Edited on October 11th, 19th, and 27th, 2016
Edited and Expanded on October 25th, 2016
Table of Contents
2. Basic Income and Taxing Pollution
3. Summary of Criticism
4. Energy, Foreign Policy, and Guns
5. Taxes, Abortion, and Social Security
6. Baking the Cake
7. Campaign Finance
8. Science Research and Drug Policy
9. Drivers' Licenses
On Thursday, September 8th, 2016, Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson replied "And what is Aleppo?" when Mike Barnicle, the co-host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe", asked him what he plans to do about the Syrian city, which was then and is still under siege by I.S.I.S..
Johnson explained that he thought Aleppo might have been an acronym for a terrorist group, similar to I.S.I.S.. Internet searches for Gary Johnson and Aleppo skyrocketed following Johnson's "Morning Joe" appearance.
2. Basic Income and Taxing Pollution
3. Summary of Criticism
Aside from (1) federal involvement in environmental policy, I disagree with Johnson's positions that: (2) off-shore oil drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for natural gases should be expanded; (3) the idea that working with Russia to achieve a solution in Syria is likely or possible; (4) the U.S. should maintain its alliance with the State of Israel; (5) the federal government should continue to ban the sale and ownership of automatic weapons; (6) the FairTax and a national value-added sales tax are the best ways to fund the federal government; (7) cutting federal funding to Planned Parenthood should not be a priority; (8) means-testing, raising the retirement age, and privatization should be on the table when it comes to reforming Social Security; (9) all American enterprises must sell goods to patrons on demand; (10) political parties receiving more than 5% in elections should receive public taxpayer funds; (11) political donations must be transparent and publicly disclosed; (12) the federal government should fund scientific research, including green energy alternatives; (13) marijuana should be legalized, but cocaine, meth, heroin, and other drugs should not; and (14) automobile drivers should be required to obtain licenses and pay fees therefor.
4. Energy, Foreign Policy, and Guns
(2) Johnson believes that the U.S. should expand off-shore drilling for oil; and that hydraulic fracturing for natural gases should be expanded, as long as there is oversight. While Johnson and I agree that more testing and / or oversight is needed if fracking for natural gases is to take place safely, I do not believe that the practice is safe, while Johnson seems to believe that it is. Although Johnson and I believe that the energy sector needs to be de-regulated, that it needs to be subject to consumer demand and other market forces, and that the federal government should cease subsidizing and protecting energy industries (especially failed energy technologies); unlike Johnson, I do not believe that off-shore drilling for oil should be expanded. I would like to see environmental and energy policy devolve back to the states, and I would like to see each state and / or community become independent signatories to either the Kyoto Protocol or something like it, and also put into place measures that would achieve zero non-offset carbon emissions by the year 2030.
Before switching gears from foreign policy to gun control, I will also note that I disagree with Johnson's position that the U.S. should remain in the United Nations, and with his position that the U.S. should continue defending other N.A.T.O. countries that maintain low military defense budgets relative to their G.D.P.. I would like to see the United States exit both the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or at the very least drastically scale back our involvement in these organizations, and move the headquarters of the U.N. to some other country. If our allies cannot afford to pay us to protect them, then we should cease protecting them; otherwise they will likely spend too much on their welfare states, and too little on building independent, self-sustaining national military forces, and this risks obligating American taxpayers to foot the bill for their irresponsible spending. I additionally oppose continued U.S. membership in N.A.T.O. because its membership is expanding, and this fact makes it more likely that the U.S. will be pulled into a war, being obligated to treat any attack on a N.A.T.O. ally as an attack on itself.
(5) I disagree with Gary Johnson and Bill Weld that the federal government should continue to prohibit and punish the ownership, purchase, and sale of semi-automatic and automatic weapons. The Second Amendment makes it clear that Congress shall not infringe upon the natural right to keep and bear arms; this includes the right to own weapons (not only firearms), and the right to defend oneself against a tyrannical government. Since I believe that the powers of a just government derive from the consent and permission of the governed, I believe that governments have a duty to refrain from requiring permissions and licenses (and fees therefor) for guns; and that governments' authority to own and use weapons, derives from the right of the people to do the same, and that that authority comes through authorization by the people.
