Usually described as a libertarian, Johnson comes across as more of a pragmatist than an ideologue. Whereas the other Republican candidate he most resembles, Ron Paul, often argues from first principles and invokes the Constitution, Johnson is more likely to discuss a policy in terms of its cost-benefit ratio. Thus, he supports marijuana legalization not so much as a matter of personal liberty but as a matter of putting a stop to wasteful, counterproductive spending. Likewise, his foreign policy, while nearly as noninterventionist as Paul’s, is predicated less on a belief in minding our own business than on the fact that intervention is expensive.
Still, given the chance, Johnson can take stands on principle, such as opposing the Patriot Act and demanding an end to the torture of prisoners. His principles and his record were strong enough to spark a movement within the Libertarian Party to draft him as its candidate for President in 2000; Johnson declined.
Because Johnson tends to view policy decisions through the prism of costs versus benefits, his positions on fiscal and economic issues are among his strongest. Says his website: “The U.S. is borrowing or printing more than 40 cents of every dollar the government spends today. The math is simple: Federal spending must be cut not by millions or billions, but by trillions. And it must be done today.”
Johnson calls for “restrain[ing] spending across the board”: eliminating stimulus programs, earmarks, and subsidies; reforming entitlement programs; repealing ObamaCare and the Medicare prescription drug benefit; ending the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan; and reducing defense spending to what is actually needed to protect the United States.
He also takes a hard line against Federal Reserve monetary manipulation, calling for an audit and congressional oversight of the Fed and for getting the Fed “out of the business of printing money and buying debt through quantitative easing.” However, he stops short of demanding the abolition of the Fed.
On foreign policy Johnson sounds a strong noninterventionist note: “All military activities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and, now, Libya should end, our troops returned home, and the focus of our foreign policy reoriented toward the protection of U.S. citizens and interests.” Here the Constitution even gets a mention as Johnson alludes to its mandate that Congress declare war before the President may deploy troops. He also suggests a rethinking of Cold War-era troop deployments, including NATO, where the United States still shoulders much of the burden for other nations’ defenses. He opposes torture, says “individuals incarcerated unjustly by the U.S. should have the ability to seek compensation through the courts,” and maintains that detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere “must be given due process via the courts or military tribunals, and must not be held indefinitely without regard to those fundamental processes.”
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