"The careers of Ron Paul and Gary Johnson make a good case for libertarian participation in the Republican Party," writes The American Conservative's W. James Antle III, calling it "a sign of progress for the libertarian wing of the GOP that there are now two prominent candidates offering an alternative to the Republican establishment’s prescriptions of war, deficit spending, and a liberty-constricting national-security state" — Paul vs. Johnson. An excerpt:
- Arguments about libertarian ideological purity loom even larger in the Paul-Johnson split, with supporters of each candidate staking claims to be more-libertarian-than-thou. Paul, writes George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin, “has very nonlibertarian positions on free trade, school choice, and especially immigration.” He describes Johnson as “clearly superior to Paul from a libertarian point of view.” As Somin observes, Johnson “supports school choice and free trade agreements, he’s as pro-immigration as any successful politician can be, and he believes the Bill of Rights constrains the states as well as the federal government.”
Needless to say, there are arguments that each of Paul’s alleged deficiencies is actually the correct libertarian position. In this telling, school vouchers are taxpayer subsidies that may end up socializing private schools; “free trade” pacts are really government-managed trade agreements rather than genuine free trade; contemporary mass immigration, as libertarian theorist Hans-Hermann Hoppe has argued, is more akin to forced integration than the free movement of people; the doctrine of incorporation is constitutional buncombe. Factor in Paul’s opposition to abortion and lukewarm stance on gay rights, and Somin’s list becomes the comprehensive case that one kind of libertarian makes for Johnson.
“Like Paul, [Johnson] is anti-war, anti-big government and pro-civil liberties,” writes the Reason Foundation’s Shikha Dalmia. “But unlike Paul, he is pro-choice (except for late-term abortions), pro-immigration, pro-trade and untainted by bizarre conspiracy theories that NAFTA is a prelude to the dissolution of North American borders.”
Paul supporters have their ideological problems with Johnson as well. The former governor is less antiwar than Paul, leaving the door open to unspecified humanitarian interventions in an interview with the Weekly Standard. Johnson is also less anti-Federal Reserve: he joins Paul in calling for an audit of the central bank but not in proposing its abolition. For many libertarians and constitutional conservatives drawn to Paul, war and the Fed are the preeminent political issues of our time. Johnson has advocated a Steve Forbes-style flat tax, while Paul has joked he would go along if the tax rate was zero. Johnson said in April that he wouldn’t close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.