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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9 Responses to If You Vote, Vote for Ruwart

  1. Franklin Harris April 17, 2008 at 6:41 pm #

    Back when I read the first edition of “Healing Our World,” I was still a pretty hardcore Rothbardian of sorts, and the book struck me then as an attempt to couch libertarianism in flaky, New Age babble. If anything, I suspect that’s why you’ll find a lack of Rockwellians lining up behind Ruwart.

    Of course, that was so long ago I’d have to reread it to know what exactly set me off.

  2. Administrator April 17, 2008 at 8:23 pm #

    Well, there’s certainly a New Age tone to the book, but I wouldn’t equate that with flaky or babble. And the substance is hardcore and tightly argued. See Less Antman on this.

  3. Niccolo Adami April 17, 2008 at 8:51 pm #

    Mary Ruwart is just kind of a New Age-y type person – or so that’s what I get from her. Not that it’s at all a bad thing, in fact, I find it rather refreshing.

  4. Bob Kaercher April 17, 2008 at 11:49 pm #

    Ruwart seems awfully consistent, based on what I’ve read by and about her so far (which has been primarily online). I still have no intention of voting, but if she’s someone who’s interested in focusing on libertarianism as a compassionate philosophy, I’ll be getting the books.

    BTW, Antman makes a great point about libertarians reforming their manners rather than their views. (I take the point for myself as much as for anyone else.)

  5. Thomas L. Knapp April 18, 2008 at 1:12 am #

    We actually have two very good choices from a “left-libertarian, but not opposed to electoral politics” standpoint: Dr. Ruwart and Steve Kubby. They’re both hardcore libertarians.

    The differences:

    Ruwart takes an “effective communicator” approach, perhaps even a “sales technology” approach: Find common ground on desire, then hammer away with data showing that the libertarian solution delivers the goods and the government solution doesn’t. “We’re in this together, and this is the best way forward.”

    Kubby takes a more “class warfare / freedom fighter” approach: While he doesn’t avoid discussing the efficacy of libertarian versus statist solutions, he tends to emphasize freedom as an intrinsically worthy goal for his starting point, then position himself as on the side of his audience (the exploited productive class) versus the enemy (the exploitative political class). “We’re in this together — you and me against them.”

    There are benefits to both approaches, of course. I prefer Kubby’s approach, if for no other reason than that most people remember and revere revolutionists (Gandhi, King, Mandela, et al) while I can’t for the life of me think of three names to put in a similar historical cheery salesperson category. I suspect that Dr. Ruwart might poll as many votes as Kubby in the general election, but that Kubby would continue to influence the debate for longer afterward. That’s just my take on it, though — the LP could do far worse than either of them (and will, if it doesn’t pick one of the two this year).

    Tom Knapp

    [Disclosure: I’m with Steve Kubby’s campaign. Dr. Ruwart is my “second choice,” and I’ve also done a very small amount of behind-the-scenes work with her campaign.]

  6. Less Antman April 18, 2008 at 6:24 am #

    Tom, I wouldn’t a classify Martin Luther King in the category of “you and me against them,” and saw colorblindness as his essential message. It’s a reasonable view of Gandhi, though changing the heart of the enemy was also a part of his message. Early Mandela, yes, but later Mandela, not as much. And Bishop Tutu was critical to the cause and very much a “cheery salesperson”: the Truth and Reconciliation element that finally won the end of apartheid is his legacy. William Wilberforce, leader of the British abolitionist movement, was also a “cheery salesperson”.

    I wrote about my enormous respect for Steve Kubby on my Ruwarchy! site ( http://www.ruwarchy.com/topic/365 ).

  7. Thomas L. Knapp April 18, 2008 at 10:31 am #


    Nice piece on Kubby, and thanks for writing it. Please note that I’m certainly not trying to slam Dr. Ruwart here, and would happily support her as the nominee. I think that a ticket with both of them on it, in either order, would be the strongest ticket we could field this year from the known choices.

    Tom Knapp


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