Five questions for Gary Johnson

UPDATE: Gary Johnson has kindly taken the time to answer to these questions, I’ll be posting them later today.

My 2016 vote is incredibly gettable. If you can convince me you are not interested in murdering the worlds most adorable puppies, that’s probably enough for me to check your box. (No, neither of the two main party candidates have even approached this standard.)

Adding to the fact that I most frequently type the Democrat and Republican party nominees with “#Never” in front of them, I live in Texas. I love Texas. But, their ballot access requirements and deadlines are ridiculous. My presidential ballot will almost definitely feature only four names. #NeverHillary, #NeverTrump, #NeverEverGreenParty and Libertarian Gary Johns0n. If I don’t pull the trigger for Johnson, I am left writing someone in, which I would really prefer not to do.

So, what’s the problem? There are days that it feels like Johnson is literally running a campaign specifically designed to force conservatives to sprint in the opposite direction.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that he’s not a conservative, nor does he claim to be. If libertarians and conservatives agreed on everything, there wouldn’t be a need for both words. But…Gary. I’m trying.

Help me, help you.

Allow me to submit a few honest (multi-part) questions from the perspective of a libertarian leaning conservative. Before we begin, Johnson’s policies fall into three categories:

a) Standard libertarian positions that I don’t fully agree with — I expect that when voting for a libertarian — most of them are not addressed here.

b) Standard libertarian positions that I do agree with — there’s a lot to like obviously — but I don’t address them here.

c) Johnson specific issues and questions — the bulk of this piece. These are the main questions that conservatives have when thinking about a Johnson vote. Here we go:

Dear Gary Johnson,

Here are five (multi-part, sorry) questions from a libertarian leaning conservative that is interested in voting for you. If you could respond, we would love to share the answers with our audience.

  1. Fundamentally, libertarianism is all about personal liberty. With abortion you have an issue where two peoples individual liberty are effected — the mother and the child. If the child’s liberty was not part of this equation, no conservative would care about it. We don’t oppose plastic surgery that removes clumps of cells.

a) Your defense of abortion seems to center around a freedom to choose. But, the government empowering one group of people to choose to wipe out another group of people seems quite distant from the libertarian vision of freedom. How do you square this?

b) Given that there are downsides to both individuals — the woman not being able to make a choice she desires, and the child not being able to live — shouldn’t we err on the side of life, guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence?

c) Do you see any limitation on abortion that is appropriate federally? For example, a ban on late term abortions?

d) In your view, should states be able to pass limitations on abortion? Would they have the same opportunity to act as laboratories of democracy that you celebrate for marijuana and health care?

2. Religious freedom is an important issue for conservatives, and not something we feel can be fairly summarized as an attempt to “incite culture wars.” But, I hope you can understand how conservatives find your response to the story of the baker forced to create a cake for a same sex wedding a bit troubling. It’s not about baked goods. It’s about how you might deal with issues of religious freedom as president.

On our show, you described a slippery slope in which religious groups could use religion to systematically discriminate against others. While I see this as incredibly unlikely in 2016, and see absolutely no sign of it occurring on a regular basis, I suppose with some made up religion it could theoretically be possible. Essentially, what you are describing is a lack of a limiting principle.

But, there is also no limiting principle on what the government could force business owners or individuals to do that might violate their faith in the name of discrimination.

a) As a Libertarian, why are your defenses up against what individuals might do to others in a free market economy, rather than what government might do to overreach into a Constitutionally protected area?

3. In an interview with the Juneau Empire you supported the idea of a global warming fee (not a tax?) on carbon emissions, as long as it doesn’t harm jobs, which of course it would. Regardless, you backed off of it almost immediately:

“With regard to a carbon tax, if any of you heard me say I support a carbon tax. Look, I haven’t raised a penny of taxes in my entire political career, and neither has Bill. We were looking — I was looking — at what I heard was a carbon fee that potentially — from a free market standpoint — would actually address the issue, and cost less. I have determined that, ya know what, it’s a great theory, but I don’t think it can work, and I’ve worked my way through that.”

