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May 9, 2008

Why Libertarians Never Get Taken Seriously, Exhibit A

by Doug Mataconis

Via Third Party Watch, here’s a rather bizarre comment from Mary Ruwart, one of the candidates for the LP’s Presidential nomination:

For years, myself and other libertarian candidates have pointed out that “when guns are banned, only criminals will have guns.” The shift in popular perception has come about primarily because courageous Libertarian candidates are willing to teach the American public about the benefits of liberty, even at the cost of being “slimed” by the media. I am proud to be counted among those candidates, proud to be saving lives, especially the lives of our children.

Today, other bans, such as the ones against child pornography, are touted as panaceas to “save the children.” Like drug prohibition and the ban on firearms, these bans backfire, harming the very innocents they are intended to help. Anyone who believes in liberty can see the pattern. Bans and prohibitions drive vices underground, where participants have no legal recourse when they experience exploitation.

Bans make criminals out of 17-year-olds having consensual sex with 15-year-olds, because the younger partner is presumed too immature to make an informed decision. These draconian laws destroy the lives of our young people by making them carry the label of “sex offender” for the rest of their lives. Yet as late as the last century, it was not at all unusual for American boys and girls to marry and start families in their early teens!

Bans based on arbitrary age limits aren’t needed to protect those too young to make informed decisions about sexual conduct. Pre-pubescent children, for example, don’t have the physical or emotional maturity to even understand what sex is all about. When an adult engages in sexual conduct with a young child, we don’t need a law specifying an age limit in order to convict those adults of rape. All we need to do is show a jury that the child wasn’t competent to consent.

Yea, that’s just what the Libertarian Party needs. They’ve been known as the drug legalization party for years. Now, Ruwart is suggesting that they sign on to policy prescriptions that we brand them as the party who wants to legalize child pornography and sex with children.

There are legitimate issues regarding age of consent laws as they apply to 17 year olds, but they don’t need to be part of a Presidential campaign or a Political Party platform.

If the LP nominates Ruwart, they’ll be even more irrelevant in 2008 than they have been in the past.

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28 Comments

  1. from what i’ve seen of you from the beginning, both the LP and (l)ibertarians have far more to fear from insecure people like yourself. i’ve figured out what motivates you doug. primarily it’s a debilitating fear of ridicule and a general carapace of cowardice. and in an important way i’d like to thank you. by observing you and other libertarians elsewhere that are motivated by this toxic fear and weakness, i know better than to never call myself a (l)ibertarian, much less join the LP. the very word is sullied, and you clarified that to me.

    Comment by oilnwater — May 9, 2008 @ 7:55 am
  2. Once again, I have no idea what you’re talking about

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 9, 2008 @ 8:07 am
  3. I think what oilnwater was trying to say was this: With Ron Paul and now Mary Ruwart, you seem overly concerned with what other people are going to think of the positions they hold, regardless of whether those positions are correct or not. Ruwart’s stance on child pornography is not popular and is politically damaging, but it’s totally right-on and in line with libertarian thinking.

    Comment by Dogma_addict — May 9, 2008 @ 9:41 am
  4. Sure, she’s correct; but she’s an idiot.

    As, in fact, are you OilnWater; at least on this particular issue. For all I know you ma be brilliant at other things, but clearly politics is beyond you.

    The purpose of a political campaign is to be elected; or for a lesser candidate with little chance, they may use a campaign to raise awareness and attract attention to a particular message.

    This is extremely ineffective when your message causes people to recoil in horror; or dismiss you as insane.

    I’m not saying you should keep your mouth shut and deny your own beliefs; especially if they are objectively correct. I’m saying that if you believe things that will absolutely without doubt prevent you from being elected, you shouldn’t run for office.

    There’s a huge difference between having a somewhat controversial belief that a fair number of people might support; and elucidating a belief that will cause every mother in America to denounce you, and the media brand you as “supporting child rapists”.

    Unfortunately, you clearly cannot see or understand this; which is why I say you, and those like you, are much like those disaffected pseduo-marxist “revolutionaries” sitting around coffee houses in Berlin in December 1989 talking about how “we were right all along, and the workers were seduced and fooled by the bourgoise media with their Macdonalds and their blue jeans. We’ll show them, we’re the inevitable force of history”.

