DOASKDOTELL BOOK REVIEW of Mary Ruwart: Healing Our World

 

Author: Dr. Mary J. Ruwart  with Foreword by Frances Kendall and Leon Louw

Title: Healing Our World In an Age of Aggression

Fiction? Anthology?  

Publisher:  Sunstar Press, PO Box 50342 Kalamazoo, MI 49005-0342

Date: 1993, rev. 2002

ISBN:  0-9632336-6-1

Series Name:

Physical description: paperback, about 6x9, 435 pages, incl. index

Relevance to doaskdotell: libertarianism and pyschology 

Review:

Dr. Ruwart has recently published a major revision of her original opus, Healing Our World, with a lot of new material, especially to take into account foreign policy and 9-11 as well as other developments of the past decade.  I also received a cassette tape, “Does Liberty Have a Chance,” a speech given by Dr. Ruwart in San Jose.

Her basic thesis is that excessive government regulation or interventionism (and, to an extent, manipulation of government by big business and big labor for special interests) is a form of aggression that hinders or prevents freedom and economic growth.  The underlying moral principle for prosperity must be non-aggression, not only from individuals but also from institutions and governments. Furthermore non-aggression is coupled to a personal growth philosophy in which self-concept is tied to respect to similar rights to self-concept in others.

The book is laid out with great care and detail (5 parts, 22 chapters). The main text is printed in narrower than usual single columns, with room for various quotes and chapter-end summaries. There are many diagrams, tables, cartoons and other illustrations. So the layout of the book lends itself, perhaps with the help of various markup languages, for distribution in social studies learning databases, an idea that would have great commercial potential.

In fact, the book and associated materials have been distributed by a marketing company called Pinnacle Life, CPFS Inc., “The Living Learning System.” I have seen some of this material, which consists of a series of multi-media presentations dealing with many specific topics associated with a libertarian outlook and how this may be related to self-help.

My reaction to this—which I have informally passed on to the author—that the material lends itself to documentary film, such as what might be found on the Independent Film Channel or History Channel, or might one day appear in film festivals and be distributed to commercial theaters (of the “art house” variety). Some other documentary films have been made recently that express the concern with the loss of liberty as demonstrated by such recent events as Waco, Columbine, and 9-11.

My reaction to the content, however, is to ponder more the balance between individualism and what many people perceive as moral values. Some people (myself included) have questioned the overly optimistic brand of individualism that led to the 1990s stock bubble followed by bust (and catastrophe of 9-11).  A superficial concept of individualism, borne of objectivism and some interpretations of Ayn Rand perhaps, is that individual expression should not depend upon the approval of others. But some conservative writers such as Denish D’Souza propose that individualistic self-expression needs to be balanced by “authentication.” On the surface, individualism seems to be the antidote for the overt aggression of governments and large institutions, as Dr. Ruwart presents this.

To a point, Dr. Ruwart is right in that collectivism (socialism, communism and so forth) has naively assumed that “the people” know what’s best “for everybody” without any reference to individual self-interest; so without freedom and self-interest, there is no incentive to increase the size of the apple pie and raise the standard of living for everybody. (Hence formal Communism collapsed, although the threat that it could come back is not gone.) The appeal of collectivism seems to be ideological consistency, without any required reference to actual human nature. Radical Islam is then just another form of aggressive collectivism.

However, the social conservatives may also be right in that individualism is a more subtle concept than it first appears. Individualistic expression at some level has to meet the real needs of others (whether or not in a traditional family setting) to be meaningful to the personality. So politics may rightfully deal with the question of what rules are necessary to make sure that playing fields are fair and that individual efforts really have meaning.

Dr. Ruwart’s detailed discussion of the harm done by licensing laws makes a point. Licensing (as in medicine, law, finance, etc.) is supposed to protect the consumer and perhaps protect society in other ways (public health, the environment). But in many areas licensing seems more designed to protect special labor or guild (and real estate) interests from competition from entrepreneurs with low overhead and new ideas.  She gives many examples of “aggressive” state laws that prohibit some home-based businesses that would give people new employment opportunities and especially give the poor a point-of-entry into a better life. Her diagram “The Ladder of Affluence” is especially interesting. Upper income families often have a short-sighted interest in maintaining the “status quo” and preventing the poor from climbing upon the lower rungs with small home-based or street businesses.  One could look at misuse of licensing laws a way to tell “the poor” something like this: “We are better than you, you can’t qualify for the good life by our rules, so you deserve to live in the streets as nothings.” That is aggression.

So, what is this all about? Many people look upon some forms of entrepreneurial activity (especially by artists and writers) as a kind of evasive self-indulgence that tries to escape the need for validation by others (“authentication”). Licensing laws would guarantee some kind of professionalism, wouldn’t they, so that people “deserve” what they make? It seems to me that private competing systems of certification (as opposed to government licensing) make a certain sense. Even here, there are issues. In information technology, certification can be used by vendors as a way to control the market, but companies like Brainbench.com are innovating ways to make certification meaningful outside of the worlds of specific vendors. Even so, the danger is that certification could be used “aggressively” to keep a profession small and keep out competition. The proper focus for certification should be demonstration of individual professionalism and commitment, not on artificially protecting the incomes of those already “in the club.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Related: David Boaz books on libertarianism

 

Back to doaskdotell book reviews

Back to doaskdotell home page

 

Email me at Jboushka@aol.com