For Those Thinking of Voting for Gary Johnson . . .

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on November 5, 2012

You are only working to help re-elect Barack Obama, as Randy Barnett points out. And helping Democrats is not good for the cause of liberty:

It was a Democratic Congress and president who gave us the federal takeover of the health-care industry that will bring us closer to a Western European-style social democracy. All four Democratic-appointed Supreme Court justices voted to uphold ObamaCare as constitutional, with four Republican-appointed dissenters.

Are Democrats better than Republicans on personal liberty? Neither has been great on that score, but Democrats have been the bigger disappointment. When I took the medical-marijuana case to the Supreme Court in 2004, I got zero votes from the left side of the court while garnering the votes of Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Clarence Thomas and Sandra Day O’Connor. And President Obama’s Justice Department has reneged on his campaign promise to refrain from going after medical-marijuana dispensaries.

Neither party wants to question the futile and destructive “war on drugs.” But Republicans have been much better on free speech in recent years. With respect to economic liberty, the Environmental Protection Agency has restricted land use throughout the nation and would do more if not stopped. Dodd-Frank has amped up restrictions on financial services.

Libertarians need to adjust their tactics to the current context. This year, their highest priority should be saving the country from fiscal ruin, arresting and reversing the enormous growth in federal power—beginning with repealing ObamaCare—and pursuing a judiciary who will actually enforce the Constitution. Which party is most likely to do these things in 2013?

Citing the Republican Congress under George W. Bush, some libertarians contend that divided government is best for liberty. Yes, divided government is good for stopping things (until some grand deal is made). But divided government won’t repeal ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank or give us better judges.

As a libertarian-conservative, I am naturally sympathetic to many of the issues libertarians hold dear. But Gary Johnson is not going to be president of the United States. Either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is. And if you live in a state that can make a difference in the Electoral College, and you vote for Gary Johnson instead of Mitt Romney, you may as well be giving your vote to Barack Obama. There are no two ways about it.

  • David Friedman

    “And if you live in a state that can make a difference in the Electoral
    College, and you vote for Gary Johnson instead of Mitt Romney, you may
    as well be giving your vote to Barack Obama.”

    That is not correct. If you vote for Obama, he gets one more vote and Romney one fewer than if you vote for Romney. If you vote for Gary Johnson, Romney gets one fewer but Obama does not get one more.

    So, even in your terms, voting for Johnson is like casting half a vote for Obama.

    The other point that neither you nor Randy deals with is that, even in a swing state, the chance that your vote will determine the outcome is probably no more than one in a million. I, as it happens, live in California, so can vote for Johnson without even worrying about that issue.

    The more votes Johnson gets, the greater the incentive for one or both major parties to adopt one or more libertarian policies in the hope of getting some of those votes next time. The effect of one vote is still small but it isn’t clear that it’s smaller than the effect on the outcome of voting for one of the major party candidates.

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