    Comment by Chris — May 9, 2008 @ 9:51 am
  5. With Ron Paul and now Mary Ruwart, you seem overly concerned with what other people are going to think of the positions they hold, regardless of whether those positions are correct or not. Ruwart’s stance on child pornography is not popular and is politically damaging, but it’s totally right-on and in line with libertarian thinking.

    Her stance on child pornography is correct ? What the heck does that mean ?

    And do you really think that the Libertarian Party is going to have any electoral success at all if it comes to be known as party who doesn’t think child pornography is a big deal ?

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 9, 2008 @ 9:57 am
  6. The purpose of a political campaign is to be elected; or for a lesser candidate with little chance, they may use a campaign to raise awareness and attract attention to a particular message.

    This is extremely ineffective when your message causes people to recoil in horror; or dismiss you as insane.

    I’m not saying you should keep your mouth shut and deny your own beliefs; especially if they are objectively correct. I’m saying that if you believe things that will absolutely without doubt prevent you from being elected, you shouldn’t run for office.

    There’s a huge difference between having a somewhat controversial belief that a fair number of people might support; and elucidating a belief that will cause every mother in America to denounce you, and the media brand you as “supporting child rapists”.

    Exactly.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 9, 2008 @ 9:58 am
  7. Doug, I should clarify what I mean by “she’s right”.

    She is correct in the core principle of opposing “magic numbers”; but like almost all pure principles, the logic can be taken to an unpleasant extreme.

    In principle, a 13 year old may be competent to make sexual decisions on their own (I certainly was, and did); or they may not be. Either way, the concept makes people very uncomfortable; and raises difficult implications on law enforcement, and social conventions.

    Not necessarily wrong, but certainly unpleasant for the majority to consider.

    Comment by Chris — May 9, 2008 @ 10:04 am
  8. Chris,

    Wrong ? Maybe not. But I think it would be difficult to carry out in the real world.

    For one thing, every lawyer for every Defendant accused of having sex with someone incapable of giving consent would be obligated to do whatever they could to defend their client — even if that means asking a 13 year old victim for details about her sex life.

    The bright line magic numbers may seem arbitrary in marginal cases — and there are some situations such as the 17year old boyfriend and 15 year old girlfriend where, arguably, the law needs to be changed — but they do serve a purpose. Frankly, I don’t know if I’d be all that comfortable in a world where they didn’t exist.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 9, 2008 @ 10:36 am
  9. That’s the problem with purity of principle aint it. Purity leaves no room for practicality and pragmatism.

    Comment by Chris — May 9, 2008 @ 11:06 am
  10. I agree that there is room for discussion on Ruwart’s ideas about laws on consensual sex, but I think she phrased her discussion point in the stupidest terms possible. The way she phrased it…

    Today, other bans, such as the ones against child pornography, are touted as panaceas to “save the children.” Like drug prohibition and the ban on firearms, these bans backfire, harming the very innocents they are intended to help.

    …made her position appear at first glance to be a tacit endorsement of child pornography, and not a line of questioning about age of consent laws. If she honestly doesn’t realize what’s wrong with her approach, she’s got no business running for office.

    Besides which, since age of consent laws fall under the jurisdiction of the states (and rightfully so), what possible reason is there for her to be discussing it during a campaign for President? It’s a hot button issue that’s got no bearing on the job she’s running for and she’s an idiot for bringing it up.

    Comment by UCrawford — May 9, 2008 @ 11:40 am
  11. christy:

    obsession with politics and the necessary compromising of speech, creed and actions in the attempt to dodge a mischaracterizing media or an ignorant public is not only cowardice, but also ingenuous and achieves nothing of the spirit of a campaign.

    i know what the basic principle of politics in the mass communication age are. as what we’re told they have to be, but also i know the product of this process are damaged goods not worthy of respect.

    as for you: you’ve clearly identified yourself of the same ilk as doug, but possibly even less intelligent. certainly, however, on the same level of weakness and without heart. so you’ve just classified yourself as in the damaged rank and file as he.

    oh and by the way, personally i dont give a shit about Ruwart, Barr or whoever else is trying to get the LP nom. when doug popped up yet again with the obligatory denigration of someone who’s making a name for themselves while being associated with “libertarian philosophy,” the post was so clinically obvious and predictable that anyone here should look at that and doug for what it is.

