Any anarcho-capitalist who’s being honest will admit that Johnson/Weld is not our ideal ticket. Johnson’s grasp of libertarian ideology is questionable, and that’s being generous. The more I hear Johnson, the less interesting he becomes. His overwhelming pragmatism masks any principles he may hide. I can’t help but conclude the man’s an empty suit. But, he’s the best man available, right? Does that mean it’s time to line up behind him? Is the compromise worth it? That’s the question I seek to answer.
Until we live in Ancapistan, we will have to compromise on our principles somewhat. If you use the public roads, you’re compromising. We all compromise, no matter how “extreme” we are. Even Karl Hess used the roads. So, where do we draw our line? How do we decide what compromises are allowable and which aren’t? I think most would agree that if you compromise too far, you’re not even an anarcho-capitalist anymore. For example, if you murdered someone, just because you wanted their shirt, we could probably all agree you’re either a very bad anarcho-capitalist, or not an anarcho-capitalist at all. So, where do we draw the line?
I’m sure any answer to the question as to where we draw the line will be controversial. But, we have to draw it somewhere. So, here’s my personal heuristic: “The benefit gained must overwhelming exceed the cost of the compromise.”
To use this heuristic, we must focus on two things: what we stand to gain, and the degree of the compromise. Let’s walk through an example: Is it acceptable for an anarcho-capitalist to use public roads?
The degree of the compromise is relatively minor. An anarcho-capitalist society wouldn’t have public roads, but there’d probably be a transportation line of some kind. You could argue that you’re aggressing against the owners of the roads (the tax-payers) by wearing out the road, but you probably pay for the road too, and I think most would agree this “aggression” is relatively minor.
On the other hand, the benefits to be gained from using the road are enormous. It allow us to quickly move from place to place. For most of us, it’s how we get to our place our employment. It’s how we get to the store where we get our sustenance. And in society’s current paradigm, use of public roads is pretty much mandatory.
Having measured the benefits and the degree of the compromise, I think using the roads is a compromise worth making. So, returning to the main subject, is voting for Gary Johnson a compromise worth making?
What do we Stand to Gain?
The Libertarian Moment?
This is a time of turbulence in American politics. The Republican Party has failed to suppress Donald Trump’s populist uprising. The Democratic Party has barely suppressed Bernie Sanders’ populist uprising. A lot of the old establishment and party loyalists feel as if they don’t have a political home, or feel they’re losing it. Given the situation, it’s understandable why some believe that this a good opportunity for the libertarian party to step in. However, this isn’t the first big hypothetical “libertarian moment.”
There is reason to think that this isn’t the big libertarian opportunity that some pundits seem to think it is. For one, I believe the opposition to Trump on the Right is vastly overestimated by the intelligentsia. Despite beginning in a field of 17 candidates, Donald Trump has received more votes in the Republican primary than any candidate has in any Republican primary ever, and all of the states haven’t even voted. Polls show that Trump has support from around 86% of Republicans1, and that’s likely to go up as the election approaches. I think there’s good reason to believe that the #NeverTrump-ers are a loud and obnoxious, but a small minority. Hillary Clinton has even more solid party support at 90%.
It has to be remembered, this isn’t the first time the two main parties have put up shit candidates, and it won’t be the last. Last time Gary Johnson ran, some polls showed him getting as much as 5% of the vote2, but in the actual election, Gary couldn’t even crack a percentage point. This seems to imply that people are more likely to tell you that they’re going to vote for a third party candidate than actually do it. People on both sides might act pissed, but they tend to get in line once it’s time to actually vote.
You also have to keep in mind that Johnson isn’t the only third party candidate in the race. On the left we have Jill Stein, who is much more likely to pick up disaffected Bernie voters than Gary, and on the right we have David French to pick up disaffected neocons. That doesn’t leave much more leftover for the libertarians than what they’ve already been picking up in previous elections. For these reasons, I think it’s safe to say the “Libertarian Moment” is most likely nothing but hype. There’s little benefit to be gained from trying to exploit this opening.
Political campaigns can be a very effective way to spread ideas. Ron Paul’s campaign exposed millions to the ideas of liberty and expanded the movement. People have a tendency to listen to people who are candidates for office, even if they never would otherwise. So, is Gary Johnson Ron Paul’s second coming? Will Gary Johnson spread the message of liberty to millions like Ron did?
I think the answer is no. I don’t know if Ron Paul was/is an anarcho-capitalist, but he was obviously familiar with the ideas. He hung out around guys like Justin Raimondo, Murray Rothbard, and Lew Rockwell. And, when you listen to him, you could tell he absorbed those ideas. He is a man of principle. Ron is quick on his feet, and has the capability like almost no other to turn around a hostile interview. I can’t say any of these things about Gary. He has almost none of Ron’s appealing features. Gary is just a mushy pragmatist who will go whichever way the wind blowing. Gary might advocate some libertarian ideas, but it’s obvious he doesn’t understand the philosophy, and likely has no desire to.
And, Gary’s a bore. Could you imagine Gary moving an audience like Donald Trump does, or even like Mitt Romney did? Of course not. To move people, you’ll need more than some shiny talking points. You need charisma, and Gary is completely lacking in it. Is it really worth gaining an extra 0.5% of the vote with a mushy moderate who will put his audience to sleep? Do you really want Gary Johnson to be the face people think of when they hear “libertarian?”
What is the degree of the compromise?
When you vote, you implicitly consent to the system of democracy. It can also be argued that you’re endorsing a leader for others. Both of these things are essentially haram for ancaps. You’ll also be giving that vote to a guy who unthinkingly supports the 1964 civil rights act and anti-discrimination laws; and a man who doesn’t think it was wrong to kill over 100,000 mostly innocent civilians in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Voting for Gary is quite the compromise.
So Should Anarcho-Capitalists vote for Gary Johnson?
It’s probably obvious by now that my answer is absolutely not. The potential benefits are barely existent, and the drawbacks are immense. What if Gary Johnson does get a significantly higher portion of the vote than the LP has gotten in previous elections? That would just encourage the LP to nominate more mushy pragmatists. The compromise is not worth it. Comment as you see fit.
Editor’s note: this was worked on on June 4th, 2016 – some figures and persons have changed.