Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact
Previous story: Stagefright
Next story: See You There!

Jim Ostrowski: Lawyer, Writer, Anti-politician

Get to know a Buffalonian

Once upon a time, attorney Jim Ostrowski was a good liberal Democrat—a McGovern man, even. But his exposure to and activism in Buffalo politics, coupled with undergraduate explorations into libertarian political philosophy, changed all that. Today Ostrowski is among the region’s most vocal denouncers of government intervention and political corruption. He lends his legal acumen to insurgent political movements, writes an often wry and informative blog (, and attends tea parties religiously. He has a new book, Government Schools Are Bad for Kids, which he’ll besigning at the Adam Mickiewicz Library on Tuesday, December 8, 7-9pm.

Describe your evolution from active Democrat in your youth to libertarian. When and how did the scales fall from your eyes?

When I came upon the libertarian theory of the state as “the organization of the political means” of wealth acquisition (not any nonsense like a social contract), it clicked with me instantly. I had already watched the local machine and knew it was 99 percent about patronage jobs, money, and power. I was already antiwar but libertarians seem to understand the root causes of war. I would later conclude that liberalism, applied to international relations, is itself warlike.

As I explain in my first book, upon identifying the corrupt and self-serving political machine that was presiding over Buffalo’s decline, in my pre-libertarian days, I sought to reform it. Futile. I ultimately realized that machines don’t cause big government; they run big governments.

Give us a crash course in libertarianism.

Libertarianism is based on natural rights—self-ownership and the right to justly acquired property; Austrian economics—makes the Chicago School seem like socialists; revisionist history—most of what you learn in government school is bull; and public choice analysis—that is, we look at how government actually operates as opposed to how it is supposed to operate.

In your dream world, what would the governance of this corner of the world look like?

Most government should be at the local level of the organic community. So, North Buffalo, East Aurora, and Wales would be largely autonomous with not much government above that, mainly appellate courts. That way, you could really vote with your feet for the government you liked and I wouldn’t care too much if the socialists controlled the West Side because I could live elsewhere.

You’re not exactly a gradualist. How do you forward your agenda?

First through education, then specific proposals for real change as Free Buffalo has produced. Then, throw the bums out. The third leg is the problem and only last season did we manage to kick out three incumbents—with a broad-based coalition that included us tea party people. So, for many years, I have concluded that political activity is usually futile and I now believe direct action is our only hope.

What’s your new book about?

I wrote Government Schools Are Bad for Your Kids, first, because I was upset that my kids’ Catholic school closed and I blamed the high taxes for the government schools. The parents could not pay for two school systems and only use one. Second, because I have believed that they are bad for as long as I can remember, even before I was a libertarian. I also believe that the failed schools have the nation itself in deep trouble because the voters who pass through them get subtly indoctrinated into big government modes of thought. So they can’t recognize that big government is the problem and therefore installed a president who is growing government even faster than the last fellow did. In the book, I continue to develop my view that only direct citizen action can save the nation at this point because politics is rigged.

blog comments powered by Disqus