    Comment by oilnwater — May 9, 2008 @ 2:05 pm
  12. I proudly identify myself as the same ilk as Doug; in fact I consider it a great complement.

    Comment by Chris — May 9, 2008 @ 2:47 pm
  13. I’m not going to give Doug a warm, loving embrace*, but I also agree with him on this one.

    It’s about picking your battles, oil. Libertarianism is so far out of the mainstream right now that the last thing we need is to fight battles where the odds are that stacked against us.

    She could have made the very same point with a much less volatile example.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — May 9, 2008 @ 3:40 pm
  14. * Nothing personal, Doug. We just disagree strongly on some important things.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — May 9, 2008 @ 3:43 pm
  15. oilnwater,

    oh and by the way, personally i dont give a shit about Ruwart, Barr or whoever else is trying to get the LP nom. when doug popped up yet again with the obligatory denigration of someone who’s making a name for themselves while being associated with “libertarian philosophy,” the post was so clinically obvious and predictable that anyone here should look at that and doug for what it is.

    Ever the Paulestinian troll…nice to know that you didn’t all decide to off yourselves once Race-Baiting Ronnie’s campaign fell apart. We would have missed you crazy “truthers” and whack-a-loons. :)

    Comment by UCrawford — May 9, 2008 @ 5:21 pm
  16. Jeff,

    It’s about picking your battles, oil. Libertarianism is so far out of the mainstream right now that the last thing we need is to fight battles where the odds are that stacked against us.

    That pretty much nails it…the biggest downfall of so many libertarian candidates seems to be their inability not to pick unnecessary fights in their campaign.

    Comment by UCrawford — May 9, 2008 @ 5:22 pm
  17. Yes, but I don’t see what she said as being unreasonable;

    A bit of background. She wrote a book many years ago which applies libertarian theory to a whole bunch of questions. When she announced her candidacy, someone supporting another Libertarian candidate went through the book looking for stuff to use against her, and came up with a passage on child pornography. There was a big brouhaha over this, and I believe one senior member of the Libertarian Party leadership was forced to resign after he denounced her position.

    So people have been asking her questions about this, and she is answering their questions sincerely.

    She hits the highlights here: sex with children is wrong since they can’t meaningfully consent. You can’t point to some age and say that it represents the line of meaningful consent. Nor can you set the line at 18, since for most of human history, people were starting families under the age of 18. she emphasizes that the libertarian position is to prosecute the act that victimizes someone – in this case the act of making child porn – and not the derivatives that don’t have a victim – the possession of images of the crime taking place.

    Nor do I agree that she is being impolitic; people can detect hypocrisy a mile away. When a candidate explains there position, and treats their listeners as if they have a brain, they usually earn, at a minimum, a grudging respect.

    Take Ron Paul, for example. I frequently see left wing commentary on his politics and writings that strongly and categorically disagree with him where the writers take great pains to express their grudging admiration for the consistency and honesty of the good Doctor’s positions.

    Mary Ruwart has a microscopic chance of being president. It’s not like legalizing child pornography will somehow sink libertarianism where it would otherwise be successful. Libertarianism will be bashed for permitting drug use, polygamy, and gay marriage. We will be pilloried for supporting the elimination of the FDA (one of Dr. Ruwart’s pet projects BTW), the elimination of the Dept of Agriculture, ending federal involvement in public schools, repeal of Title IX, abolition of the FCC, etc.

    Anyone of these positions is enough to paint Libertarianism as a loony philosophy.

    In the end, this doesn’t bother me. I think you are indulging in a bit of making a mountain out of a molehill, Doug.

    Comment by tarran — May 9, 2008 @ 6:59 pm
  18. Thanks for the backstory, tarran. I didn’t realize she was provoked.

    It’s unfortunate that a fellow libertarian felt the need to raise the issue when there was clearly no productive use in doing so.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — May 9, 2008 @ 8:03 pm
  19. Well, the fellow Libertarian is Wayne Allen Root… nuff said.

    Read the whole essay that Doug linked to – it’s pretty clear she was responding to him rather than deciding to make legalizing child porn to be the centerpiece of her campaign.

    Comment by tarran — May 9, 2008 @ 8:19 pm
  20. If you’re shocked at what she said about child pornography, consider the fact that many teenagers are now producing their own pornographic clips and trading them with each other.

