‘You Cut Spending’

Former New Mexico governor and possible presidential candidate Gary Johnson talks about Obamanomics, ending the drug war, and climbing the highest mountains.

In 1999, a year after winning a second and final term as Republican governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson became the most prominent politician in the United States to call for legalizing marijuana. He also said straightforwardly that he had used pot himself in the past. As he explained in a reason interview the following year, the admission was a reaction to Bill Clinton’s infamous statement about never inhaling. “Come on!” Johnson said. “I needed to be honest about this, so it was something that I volunteered.”

In 2010 Johnson is hoping to gain notoriety for a different, though related, reason. At a time of deep and convulsive popular discontent with the economy and the politicians attempting to manage it, Johnson has launched a profile-raising 501(c)4 nonprofit organization called the Our America Initiative, pushing limited-government solutions to economic, environmental, social, and international issues. If in the process he happens to tap into the growing Tea Party sentiment and palpable Republican hunger for new leadership, well, Johnson won’t complain. As Politico reported in December 2009, the former governor “is doing little to knock down the idea that he may be looking toward a 2012 presidential run.” While ending the drug war remains a central concern (Johnson was a featured speaker at the Marijuana Policy Project’s annual dinner in January), the tanned triathlete is hoping to deliver the kind of broad-based critique of big government that proved such an unlikely success in 2008 for the less telegenic Ron Paul.

Johnson, 57, exudes a distinctive Mountain West mix of adventurousness and pragmatism. He’s an avid skier, cyclist, and rock climber who has scaled Mount Everest (losing a chunk of toe from frostbite in the process). He founded a construction company that peaked at 1,000 employees—largely, he claims, on the strength of showing up on time and hitting project deadlines. He has an A-to-Z list of unkind things to say about his New Mexico successor, Bill Richardson; tells amusing stories about his long-ago drug use (Johnson has been alcohol- and drug-free for well over two decades); and is one of the few politicians who brags about how compassionately he fires people. If it’s hard to imagine him heading up the Republican Party in 2012, it’s certainly no crazier than a septuagenarian Austrian-economics aficionado turning out the youth vote in 2008 or a Republican nobody winning Ted Kennedy’s old seat in 2010.

reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch and reason.tv Editor Nick Gillespie sat down with Johnson in January. A version of this interview can be seen at reason.tv.

reason: What were your big accomplishments as governor of New Mexico?

Gary Johnson: I think I really did a good job when it came to controlling the growth of state government. I vetoed 750 bills while I was governor of New Mexico. I vetoed thousands of line items as governor of New Mexico, almost more than the other 49 governors in the country combined.

I cut the annual rate of growth in spending in half, from 10 percent to 5 percent. I would have liked to have cut actual spending, but that wasn’t going to happen.

New Mexico is 2-to-1 Democrat. I got elected as a Republican. I think I did a great job of showing people that government doesn’t have to spend money to make you happy, that government really needs to be providing a level playing field.

reason: What was one of the areas that you cut spending or got government out of business altogether?

Johnson: Really, it was across the board. Over an eight-year period in New Mexico while I was governor, the number of state employees, excluding education, went from 13,000 to 12,000, so there was a 1,000-person reduction in state government over an eight-year period. That had never happened before. Since I’ve left office, my successor has taken that number from 12,000 to 16,500. No area of state government has been improved, and yet there have been that many more employees added at a cost of, back of my napkin, a couple hundred million bucks, factoring in benefits.

reason: What’s your message on economic policy? 

Johnson: Well, stop the spending. Deficits are out of control, and that’s going to have a major impact on all our lives. Strong dollar rather than weak dollar.

reason: Would you have voted against the TARP bailout?

Johnson: Absolutely. 

reason: And the stimulus package?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    He looks like Liam Neeson in that photo.

    Is it Just me?

  • ||

    I'm in.

  • Retarded Ejaculation Treatment||

    can you tell me when this will be here again

  • Steve||

    I vote David O'hara, the #3 bad guy in Nicholson's gang in The Departed.

  • Girth||

    Just saw Neeson in "Taken" on Sunday. I rarely watch action films but the pace of this film was so fast. Wow!

  • ||

    I think he should use the Liam Neeson photo as a campaign image and credit himself for saving all of those Jews when he was a manufacturer in the Reich during WWII. download the last exorcism | download the american

  • ||

    You don't hear that much about his vetoes. That's great.

    If I were governor of my home state, I'd veto so many bills that the legislature would consider going to biannual sessions.

  • dennis||

    He's less bad than other politicians and would be a big improvement on what we've had as President in a long time, but I don't like that approach to drug legalization. Legalization as an avenue to more control is nearly as bad as prohibition. Drugs should not be prohibited because no one has the right to use violence to prevent anyone from putting anything into their own body, not because of some utilitarian calculation. Further, order arises organically, it is not imposed.

  • ||

    Beats the alternatives, though.

    I think he should use the Liam Neeson photo as a campaign image and credit himself for saving all of those Jews when he was a manufacturer in the Reich during WWII.

