Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Interview with Gary Johnson

The Tarrant County Libertarian Party recently sponsored a debate between six candidates vying for the LP nomination. 
It was pure, undiluted greatness.  I'll post more on it when I get the final cut of the video.  10,000 Thanks to John Spivey for putting that event together.   

Shortly before the debate, Mike Coyne and I got a chance to talk with former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson.

Gary Johnson has been referred to as the ‘most fiscally conservative Governor’ in the country and was the Republican Governor of New Mexico from 1995-2003. Governor Johnson brings a distinctly business-like mentality to governing, believing that decisions should be made based on cost-benefit analysis rather than strict ideology.

An avid skier, adventurer, and bicyclist, he has reached the highest peak on four of the seven continents, including Mt. Everest.

Why libertarian?

I believe that most people are “closet libertarians”. Most of us are fiscally conservative. Most of us are socially tolerant.

What was the catalyst that brought you to libertarianism?

I received a free libertarian handout book/pamphlet around 1971, and it struck a nerve. The man who gave it to me simply said “Here, read this; pass it on.” The contents of that book have stuck with me, and every time an issue or policy came up, there was no ambiguity.

Johnson then told a couple of stories about going to conventions back in the early 1980’s, and discussing the Democrat, Republican and Libertarian policy positions and debate performances. The general consensus was that the Libertarians had the best positions and debaters, but the conventioneers would go back to their parties and continue voting the way they had always voted.
He also mentioned the undiluted thrill of recently going to the Florida State Fair and wearing a Libertarian T-shirt.

“I believe that certain Republican positions are indefensible – in my opinion – bombing the planet into submission, for instance.

I’ve never put myself into that position by wearing a Republican T-shirt. Guys, these events (like our debate) are like coming out of the closet for me.”

How can libertarians change the world?

“Poll at 15%. I’m already at 7% on an Obama/Republican challenger ballot ! That’s the opportunity. Once we hit 15%, the Libertarians can go onstage against the other two parties in the debates. The other game-changer….if we get 5% of the vote, the Libertarian Party gets 90 million dollars in matching funds for their next candidate. That would change everything.”

Here’s the unofficial Tarrant County LP stance on taking this money: Taxpayers voluntarily checked the box agreeing to send an extra dollar in taxes to fund presidential elections. This was a voluntary contribution. There is no moral or philosophical problem connected to taking this money. Whether a total of 270 million dollars is contributed to this pile every four years (90 each for the Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians) is a subject for further research.  Yeah, it's a problem.  One of the State Libertarian Executive Committee members sitting beside me almost birthed a large softball when Johnson made a similar remark during the debate. 

How would you contrast libertarians with conservatives and contemporary liberals?

“Libertarians embrace the best of the liberals or Democrats in protecting our civil liberties. The Democrats haven’t done very well on those issues. Conservatives, or Republicans, are supposedly the guardians of the checkbook, and they’ve not done well there at all. My first vote for a Libertarian candidate (David Bergland) was essentially against Ronald Reagan in his second election, mostly because of Reagan’s deficit spending.”

“Here’s how we get to 15%, and if I’m not the winning candidate in 2012, I’m coming back in 2016. I wouldn’t be in this thing if I didn’t think I could win. 80% of the electorate now say that they would support a 3rd party candidate. Independents now outnumber Democrats ! My pledge, if elected, is to present Congress with a budget in January 2013. It will have a 43% (or 1.4 trillion) reduction in spending. If we don’t (make these cuts) we’ll find ourselves with nothing.

We can do it. We just have to fix it.”

You eventually became known as "Governor Veto".  Vetoed something like 450 bills?  How difficult was that. 

Not very.  Actually it was closer to 700.  Look, the sky wasn't going to fall if these pieces of legislation weren't passed.  Only two vetoes were overturned.  But billions and billions of dollars were saved.

I believe that I vetoed more bills than all 49 of the other governers.  People liked it !  They knew what was going on. 

If I had been dictator, I could've cut government spending by 1/3, and no one would have noticed.

And I was always described as a libertarian. 

What's the secret of starting a successful business? 

I put out a circular that said "College Student Needs Work:  Carpentry, Painting, Cement, Everything!!".  I showed up on time, I got the job done properly, and then did a little more than necessary. 

What economists do you like to read or follow?

Jeffry Miron of Harvard is my top economics advisor.  (Miron is also the author of "Libertarianism: A to Z")

What about the "sick child" argument for government spending?  There's a sick child requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars in care, and there's no way that private charity can handle the expense....

I oversaw the reform of Medicare in New Mexico, from a Fee For Services model to a Managed Care model.   If the Feds had block granted 43% less, I could've still served the poor with that much less in funding.  So how do you fix the system?  Give Block Grants to the states.  Establish 50 laboratories, each one experimenting to find the best solution, as opposed to a Washington "Top Down" model. 

Same model for education.  The states are (currently) getting eleven cents of every dollar they spend from Washington, but that eleven cents comes with sixteen cents worth of strings attached. 

Why do you think Civil Libertarians continue to support Obama? 

My ACLU Report Card is the best of any of the candidates. 

Johnson went on to give the scores for each candidate still in the race.  He was speaking faster than I could write at this point, and I didn't catch all of the numbers, assuming they would be on the ACLU site.  According to this guy, Gary Johnson scored a 21, Ron Paul was scored at 18, Barack Obama came in third with a 16, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry each were rated at 2, while Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum scored a zero.  
This ACLU Liberty Report Card shows the same ranking, but with slightly different totals. 

Anything else you would like to tell us, Governor? 

This is like "coming out of the closet" for me.  It's good to be here.   

Can you imagine how much money we would have saved if, back in the early '90's, Gary Johnson had been elected President instead of Governor?  Or how much lower The Butcher's Bill for our overseas adventures would be? 
Great guy, that Gary Johnson !!!

1 comment:

Harper said...

Note: get Whited a better camera.