    Should a teenager be punished for producing nude pictures of himself? Under our current laws, the answer is “yes.” Other countries have child porn laws, but ours may be too extreme. Britain sets the bar at age 16 instead of 18.

    Comment by scroompy — May 10, 2008 @ 7:30 pm
  21. so this is the maxim of libertarian action:

    “it’s great that X candidate is has solid libertarian stances. but as soon as X candidate speaks on a topic from a libertarian stance that is uncomfortable for those unfamiliar with the libertarian philosophy, I will not only distance myself from that candidate, I will also demonize the candidate to the maximum extent possilbe within my own sphere of influence.”

    this is the synopsis of the mataconis playbook, and it’s the reason you people wonder why never get anywhere.
    ————————————————-

    “Ever the Paulestinian troll…nice to know that you didn’t all decide to off yourselves once Race-Baiting Ronnie’s campaign fell apart. We would have missed you crazy “truthers” and whack-a-loons. :)”

    you know crawford, you’re probably not a bad person, all things considered. unfortunately your self-willed lack of insight is blatant on many levels. by the way, look at Obama and his media-frenzied association with Wright. that alone is testament to how wrong both you and dung are about “The Huge Downfall” of Paul. look at not only what Wright said in the past, but also his mental breakdowns shown on every major media outlet now, and it makes so much of what Paul’s associations are look like absolute milquetoast. yet you’re choosing to ignore that. it’s pitiable.

    maybe in 2050 your kids might find a “libertarian candidate” that you don’t choose to disavow at the blink of an eye and they could possibly get somewhere as a result.

    Comment by oilnwater — May 10, 2008 @ 10:01 pm
  22. and thank god that what Paul has to say is living far beyond what this inbred association of “thinkers” on this forum stands for, as in “something.”

    that’s the bottom line of why the word “libertarian” means nothing. by the example set here.

    Comment by oilnwater — May 10, 2008 @ 10:06 pm
  23. and thank god that what Paul has to say is living far beyond what this inbred association of “thinkers” on this forum stands for, as in “something.”

    Not seeing any evidence of that yet, my friend.

    What impact will he have on the RNC platform ? None is my guess.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 11, 2008 @ 12:05 pm
  24. oilnwater,

    you know crawford, you’re probably not a bad person, all things considered. unfortunately your self-willed lack of insight is blatant on many levels.

    Fair enough. My recent dig at you aside, I think you’re probably not a bad person either. You and I obviously disagree on quite a few issues but you do often bring up points that I think are pretty good and make me reexamine (if not change) my own. The tipping point for me on your opinions generally comes on the Ron Paul stuff. I realize that you are upset that your candidate didn’t win (which is understandable), I realize that you don’t consider the problems with the Paul campaign that we took serious issue with to be important (which is fine), but often when the discussion gets heated you go into troll mode and start trying to shut the discussion down and then it just overwhelms any valid points you might have made and the conversation degenerates into a pissing contest which doesn’t make anyone happy or convince anyone of anything (particularly since the campaign is now over). I won’t pretend to be innocent of doing this sort of thing myself at times, because I certainly have, but I do believe you take it too far and this works against you in forums where you might have a chance to get what you’re saying across and win people over. Obviously I’m not a psychoanalyst and I don’t have insight into your soul or know that much about your background, but that’s just my personal observation on it, it’s not being offered as a putdown towards you and I’ll leave it at that.

    by the way, look at Obama and his media-frenzied association with Wright. that alone is testament to how wrong both you and [Doug] are about “The Huge Downfall” of Paul.

    I’m going to caveat this by saying that I am not and do not plan to be an Obama supporter and that I will not be casting a ballot for him. That said, the difference between how Obama handled the Wright situation and how Paul handled the newsletter situation are textbook examples of the right and wrong way, respectively, to deal with a situation when running a campaign. Obama stuck up for Wright at first, then publicly cut himself off from Wright and disavowed his positions. Paul never did that with Lew Rockwell (or whoever wrote those newsletters)…in fact, Paul kept Rockwell as a key advisor. I should probably also point out that Rockwell has been a paid member of Ron Paul’s political operations in the past…to my knowledge Wright was never more than Obama’s pastor.

