From the Horowitz report, it seems like Johnson is getting the libertarian buzz phrases down, but I just can't help but think of him as a lightweight being fed information intravenously by handlers, a la Sarah Palin. The buzz phrases about libertarianism weren't there early on.
And some of the buzz phrases, indicate he is still a lightweight when understanding how the economy and society works. He doesn't, for example, get Hayek.
What I liked was that he was invoking the idea of unintended consequences quite a bit in talking about how what we think are good ideas usually backfire.But this is the pedestrian view of unintended consequences, that legislation can backfire. It is a very simple version and it ignores the much more insightful and important manner in which Hayek uses the term. As I have written:
What Hayek means by unintended consequences is not an idea based on the errors caused by misunderstanding reality [for example in legislation], but that consequences arise which are not the conscious plan of anyone. No one, for example, set out to create money. Money developed as the unintended consequence of many separate human actions. Language, in the same way, did not develop by someone drawing up all the words and the rules of grammar. The development of language was an unintended consequence of many separate human actions.Hayek's meaning is not about poorly constructed legislation, where all the ramifications have not been thought out, it is about major societal structures that have emerged without any central planning, indeed any planning at all.
If Johnson really wanted to impress the libertarians on the conference call, he would have at least acknowledged Hayek's deeper sense in which he used the phrase, instead of sticking with the very surface manner in which mainstream political columnists use the phrase. Johnson's use is not incorrect, but it fails to get at Hayek's deeper point that central planning is not necessary for some pretty serious societal developments, e.g. money and language.
Once one realizes what Hayek teaches, it can be much easier to understand why central planning may not be needed. Whereas, Johnson's warning on legislation that is not completely thought out may result in other type thinking, such as A. we better do a better job of thinking out legislation or B. there might be unintended consequences of legislation, so we better be ready to go back and modify legislation once it is passed because we have may have initially not anticipated all the consequences.
Indeed, the B type thinking may result in even greater government control, which is behind the warning from Ludwig von Mises that there is no middle ground between free markets and central planning. For if one thinks of initial legislation as something that has simply not been properly thought out, then it becomes easy to jump to the dangerous conclusion that the legislation needs to simply be modified. For example, legislation may be introduced to limit price increases during a period of price inflation, but this will cause shortages. This might be followed by modifying legislation that rations goods, and then legislation to form a police force to monitor the rationing, and so on.
The greater emphasis should be on the manner Hayek uses the phrase unintended consequences because it points at a much more insightful and important lesson on how a free market order can emerge without any conscious planning. Given Johnson's comments, he does not appear to get this and thus he promotes the more pedestrian view, which could lead to even more mis-directed central planning.
Horowitz also tells us that Johnson:
....also talked about how he applied cost-benefit analysis to a variety of regulations while governor and that he would bring that mindset if he were electedHow Johnson thinks a cost-benefit analysis plays any role in a libertarian society is completely baffling. As Murray Rothbard taught, there is no measure of the "social costs" that is comparable to to the costs an individual faces, and thus the entire concept of cost-benefit analysis is erroneous when it is applied to society at large:
....there is the grave fallacy in the very concept of "social cost," or of cost as applied to more than one person. For one thing, if ends clash, and one man's product is another man's detriment, costs cannot be added up across these individuals. But second, and more deeply, costs, as Austrians have pointed out for a century, are subjective to the individual, and therefore can neither be measured quantitatively nor, a fortiori, can they be added or compared among individuals. But if costs, like utilities, are subjective, nonadditive, and noncomparable, then of course any concept of social costs, including transaction costs, becomes meaningless. And third, even within each individual, costs are not objective or observable by any external observer...It should always be about ethical principles for the libertarian and not about some meaningless cost benefit analysis for society. As Rothbard writes:
I conclude that we cannot decide on public policy, tort law, rights, or liabilities on the basis of efficiencies or minimizing of costs. But if not costs or efficiency, then what? The answer is that only ethical principles can serve as criteria for our decisionsJohnson does not, as evidenced by his call for cost-benefit analysis in government, get this. It's a slippery slope Johnson has placed himself on, where one can see all kinds of imagined societal benefits that need to be acted on. In the end this is central planning and as far as you can get from being a principled libertarian.