The following review appeared in Liberty For All under the headline There is no Libertarian here: The Conscience of a Libertarian by Wayne Root. Other well known Libertarians who have reviewed Root’s Conscience of a Libertarian include Steve Kubby, John Hospers, Peter Orvetti, and Richard Winger.
a book review by George Phillies
Mr. Root has published a 368-page campaign book, which in the reviewer’s opinion should substantially eliminate any suspicion that Root is an acceptable Presidential candidate for our party. It should also substantially eliminate any suspicion that he is a libertarian rather than – as he entirely honestly says on a regular basis – a conservative of a particular sort. Not a bad sort….if you want a conservative President, Wayne would be a lot better than most of the other conservatives out there.
To give credit where credit is due, Mr. Root successfully transports his vigorous tub-thumping speech patterns from the soap box to print form. If you wonder what he sounds like on stage, you have but to read this volume aloud. Should you want to find Mr. Root’s positions on particular issues, there is a really excellent index.
If we were the right wing anti-tax party with esoteric undertones, we might agree this is a libertarian book. We aren’t, and it isn’t.
Let’s start with that Index. In the real world, the President deals in considerable part with foreign, defense, and trade policy. Foreign policy? Iraq-not listed. Iran-not listed. Afghanistan-not listed. The Bush War on Terror-not listed. Ending foreign wars is buried in a two-page section on decreasing foreign aid, a section that rapidly segues into cutting defense spending, starting with the time-worn Republican rant about eliminated waste and stealing.
Mr. Root piles up all sorts of right-wing nostrums and assertions. Libertarians advocate reality-based politics. Root – read Chapter 27 – is a global warming denier. Libertarians historically come from knowledge-based professions – Root goes into a rant against vaccinating young women for cervical cancer.
While flawed, our Constitution and its Bill of Rights as extended to the states by the 14th amendment have done much to give Americans freedom and prosperity. Root speaks to ‘…abortion, gay rights, stem cell funding, right to die (think Terry Schiavo), online poker, medical marijuana, and censorship of television…” “I believe it is up to the voters of each state to decide for themselves…” This is the “States’ Rights” doctrine under which voters decided that African Americans were not allowed to ride at the front of the bus, vote, attend good high schools, or marry white people. Fortunately, our Federal Constitution put an end to those despicable States’ Rights doctrines. Curiously, when it comes to gun ownership, Mr. Root is correctly supportive of the right of private citizens to keep and bear arms, but only tens of pages after he hands off to the voters the right ‘to decide for themselves’ whether to allow gun ownership in each state.
We have a Constitutional system under which Congress passes bills, the President may veto bills, Congress may over-ride the Presidential veto, and then things come to an end. The decision has been made. Root rejects this constitutional system – Chapter 15 – in favor of a Presidential dictatorship ‘impoundment’ under which the President may ignore the law and refuse to spend money if he feels like it. This is the tyrannical Bush ’signing statement’ doctrine expanded a thousand-fold.
Root blames the difficulties of the Detroit car companies on labor unions. It was not the labor unions that tried to sell ‘buy American’ rather than ‘our cars have fewer defects’. It was not the labor unions that won one company President a 100-million-dollar contract. It was not labor unions that invented planned obsolescence, designing cars to fail after a few years. It was not labor unions that told company economists to support import quotas or be fired, when they warned quotas would mean billions in extra profits for Japanese carmakers, exactly as happened. It was not the labor unions that agreed to those contracts. Blaming labor unions for bankrupting Detroit is nonsense.
Root does talk about ending prohibition. For most libertarians, that is a truly fine issue. Drug prohibition wastes tens and tens of billions of dollars a year, and has blighted the lives of millions of young men and women. Medical marijuana prohibition is a consummate anti-libertarian doctrine. Root instead goes on – entirely justly – about gambling prohibition, especially internet gambling. Drug prohibition…not so much. Of course, during Root’s nominating campaign he claimed that there were vast numbers of internet gamblers out there just waiting to support this campaign issue, which clearly did not happen to the Libertarian Party in 2008.
Libertarians historically have tended to advocate equality before the law. Root instead advocates eliminating taxes on capital gains, which he claims is taxing money twice. People who have honest jobs and work for a living go to the rear of the bus. The Root tax plan qualifies as class warfare, not in a way that is likely to win the support of many voters.
Readers who actually have capital gains will have noted contrary to Root that the name of the tax is more or less honest … you are taxed on the gains, not on the principal. The same money is not taxed twice. Unfortunately, this Root assertion is somewhat typical of the book, which could have survived some fact-checking. As anyone who has read the Declaration of Independence will have noted, contrary to Mr. Root the tea tax was only a small part of one cause of the Revolution.
If you are looking for modern issues that the Founding Fathers could have understood, consider warrantless wiretapping of every telephone in the United States. Root says “If we had heeded Barry Goldwater, the Federal government would not have the right to listen into your phone calls … (without a warrant)…I am today uncomfortable with any administration overriding or ignoring the Constitution for any reasons…” Real libertarians know that the government already does not have a right to warrantless wiretapping. Real libertarians are not uncomfortable with trampling our Bill of Rights…they know for a fact that those acts are felony crimes against the Republic, and say loudly in public that the people who committed them need to be relocated to a Federal prison.
Finally, in a country whose constitution and bill of rights create an iron wall between church and state, and in a party many of whose founders were atheists, agnostics, neo-pagans, or uninterested in the topic, opening your book “Let me start with God” is bit surprising. Claiming that our national success is due to divine intervention rather than to capitalism, thrift, and limited government is certainly peculiar and remote from libertarianism.
So, if you were considering Root, go to http://antiwar.com. Click on “amazon.com” so some of your money goes to a good place, namely antiwar. Buy a book — used copies are not expensive. See what you are considering buying for our party, or pay the price later.
George Phillies is a contributing editor for Liberty For All. You can contact Dr. Phillies at email@example.com.