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Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Anti-Ruwart Conspiracy

Bill Woolsey gets it right, as usual.  Here's a look at the bigger picture:
Less Antman does an excellent job of trying to make this contretemps be about bright-line calendar-accident injustice, rather than the fundamental issue of children's rights.  It took Ruwart eight days to back off from her book's position that the rules should be age-blind, but once she endorsed a sliding rebuttable-presumption standard, there was no longer an interesting controversy here about "age of consent".  (She's still vulnerable for her mistaken claim that "desire" can be the only reason for a child to competently want to engage in sexual activity, but that's a technicality that most of her critics, and all of her supporters, will overlook.)  Even the question of whether the rules about consent should be established by legislation vs. markets doesn't make for a truly novel controversy among libertarians -- although this is surely the first time that a serious LP presidential contender had a written record on this extremely sensitive subtopic. 
No, the most intellectually interesting remainder of this controversy is the question of how children's rights are balanced against the rights of parents as guardians.  Ruwart's book clearly suggests that she sees parents having no rights whatsoever to constrain their children's choices, except by denying them e.g. transportation to the child's pornography photo shoots.  This is a topic that Ruwart and her supporters aren't touching with a ten-foot pole.  And with good reason, because it leads directly to an unanswered question I asked of Ruwart ten days ago: "Do you agree with Rothbard that it should not be a crime for parents to starve their children, or do you hold that the legal system should require a positive obligation of parents not to starve their children?"
In the context of abortion, Ruwart opines that the "predominant" Libertarian view is that "parents do not have a *duty* to support their offspring".  However, it's nowhere *near* "predominant" that Libertarians agree with Rothbard (and his new acolyte Alex Peak) that parents may starve their offspring (even if the parents post public notice that anyone may now "homestead" the guardianship rights to the kids -- I'm not making this stuff up).  She says her own personal belief is:
MR) Once the embryo is old enough to live outside the womb, the woman is still under no moral obligation to carry the child to term. She can invite people to her house, change her mind, and ask them to leave. She can invite an embryo to grow inside of her body, change her mind, and ask it to leave (MR
If there's an anti-Ruwart conspiracy, it's dropping the ball by not asking Ruwart whether parents have obligations to infants that they don't have to viable fetuses.  (Somebody needs to tell Dr. Ruwart that humans stop being called embryos after the 8th week of gestation, and that fetuses aren't viable until about 23 weeks.)  But of course there isn't an anti-Ruwart conspiracy, or else she'd also be grilled for her checkbook-justice theory of restitution ( http://libertarianintelligence.com/2008/05/checkbook-justice-in-ruwarchistan.html ) and for her published opposition to the Sixth Amendment right of the accused to subpoena witnesses.  (The Bill of Rights: void where prohibited by Ruwarchy.)
My only interest in the dark corners of Ruwart's anarchist worldview is that she is a Restore04 supporter explicitly running to be the ideological leader of the LP, and who has been uniquely touted by her supporters as a quarter-century paragon of "plumbline" ideological virtue.  But now we have so-called radicals like Less Antman and Tom Knapp tripping over themselves to angrily say that Ruwart is choosing not to "hold high the banner" of a growing list of her own "plumbline" principles.  Maybe Ruwart's campaign slogan should be "holding low the banner of plumbline libertarian principle".  :-)
These are valid reasons to either prefer or not prefer Ruwart as the LP presidential nominee, depending on your ideology.  She herself says that the nominee will be the de facto intellectual leader of the LP for the next four years, and that her record of libertarian principle is why she is best qualified among all the candidates.  Tom Knapp can wish all he wants that she never said it, by I've heard her say it in multiple interviews.
P.S.  Alex, it's still simply false that Murray Rothbard was a founder of the LP.  I've already pointed you to the old issues of Rothbard's Libertarian Forum where he criticizes the newly-formed LP.  Wikipedia is great, but it's not inerrant.

4 comments:

Kn@ppster said...

Brian,

You write:

"[Ruwart] herself says that the nominee will be the de facto intellectual leader of the LP for the next four years, and that her record of libertarian principle is why she is best qualified among all the candidates. Tom Knapp can wish all he wants that she never said it, by I've heard her say it in multiple interviews."