So, we’re talking about taxing — or feeing — the overwhelming majority of our energy, the lifeblood of our entire economy. The thing that essentially has moved us into a modern civilization. This would be the federal government inserting itself into every aspect of our financial future, and I’m afraid your reversal is almost as concerning as your initial position.

a) How on earth does that sound like a “great theory” to a libertarian?

b) Why did this take more than three seconds to reject out of hand?

c) There is no carbon fee that exists “from a free market standpoint.” This is not a question, but I could not stop myself from typing it.

c) Why hadn’t you put the appropriate level of thought into it before you were asked about it?

d) And most importantly: you are certainly correct that it would not work. But, why is that what stops you? If it was something that would “work” would it then be appropriate? Some of the most oppressive government policies in world history were quite effective in achieving their objectives. Is it the effectiveness of government intervention that drives you?

4. The most common argument I get from conservatives that reluctantly support Trump is that Hillary Clinton will definitely nominate horrible justices. Trump will probably nominate horrible justices too, but at least their is a chance he might be disinterested enough to leave it up to someone else who will get it right.

This is a layup for any libertarian. I’m used to libertarians challenging me on having too little government. We’ve joked with Judge Andrew Napolitano that, in his view, we’re not sure that anything the government has ever done has been Constitutional.

Yet, when given this seemingly golden opportunity, your VP Bill Weld said:

I don’t think you have to panic and say it has to be a way lefty or way righty. Steve Breyer has been a good justice. He was appointed by Democrats.
Merrick Garland, I think, would have been a very good pick, and he’s nominated by Obama. Everyone sort of agrees on that.

While, sure — everyone sort of agrees that Garland was nominated by Obama — I’m pretty sure that’s not what you meant. It’s quite clear that there isn’t an ounce of original intent in either of them. As Ilya Shapiro of the (libertarian) Cato Institute points out:

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.

a) So, why Garland and Breyer?

b) Since it was your Vice President talking, perhaps you don’t agree with Breyer and Garland being solid choices. Can you give a few examples of jurists you would nominate? (Even Trump hit this standard, despite sort of backing off of his own commissioned list the next day.)

c) What are some past justices that you most admire?

d) What is an example of a not-so-obvious ruling that you found particularly wrongheaded in the past?

e) Specifically, what is your feeling on Baker v. Carr?

5. Finally, I ask… what drives you?

At Thanksgiving dinner, I might take a little salad on my plate. But, I’m staring at the mashed potatoes, stuffing, and homemade macaroni and cheese. (Yes, we have macaroni and cheese at Thanksgiving because we are awesome). As a conservative that desperately wants to vote for you, I feel like the salad.

The elements of your platform that relate to conservatives do exist, but seem to invoke zero passion or interest in you. Shrinking government and lower taxes don’t seem to drive you. Legalizing marijuana, abortion, lack of war, and “marriage equality” seem to be the featured positions you want to talk about. (I use scare quotes, because you also seem to have the democratic, not libertarian position on marriage, which you eschew because it would be a bureaucracy nightmare. A position that would disqualify essentially all libertarian thought, but I digress.)

You continually claim that you agree with Bernie Sanders on 73% of your platform. The man is a socialist. He wants the government’s hands in everything. This percentage is either not true, or you are running in the wrong party. It is based on a quite obviously flawed political survey. What gives it prominence and credibility is the fact that you keep talking about it. Every time you say this you lose another huge chunk of conservative voters.

Finally, your interview with Guy Benson, was downright frightening. You spoke about being offended at his use of “illegal” with the frenzied passion of a wild-eyed activist. Your explanation as to why the word “illegal” was so offensive to describe a person that did something illegal: “It just is.”

a) As far as the meat of the issue, you seem to like the outcome of Obama’s executive action on immigration. But, would you attempt the same type of process to get to that outcome if you were President?

b) Do you endorse executive power as a means to an end in general? Or is it just this issue?

c) You seemingly make the argument for executive power even when you might be aware that it is unconstitutional, to force action from those you disagree with. That can’t possibly be your actual position, can it?

d) Perhaps, most centrally: if conservatives could see the sort of passion you have against upsetting the feelings of illegal immigrants by calling them illegal immigrants — one time — for a conservative cause like cutting regulation, freeing markets, lowering taxes, the Constitution, or an Originalist Supreme Court — you could win over millions of voters. But, would that passion be real or forced?

These questions are lengthy, but important. I hope you’ll take the time to dive in.

But before we finish, one last thing:

As President, will you murder the worlds most adorable puppies?

I await your answers.