Interview: Is Gary Johnson a "Fake" Libertarian?

Gary Johnson isn't necessarily against drones in Pakistan, keeping military bases in Afghanistan, giving corporate welfare, and is distancing himself from Ron Paul. Photo: Associated Press.

WASHINGTON, August 13, 2012 – Gary Johnson is running for president, and many see him as the “other” Ron Paul. But is this true? Is Gary Johnson the third-party version of Ron Paul? Does he support no corporate welfare, bringing the troops home, ending the global drone attacks, and a foreign policy of peace?

To quote Johnson, “perhaps not”.

When it comes to the third party vote, Johnson is the hands-down strongest. Two months ago he was already polling at 3% nation-wide, and is likely higher by now because of the waning belief that Ron Paul will be a GOP candidate.

But is Gary Johnson actually a libertarian like Ron Paul? In a recent interview, Johnson made some statements and admissions that have strongly undermined his ability to be the non-interventionist, non-corporatist candidate.

In fact, many supporters are now beginning to abandon their plans to vote for him at all.

What Gary Johnson said about Ron Paul

In an interview with Polico, Johnson distanced himself from Ron Paul, explaining his different strategy. This is from Politico:

“There was a big difference between Ron Paul and me when it came to the ‘no,’” Johnson told POLITICO. “His ‘no’ was philosophical. It was reasoned. It was right. My ‘no’ actually put a stop to legislation. It cut spending. Mine carried further than just no. I had to follow through with the debate, discussion and dialogue on why my ‘no’ wouldn’t result in people starving, schools being shut down and the delivery of services to the poor wasn’t going to be curtailed.”

Everyone should be extremely nervous already. The idea that government is helping the poor at all is absurd, and most libertarians already believe this. The fact that Johnson wouldn’t be trying to cut the “delivery of services” is alarming also when we look at the rest of his views on the other area to cut – foreign policy and overseas intervention.

If this was all he said, it wouldn’t be newsworthy. But, unfortunately, it’s not. It’s just the beginning.  

The interview where Johnson admitted pro-interventionism

The Daily Caller interview with  Johnson posed him a handful of tough questions and whose answers will probably surprise his followers. He talks about radical spending cuts, but then admits “perhaps not” when it comes to actually shutting the bases down and ending the droning:

“While Johnson positions himself as a strong anti-war candidate who wants to cut the defense budget by 43 percent, he told TheDC that he supports America’s efforts to aid African troops in tracking down Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony and that he wouldn’t rule out leaving behind American bases in Afghanistan.

Johnson said that while he wants to end the war in Afghanistan, that doesn’t mean he would necessarily stop drone attacks against terrorists in Pakistan or Yemen, even though he believes they create more enemies than they kill.

‘I would want leave all options on the table,’ Johnson said.”

Afghanistan, Pakistan, and killing people with drones

It might seem like a moderate position, but this should be setting off insanely huge red flags for people who understand foreign policy. Unless our troops are going to be armed with water pistols and driving bycicles, you can’t claim you want to cut defense spending in half without knowing that you need to shut down Afghanistan and droning operations in Pakistan. 

This is dangerous, because when a politician shows any kind of “leave all options on the table” approach to questions of philosophy, that essentially means they’re going to be compromising on that issue. And just like liberals learned their lesson with Obama, libertarians would learn their lesson with Johnson.

Either way, this also shows that Johnson is not on the same page as most libertarians when it comes to using drones to kill people in Pakistan. He says it’s horrible and causes blowback, but refuses to say he’d stop it.

Such wishy-washy positions are a ticking time bomb for politicians.

Kony 2012 and “humanitarian” invasions

Joseph Kony is a bad man living in Africa, but he’s also grossly misunderstood. He is in charge of a few dozen “troops” now, at best, and the US should have absolutely nothing to do with sending our troops over to “get” him.

Kony is famous right now because of a video that went viral earlier this year entitled “Kony 2012”, but the video has huge flaws and was extremely dishonest, funded by a group that supports the US military being the world police man.

The entire topic is oversimplified and completely misunderstood, and if Gary Johnson fell for the populist rhetoric, that’s a big red flag. 

Corporatism and welfare

But that’s not all. Johnson also supported subsidies for some companies in New Mexico. Justin Amash, who is known as the “next Ron Paul” in the context of being in congress, has bashed Johnson about this recently.

Justin Amash wrote the following just recently that Johnson suported “cronyism” and “central planning” in New Mexico as governor.

The reason is that Gary Johnson gave subsidies — not tax breaks, but actual subsidies — to movie makers in the state. That’s theft, going by basic libertarian creed. This is unavoidable. If it’s theft for banks, then it’s theft for movie companies.

Johnson and pro-abortion policies

American libertarians are pretty equally split on the topic of abortion. Whenever the discussion is brought up, there are generally two opposing views. One believes that no one has the right to abortion, while the other side believes that abortion is the murder of a person with rights.

This isn’t the place to analyze the arguments, but Johnson is pro-choice — a stark difference from Ron Paul who is pro-life at the state level. This means that a lot of the libertarians who support one could have a problem supporting the other.

What all of this means

No one is perfect. But these problems reveal something fundamentally different about Johnson than Ron Paul. Dr. Paul believed and adhered to a code that doens’t make exceptions that seem convenient. He has principles and followed them through.

Gary Johnson, however, rejects that philosophy and said that he thinks we should evaluate policy on a “cost-benefit analysis“.

Sorry, but that’s not libertarianism. That’s basically just a form of moderatism that has a lot of conclusions similar to what libertarians believe. That explains why he often gets so off base. Another writer here at the Communities project said the following, and it’s true:

“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.”

Who should you vote for? That’s a personal decision, and it has a lot to do with how much “compromise” you believe is necessary to further the goal of liberty. Some libertarians are voting for Romney, others are planning on writing Ron Paul in, others are voting for Johnson, and plenty more are deciding to simply not vote in the presidential election.

Regardless of what libertarians decide in November, it needs to be understood that votes for Gary Johnson would be a symbolic win for moderates, not ideological libertarians who want to make a statement about corporate welfare and foreign policy. 

Shaun Connell is the founder and editor of Capitalism Institute, a pro-liberty organization dedicated to teaching people about the free market, fighting taxation of all kinds, building a foreign policy of defense only, and drastically cutting the size of government. He also enjoys fine cigars, nice bourbon, and writing about gold and financial markets at his gold investing blog. 


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Shaun Connell

Shaun Connell is an investor, writer, and entrepreneur passionate about economics, finance, and politics.

Shaun is the editor of Capitalism Institute, where he writes about economic principles and political theory. He’s also the author of Live Gold Prices, where he reviews important economic and market news.

Passionate about economics and liberty, Shaun was naturally drawn to the Austrian approach to human behavior, and tries to write all of his content from such an angle.

Shaun also enjoys nice cigars, good bourbon, and grilling as often as he can.

 

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