The Conscience Of A Phony Libertarian: Wayne Allyn Root And The Decline Of The Libertarian Party

If the only book on libertarianism that you ever read was Wayne Allyn Root’s The Conscience of a Libertarian, then you’d be compelled to conclude that the most important liberty issues facing America are internet gambling, tax cuts for small businesses, and home schooling. That’s because Root, a former Republican who became the Libertarian Party’s Vice-Presidential nominee in 2008, seems to devote far more space to those policy areas than to others that most libertarians that I know care about, such as civil liberties, the war on drugs,and the national security state. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that Root spends far more time talking about himself, and why only he is capable of making the Libertarian Party competitive, than he does about these issues, or about what it really means to be a libertarian.

That’s understandable, though, because this is quite obviously a campaign book designed to bolster Root’s bid for the 2012 LP Presidential nomination, and because Root is not much of a libertarian.

Like many Republicans, conservatives, and “Constitutionalists,” Root blindly worships the Constitution to the point where “state’s rights” take on more importance than individual liberty. For example, he suggests early on at page 18 (in my copy at least) that individual states should have the “right” to decide issues like abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, online gaming, assisted suicide, and drug use. This may be a perfectly correct Constitutional position, it is not, however, a libertarian position. To a libertarian, state interference in an individual’s life is wrong whether it happens at the federal, state, or local level, and a law saying that someone can’t ingest a certain substance is wrong regardless of whether or not the Tenth Amendment authorizes it.

Another example occurs on page 75, where he says that the Supreme Court’s decision in Loving v. Virginia, where the Court struck down state laws barring interracial marriages, was the wrong decision. Instead, he says, the Court “should have declared that government had no right to license marriage at all.” I happen to agree with the idea that marriage and the state should be separated, but this reaction to the Loving decision strikes me as bizarre, not the least because the Court never would have done what Root proposes because none of the litigants in the case were asking it to do that. Loving was decided correctly, why is it so hard to say that ?

On page 222, Root demonstrates yet another deviation from libertarianism when he discusses immigration and says; “We must secure our borders and bring illegal immigration to a screeching halt. How? By protecting our borders with all those troops we will bring home from … around the globe.” Militarizing the border ? Hardly a libertarian position, but definately a Republican one.

On page 257, he endorses the debunked claims of the anti-vaccination crowd: “I believe that our national epidemic of autism and ADHD has a definite connection to the large-scale vaccinations required of our young children.” There is, of course, no evidence to support this claim but I suppose that if Root were the nominee in 2012 the LP would get Jenny McCarthy’s vote. This is a minor issue, and not really “libertarian,” but the last thing the LP needs to do is associate with someone who believes in pseudo-science.

The final strange passage that I’ll reference here is on page 29, where Root discusses his reasons for leaving the Republican Party (mostly because they wanted to ban online poker), and says, “nothing made my decision clearer than the morning of October 19, 2008, when I heard the remarkable announcement that General Colin Powell was endorsing Barack Obama for President of the United States… I was finally completely at peace with my decision to leave the Republican Party…” This was nearly five months after he had been nominated to run on the Libertarian ticket; had not made his mind up about the GOP at that point ?

After reading this book, and based on my previous experiences of watching Root during his various appearances on cable television, I am left with the over all impression of someone who is a cross between a televangelist and a used car salesman. The one thing that he seemed most concerned with is his own self-promotion, and I question his commitment to the ideas of the party that he proposes to represent.  I will give Root credit for being energetic, but libertarian he’s not.

  • KipEsquire

    Love these libertarian constitutionalists whose Constitutions don’t seem to have a Fourteenth Amendment.

  • Eric Dondero

    Funny, a non-libertarian such as yourself, would be so audacious to pass judgement on others and their devotion to the libertarian cause.

    Those of us who are REAL LIBERTARIANS get to decide who is and who is not a fellow Libertarian. Not leftwing posers from the Soros camp such as yourself asshole.

  • John V

    I normally don’t respond rudely so I’ll temper myself and stay on a slightly higher road:

    Whatever, Dondero.

    People like you enjoy blurring the lines and making it seem as though the hyper-conservative and purist Republicans are somehow the same thing as libertarians. You are not. None of you.

