Gary Johnson

Neither Dictator nor King

Libertarians Gary Johnson and William Weld suggest there are limits to presidential power.


It was refreshing to moderate a "town hall" with the Libertarian presidential and vice presidential candidates last week because Govs. Gary Johnson and William Weld respect limits on presidential power.

Sunday, when Fox's Chris Wallace challenged Johnson's plan to replace the IRS with a consumption tax, Johnson pointed out that he's "not getting elected dictator or king."

Wallace suggested that means, "Don't take my policies seriously because they won't get through."

I disagree.

It means that Johnson understands that America is a constitutional republic and there are (and ought to be) checks on what presidents can do.

In response to Wallace's comment about Johnson not taking his promises seriously, Johnson said, "Take them very seriously. Count on certainty that we're always going to support taxes going lower… being in business being easier, rules and regulations not getting worse."

Johnson and Weld hold clear positions—unlike aspiring dictators Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Clinton changes positions from year to year: praising trade deals, then condemning them; condemning gay marriage, then praising it—then scolding anyone who doesn't share her new position.

Trump changes positions even faster, sometimes day to day. After saying he'll deport millions of immigrants, now he says he won't if they pay taxes and fill out paperwork—roughly the same position Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio held when Trump trashed them.

Libertarians don't shift to fit the whims of the day, because we have core principles. One is: On most every issue, less government involvement is better.

"Government doesn't create jobs!" said Johnson when a young woman asked what Johnson and Weld would "do about jobs." The Libertarians said jobs get created when government gets out of the way, imposing only a few clear and predictable rules.

While Trump makes vague promises about making government "great" and Clinton about making it "fair," Johnson and Weld talk about getting rid of as much of it as they can.

"There are constitutional limits to that," said Johnson. "But if you were to wave a magic wand, there are a number of departments that come up: Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Education, Homeland Security."

Unlike Trump and Clinton, Johnson specifies cuts—and he's willing to go after sacred cows such as defense spending: "You can't balance the federal budget—something we're promising to do in the first 100 days—you can't do that without cutting military spending. … The BRAC Commission, set up by the Pentagon, says that we've got to eliminate 20 percent of those bases, but that hasn't happened."

Where markets thrive, people thrive. Weld understands that.

"When the GIs returned from World War II, they had two sets of needs, education and health care," he says. "Education was handled through the GI Bill, which was essentially a voucher system. You could go wherever you wanted, the most successful program in domestic political history of the 20th century. Health care was the … opposite approach: command and control, one size fits all, the government is going to do this."

The GI Bill vouchers allowed soldiers to enroll at a school they chose. But for health care, they must wait in long lines at government-run veterans hospitals, sometimes dying for lack of adequate care.

Applying these free-market lessons across a range of policies, Johnson and Weld would roll back the drug war, decrease our involvement in foreign wars and give individuals more control over how their Social Security funds are invested.

When an audience member suggested that voting for a third party is a "wasted vote," Weld replied, "We're fiscally responsible. We're socially inclusive and tolerant, (but) if you agree with us and you want to go waste your vote on Trump or Clinton, be our guest. We're Libertarians."

Johnson and Weld don't promise they can get rid of the Washington leviathan overnight, but taking a few steps closer to liberty sounds like a good start to me. It's a lot better than the path the two major parties want us to take.


NEXT: Donald Trump to Meet With President of Mexico

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  1. Trump’s speech tonight about black violence was a blatant veiled call to genocide. You could hear it in the cheers. I mean seriously, since when do low-educated middle age white men get so excited about reducing crime in the inner cities and improving educational opportunities for black kids? I only wonder if the black people who support Trump are delusional or if they think they will get appointed as work camp stazis.

    And oh – glad to hear Johnson doesn’t want to be king.

    1. Dishonest virtue signaling, as usual. Go away.

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    2. That book isn’t going to magically finish itself, fuckface.

