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.

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  1. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Jamie Lockett:

    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.

    Your neighbor must be a Libertarian.

    • #31
  2. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Doug Watt:

    Jamie Lockett:

    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.

    Your neighbor must be a Libertarian.

    I think my neighbor has his college aged grand kids living there so they’re probably socialists. Most of my neighbors have Bernie signs up. I hate California sometimes.

    • #32
  3. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Bryan G. Stephens:The man is not sure we should have intervened in WWII.

    The particular way the question was asked was so terrible that I’m extremely loathe to hold anyone accountable for their answer. That said, the other candidates, including John McAffee (who’s nuts) were able to muster significantly better answers.

    [will see if I can find video]

    • #33
  4. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    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.

    Yes, but given that Johnson/Weld have no chance whatsoever to win, why give them the benefit of my protest vote?

    • #34
  5. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    Cato Rand:

    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?

    Exactly. Throw in the Everest climb and I am in.

    • #35
  6. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    Tom Meyer:

    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.

    Yes, but given that Johnson/Weld have no chance whatsoever to win, why give them the benefit of my protest vote?

    Although you are probably right, a lot can happen in three months. Say some mainstream GOP elected officials fear a complete debacle and officially desert Trump, the alternative may get momentum, enough to throw it in the House of Representatives.

    • #36
  7. Joe P Member
    Joe P
    @JoeP

    Marion Evans:

    Tom Meyer:

    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.

    Yes, but given that Johnson/Weld have no chance whatsoever to win, why give them the benefit of my protest vote?

    Although you are probably right, a lot can happen in three months. Say some mainstream GOP elected officials fear a complete debacle and officially desert Trump, the alternative may get momentum, enough to throw it in the House of Representatives.

    Here’s the question I always ask but never get an answer to when this scenario is proposed:

    Why would throwing it to the House result in anything other than a Trump presidency, given that the incentives facing representatives are to vote the party line?

    • #37
  8. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    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!

    Well that is its own Thread. When I say community rights though, I don’t me the Federal Gov’ment. That is what Johnson is calling for, I think we can all agree that is a bridge too far.

    • #38
  9. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Tom Meyer:

    Bryan G. Stephens:The man is not sure we should have intervened in WWII.

    The particular way the question was asked was so terrible that I’m extremely loathe to hold anyone accountable for their answer. That said, the other candidates, including John McAffee (who’s nuts) were able to muster significantly better answers.

    [will see if I can find video]

    He has yet to clarify, that I know of. I am more than happy to accept a clarification.

    But, no matter how the question is asked, in 2016, with all we know about WWII, and including the fact the Japanese attacked us first, the answer is always, “Yes”.

    • #39
  10. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    Joe P:

    Marion Evans:

    Tom Meyer:

    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.

    Yes, but given that Johnson/Weld have no chance whatsoever to win, why give them the benefit of my protest vote?

    Although you are probably right, a lot can happen in three months. Say some mainstream GOP elected officials fear a complete debacle and officially desert Trump, the alternative may get momentum, enough to throw it in the House of Representatives.

    Here’s the question I always ask but never get an answer to when this scenario is proposed:

    Why would throwing it to the House result in anything other than a Trump presidency, given that the incentives facing representatives are to vote the party line?

    I don’t know. If Trump can’t get enough electoral college votes, the whole edifice may collapse quickly and lead to a Johnson vote. I agree it’s a big stretch, though.

    • #40
  11. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    Tom Meyer:

    Bryan G. Stephens:The man is not sure we should have intervened in WWII.

    The particular way the question was asked was so terrible that I’m extremely loathe to hold anyone accountable for their answer. That said, the other candidates, including John McAffee (who’s nuts) were able to muster significantly better answers.

    [will see if I can find video]

    He has yet to clarify, that I know of. I am more than happy to accept a clarification.

    But, no matter how the question is asked, in 2016, with all we know about WWII, and including the fact the Japanese attacked us first, the answer is always, “Yes”.

    Most people don’t know that this statement occurred nor do I think its much on Johnson’s mind that people are looking for a clarification. Why don’t you write his campaign and see if they answer you? That would put a lot of our minds to rest on this issue.

    • #41
  12. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    But, no matter how the question is asked, in 2016, with all we know about WWII, and including the fact the Japanese attacked us first, the answer is always, “Yes”.

    Just to be clear, the question encompassed both world wars, which is just a painfully awful way to ask a question. Unfortunately, Johnson’s answer was also painfully awful.

    https://youtu.be/EOGple27Jo0?t=1h15m9s

    Johnson’s answer was vastly worse than Petersen’s or MacAffee’s.

    • #42
  13. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Tom Meyer:

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    But, no matter how the question is asked, in 2016, with all we know about WWII, and including the fact the Japanese attacked us first, the answer is always, “Yes”.

