Gary Johnson Is Not an Option

Monday, November 07, 2016

A vote for Gary Johnson is unacceptable because it risks institutionalizing the Libertarian Party as a spokesman for limited government.

Heading into tomorrow's election, where my vote will merely register dissent from Maryland's single political party (and my disgust with the two major candidates), I have run across an interesting article that might appear to be a good counter-argument to my longstanding opposition to third parties. Thomas Hazlett of the Libertarian Reason Magazine notes:

It is often said that voting third party is "throwing your vote away." It would be more accurate to say that living in a non-swing state is throwing your vote away. One tactic to recapture some modicum of vote value is to pad the total for an upstart candidate. Moreover, you might help (if modestly) to put the system on notice that the Big Two political party choices are being rejected. Even when the minor parties do not elect a president, they can thus wield power. The classic example is the Socialist Party, which garnered a paltry 880,000 votes in the 1932 election, barely 2 percent of the total cast, but over the course of the decade saw significant pieces of its platform co-opted by the New Deal. Within years, versions of the party's proposals for Social Security, a minimum wage, and large-scale public works were law.
One could argue that the very fact the socialists got so many votes merely demonstrated a popular appetite for their goals, and that this vote did not really cause the Democrats to adopt so many of them. However, one could also argue that that tally was instrumental in getting the attention of Democrat politicians. Perhaps that party did popularize measures the Democrats would later adopt, and put leaders of that party on notice that there were votes to be peeled off from the socialists. Sure: that could be a way to put one's cause in the forefront of public awareness. Unfortunately, the reasons for my my opposition to the Libertarian Party illustrate why this idea does not apply to voting for Gary Johnson, even if we grant the premise for the sake of argument:
I am quite familiar with Libertarianism and reject it on principle for the same reason that Peter Schwartz once put so well: "Libertarianism deserves only one fundamental criticism: it does not value liberty." How can he say this and I agree? Because Libertarians cannot agree among themselves what constitutes "liberty" in the first place. The anti-war stance of Libertarians and the fact that anarchists feel comfortable in that party are symptoms of this problem. To call oneself a Libertarian is at best to fail to be clear about what one values and at worst to give credit where none is due (e.g., to anarchists) for standing up for freedom. In either case, the public debate is muddied when clarity is in urgent need.
If only the Libertarian Party actually stood for capitalism! Casting a vote for Gary Johnson would then make it clear why voters like me are dissatisfied with both Trump and Clinton. Unfortunately, doing this will only increase confusion, with the nanny state threatening to institutionalize the same by passing out government loot to these pretenders during the next election, if he garners at least five percent of the vote.

Advocates of individual rights are much better off making the case for liberty on our own without having to compete for attention with government-funded charlatans amid a public already confused enough to have nominated two wholly unacceptable candidates.

-- CAV

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