Gary Johnson is not a…wait, what?
Last week, I read a very interesting op-ed by Thomas Mullen that went by the title of “Gary Johnson is not a libertarian”:
Throughout this election cycle, Gary Johnson’s name has been omnipresent as a libertarian alternative. There’s only one problem. Gary Johnson is not a libertarian.
This just seems to be occurring to some of the faithful after his disastrous interview with the Daily Caller. In it, Johnson proposes to cut the military budget by 43 percent. However, when pressed on one hypothetical military intervention after another, Johnson refuses to rule any out. He’d consider military intervention for humanitarian reasons. He believes that the United States should maintain a military presence in the Middle East. He would continue drone attacks in Pakistan. By the end of the interview, libertarians were likely waiting for Johnson to rip off a mask Scooby Doo villain-style, revealing he was really Dick Cheney in disguise.
This gets back to the point I made in my last blog post about problems with the libertarian movement, specifically foreign policy. We, as a movement, have gotten way too puritanical about what makes libertarians libertarians. Many insist on an absolutionist view of the non-aggression principle, when really, the entire goal of libertarianism is simply maximizing individual liberty.
I don’t know about you, but legalizing marijuana, cutting the military budget by 43%, possibly eliminating the drinking age, and repeal the PATRIOT Act is pretty damn libertarian in my book. Saying that he isn’t libertarian because he doesn’t hew to an absolutionist line on the non-aggression principle is not just silly, it’s dangerous. As I said previously, it hamstrings us to a completely unreasonable policy line we can’t hold, as well as open us up to attacks both rhetorical and actual.
From the moment that he announced his run for president as a Republican, Gary Johnson has stated that he believes that all government policies should be formulated using a “cost-benefit analysis” (about the 2:20 mark). What are we spending our money on and what are we getting in return? (Libertarians would likely question him on just who “we” is and how it became “our money,” but I digress.) While that might be a lot better than what Washington is doing now – all cost and no discernible benefit – it’s not how libertarians make policy decisions.
Definitely not in Libertopia, but then again, we don’t live in Libertopia. And it would be a vast improvement over what’s going on inside the Beltway. If that’s the case, why don’t we embrace it?
There is no evidence that Gary Johnson is even aware of the philosophical basis of libertarianism. If he is aware of it, he’s obviously decided to reject it. That’s certainly his prerogative, but he shouldn’t be seeking the Libertarian Party’s nomination.
The Libertarian Party has never garnered more than about 1% of the vote in a presidential election. Its chief benefit has always been that it nominated candidates that libertarians could actually believe in, even if they weren’t going to win. This was true as late as 2004, when the party nominated Michael Badnarik. However, it badly damaged itself by nominating Bob Barr in 2008. If it nominates Gary Johnson for president in 2012, it will completely lose all relevance, even among libertarians.
Ron Paul is not a perfect libertarian, but he does understand libertarian philosophy and he does form his positions based upon the non-aggression principle, as he confirmed in my own interviewwith him last year (about the 7:30 mark). That’s why he told Matt Lauer (about the 5:00 mark) that economic liberty, personal liberty and his non-interventionist foreign policy are all one package. Libertarians believe that initiating force is wrong, whether it is military force against another nation or a government bureau forcibly transferring money from one person or group to another.
If the Libertarian Party wants to be practical in spreading the libertarian message, it should endorse Ron Paul as its candidate in 2012. He is more libertarian than any politician in U.S. history and he has more visibility than any candidate the party could field. If it wishes to put forth its own candidate, then it should nominate a true libertarian. It has several choices.
This has got to be the most idiotic statement of the year, and it’s only April.
Bob Barr was a conservative Republican who switched to the Libertarian Party in order to run for president. Gary Johnson is definitely a libertarian (small-l) Republican who found that his beliefs were more welcome in the Libertarian Party. Furthermore, saying that the Libertarian Party would “lose all relevance” if it nominated Gary Johnson is just the height of idiocy. All you need to do is look at Johnson’s record: two-term governor of a state that had more Democrats than Republicans. Vetoed hundreds of bills. Sharply cut the budget. Balanced it within four years (if I’m not mistaken.) Get the picture? If anything, nominating Johnson would improve the Party’s standing and get it more publicity. Not enough to take the presidency, mind you, but enough to make a dent. (Particularly in New Mexico.)
As for Ron Paul, he would be a bad choice for the Libertarian Party. If he were nominated, it would destroy the libertarian wing within the GOP as the bigger party would force them out (which might be a good thing, but let’s not test that just yet.) Furthermore, it would utterly ruin Senator Rand Paul’s career, and right now, he’s practically the lone voice in the Senate wilderness protecting our freedoms and standing up to BS like PIPA. Losing Rand would be a huge blow to American libertarianism.
Now, I disagree with Johnson about some of his foreign policy: I would rule out military interventions for humanitarian operations, and I don’t want to send any more doughboys to the Middle East. But we need to stop this feldercarb where people aren’t libertarian because they’re not pure. That will surely be the end to our movement, and with it, any hopes for liberty in our lifetimes.