“Grassroots Tyranny”

I was listening to a radio program the other day during which topic of “charitable giving” was discussed. A caller, who claimed to be an immigrant from the Soviet Union, stated that the Soviet government always told the people that charitable giving was bad because it was demeaning to the recipient. That reminded me of an October 13, 2005 article in the Tucson Weekly by Jim Nintzel entitled “Numbers Racket,” in which he reported the following:

“Uhlich argues that establishing a sliding scale is a bad idea because ‘people don’t want charity.’ She bristles at the notion that a day-care program that’s free for all citizens could be characterized as charity.”

Karin Uhlich is the newly elected Councilman for Ward III. It is not known if she ever served in the government of the Soviet Union.

With all this fresh in my mind, I read an email from my friend Charles Heller. He was giving me a “heads-up” about a speaker luncheon sponsored by the Goldwater Institute. The speaker was Clint Bolick, and his topic was “the growth of local government and the erosion of liberty,” or “grassroots tyrrany” as he calls it. I repeatedly fumbled the telephone as I furiously dialed Phoenix to make my reservation.

The event was held here in Tucson at the Loew’s Ventana Canyon Resort. I showed up a little early, and was treated with warmth and deference by the greeters. I don’t know why, but I’m often treated as a person of consequence by people who don’t know me. Maybe it’s the way I tie my tie – a tight Windsor knot, complete with dimple; or more likely, just being a new face.

The hall was a typical boring affair with a podium and lectern at one end, and round tables filling the room. There were about a dozen tables-for-eight with twelve place settings each. I sat at a table in the back near the door. On my way there, I saw Charles and thanked him for informing me of the event. He was in the middle of telling a seated couple of his unfortunate experience with some federal “law enforcement” officers who confiscated a number of firearms that he was legally transporting – in addition to other “weapons” such as his Leatherman Multitool.

As I sat alone, I began to get the sinking feeling that I would endure this luncheon with a table full people who I did not know, and who did not care to know me. A young woman who ran a Christian school joined me, and was quite nice. We were chatting when who should walk by but my old friend Ed Kahn! When he agreed to sit next to me and join our table, I knew I was saved.

For those of you who do not know Ed Kahn, he is a semi-retired Tucson lawyer who approaches life with a warmth and lightness only found in men of faith (he is a devout Catholic) – with, of course, a libertarian heart. He has run for a number of elected offices, including Mayor of Tucson, and has had more fun as a candidate than any of his opponents. Sitting at our table, he was animated in his conversation – a sort of cross between P.J. O’Rourke and Rodney Dangerfield.

We were joined by a man and woman, a young man from the Goldwater Institute, and Dave Mason – a local computer expert who also hosts Computer Talk, a local radio talk show on KVOI 690 AM.

You can imagine the synergy between the free-market computer guy, libertarian lawyer, and libertarian blogger! Dave related an anecdote involving a state college that received a bunch of computers from Apple at no charge, and then proceeded to sell them through their bookstore at prices well below retail. They were putting the local Apple dealers out of business, and Apple had to sue them to try and get them to stop. We all noted some local examples of government competing with the free market – the U of A Health Club, and the Udall Center to name a couple. Ed said that, in his business, he charges a premium to retirees because, as he said, “Why should I charge a young couple, who are just starting out with little money, the same as some retired millionaire?” Then he added the icing to the cake, “So I called up the City Equal Opportunity Department and left a message saying, ‘Hey, I’m engaging in age discrimination, come shut me down.’” They never called him back. I love this guy!

After the desert and coffee came – a delicious raspberry/chocolate torte (not the legal kind) – the master of ceremonies took to the lectern. She was a fetching young woman named Darcy Olsen. After describing the history and mission of the Goldwater Institute, Darcy discussed some of the areas in which Clint Bolick has been engaging the enemy. She asked if everyone has heard that Arizona is ranked 49th or 50th in education spending, and of course, we all had. Then she went on to explain that, in addition to Arizona, there were at least twelve other states ranked 49th or 50th in education spending. She went on to describe that the roughly $5,000.00 per pupil expenditures claimed for Arizona government schools was actually closer to $8,500.00, which is enough to send two children to the average private school in Arizona. It just got better from there!

Eventually, the fetching Miss Darcy introduced Clint Bolick. To my disappointment, Mr. Bolick did not provide a list of tactics that would confound local tyrants – this is important for Tucsonans who find themselves with a new City Council comprised of four leftists, two moderates, and a RINO mayor.

In any event, he told a couple of inspirational stories involving clients whom he represented in legal fights with cities. One case involved a very successful business in which the owners braided hair in corn rows. The city of Washington D.C. sent a cop to their door with an order to either close their business, or go to cosmetology school where the would become proficient in doing nails, and experts in hairstyles from the fifties! Another involved a Mr. Leroy Jones who drove a cab for the Yellow Cab company in the city of Denver. He realized that certain poor neighborhoods were not being well served by existing cab companies; so, as any good American would do, he quit Yellow to start his own company which would serve this niche market. He and his partners ran the numbers, got the capital, and arranged for the vehicles. Unfortunately, he was denied a business license because he could not prove that existing companies were incapable of serving his target market – a ridiculous standard, impossible to meet. He ended up selling soda during games at Mile High Stadium. He lost his case; but the story does not end there. He attracted some media attention. He was filmed at his new job at the stadium. When the Star Spangled Banner was played, he stopped, took his hat off, and shed a tear.

If you are not choked up yourself at this point, you really need to move to France or Sweden.

Bowing to public outrage, the city issued his license. He named his new company “Freedom Cabs.”