Beware the “Libertarians”

 

johnson-weldIf there was ever a year for a frustrated conservatarian to consider voting for the Libertarian Party ticket, 2016 would seem to be a godsend: Trump and Clinton are … well, no need to rehash this … and the Libertarians have nominated not one but two former Republican governors. But as Ilya Shapiro writes on Cato at Liberty, the theory of the Johnson-Weld ticket and its reality diverge greatly, and not in a way that pays any compliments to the latter:

[In this recent] ReasonTV interview … Weld praises Justice Stephen Breyer and Judge Merrick Garland, who are the jurists most deferential to the government on everything, whether environmental regulation or civil liberties. Later in the same interview, he similarly compliments Republican senators like Mark Kirk and Susan Collins, who are among the least libertarian of the GOP caucus in terms of the size and scope of government and its imposition on the private sector and civil society.

What’s painful about this is that it’s not as if there weren’t other alternatives available to them. There’s no shortage of libertarian-friendly judges whom they might have cited, including Justice Clarence Thomas. And why on earth would this list include Collins and Kirk but not Reps. Justin Amash and Thomas Massie, or Senator Rand Paul?

It actually gets worse from there. As has been noted elsewhere, Johnson not only opposes RFRA legislation — which, I should note, I do as well — but also the conscience claims that such legislation intends to protect:

[In a Washington Examiner interview, Johnson] calls religious freedom “a black hole” and endorses a federal role in preventing “discrimination” in all its guises. More specifically, he’s okay with fining a wedding photographer for not working a gay wedding – a case from New Mexico where Cato and every libertarian I know supported the photographer – and forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for contraceptives (where again Cato and libertarians supported religious liberty).

It takes a lot of effort to be this wrong and — as Shapiro says — it puts Johnson almost uniquely off-the-reservation; the only comparable statement I can think of is Trump’s endorsement of Kelo.

When @salvatorepadula and I did our podcast last year, we lamented the way “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” has become the standard shorthand description of libertarianism — a lament Shapiro apparently shares — as if drug legalization, same-sex marriage, and balanced budgets were the key takeaways from reading Hayek, von Mises, and Friedman.

If Johnson and Weld want to earn votes from disaffected conservatives of a classically-liberal bent, they could hardly be doing a worse job of it. At least, so far, we’ve been spared further stripteases.

There are 108 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    I’ve long said that Johnson is a terrible libertarian and that nominating him was a mistake. This confirms it.

    I literally have no one to vote for and its depressing as heck.

    • #1
  2. Joe P Member
    Joe P
    @JoeP

    Anyone check lately on how well Seasteading is doing?

    • #2
  3. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Tom and Jamie, you are engaging in the nirvana fallacy.  You are comparing Johnson/Weld to some idealized view of a libertarian candidate.  That is pointless.  There are a lot of flavors of libertarians, just as with republicans and democrats, and no candidate can be expected to fully satisfy.  Moreover, you are certainly not comparing Johnson/Weld to the real world alternatives that this year’s political process has puked up. Take a deep breath, come down from your ivory towers, and look at the options before you.  I think when you do it will be clear enough that however imperfect you find them, you’d be overjoyed if Johnson/Weld were to pull an upset in 2016.

    • #3
  4. Cyrano Inactive
    Cyrano
    @Cyrano

    From the Shapiro article:

    And so, what we’re left with is a Libertarian Party ticket that’s positioning itself as “moderate” more than anything else. Again, that may well be a clever political ploy – though it makes the dubious bet that there are more #NeverHillary Democrats than #NeverTrump Republicans…

    I’m also afraid that Gary Johnson is attempting to capture a political center that appears, for the moment, to be abandoned.  However, I do anticipate that Hillary will move back towards the center as the campaign progresses.  I will be surprised if the L ticket manages more than 2-3% nationally when the votes are counted.  That will be 2-3x their high-water mark (2012), but minuscule relative to the apparent opportunity.  Indeed, I’ll wager some quatloos that the Green Party bests their vote total this year.

