incapable, why couldn’t someone else do the same. And in fact she told me a story that when she was turned down for assistance, it was very shortly thereafter that she changed her party. She was a Democrat, JFK supporter, up until that point. And the minute they said we’re not going to help you with your sons and so forth she flipped to the other party and hasn’t looked back since. But I think that taught her a lesson about how to take care of herself. AB: So up by the bootstraps. AP: Right. AB: So, nowadays what would you say are the political issues that are most important to you and how have those changed over time? AP: I guess the largest concern, if you had to put it in sort of a tiered structure, would be the overall size of government and the amount of money that they’re spending in proportion to our GDP and the amounts that are projected over time and how those increase over time. Overall, that’s I think the biggest concern. And then from that everything else trickles down right? A large parental over-spending government, the central planning of things that have good intentions but cannot get results to save themselves. You know what I mean? They all want to do good; it’s good reasoning, the rationale to do good is the same as ours, I think we just want it done a different way — more individualism. Because, like Milton Friedman says, nobody knows how better to spend his own money than he does. AB: You mentioned Friedman. When did you get into Milton Friedman? AP: Everything that I know has been condensed down into like a year and a half. It’s even affected my work, because it’s hard for me to concentrate during the day without thinking about some of these issues. It scares the bloody hell out of me. It really does — the deficits, the debt, the official deficits and debts, but then you look at the stuff, when you’ve got the Cato Institute telling you you’ve got $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities between social security and Medicare — nobody even knows what a trillion dollars is, let alone 100 trillion dollars. I just wrote a little blog on that, million, billion, trillion, what’s the difference right? Because they all got 1, 1 million, 1 trillion. The concept of orders of magnitude I don’t think soaks in with people — they’re throwing around 500 billion like it’s nothing, because in the scheme of things it is nothing. AB: That’s so much money — you’re right the scale of it is incomprehensible. AP: So, and then the other thing is, the overall size of government, the spending of government and the overall taxing of the citizens. Then from there the thing that I really hate the most after that is the nanny state. I can’t stand the nanny state — telling adults that they have to wear a helmet on a motorcycle, that they have to wear a seatbelt — and the arguments are always, well, if you don’t wear your seatbelt and you have to go to the emergency room then you raise the cost on everybody else. But I don’t think that’s necessarily true. The libertarian point is that each person is able to evaluate how much risk they want to take in their lives at whatever costs, as long as you’re willing to bear the burden if something happens. So it’s not like you get into an accident you get to be taken care of for free — you have to pay for it if your actions result in undesirable results. But as an adult I should be able to make that decision — I shouldn’t have the government protecting me from myself as if I’m not intelligent to make a decision or to weigh benefit and risk on my own. Nobody likes to have their hands held — I don’t like to have my hands held for me in my decision making; I think I’m smart enough to be able to find these things out for myself; I don’t want someone telling me that, well we’re going to increase taxes on smoking because we’re really concerned about your health. You let me worry about my health, you protect the borders, protect me from you and enforce our laws, and that’s about it. I mean all other areas of government, even stuff I used to think that we need, I don’t think we need, so. They really just need to stay out of people’s lives in general, and let families figure this stuff out for themselves. You know, there are 350 million people in the country, and I don’t know maybe 280 million of them are adults, or some figure — they know individually what’s best for them. How does a group of yahoos in Washington decide what the best thing is for all these people? It’s insanity really when you think about it. AB: So, after McCain loses in 2008, you go back and start doing some research — some soul searching kind of to see what went wrong, where should I have been voting and things like that. How do you end up — what was the path through that research that ended up with Milton Friedman and the libertarians as opposed to researching and ending up with some other sort of conservatism? AP: Well, you know like on YouTube you’ll click on a video and in the sidebar you see videos that are similarly related and my