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If 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.