    • #4
  5. Could Be Anyone Member
    Could Be Anyone
    @CouldBeAnyone

    There is no doubt that Johnson and Weld are far from even good candidates but the arguments usually applied to trump fit them perfectly. Literal outsiders from any faction of political party (they have political history but no real connections). They have no established leftist influences like clump do. If elected by the Republicans of the house they would more or less receive a mandate that favored conservative policy rather than that of the left. Not to mention given their past they would be far more likely to act with republicans than democrats whereas trump has said he would have no inhibitions being a free agent.

    Not to mention the fact that they would also be pulling predominantly from the center right in their appointments and the like given their political past. The same cannot currently be said for clump. In terms of foreign policy from the libertarian debates I have seen Johnson is also more hawk than dove but not by much.

    Sure Johnson/Weld is flawed considerably but they are not nearly as flawed as clump.

    • #5
  6. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:What’s painful about this is that it’s not as if there weren’t other alternatives available to them. There’s no shortage of libertarian-friendly judges whom they might have cited, including Justice Clarence Thomas. And why on earth would this list include Collins and Kirk but not Reps. Justin Amash and Thomas Massie, or Senator Rand Paul?

    Because those people are “wrong” on sex and drugs. And that’s what really matters to LP voters.

    • #6
  7. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Cato Rand:Tom and Jamie, you are engaging in the nirvana fallacy. You are comparing Johnson/Weld to some idealized view of a libertarian candidate. That is pointless. There are a lot of flavors of libertarians, just as with republicans and democrats, and no candidate can be expected to fully satisfy. Moreover, you are certainly not comparing Johnson/Weld to the real world alternatives that this year’s political process has puked up. Take a deep breath, come down from your ivory towers, and look at the options before you. I think when you do it will be clear enough that however imperfect you find them, you’d be overjoyed if Johnson/Weld were to pull an upset in 2016.

    Standing up for liberty, and religious liberty is a key component of liberty, and nominating justices who are not hostile to liberty are two of my basic requirements for a libertarian. Johnson/Weld fails spectacularly on both of those two relatively easy hurdles.

    • #7
  8. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jamie Lockett:I literally have no one to vote for and its depressing as heck.

    Yup.

    • #8
  9. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    Well, the Constitution Party is on the ballot in Florida, so that’s probably who I will vote for.

    • #9
  10. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Jamie Lockett:

    Cato Rand:Tom and Jamie, you are engaging in the nirvana fallacy. You are comparing Johnson/Weld to some idealized view of a libertarian candidate. That is pointless. There are a lot of flavors of libertarians, just as with republicans and democrats, and no candidate can be expected to fully satisfy. Moreover, you are certainly not comparing Johnson/Weld to the real world alternatives that this year’s political process has puked up. Take a deep breath, come down from your ivory towers, and look at the options before you. I think when you do it will be clear enough that however imperfect you find them, you’d be overjoyed if Johnson/Weld were to pull an upset in 2016.

    Standing up for liberty, and religious liberty is a key component of liberty, and nominating justices who are not hostile to liberty are two of my basic requirements for a libertarian. Johnson/Weld fails spectacularly on both of those two relatively easy hurdles.

    I agree with you on the religious liberty question.  But in this cycle, you don’t  have a candidate to vote for who will defend religious liberty any better than Johnson/Weld.  On that question Hillary will be worse, and Trump will at best be no better.  So unless you regard it as a gating question (I don’t) I think you’re back to picking the best of a bad to imperfect lot.

    • #10
  11. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Cato Rand:

    Jamie Lockett:

    Cato Rand:Tom and Jamie, you are engaging in the nirvana fallacy. You are comparing Johnson/Weld to some idealized view of a libertarian candidate. That is pointless. There are a lot of flavors of libertarians, just as with republicans and democrats, and no candidate can be expected to fully satisfy. Moreover, you are certainly not comparing Johnson/Weld to the real world alternatives that this year’s political process has puked up. Take a deep breath, come down from your ivory towers, and look at the options before you. I think when you do it will be clear enough that however imperfect you find them, you’d be overjoyed if Johnson/Weld were to pull an upset in 2016.

    Standing up for liberty, and religious liberty is a key component of liberty, and nominating justices who are not hostile to liberty are two of my basic requirements for a libertarian. Johnson/Weld fails spectacularly on both of those two relatively easy hurdles.

    I agree with you on the religious liberty question. But in this cycle, you don’t have a candidate to vote for who will defend religious liberty any better than Johnson/Weld. On that question Hillary will be worse, and Trump will at best be no better. So unless you regard it as a gating question (I don’t) I think you’re back to picking the best of a bad to imperfect lot.

