Will Americans Discover Their “Inner Libertarian”?

Will Americans Discover Their “Inner Libertarian”?

The Libertarian Party, with its focus on small government, “actually represents most people in this country, but they just don’t know that they’re Libertarian,” the party’s presidential nominee, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, said on Monday, rejecting a question from a Fox News anchor over whether his 10 percent ranking in the nation’s polls is because he favors legalizing marijuana.

“Oh, no way,” Johnson told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” program. “I’m fiscally conservative. I’m the small government guy.“

I like Gary Johnson a great deal. But I’m not sure I agree. Most Americans are libertarian – until they’re not. When asked if people should be permitted to smoke marijuana, or choose the adult romantic partner of their choice, most will probably say yes. When asked if America should stay out of pointless, nation-building wars like Iraq or Vietnam, most will probably say yes.

But when the rubber hits the road, and it comes time to cut or privatize programs like Social Security and Medicare – or any government programs, for that matter – it’s a whole different story. Senator Ted Cruz, for example, wanted to shut down the EPA and the IRS. We see how far he got, even in a primary for Republicans. Even the more liberal Donald Trump says he wants to shut down the EPA and the federal Department of Education. If he wins and means it, how many will support him? Not many, is my guess.

Small government people like myself, and Gary Johnson, will be quick to criticize the “establishment” Republicrats in Washington for their unwillingness to cut any government programs or confront the problems with unsustainable “entitlement” programs like Medicare and Social Security. But we have to be honest. The establishment career politicians exist for a reason; because they represent the established point-of-view. Less government in the abstract? “Sure.” Cut any actual program? “No way! Somebody might need that; I might need that. Tamper with Social Security and Medicare? Are you crazy?”

Says Johnson: “So we are two governors that have curved in heavily blue states as Republicans. We’re small government guys, but we’re also socially liberal. And I think that’s the makeup of most people in this country.”

I know what he’s saying. Sometimes people will ask if I’m a Republican, when it comes up in conversation that I detest Obama or Hillary Clinton. They’re horrified, because they think this means I support things like the Moral Majority or the Bible thumpers who want church and state more closely integrated. That’s when I say, “I’m a small ‘l’ libertarian, politically; government away from my bank account, off my body and out of my bedroom.” And yes, outside of the woman’s uterus too.

What bothers me about most libertarians is their extension of small government principles to the area of defense. I don’t want a small government when it comes to defense. No, I don’t want wasteful spending at the Pentagon, and I don’t want nation-building wars like Iraq or Vietnam. But I do want a military big and strong enough to win the Cold War and to defeat Islamofascism. That costs money and that requires weaponry – the most innovative and gigantic military we can build. What usually draws me towards Republicans, in the end, is their emphasis on defense, particularly if it’s the Reaganesque “peace-through-strength” version rather than the George W. Bush “we-will-take-over-the world-via-boots-on-the-ground” version.

Gary Johnson netted about 1 percent of the popular vote in 2012 as the Libertarian nominee, but is now polling at 10 percent, according to a Fox News poll, most likely reflecting the unfavorable rankings Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have among voters.

Johnson said that he is a viable alternative because Libertarians are “kind of the best of both parties or at least what parties are supposed to be about.”

“Aren’t Republicans supposed to be about small government?” Johnson said. “Aren’t Democrats supposed to be about civil liberties, people being able to make choices in their own lives as long as those choices doesn’t adversely affect others?”

But that’s the problem. I don’t think most people want small government, not if “small government” means no (or less) Social Security or Medicare. Let’s face it. The massive budget deficit and debt will not go anywhere without phasing out Social Security and Medicare. Those programs take in way less than they pay out, and are responsible for the government’s bankruptcy. Americans of the future – today’s 20-somethings – will be far better off finding ways to meet their needs in the private marketplace spawned by the phase out of these Communist-lite programs bankrupting America. Most importantly, with government out of health care and retirement, it will have less excuse to interfere in our private lives for the sake of saving money on such programs.

If Gary Johnson campaigns on phasing out Social Security and Medicare (the programs will die anyway, eventually), he will be lucky to get 10 percent of the vote. America is not ready for it. I don’t know when or if it will ever be. But I do know the day of reckoning will come, when people discover you cannot spend and borrow into infinity without any economic consequence.

Sure, most Americans might have an “inner Libertarian.” But they won’t get in touch with it, not when they realize the personal responsibility and honesty it requires. We had two terms of “President Obama” for a reason, after all.

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