research in trying to find out who this Ron Paul guy was led me on to other discoveries like the Cato Institute, which is the libertarian think tank. And I was already — I’d already been introduced to John Stossel. Reason magazine was another massive influence. And I think those are the biggest ones — even Ayn Rand, I hadn’t really been introduced to Ayn Rand prior to any of this. Not that, I’m not an Objectivist, I’m not one of those guys, but a lot of this stuff that — I think the basic premise of what she says is very good. People are all just acting in their own rational self-interest. I think her criticism is, oh well you think it’s okay to be selfish. No, it’s different. If you used the word ‘selfish’ with her, she would force you to use a different word. Because it’s not what she was trying to get at. Like, for example, maybe you have somebody who takes advantage of a government program, but doesn’t like government programs in general — you might argue that that individual would contradict himself if he were to take advantage of that program and then claim to be against government programs. She would argue that you would be an idiot if you didn’t take advantage of that program, because you’re not acting in your own rational self-interest. In other words, you can’t blame people for taking advantage of certain government programs because they’re all acting in their own rational self-interest, which includes — which extends to their families, because their families hold a certain amount of value and so forth. AB: You say that Ayn Rand would have rejected the term ‘selfish’ and make you use another term. What in your mind is the distinction between selfishness and self-interest? AP: That’s a good question — I don’t know how to eloquently state that. You know, I — selfishness is [pause] I think that the way people try to frame it is that you act in your interest regardless of, I don’t know, I guess regardless of — well, maybe that selfishness is acting within your own interests but it doesn’t matter if it’s rational or irrational. Maybe selfishness is doing things that could cause harm to other peoples and you have no regard for that because you’re being selfish. But it’s rational self-interest — if it’s irrational then it’s no good. And I think the basic idea is that a society in which everybody acts in their own rational self-interest creates sort of an — a self-organization, spontaneous, self-organizing sort of productive society. You leave me alone; I leave you alone, and we all pursue our individual interests and from that lots of good things come out. AB: That was really helpful. I haven’t had an opportunity to ask a libertarian for that distinction. It’s really useful to hear an explanation. AP: If you go online and look and — look at some of her interviews. When she was still around she did some interviews like one with Phil Donahue which was really good — and one, I forget the fellow’s name, but she did a couple of interviews toward the latter part of her life and she was a little more relaxed. And I know she’s got her criticisms, but the basic umph of what she’s trying to say, and I have yet to read like Atlas Shrugged and all of that stuff, but I’m looking to get those very soon. I think the basic message is there. And she didn’t even like libertarians, she didn’t agree with libertarians and all this weird stuff, but I think there’s a lot of overlap between at least today’s modern libertarian message and what she was trying to say. Libertarian and the harm principle — do no harm to others. Do whatever you want, just don’t harm someone else, sort of thing. So check those out, because she can explain her position much better than I can explain her position. And also Milton Friedman — massively, massively, massively influential. AB: What books have you read by him? AP: Not a one. Because I don’t have a lot of money, so I’m not spending my money on books and so forth, but — unless they’re textbooks. AB: Right, and that’s where all your money goes. AP: But you can find a tremendous amount of information from him speaking directly based on the Free To Choose series and the lectures he gave — it was like a 15-part lecture series that was the basis for the Free to Choose series, which was turned into a book and broadcast on PBS of all places. I don’t know — often joke that it would be nice to see something like that on PBS these days. They would never do it, but. AB: So is this YouTube, mostly, where you’re catching all of this? AP: Absolutely. You can find almost anything on YouTube, but even — there’s a Web site called the idea channel, or or something like that, and they have all of Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose videos. And they’re phenomenal! I mean the guy is absolutely amazing, right? He’s so rational. And he has his facts straight — maybe there are minor details that could be wrong perhaps, but I would say that the guy knows his stuff, he knows his history. He really likes to talk about the fact that the Federal