The Libertarian Primary: Ron Paul vs Gary Johnson

When I was in Australia last week, libertarians all asked me my thoughts on Ron Paul’s candidature. And when I told them all that I wasn’t supporting the Good Doctor, but rather, his rival, Governor Gary Johnson, I got this stunned look… this silence… I mean, how could any decent libertarian oppose Ron Paul?

Well, in my mind, the answer to that is easy. And it comes in the form of Governor Gary Johnson, a down the line libertarian who wants to cut taxes, cut spending, end the nanny state, and has the history to prove it. I admit, I was skeptical at first, but upon hearing him, I was a convert, and you should be too.

Firstly, let us look at his history. Gov. Johnson started his own business – he was his own employee – in New Mexico, as a 23 yo. Within 20 years he singlehandedly grew this backyard business to over 1000 employees, and, was became of New Mexico’s largest businesses.Not bad, I would say! So he obviously has executive experience. But what about political?

Well, when he ran for Governor – without any (real) Republican Party backing, in a heavily Democratic State (voter Registration was 2-1 in favour of the Democrats), he was thought of as a joke by all. Except somehow he won. And then, after his first term, he won re-election with an even bigger margin, and was term-limited out of running again with record high approval ratings.

All well and good, you may say, but how does he stand on the issues? Well, the easy argument for me to make would be the fact that he veto’d more government spending bills than every other governor combined, cut taxes, and cut the size of government. In record numbers.

Now, at this point, you would think Gov. Johnson a fairly good libertarian, and a pretty good contendor for our vote in the 2012 primary. If it wasn’t for Dr. Ron Paul. I mean, we all love Ron Paul. He’s libertarianism incarnate, right?

Well, no. Not really. Even if we were to ignore Gov. Johnson’s business experiences, even if we  were to ignore his executive experience, even if we were to ignore his proven political track record, he still pull up far ahead of Ron Paul. And, as much as I admire Ron Paul, facts are facts.

As GMU Professor and Reason Contributor Ilya Somin States:

“The difference between the two is strikingly large. As I explained back when Paul ran in 2008, he has very non-libertarian positions on free trade, school choice, and especially immigration. He also believes that Kelo v. City of New London was correctly decided because he thinks the Bill of Rights does not apply to the states. The latter is theoretically compatible with being a libertarian; one can believe that the Constitutionshould protect us against various forms of oppression by state governments, but simply fails to do so. But Paul’s position is at odds with most modern research on the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, and with the views of virtually all libertarian constitutional law scholars. It also bodes ill for the nature of his judicial appointments in the unlikely event that he actually wins the presidency.

On all of these issues, Johnson is clearly superior to Paul from a libertarian point of view. He supports school choice and free trade agreements, he’s as pro-immigration as any successful politician can be, and he believes that the Bill of Rights constrains the states as well as the federal government.”

So there we have it. Not only does Gov. Johnson have the executive experience to govern, and the political experience to win, he is – hands down – much, much, much more down the line libertarian than Ron Paul.

So, when things come down to the wire, we have, in Gov. Johnson, a hardcore libertarian on every issue, who ticks every box we want in a candidate. And sure, he will never win the primary as he believes pot should be legalised, be he is still our guy. And we should support him.

And, unlike Ron Paul (who I really do love!) isn’t batshit insane to boot…

29 thoughts on “The Libertarian Primary: Ron Paul vs Gary Johnson

  1. Re “he will never win the primary as he believes pot should be legalised”:

    The politically preferable alternative to legalisation is to admit that the reverse onus of proof in drug-possession cases is incompatible with the rule of law and therefore unconstitutional in *all* jurisdictions: .

    Yes, my “solution” to the drug problem has been aired before in the comments on this blog. But the supporting “rule of law” argument is new.

  2. Both are great options for president. Gary is probably going to appeal more to democrats given his pro-choice views on abortion. As such I would love him to be the GOP nomination given that he might then become president. However I’d be quite happy to see Ron Paul as president and I think libertarians everywhere should support both men.

  3. p.s. You forgot to mention that Gary Johnson has climbed mount everest so he has a pretty cool life story narrative.

  4. “He also believes that Kelo v. City of New London was correctly decided because he thinks the Bill of Rights does not apply to the states.”

    He’s a nut, he’s been wrong since they passed the 14th amendment. In the 19th century.


    Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. (Here comes the important bit): No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

  6. Has Gary Johnson already raised $1 Million in 1 day? Thought so.

    Ron Paul 2012

  7. Ron Paul should have not run, like he said he wasnt going to, and backed Johnson, as I believe he was originally planning to do. That was libertarianisms best chance. Neither of them will the primary.
    My prediction: more likely, Palin wins primary but loses election.
    Less likely: Romney wins primary, wins election.

  8. The article is such a poor one, that I suspect you had a preconceived notion that Ron Paul was inferior. To make such absurd claims that Paul is inferior on free trade and educational freedom without argument is disturbing. I disagree with Paul on immigration, though issues of welfare and lack of private property are certainly fair points.

    If it it true that neither can win – what’s the point of supporting a candidate that is a low-key pragmatic libertarian, who’s manner exudes shyness and lack of confidence? Where’s the emotion, the lasting principles, the fired up supporters?

  9. I agree with Terje on this. It seems inconceivable that Ron has no respect for property rights, it just makes no sense. Trump, who is out now, did support Kelo and use eminent domain.

    Paul has a tendency to use make trite one line answers that don’t always come out the way he intended which could explain this.

    @9 I am pretty sure that Rand Paul said that there would be a Paul in the contest some months ago, which makes you right on this one too.

    I would have preferred to see Ron stay out and support Johnson, who I feel will appeal more to mainstream voters and is ‘sufficiently’ libertarian.

