Liberty movement on display at UAlbany

Pat Gareau, Creative Editor

SUNY Albany hosted the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) New York State conference on Saturday, Feb. 22. YAL is a nonprofit organization that grew from Ron Paul’s presidential campaigns and adheres to libertarian ideals. Since being founded in 2008, nearly 500 chapters have been created on college campuses nationwide.

Approximately 125 people attended the conference, with many traveling from outside of New York State to attend one of this year’s 12 YAL state conferences. The event featured a lineup of speakers on libertarian philosophy, free market economics, the dangers of increasing size of government and strategies in political activism.

Ron Paul joined the conference via Skype and talked about his message that gained grassroots popularity during his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. He spoke of non-intervention in foreign affairs, the NSA and the federal reserve in the context of liberty.

“Liberty is an idea [whose] time has come,” he said.

The liberty movement has made progress at SUNY Albany. Only a year after forming a YAL chapter on campus in 2012, the group won northeastern chapter of the year in 2013.

Skyler Deangelo, president of UAlbany YAL and chair of the New York State YAL, said, “The liberty movement has given me everything I have.”

Members of the YAL and libertarians aim to downsize government and reverse the progressive trends that have prevailed for much of recent history. Their philosophy centers on the idea that individuals and communities must be given freedom to fulfill their potential and that a large government compromises this goal. From their view, the constitution reflects this philosophy.

Chris Doss, deputy director of grassroots at the leadership institute, gave a presentation on the tactics of the political left that were formulated in the 1960s. In an attempt to “know the enemy,” as Doss described it, the lecture focused on Saul Alinsky’s leftist publication, “Rules for Radicals.”

Steven Horowitz, an economics professor from St. Lawrence University, spoke about his belief that government policies, such as low interest rates and subsidized housing, ultimately led to the “great recession” that began in 2007-08.

In a panel discussion, three activists from New York discussed policy in the state and the divide between upstate and New York City.

On the possibility of upstate separating into it’s own state, Syracuse activist David Andrews Gay said, “I think it would be spectacular.”

Republican New York State Assemblymen Steve McLaughlin and Pete Lopez joined the convention and spoke further on New York State. They both spoke on their opposition to the common core education reform and the SAFE Act and also emphasized the need to lower taxes and cut spending. The SAFE Act, which created stricter regulations on firearms in 2013, has been a major topic of contention for conservatives and libertarians.

McLaughlin has been a vocal opponent of the legislation and while talking about the second amendment said, “You have the right to self preservation.”

Both assemblymen are worried that further gun control will be pursued in the future.

“This is a very slippery slope, this is the tip of the iceberg,” said Lopez.

Along with the current New York State elected officials, other local leaders were in attendance in addition to the college crowd.

“Urban government is so intertwined in the daily lives of citizens that they’re really not allowed to flourish,” said Nathan Lebron, Republican candidate for mayor of Albany in 2009.

Jesse Calhoun ran for mayor of Albany in 2013 on the Republican line. Agreeing with Lebron, he said, “Anything that the city of Albany government does, the people could do a better job at lower cost.”

In the keynote address, President of the Foundation for Economic Education and columnist Lawrence Reed spoke about the parallels between the decline of the Roman Republic and the current situation in America. According to Reed, the decline of character in Rome led to an expanded welfare state and inflation of the money supply. He believes a similar situation is occurring in America today.

YAL hopes to continue growing their organizations. The national organization provides assistance to activists that wish to start a new chapter.

“Our goal is to empower the grassroots,” said Jeff Frazee, YAL executive director.

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