Why do you think I'd wish she hadn't said that?

The presidential nominee is the de facto public face, and therefore the perceived "leader," of the LP from one presidential election to the next. To the extent that the LP is discussed OUTSIDE the LP, that discussion usually references the last presidential campaign/candidate.

Those are just facts. It doesn't matter whether I like them or not. If Ruwart DOESN'T think that she is the best qualified candidate to serve those functions, then she shouldn't be running for the LP's presidential nomination. Since she's running for the LP's presidential nomination, I see no reason why should not state that she thinks she's the best-qualified candidate, because she hopefully DOES think she's the best-qualified candidate.

Brian Holtz said...

Tom, a candidate like Root is effectively just auditioning for the job of selling mainstream libertarianism to the American public. A more ambitious candidate like Kubby or Smith claims to also be available as an ideological pole star to help get the ideology of the LP back on track. Your defense of Ruwart seems to be that she is more the first kind of candidate than the second. However, I've quoted her clearly saying she wants to be the second kind. You can be as coy about this as you want, but the Tom Knapp I remember would not be sincerely confused about the point I'm trying to make here. You don't have to agree with it, but pretending you don't understand it is a bit beneath you.

Kn@ppster said...

Brian,

You write:

"Tom, a candidate like Root is effectively just auditioning for the job of selling mainstream libertarianism to the American public. A more ambitious candidate like Kubby or Smith claims to also be available as an ideological pole star to help get the ideology of the LP back on track."

There is a degree to which the party's presidential candidate is effectively the party's ideological pole star whether he or she wants to be or not, and whether he or she acknowledges it or not, especially during the election cycle proper and often for long after to the extent that he or she is portrayed in the media, used by the party as a spokesperson, touted by the party as representative with donor premiums, etc.

For example, in 1998 or 1999, chair David Bergland decreed that all new members would receive a copy of 1996 presidential nominee Harry Browne's book Why Government Doesn't Work. This was somewhat controversial at the time (resulting in a nasty memo from Bergland to dissenting party members telling them to "sit down and shut up"), because Browne was obviously running for a second nomination, but it's not an unusual thing for a party to feature its immediate past nominee as representative of what the party is about.

Who we nominate for president affects what kind of new people come into the party. It affects what kind of reception they get when they join us. It affects whether current members stay in the party or leave the party, and which members do which.

Like I said, those are just facts. I don't wish that Mary Ruwart hadn't alluded to them, as you imply that I do.

"Your defense of Ruwart seems to be that she is more the first kind of candidate than the second. However, I've quoted her clearly saying she wants to be the second kind."

I'm not sure why you think I'm "defending" Ruwart. All I'm saying is that I don't wish she hadn't said what she said ... because what she said is true. That's independent of whether or not I think she is the best candidate to be what she correctly says the presidential candidate is.

In point of fact, I prefer Kubby for, among other reasons, the fact that he would tend to give the party a combative rather than conciliatory public image and I believe that the former is more politically effective than the latter.

I do prefer Ruwart over the other candidates besides Kubby. I think she is more "mainstream" in temperament and presentation than Root, smoother and more attractive in presentation than Phillies, has less "other party and other controversy" baggage than Barr, and represents views on the issues that I prefer to the stated or discoverable views of any of those three.

I understand that you have what you consider good and valid reasons for preferring other candidates. I disagree with those reasons, but that's neither here nor there. What's important to me is that there not be produced out of thin air some non-existent dichotomy of the type that you describe as a "first" and "second" type of candidate. Any presidential candidate we nominate will be both types. It comes with the job.

"You can be as coy about this as you want, but the Tom Knapp I remember would not be sincerely confused about the point I'm trying to make here. You don't have to agree with it, but pretending you don't understand it is a bit beneath you."

The specific point I disagreed with you on is the notion that I "wish Ruwart hadn't said X." That she said X doesn't bother me at all.

Anonymous said...

Root can't sell "mainstream libertarianism" -- at least not until he actually becomes a libertarian.