By Austin White
Written sometime in mid November
Because it is highly likely that former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson will be running for the presidency soon I feel it necessary to provide libertarians with an in-depth examination of where Johnson stands on key libertarian issues. Johnson recently visited the Orange County, FL Campaign for Liberty group, where I taped his speech and the following Q&A session. I also had a chance to speak with him when he came to the Orlando Nullify Now! conference. He is very nice, humble, and appears to have successfully retained his full humanity after leaving political office.
One thing, as of yet, that has the libertarian movement curious is whether or not these plans will be altered should Ron Paul decide to run again. Johnson stated in a September interview with Alex Jones that if Ron Paul asked him to be his VP, should Paul run against the presidency again, Johnson would accept. Johnson stated during his recent visit with the Campaign for Liberty group that if could not run in 2012 he would endorse Ron Paul. Johnson was also a speaker at Rally for the Republic (back when CFL events were only cool; not like now where they are super cool).
Although I have recently, thanks to Hoppe, accepted the fact that no good will ever come from the political process , have finally kicked my voting habit, and I now consider advocacy of massive, decentralized secession to be a moderate view, I can’t deny that I am a little excited about Gary Johnson. If Ron Paul does not run, I consider Johnson to be the best substitute at the moment. He is certainly more radical than Rand Paul, Bob Barr, War Allen Root, and any “tea party” candidate I’ve seen. He has even criticized the newly elected tea party candidates for only “nibbling around the edges” of the federal government.
Foreign Policy: D-
Johnson advocates an immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan and was against invading Iraq from the start. He acknowledges that we can’t afford the empire and believes it is not the proper role of the U.S. government to be the world’s sheriff. He opposes foreign aid, but does support (entangling?) military alliances. Johnson sticks to the utilitarian America First! arguments that our foreign policy is costly and bad for America, shying away from the moral argument, the most important argument, that killing innocent people is wrong and killing a lot of innocent people is really wrong. I can let that slide though. Surely the moral argument is politically unfeasible or something like that. The approval of military alliances brought him from a grade of A to a B.
Where does the D- come from?
Although Johnson rejects the idea of American exceptionalism and that “we” should police the world, he simultaneously and explicitly rejects the idea of non-interventionism, supports “surgical” preemptive strikes, and does still believe that America should go abroad in search of atrocities to end. Johnson makes clear that he is an interventionist, but that he would be a much smarter interventionist.
Some may say that I am being far too critical, but once military interventionism and preemptive strikes are accepted even a little bit the flood gates are open and anything goes. The proper role of the U.S. military, if we are to have one, is to defend the property of Americans and that is it; to repel actual threats that constitute blatant acts of aggression on the U.S. If the military leaves U.S. soil it can no longer be called defensive.
Johnson believe that what “we” should have done with Iraq was use “our” surveillance capabilities to monitor Iraq and if/when Saddam rolled out the WMDs “we” should have simply done a quick surgical strike and stopped it right there. While that is certainly preferable to invasion/occupation, interventionist it is. Does the U.S. government have the right to forcefully disarm other sovereign countries that have not attacked America? I say no. Especially considering the fact that the U.S. president has the capability to nuke the entire world ten times over and the U.S. government is the only government in the history of the world to use WMDs against innocent people.
A friend of mine asked Johnson, see this video, why he rejects non-interventionism. Johnson’s reply was that he believes the U.S. military should be the brave kid on the playground who defends the weak from the big bully. He says that the U.S. should not sit idly by as genocide occurs somewhere in the world. So when push comes to shove Johnson seems to favor the foreign policy of Bush and Obama– it just has to be carried out by someone smarter.
The problems with this argument are that the U.S. government: starts more wars than it prevents; it kills more people than it saves; it is the metaphorical bully Johnson speaks of; it caused more harm in the previous century than any other regime in the history of the world; and whenever the worst genocides occur the U.S. government has a track record of doing absolutely nothing, but expecting us to keep supporting future wars with the excuse that “we” are ending atrocities.
What Johnson should say is: the proper role of “our” military is to defend America. Period. If you want to go help some country across the ocean throw off an oppressive leader, then you personally do something about it and leave tax dollars out of it.
The notion that military interventionism is good as long as it is done “smart” is best summed up by Jim Powell: “…nobody seemed to consider that an interventionist foreign policy is more complicated to mange. One never knows how different people might react to interventions, so there are more likely to be unintended consequences. Such a policy requires people with considerable knowledge and the ability to anticipate developments and make sound judgments. Nobody has figured out a way to assure that an interventionist foreign policy will ever be managed by such people.”
Of course, all proponents of military interventionism must arrogantly believe that they are one of those people or else they wouldn’t be advocating such a foreign policy.
The Fed: C+
During the Q&A portion of his visit with Orange County CFL, he was asked multiple times about what he would do about the Fed.
Johnson will talk about the Fed. He opposes it. He opposes what it is doing. He supports an audit. He says he would sign a bill abolishing the Fed. He speaks favorably on the idea of having competing currencies. A+ so far…
…but, he says it will never happen or won’t happen anytime soon so it is basically a non-issue.
His campaign brochures state that he wants to reign in the Fed, but when asked about his strategy to accomplish this he gave the very unsatisfying answer that the Fed simply needs to stop printing so much money. No kidding.
Gary, if you want to have any clout with the rising Rothbardian libertarian movement you need to look deep within yourself and find your END THE FED! attitude. This will raise your grade from a C to an A.
The War on Drugs: D+
Also known as the war on self-ownership and the war on the natural right of individuals to do whatever peaceful, non-violent act they want.
Johnson is surely taking a position on the drug war that may leave many conservatives shocked and Johnson’s position on drug legalization is more radical than the overwhelming majority of politicians. However, I can only give him a D because he doesn’t actually want to legalize any drugs. The furthest he is willing to go is decriminalizing marijuana (along with the whole “we can tax and regulate!” pitch). He clearly states in his campaign literature that he does not advocate the legalization of harder drugs. On marijuana, he simply wants the substance treated like alcohol – which means that individuals can only purchase it if they agree to pay some tax, individuals can’t consume it before driving, individuals can’t consume it until they’ve reached some arbitrary, government-established age limit, etc.
It is a big misconception in America that alcohol is legal. It is legal for some people, in some places, at some times, and only if you agree to pay the taxes on it. At the most, alcohol is kind of legal in America.
In spite of the fact that Johnson acknowledges that the majority of drug problems are caused by prohibition, he believes only a slow, gradual legalization of drugs is the answer – because of political feasibility or something like that.
See Laurence Vance on the moral case for drug freedom.
Johnson advocates a complete abolition of the Department of Education. He doesn’t want to reform or downsize it. He wants it gone and then the battle against government schools will be brought down to the state level.
Although as governor, Johnson was a proponent of vouchers –he agrees with the end goal of education being entirely left to the market.
Johnson opposes both the Republican and Democratic parties’ interventions in the healthcare market. He seems to favor abolishing the majority, if not all, barriers to entry in the healthcare market. He wants the market unrestricted to allow for as much competition and specialization as possible. He favors the pre-WWII pay-as-go system (or lack of system) that the majority of people don’t even know once existed.
In short, his answer to fix healthcare is to get government out of it and simply let the forces of the market do their thing.
Johnson says get rid of the monstrosity and let the airlines handle security.
Johnson takes a moderate view saying that he approves of work visas and making them easier to acquire. His solution to the problem of immigrants feeding off of the welfare-state is to get rid of the welfare-state (whether or not he would do that first he does not say). He also points out that welfare-parasitism among Americans is as bad as or worse than among illegal immigrants.
I don’t believe libertarians have settled the issue (see here and here). It would have been an A+ if Johnson had said that all property should be privatized/denationalized, which both libertarian sides of the debate can probably agree on, but I don’t think he said anything on the issue that I can fervently disagree with.
Once again I believe this to be an unsettled debate (see Vance and Block), therefore I can’t comment on whether or not Johnson’s approach is libertarian or not.
He says the federal government should have no say on the matter and that it should be a state issue; the same stance Ron Paul took. If you can’t decide on the issue I say localize and decentralize it.
That is my anarcho-libertarian two cents are your platform, Gary. You’re certainly on the right track and the only plank that I can fundamentally criticize is your support of military interventionism. 99% of other politicians would most likely get straight F's.