When the publisher sent me 2008 Libertarian Party Vice Presidential nominee Wayne Allyn Root’s new book, “The Conscience of a Libertarian: Empowering the Citizen Revolution with God, Guns, Gambling & Tax Cuts” to review, I was naturally excited.
This book is a fast paced and energetic and offers many solutions, rather than just offering complaints about the current system. Root’s book hits the ground running, hitting high taxes, corporate welfare, bailouts, and the IRS on the opining pages of the introduction. This early parts of this book are refreshing made me very excited about Mr. Root’s future prospects.
In my opinion, 2009 is quite early to be publishing a 2012 campaign book. However, it is more understandable for a “3rd party” candidate to publish a campaign book this early than it would be for a Democrat or a Republican to do so. Wayne Allyn Root offers a [somewhat] realistic plan for his political future. He plans on winning around 2-5 million votes in 2012, getting “Ross Perot numbers” in 2016, and being elected in 2020. While the odds of a Libertarian Party candidate winning the Presidency any time soon are slim, Mr. Root’s plan is at least somewhat realistic.
Conscience of a Libertarian offers numerous examples to show how broken the system really is and how inefficient the government can be. Here is my favorite example:
“The most famous brothel ever was the Mustang Ranch run by Joe Conforte. Mr. Conforte made more than $100 million, and paid taxes on very little of his fortune. He was indicted for income tax evasion and escaped to Brazil as a fugitive from the U.S. Government. The IRS seized the Mustang Ranch and rather than selling it, decided to keep running it. In less than a year, under government management, the same brothel that produced profits of more than $100 million went broke! Bankrupt. Out of business. Can you imagine? The federal government can’t even run a brothel!!! Yet we allow the same corrupt, incompetent government to run our economy and schools.”
The book contains many similar examples of the government bungling things while the private sector is able to succeed doing similar tasks at a lower cost.
Wayne Allyn Root is angry and it shows in this book. While this is refreshing and pumps the reader up early on, by the end of the book it seems more like angry ranting than energetic ideas.
I have major problems with quite a few of the proposals Mr. Root makes in this book. One such proposal is to increase the number of Congressmen so that no member of the House of Representatives represents more than 100,000 Americans (down from an average of around 700,000 today). This proposal sounds good—until you realize that doing so would increase the size of the House to over 3,000 members! This would turn our National legislature into nothing more than a circus.
Another of Root’s proposals is a [so-called] two tiered flat income tax. An income tax with two different rates based on income levels is by definition a graduated tax, not a flat tax. But it gets worse: Mr. Root “propose[s] a flat tax rate of 15 percent on any and all income up to $500,000 per year; then a 10 percent flat tax on any and all income above $500,000.” I am philosophically and morally opposed to all income taxes, yet this income tax is regressive—it will tax a McDonald’s worker at a higher rate than it would tax Bill Gates. Regardless of whether or not this plan is even a good idea, I would argue that there is a zero percent chance of the public supporting it.
A third such plan is for the government to collect no taxes for an entire year—and still continue to function. This would cost trillions of dollars, even if Root was able to drastically cut spending. In his own words regarding the three plans above: “Does it cost trillions of dollars? Sure it does.”
This leads me to my next point: while I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, I was left with one very important question: is Wayne Allyn Root a libertarian? My personal opinion is that he is not a libertarian, but rather a very conservative, limited-government Republican who feels betrayed by his party.
Rather than pushing for the elimination of all corporate income taxes, Mr. Root advocates cutting these taxes to “20 percent (or lower),” yet at the same time he advocates cutting corporate income taxes for small businesses to 10%. This would create a nightmare situation where mid-sized corporations would attempt to do things like move money overseas, lobby for changes in the definition of small business, or could even create disincentives for small businesses to grow into larger ones.
At times, Mr. Root even openly advocates corporate welfare. He pushes for a plan that would create “a $7,500 tax credit that goes directly to any employer who hires a new fulltime employee during the next three years, increasing to $10,000 if the person they hire was out of work at the time.”
Plans like these are typical conservative Republican plans, not libertarian ones. Libertarians are naturally very principles and are very unwilling to compromise on major issues. If Mr. Root has already strayed so far from orthodox libertarian ideas, how much more will his views be compromised when he has to deal with a Congress that is highly unlikely to support libertarian ideas.
I guess I do recommend reading this book, however, I would recommend it more to my conservative friends than I would to my libertarian ones. It does have a lot of great ideas in it and is a quick, energetic read. Additionally, the first half truly was excellent. However, as you read it, ask yourself if Wayne Allyn Root is a libertarian, or just another Conservative Republican.
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