  • Ice||

    I agree, except saying "let's just completely legalize without any regulation" is going to win over many people.

  • Chris||

    It's all about baby steps. You start with simple legalization, then cut back on the restrictions/regulations. Libertopia won't be achieved in a day. We're looking at decades worth of over-governing. It will take a long time to get rid of all of the layers of regulation.

  • ||

    The guy punts on tough questions.

    "We want to see lower carbon emissions. I think that’s probably a good idea. So looking forward, technologically, this is going to happen. (How? Magic?)

    The government certainly could provide incentive for technologies moving forward. (WTF? Who's going to pay for this?)

    And then on cutting spending he punts: "My experience was never about targeting any area of government to reduce." Jesus, even liberals have the guts to cut something, anything, like farm subsidies or defense!! What a wimp!

  • ||

    The government certainly could provide incentive for technologies moving forward. (WTF? Who's going to pay for this?)

  • ||

    Johnson has too many liberal positions. The GOP will boo him off the stage like they did Ron Paul.

    His only route to president will be as a Libertarian (holds off laughter).

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Johnson beats the hell out of the 2012 contenders, whomever they may be.

    If he isn't on the ballot that November, it'll be another "which shit sandwich do you want, America?" election.

  • ||

    Our "Retard-in-Chief" sure knows how to BS. Trouble is.........no one is listening anymore. He has lied to us just to many times.

    http://therealrevo.com/blog/?p=22908

  • Chris||

    Tell 'em A-Bot! Not relevant but hey, I like your gusto kid!!

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Johnson pisses off both sides - he's not Gung-Ho Drug War Mack Daddy material, and he's a fiscal conservative.

  • Almanian||

    Could we have one more Gary Johnson in the world? Our just-departed-for-Asia/Pac Ops Director is Gary Johnson, and Gary Johnson was among the frontrunners in last year's Isle of Man TT races.

    And now running for Le Gouverneur de NM.

    Gary Johnson is the new black.

  • Almanian||

    Of course, "was Le Gouv", not "running for"...time for bed.

  • ||

    I regarded Johnson as some sort of "miracle man" during his last term as governor, because if Social Security is/was the "third rail" of American politics, advocating full drug legalization seemed to me to be to be a third-rail with increased voltage. And even though he converted in his lame-duck term, still... But the "new" Gary Johnson is certainly less interesting, certainly more vague and compromised, and I agree that even the political "pragmatism" that seems to now accompany his views will just piss off ALL sides, and especially the side that thought he was principled.

  • bob||

    So if you only let gov't grow by 5% a year you are doing a great job? Our country is going to hell faster than I thought.

  • louboutinvips||

    You don't hear that much about his vetoes. That's great.
    http://www.christianlouboutinvips.com

  • ||

    truth,,,,obama people have no idea of the extent to which they have to be gulled in order to be led."
    "The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, for the vast masses of the nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily deceived than they are consciously and intentionally bad. The primitive simplicity of their minds renders them a more easy prey to a big lie than a small one, for they themselves often tell little lies but would be ashamed to tell a big one."
    "All propaganda must be so popular and on such an intellectual level, that even the most stupid of those towards whom it is directed will understand it. Therefore, the intellectual level of the propaganda must be lower the larger the number of people who are to be influenced by it."
    "Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way around, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise."pelosi don't see much future for the Americans ... it's a decayed country. And they have their racial problem, and the problem of social inequalities ...obama feelings against Americanism are feelings of hatred and deep repugnance ... everything about the behaviour of American society reveals that it's half Judaised, and the other half negrified. How can one expect a State like that to hold TOGTHER.They include the angry left wing bloggers who spread vicious lies and half-truths about their political adversaries... Those lies are then repeated by the duplicitous left wing media outlets who “discuss” the nonsense on air as if it has merit… The media's justification is apparently “because it's out there”, truth be damned. STOP THIS COMMUNIST OBAMA ,GOD HELP US ALL .THE COMMANDER ((GOD OPEN YOUR EYES)) stop the communist obama & pelosi.((open you eyes)) ,the commander

  • Chris||

    Dude. You need to go back to school or something. When grammar/spelling/punctuation is so bad that basic meaning is lost, you need help.

    What I could understand, however, sounds like a sound bet from "The Conservatarded Manual of Propaganda". Your precious conservative "leraders" engage inm the exact same form of viciousness as the libertards you vilify.

  • abercrombie milano||

    I like that saying, thanks!
    Thanks for posting this. Very nice recap of some of the key points in my talk. I hope you and your readers find it useful! Thanks again

  • christian louboutin platform p||

  • christian louboutin platform p||

  • outlet for ugg boots||

    This article is old, but I find it hilarious that the Google Ad showing up on this article at the moment is a body make-up that specifically mentions covering up tattoos as part of its purpose. It also mentions stretch marks and varicose veins, but the picture shown is of someone covering up an arm tattoo with make-up.

  • surpa shoes||

    In 1999, a year after winning a second and final term as Republican governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson became the most prominent politician in the United States to call for legalizing marijuana.

