Gary Johnson

Why Gary Johnson Opposes Hate-Crime Laws (and You Should Too)

If I throw a rock through your window, said Johnson, "I should be prosecuted on throwing the rock, not my thoughts that motivated me throwing the rock."


Paul Hennessy/Polaris/Newscom

While making a campaign stop in Miami this week, Gary Johnson and running-mate William Weld talked to staff at Fusion, the Hispanic television-station turned multi-pronged millennial media factory. In a write-up of the event, Fusion contributor Andrew Joyce focused on Johnson's rejection of hate-crime legislation—something he vetoed as governor of New Mexico.

"You're talking about me throwing a rock through someone's window," Johnson told Fusion reporters, "I should be prosecuted on throwing the rock, not my thoughts that motivated me throwing the rock through that window."

Joyce isn't convinced by Johnson's answer, which he sums up as asserting "that hate crime legislation constitutes some kind of Orwellian thought policing." But that misstates Johnson's position, making it sound like the Libertarian candidate's opposition is some sort of alt-right, anti-PC paranoia. The problem isn't that hate-crime laws punish people for merely thinking hateful thoughts or holding unpopular beliefs—they don't—it's that they empower the carceral state.

It's also silly to say (as Joyce does) that we punish manslaughter differently than murder based on a person's motivation and hate-crime laws are no different. With the former charges, the motivational difference is the difference between intentionally taking someone's life and doing so accidently or through negligence, not a matter of arbitrarily deciding some criminal intentions are worse than others.

The logic of hate-crime laws, meanwhile, says that while many murders, assaults, rapes, acts of vandalism, and other crimes are committed out of rage and hatred, it's only a narrow type of rage and hatred that deserves extra opproprium—and punishment. A hate crime enhancement can lift misdemeanors into felony territory and potentially double prison sentences.

All of this might make social-justice advocates feel good, but it serves little public-safety purpose. People who commit the kinds of crimes we define as hate crimes, whether calculatedly or spur-of-the-moment, aren't bound by rational thinking—they're not going to be deterred by the fact that their particular bias could, if caught and convicted, add additional time to a theoretical sentence. There's similarly little evidence that extra severe sentencing somehow benefits "hateful" offenders more than offenders of other varieties, thereby facilitating a rehabilitative function.

So what remains as a justification? Vengeance.

And in this way—pushing for punitive sentencing enhancements that serve no deterrent or rehabilitative role—modern progressives fall prey to an all-too-common hypocrisy on criminal justice. That is, their stated preference for sentencing reform, ending mass incarceration, and being "intersectional" in analysis of social and civil issues comes in conflict with their demands for ever more and tougher criminal penalties and a willingness to trust police and prosecutors—the same "public servants" so readily demonized in other contexts—to use their expanded tool-sets for good. But what we've already seen with hate crime laws (and hate speech laws in countries that have them) is that people in power will always use these tools in ways that serve power.

In one early hate-crime case, in 1991, Florida police officers tried to enhance penalties on a man charged with domestic violence because he called the officer arresting him a "cracker." More recently, places like New York City and Louisiana have been pushing to include police as their own protected category within in hate-crime statutes. These "Blue Lives Matter" measures have "always been the unavoidable endpoint of [hate crime] laws," writes Hamilton Nolan at Gawker. "Eventually, every single sub-group of people will have their own hate crime law."

As Nolan shows, it's not just libertarians (or any one side) critical of hate crime laws. Perhaps Gary Johnson didn't do the most eloquent job of explaining his objections to Fusion (Johnson's strong suit certainly isn't giving concise off-the-cuff answers), but it's simply wrong to suggest his opposition is rooted in some sort of libertarian quirk or an immature rejection of political correctness. Scholars, activists, and politicians of all ideological stripes have raised legitimate concerns about not just the efficacy of hate-crime laws but their potential for unintended consequences.

"Seeking another pound of flesh has us veering toward vengeance rather than justice," wrote longtime gay activist Bill Dobbs in 2013. "While racism and homophobia, for example, are deplorable prejudices, social problems cannot be solved with more prison time."

New York University law professor James B. Jacobs concurs: "Sending more people to prison for longer is hardly likely to contribute to a more tolerant society. To the contrary, jails and prisons are breeding ground for hate groups."

"The term 'hate crime laws' is commonplace, but people often do not understand the intent or ramifications of such laws," noted a 2013 piece in The Nation.

Many Americans simply accept the unproven assumption that these laws act as a deterrent. Wade Henderson,president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, states, 'We recognize we cannot outlaw hate. However, laws shape attitudes. And attitudes influence behavior.' He is correct. Laws do shape attitudes. But our legal system does not write laws to shape attitudes; it writes them to justly and fairly punish explicit behaviors. […] The place to change social attitudes, hearts, and minds is not in prisons.

