One of the biggest qualms that conservatives have with the Libertarian Party is that many of its members have no belief in an absolute morality. While they speak of personal freedom, minimum government, and maximum liberty, they fail to take a moral stand on issues where it matters the most, like abortion.
One would think that the Libertarian Party candidate would be opposed to socialism because, well, it’s simply a terrible economic system based on faulty ideas. However, that seems to not be the case.
On Tuesday, Johnson made an appearance on CSPAN’s Washington Journal. A caller from Arkansas brought up the topic of Bernie Sanders and suggested that he and Johnson should sit down together. He suggested that Johnson could adopt many of Sanders’ principles to win over his supporters should Sanders lose the nomination to Hillary.
In response to the caller, Johnson made this striking and bizarre statement, one that should seem questionable if not completely idiotic to anyone who understands libertarianism:
“But interestingly, of all the presidential candidates, I side with Bernie Sanders at 73 percent.”
Johnson went on to explain this majority of agreement with Sanders on issues, citing their similar stances on things like supporting abortion, gay marriage, and being against military interventions. But anyone with half a brain should be able to tell that Johnson’s stances on the economy and powers of the government should be enough to set him at complete odds with Sanders.
If you thought it couldn’t get any worse than the above quote, Johnson proceeded to grace us with this gem:
“And look, libertarians agree with socialism as long as it’s voluntary. But, when it’s forced, that’s tyranny.”
I made an audible noise that was somewhere between a gasp and a scoff when I read that quote. It just struck me as utterly strange and foreign for a libertarian to make such a statement. Johnson’s opinions regarding socialism may not be the views of the whole Libertarian Party, but for him to say such a thing gives a very false impression of libertarianism to those who may not be very familiar with it.
While I suspect most libertarians disagree with Johnson on this point, it got me thinking about the fundamental differences between conservatism and libertarianism. For Johnson, socialism is an inferior economic system to free market capitalism, but he would be fine with it if the American population as a whole decided to implement it.
The average conservative would not believe socialism is fine to implement even if the majority of American agree to subject themselves to a socialist system. Conservatism, at least on this issue, is grounded in a moral conviction that socialism is wrong, regardless of how the majority of the population feels on the issue. This is parallel to many other differences between libertarians and conservatives. Libertarians seek to maximize personal liberty at any and every cost. Conservatives seek to maximize personal liberty within the constraints of certain moral absolutes.
Johnson’s baffling statement that “socialism is okay as long as people want it” doesn’t even seem to square with his party’s platform. The official Libertarian Party platform states:
2.1 Property and Contract – As respect for property rights is fundamental to maintaining a free and prosperous society, it follows that the freedom to contract to obtain, retain, profit from, manage, or dispose of one’s property must also be upheld. Libertarians would free property owners from government restrictions on their rights to control and enjoy their property, as long as their choices do not harm or infringe on the rights of others. Eminent domain, civil asset forfeiture, governmental limits on profits, governmental production mandates, and governmental controls on prices of goods and services (including wages, rents, and interest) are abridgements of such fundamental rights. For voluntary dealings among private entities, parties should be free to choose with whom they trade and set whatever trade terms are mutually agreeable. (Emphasis mine)
The party’s platform seems to make it excessively clear that not only is socialism an inferior economic system – it is a violation of the fundamental rights of citizens. In terms of Johnson’s statement: even if the population decides to implement socialism, isn’t that system still infringing on their basic rights to property ownership? Or does their willing acceptance of socialism mean they forfeited those rights? What happens if a new citizen is born who does not agree with socialism, and is unwillingly subjected to it? It is easily demonstrated that Johnson’s statement is ideologically incoherent.
It’s disheartening to me and many other conservatives that the Libertarian Party decided to nominate a man who doesn’t even understand his own party’s platform. It looks like they were taking a cue from the GOP this election. It certainly makes Bill Kristol’s rumored independent candidate that much more appealing…