Reserve and that everybody likes to say that the Federal Reserve bank and FDR got everybody out of the depression. And he goes on to rationally, logically, with the data, with the facts, explain why that’s not the case. And you just go, that is really interesting. And I like to consider myself a pretty rational person and as a scientist I’m supposed to just follow the evidence. And you can argue one thing or another based on your opinion, but the facts are the facts are the facts. Sometimes the problem is interpreting the facts. Some people take the facts and interpret it as FDR got us out of the depression, but then maybe you dig into more detail and find out we didn’t get out of the depression until World War II — so all the stuff you think you know is true isn’t true, which is why I bought the Stossel book in the first place. Things you thought you’ve known for your entire life, that you’ve held some value as being true, not because you researched it because it was just part of the common knowledge, you find out is just grossly false when you start to look at the details of it. AB: Transitioning a little bit back to the Tea Party. What does the Constitution mean to you? AP: The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. AB: And what would you say are its greatest elements and its greatest flaws, if any? AP: Well, probably the greatest part of the Constitution is freedom of speech. You know, and I suppose if there was a flaw there would certainly be one for the case of the non-inclusion of negro people back in the day, not having a voice. So it’s kind of a contradiction type of thing there, saying freedom of speech and that only applies to certain people, with property rights and so forth. And I wish I knew more about the history — probably there were people fighting for and against those options into the final version of the Constitution — for whatever reason certain elements made it in and certain elements didn’t and I don’t really know why for sure. But overall, I mean, the Constitution — well the Bill of Rights is our protection from government and I think this is something that’s unique in the world, if I’m not mistaken. I don’t think other countries have such protections. I think the problem though — one of the worst parts, not that it was meant to be so at the beginning, like the slavery issue was, who was allowed to vote and have property rights. But the commerce clause now is one of these nasty little things that was written so vaguely that it could be interpreted to mean a thousand different things and probably one of the most heavily abused clauses of the Constitution. AB: And what does it mean to you to be an American? What does being an American mean to you? AP: Well, I guess if I had to just equate it in words — American equals freedom, it equals opportunity, equals prosperity, equals individualism. AB: And to you what does it mean to be un-American? What is something you would describe as un-American? AP: I think most forms of collectivism is very un-American. Any form of collectivism is very un-American. I think Ayn Rand even said that racism is the greatest form of collectivism. That and — so collectivism and not having the ability to choose for yourself — these are very un-American things. It goes against the things that I just said, it’s the collective mindset versus an individual mindset. And the restriction on being able to choose for yourself how you want to proceed in your life — whether that’s your personal choices or your economic choices. The government shouldn’t be allowed to tell you what you can do in the bedroom, who you can marry, what drugs you can use — then, at the same time, they shouldn’t be able to tell you what you can and can’t do with your money. And, all of these compulsory mechanisms that the government puts in place to try to nudge us into a direction that it thinks is fit and proper is very, very un-American. AB: So switching gears once again. You mentioned a couple of books that you found inspiring — what kind of books do you like to read generally? Is it generally textbooks and things for class or do you pleasure read? AP: My, well I haven’t done a lot of reading lately, but mostly it’s horror movies — horror novels. AB: Do you have a favorite author? AP: A few, like John Saul, Steven King’s stuff, Dean Koontz. I read a lot of science nerdy stuff, Stephen Hawking, Universe in a Nutshell and I have like a — Richard Feynman, lots of Richard Feynman. That guy’s a genius. Really rational people. I’m really attracted to people who just use reason and logic and ration to their fullest extent in order to solve problems. Because it takes emotion out of the argument. I think you’re more effective if you can take out some bit of emotion, maybe not all — maybe it comes across as sounding callous or insensitive — like you don’t feel for the needs of people. But if you’re trying to get at what the facts are so you can most appropriately deal with it, rational people deal with facts and reason — I mean you have