    3. Why wouldn’t small business owners or people who want the economy to grow want Inner City black kids to succeed? Isn’t every successful business an employer? And don’t we need to see the number of business births go up in order to get above 2% growth? Plus, most middle class white folks think everyone deserves a fair shake, and that democrats have deliberately kept black people oppressed as a voting mechanism. Plus, if there are good inner city schools, then the suburban schools have to innovate and improve to keep up with the inner city schools’ quality.

  2. “Clinton changes positions from year to year: praising trade deals, then condemning them; condemning gay marriage, then praising it?then scolding anyone who doesn’t share her new position.

    Trump changes positions even faster, sometimes day to day. After saying he’ll deport millions of immigrants, now he says he won’t if they pay taxes and fill out paperwork..”

    Clinton is triangulating based on polls. It’s called pandering.

    Trump is negotiating. He lays out a direction he wants to go with an extreme position, and expects to come to a compromise with Congress etc. it’s amazing that so few people understand Trump’s methods. Read his book or take a negotiation course or spend a few months with a CEO of a startup.

    Stossel makes a good philosophical case for Johnson.

    1. “He lays out a direction he wants to go with an extreme position, and expects to come to a compromise…”

      If you’re a businessman or a union leader, that’s a good strategy, but it’s unacceptably dangerous for a President of the U.S. CEOs don’t have armies and nukes. A good President must always assume he’ll be taken seriously, and not take the risk that others won’t understand he’s playing a game.

      1. Presidents bluff, threaten, and saber rattle all the time. Trump is merely less reserved – less dedicated to diplomatic lingo. Why do you think it’s called a bully pulpit?

        1. “Presidents bluff, threaten, and saber rattle all the time.”

          They do sometimes, and it’s almost always a stupid idea.

          “Trump is merely less reserved…”

          That is comic understatement. Trump would be a dangerous loose cannon in the White House. If elected, the power elite would have to remove him like they did Kennedy?another mentally unstable President who courted disaster by bluffing and saber rattling.

        2. “Why do you think it’s called a bully pulpit?”

          You misunderstand the meaning of “bully” in that context.

          1. I think a modern TR would call it an *awesome* pulpit.

            1. TR and Barney Stinson would be BFFs

        3. RED LINE.

          1. Does your name mean you only have 1 “cled”? 😎

            1. Only one ocle

      2. “He lays out a direction he wants to go with an extreme position, and expects to come to a compromise…”

        If you’re a businessman or a union leader, that’s a good strategy, but it’s unacceptably dangerous for a President of the U.S. CEOs don’t have armies and nukes. A good President must always assume he’ll be taken seriously, and not take the risk that others won’t understand he’s playing a game.

        You’re completely wrong. The best presidents are natural born poker players. Predictability is one of the worst traits one can have, especially in insane times like these.

        This is pretty much exactly how Ronald Reagan achieved major arms reductions with the Soviet Union, while at the same time laying the groundwork for its collapse.

        Most of his advisors were like you by the way. Thankfully, he usually didn’t listen to them, but to his own instincts instead.

        1. I was a Reagan Republican before I discovered the LP. He didn’t bluster, he didn’t threaten, he simply stated what he intended to do, within the limits of what he could do, and then proceeded to start doing it. That’s why Gorbachev had to believe him. He spent the USSR into the ground. Unfortunately, in order to get that spending he agreed to a lot more spending on other things to get it.

          1. Yep. When Reagan said, “tear down this wall”, it wasn’t an extreme position from which to compromise. It was his sincere intention to make it happen and he believed it was achievable.

            1. “We start bombing in five minutes” wasn’t extreme either.

              1. FYIYCTAJ

              2. Fuck you if you…oh, it’s been taken care of. Nevermind.

            2. “We start bombing in five minutes” wasn’t extreme either.

  3. “Count on certainty that we’re always going to support taxes going lower… being in business being easier, rules and regulations not getting worse.”

    OK, but in the Nazi/gay cake situation, Johnson is *on record* as wanting to make rules and regulations on business worse. Currently businesses don’t have to make Nazi/gay cakes, but Johnson suggests that they should be compelled to do so.

