All political candidates call themselves freedom-lovers, but they are not. Neither major party really opposes government control of the economy or of our personal lives. I'm a libertarian because I see the false choice offered by political left and right: Democrats talk about personal liberty; Republicans talk about economic freedom. But what they do once in power belies their words.
I say we're best off if government just leaves us alone to our peaceful cooperation with whomever we please. Let politicians advocate moral behavior. Let them give to charities. But leave government—which is physical force—out of it.
That's why I like Gary Johnson, the former Republican governor of New Mexico. He's the Libertarian Party candidate for president. As governor, Johnson vetoed 750 bills, and yet he got re-elected in that blue state.
I asked Johnson what it means to be a libertarian.
"Fiscally responsible, socially accepting … more liberal than Obama on several issues, more conservative than Romney on several issues."
Johnson proposes to cut federal spending by more than 43 percent:
"Balance the federal budget now. I think that unless we do that, we're going to find ourselves in a monetary collapse."
To do that, he'd go where the money is. He'd cut the big programs that will soon bankrupt us. That includes Medicare. Conventional wisdom says what he's proposing is cruel and, for a politician, suicidal.
"Look, we've got to slash Medicare spending. If we don't, we're going to find ourselves with no health care whatsoever. Medicaid, same thing. Military spending, same thing."
The left claims that without social spending, people would starve in the streets!
"This is the exact reaction that I got as governor of New Mexico, having vetoed all that legislation. … Kids were going to starve, all the worst things were going to happen, and none of them did. And I got re-elected."
Who would decide what part of Medicare to cut?
"Give this up to the states. Fifty laboratories of innovation and best practice … (instead of) Washington top-down, Washington-knows-best—that's what has us in the situation that we're in right now."
Johnson also says, "End the wars." Won't a pullout of our troops mean the terrorists win?
"We have hundreds of millions of enemies … that, but for our military interventions, we would not otherwise have. So let's take military spending back to 2003 spending levels. Start out with the premise that we should provide ourselves with a strong national defense. But 'defense' here is the operative word. Not 'offense' and not 'nation-building.' We're building roads, schools, bridges, highways and hospitals in other countries, and we have those needs here in this country."
In one of Johnson's campaign ads, he compares the U.S. Constitution to the U.S. tax code.
"One is simple and about equal rights for all. The other is extremely complex and anything but equal rights for all. It's crony capitalism in a nutshell. It's the root of evil. Individuals, groups, corporations pay for loopholes. Both parties sell those loopholes. Eliminate the IRS. Abolish income tax (and) corporate tax."
How will government get money?
"With a national consumption tax. I'm embracing the Fair Tax. … Adopting the Fair Tax would issue pink slips to half of Washington lobbyists."
Johnson would also legalize marijuana.
"Control it, regulate it, tax it."
I like Johnson's message: Let no one be coerced by government beyond the small amount needed to fund a limited government that keeps us safe. Do not let government forcibly take other people's money. When in doubt, leave it out—or rather, leave it to the market and other voluntary institutions.
But sadly that's not how most people think. Most people think problems are things that are solved by laws. They assume it's just the laziness or stupidity of the "other" side's politicians that prevents government from solving our problems.
But government rarely solves problems. Government is inefficient. There's almost nothing government can do that we cannot do better as free individuals and groups of individuals working together voluntarily.
Without big government, our possibilities are limitless.