A look at Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party Platform

When I think about former governors of New Mexico (I know, bear with me please), I think of Bill Richardson. Aside from his two terms as governor, Richardson also served in Congress, as Ambassador to the United Nations, Energy Secretary and negotiator on an international level. He ran for president in 2008 in the Democratic primaries but dropped out very early in the process.

Gary Johnson is also a former Governor of New Mexico, elected twice on the Republican ticket. He is running for president this year for the second time on the Libertarian Party ticket.

What little we may all know about him is that he is, we might say, internationally challenge. Not knowing a major battleground city in Syria has demonstrated his lack of interest in major international issues. That he could not name his one favorite international political leader confirmed his lack of knowledge – it was a self-admitted second “Aleppo moment.”

An article in the October 3rd Washington Post (http://wpo.st/anN22) details his somewhat bizarre manner of operating when he was governor.

Public frustration with the Republican and Democratic candidates this year has some people searching for an alternative. The main choices that are available this year are Johnson, the Libertarian, and Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate. Neither has consistently cracked the high single digits in polls, and Stein’s numbers are mainly around one or two percent.

In the past fifty years the most significant third-party candidates for president have been George Wallace in 1968, John Anderson in 1980 and Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996. Gary Johnson and Jill Stein’s candidacies do not rise to those levels. They are more in the class of Ralph Nader, whose 2000 campaign drew in the low single digits of the popular vote – high enough to throw that year’s disputed election to George Bush.

There have been some cable network “town halls” with Johnson, but I could not bring myself to watch. But I have taken a look at the Libertarian Party 2016 Platform for some understanding about what a third President Johnson might do. Here are some of the highlights:

As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.   …

1.0 Personal Liberty

Individuals should be free to make choices for themselves and must accept responsibility for the consequences of the choices they make…

1.7 Crime and Justice

The prescribed role of government is to protect the rights of every individual including the right to life, liberty and property. … We favor the repeal of all laws creating “crimes” without victims, such as the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes.  …

1.9 Self-Defense

The only legitimate use of force is in defense of individual rights—life, liberty, and justly acquired property—against aggression… We … oppose the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of self-defense.  …

2.0 Economic Liberty

Libertarians want all members of society to have abundant opportunities to achieve economic success. A free and competitive market allocates resources in the most efficient manner. Each person has the right to offer goods and services to others on the free market. …

2.2 Environment

Competitive free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems. Private landowners and conservation groups have a vested interest in maintaining natural resources. Governments are unaccountable for damage done to our environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection. …

2.4 Government Finance and Spending

All persons are entitled to keep the fruits of their labor. We call for the repeal of the income tax, the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service and all federal programs and services not required under the U.S. Constitution. … Government should not incur debt, which burdens future generations without their consent. …

2.6 Money and Financial Markets

We favor free-market banking, with unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types…

2.8 Labor Markets

Employment and compensation agreements between private employers and employees are outside the scope of government, and these contracts should not be encumbered by government-mandated benefits or social engineering. …

2.9 Education

Education is best provided by the free market, achieving greater quality, accountability and efficiency with more diversity of choice. … Parents should have control of and responsibility for all funds expended for their children’s education.

2.10 Health Care

We favor a free-market health care system. We recognize the freedom of individuals to determine the level of health insurance they want (if any), the level of health care they want, the care providers they want, the medicines and treatments they will use and all other aspects of their medical care …

2.11 Retirement and Income Security

Retirement planning is the responsibility of the individual, not the government. Libertarians would phase out the current government-sponsored Social Security system and transition to a private voluntary system. … We believe members of society will become even more charitable and civil society will be strengthened as government reduces its activity in this realm.   …

3.3 International Affairs

American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world. Our foreign policy should emphasize defense against attack from abroad and enhance the likelihood of peace by avoiding foreign entanglements…

3.4 Free Trade and Migration

… Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders. However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property. …


So here is my take on the Libertarian Platform that Gary Johnson is running on:

  • The Libertarians support individual responsibility, but how that is defined, interpreted or enforced should be basically left for everyone to figure out on their own. Government-defined civil rights would be out.
  • They support individuals exercising the right of self-defense, which could be interpreted to mean they support “stand-your-ground” laws that justify the actions of people like George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin.
  • They support “economic liberty,” which basically means make your best deal, and good luck. So no minimum wage laws, no laws requiring any overtime payments, no restrictions on the number of hours worked, etc.
  • They prefer that the owners of natural resources be the protectors of the environment. So dig, cut down, and pollute however you the property owner choose – your self-interest will naturally lead to a safe and heavy environment.
  • Eliminate all services not required by the Constitution. Also build a time machine that takes us back to 1787, when the Constitution was written. Provide no assistance for health services, education, care of veterans, assistance to senior citizens, etc.
  • Allow no government debt and collect no income taxes, so forget about those deteriorating bridges, roads, airports, schools, etc.
  • Allow free-market banking, like in the years before 1929 or 2008. How did that all work out?
  • Make sure the government does not impose any employment rules or benefits – pesky things like workers’ compensation, disability payments, and unemployment insurance.
  • Operate education on a free-market basis with parents in total control. In other words, eliminate the public education system.
  • Allow for total individual choice about health care, including what you care to buy. No money to buy care? Too bad, no care for you.
  • Social Security is an infringement on personal liberty, so abolish it. Everybody for themselves. The poor can depend on the generosity of charitable giving.
  • Concerning international affairs, America First works best. Thank goodness for those oceans.
  • Liberty means unrestricted national borders. Except in the case of terrorists, who should be kept out.

The Libertarians seem to have forgotten the Pledge of Allegiance, particularly the line that says “liberty and justice for all.” Justice is what makes liberty workable.

After the Brexit vote in Great Britain last summer there was a great deal of concern in that country, including among those who voted in favor of leaving the European Union, about what they had actually done when they voted to leave. Actions have consequences.

And so it might be with people who choose to cast a vote for Gary Johnson for President on the Libertarian ticket. Do Johnson voters really want to take this country where the Libertarians would choose to go?

As time runs out in this incredibly long and tortured presidential election cycle, the poll preferences for Johnson and Stein are dropping. Here’s hoping they drop enough so that those wasted votes do not matter.

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