Former New Mexico Governor and current presidential candidate Gary Johnson spoke today at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.
Johnson is running for the Republican nomination and it appears it will be a very uphill battle for him. He told us he didn't have the money to enter the Iowa straw poll and is focusing all his efforts on New Hampshire.
Many beltarians are advancing the idea that Johnson is the next Ron Paul. Judging from his performance today, Johnson has a long way to go to become even Ron Paul-lite. Near the start of the speech, he told the small audience (under 100) in the small room that he applauds Ron Paul for bringing attention to the Federal Reserve. But that wasn't the only time Ron Paul's name came up. Before Johnson was even introduced to speak, there was an animated conversation about Dr. Paul at what was designated the Johnson "Campaign Table". The discussion was about how right Jon Stewart was about Ron Paul not getting enough attention.
During his speech Johnson took a couple of detours from what Ron Paul likely would be in favor of. Johnson said that he believed that global warming was occurring and that it was man made. He said he was for The Fair Tax (a kind of national sales tax) to replace the income tax. He said he was for the legalization of marijuana, but didn't mention other drugs. He did say that after legalizing marijuana he would want to control and tax it. He did say with a straight face that the sun was growing and that in billions of years the sun would encompass the earth and implied that things needed to be done. The moderator looked as confused as the rest of us.
Unlike Ron Paul, Johnson is not in favor of a default by the Treasury. He said that if he were dictator, he would pay Treasury interest and debt obligations.
He said he wasn't focused on ending the Fed because he said if the Fed were closed down it would just result in the Treasury printing money.
He spent a lot of time discussing the debt and how dangerous it is going to become when the Fed has to buy all the debt. He predicted a bond market collapse, but did not mention at all the distortions in the business cycle that are caused by the Fed.
After his speech, I got in a couple of quick questions to see how hard core he is compared to Ron Paul. I asked him if he was in favor of a gold standard. He said. "Yes."
I asked him if he was in favor of the legalization of heroin, which of course Ron Paul is. He said, "No," that "marijuana is a big enough step."
Then came the biggie. During his speech, he talked about the debt and the Federal Reserve's role in buying the debt, but not once did Johnson mention the role the Fed has in causing the business cycle, so I threw him a curve ball question about the business cycle to see how familiar he was with Austrian Business Cycle Theory. I asked him, "How do you think the Fed is most dangerous, simply by the amount of debt they buy or because of the business cycle and malinvestments they create?"
Now anyone familiar with Austrian theory is going to jump at the word malinvestments, the way a dog is going to jump at meat on a bone. It is insider talk that tells the knowing you are talking about Austrian Business Cycle Theory. But Johnson missed it completely. He stopped for a second and knew something was up with my use of the term "malinvestments." He repeated the word outloud, but had no idea it had anything to do with the causation of the business cycle.
He started to talk about how we needed more transparency as to where the Fed invests and he thereby failed the test as to whether he understood business cycle theory. He doesn't.
I shook his hand,wished him luck, in the way you wish luck to someone you know has no chance, and headed for the elevator.
Johnson appears to be a decent enough guy, but his knowledge of economics, of monetary policy, of the Federal Reserve and the role of freedom in society are nowhere near the understanding that Ron Paul has on these topics, or for that matter most of you who regularly read EPJ, Lew Rockwell and the Mises Institute.
At the end of the formal question and answer session, the moderator asked Johnson how he would compare himself to the other presidents who were named Johnson. He said his policies would be the exact opposite of those of Lyndon Baines Johnson and that's a good thing. But that's about the only good thing you can say about Gary Johnson at this time. He has a rough understanding of liberty and wants to go in that direction, but, as president, because of his limited understanding of liberty, betting on him is like betting at a roulette wheel, you just never know where his view is going to be on any given issue. A vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for libertarian roulette. A Gary Johnson presidency could result at anytime in a libertarian-lite spot, but, sad to say, on some issues could land in coercion slot.