This article was published in the Summer 1999 issue of Formulations
by the Free Nation Foundation

Short Answers to the Tough Questions

by Mary J. Ruwart

Reviewed by Roy Halliday

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This little book is intended to help libertarians explain their ideal to non-libertarians by providing answers to questions that non-libertarians often ask. Dr. Ruwart's answers to questions about helping the poor, the war on drugs, discrimination, consumer protection, free trade, education, and even abortion and assisted suicide involve purely voluntary, free-market solutions that libertarians agree on. They are good answers for a general audience. Dr. Ruwart has a talent for presenting libertarian solutions as not only logical, clear, and principled, but also as practical and humane.

She begins by addressing questions about restitution, because the assumptions we make about how the courts will handle crimes and torts will affect the way we answer some of the other questions about how social problems will be dealt with in our ideal free nation. This shows up especially in her answers to questions about protecting the environment.

Dr. Ruwart accepts Randy Barnett's restitution paradigm. In this kind of libertarian legal system, private courts determine whether someone's property rights were violated and, if so, who is responsible. Then the courts decide what the responsible party owes in restitution to the aggrieved party (or the aggrieved party's heirs) and how much the respective parties owe in court costs. If the responsible party pays per the court-ordered judgment, his case is closed. If the responsible party cannot pay or refuses to pay, and if nobody volunteers to pay in his behalf, and if the debt is not forgiven by the party to whom it is owed, then the responsible party is forced to choose which private prison he would prefer to be incarcerated in until he pays his debts.

By giving short answers to a carefully selected series of questions, Dr. Ruwart is able in this little book to present a sketch of a libertarian country. This is a significant contribution. It is one of the goals of the Free Nation Foundation.

One difference between Dr. Ruwart's achievement with this book and FNF's similar goal is that this book, as indicated by its title, gives short answers, whereas FNF wants to develop answers that are more complete.

The intended audience for the answers given in this book is also different from FNF's audience. Dr. Ruwart's answers are intended for people who are just learning about libertarianism. FNF addresses its work to libertarians who are interested in a blueprint for a libertarian country.

So the bad news is that Dr. Ruwart has not done all of our work for us. But the good news is that in attempting to explain to an unsophisticated audience how a free country could work, she has provided an outline that we could follow in developing more detailed answers to the same questions.

Short Answers to the Tough Questions and Healing Our World by Dr. Mary Ruwart plus The Structure of Liberty by Randy Barnett and articles by Roderick Long such as "Punishment vs. Restitution: A Formulation" (Formulations Vol. I, No. 2) have given a big boost to the restitution paradigm. D

Short Answers to the Tough Questions is published by: SunStar Press, PO Box 50342, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49005-0342.

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