At a time when the rule of law and the Bill of Rights are being neglected - and both major party presidential candidates are open to reinstating the draft (while nearly 300 elected officials support reinstatement and / or requiring women to register) - it is crucial to retain our fundamental, natural rights to keep and bear arms; these include our right to defend ourselves against any government (foreign or domestic) seeking to compel us to fight for it. That is how our country was formed; I resolve that it will not be destroyed due to widespread public ignorance of the original intent of the Second Amendment.
If suspected terrorists, violent felons, domestic abusers, the mentally ill, and people with criminal histories involving the use of guns, are to have their rights to bear arms - and their rights to travel - revoked, then those rights may only be revoked through a judge's order; not through legislation, and certainly not through legislation passed at the federal level.
Finally, on the subject of guns, I will note that I disagree with Johnson's position that victims of gun violence should not be allowed to sue firearms dealers and manufacturers for reasons other than to hold the defendants liable for negligence. I oppose Johnson on this because every citizen, regardless of their jurisdiction, has the equal right to sue any person or organization for any reason. Whether the case is frivolous should be up to the jury - and up to the willingness of the defense attorney and prosecutor to take the case - not up to legislators in the federal government.
5. Taxes, Abortion, and Social Security
(6) I disagree with Johnson that the FairTax, or a flat national value-added sales tax, are the best ways to fund the federal government. I do believe that replacing all non-user-fee-based government revenue on sales taxes would be preferable to the current system; especially if sales taxes were levied with the intention of replacing income taxes and property taxes, and especially if all behaviors taxed are taxed at the same rate. However, I also believe that sales taxes effectively discourage and diminish sales. I also believe that sales taxes increase consumer prices, which makes it more difficult for struggling people to afford the ordinary consumer goods and services that they need to survive. Some have criticized Johnson's two favored tax programs for being regressive - that is, placing an undue burden upon the poor - but that criticism only makes it clear that taxing luxury items would be preferable to taxing all goods bought and sold. Of course, luxury taxes would diminish the sales of luxury items, so in my opinion, the Single Tax on land value (also called Land Value Taxation; L.V.T.) described by Henry George, is still the least harmful tax ever proposed.
(7) While I agree with Gary Johnson that protecting the mother's right to choose to get an abortion, until the point of viability of the fetus, is a good starting point when it comes to finding compromise on the issue, I do not agree with Johnson's recent statement that cutting federal funding to Planned Parenthood should not be prioritized. In my opinion, abortion - and the federal government's role in it - is one of the issues which most contributes to the growing divide in partisan politics. People who are against abortion simply do not want to be taxed in order to fund organizations that provide abortions. In order to spend federal taxpayer money on budget items that actually promote the general welfare, and in order to make bipartisan or multi-partisan compromise on abortion possible, federal funding for Planned Parenthood should end as soon as possible. Until that happens, I believe that we are more likely to see the same kinds of attacks on abortion clinics, and the same use of abortion as an issue to threaten to shut down the federal government, that we have seen over the past twenty or thirty years.
That being said, I would commend Johnson for attempting to block funding for Planned Parenthood while he served as the governor of New Mexico. Although his response to iSideWith.com's presidential candidate survey revealed that he opposes de-funding Planned Parenthood, this is not exactly accurate; Johnson said in February 2016 that while he does not want to make cuts to Planned Parenthood funding, it would be subject to across-the-board cuts, which he has stated would be on the table for consideration in the event that major cost-saving reforms are not achieved. Lastly, on the subject of reproductive health, I disagree with Johnson that health insurance providers should be required to offer birth control.
(8) I disagree with Johnson that Social Security recipients should be means-tested. There are many measures that can and should be taken, long before means-testing should be considered. It is unconscionable to me that people who have paid into the Social Security system through decades of hard work, should have their own money curtailed. Keep in mind, the value of this money has diminished - and is declining as we speak - due to deficit spending, and due to the devaluation of the dollar that those budget problems have caused.
