Gary Greenberg, the campaign manager of Fran Youngstein's pathbreaking 1973 bid for Mayor of New York City, is the Free Libertarian Party's nominee for Governor of New York State.
Gary, a veteran libertarian activist and a criminal attorney practicing in New York City, stresses the importance of running a "pure" campaign. "The Libertarian Party should function as a political conscience," he says. When asked what would be his first official act as Governor—if elected—he has replied that he would grant an immediate pardon to everyone imprisoned under New York State law for practicing a victimless crime.
No one, of course, expects Gary to get elected, but we do expect him to be the only candidate in the race saying anything worth hearing about New York's political problems.
New York City is not only the media capital of the country, but also the showplace of state (and local) big government in America. It has long had one of the strictest gun control laws in the country and it still has a serious violent crime problem. The "Empire State" also has a large army of bureaucrats and its taxpayers bear one of the heaviest burdens in the United States. There is a New York State income tax, a New York City income tax, and a complicated patchwork of state and local sales taxes that total as high as eight percent in some areas.
Not surprisingly, both Republicans and Democrats are up to their ears in statism. The two party system has become so degenerate in New York that virtually every important controversial issue becomes submerged in a "bipartisan approach," with the major party politicos quibbling over the personalities of candidates and the details of almost identical proposals. A good Libertarian campaign could be the most interesting political event for the news media to cover.
Here is a sketch of the current New York political scene:
The continuing fiscal crisis of the New York City government has become one of America's leading political soap operas. The Democratic Mayor (Ed Koch) has received support from the Democratic Governor (Hugh Carey) for increased state aid to the City and both men have joined the chorus chanting for federal money. The leading Republican challenger (State Assembly Leader Perry Duryea) is the newest member of the choir. Eager to shed his image as a "fiscal conservative," Duryea opened his campaign several weeks ago with a promise of more state aid to New York City. Unless one of New York's perennial Marxists opts for a Leninist approach to the situation, the Free Libertarian Party standard bearer will be the only person in sight opposing a federal rescue of the City.
Whatever happens in New York will set a precedent for the rest of the country. Every journalist in New York and Washington is aware of this. The role of print and broadcast communications needs to be emphasized here. In the past, the New York City mayoral campaign and the New York State gubernatorial campaign have attracted attention from coast to coast. In 1973 and 1974 Free Libertarian Party candidates broadcast television commercials that reached a large and potentially influential audience. In 1974, nationally syndicated columnist Nicholas von Hoffman took the trouble to spend several hours with FLP campaign workers and to put his generally favorable impressions into print. That same year the Tuccille for Governor Campaign sparked articles in The New York Times and got libertarians a full-page writeup in Newsweek. Although not an unqualified success, the campaign did generate more national publicity than any previous LP campaign.
Many voters throughout the state (and the nation) are fed up with the wormy politics of the Big Apple and a hard-hitting Libertarian campaign is just what the doctor ordered.
New Yorkers who are concerned about violent crime may very well be treated to an emotional (and probably irrational) debate over whether or not to reinstate capital punishment. None of the gubernatorial contestants is likely to have anything valuable to say about the street crime problem. Gary can address the issue from a libertarian perspective with the expertise of a criminal attorney who is familiar with New York's criminal justice system.
There is also the "Westway" controversy—the battle over a proposal to use federal subsidies to build another highway on the West Side of Manhattan. Most of the opponents of this multi-billion dollar boondoggle have been demanding that the money be used instead to subsidize mass transit construction. It will be nice to hear someone step forward and say: "A plague on both your houses."
In short, 1978 presents the New York Free Libertarian Party with a rare opportunity to kick the government when it's down. The most bureaucratic city government in the nation will be publicly begging for outside assistance for its self-induced crisis. The nation's most statist state will be contending with the nation's most overburdened taxpayers in its worsening struggle to make ends meet. And New York's most ideologically important candidate will be urging the repeal of all victimless crime laws, opposing federal subsidies for New York City and telling the press that we should turn Manhattan island into an international free trade zone. This last is only one of the radical proposals that Gary has up his sleeve. The idea is to turn New York into a new Hong Kong, to encourage private companies to locate in Manhattan. Jobs for New Yorkers and more and better goods and services for people repeatedly screwed by the government's disservices would be an obvious benefit.
The candidate, who was the Finance Chairman of the 1974 Free Libertarian gubernatorial campaign, has estimated that $35,000 is the bare minimum needed to bankroll an effective campaign. Anyone interested in contributing should make checks payable to Greenberg for Governor, c/o Free Libertarian Party, 15 West 38th Street, Room 201, New York, NY 10018.
This one campaign will not undo several decades of damage, but it can be a pioneering effort in the cause. As students of American history know, there is something to be said for pioneers.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Frontlines".