    Judges are a gating question for me and there is not a single candidate out there who I trust on the subject.

    • #11
  12. Joe P Member
    Joe P
    @JoeP

    Cato Rand:

    Jamie Lockett:

    Standing up for liberty, and religious liberty is a key component of liberty, and nominating justices who are not hostile to liberty are two of my basic requirements for a libertarian. Johnson/Weld fails spectacularly on both of those two relatively easy hurdles.

    I agree with you on the religious liberty question. But in this cycle, you don’t have a candidate to vote for who will defend religious liberty any better than Johnson/Weld. On that question Hillary will be worse, and Trump will at best be no better. So unless you regard it as a gating question (I don’t) I think you’re back to picking the best of a bad to imperfect lot.

    No, actually, we’re not.

    Johnson/Weld is not even close to likely to win. Thus, the value in voting for Johnson/Weld is to register a protest against the two candidates who have a chance against winning.

    In order for that protest to have any chance at advancing a constructive change in the future political landscape, it has to have an unambiguous message, if only to make one of the major parties take the hint and pivot in that direction. A successful pro-liberty candidate could pull the Republicans back toward liberty, especially if Trump loses. A successful Johnson/Weld ticket and a Trump loss is going to pull them towards, what, exactly? I don’t know, but I’m gussing it’s the RINOism that created Trump.

    • #12
  13. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Cato Rand:Tom and Jamie, you are engaging in the nirvana fallacy. You are comparing Johnson/Weld to some idealized view of a libertarian candidate. That is pointless. There are a lot of flavors of libertarians, just as with republicans and democrats, and no candidate can be expected to fully satisfy. Moreover, you are certainly not comparing Johnson/Weld to the real world alternatives that this year’s political process has puked up. Take a deep breath, come down from your ivory towers, and look at the options before you. I think when you do it will be clear enough that however imperfect you find them, you’d be overjoyed if Johnson/Weld were to pull an upset in 2016.

    The man is not sure we should have intervened in WWII. Even Clinton thinks we should have done that. Personally, I don’t want a pot head as President.

    Anyone who thinks that someone should be fined by the Federal Government for refusing service in not libertarian in any definition I have ever heard. That is authoritarian through and through.

    • #13
  14. TeeJaw Inactive
    TeeJaw
    @TeeJaw

    Jamie Lockett:I literally have no one to vote for and its depressing as heck.

    Yeah, me too. I deal with it this way: Stop Hillary. It’s the most important thing. Just stop Hillary. She’s too big a disaster. Right now, it looks like Trump is the only way we have to stop Hillary. He’s crude, he’s vulgar, he’s no gentleman. But Hillary is no lady. She’s a congential liar and worse.  Add stridency, law breaking and corruption to that. She wants to amend the Constitution to take our liberty and our rights away from  us.  Trump doesn’t.

    If a libertarian vote would stop Hillary, I’d be all in for it. But I fear a libertarian vote propels Hillary straight into the White House. Ouch.

    • #14
  15. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Joe P:

    Cato Rand:

    Jamie Lockett:

    Standing up for liberty, and religious liberty is a key component of liberty, and nominating justices who are not hostile to liberty are two of my basic requirements for a libertarian. Johnson/Weld fails spectacularly on both of those two relatively easy hurdles.

    I agree with you on the religious liberty question. But in this cycle, you don’t have a candidate to vote for who will defend religious liberty any better than Johnson/Weld. On that question Hillary will be worse, and Trump will at best be no better. So unless you regard it as a gating question (I don’t) I think you’re back to picking the best of a bad to imperfect lot.

    No, actually, we’re not.

    Johnson/Weld is not even close to likely to win. Thus, the value in voting for Johnson/Weld is to register a protest against the two candidates who have a chance against winning.

    In order for that protest to have any chance at advancing a constructive change in the future political landscape, it has to have an unambiguous message, if only to make one of the major parties take the hint and pivot in that direction. A successful pro-liberty candidate could pull the Republicans back toward liberty, especially if Trump loses. A successful Johnson/Weld ticket and a Trump loss is going to pull them towards, what, exactly? I don’t know, but I’m gussing it’s the RINOism that created Trump.