    One of the key litmus tests for a candidate, to my mind, is how a candidate reacts when they realize they’ve made a mistake. Obama’s solution is to address the issue, to accept responsibility for his part, and (most importantly) to make changes to insure that the mistake is not repeated. Ron Paul’s solution was to pretend that it wasn’t a problem and change nothing. I consider the office of president to be, above all else, a position of management and I believe that contrasting those two situations demonstrates that Obama’s management skills were superior to Ron Paul’s. That’s why I honestly believe that, despite his extremely questionable economic platform, Barack Obama would still have been a better president than Ron Paul. There’s more to being qualified for the office of President than having the right issues.

    maybe in 2050 your kids might find a “libertarian candidate” that you don’t choose to disavow at the blink of an eye and they could possibly get somewhere as a result.

    Yes, I have a high standard for my elected leaders. But, since I also don’t believe that freedom derives from government (or whoever we put into government), I don’t consider my unwillingness to vote for the least-worst candidate or to support a candidate I view as unacceptable to be a problem.

    Comment by UCrawford — May 11, 2008 @ 12:16 pm
  25. Crawford,

    I would also say that the other difference between the Wright story and the newsletters (aside from the fact that the newsletters story had nothing to do with the reason why Ron Paul never had a chance) is that it shows that, in the end, Barack Obama knew how to handle a crisis, Ron Paul didn’t.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 11, 2008 @ 12:20 pm
  26. Doug,

    Agreed, on all counts.

    Comment by UCrawford — May 11, 2008 @ 12:23 pm
  27. on the subject of trolling: you were the first to mention Paul’s name. not me. and you began with the trolling assertion. as a matter of fact i wasn’t even going to mention the name. all i wanted to do was point out the self-destruction button being pushed again. how can you be a viable force when your support is vaporous? i point to reason magazine here too, just as an example of destructive inside opposition. and hey if you refuse to ever see that, that’s fine.

    Comment by oilnwater — May 11, 2008 @ 1:44 pm
  28. oilnwater,

    all i wanted to do was point out the self-destruction button being pushed again. how can you be a viable force when your support is vaporous?

    If I’m reading your comment correctly, you’re referring to the tendency of libertarians to nitpick candidates until they’re not viable? If I’ve misunderstood your comment, please let me know.

    To respond to what I think your question is, I agree that often libertarians nitpick candidates to death on issues that most voters wouldn’t care about. But I don’t know think that this is something restricted to libertarians either…conservatives and liberals do the same to their own candidates, building mountains out of molehills and blasting them for perceived ideological failings, and yet they still manage to get their candidates elected. I suspect that this is partly because most politicians with the ability to get elected (good issues, skills for the office) tend to identify themselves more along the lines of where they perceive the most votes lie and currently they perceive libertarians to be a relatively minor part of that. Libertarians seem to get the scraps for candidates…second-tier guys who wouldn’t be able to make it with the two major parties for reasons that become quite obvious during the course of a campaign. I think it’s evident in how they handle themselves when a crisis pops up as well…McCain and Obama are very good at damage control in responding to unforseen events that arise. Romney and Clinton were/are so-so at it. Guiliani, Brownback, Paul, Tancredo were all pretty horrible. And I think the campaign results have reflected that…they were failings on the candidates’ part, not the supporters. So I don’t know that it’s so much a matter of libertarians needing to toss aside their innate distrust of government and their needling of candidates so much as libertarians needing to find better candidates to back. And for that I think they’ll probably have to engage and participate with the two major parties…basically not so much needing an ideological overhaul as needing to not isolate themselves from the mainstream (as people who strongly identify as libertarians seem, by nature, prone to do).

    As for libertarians ever becoming a major political force, I’ve wondered about that for quite awhile and find it ever more unlikely that we would. I’m not saying that we couldn’t sell libertarianism to the public, but the goal behind becoming a “force” is to achieve power, and I think the fundamental basis for libertarianism tends to work against that. Libertarians distrust government, they support individual rights often to an extreme degree, so I’m increasingly of the opinion that if we as a movement want to stay true to our ideals we probably shouldn’t aspire to be in control or heavily throw ourselves behind any leader that we’re not absolutely certain suits our best interests.

    Comment by UCrawford — May 11, 2008 @ 2:44 pm

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