A response to the "W.A.R. and Peace" statement from the Wayne Allyn Root campaign

I just posted the following to the ThirdPartyWatch.com page where the statement from the Root campaign appears, along with responses from other individuals -


  The Aaron I refer to below is Aaron Starr, LNC Treasurer, who praised Root over other LP presidential candidates:

"When it comes to candidates, I care about two things: 1) Can he or she articulate our positions in a way that resonates with the public. 2) Will he or she actually get the opportunity to speak to large segments of the public. So far, I’ve seen three major pieces come from the Root campaign: One on eliminating all Federal taxes, one on a strategy for how to reduce spending through the use of impoundments, and this last one on foreign policy. Each one of them has been well-written from a Libertarian standpoint and presentable to the public at large. In addition, I’ve seen that he gets on television and radio … a lot. The man is obviously running a campaign. I wish our other fine candidates were doing the same."

  It was suggested by another poster to the board that Starr may himself be the speechwriter who wrote "W.A.R. and Peace" for Root, although it is written in the first person.

Love & Liberty,

        ((( starchild )))

The piece is well-written, I’ll grant that. And there is no major libertarian faux pas, which I guess is something for which to be thankful. Aaron, did you write it? I notice that you did not deny doing so when the question was raised.

Either way, it’s not enough to convince me that Wayne Allyn Root would make a good LP presidential candidate. This essay is not the main reason I believe he should not get our nomination, but it does nothing to lay to rest any of my issue-oriented concerns about him. As a non-interventionist (if his recent shift in views is to be believed), Root still sounds as fundamentally nationalist and conservative to me as he did before.

Here are a few specific criticisms of “W.A.R. and Peace”:

(1) It sounds biased toward the wealthy.

“We’re already familiar with how many in this country are infected with envy. The envious people amongst us seek to punish or even destroy those who produce the most and reap the rewards of industry. And the politicians these people elect enthusiastically serve their cause, engaging in productivity sapping redistribution-of-wealth schemes in the name of ‘fairness.’”

This is true as far as it goes. But it shows no recognition of the fact that it is poor people, not the wealthy, who suffer most at the hands of big government. Under the Statist quo, the rich have been getting richer, and the poor getting poorer. Corporate welfare far outpaces the kind that most people think of when they hear the term “welfare,” and government programs allegedly designed to “help” the poor treat them like shit and generally give them just enough to get by, while providing nice salaries and benefits for the middle and upper class government employees who administer and staff them.

Seeing W.A.R. speak in person, I’ve gotten the same impression—that he identifies with the wealthy, and sees them as the main victims of government. That is sadly out of touch with reality. Most poverty in the U.S. is caused by government policies, and most of the huge, record-setting prison population in the U.S. is not comprised of people from well-to-do backgrounds. Many of the wealthy, on the other hand, have gotten significant boosts at taxpayer expense, e.g. Ross Perot.

(2) It sounds biased toward the right-wing.

Talking about a need to be “tough,” dismissing the “weak”—conservatives typically love this type of macho attitude. But it’s the kind of thing that gets George W. Bush called a “cowboy” by people around the world. The piece actually uses without irony the “greed is good” term made notorious by the stereotypical “capitalist” villain of the anti-free-market film “Wall Street.”

The piece identifies Root as “a Libertarian and fiscal conservative who stands strongly against welfare and entitlement programs for able-bodied individuals here at home…” There is no mention of the candidate being “liberal” on social issues or anything else.

Decrying “welfare and entitlement programs for able-bodied individuals” could theoretically be talking about corporate welfare, but I think most people will take it as talking about traditional welfare.

It’s almost as if “Millionaire Republican” Root (has he disclaimed that label yet?), or his handlers, are trying to see how much they can live up to the most harmful and damaging stereotype about libertarians and conservatives, that we are greedy, selfish, wealthy, and unsympathetic to the poor.

(3) It sounds too nationalist.

To be fair, this is an endemic problem both inside and outside the LP, and Root (or whoever wrote this for him) is no worse than many others. But I would be remiss not to point out the ubiquitous use of possessive pronouns in a way that reinforces nationalist, rather than libertarian, thinking, and promotes solidarity with the nation rather than with the cause of liberty—“our” troops, “our” allies, “our” enemies, “our” security, “our” military, “our” system of funding defense, “our” country, “our own American people,” “our” wealth. Inside the United States is called “at home,” and even civilizations are referred to as “ours” and “theirs!” It’s this kind of language that spawned the “Department of Homeland Security” (incorrectly referred to in the Root essay as the “Homeland Security Administration”).

Even though the piece is about international affairs, there are no references to universal human rights, the universal applicability of libertarian principles, the life, liberty, and well-being of the 95% of people outside the United States, or anything along those lines.