    This.

    I do not want the Libertarians to think that this kind of mealy mouthed pseudo-liberty message is the way forward. They should not be rewarded for abandoning key aspects of liberty.

    • #15
  16. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    TeeJaw:

    Jamie Lockett:I literally have no one to vote for and its depressing as heck.

    Yeah, me too. I deal with it this way: Stop Hillary. It’s the most important thing. Just stop Hillary. She’s too big a disaster. Right now, it looks like Trump is the only way we have to stop Hillary. He’s crude, he’s vulgar, he’s no gentleman. But Hillary is no lady. She’s a congential liar and worse. Add stridency, law breaking and corruption to that. She wants to amend the Constitution to take our liberty and our rights away from us. Trump doesn’t.

    If a libertarian vote would stop Hillary, I’d be all in for it. But I fear a libertarian vote propels Hillary straight into the White House. Ouch.

    I don’t want to sidetrack this into another Trump or Hillary debate – we have more than enough of those. Suffice to say I disagree.

    • #16
  17. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: the Libertarians have nominated not one but two former Republican governors

    Libertarians went with Republicans. The Republicans are going with a Democrat and the Democrats have fully embraced Socialism.

    Maybe it is time to give the fat naked guy another look . . . well, maybe not literally?

    • #17
  18. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Jamie Lockett:

    Joe P:

    Cato Rand:

    Jamie Lockett:

    Standing up for liberty, and religious liberty is a key component of liberty, and nominating justices who are not hostile to liberty are two of my basic requirements for a libertarian. Johnson/Weld fails spectacularly on both of those two relatively easy hurdles.

    I agree with you on the religious liberty question. But in this cycle, you don’t have a candidate to vote for who will defend religious liberty any better than Johnson/Weld. On that question Hillary will be worse, and Trump will at best be no better. So unless you regard it as a gating question (I don’t) I think you’re back to picking the best of a bad to imperfect lot.

    No, actually, we’re not.

    Johnson/Weld is not even close to likely to win. Thus, the value in voting for Johnson/Weld is to register a protest against the two candidates who have a chance against winning.

    In order for that protest to have any chance at advancing a constructive change in the future political landscape, it has to have an unambiguous message, if only to make one of the major parties take the hint and pivot in that direction. A successful pro-liberty candidate could pull the Republicans back toward liberty, especially if Trump loses. A successful Johnson/Weld ticket and a Trump loss is going to pull them towards, what, exactly? I don’t know, but I’m gussing it’s the RINOism that created Trump.

    This.

    I do not want the Libertarians to think that this kind of mealy mouthed pseudo-liberty message is the way forward. They should not be rewarded for abandoning key aspects of liberty.

    I think libertarians are too focused on the individual most of the time, and that there are community rights too. Being for Federal law going after cake makers is so far from libertarian it is not passable. Why the Libertarian Party appointed this guy is beyond me, unless it is because they are nuts. (the Party Apperachniks, not small l libertarians).

    • #18
  19. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    Look, the bar has been set low:

    Are Johnson / Weld NOT terminally insane incompetent megalomaniacs? Yes. Check.

    Are Johnson / Weld NOT terminally corrupt pathological liars? Yes. Check.

    Looks like I will vote for them with two hands. Though maybe not in another time or place.

    • #19
  20. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    Marion Evans:Are Johnson / Weld NOT terminally insane incompetent megalomaniacs? Yes. Check.

    Are Johnson / Weld NOT terminally corrupt pathological liars? Yes. Check.

    The worst part is, I’m not sure which candidate is which.

    • #20
  21. Pseudodionysius Coolidge
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    • #21
  22. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    Umbra Fractus:

    Marion Evans:Are Johnson / Weld NOT terminally insane incompetent megalomaniacs? Yes. Check.

    Are Johnson / Weld NOT terminally corrupt pathological liars? Yes. Check.

    The worst part is, I’m not sure which candidate is which.

    You’re right. I could have saved ‘ink’ and written only one sentence.

    • #22
  23. Salvatore Padula Inactive
    Salvatore Padula
    @SalvatorePadula

    Jamie Lockett:I’ve long said that Johnson is a terrible libertarian and that nominating him was a mistake. This confirms it.

    I literally have no one to vote for and its depressing as heck.

