This election cycle, libertarians wary of their presidential options have had the misfortune of being labeled as “purists.” We have also been dubbed “sore losers” for not wanting to stand behind Gary Johnson, or get onboard with putting party above principle. I contend, however, that in comparison to the greater United States of America, they are purists for not falling in line.
Gary Johnson and his gun-grabbing running mate are no libertarians, and present the ideology as being a centrist philosophy. In his most recent book, Common Sense for the Common Good, Gary Johnson writes, “Libertarianism is on the move, and I now believe that it occupies that middle position… Libertarianism, as I have stated above, is the new center of American politics.”
As I wrote in my article Libertarian Marketing 101: Why Conservatives Are Our Target Demographic, libertarianism is “premised around the idea that you own yourself, and no one has the right to dictate what you must do with your person or property. Self-ownership and decentralization are the core tenets of our philosophy.” This philosophy is not at the center of left and right, as Gary Johnson describes it. Rather, as I continued in the piece, “A libertarian is not a moderate, but is rather a radical. Instead of being at the center of the right and left, we are in reality at the most extreme end of the spectrum.”
Ron Paul understood this, and he sold the true message of liberty, promoting property rights, Austrian economics, voluntaryism, and decentralization. He never watered down the message, and was still able to get elected to Congress a dozen times, write New York Times bestsellers, get thousands of people to attend his rallies, have people climb trees to see him speak, and become the godfather of the libertarian movement. In fact, Ron Paul received twice as many votes in the 2012 GOP primary as Gary Johnson did in the general election.
Johnson and Weld, however, are selling a message entirely different from that of even the most basic, minarchist principles of libertarianism. Voting for them to spread the message of libertarianism isn’t exactly much of a protest vote. It’s like buying a Samsung and telling your friends you bought an iPhone. So there is nothing pragmatic about spreading libertarianism through Johnson and Weld.
When this argument of theirs fails, they then suggest that even though they are not libertarians, at least they are for smaller government than Trump and Clinton and would make meaningful strides towards liberty. Yet Johnson has virtually no chance of winning this November, so this is a moot point. According to Fivethirtyeight’s statistical analysis, Johnson has less than a 0.1% chance of winning the presidential election.
So there is nothing pragmatic about voting for Johnson in order to minimize the government. According to a pragmatist’s own logic, they should instead be voting for Donald Trump, if it is their goal to at least move us in the right direction; even if it is minimal. After all, Trump wants to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 to 15%, wants to repeal the death tax, repeal Obamacare and Common Core, abolish the Department of Education and EPA, has considered leaving the UN and NATO, and is the only candidate with a reasonable opportunity of defeating Hillary Clinton. By their own logic, these alleged pragmatists are purists for not voting for Trump, if they claim their goal is to move us in the right direction. I must note that I am not telling you to go and vote for Trump, but by their own logic, they should be. I urge you to read my article There Is No Logic in Voting for Gary Johnson for a more in-depth look at why voting for Gary accomplishes nothing.
Pragmatists tend to believe that running watered down campaigns in elections they have no chance of even winning will help us make meaningful strides towards liberty, yet scoff at the idea of secession. In order for a libertarian to be elected president, you would need a majority of the states to vote for your candidate. Yet in order to make secession a reality, you only need one state to lead the way. I’ll let you decide which is blatantly more pragmatic.
Pragmatists also believe that selling out their principles in order to grow the Libertarian Party is necessary, because it will get them ballot access. Yet if they were at all pragmatic, they would understand that the Republican and Democratic Parties already have ballot access all across the country, and have a greater chance of winning elections than any third party likely ever will. Working within this paradigm instead of fighting arduously to turn the LP into another GOP is seemingly more pragmatic, as Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Justin Amash, and Thomas Massie have shown. Yet somehow the pragmatists disagree, because they wish to take down the two-party system. But their grievances can’t possibly be rooted in principle, since they wish to act just as the two main parties in order to grow their own.
So pragmatists aren’t pragmatic when it comes to spreading the message of libertarianism, and they aren’t pragmatic when it comes to making meaningful advances towards liberty. Why then, do they pride themselves as pragmatists? Since they are clearly not pragmatic, it seems that the word has lost its true meaning and has instead become a term used to discredit anyone who chooses to stand on principle.
Like the word ‘libertarian,’ it’s another term that has been destroyed by moderates that have an elementary understanding of liberty. There is nothing pragmatic about pragmatists, and I can only hope that this will help them understand.