to be able to take the facts and rationalize it. Someone can try to reason with you that the grass is purple, but it doesn’t make it so and so forth. Yeah, so I’ve read the Harry Potter series and all. AB: So you like the horror and fantasy and also the science. AP: Yeah, yeah. AB: What kind of music do you like to listen to? AP: Pretty much everything. I’ve listened to everything — like one of my favorite bands is Toad the Wet Sprocket, but I also like a lot of metal. I listen to like DevilDriver — Toad the Wet Sprocket and DevilDriver and everything between like bluegrass. I used to listen to a lot of rap when I was younger, but that was back when I thought rap was in its golden era. AB: What era is that? AP: Sort of that mid-80s era, or the era when Yo MTV Raps, was on. Slick Rick and Easy-E and Public Enemy, the Fat Boys. AB: Yeah, the glory days. AP: Yeah, like Run DMC and those are classics. AB: So kind of eclectic, you like to listen to a lot of different things. AP: Yeah, it just depends on my mood. You know, I really — right now I’m kind of back into classic rock, southern rock sort of thing. Doobie Brothers and Skynyrd. I just forgot how good that stuff was. AB: And what about movies? Do you like horror movies to go with your taste in books? AP: Yeah, yeah. Horror movies — I’m a huge fan of horror movies. But again, I’m kind of weird because I don’t have favorites — I don’t have a favorite food, ice cream, color, a song, I don’t have a favorite movie. I like everything, you know. Because everything is good, everything is interesting. It just depends on what you want at the time. AB: Transitioning one more time — where do you get your news today. What are your main sources of news? AP: It’s mostly online now. And it depends on what you mean by news. I don’t have cable at the moment. I know before the election and so forth, when I did have cable — before I moved up here, in other words, my station was always Fox — obviously, right? Isn’t that — if you’re a Republican you have to watch Fox? [chuckles] You know, that’s — that’s what they say, the liberal guys say. But at least, though, at least they’re willing to go on the air an question some things. AB: What, you say predominantly the Internet — are there certain sites you go to more than others? AP: I’d say that the three sites, maybe three or four sites I frequent the most — and it’s not so much to get necessarily news, where it’s just that blanket news, but to get insight, would be John Stossel’s blog, Reason TV, PJ TV, and the Cato Institute. And that’s mostly because — like the Cato Institute has a huge archive of all their policy papers and papers on free market solutions to pre-existing problems, and because I’m trying to educate myself on free market solutions I often refer to that site to say what would be the free market solution to this problem. For example, over-fishing — they have a free market solution to the over-fishing problem, which government can’t seem to fix on their own. It doesn’t matter how many laws there are or how they try to enforce it or the restriction on the window of when you fish, it doesn’t seem to solve the problem. But the things that do seem to solve the problem are giving sort of a private ownership to fishermen in the amount they catch — it’s a little complicated and I’m not even sure I fully understand it, but the general idea of owning property — if you own something you’re more willing to preserve the thing that you own, you have a personal stake in it. But if nobody owns the water, no one cares, it’s just get as much as you can in the shortest amount of time and so-forth. But, you know the local news I don’t watch so much — I can go online and sift through articles, regular news articles, just for like daily events — maybe to keep up with the oil spill and so forth. And I don’t really care who I’m getting the news from if I’m just trying to get what’s going on. But I’m not going to watch Rachel Maddow, I’m not going to watch Keith Olbermann, that stuff. AB: Before Fox News came about and before the Internet — where did you get your news back then? Do you remember? AP: Really, I. I just was watching the local news before Letterman came on or whatever. The local, the big three news organizations. But back then I didn’t really care. I didn’t have an interest. I was just trying to figure out — I was going about trying to figure out what I was going to do the next day. AB: What are your opinions of the news media generally? AP: Well, that they’re all biased — every one of them. AB: Do you believe in objectivity or that it is possible to have objective reporting? AP: I think it can exist, but I’m not sure that it shows itself very often. And I don’t know why. For example, John Stossel was on ABC, 20/20, trying to be objective. I think being objective is being able to hear both sides of the argument, get some data, get some facts, use your logic and rationing skills to put everything together to come to a conclusion. This might sound a little arrogant, but