    Hans-Adam of Liechtenstein is my write in candidate of choice.

    • #23
  24. Schwaibold Inactive
    Schwaibold
    @Schwaibold

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    Jamie Lockett:

    Joe P:

    Cato Rand:

    Jamie Lockett:

    Standing up for liberty… and nominating justices who are not hostile to liberty are two of my basic requirements for a libertarian. Johnson/Weld fails spectacularly on both of those two relatively easy hurdles.

    I agree with you on the religious liberty question. But in this cycle ..I think you’re back to picking the best of a bad to imperfect lot.

    No, actually, we’re not.

    Johnson/Weld is not even close to likely to win. Thus, the value in voting for Johnson/Weld is to register a protest against the two candidates who have a chance against winning.

    In order for that protest to have any chance at advancing a constructive change in the future political landscape, it has to have an unambiguous message, if only to make one of the major parties take the hint and pivot in that direction….

    This.

    I do not want the Libertarians to think that this kind of mealy mouthed pseudo-liberty message is the way forward. They should not be rewarded for abandoning key aspects of liberty.

    I think libertarians are too focused on the individual most of the time, and that there are community rights too. ..

    I must respectfully disagree. Johnson’s aversion to religious liberty capitulates to the community at the expense of the individual. Focusing on the individual’s rights always works, unless we can’t even agree on what a right is.. doh!

    • #24
  25. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Marion Evans:Look, the bar has been set low:

    Are Johnson / Weld NOT terminally insane incompetent megalomaniacs? Yes. Check.

    Are Johnson / Weld NOT terminally corrupt pathological liars? Yes. Check.

    Looks like I will vote for them with two hands. Though maybe not in another time or place.

    This sums up my sentiments pretty well.  Two guys who belong neither in prison nor the nuthouse.  What more could you ask for?

    • #25
  26. Ned Vaughn Inactive
    Ned Vaughn
    @NedVaughn

    Could Be Anyone:There is no doubt that Johnson and Weld are far from even good candidates but the arguments usually applied to trump fit them perfectly. Literal outsiders from any faction of political party (they have political history but no real connections). They have no established leftist influences like clump do. If elected by the Republicans of the house they would more or less receive a mandate that favored conservative policy rather than that of the left. Not to mention given their past they would be far more likely to act with republicans than democrats whereas trump has said he would have no inhibitions being a free agent.

    Not to mention the fact that they would also be pulling predominantly from the center right in their appointments and the like given their political past. [snip for length]

    Agreed. I have serious policy disagreements with Johnson and Weld. Neither would make a short (or long) list of my preferred candidates. But of the candidates who will be on the ballot in 50 states, theirs is the ticket that represents the lowest probability of terrible outcomes. That’s hardly the approach I’d like to take toward casting my vote and things might change as this most depressing  and unpredictable of election years continues to unfold. But considering that Clinton and Trump both miserably fail a basic character test for being entrusted with the power of the presidency, it’s hard to see a better option.

    • #26
  27. Mate De Inactive
    Mate De
    @MateDe

    Why didn’t Austin Petersen get the nomination? Was it the name recogniton of Johnson to get the LP ticket out there?

    I guess there are no parties who got the best choice for candidate.

    • #27
  28. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    There are indeed many different types of Libertarians. The line between some Libertarians and Anarchists is pretty well defined. An Anarchist will throw a brick through a plate glass window while the Libertarian only throws metaphorical bricks.

    I suspect that a Libertarian would run to the city council just as fast as anyone else if the property owner next door to them decided to convert his property into a junkyard.

    • #28
  29. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Mate De:Why didn’t Austin Petersen get the nomination? Was it the name recogniton of Johnson to get the LP ticket out there?

    I guess there are no parties who got the best choice for candidate.

    Probably. Johnson has a pretty big following in the LP.

    • #29
  30. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Doug Watt:There are indeed many different types of Libertarians. The line between some Libertarians and Anarchists is pretty well defined. An Anarchist will throw a brick through a plate glass window while the Libertarian only throws metaphorical bricks.

    I suspect that a Libertarian would run to the city council just as fast as anyone else if the property owner next door to them decided to convert his property into a junkyard.

    Maybe, maybe not, you should see the state of my neighbors house.

    • #30

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.