LLR Pages

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Radley Balko: "Rather Fond of Bob Barr"

Radley Balko, a former policy wonk at the CATO Institute, currently a columnist for, and a blogger and Senior Editor for Reason Magazine, praises Bob Barr's coronation as the presidential nominee at the Libertarian Party's Denver convention. The nomination, which took place hours prior to the conclusion of the convention, has shaken up the entire libertarian movement, including many purists, anarchists, and "free marketeers" who are throwing a fit over the delegates (which have been reportedly made up a number of Barr and Wayne Allyn Root supporters, with only some Steve Kubby and Mary Ruwart supporters).

Balko opined on his The Agitator blog with the following:

It’s the first time the LP has nominated a serious candidate in a long time. I’ve become rather fond of Barr over his 5-year conversion to libertarianism. Second place went to nutjob Mary Ruwart, who would have continued the party’s long history of kook-ism.

Barr has the potential to win more votes than any LP nominee in history. If he helps the GOP learn that it’s time to boot the neocons and pay more attention to its limited government wing, all the better.

This is a good thing.

Notice what Balko said in the beginning of the third sentence in the first paragraph:

Second place went to nutjob Mary Ruwart....

Mary Ruwart, a long-time libertarian activist and author of Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression and Short Answers to the Tough Questions, is a "nutjob"? I see. So, in Balkoland, being a principled candidate makes you a "nutjob." How about Wayne Allyn Root, while he was running as an LP presidential candidate, throwing his support to John McCain little over a month prior to getting the VP nomination at the Denver convention this past weekend? (But then, that was before LP stalwarts Tom Knapp, Barry Hess, Ernie Hancock, and a number of "bought-and-paid-for" sell-outs got all starstruck over Barr's nomination.) Doesn't that make him a nutjob? Yet, you haven't heard a single condemnation from the national LP or even the party base for Root for pledging his support to McCain. Where was Balko when that claptrap happened?

Supporting Barr is "a good thing"? How can a candidate who has flip-flopped on the issues so many times and has assumed the role of a "I-wanna-pretend-to-be-a-Libertarian-so-I-make-money-off-the-base-and-the-party-and-just-get-a-few-more-votes-tarian" collectivist be "a good thing"? This is coming from a self-deluded "I'm-libertarian-when-I-want-to-be" libertarian, not a true-blue libertarian. That's exactly what Balko is and anything he says should be suspect.

Sure, he's great on the War on Drugs issue, but isn't he undermining his "opposition" to the War on Drugs by supporting a Drug Warrior who has more of a problem shedding his past image than adopting his new "let's-pretend-to-be-for-freedom" image? Isn't that really the matter? And sure, he's great on a few other social issues, but then again that's not saying much. Of course, Balko was FOR the war in Iraq initially. Once again, that doesn't say much in the grand scheme of things.

Sure, Barr may "[have] the potential to win more votes than any LP nominee in history," but so what? What is the likelihood that he will win the presidency? How much of a realistic shot does he have? Ron Paul didn't have a realistic shot, but his campaign was purely educational. Barr doesn't have a realistic shot, but his campaign is purely political, a 180-degree turn from Paul. Plus, his positions on immigration, the war in Afghanistan, his support for the Fair Tax, and spending are seriously suspect. Why should any third party and average voters support him over McCain, Obama, and Clinton?

Besides, what is so great about Barr? Even Wayne Allyn Root? I mean, seriously! What makes him the best candidate for the party? Because he WAS a congressman? Big deal! Captain Kangaroo and Bozo the Clown, on a political ticket, would have more success than Barr and Root would ever have.

The collectivists in the LP are thinking about power and votes and lining their pockets with money to make names for themselves in the media. It's a power play for the cameras. They want to look as if they are trying to accomplish something "positive" for the libertarian movement. But many of us who reject Barr and Root know better.

Balko is a collectivist, a statist, and a shmuck. His waffling on his libertarianism shows how much of a hypocrite he is when it comes to the libertarian philosophy. His support for Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root makes as much sense as a Democrat supporting Pervez Musharraf and Hugo Chavez, who both look like vile and pathetic candidates for the LP ticket for 2012.

It's time to write off these sell-outs for good. Balko gets a bigger write-off because he wasn't libertarian in the first place. That should tell people something.

[H/T to Wendy McElroy for reporting this on her website. Same goes to long-time (although briefly retired) libertarian writer and blogger Skip Oliva who privately emailed Wendy on Balko's antics.]

Update: The only reason Balko did attack Ruwart by calling her a "nutjob" because of the recent kiddie porn scandal that was the subject of great discussion at the Third Party Watch blog (before Stephen Gordon sold it off to Barr crony Richard Viguerie). Considering Balko never bothered to hear Mary's clarification of her answers on the Steve Kubby Show on Blog Talk Radio or even my Liberty Cap Talk Live spin-off show Liberty Cap Talk Live: The Special Edition Show prior to the Denver convention or even read her Short Answers to the Tough Questions book (which contains the offending answers to the "Childrens' Rights" question), of course he would level an attack against her as well.

It's interesting that Balko would do this, considering that Mary has never initiated force against anyone, stolen, taken bribes, or called for the power of the state to arrest anyone for drug possession or on the claim that the U.S. Patriot Act and the REAL ID Act are laws that will "protect our freedoms." Yet Balko praises a washed-up ex-congressman who has a history of supporting anti-freedom, pro-violent legislation against people, especially with regards to peaceful, non-violent drug use, even if it's done for recreational or medicinal purposes or both.

The Radical Center

I confess that I do not know quite where I fit in within the current known factions of the Libertarian Party. There seems to be a one-dimensional spectrum from Radical to Reformist, and I do not fall anywhere along it. (Perhaps we need a Nolan Chart for internal LP politics.) I find myself most sympathetic to those in the Radical camp, largely because Mary Ruwart's "Healing Our World" spoke to me as no other libertarian text has. While I think I'm a fairly bright fellow, I have never had a head for political theory or philosophy, but Dr. Ruwart's arguments made sense to me.

That said, I am no anarchist, and dare I say it, in many respects I am a statist. Nearly three years ago, I penned an essay on "Big Government" libertarianism. I no longer agree with some of the ideas I had then -- my political thinking, like my religious thinking, is in constant evolution -- but I do still sympathize with the person I was then, who joined the LP to seek the protection and multiplication of rights while eschewing a total reduction of government.

I sympathize with the Radicals because their camp is the one most focused on the issues I care most about -- the renewal of civil liberties, the ending of the War on Drugs, the right to make one's own decisions about education, the ending of marriage apartheid, and so on. However, on economic matters I am more moderate, and rather un-libertarian by most measures. I fully agree with the philosophical arguments against taxation, and have made some of them myself (especially in a Liberzine piece from 2000 that equated taxation with theft of the creative impulse, an essay sadly lost to the ages), but these matters don't burn me up the way so-called "social" issues do.

My Libertarianism is generally instinctual. I remember when I was about 12 years old, our small town imposed mandatory recycling requirements, and I loudly protested to my mother that the government had no right to tell us what to do with our garbage. She started at me like I was nuts. I don't remember how I first heard of the LP, but I was aware of it long before I could even vote. I did not and have not read Rothbard, Mises, Spooner, etc. -- perhaps if I did so, I would not be "wishy-washy" on monetary issues. It just made sense to me.