A Libertarian is not a “socially liberal/fiscally conservative” Republican – which is what Johnson is, even if he doesn’t realize it.
Republicans, just like Democrats, believe the use of coercion to organize society and direct the actions of individuals contrary to their will is morally legitimate; they just prefer to use less of it – and for different reasons – than Democrats.
Johnson supports forcing people to have their children vaccinated (and according to a schedule decreed by government; that is, by people such as himself). He believes it is acceptable to threaten people with violence in order to compel them to hand over their money (taxes) just like a Democrat; the only difference being the use to which these extorted funds are put. Johnson prefers taxes designed to combat “climate change” or to fund the United Nations. But he does not object to taxes in principle.
Johnson, like other Republicans, supports using force to impose his values on others; to deny other people their right to freely associate (or not associate). He is on record defending the use of government force to compel the owner of a privately owned business to do business with people he would prefer not to do business with. Etc.
Johnson may be a libertine (he supports state-sanctioned gay marriage and is ok with the state acceding to the use/possession of some drugs – those Johnson thinks are “ok”) but he isn’t a Libertarian. He doesn’t seem to have any idea what it means to be a Libertarian.
So, what defines a Libertarian?
Fundamentally, a Libertarian is a person who rejects as a moral indecency the use of force in social/political interactions with others. He defends the moral principle of voluntary interactions.
The Libertarian accepts as his moral-philosophical starting point that just as he is the absolute owner of himself, other people are equally the absolute owners of themselves. Accordingly – logically and morally – no human being has any rightful ownership claims to another human being.
Or their property.
Libertarians hold that what you create or produce (or freely acquire by purchasing it or it being freely given to you by its rightful owner) is yours without qualification – and belongs to no other person. You may choose to share what’s yours with others. But no one has a right to force you to share, much less take your property – or control it any way whatsoever.
This is a critical point in the Libertarian moral lexicon, because to control a thing is to assert ownership of a thing. If you are under duress to accept control of something you supposedly own by another person or a collective of some sort (i.e., the “community”) then you are not truly the owner of that thing; the others who do control it are its true owners and you are merely a conditional custodian.
Libertarians reject conditional custodianship as a species of slavery, equally immoral.
For this reason, they oppose all taxes in principle but in particular those levied against real estate – people’s homes and land – which are particularly odious because they effectively make it impossible to ever actually own and therefore, control, your land or home. Such taxes amount to rent-in-perpetuity, rendering the “owner” a tenant. They are a frontal assault on the most basic liberty a free man possesses – to be free on his land, in his home.
Beholden to no one.
Income taxes are almost as morally obnoxious to a Libertarian and not merely because they involve the coercive taking of people’s rightful property, the work product of their minds and bodies. They also require each tax victim to submit to close scrutiny of his affairs; to have to account to the government what he earns and what he possesses and what he spends his money on. Income taxes vitiate one of the most fundamental requirements of a civil society:
When an individual’s right to privacy is no longer respected, he has no other rights worth mentioning.
This brings us to the Libertarian’s opposition to any legal restriction/interference whatsoever with each individual person’s freedom of association, which flows from the concept of every human being having absolute sovereignty over himself and whatever property he has rightfully acquired. So, for example, the owner of a bar or restaurant has an absolute right to serve (or not serve) whomever he likes, according to whatever standard he wishes to apply.
This does not mean Libertarians approve of allowing people to smoke in a bar or of a business denying people service or refusing to deal with certain people on account of the owner’s personal dislike of those people for no rationally defensible reason (e.g., race or sex). It means Libertarians accept that the owner of something owns that thing and by dint of that fact, no other person has the moral right to force him to share the thing, rent the thing, use the thing or decree terms and conditions of the use of that thing.
Libertarians believe that using force in any way that compromises property rights is fundamentally an assault on human rights far worse in its inevitable end result (an authoritarian government micromanaging all human interactions such as we have now) than accepting the human reality that some humans are not the nicest people. Those not-nice humans, however, are much less a threat to other humans because they are legally powerless to impose themselves or their views on others.
They can deny/refuse service. But they cannot force others to deny and refuse.
A bar owner who allows smoking in his establishment has no power to prevent another person from opening a smoke-free bar. A racist who refuses to serve blacks cannot force other business to refuse to serve blacks.
Only the coercive power of the state – legally binding on everyone – can impose blanket restrictions on people.
In terms of the “socially liberal” things, Libertarians oppose the criminalization of the consumption/manufacture/possession/sale of any “drugs” and – more generally – any interference whatsoever with what private people who own themselves elect do with themselves. Libertarians do not asset ownership over the bodies of other human beings. They do not regard themselves as the parents of other adults; are not afflicted with the effrontery to presume they know what’s “best” for other adults. They accept that even when it is inarguable that they do know better, that they have no moral right to do more than suggest or advise.
Libertarians oppose in principle the use of government force to compel people to purchase health or car insurance or any other product or service because to force a person to hand over money against his will – even when a product or service is provided in exchange – is nonetheless theft – the taking by force of someone else’s property.
Libertarians have a specific definition of crime that is profoundly/fundamentally different from the definition used by Republicans and Democrats alike – who both define crime as a violation of law. Libertarians, on the other hand, insist on a victim as the essential thing that defines a crime, morally speaking- and hold that any accusation of wrongdoing that lacks the substantiation of an actual human being actually harmed is by definition not criminal.
Libertarians reject the Republican/Democrat premise that it’s legitimate to pre-emptively punish (or even control) any person because “someone” might cause harm. Examples of this include laws that arbitrarily decree driving above a certain speed to be an offense in and of itself (no harm caused to anyone).
Libertarians take the position that is morally legitimate to to hold people accountable for the harms they cause – but if they have caused no harm to others, insist that they be left alone.
Note the distinction: Hold people accountable for harms they have caused …. as opposed to punishing them for having “violated” a statute.
Libertarians believe in restitution. They do not believe a statute can be victimized because a statute is a mere construct and (unlike an actual flesh and blood human being) has no rights that can be violated.
Gary Johnson does not believe in such things. Neither, of course, do Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
But neither Trump nor Hillary pretend to be Libertarians.
Johnson, unfortunately, does.
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