TAMPA, April 12, 2012 — While the media continue to ignore compelling evidence that the Republican primary race is much closer than they are reporting, some Ron Paul supporters are nevertheless thinking about what they might do if Paul does not get the Republican nomination.
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.
Gary Johnson did a lot of things as Governor of New Mexico that libertarians like, most notably his impressive record of vetoes. He’s also taken a lot of positions during this election cycle that libertarians agree with. However, he’s actually told us from the beginning that he is not a libertarian, whether libertarians wanted to hear it or not.
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.
Libertarians make policy decisions based upon the non-aggression principle. Recognizing that all government activity is a mandate backed with a threat of violence, libertarians understand that every policy either responds to aggression or perpetrates it. There is no third choice. Cost and benefit are not factors in libertarian decision-making. That the government costs far less when limited to responding to aggression is one result of libertarianism, but not its governing standard.
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 interview with 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.
That is why libertarians can rely on most of Paul’s positions to be consistent. They cannot likewise rely on Gary Johnson’s. Today, his “cost-benefit analysis” may yield a decision that libertarians like. Tomorrow, one they don’t.
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.
Gary Johnson was a successful businessman, an effective governor and, unless he’s an academy award caliber actor, he’s a very likeable person. However, he’s not a libertarian and should neither be the Libertarian Party’s candidate nor a fallback position for Ron Paul supporters. His latest interview demonstrates that he doesn’t have the philosophical foundation yet to lead America in a libertarian direction.
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.
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