There’s Something About Gary: Why a Vote for Gary Johnson Is a Vote for Trickle Down Economics

This is Seattle cartoonist Peter Bagge's comic about  the time he and I covered Gary Johnson's 2012 visit to Seattle. You can buy this comic in Bagge's very funny  collection "Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me and Other Observations."

This is Seattle cartoonist Peter Bagge’s comic about the time he and I covered Gary Johnson’s 2012 visit to Seattle. You can buy this comic in Bagge’s very funny collection “Everybody Is Stupid Except for Me and Other Observations.”

 

I met once-and-current presidential candidate Gary Johnson in 2012 when he was vying for the Washington state Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination. Johnson seemed a decent-enough man—not a horrifying Ron Paul-style libertarian, but more of an affable stoner-type. Unlike the Ayn Rand school of libertarianism, which advocates small government because it expects the worst of people, Gary Johnson’s brand of libertarian often assumes the best: it’s a cheery worldview predicated on the belief that we don’t need regulations because most people won’t violate the societal norms.

So maybe it’s an absolutism born of optimism, but it’s still absolutism. It doesn’t account for the extremes of human nature—companies like cigarette manufacturers that put profits over lives, beneficial but unprofitable government programs that help the working poor improve their own standards of living. The fact is, libertarianism just doesn’t work; it winds up benefitting the wealthiest at the expense of the very poor. Gary Johnson might not consciously favor trickle down economics, but his policies would absolutely reward the trickle-down agenda.

If you know any Gary Johnson fans, I encourage you to direct them to this post by Benjamin Studebaker, which explains how Johnson’s stated plans would actually damage America worse than a Donald Trump presidency. You think that’s not possible? It totally is: Studebaker walks through Johnson’s policies like the flat tax, deregulation of the banking industry, opposition to basic programs like Medicare and public school and explains why they would leave America in a hole so deep we would never dig ourselves free.

It’s easy to look at Johnson, with his cool-college-professor vibe and his chipper talk about marijuana, and assume he’s a harmless guy, a happy warrior to contrast with the dismal hatred of Donald Trump. But always remember that Johnson espouses a political worldview that is dangerously naive: his policies would burn the country down to nothing. Even a fundamentally decent man can be dangerous, when he espouses the wrong ideas.

 

 

 

 

 

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.