    Just to be clear, the question encompassed both world wars, which is just painfully awful. Unfortunately, Johnson’s answer was also painfully awful.

    Johnson’s answer was vastly worse than Petersen’s or MacAffee’s.

    Yeah I know.

    But, I would blast and slam a Democrat for that answer, so I am just being consistent.

    The question was horrible. The fact it was asked, and the cheers involved, however, say something pretty scary about Libertarians. (big L)

    • #43
  14. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Bryan G. Stephens:Yeah I know.

    But, I would blast and slam a Democrat for that answer, so I am just being consistent.

    Totally understood.

    The question was horrible. The fact it was asked, and the cheers involved, however, say something pretty scary about Libertarians. (big L)

    I think I’d have preferred the thong dance.

    • #44
  15. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Tom Meyer:

    Bryan G. Stephens:Yeah I know.

    But, I would blast and slam a Democrat for that answer, so I am just being consistent.

    Totally understood.

    The question was horrible. The fact it was asked, and the cheers involved, however, say something pretty scary about Libertarians. (big L)

    I think I’d have preferred the thong dance.

    Ha

    • #45
  16. Matt Upton Inactive
    Matt Upton
    @MattUpton

    I suppose it makes sense in an election where the Democrat and Republican nominees confirm every terrible stereotype about their party, the Libertarians fulfill the suspicion that they really only care about legalizing pot.

    • #46
  17. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    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 wouldn’t call standing up for liberty an easy hurdle.  Almost every politicians fails.

    Johnson’s answers on religious liberty are abysmal.  I get what he was trying to say, he just said it poorly.

    It’s interesting how Libertarians are held to such a higher standard than Republicans or Democrats.

    • #47
  18. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Tom Meyer:

    Bryan G. Stephens:Yeah I know.

    But, I would blast and slam a Democrat for that answer, so I am just being consistent.

    Totally understood.

    The question was horrible. The fact it was asked, and the cheers involved, however, say something pretty scary about Libertarians. (big L)

    I think I’d have preferred the thong dance.

    Not me, that was almost as bad as the attack on Pearl Harbor, it was unprovoked, but I’m glad I was bombed when I saw the video.

    • #48
  19. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    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.

    Johnson is an experienced two-term governor.  Is he a perfect libertarian?  No.  But a perfect libertarian isn’t going to get elected President.  Not in a country that twice elected both Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

    What the LP went for this year was a ticket that could possibly be elected.  It’s not some activists that you’ve never heard of.  It’s a pair of successful governors.

    Look, I like a lot of what Austin Petersen says.  I’d vote for him for Congress in a heartbeat.  Ditto for Senate.  But President isn’t an entry level job, and Petersen just doesn’t have the qualifications.

    Johnson ain’t perfect, but he’s run a government before.  And he and Bill Weld are miles ahead of the alternatives.  I’ll vote for them in a heartbeat over the alternatives.

    • #49
  20. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Tom Meyer: Yes, but given that Johnson/Weld have no chance whatsoever to win, why give them the benefit of my protest vote?

    I disagree with this, Tom.  Trump’s and Clinton’s negatives are so high as to be fatal if they weren’t running against each other. The public is screaming for an alternative.

    Johnson’s problem is that nobody knows who he is.  He is slowly eking up to 15%.  If he gets into the debates, then its a whole new ball game.

    Is it a long shot?  Yes.  But to say that they have no chance is unfair.

    • #50
  21. Matt Upton Inactive
    Matt Upton
    @MattUpton

    Fred Cole: I wouldn’t call standing up for liberty an easy hurdle. Almost every politicians fails.

    It’s kinda important if they run on the Libertarian ticket.

    Fred Cole: It’s interesting how Libertarians are held to such a higher standard than Republicans or Democrats.

    Because we’ve come to think of third party tickets as ideals, not viable political parties. It’s one thing to vote for somebody you know will lose. It’s another when you don’t even really agree with him. It’s like blowing your diet cheat day on moon pies.

    • #51
  22. Egg Man Inactive
    Egg Man
    @EggMan

    I haven’t done a deep investigation of Johnson, but everything I see he’s a lightweight. I say this especially after watching that hideous commercial where he and Weld sound like pimply-faced college students apologizing for being seen at College Republican meeting. (“But we’re not like them — we want to end the wars!”)

    That being said, my calculation is as follows:

    1. I am in a swing state, but under the current scenario Hillary is likely to win comfortably.
    2. I am one out of about 4 million voters. My vote will not decide this election.
    3. Never Trump. To head off the critics, I do not trust him on judges, especially after his remarks today holding Republican voters hostage over the issue. That’s the biggest sign we are being used.
    4. My vote is important not because it will decide the election but how it will be interpreted afterwards.
    5. So, my options are to sit out or vote Libertarian.

