From a Facebook friend, not a reader of the blog, this came via email.
I’m pretty sure I remember that you are a Libertarian (or had promoted Libertarian ideas at one point). I have issues with both major candidates in this year’s election and I’ve actually been pretty intrigued by Gary Johnson’s platform (or at least what I saw on his website). However, I’m getting a lot of “don’t throw your vote away”.
What’s your thought about Johnson and voting for a “3rd Party” in general?
This year, other people who are friends outside of my political/economist/blogging circle but who are vaguely aware of my libertarian leanings have asked similar questions. My thoughts:
1. In Maryland, any vote in the Presidential election is a throw-away. We live in a state that always votes Democratic.
2. Still, I plan to vote as if my vote mattered. Although I plan to vote for Gary Johnson, his libertarianism has almost nothing to do with my preference this year.
3. I am disturbed by the temperaments of both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton. Moreover, I think that a victory by either one will lead to four years of worsening bitterness in politics in this country. A Johnson Presidency has the potential to be less divisive and make me less afraid to read the day’s news.
4. One way to think about this year is that Mr. Trump is the 3rd-party candidate, in the tradition of Ross Perot and George Wallace (with a core constituency inherited from those two), who happened to capture the Republican nomination. Johnson is a more credible major-party candidate who happens to be on the ballot as a Libertarian.
5. My first choice would have been for the Republicans to run a major-party candidate, meaning someone other than Mr. Trump or Dr. Carson. Had they done so, I would probably not be voting for Gary Johnson. So I am not such a dedicated libertarian, with either a small or capital L.
6. I sometimes say that there are philosophical libertarians and there are pragmatic libertarians. Philosophical libertarians base their views on fundamental principles. Pragmatic libertarians believe only that the libertarian approach often turns out to be correct.
7. The philosophy of libertarianism is that individuals should not be coerced into making decisions. Instead, your transactions with other people should be based on voluntary consent. They should be based on peaceful persuasion and, in the case of economic transactions, on choice and competition. This philosophy sees government programs and regulation as coercive and therefore wrong in principle.
8. I put myself in the pragmatic libertarian camp. I do not make my stand against government action on principle, but I say that in practice government can be counted on to be less effective than nongovernmental processes. For example, when markets produce bad outcomes, I expect the competitive process of private entrepreneurs to do a better job of fixing things than the political process.
9. Part of the libertarian view is anti-interventionist in foreign affairs. The philosophical libertarian says that undertaking coercive acts abroad is at least as wrong as undertaking them at home. The pragmatic libertarian notes that the government that is going to intervene abroad is the same government that is inherently clumsy, stupid, and prone to producing adverse unintended consequences at home.
10. You should note that the libertarian view is antithetical to American government support for Israel. This follows from non-interventionism.
11. Moreover, I know libertarians who go beyond non-interventionism and who personally talk about Israel the way that the far left talks about it, holding Israel unilaterally responsible for the conflict with Palestinians. To me, this comes across as denying any moral agency to Palestinians, because it treats as irrelevant the past actions and current threats made by Palestinians against Jews. I believe in treating the Palestinians as having moral agency, with the power to change their situation by changing their approach. In any case, on this issue I do not agree with rigid, high and mighty libertarians.
12. Speaking of which, libertarians are temperamentally prone to being high and mighty, contemptuous of those who disagree. I very much do not wish to be associated with that temperament. I believe that nobody is 100 percent right 100 percent of the time.