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Jews should support Libertarian candidates
September 30th, 2012
I’m asked this question all the time: “Why do you vote for Libertarian Party candidates when they have no chance of winning?”
Over the years I’ve learned to keep my response simple: “Because I have to vote my conscience.”
My vote is my voice and I must express what I believe is right and principled. Therefore, I am supporting the Libertarian candidate for president, former Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson.
A bit of background on Gary Johnson: He was known as “Governor Veto” because he vetoed half of the bills submitted to him in his first six months as governor, setting state and national records for the use of his veto powers. This eliminated the state budget’s annual 10% growth rate. His second term concentrated on school voucher reforms and the decriminalization of marijuana. Because of term limits he did not run for a third time.
Below are his positions on what I consider the most important issues for the coming election — and ones that I think have some significant implications for the Jewish community.
While running as a Republican, Johnson stated that he “supports the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign country and believes that the United States should protect that right militarily if needed” (“Defense and the Middle East War” Jan 13, 2010).
While libertarians do not seek to cut foreign aid to Israel specifically, but rather to cut foreign aid to everybody the U.S. currently supports abroad, they do believe that this would benefit Israel in the long run. Libertarians understand that such independence from the U.S. would return Israel to two important values of the Jewish liberation movement: Jewish independence and Jewish self-reliance.
Furthermore, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also believes in the importance of Israel’s independence and self-reliance — values that Libertarians insist are crucial to the Jewish nation.
Said Netanyahu in his 2011 address to the U.S. congress, “My friends, you don’t have to-you don’t need to do nation-building in Israel. We’re already built. You don’t need to export democracy to Israel. We’ve already got it. And you don’t need to send American troops to Israel. We defend ourselves.”
One of the earliest proponents of freedom of conscience and separation of church and state was the Jewish-born philosopher Baruch Spinoza. He believed that it was anathema for the state to demand obedience to religious beliefs.
For Spinoza, reason alone, not law could lead to spiritual beliefs. He wrote: “It is an absolute fact that nobody can be constrained to a state of blessedness by force or law; to this end one needs godly and brotherly exhortation, a good upbringing, and most of all, a judgment that is independent and free” (“A Theological-Political Treatise,” 1670).
The long tradition of the separation (Thomas Jefferson called this a “wall”) of religious and secular beliefs is carried on today by Libertarians. Johnson has said that the government must be neutral on personal beliefs:
“We are a nation of many peoples and beliefs. The only way to respect all citizens is to allow each to make personal decisions themselves.
“So, for example, government should not impose its values upon marriage. It should allow marriage equality, including gay marriage. And it should protect the rights of religious organizations to follow their beliefs” (Press release, Jan. 13, 2010).
Johnson, like all Libertarians, supports free markets and free-market capitalist economics. He believes government should foster the free market by allowing businesses freedom to compete without restrictions.
He opposes government subsidies to business. He believes government is ill suited to “pick winners and losers.” That is the consumer’s job, not the government’s. Thus, a free market would allow businesses to be built without onerous government regulations and taxes.
In 1999, while he was governor of New Mexico, Johnson proposed creating the first statewide voucher system in America. It would have enrolled 100,000 pupils in its first year. (Milwaukee’s voucher program, on the other hand, only served 22,000 students in 2011, according to Education Next, Sept. 7, 2011.) In the end, however, Johnson’s proposal was defeated.
Furthermore, Johnson continues to be a strong opponent of the “No Child Left Behind Act” which he has said leads to a more “homogenous” national education system. He favors decentralization and diversity in education.
For Jews, it is particularly disappointing that a voucher program (at least so far) has not been more widely embraced. As a result, the onerous cost of private school tuition prevents low income and middle class families from sending their children to schools of their choice, including Jewish schools.
Deborah Katz Hunt has lived in Wisconsin since 1984. She works as an Administrative Associate for the Wisconsin Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has been active in the Libertarian Party since 1982.