    On November 9th, the Republican Party, or what’s left of it after Trump walks away from the burning wreckage and declares himself a “winner” after a crushing defeat, will be looking for direction. A strong Libertarian result will hopefully show that, despite the growth of populism, the Tea Party philosophy is still alive in a portion of the electorate.

    Should the Libertarians gain strength and interpret the result as a victory for the pile of Vox clippings that they call a platform, we can have that fight later.

    • #52
  23. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    Schwaibold:

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    Jamie Lockett:

    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!

    Well that is its own Thread. When I say community rights though, I don’t me the Federal Gov’ment. That is what Johnson is calling for, I think we can all agree that is a bridge too far.

    What DO you mean by “community rights?”  That sounds like an oxymoron to me.

    • #53
  24. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Tom Meyer:

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    But, no matter how the question is asked, in 2016, with all we know about WWII, and including the fact the Japanese attacked us first, the answer is always, “Yes”.

    Just to be clear, the question encompassed both world wars, which is just a painfully awful way to ask a question. Unfortunately, Johnson’s answer was also painfully awful.

    Johnson’s answer was vastly worse than Petersen’s or MacAffee’s.

    I’d go on record saying we shouldn’t have entered WWI.  Frankly, I’m not sure why anyone was in WWI.  More destruction per unit of pointlessness than any war in history.

    • #54
  25. Joe P Member
    Joe P
    @JoeP

    Fred Cole:It’s interesting how Libertarians are held to such a higher standard than Republicans or Democrats.

    Yes, because unlike the Republicans and Democrats, the Libertarians do not claim to be a broad-based coalition which requires every constituency to give up some of what they want to advance a larger, shared agenda. They claim to be the party for people interested in liberty.

    • #55
  26. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Joe P:

    Fred Cole:It’s interesting how Libertarians are held to such a higher standard than Republicans or Democrats.

    Yes, because unlike the Republicans and Democrats, the Libertarians do not claim to be a broad-based coalition which requires every constituency to give up some of what they want to advance a larger, shared agenda. They claim to be the party for people interested in liberty.

    Exactly. If the libertarians don’t care about basic liberties then what the hell is the point of the Libertarian Party?

    • #56
  27. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Fred Cole:Johnson is an experienced two-term governor. Is he a perfect libertarian? No. But a perfect libertarian isn’t going to get elected President. Not in a country that twice elected both Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

    Entirely agreed, but this isn’t about falling short of an ideal, but in not taking bone-headedly stupid stances. Again, how someone can call themselves a libertarian while thinking that the law should require folks to violate their consciences in novel ways is utterly beyond me. This isn’t a close matter; it’s an easy one.

    And on the WWII thing, several of the other candidates were able to deal with the (dumb) question way better than Johnson. Petersen and McAffee both offered quick answers that differentiated between the wars.

    • #57
  28. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Tom Meyer: Again, how someone can call themselves a libertarian while thinking that the law should require folks to violate their consciences in novel ways is utterly beyond me. This isn’t a close matter; it’s an easy one.

    Like I said, I get what Johnson was getting at, he just said it poorly.

    That being said, libertarianism isn’t a one thing that believes only a specific thing with no deviation. Otherwise there would be no arguments among libertarians. (Which, obviously ain’t the situation.)

    And to defend Johnson for a moment, the LP has always strongly supported gay rights, even 40 years ago, when it was wildly unpopular.

    I think Johnson is all twisted up on his interpretation of public accommodation law. (It’s obvious that he’s not a lawyer, which is, generally speaking, a mark in his favor.)

    At the same time, he’s got his eye on bigger things, specifically how religious liberty execptions could be used to discriminate not just against gay people, but against religious minorities.

    But he’s made quite a hash out of the issue in his attempts to explain himself.

    • #58
  29. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Fred Cole:At the same time, he’s got his eye on bigger things, specifically how religious liberty exceptions could be used to discriminate not just against gay people, but against religious minorities.

    And as you know, I don’t like playing the exceptions game: Freedom to associate means people get to be jerks. Johnson’s remedy — keep the public accommodations laws and increase anti-discrimination laws — is textbook statism. I don’t like RFRA, but I’ll take it over this nonsense.

    • #59
  30. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Cato Rand:

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    Schwaibold:

    Bryan G. Stephens:

    Jamie Lockett:

    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!

    Well that is its own Thread. When I say community rights though, I don’t me the Federal Gov’ment. That is what Johnson is calling for, I think we can all agree that is a bridge too far.

    What DO you mean by “community rights?” That sounds like an oxymoron to me.

    Community rights stem from the collective right of individuals to live with like minded individuals and form communities to their liking. Such as having a community with no strip clubs in it. I think this, at the most, can extend to the level of a County. For instance, I find dry counties perfectly reasonable, as there are plenty of wet counties out there.

    • #60
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