  10. Johnson’s problem is that he doesn’t have the Ron Paul cult following.

    I don’t think he could ever be as successful as Ron Paul at fund-raising or poll-stacking. Ron Paul’s main strength is his activists.

    Paul also has the public profile, he’s being discussed by mainstream media and he’s largely considered the father of the Tea Party movement.

    If Paul backed Johnson that would’ve helped, but I still don’t know if a pro-choice, drug-freedom candidate could ever win the Republican primary. Paul, has a bit more credibility here.

    Personally I think it’d be great if Paul picked Johnson as his VP and allowed for a Johnson presidency in 2020 (or sooner if the good doctor carks it- he is getting on in age which is always a concern for presidential picks).

  11. Tim you have a weird definition of libertarianism (perhaps because you edit, a website for conservatives?). On immigration, Ron Paul isn’t “unlibertarian” – there are prominent libertarians who favour his position, including Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Murray Rothbard and Milton Friedman. It’s Gary Johnson who isn’t a libertarian, especially when it comes to war and foreign policy. See here for responses to the free trade and school choice allegations.

    Johnson will never have passionate support like Ron Paul because he’s watered down his libertarianism too much to try and appeal to moderates. But its radicalism that tends to excite people and shift debate. Few people are going to donate money and time for cosmetic changes towards a free society.

  12. It’s libertarian to have closed borders and not desire free people abroad from oppression?

    I sense sour grapes.

  13. I think that if RP were president he would, more likely than Johnson, be a stubborn old man and refuse any compromise. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not

  14. Perhaps he could use executive orders or some crap to bypass parliament – reverse-tyranny maybe? I doubt Paul can become president – he’d have great chances against Obama, but republican primary voters aren’t likely to want to give up insane foreign interventionism and the drug war just yet.

    Ron Paul’s greatest value is as a powerful force for education and activism. Being president or not is immaterial, he will win either way.

  15. Sounds like that stubborn lady who was PM of Britian for a while and wasn’t big on compromise. That worked out okay.

  16. There is another article on the issue here.

    So here’s my question about Mr Johnson. If he’s such a great libertarian-leaning Republican candidate, why isn’t the allegedly libertarian-leaning tea-party movement crazy about him? I think Ms Dalmia inadvertently hit on the answer:

    “Johnson is no populist. His strategy is to make pragmatic arguments for liberty. Thus he defends his embrace of immigration and opposition to the war on drugs, not on first principles but on fiscal grounds. He doesn’t give lectures on the importance of open borders to individual liberty. Or offer discourses on “your life, your choice” to defend drug use. Rather, he appeals to voters’ common sense. As governor, he tackled the illegal immigration issue by demonstrating that illegals pay more in state taxes than they consume in services. Likewise, he emphasizes how the drug war sucks up massive law enforcement dollars without reducing use.”

  17. Ron Paul’s position on school vouchers seems weak.

    He prefers an education tax credit, because he feels that statists would inevitably limit school voucher use to schools approved by the government.

    But it would seem just as likely that statists would limit the availability of education tax credits to schooling approved by the government.

  18. “The difference between the two is strikingly large. As I explained back when Paul ran in 2008, he has very non-libertarian positions on free trade, school choice, and especially immigration.”

    No this is entirely wrong. You’d have to say this appraisal is coming from a very crude and stupid point of view.

    Here the critic has got free trade mixed up with free trade agreements. Two radically different things. Here also the person has gotten mixed up between generous immigration and the failure to control borders. On the third point of vouchers the critic is being brazenly nutty. Vouchers are hardly a free enterprise innovation. Ron Paul is right and the critic is wrong on this matter.

    The point of view of the critic is along the warped lines we would expect from Catallaxy. Neoclassical and globalist boneheadedness rather than libertarianism.

  19. Vouchers are clearly unacceptable from a federal point of view but may be a practical solution at the state level. Tim really hasn’t made a case here. There is a warped anti-sovereignty fake-libertarianism getting about the place that has to be opposed every time we come across it.

    With this anti-sovereignty viewpoint they want us locked into government-to-government treaties which they erroneously call “free trade deals”. They want a lax approach to border security and the failure for incumbents to set immigration policy. This they call “free immigration” which is just dishonest, since no-one here is authentically for free immigration, which would amount to Chinese annexation.

    Then with vouchers there is just more dishonesty. Do we have vouchers for food? Have we run out of tax exemptions to help poor people? Have we run out of tax exemptions to bring down the cost of education?

    No and no.

    So where does vouchers fit into free enterprise. They don’t.

  20. There seems to be a pervading idea that Gary Johnson is pro-foreign-interventionism in a way that Ron Paul isn’t.

    Also that he doesn’t get passionate about anything.

  21. I think Paul is wrong about States rights, it is good that there is an implied right to freedom from unjust confiscation of property without fair compensation wrt State Governments.

    Kelo was right? Well I never…

  22. Well you would be wrong about that Mark. Sticking to the constitution or reforming it and sticking to the new cons titution is the only way to hold back both excess government …. shadow and otherwise.

    And if this cannot be managed then the country is too large and must split up.

  23. Because of his cult following, and because he comes across as being more socially conservative, strongly pro-life, inspiration behind the tea party etc. (even though he doesn’t advocate forcing his views on others), i think Ron paul has a far better chance of succeeding in getting the republican nomination.

    However, Gary johnson would have a far better chance of beating obama in a general election because he is seen as more moderate, and would be able to undercut some of obama’s socially liberal base (as is seen by him being the 2 term governor of a 2-1 democratic state), which Ron paul would not be able to do.

    Its the downside of libertarians having to appeal to social conservatives in the republican primary, and the downside of the US 2 party system in general.

    of course neither of them have much chance of being very successful, but that doesn’t mean we cant hope.

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