    It would be one thing for him to say, as his apologists do, “in general I want to relax regulations on business except where it comes to Nazi cakes, and in that situation I’m simply extending the logic of the antidiscrimination laws.”

    Then the voters could decide whether to take him seriously about how he wants to relax regulations on businesses except in just this one minor area.

    But when he simply makes the broad statement that he wants to relax regulations, and doesn’t try to explain how this is consistent with his Nazi cakes views, then it makes me wonder what other implied exceptions he’s going to make to his anti-regulation principles.

    And if his cultural leftism is so strong that he can’t even stand up for small businesses against an unnecessary expansion of the public-accommodations laws, combined with an attack on religious freedom, then how will he be able to stand up against a big-spending Congress sending him all sorts of left-wing spending and regulatory bills?

    1. “Currently businesses don’t have to make Nazi/gay cakes”

      Correction: In many states they *do* have to make gay cakes. Nazi cakes not so much.

      And whether they should be compelled to make gay cakes under *federal* law is still an unsettled and much-debated question.

    2. To me, freedom of association means choosing who my friends are, who I invite to my house, who I go out to dinner or a concert with, etc. Who to serve in a store? Not so much. When it’s about someone walking up to a counter and expecting to be served in the same manner as others, public accommodation laws do make sense. They should apply to stores and generally to businesses which hold themselves out as serving the public, not to people doing jobs privately by word of mouth or distributing business cards, as in one publicized case involving wedding photography. An extreme case of where such laws are needed was mentioned in a post here a few days ago about a black person asking if, in a libertarian world, a private hospital could turn her away if she was injured, simply because she was black. Told that yes, it potentially could, she decided she had no further interest in libertarianism. In fact, it may make sense to get rid of what seems to be an ever-growing list of specific reasons why businesses can’t discriminate, and instead say they can’t discriminate for any reason except ones that meet specific tests as being bona fide. BTW, I notice that Johnson’s actual statement was he will always oppose increasing regulations on business, not that he will always support relaxing them. A subtle difference perhaps made with that “Nazi cake” controversy in mind.

      1. OK, but this is about whether Johnson supports “being in business being easier, rules and regulations not getting worse.”

        Racial discrimination has been illegal for some time, so by promising not to make rules and regulations “worse,” Johnson isn’t necessarily promising to legalize racial discrimination.

        But with Nazi/gay cakes, he *is* calling for regulations to be getting worse.

        So shouldn’t he be more specific in his statements: “I support rules and regulations not getting worse, except public accomodations laws, which should of course be stricter”?

      2. The original federal Civil Rights Act did in fact spell out in some detail what types of businesses are “public accommodations” subject to the law and which were not. The extension of anti-discrimination rules to virtually all types of businesses happened largely as a result of state civil rights laws expanding their scope.

      3. Sorry, but the issue is not whether or not you should be able to refuse service to gays.

    3. That is one of my biggest disagreements with him, but I’ll gladly support someone I agree with 90% on over someone I only agree with 20% on. We’ll argue that last 10% when we get closer.

  4. There are some non-dictatorial things a President Johnson (Johnson III?) can do without being a dictator.

    He can use his veto to force Congress to make at least *some* cuts in the budget – by laying down reasonable goals and vetoing overspending, then putting Congress in the wrong if it overrides him. (and an override would require some bipartisan cooperation in the face of a public rebuke that they’re spending too much).

    He can certainly continue – and extend – Obama’s pardon record.

    And he can turn to good advantage one of the worst features of the administrative state – administrative discretion. He and his appointees can use the flexibility Congress gives them to make regulations a bit less onerous, even if he can’t discard them all in one fell swoop.

    1. “He can certainly continue – and extend – Obama’s pardon record.”

      He has a good record for commuting sentences, not for pardons. Actually a poor record on pardons. Big difference – pardons clear your record, commutations do not. Ex felons have poor job prospects. See Cato’s podcasts for details.

