"Liberals just can't be brought to libertarianism." I've lost count of how many times I've read or
heard this assertion over the years. And it's just as absurd every time I've seen it, no matter how
it's been presented.
Now, it's true that many libertarians find more common ground among conservatives than liberals, but
I know of many who've made the transition from leftist to pro-freedom – I even helped bring along
a chap whose grandfather was a good Soviet Communist Party member, and whose father was an American
communist. It can be difficult for those who are more comfortable with logic and analysis to try to
sway someone who values emotions and feelings. Fortunately, freedom lovers now have a potent weapon
that ought to work well at persuading statists of either stripe.
That weapon is Mary Ruwart's third edition of her book, Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression.
Calling it a third edition really doesn't do the book justice, however. It's completely reworked from
the previously published Healing Our World, and offers an annihilation of just about every
justification for the state that's ever been claimed. The annihilation is so thoughtful and gentle that
those swayed by emotion likely won't notice their sacred oxen being gored. It's also so thoroughly
reasoned that those persuaded by logic will find little to quibble about.
Ruwart begins with a purely libertarian idea – the non-aggression principle – and
presents it as the "Good Neighbor Policy". She shows how it can be applied in the gamut of human
interactions, through cogent examples, clear text, and pointed cartoons. Sprinkled throughout the book,
my favorite cartoons are the ones that label an individual's aggressive action as "illegal", but when
the "Guns of Government" get involved, the activity is "legal". These cartoons ought to be digitized
(if they aren't already) and widely distributed.
Organized into five sections, with headers taken from the Lord's Prayer, Healing Our World in
an Age of Aggression covers the spectrum of important issues, from poverty to health care, from
fractional reserve banking to international economics and militarism. Throughout, in clear, measured
language that is neither condescending nor dumbed down, Ruwart shows how violations of the Good
Neighbor Policy cause problems.
While the message is clearly anarchist to those familiar with the freedom philosophy, Ruwart avoids
all such scary-sounding terms and focuses on her message: what the state does is bad. Of course, that
means that the state itself is bad, but because that's a scary idea to those who believe government is
here to help us, it's left to the reader to make that inference. While some may fault Ruwart for
pulling back, it seems rather a very smart strategy. Not everyone will be ready to accept that
conclusion, despite its truth, and to force an unwilling reader is to possibly close a mind.
Besides, it leaves us foot soldiers plenty of room to help individuals see that Healing Our
World in an Age of Aggression is all about freedom. And that's what we ought to do. Clearly and
beautifully, Mary Ruwart puts a very human face and a positive tone on libertarianism. Without
compromising a single principle, or muddling or backpedaling on any issue, she presents the whole of
the freedom philosophy in a way that can reach any thinking, caring person. Although geared toward
American society and laws, its message is nonetheless applicable worldwide.
If you buy any freedom-oriented book to share with nonlibertarians in hopes of persuading them,
buy Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression. If Ruwart's clear, gentle prose doesn't work,
the wide-ranging quotations liberally sprinkled throughout the margins will at least get people
thinking. And, if there is any justice in this world, Mary Ruwart will one day be recognized as the
preeminent ambassador of peace and liberty of our time.