In my opinion: waste, fraud, and abuse should be cut; young workers should be allowed to opt-out of the program; workers should be free to personalize their accounts, rather than experience federally directed privatization of the system; mutual and cooperative retirement account options should be explored; and the system should be block-granted to states in order to find the best practice and best solution. All of these should be done before considering either means-testing or raising the retirement age.
That brings me to Johnson's support of raising the retirement age. In my opinion, raising the retirement age would be the preferable alternative to means-testing; but only if it is done gradually, the collection age is only raised by several years, and terminally ill people over 65 are given exemptions and may collect. Only if all of these proposals fail, should means-testing be considered.
I disagree with Johnson that means-testing, raising the retirement age, and privatization, should be among the first proposals on the table when it comes to reforming Social Security; they should only be last-ditch efforts, and those efforts should only follow failed attempts to overhaul Medicare and Medicaid, cut military spending, and dismantle corporate privilege.
Additionally, because of all the flaws in the current Social Security system which I have outlined above, I disagree with Johnson that immigrants should be expected to pay taxes, and given Social Security numbers and required to pay into the system.
6. Baking the Cake
(9) I disagree with Johnson that all American enterprises must sell goods to patrons on demand. As a bit of background on this issue, Johnson told an audience of students at Liberty University that he believes in religious liberty, but does not want to restore rights to discriminate that do not exist now, because the religious liberty argument could be used to justify discrimination on the basis of race. Johnson's response to iSideWith.com's presidential candidate survey revealed that he believes that a business should not be able to deny service to a customer if the request conflicts with the owner's religious beliefs, saying that all customers deserve to be treated equally. I will note that the issues of civil rights and religious liberty are intertwined with the issue of discrimination against customers in enterprises accommodating the public; this brings us to the civil rights part of the equation.
Just as with the views on the subject espoused by Barry Goldwater, and then Ron Paul and Rand Paul, there has been some controversy among libertarians and others regarding Johnson's comments on the issue, which has a lot to do with Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, requiring that enterprises with public accommodations may not segregate nor discriminate. That law - upheld in the 1964 case Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States - interfered with the Fifth Amendments (so the losing side argued), because it deprived business owners of their rights to run their businesses the way they see fit - the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason - and business owners were not compensate for their losses, nor did they consent to the takings of rights. The law also, arguably, turned employees of public accommodations into Thirteenth Amendment involuntary servants, and blurred the line between what is public, versus what is private.
Gary Johnson's solution - require employees to sell goods that are already available on the shelves, but do not require them to decorate a cake, nor to do anything special for a customer, if they have a moral or religious objection to what they are being asked to do - is, to some extent, a good place to start. Most importantly, for the most part, it respects the right to refuse to serve a customer, upholding property rights in the process (however, another problem may be created if the employee's hiring contract conflicts with the employee's conscience and/or with the law), and it solves the problem of people being discriminated against not being able to find someone willing to sell them the good or service they need without traveling unreasonable and unaffordable distances. However, focusing on what an employee should or can or may do, only obscures the issue, because the real focus should be on the federal-state relationship, and on what is the appropriate interpretation of the interstate Commerce Clause.
In my opinion, businesses should be allowed to refuse service to whomever they please, especially if the patrons or potential patrons are being threatening. But unless the patrons are being threatening, refusing service should only be considered a right, when it occurs in enterprises that are only active within a single state, and as long as the enterprise does not receive the at least ten forms of taxpayer-funded privileges, supports, and regulatory favors, which governments creates. This policy affirms that the federal government's role in interstate commerce is to keep it regular - i.e., free from undue interruptions and inhibitions - and to create a free-trade zone within the United States, ensuring that enterprises directly involved in interstate commerce do not inhibit the ability of potential patrons to access public accommodations facilities and buy the goods and services they need. Additionally, this policy creates a situation in which multi-state businesses that want to discriminate or segregate, are free to do so: provided that they give up all taxpayer-funded, government-granted business privileges; and provided that they retreat to within the borders of the single state in which they choose to remain active. This policy would also allow states to determine whether to allow intrastate enterprises to segregate or discriminate, while states would not be free to require either segregation or discrimination in enterprises serving the public.
