05 May 2012
The Libertarian candidate
The Libertarian party has nominated its most credible candidate ever for President, though by doing so they may seem to have betrayed their own principles and prejudices. By an overwhelming margin, delegates at the party's national convention in Las Vegas have tapped a former governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, to top their national ticket. Johnson is an erstwhile Republican and had briefly campaigned for the GOP presidential nomination. He will run on a platform of austerity plus drug legalization, his liberal position on the latter subject having won him admirers among the Libertarians while he was governor. On his campaign website, Johnson promises to be "The People's President." This will apparently consist of his being a civil-libertarian deficit-hawk who will cut military spending and get the troops out of Afghanistan. He promotes the "Fair Tax," a flat-rate national sales tax that would replace both income and payroll taxes, and promises that the latter provision will stimulate job creation. However, he refuses to take direct credit for job creation in New Mexico during his administration, affirming the libertarian doctrine that "government doesn't create jobs." He does claim to have stimulated job creation by "keeping government in check" and eliminating "unnecessary regulatory obstacles." I imagine that he considers this sufficient to get the working-class vote, though I also imagine that at least some working-class people will want to know how he proposes to keep the bosses in check. It's probably as much a sign of the times as of his newfound dogma that "Labor" isn't one of the issue categories on his website. The new view, it seems, is that people should be grateful if jobs are created and not question the terms under which they might be put to work. This commentary may look crabby and narrow-minded, and to be fair I don't doubt that Johnson's civil-liberties credentials compare favorably with both the President and his presumptive Republican challenger. Nor do I doubt the sincerity of Johnson's determination to extricate us from Afghanistan. But I am not prepared for those reasons to endorse an ideology that denies the propriety if not the right of democratic regulation of labor and the economy as a whole. No matter what libertarians may claim, submission to the Market is not the same as self-government. Nor has an excess of self-government brought our society to its present plight. Until libertarians accept that employers are accountable to the employed, and not just through the magic of the Market -- and that the Market itself is accountable to the people -- I will continue to meet their claims with skepticism, to say the least. But since the rest of you can draw your own conclusions, here's Johnson's campaign site to peruse at your leisure.