I feel that if I have all the information, if I have all the information available, I can come to a rational, logical conclusion, and that conclusion will probably be the best one. I think — but part of the problem is that you don’t have all the information. Maybe this is something that’s inherently an issue in today’s media. They’re only giving you sort of the sound bites and you don’t get the details. So it leads people to make a conclusion that they might not otherwise make if they had more detailed information. AB: So, last transition. How did you first become aware of the Tea Party movement? AP: [long pause] God, I really don’t remember. It was probably the news or a newspaper, something like that. I don’t think it was the Internet, because as it was happening it was garnering a lot of attention so you’d catch it and you see this group of people that are, some are angry, some are scared, and I was just really concerned with the direction the country is going, and I guess I identified with it. By the time I got into the Tea Party, I had — you know, I’m still a registered Republican even though I’m a libertarian, just like Ron Paul. He’s not going to ditch the party. I don’t know if there is such value in having a third party, I think maybe we just need to get our respective parties back on the track that most people want them to go on. So I got involved in the Tea Party — I don’t know, I guess there’s a feeling or a sense of, ‘I have to do something.’ I can’t just go well, that’s just terrible, that sucks and then not do anything. I don’t know, I just thought it was my way of contributing in some small way — I’m not running for office, but I go to the meetings and I try to attend the protests and the rallies and let my voice be heard, let them know that I’m not happy. AB: When was the first gathering that you went to? AP: It wasn’t terribly long ago. Maybe half a year ago, six months ago — pretty recent, you know. AB: Was there a final straw or something? Was there a specific motivator or was it broader? AP: Well, I think — actually you know the Web site MeetUp? I think I was looking on MeetUp for other things. Like, I’m interested in cooking and so forth, so I was looking for people who enjoy cooking and everything — and I stumbled across it or maybe I searched for it. But I’d find a Republican group — because I’m in Massachusetts and I feel very outcasted, and so okay there’s a Republican group, and oh look there’s a libertarian group, and oh look there’s this Tea Party group too and they’re having these meetings and they’re pretty close to me — only two miles away, I should maybe go and maybe I can get involved and do something, whatever it is, I don’t know. AB: So kind of spontaneous then, it sounds like. AP: Very spontaneous. I went to the original tax day tea rally there on Boston Common, the first one. AB: Back in 2009? AP: Back in 2009. I didn’t make the 2010 one — I was doing research out in Virginia, but hopefully I can go to the rally that’s coming up in September — the 9/12 rally. [laughs] I don’t know, like I said it stresses me out all of this stuff and it prevents me from getting certain work done at school, unfortunately. AB: Did you participate in the McCain campaign at all? AP: I didn’t participate in it — it was like, I’m rooting for him. I didn’t particularly like him though. And again, from, when you listen to the campaign stuff you go, I just don’t know where these people are coming from, you know. Once I got more involved in libertarian issues I realized just how wrong I’ve been even in my sort of Republican values, so-called values. A lot of the stuff that they spout off about are just completely wrong. A lot of the stuff, like I said earlier, I didn’t really care about — you know, gay marriage and drugs. All that stuff — because even as a Republican I realize that was a form of Republican that I was not. I didn’t know what to call myself, I just knew is that I was not religious and I was not socially conservative. So for very many years I would go around going I’m a Republican, but I’m fiscally conservative and socially liberal. And it was only when I started getting into Stossel’s book and everything when I was like, oh I’m a libertarian. AB: So you made that realization — this is what I am. AP: Yeah, it was like, oh, okay. I didn’t even take the world’s smallest political quiz at the time. I must be a libertarian — and I couldn’t understand why people who wanted to be fiscally conservative could say keep your hands off my money, and don’t tell me how to spend my money and don’t take my property from me would want to then turn around and tell other people what they can do in the bedroom. It goes against the grain of my logic — not my logic but reason in general. AB: What do you think about — I mean the Tea Party obviously organizes around fiscal conservatism and things libertarians can get behind, obviously. AP: Things that libertarians can get behind, sure. But there isn’t any uniformity in the Tea Party movement. There