7. Campaign Finance
(10) I disagree with Gary Johnson that political parties receiving 5% or more in elections should receive taxpayer funding. Although Johnson appears very likely to achieve at least 5% in the 2016 presidential race, I believe that support for this policy is self-serving, even for minor parties. I take this position even in spite of the fact that it would deny myself - an independent write-in candidate for U.S. House from Illinois's 10th District - a benefit. I take this position because I shudder to think of how, under the current policy, taxpayers would be expected to foot the bill to fund the campaigns of ultra-nationalist, authoritarian communist, or other totalitarian political parties, in the event that any of them were to attain 5% or more in elections.
(11) I disagree with Johnson that political contributions should be transparent, open, and public. I believe that, when it comes to transforming an aspect of our elections into something more transparent, it should be voter rolls, not political contributions. I take this position because I agree with what Ron Paul wrote about the matter in his book Liberty Defined; the idea that it is primarily government largesse - and the government overstepping its constitutionally negotiated boundaries - which contributes most to the high-stakes federal political environment that we have now. Due to our agreement on this issue, Paul and I agree that Citizens United does not need to be overturned, and we agree with Lysander Spooner that traditions of surety contract dictate that voters' and representatives' agreement to a financial relationship, should require certain written oaths and affirmations, which do not exist today because voter rolls are secret. I believe that political donations should be unlimited - and, if the donor chooses, undisclosed - and that secret donations are nowhere near as significant threats to ensuring that the will of the electorate is adequately represented, as are runaway federal governance, and outdated voting systems rooted in the flawed first-past-the-post systems that are prevalent today.
8. Science Research and Drug Policy
(12) I disagree with Gary Johnson that the federal government should fund scientific research, and fund green energy alternatives. Although the Constitution does authorize the federal government to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" by protecting intellectual property rights, I believe that intellectual property is a government-granted business privilege which is protected too much, that taxpayer-funded science breeds biased results, and that funded science including green energy risks wasting public money on failing industries and technologies. While I believe that green energy alternatives are appropriate and necessary, I believe that consumers will choose these alternatives, especially if federal funding of research and development for all energy sources - as well as other supports, and gasoline taxes - are discontinued.
(13) While I agree with Gary Johnson that marijuana and its byproducts should be decriminalized - and while I do agree with Johnson on his basic philosophy on drug policy in terms of its relationship to personal freedoms and privacy - I do not agree with Johnson on some other areas of drug policy. His insistence that cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and other hard drugs, would remain prohibited under his administration, is troubling in my opinion. I do appreciate that Johnson has praised - and noted the effectiveness of - needle-exchange programs, programs that allow addicts to help make sure that the drugs they possess will not kill them, and programs to give away free dosages of hard drugs. I also agree with Johnson that "drug addiction is a public health issue, not a criminal justice issue". However, I would appreciate Johnson's policies on drug enforcement even more, if he were to more strongly emphasize the idea that legalizing drugs may help hard drug addicts to come out of the shadows, and help reduce overdoses, and hospital visits and deaths caused by overdoses.
I feel that Johnson's approach to marijuana rests too heavily on the idea of legalization, rather than decriminalization alongside normalization. In my opinion, legalizing drugs creates new problems; subjecting marijuana growing and sales to regulation. It also increases the risk that hard drugs not tested (possibly according to government regulations) might be prohibited, thus exposing drug addicts to the risks associated with arrest, including denial of medical treatment and violent apprehension.
Additionally, I disagree with Johnson's position that children should not be allowed to use marijuana products. Johnson's approach is to regulate marijuana like alcohol and tobacco; in taking this position, he intends to allay fears that liberalizing drug laws could lead to children doing drugs. In my opinion, his need to appear overly cautious about this risk, ignores the fact that there are children experiencing severe pain because the policies laid out by the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency are preventing them from trying the cannabis products that treat nerve cancers and decrease seizures. Finally, on the topic of drugs, I will note that I disagree with Johnson that welfare recipients should be drug-tested, and also subject to increased restrictions.