Hate-crime laws may make us feel good about doing something, said Harvard Media Studies Professor Michael Bronski, co-author of Considering Hate: Violence, Goodness, and Justice in American Culture and Politics," in a 2015 NPR interview. But this comes at the cost of ignoring the root causes of social issues. Bronski also cautioned that hate-crime laws are selectively enforced.

"In any case that involves a slur or an element of bigotry, prosecutors can choose to bring hate-crime charges, automatically boosting the penalty that the defendant might face," noted Jacob Sullum back in 1992. And as with all such situations calling for prosecutorial discretion, there's ample room for abuse, as prosecutors wield hate-crime enhancements to coerce deals from defendants or satisfy public bloodthirstiness.

"Hate-crime laws can give prosecutors added leverage in plea bargaining, whether or not the charges would stand up in court," Sullum wrote.

Rather than cheering hate-crime measures (or jeering politicians, like Johnson, who critique them), we should focus on making the laws and justice-system we do have work more equitably for everyone. As Nolan wrote at Gawker, "That is a far thornier and more useful task than watching grandstanding politicians of all political persuasions crank up penalties on specific crimes for purely demonstrative reasons. You would think that after incarcerating two million people we would be skeptical of such remedies, but apparently not yet."

NEXT: Gawker Being Shut Down, Lochte Accused of Lying (and Then Things Get Dumb), Chicago Wants to Fire Officers over Shooting: P.M. Links

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  1. Well, at least you can call the Nazi a scumbag while you’re forced to bake his cake.

    It’s something, I guess?

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    3. Hey wait a minute here…

      If I am a cake-baker, I ***MUST*** take money from the NAZI and bake him a cake if he wants to pay for one, else I am a hate-criminal…

      Yet if I am a politician, I can NOT take money from the NAZI who wants me to vote NAZI for him, but I can take money from the Bernie supporters and vote to nationalize everything… If I take the money of the NAZI in this case, I am a hate criminal, right?

      Why this double standard? One standard for politicians, a totally 180-out standard for the rest of us? Why, Santa, why?

      1. So how long till a NAZI gloats victoriously after a cake-baker refuses to bake a NAZI cake for him… And he wins in court… Then said NAZI will move on to sue the politician who wouldn’t even take his NAZI bribes, OOOOOps, I mean, campaign contributions? What should I do as a juror, if I am selected for jury duty, in the latter case? This is going to keep my up sleepless tonight!!!! Please advise ASAP!!!!

        1. You know, I was actually thinking about getting into the cake-baking business? But now I am thinking, “A NAZI comes to me, he says, “Bake me a cake, it says, in yummy chocolate frosting, “I am a NAZI and I want to kill the POTUS””?
          Now if I do ***NOT*** bake him his cake, I am an anti-NAZI hater, and must be punished, but if I ***DO*** bake him a cake, I have threatened the Emperor-God, which is ALSO a hate crime.
          I guess I will need an army of lawyers on-staff to advise me, and charge like $1 million per cake, and hope and pray I can make a “go” of the business, and NOT go to jail?

  2. This is one of those topics that is too obvious for right thinking people to put any critical thought into. Anyone who opposes hate crime legislation is a neanderthal END OF STORY.

    1. Thank you

    2. Any member of an oppressed identity group who opposes hate-crime laws is self-loathing.

    3. In a world of H. sapiens sapiens, would Neanderthals be considered a protected minority?

      1. Wouldn’t that put white people on top of the progressive stack?

  3. But if I run a business and refuse you service, the government should totally have the power to punish me for the thoughts that motivated me for refusing you.

    It’s funny to me that we have a protest candidate who can’t even coherently outline his positions. Some people try to argue Johnson opposes repealing accommodation laws as its a losing battle. Long lost, really. But yet he’s out here saying hate crimes are redundant…and who is he going to win over there?

    It tells me we have a guy who really doesn’t understand libertarian principles. Or at least someone who can’t connect them to policies.

    1. I dunno. It tells me that this is a guy who saw Rand Paul get crucified when he tried to stake out a nuanced third position.

      1. He won that election handily.

        1. Yes he did – and he got tagged with the “evil racist” label, no matter whatever else he’s done since.

          1. So he’s hated by morons, but not enough to keep him from getting elected. Terrifying.

    2. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but it seems to me like Johnson has a (mostly) coherent libertarian philosophy in his head, he’s just shit at articulating it. He has no natural gift for messaging or for cloaking his policy positions in larger libertarian principles or, frankly, for putting together a string of more than about three sentences without starting to meander all over the place. Whereas Weld is just all over the place, Johnson understands libertarian principles, he just can’t help anyone else understand them

      1. I’m fast running out of benefits of the doubt to give Johnson, but I still think he’s the least bad ideologically of the four who anybody knows about (Clinton, Trump, Johnson, Stein). That having been said, as Brochettaward notes, a protest candidate kinda has to offer something worth protesting for.

        1. Well, it looks like he’s going to do fairly well in this election, so arguably he’s building the Libertarian brand.

          Whether there are still any actual libertarians associated with the party is another question.

        2. As wacko as she is Stein did a good job getting some powerful information out regarding foreign policy on her town hall. Johnson is so weak and inarticulate, and uncomfortable and really offers nothing new, or gives any reason to,frustrated voters to vote for him. We needed a radical this year, and we had one, but all you smart guys went for former republicans and this what happens. He started at 10% and has went nowhere with three months of publicity.

      2. Again I say, Reason magazine is getting *exactly* the libertarian candidate it deserves.

      3. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but it seems to me like Johnson has a (mostly) coherent libertarian philosophy in his head

        You haven’t got a coherent libertarian philosophy in your head, so that pretty much sums ‘er up.

    3. It’s funny to me that we have a protest candidate who can’t even coherently outline his positions

      When asked about legalizing prostitution, Gary gave 3 different answers =

      – leave it to the the states
      – I agree with the LP position, which is that its a personal ownership thing,
      – but its still a crime, and the prostitutes are the victims.

      To everyone’s amazement, Weld then said something worse.

      1. Why should someone running for prez even get asked or A such a Q? What could he do about it?

        1. The context was from a libertarian asking, “How do you feel about self-ownership issues”, basically saying, “how do you apply libertarian ideas in the real world”.

          And the answer was a splatter of “anyting/all of the above”.

          Why should any presidential candidate answer that? One it says what his principles are (in this case, non existent), and 2, presidents *can* influence enforcement priority. Who they choose as AG has a huge influence, and they can (like obama did re: immigration, albeit legally a step too far) sometimes issue re-definitions of how laws should be understood.

  4. Why Gary Johnson Opposes Hate-Crime Laws (and You Should Too)
    If I throw a rock through your window, said Johnson, “I should be prosecuted on throwing the rock, not my thoughts that motivated me throwing the rock.”

    HazelMeade Hardest Hit

  5. Personal OT. I just told my sister I’m taking my daughter paintballing.

    My sister told me to dress my daughter in layers. Because it hurts.

    I told her that I’m putting her in a bathing suit.

    My sister believed me.

    I need to send my sister over here to hit and run so she learns about this new thing the kids are doing called snark.

    1. So send her over. We will take care of that.

      *cracks knuckles*

    2. Is your sister Virginia Postrel, by any chance?

    3. I need to send my sister over here to hit and run so she learns about this new thing the kids are doing called snark.

      Not sibling enough!

      “No, since the last time you went people started getting tired of the layers of clothing, welts, and bruising so they modified paintball regulations so the paintballs are softer and the guns don’t fire as hard. You can just go out in shorts and a t-shirt now, you should try it, it’s awesome.”

    4. And she summarily called CPS and you’re tying this from your cell, eh?

  6. South Park already covered this over a decade ago 😛

    Hate Crime Laws are for those with an intelligence that also support Gun Free Zones

  7. Gary Johnson is a Libertarian.

    Also, I am a flying reindeer with a red nose. And if you buy a lottery ticket it will take care of your retirement.

    Ok, the red nose part might actually be true. I am going to make a vodka now.

    1. Browns game tonight,pizza and beer for me later.

      1. You are going to watch a Browns game…a pre-season Browns game…sober? You need to change that order up.

        1. No, I’ll be having an hour or so before kick off.

          1. A few that is.

    2. So how does that work, you ferment a bunch of potatoes or something? When will it be ready?

      1. Ah, the Irish dilemma: mash the potato, fry it, or ferment it?

          1. No, I’ll stick w the potato.

      2. Actually, this morning I started a batch of muscadine wine. I had a bumper crop of bronze muscadines that are extra sweet with only a mild musky flavor. I cant wait. That will be ready late october/early november.

        I trimmed the vine after the first batch of grapes got started. The trimmed vines sprouted and made a second round of grapes which should be ripe in a month or so. I already have what I want so I think I will let the birds and squirrels have the second batch. If I wasn’t so lazy and paid more attention I could have easily gotten three crops out of those vines this year. I may try that next year.

        1. Mescaline wine? Cool!

    3. I assume you’ll be pairing the vodka with something else.

      I never understood the appeal of a liquor that aspires to taste like…nothing.

      1. Why do you think it pairs so well?

        1. It isnt just that it pairs well. If you use a light mixer and with no sugar there is no hangover.

      2. I never understood the appeal of a liquor that aspires to taste like…nothing.

        Its Nihilism in a glass

        And people are surprised its so popular in Eastern Europe

        1. Tundra is correct. Gilmore wins the thread.

        2. Why get wasted when you can get annihiliated?

  8. Someone once told me that hate-crime laws would make juries more hesitant to nullify the law. He never told me what would stop juries from nullifying a hate-crime law, too.

  9. You know who else believed in thought crimes?

    1. Tom Cruise?

      1. Hyperbole already got you on that.

        1. Oops, I know the groups’ names, not so much the musicians’ names.

          1. The only way I learn new things these-a-days is looking up unfamiliar names in “You know who else…” threads. True story.

    2. Gilberto Valle?

    3. Cheap Trick?

      1. Goddamn it. That’s twice in two days. Refresh, motherfucker.

        I blame it on the cat.

        1. Sans squirrels, too. That’s most impressive.

    4. Jesus??
      ?Matthew 5:28: But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

  10. The Feds need a Bureau of Future Hate Crime. This will solve everything before it even becomes a problem.

    1. What they need is a Bureau of Smart Alecs to deal with people like you.


    2. They don’t?…

  11. “but it’s simply wrong to suggest his opposition is rooted in some sort of libertarian quirk or an immature rejection of political correctness”

    There isn’t anything that is the least bit “immature” about a blanket rejection of political correctness in the first place.

      1. Huh, nice article and pretty spot on.

      2. Hey, she upped hers, now up yours.

  12. “But without hate crime laws, how will we prosecute people who intentionally use incorrect pronouns in a hurtful way??” /runs sobbing from room

  13. Something I’ve always wondered about regarding hate crimes: is it possible that they actually encourage haters to commit MORE crimes against minorities? Suppose I want to kill some guy because he’s, say an Armenian quadriplegic and I hate Armenian quadriplegics. I might well conclude that if I murder him I should damn well take care to ROB him as well since if I get caught I can just claim it was a robbery gone bad and avoid the hate crime charge. Admittedly, robbing him isn’t going to hurt him any more after I’ve killed him, but this reasoning could apply to lesser crimes like assault…

    1. It’s kind of creepy that you’ve put so much thought into how you would get away with harming handicapped minorities, but interesting point nonetheless

      1. Armenians aren’t minorities! You clearly haven’t read the latest edition of the Official Privilege Manuel.

  14. Look, the carcereal state is a disaster. Riding around forced to eat some crappy gov’t cereal, instead of count chocula (that dude is a creepy diiiiiiiiistant cousin), or cocoa puffs would be horrible.

    A guy like Bernie would love to force one cereal on us. And it would be limited edition so we have to wait on lines and stuff.

    Bernie rolls dowb his car window: “Hey yu, Kid!! That cereal in the car is illleeegal!!! Throw away those fruity pebbles, or it’s off…………to the gulag where the kool aid man……..will take advantage of yu!! And…..Get of my lawn…..lawns of my four houses in my wife’s name!!!!!!!

  15. It doesn’t take an (almost a) Libertarian candidate for President and his (not at all a) libertarian VeeP to oppose thought crimes. All right thing conservatives, constitutionalists and libertarians oppose thought crimes.

  16. I could see an extra penalty for those who strike at random victims (which includes hate crimes, but also typical muggings and other such crimes) as opposed to those who attack a specific target. Of course, this takes no account of the reason for the attack, so that Jared Loughner would have been treated as a normal thug (Gabby Giffords was the specific target). But I think random crime is especially frightening to the public.

    1. I can see upping the penalties for violence against persons while giving judges some discretion and dramatically lowering the penalties for almost everything else.

    2. I think in some respects non-random crime is worse from a statist perspective, since it can represent an attempt to seize a small slice of sovereignty from the state.

      E.g., imagine local government has passed laws and even advertised itself by saing “being gay is awesome, come to our town and be totally mega gay”. An organized group of homophobes is pissed that the government is bringing all the gays in to gay everything up, so they start attacking those openly gay people. Worse, say they often get away with it, or there are lots of them and none of them care about getting caught. If the attacks become common enough, some gay residents on the margin will decide to leave or go back into the closet when not around people they know and trust. Essentially, the criminals are attempting to override the government’s resolution not to use violence by using violence themselves. It is, at least in a very narrow sense, a usurpation of state authority.

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  18. I am not familiar with this subject, but Joyce has a point, no?

    Not that ‘hate’ should be a crime because it is arbitrary; but why are there different types of murder based on intent?

    If an accident happens and results in a death, then it’s an accident.
    If someone kills another person intentionally, then it’s murder.

    1. This is because non-lawyers (like the author) and even lawyers themselves constantly confuse someone’s motive for acting with their intent. Two very different, but related concepts.

      This, of course, is the heart of the problem with hate crimes and their idiotic enshrinement in the law. If I shout a racial insult while I’m in a fight with a Hispanic guy, what might be a mutual affray and a complete non-crime is now miraculously transformed into a ten-year stint in the crossbar motel for me. I may have not a single ounce of racism in my heart, but an expletive shouted during a fight “you fuckin’ Spic!” could be the difference between prison or not.

      It’s insane. Only morons and progs (but I repeat myself) think these laws are a good thing. I can’t believe that no one has won a case in front of the Supremes on these yet. It’s just dying for a test. I would love to see the Court struggle to explain how it eviscerated Chaplinsky’s “fighting words” doctrine with its later decisions, and then how to square hate crime laws with Brandenburg v. Ohio.

      Burning crosses at a Klan rally and openly invecting about “niggers and jews”? No problem.
      Yell a racial epithet while in the heat of an altercation? Prison, yo.

      Makes perfect sense…to people like Hihn.

  19. Hate crime laws have always been about circumventing equal protection of the law in favor of some favored minority group. It remains nothing more than a nonsensical left-wing political ploy, only it will increasingly be embraced by enemies of the left, possibly to the point where the country is divided into warring factions.

  20. It’s kind of insulting to suggest that anyone here needs to be educated about “hate crime” BS.

  21. RE: Why Gary Johnson Opposes Hate-Crime Laws (and You Should Too)
    If I throw a rock through your window, said Johnson, “I should be prosecuted on throwing the rock, not my thoughts that motivated me throwing the rock.”

    The thought police of beloved socialist slave state would disagree. It is the motivation for such gruesome crimes that should be prosecuted (and persecuted) if we are to able enjoy the joys and benefits of our elitist vermin’s society they have so kindly made for us. The State should always know what’s on the little people’s mind at all times. Any member of The State’s police forces should be able to walk up to anyone and ask the untermenschen about their ideas, attitudes and beliefs regarding The State’s policies and actions. Only through thought examination can our obvious betters be able to judge what the lowly plebian class is thinking and take appropriate action for the good of the collective. This way, free and independent thoughts can be carefully monitored and corrected through such benevolent and kind measures as torture, beatings and random shootings. Controlling the unwashed masses starts with thought control, and they will be grateful…or else.

  22. First act of courage by Gary Johnson this election season?

  23. Comparing manslaughter and murder is disingenuous. Compare first- and second-degree murder instead. What’s going on inside your head is what makes the difference.

    1. Sorry, Tony, but not quite. See my note above.

      More importantly, 1st and 2nd degree murder are just different names for murder/manslaughter. One is a statutory distinction, the other is an older, common law distinction.

      If I kill a man because I catch him in bed – in flagrante delicto – with my wife, it was generally viewed as a “crime of passion” and thus manslaughter would lie, not “murder” – which required “malice aforethought.” (Think “poisoning” or other kinds of assassination .) The underlying issue isn’t the political or personal motivation for the killing, it’s that I plotted it out and deliberately took a human life.

      Everything else was generally considered a lesser form of homicide.

      If you hit a guy in your car because you were a shitty driver or not paying attention or fell asleep at the wheel, that all doesn’t amount to murder. If the guy you killed was black and that made you happy, it doesn’t make one whit of fucking difference. It might matter in sentencing as it shows a lack of remorse, but it shouldn’t matter at all to the elements of the crime. It was either intentional or it wasn’t. If it wasn’t, the fact that you weren’t particularly fond of the particular demographic to which the victim belonged is utterly irrelevant – except to progs and those posing as libertarians like Hihn.

    2. That doesn’t really explain why killing someone because they’re black or gay should be considered more egregious than killing someone because they have a uni-brow or because they drive a foreign-made car. There isn’t really any justification for declaring this certain subset of motives to be enormously worse than other ones.

      Frankly I don’t see how progressives can square their support for hate crime laws with their supposed support for reducing incarceration rates. Someone getting 5 years because they said the n-word in a bar fight with a black guy where they would have gotten probation otherwise seems neither fair nor a good use of government resources. It seems like one of those political wormholes (much like with sex crimes) where progressives suddenly turn into Judge Roy Bean.

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