are two camps — there’s a conservative camp and a libertarian camp, and I think they’re trying to jockey for position. AB: So you see internal jockeying within the Tea Party? AP: Maybe jockeying, I don’t want to — I don’t see it as a struggle where there’s in-fighting. But I think that there’s some nudging going on, and probably not even from the Tea Party members but from people who are interested in taking over the Tea Party and moving it in one direction or the other. AB: So outside forces trying to gather or incorporate the Tea Party or take advantage of it? AP: Like, I’m sure you already know, like Sarah Palin and her involvement in the Tea Party. I’m skeptical of this kind of thing. It makes me very nervous — the woman who ran with McCain, who I don’t agree with most of the time now, is going off spouting about how wonderful the Tea Party is. I would have a lot more trust in Sarah Palin if she came out and made a bold statement like, ‘I’m in favor of abolishing the Department of Education.’ Now I think you’re on my side. Other than that I’m going to hold a huge amount of cloud of skepticism over her head until she comes out with that kind of a statement. AB: So you think she’s more socially conservative than fiscally? AP: She is. I think the record shows that. AB: What do you think — for example Christen Varley and other people within the leadership of the local one and things — they work for social conservative groups. They’re focusing, with the Tea Party obviously, on the fiscally conservative side. Do you see that as something that’s sustainable? Everybody kind of focusing on this one point of agreement, or do you think it’s rife for... AP: Yeah, it’s kind of the — it’s that whole fighting in inches kind of thing. And as Austin, you’ve probably talked to Austin and the enemy of my enemy is my friend. I think, because remember the Tea Party is about taxes — Taxed Enough Already — and the spending and taxing of government. Everything else there’s going to be agreement and disagreement on, on other issues, but I think everybody in the Tea Party, whether they’re social conservative or libertarian, is saying the government is too big, it spends too much and taxes too much. Now, after that it’s going to be having these discussions with monthly meetings about how — okay so you’re socially conservative. Explain to me what gives you the justification that you can call this behavior x, y, z morally corrupt. What is your rationale for that? And then you have these — but I think at least though people are willing to talk about such issues in a pretty civil manner. And I don’t know, my hope is that libertarians end up having more influence in the Republican Party to bring them — to like bring it full circle. To get them to agree using the rationale of, if you don’t want government involved in your business, why do you want them involved in your bedroom — why doesn’t that make sense? They’re personal choices. Not to mention, if you’re a Republican and you’re worried about economic issues, you shouldn’t be for the war on drugs, you shouldn’t be for nation building, you shouldn’t be for having 700 bases around the world. And maybe there are some good arguments for keeping some bases open and some not, I don’t know what they are. There are people who are involved in those things that we can’t be involved in behind closed doors. Again, we have a lack of information in order to make a sound judgment. So we have to like trust what they’re doing has the right purpose, but we’re forced to trust them. But we can still have — we should all be skeptical though, and work toward — okay let’s not eliminate all the bases, but certainly if there’s a base where the country says we don’t want you here, we leave. And ones that don’t seem very useful to us, we definitely leave. There’s no reason to be there. AB: What about the Tea Party do you think the media consistently gets wrong or misses? AP: That they’re racist homophobes — as, well I don’t know, it’s hard to say if that’s the media’s general consensus, I don’t want to try to paint that picture. I think it’s too generic and unfair. But you hear stuff like that. The same way you might hear charges of socialism from the right onto the left. Now I’m not going to say that the left are socialists, but what I will say is that the things that they’re trying to adopt have socialist tendencies about them — there’s a collectivism about it that I don’t think is good for us or our economy. But it’s not based on a sort of a — because I have some kind of higher moral thing, it’s that history has shown us that it doesn’t work. And if providing social welfare programs means an infringement on my freedom and my property, then I guess I could argue that there’s a moral justification as to why I’m not for those things. AB: What do you think about the accusations of racism in particular? AP: I just, I don’t see it. I don’t see it. I don’t see it. I don’t see it. Now, I’m not at all Tea Parties, you know, but I know that — so there’s not a lot of blacks and Hispanics in the Tea Parties, but there are not a tremendous amount of blacks and Hispanics in the United States. It’s true that there aren’t a lot of blacks and Hispanics are in the Tea Party, but most of the people in the Tea Party are Republicans, and most blacks won’t touch the Republican Party. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I think the headquarters of the national black Republican caucus is in Sarasota, Florida and they’re pumping out newsletter after newsletter to get more black people involved with Republican ideas instead of — the same way that I say I voted down party lines without thinking about the rationale behind it, I think black people do the same thing with the Democratic Party. I don’t want to explain in too much detail, because I’m afraid I’m going to get something wrong, but if you watch Milton Friedman talk about how — he’ll talk about how these programs have really hurt them over time, that they weren’t this impoverished prior to the implementation of all these programs, or the number of children born out of wedlock — this is all a relatively recent phenomenon, and I don’t know. Government programs create dependency, that seems to be a rational thing to conclude. How could it not? People work in their own rational self-interest. If you hand them something, they’re going to work on taking advantage of it, because why shouldn’t I? Some people might, because they say they have too much pride and so forth I’m not going to accept a handout and all that. AB: But pride is irrational, right? AP: Pride is, maybe, irrational. What’s rational is whether you’re going to eat and feed and clothe your kids, that’s rational — so you’d take advantage of such programs. But that’s a dependency. We’re hurting people by helping people. AB: If I were looking for sound bites, that would have been a very useful one. So, last thing — is there anything I didn’t ask that I should have asked or any comments you have about the Tea Party that you didn’t get to express with these questions? AP: I would always come up with more questions — I’ll come up with more answers after all’s said and done. I’ll probably dream about in my sleep about how I could have answered everything slightly better so. But — not really. Just in general that the Tea Party is not — it’s based on real people’s concerns on where the country is going. And those concerns shouldn’t be belittled or be made to feel insignificant, or that these people don’t know what they’re talking about. I think a lot of people did exactly what I did and researched their tails off to try to understand the complexities of our government. That’s one thing I’ve learned is how big our government is — where our money comes from, what inflation means. I think a lot of people don’t know what the definition of inflation is — they think it’s an increase in price. But I’ve come to learn that it’s an increase in the money supply, which leads to an increase in price. Today, just before we met I was playing around in the Bureau of Labor Statistics trying to understand why North Dakota has three to four percent unemployment rate while the national average is over nine. And Michigan’s is 14. And there are lots of ideas for this, but one of the ones that I thought was particularly interesting was that they had only three to four percent of the subprime mortgage lending practices — only three to four percent of their lending was the subprime stuff. And in addition to a lot of other things, subprime lending was a major contributor to the recession. So at least by having this — and I guess I could do these things without being directly involved in the Tea Party, but I think in general, details aside the Tea Party wants to see less spending and less government. I’m sure there are plenty of people within the Tea Party that if you told them you wanted to abolish the Department of Education, that it’s not necessary, or the Department of Agriculture, or the FDA for crying out loud, they would all laugh at you. I mean the libertarians wouldn’t but probably the conservatives outnumber the libertarians so far. But at least we’re all working toward that common goal, and that’s a damned good thing. And I don’t understand why people are going to be upset when you get a group of people who are getting together to voice concern. Nobody’s throwing bombs — you know I’ve heard, I’ve seen some reports about people hurling racial slurs, but they’re not verified. You listen to five different recordings of the same area and you go, ‘I didn’t hear anything’. I don’t know. And maybe there is some of that going on, but I would say it’s very tiny. I don’t think that — you wouldn’t say that the majority of Americans are racist, then if the Tea Party is a sub-sample of Americans then the majority of Tea Partiers aren’t racist. AB: Do you think that the Tea Party is a sub-sample of Americans? AP: Well, I guess — not based on a random distribution, yeah. Because you’re not going to include all the left, like an