      1. Correction duly noted, thank you.

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  6. Ummmm…this is the same Johnson who totally supports expansive executive orders when ‘Congress refuses to act’ (whatever the hell that means, as it’s Congress’s prerogative to do whatever it wants without direction from the executive). He said that in this very magazine.

    I have not heard Johnson talk once about restricting executive authority, civil liberties, or foreign policy (other than saying he would totally be restrained, while saying the war in Kosovo was justified in the same breath).

    I know that Reason is to the Libertarian Party what the Washington Post is to the Democratic Party (Pravda), but now you’re just making up shit.

    1. Nor have I heard him talk about privatizing light houses or ending social security tomorrow or abolishing the U.S. Patent Office or any number of other fringy libertarian proposals. Nor have any of my friends who might want to vote Libertarian to protest the utter embarrassment of the two major candidates heard word one about “Nazi cakes” because that’s only an issue with a handful of libertarians for whom, truth be known, could in good conscience only vote for their pure selves.

      1. I guess I didn’t realize that ‘civil liberties’, a ‘restrained executive’, and opposition to foreign adventurism were ‘fringe’ issues. I guess the Libertarian Party just stands for annoying conservatives and groveling to Leftists.

        Thanks for explaining. I’ll be sure to never vote for any of them.

        1. It would probably be more accurate to just admit that you’re never going to vote, ever. That isn’t a judgment, it’s just a fact.

          I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what Creech was pointing out.

          1. If there were a libertarian candidate, I would have voted for them. I’m not really drawn to a Democrat Lite candidate, like Gary Johnson. He does nothing to further liberty. He’s just a squishy moderate.

  7. It’s funny that both President Bush and President Obama also made the remark that they weren’t elected to be dictators or kings, yet both men drastically expanded the power of the Presidency.

  8. The biggest power a President holds, outside of being the Commander in Chief, is his pen … when it’s used to veto legislation and his eraser … when it’s used to rescind previous executive orders/memos/administrative advisories.

  9. “But for health care, they must wait in long lines at government-run veterans hospitals, sometimes dying for lack of adequate care.”

    This is what they call a self-correcting issue. If they die, they aren’t collecting G.I. benefits.

  10. RE: Neither Dictator nor King

    It is indeed a tragedy this country does not have a king or a dictator (dictator preferred). One can only speculate the amount of overwhelming joy lost knowing we will be ruled by a true sociopath like, Hitler, Stalin, or Castro. I am sure we all weep on our pillows softly at night knowing there is no one out there that can put us into a gulag where we all have the opportunity to be beaten, starved, and shot. How many times do we daydream about having a secret police knocking our doors down in the wee hours of the morn? How many times do we all wish we didn’t have to go through the painful and confusing process of thinking for ourselves? How many sleepless nights have we lost knowing that we have not been properly re-educated into the wise and benevolent diktats of the enlightened dictator that has shown so much compassion and kindness to oppress and enslave us all? How often did we look into each other eyes and secretly tell one another that we don’t want grocery stores, cars, TVs, sports, but just wanted to be rationed food, clothing, etc? How many times did we ache for the whip to strike our backs to correctly obey our dictator’s orders? All too often, I know. I am only saying what we are all thinking, and that is to truly be free and enjoy the happiness brought by a dictator, we all must submit ourselves to just one wise, cruel and sadistic asshole that is willing to enslave us all.

    1. A benevolent dictatorship is by far the best form of government. Except for that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” thing being reasonably accurate.

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  13. Watch Gary Johnson become absolutely UNHINGED when Guy Benson calls illegal immigrants “Illegal immigrants”.

    “That’s very incendiary!”


    1. An “illegal” has generally only committed a misdemeanor, unless they’ve committed some other crime.

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  17. problem is that when you say to people that you want to get rid of the education department, they assume that means you don’t want children to get an education. same with homeland security…they assume you’re going to surrender to the terrorists.

    it may be a chore to explain things as if people were five years old, and tell them how such assumptions are nonsense and why, but if you want to be president -especially if you’re a libertarian- you have to dumb it down a little more.

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