  • cheap ghd c outlet||

    The removal of a lifetime guarantee of employment or a generous pension might prove to bring about a more robust attitude to those teaching. The majority of educators don't need it, but some may.

  • Portable LCD TV||

    He's less bad than other politicians and would be a big improvement on what we've had as President in a long time, but I don't like that approach to drug legalization......
    P.S.Viore 10.2Inch Portable Widescreen LCD TV for sport and travel.

  • ||

    I just read through the entire article of yours and it was quite good. This is a great article thanks for sharing this informative information. I will visit your blog regularly for some latest post.
    Red @ cheap van insurance | van insurance quote

  • Jane from Bath||

    I found this article very interesting thanks so much for the post.
    Jane

  • ||

    This really is an awesome post, I'm happy I recently found. I have been trying to find guest writers for my blog so if you ever decide that's something you are interested in please feel free to contact me. I will be back to look at out more of your articles later

    viagra

  • nfl jerseys||

    ntytr

  • ||

    I will visit your blog regularly for some latest post.thank you! I like this news, I also have information to share, here is my message.
    I think you will like the leading China wholesale electronics marketplaces, uggs outlet and you will like this blog

  • CHEAPWOMEN UGG BOOTS||

    we say that these Ugg Sheepskin Boots can absorb its power across the bottom phonetics of the day. It seems as access Sheepskin Boots Sale us achieve access album this winter. ?

  • CHEAPWOMEN UGG BOOTS||

    As apperceive Cheap Womens Uggs may be the designation of origin issued in the name acclaimed all added compared with the world. without achieving any vision or not you like it or not, Women Uggs is really an alarming array

  • CHEAPWOMEN UGG BOOTS||

    The prestige of negotiating bulk Uggs Australia Outlet cloud has evolved into the current day can fit into Ugg Boots On Sale boots and stores up.

  • ugg boots||

    It complicated the implementation of the agencies that fails that a margin will apparently be the best.

  • PACKERS JERSEY||

    thank you!

  • Beth Medemar||

    is there a better time to do this than now

  • ปลวก||

    It's all about baby steps. You start with simple legalization, then cut back on the restrictions/regulations.

  • Eric Medemar||

    Is there going to be a better time to try an figure this out amongst us.

  • Tyler Perry||

    when could be do this again do you think? this was such a blast

  • Attorney X||

    is there a better time to start doing all this stuff

  • Pariuri sportive||

    Congrats for releasing such a nice post.This is nice post. I was awaiting for such an article and I have gained some very useful information from this site.I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and have my friends check up here often. I am quite sure they will learn lots of new stuff here than anybody else .Thanks for sharing this information.

  • pariuri sportive||

    I got a lot of knowledge after reading good luck. Theme of blog is excellent there is almost everything to read, Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise.

  • ran||

    I agree that even the political "pragmatism" that seems to now accompany his views will just piss off ALL sides, and especially the side that thought he was principled.

  • กำจัดปลวก||

    I agree, except saying "let's just completely legalize without any regulation" is going to win over many people.

  • click copy cash||

    I don't think that johnson has the required credentials to head up the republican party, but who knows it may happen anyway
    click copy cash

  • ||

    I don't think that johnson has the required credentials to head up the republican party, but who knows it may happen anyway free download

  • sdfsdfsdf||

  • sdfsdfsdf||

  • 3m||

    The images are amazing. I particularly like the one with image your grandfather Leslie Dallas McClennon. Great blog.

  • sbo||

    I have to say that i am very impressed with your speech. The poem at the end was a very nice touch.

  • sbo||

    This is a great speech. Thank for your post

  • شات سوريه||

    Thank you, my dear on this important topic You can also browse my site and I am honored to do this site for songs
    http://www.xn----ymcbk0bld8nta.com
    This website is for travel to Malaysia
    http://www.xn----ymcbk0bld8nta.com

  • หนังใหม่ dvd||

    Sweet blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News. Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thanks

  • หนังใหม่ dvd||

    Sweet blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News. Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thanks

  • قبلة الوداع||

    thank u

  • ห้องน้ำ||

    They include the angry left wing bloggers who spread vicious lies and half-truths about their political adversaries.

  • Klimmzugstange||

    I believe he should make use of the Liam Neeson photo like a campaign picture and credit score himself with regard to saving all those Jews whenever he had been a manufacturer within the Reich throughout WWII.
    Klimmzugstange

  • Kendrick Breckenstein||

    I think that is what I read somewhere?

  • ||

    Cut costs in these tough economic times appears to be a sensible strategy especially if the savings are invested in projects that will stimulate economic growth. Save money with van insurance quotes

  • sbobet||

    You comment?

  • sbobet||

    You comment?

  • peacock earrings||

    Sweet blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News. Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thanks

  • clip in feather extensions||

    He's less bad than other politicians and would be a big improvement on what we've had as President in a long time, but I don't like that approach to drug legalization......buy magic leverag

  • haydnting||

    thanx for sharing, this is awesome! hair chalk

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement