Gary Johnson is the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee for 2016. But just because he is a Libertarian, it does not mean that he is a libertarian (small l).
In 2012, Johnson was also the nominee. At that time, I think many hardcore libertarians thought of Johnson as a nice guy, but somewhat of an intellectual lightweight. Over the last 4 years, instead of reading up and learning about libertarianism, Johnson has become less libertarian, probably for political reasons.
Some libertarians will insist on voting for Johnson just to get the libertarian name out there. The problem is that it is misleading to non-libertarians who don’t understand the philosophy.
Here are 10 reasons that Gary Johnson is not a libertarian. The list could go longer though.
- Gary Johnson does not believe in freedom of association. He originally stated that a baker should be compelled to sell a cake to a gay couple for a wedding. He later said that just because the baker has to sell the cake, it does not mean he has to decorate it. While there is likely only a small percentage of Americans who believe in freedom of association, it is a cornerstone of libertarianism.
- Gary Johnson picked Bill Weld as his running mate. While the Libertarian Party ultimately nominates the vice presidential candidate, Johnson pushed hard for Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts. Weld is not even close to being a libertarian, as he recently endorsed John Kasich for president. This choice by Johnson alone tells you that he is not dedicated to libertarian principles.
- Gary Johnson surrounds himself by non-libertarians. Johnson and Weld recently said that Mitt Romney would have a place in their cabinet, if he was willing to accept. One of the positions mentioned was Secretary of State. Is there any true libertarian that could possibly consider Romney for such a position?
- Gary Johnson does not oppose the federal war on drugs. He continually says that marijuana should be legalized, but this is a long way from saying that the federal government should not be prohibiting any drugs. He does not support the legalization of other recreational drugs. It is unconstitutional and should be left to the states. From a libertarian standpoint, drug laws are immoral as they establish victimless crimes.
- Gary Johnson was not really fiscally conservative as a governor. He likes to brag about his record as governor of New Mexico. But the fact of the matter is that the state budget was far higher when he left office as compared to when he entered office. He may have been better than average as governor, but this is not really saying much. He did not change anything fundamentally in terms of getting rid of major government programs or taxes.
- Gary Johnson cited Milton Friedman as an influential libertarian for him. He stated this in an interview in 2012. While Friedman was good on some issues regarding the free market, he was quite weak from a libertarian standpoint when it came to central banking and school vouchers. Friedman also helped institute the withholding tax. But it isn’t just Johnson’s endorsement of Friedman that is troubling; it is his complete lack of knowledge of well-known figures within the libertarian movement.
- Gary Johnson does not believe in a non-interventionist foreign policy. He is certainly much better on this issue than Hillary Clinton, but we can’t be certain that he is better than Donald Trump. When Johnson was asked about ISIS, he said he would get Congress involved. But as president, he could withdraw troops almost immediately from around the world. He does not take a bold stance like this. It is easy for him to say that he will be more cautious, but we really need a radical change in our foreign policy. If Johnson is getting advice from Bill Weld and Mitt Romney, you can be certain of more war and interventions.
- Gary Johnson believes in man-made climate change and favors carbon taxes. He can insist that these are not taxes, but this is exactly what they are if people and businesses are not free to do business without buying these so-called carbon credits.
- Gary Johnson does not explicitly advocate ending the Federal Reserve. To be fair, when asked about this, he has said that he would not veto a bill to end the Fed, but he mostly focuses on auditing the Fed and reviewing its efficiency. If ending the Fed is not on his agenda now, we can be certain that it would not come up for discussion if he were actually president. The issue of central banking is not listed as an issue on his website.
- Gary Johnson does not know how to properly define “libertarian”. When he is asked what a libertarian is, he typically responds that he takes the best of both worlds from both parties. He says that libertarians are socially liberal and fiscally conservative. He does not ever bring up the non-aggression principle or voluntarism. He does not state that government officials should not be allowed to do what is illegal for everyone else. He does not discuss the idea of not encroaching on the person or property of others. Libertarianism goes far beyond being fiscally conservative and socially liberal, which isn’t even true. For example, you don’t have to be socially liberal to be a libertarian. You just have to not want to use government force to impose your views on others. If Johnson cannot even provide a good definition of the term libertarian, then it will be tough for him to defend libertarianism. Perhaps Johnson is a libertarian according to his own definition.
Gary Johnson is not a libertarian. He may take a libertarian or libertarian-leaning position on some issues, but he is far from the complete package. And even here, we cannot be certain that he is not just playing politics.
He called Hillary Clinton “a wonderful public servant” (call this reason number 11). He goes after Donald Trump personally. His pitch right now is mostly that he is not Trump or Clinton, so you should vote for Johnson/ Weld. Because of the nature of the race and the candidates, Johnson may end up with the highest vote total ever for the Libertarian Party.
But what will this accomplish? Will he actually convert anyone to libertarianism (outside of his own definition)? Will he advance the cause of liberty in any significant way? Will he get people enthusiastic about libertarianism?
In the remote chance that Johnson were actually elected to the presidency, we can’t even trust that he would reduce government power in any significant way. When most people are elected, they typically enact all of their bad policies that favor bigger government, while they ignore most of the things they said about reducing the size and scope of government. If you don’t go in with firm principles and specific details on how government will be cut, then a reduction in government power is not likely.
Gary Johnson is not a libertarian. You can use this information in the way you deem best.