9. Drivers' Licenses
(14) I disagree with Gary Johnson's statement - made during a debate between himself and the four other leading candidates for the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination - that people should be required to obtain licenses, and pay the fees in order to obtain them, in order to be permitted and allowed to drive an automobile. I believe that to require such measures interferes with Ninth Amendment freedoms, and with the natural freedom of locomotion and travel. To impose fees in exchange for the privilege to exercise the freedom of locomotion, turns natural rights into privileges, the price for which a government agency (the Department of Motor Vehicles, and/or the Secretary of State's office) has the exclusive right to derive monetary benefit. This is an undue interruption and inhibition of the travel aspect of interstate commerce; and it is an artificial, government-granted, taxpayer-funded privilege and support for enterprises within the given state, in addition to a privilege for the state itself.
Furthermore, to impose such fees puts poor people at a disadvantage, relative to people whom can easily afford the costs of obtaining a driver's license. Free adults can learn to drive cars, and learn to use the highway system, without passing driver exams; so can minors, whether driving on a learner's permit, or driving during emergencies when licensed adults cannot be found. Additionally, independent and private driver licensing organizations might prove to be more effective and efficient than government driver licensing systems. Lastly, driver's licenses are an undue inhibition of the freedom of locomotion, especially considering that our vehicles are not truly our own property, given that most drivers have been unjustly deprived of the right to exclude others (i.e., the police) from accessing their property, through the requirement that they register their vehicles, such that the government may deny continued registration, and take custody of vehicles.
I do not completely agree with Gary Johnson on the environment, foreign policy, automatic weapons, taxes, abortion, Social Security, public accommodations, campaign finance, science and energy funding, drug policy, and driver licensing. However, I believe our differences on most of these issues are small, and I do not believe that our differences on any of these issues are disqualifying, for the reasons I have explained above.
Furthermore, I do not believe that Johnson's comments (or lack thereof) on what do to about the city of Aleppo, nor foreign leaders he admires, nor the name of the leader of North Korea, are disqualifying; for the very same reasons that Johnson has given.
At this moment, I am looking forward to voting for Johnson. However, I am also feeling somewhat fortunate that Gary Johnson has decided not to run again in 2020 (saying that this 2016 run for the White House is the last time he will seek elected office); not only because of the disagreements which I have enumerated above, but also because of some similar concerns that I, and (at most) half of Libertarian Party members, share regarding his running mate, Bill Weld; and also because I favored both John McAfee and Austin Petersen over Gary Johnson in the Libertarian presidential primary.
Although I appreciate Johnson's influence on the growth of the party over the last five years, and although I have some concerns about who might be able to garner as much support in polls as Johnson is getting now (8-10% recently, and as much as 13% throughout the election), I look forward to discovering who will be running for the party's nomination in 2020, and to watching the debates. I plan to judge the candidates based on their degree of agreement with myself on the topics I have covered above.
This piece is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all of the differences I have with Gary Johnson. I have disagreements with him on other issues, namely: (15) whether foreign terrorism suspects should be tried in military tribunals or civilian courts; (16) whether illegal immigrants should be offered in-state tuition rates at public colleges within their residing state, or pay the same rates as out-of-state students; (17) how much the federal government should prioritize cuts to public spending vs. cuts to military spending; (18) whether Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion on the Kelo v. City of New London eminent domain case was valid; and (19) whether the federal government should be involved in food labeling (and, if so, for what reason).
We may additionally have some small disagreements about: (20) whether labor unions are helpful or harmful to the economy overall; (21) whether - and how much, and under what conditions - the federal government should fund space travel; and (22) whether (and how) trade deals like N.A.F.T.A. and T.P.P. help promote free trade and free movement of labor and capital. Lastly, while I agree with Johnson that (23) government should not regulate the prices of prescription medications, we may have some small differences regarding the reason why it should not do so.
But on the other hand, I imagine that Johnson, and most libertarians, would agree - even if they do not support such thoroughly transformative measures in the short-term - that those principles are in line with what most libertarians and Libertarian Party members desire in the long-term. Marine veteran and former New Mexico U.S. House candidate Adam Kokesh plans to run in 2020 on a platform of abolishing the entire federal government through a single executive order. What will happen in 2016 and 2020 - especially to progressive voters, and in the Libertarian Party - is impossible to predict.