(4) Too focused on economic liberty.

“The fundamental basis of libertarianism is ownership of one’s life and honestly acquired property.”

This is a relatively minor point, but it’s in keeping with the previously-noted conservative-leaning tone of the piece in general. The above phrasing (“ownership,” “property”) makes libertarianism sound mostly about economics (which again mostly appeals to people on the political right). The word “propertarian” has sometimes been used to describe an undue emphasis by libertarians on property as opposed to other elements of liberty. An alternate wording of the language quoted above could have stated that the fundamental basis of libertarianism is non-aggression. It could have mentioned not only property, but the right to control one’s own body, the right to make one’s own choices, etc. The phrase “pursuit of happiness” also would have made a welcome addition.

(5) Implies the legitimacy of a “war on terror.”

“...the war in Iraq has distracted us from the real ‘war on terror’ we are waging against the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

Of course “we” are not waging war against the Taliban, the U.S. government and other governments are. But that point aside, is the war in Afghanistan a “war on terror?” When in power, the Taliban ran an oppressive regime that collaborated with terrorists, and they deserved to be overthrown, but at this point the situation there is more about an insurgency than about terrorism.

Is the phrase “war on terror” even one that libertarians should be using, given (a) how nebulous and open-ended it is, (b) how Bush and others have exploited it to justify restricting civil liberties in the U.S., and© how governments have a history of declaring disastrous “wars” against large-scale phenomena—drugs, poverty, etc.? I would contend that libertarians should avoid the term like the plague.

(6) Uses exclusionary language about the United States.

“America is a nation of parents – mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers…”

Uh, what about single and childless people? Gays, lesbians, and others? Don’t we get enough “family values” talk from conservative politicians? America isn’t logically a “nation of parents” any more than Iran or Italy is a “nation of parents.” It’s a meaningless, vapid thing to say. But once again, it is the kind of thing conservatives like to hear.

* *
In an ideal world, where we had a Libertarian Party that was equally balanced between appealing to people on the conventional right and the left poles of the political spectrum, none of this would be as big a deal as it is. A Libertarian running for president with a bunch of conservative baggage would be no more of a threat to the LP’s future than one running with a bunch of leftist baggage.

However, the LP is sadly not equally balanced. We are seen by much of the public, and arguably accurately, as being closer to the Republicans than the Democrats. We have former Republican congressman Bob Barr on our National Committee (now taking a hiatus as he too mulls a run for president). The national office does more outreach to conservatives at events like CPAC than to the left. Many in the party, especially the leadership, seem bent on projecting a socially conservative, corporate type image. Trying to distance the LP from what are sometimes spoken of dismissively as “lifestyle libertarian” concerns like freedoms related to drug use, sexuality, freedom of expression, etc. (as if living a stereotypical suburban existence, conforming to socially conservative norms, etc., is not also a “lifestyle!”)

We’re like a ship tilting to starboard and taking on water. The more we tilt, the more water we take on from that side, and if we do not move to right ourselves and start bailing out, eventually we will keel all the way over to the right and sink.

Wayne Root’s personality, his issues, his style, all unfortunately, make his candidacy the equivalent of another big wave coming over the starboard bow. I am sure that his conversion to libertarianism is to at least some extent genuine, but I do not trust that it is as deep as we are being encouraged to believe. Part of my mistrust is based on the fact that I don’t see any evidence that he yet truly “gets” what is fundamentally wrong with the conservative outlook.

Ron Paul is of course also conservative and highly nationalist, and for the past year I have strongly supported Ron Paul—but for the GOP nomination, not the LP’s. Our party’s torchbearer should be someone with a consistently libertarian message, and Paul’s falls short in significant respects.

Yet even were Paul not a thousand times more popular and better known, I would still see him as a far, far better person than Root to represent the LP. And the comparison between the two men gets to the heart of the problems I see with Wayne Allyn Root.

Ron Paul is nice, idealistic, humble, and down-to-earth, not at all arrogant or self-important. Even setting aside his long record of not being corrupted by power, he is the kind of guy I would trust with it, because it’s evident that it doesn’t hold that much allure for him. He constantly reminds us that his campaign is about the message, not about himself, and he gives every appearance of meaning it. He does not appear to see himself as a knight on a white horse riding to our rescue, and seems about as far from a Donald Trump, a fast-talking salesman, or a slick game show host as any politician can be.

The comment by Old Whig that “There’s something about (Root) that makes me expect him to break out in tentacles,” is obviously ridiculous and over-the-top. Nevertheless, I know what he means. And I wholeheartedly wish I didn’t feel that way about anyone seeking our nomination.


I agree with all of your points. Well said.