equal sub-sampling of the left. But it is nice to know that there are independents and Democrats who are coming to the Tea Party, and so forth. Tim Cahill was just at the Tea Party — he was a Democrat, I think now he’s an independent, but that’s a political move, the same as Charlie Crist in Florida going independent status. You know, I think it’s a good thing if I can talk to Tim Cahill and say don’t you find it unacceptable that five people on the Boston city health commission have the authority to just arbitrarily shut down a business because they find it, they find that they disagree with the practices of smoking? And he was fully onboard — now, maybe he was blowing smoke up my ass, but you would expect to hear that from a libertarian, you’d probably hear that from a Republican, you might get some hemming and hawing about what the benefit of having such an action would be. I think there’s a lot of promise. Because even liberals and Democrats want the same thing — they want to be free people left to be alone and do what they want. I think what liberals are really afraid of is corporatism — they’re really afraid of the collusion between — they’re afraid of corporations, but they’re mistakenly afraid of the businesses, as these nameless, faceless entities. I mean, they’re people. Like Friedman said, there are only three parties involved in a business, the shareholders, the employees and the people who buy the stuff from the company. So they’re people. But it seems like the left just puts this nameless, faceless thing on there and demonize them to the point that they extend the bad practices of some large corporations to that of any sizeable business and say that they’re all evil and the profit motive. But profit motive is a good thing if you understand the good that comes out of it, the quality of living that comes out of the profit motive. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the profit motive — rational self-interest, right? So, I think that if we can convince — just use some basic logic and try to get the Democrats to understand it’s not businesses that are bad, are corrupt, some are, but maybe only five percent. But it’s that the collusion between big government and big business ends up creating monopolies, creating harmful policies that chokes out competition, and in general makes people’s lives worse off. And I think it has a lot to do with misinformation — being passed down, maybe from the university level. It’s hard for me to say because I haven’t been privy to take any social classes or economics classes. But, sort of, word on the street is that there’s a lot of this feeding down of Keynesian economic policy in higher education institutions. And you get the mindset that just because some guy told me this is the way it is it must be right. Just like I did in my own high school days and continued following that until very very recently. And so I promised myself I’d never make the same mistake again — and I have just as many criticisms of the Republican Party as I do of the Democratic Party, but I remain — I’m not an independent because I still believe that fundamentally, whether they practice it or not, because Republicans have done a terrible job of this, but they’re supposed to be for lowering the size of government. Bush didn’t do it. Even Reagan didn’t do it — he tried but it was a Democratically controlled Congress. He was the one that was the closest to it, at least he limited the rate of growth. I just, and I’m sorry to keep going on about this but, so Milton Friedman did the Free to Choose series, John Stossel just made that the focus of his last Thursday’s show, where they — here was this guy Milton Friedman who was saying all this stuff like 30 years ago and it was true 30 years ago and it’s just as true today — the same issues always come up and up. I forgot where I was going with that. AB: You were mentioning Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose and the Stossel bringing it up recently — what’s his television show? Is that what you’re talking about? AP: Well, see, he left ABC 20/20 to take a position at Fox Business Channel, it’s not Fox, not the regular Fox Network, it’s a little bit more underground, you know? But he gets a full hour and has a live studio audience in New York. You should get a ticket — get a free ticket and go watch the show, maybe ask a question. He always tries to get the opposing viewpoint on — they usually refuse to be on though. I don’t remember the main point of where I was going but, I was talking about how liberals have kind of this misconception of the way businesses are supposed to work, what the benefits of being in business are. And he goes through and shows why businesses are good, you know, that competition eliminates bad businesses most of the time. The only time that bad businesses are not eliminated from the market is when they get helped out by the government, you know? — Interview conducted by A.J. Bauer —

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