Daily Editor Betsy Ladyzhets braved the wilds of the free market for a talk with Gary Johnson, libertarian candidate for President and apparently very fit for a sexagenarian.
When the president of the Columbia Libertarians introduced Gary Johnson last night, she described him as a man who believes in “liberalism in its truest sense.” This might sound strange, considering Gary Johnson was the Libertarian presidential candidate in 2012 (and is likely to be the Libertarian candidate again in 2016.) However, throughout his talk, which was cosponsored by the Columbia Libertarians and Columbia Voting Week, Mr. Johnson proved that his standpoints and ideas are much more liberal than one might expect, and explained the flaws he sees in America’s current two-party system.
Mr. Johnson started by talking about himself and his family and their accomplishments. He mentioned that he and his fiancée (of seven years) are both competitive bikers, even at the ages of 62 and 63 respectively. He mentioned that he achieved his lifelong dream of climbing the highest mountain on each continent. He said that he had paid for everything he owned since the age of seventeen (including his entire college tuition, which was about 200 dollars a semester.) And finally, he told us that he believes the hardest thing a person can do is fire someone – but that he still believes firing people is crucial to keeping a business running effectively.
“We elect a whole bunch of people who have never hired and fired,” Mr. Johnson went on to say – thus effectively segueing into the topic of government and the main body of his talk.
Mr. Johnson talked about his own political experience, which comes from one position: that of governor of New Mexico, which he held for two terms. He paid for his campaign himself, up until the primaries, at which point the bulk of his funding came from individual contributions.
During his time as governor, Mr. Johnson didn’t add a penny to the state’s taxes, reduced the number of state employees while not firing anyone, and vetoed more bills than all of the other governors in the country. Most of those bills, he claimed, were related to unnecessary spending and unnecessary regulation. “One of my favorite bills that I vetoed,” he said, “was a dog and cat bill that required pet stores to exercise dogs and cats a certain number of times per week.”
Mr. Johnson then went on to describe his experience in the 2012 presidential election, where he received 1.3 million votes – the highest percentage of the popular vote the Libertarian party has ever gotten. However, Mr. Johnson claimed that, if more people actually knew who he was and what his positions were on issues, he would have done much better.
“I believe I would be president of the US if people just knew what I had to say,” he told us.
Why does he believe this? He claims to have many reasons to make this statement, most of which boil down to the fact that his positions on major issues were more in line with what the American people want than the positions of any other candidate in the 2012 election.
Mr. Johnson spent the next part of his discussion detailing precisely what those positions were. One major part of his platform is the elimination of all of our current federal taxes – income tax and corporate tax, as well as the IRS – and replace that system with one federal consumption tax. This system would, he claimed, create many jobs in the US because so many companies would want to come have headquarters in a country with no corporate tax.
Another important aspect of his platform is less border control. On the topic of the fence Republican candidates want to put up across the border with Mexico, he said, “as a border governor, I should tell you, that’s just nuts.” He then went on to explain that, for people who want to come to the U.S. to work, the process should be as easy as possible.
Other positions Mr. Johnson mentioned were the importance of a balanced budget, a drastic decrease in military spending, legalization of marijuana, relaxation of drug sentencing laws, education reform, marriage equality, and a woman’s right to choose. Most of this politician’s social policies can be summarized in one statement: “I don’t care what you do with your life as long as it doesn’t affect mine or anyone else’s.”
So, this guy seems to have a fairly good grasp on what many Americans want from a presidential candidate: fiscally conservative, socially liberal, with an emphasis on individual rights and freedoms. However, the majority of Americans still have no idea who he is. (Even the majority of Columbia; there were no more than sixty people in attendance at the event.) Mr. Johnson attributes most of this problem to the fact that Libertarians, and third parties in general, are not included in official polls or debates. Current campaign rules state that a candidate must be at at least 15% in “the polls” to be included in official debates – but third-party candidates aren’t even well known enough to be included in polls.
To attack this problem, the Libertarian party is suing the Presidential Debate Commission. Based on the Sherman Act, their claim is that the two major parties have a monopoly on votes. They want to see inclusion in presidential debates based on interest in individual states. Mr. Johnson also called for reform in campaign funding rules that forbids Superpacs and promotes transparency. He suggested, albeit humorously, that candidates should wear suits emblazoned with patches representative of how much money they were given by individual sponsors (like race cars in professional racing.)
Perhaps Mr. Johnson has some unrealistic ideas about the capabilities of free-market capitalism. He instructed his audience to “instead of getting a job, create a job” – as though becoming an entrepreneur is as simple as deciding to become an entrepreneur – and seemed to believe that if health care was privatized, the price of a radiology scan would somehow magically drop to $20. However, he also had many views with which I found myself agreeing, such as that raising the retirement age would be an effective Medicare reform (since, after all, when the program was originally created, the retirement age was 65 – and the mean age of American males was only 55.)
When asked if he believed a third-party candidate had a better shot at the presidency than a radical candidate operating in the two-party system (such as Bernie Sanders), Mr. Johnson said: “I think we’ve had it with left and right, and what we really want to do is move forward.”
Moving forward – what a novel idea. And potentially a much more effective plan than anything Congress (which hasn’t published a budget in over ten years) has come up with.
Libertarian babe via Shutterstock