    Constitutionalists? Maybe. Strict federalists? Maybe. Nation security old guard conservatives? Possibly.

    Libertarian? Not really.

    Everyone has libertarian leanings. That doesn’t mean you are right to twist the rest in seeming libertarian as well.

  • Doug Mataconis


    You’re a Republican so you have no right to open your mouth either using your logic.

  • Doug Mataconis

    By the way, Soros is really late on his checks. He hasn’t sent me one since the days when I was calling you out for pretending Rudy Giuliani was a libertarian

  • Brad Warbiany

    Doug, you really need to be more careful where you walk. You just tracked Dondero all over the carpet!

    Tsk, tsk.

  • joeyk567

    With all due respect I think Libertarians feel they’ve put far too much time into the movement to risk being saddled with the responsibilities with which they’d be saddled should they actually ever win an election. If it were ever to happen I think the Libertarians would be the first to demand a recount.

  • Procopius

    Obvious blanket bomb-throwing article is obvious. But hey it’s doing its job: getting replies.

  • Sean Shepard

    re: joeyk567

    And some of us have put too much time into the movement to not start winning some elections and getting some media respect. If Wayne Root can get people paying attention to the party, that’s great.

    It’s better than a bunch of folks that want to sit around and argue over whose liberty blood is more pure. Anarchists and Anarcho-Capitalists claiming Minarchists aren’t libertarian enough. Minarchists claiming Constitutionalists aren’t pro-liberty enough. Can’t score a touchdown until you move the ball down the field.

    And even those folks who aren’t happy with Root should be thrilled with Rutherford as the vice-chair option. It’s a good team should they prevail this weekend.

  • Procopius

    ^this is what Mataconis does. Reference 2008. You can smell the lack of genuineness in a blogger pretty readily.

  • Doug Mataconis


    If Root as Chairman means he’ll be the nominee in 2012, it’s horrible news for the LP.

    Like I said the guys a fake and a phony. He’s in this to promote himself, that’s all

  • Doug Mataconis


    I have no idea what you’re referring to in your accusations.

  • Sean Shepard

    @Doug. I don’t get the vibe that Wayne intends to be the nominee in 2012. I don’t doubt he has future aspirations in that area (which of us wouldn’t?) but I think he sincerely wants to try and position the party for more success in 2012 and 2016.

  • Doug Mataconis


    He mentions his desire to be the nominee on almost every page of his freaking book

  • Ken Wilsong

    Wayne Root is all about himself. He doesn’t caee about anyone else in the world. He lies more than I go to the bathroom. If you can’t see Wayne Root’s a fraud then you haven’t spent 10 minutes listening to him on radio or TV or read the first chapter of his book. He should have been locked up in a Federal Pen over 15 years ago.

  • Sean Shepard

    If Wayne’s ambitions and the party’s can be aligned for some period of time will not both be better off? If he really wants to run for president in the future do you think he is the type who would be happy with 1% (well … actually … only Rutherford’s state gave Barr over 1% in 2008 I think)

  • joeyk567

    Sean… sounds too much like Peoples Judean Front vs. People Front of Judea…

    Bear in mind that dislike for Radicals like Obama is not the same as a like for Libertarianism. Conservatives, like most Americans are all for Big Govt. albeit not as big and inefficient as the Liberals.

    What Americans dislike is Obama taking away their share of Big Govt. even worse taking it and giving it to some other group. They like Libertarianism as long as it keeps the people who would otherwise steal their rice bowl from doing so …a means to an end I’m afraid. Ie. lets attack welfare but not farm subsidies, lets do away with research grants but not the military, lets go after semi private entities like the Fed or Fannie Mae but not Amtrak etc.

    It’s either all or none. Not sure I see that happening but sure would be interesting.

  • Carol Moore

    Notice that (as of just before first ballot announced) W.A.R. hasn’t gotten ANY independent publicity of his own during the convention, just your blog and IndependentPoliticalReport which would report on him anyway. What a PR phoney too!!

  • Carol Moore

    Root got shafted. boo hoo hoo.
    Unfortunately those 200+ Root supporters probably will put him on the LNC to showboat and breast beat. Oh Yuk.