Archive | April 17, 2008

If You Vote, Vote for Ruwart

Okay, I promise I don’t want this blog to become Ruwartcentric in the way that LRC for a while was Paulocentric; but bear with me for a moment. I just want to note that I’ve offered the Ruwart campaign the following endorsement, or quasi-endorsement-ish thingy. (Whether they will post it on their endorsements page I don’t know.) See my clarificatory note afterward, below.

I was delighted to learn that Dr. Mary Ruwart has declared her candidacy for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination.

We sometimes hear that in choosing a Libertarian Party candidate there’s a necessary trade-off between consistency and persuasiveness – that an unswerving adherence to libertarian principle is incompatible with presenting libertarianism to newcomers in a non-off-putting way, so that candidates must either be thoroughgoing libertarians who alienate voters, or else wishy-washy moderates who water down the ideas to win people over.

Alliance of the Libertarian Left logo superimposed on Mary Ruwart Mary Ruwart’s candidacy represents an ideal opportunity for the Party to avoid both horns of this dilemma. On the one hand, in her longstanding commitment to liberty she is uncompromising – arguably more so (and certainly no less so) than any previous LP presidential candidate. But on the other hand, she is extraordinarily gifted at presenting radical ideas in a compelling and non-threatening way; in this respect she contrasts positively with all too many LP candidates who present far more moderate positions in a manner that makes them sound far more extremist!

A crucial part of Dr. Ruwart’s effectiveness as a libertarian communicator is her ability to bring out the pro-common-people, anti-privilege aspect of libertarian economic ideas. Because, let’s face it, libertarianism has a reputation problem. Many non-libertarians see it as a philosophy for those who glorify the corporate elite and have little concern with poverty, racism, or the environment – and libertarians’ own rhetoric can all too often contribute to this perception.

I can’t think of any candidate who could do more to combat this stereotype than Mary Ruwart. In particular, Dr. Ruwart is better than any other candidate I know of at dispelling the charge that free market principles benefit the rich at the expense of the poor; in fact, nearly every chapter of her excellent outreach book Healing Our World (buy lots of copies and distribute them widely!) has a section explaining how in fact the “rich get richer” and “poor get poorer” thanks to government intervention. Her approach might best be described as the pursuit of Green ends by Libertarian means – and it’s an approach whose attractiveness she has a remarkable ability to convey.

Thanks to Dr. Ruwart’s decision to enter the race, there is no need for the “Party of Principle” to choose between principle and practicality. I enthusiastically urge all Libertarian Party members to support Mary Ruwart’s candidacy for the presidential nomination.

Roderick T. Long
Philosophy Professor at Auburn University,
and Editor of the Journal of Libertarian Studies

Does this mean that Mary Ruwart has lured me back to believing that a focus on electoral politics is the most effective strategy for the libertarian movement? Nah. But I think self-identified libertarian political candidates definitely affect public awareness and perception of libertarian ideas, and thereby have an impact on the success of non-electoral libertarian strategies as well, so as long as there’s an LP it matters who its candidates are. And as an effective communicator of a (relatively) left-oriented, Green-tinted, “bleeding-heart” version of libertarianism that is nevertheless at the same time fairly radical/consistent/plumbline/purist, Mary would help to build and shape a libertarian movement that is all those things as well – which is the kind of libertarian movement I want. Moreover, as Less Antman points out, Mary’s campaign should also boost sales of her books and thus help to spread radical libertarian ideas, a welcome result even for anti-electoral libertarians.

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