Toleration, Social Justice


Think nothing can be done? Vote for Gary Johnson. Let’s work on getting moralistic and paternalistic laws off the books so that there is less policing in the first place. No, this isn’t easy, but changing federal law (POTUS doesn’t do this directly, but can have an affect) and having a SCOTUS that will take seriously protecting individuals from bad state law may be the best way to start.

Consider the following very-possible case: police pull over a car because they can see that neither the driver nor the passenger is wearing a seatbelt and in this jurisdiction, seatbelts are required and failure to wear them is sufficient for a stop.  (Driver’s and passenger’s first charges.)  The passenger happens to smell of marijuana smoke.  Now there is probable cause to search the car.  The passenger resists.  (Passenger’s second charge.)  Officer finds 3 ounces of marijuana and some plastic bags.  (Driver’s second and passenger’s third charge: possession with intent to distribute.)  Officer finds a gun under driver’s seat.  Driver has legal right to this gun (licensed, etc).  (Driver’s third charge: possession of firearm during the commission of a felony, that being the possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.)  Isn’t it clear that things in this situation can get heated?

Imagine being a business person on your way to deliver a good to your customer and then being pulled over as the two people in that example were.  Wouldn’t you be annoyed?  Assume you start out cooperative.  As the officer that pulls you over starts charging you with various crimes that have nothing to do with harming anyone and that seem … well …. contrived, wouldn’t you get upset?  You couldn’t be charged with illegally having a firearm, for example, but for the fact that you were delivering the harmless good to your customer.  You get upset.  The police officer gets upset because you get upset.  This seems like a pretty clear recipe for further problems.

Having a libertarian that wants to rid the country of moralistic and paternalistic laws seems like a path to solving the problems.  Johnson has not come down as firmly on these issues as I would like (his response to the question about hard drugs on the CNN “town hall” was much weaker then it could and should have been), but he is at least for decriminalizing marijuana and might be open to discussing more.  And he is clearly more likely to agree with Justice Sotomayor about the problem of the carceral state then Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. (See her dissenting opinion in Utah v. Strieff.)

So let me suggest again: Vote libertarian!


  1. Peter suggested I add these:

GaryJohnson2 GaryJohnson1

2. I saw these related pieces, well worth reading, after I put up this post: Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic, Jack Hitt at Mother Jones, and perhaps less to the liking of our readers, José Martín at Rolling Stone.

3. Finally, take a look at this Guardian piece.  Imagine, as Steve Horwitz did, that “the two major US political parties were the Libertarians and the Greens.”

OH, and this from the LP.

  • Theresa Klein

    I don’t think you need to make this complex of an argument to vote for Johnson. Personally, I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Trump or Clinton, so neither of those is an option.

  • Jerome Bigge

    The police are “agents of government” in every country on Earth. Most laws in existence today violate the basic principles of libertarian society in that these laws have little or nothing to do with aggression against people or property, or activities that fall under the category of fraud or endangerment to others. No drug law, no seat belt law meets these standards. Nor does possession of firearms, pornography, or acts of prostitution. Or local ordinances such as the allowed height of grass in your yard.

    Political officials who pass these laws are committing aggression against others who have done nothing but mind their own business.

  • Jason Brennan

    Electing Johnson would probably do some good. Having him get enough votes to change the outcome of the election might help a bit. But of course my individual vote for him (or anyone else) won’t do any good.

    • jdkolassa

      Except ballot access laws are based on raw vote numbers or percentages of the total vote, and that would greatly ease getting onto the ballot and getting libertarian views out there in the future, and even possibly win elections, so yes, your vote would do some good.

    • LLC

      there are a bunch of Brits who didn’t really want to Brexit, but who voted for it as a protest, thinking it wasn’t possible anyway. Seems like their votes counted.

      • urstoff

        No, individually, their votes still wouldn’t have done anything.

        • LLC

          Perhaps not, taken singly. But in aggregate, they count for a lot. That’s how voting works. And there have been races/issues which have been decided by surprisingly few votes.

          • urstoff

            The fact that elections are won by an aggregate of votes doesn’t mean a single particular individual’s vote has any effect, which is what I take Jason to mean by “doing any good”.

            Besides, apathy is good if it filters out low information voters. I fear that it filters out low-ideology voters instead, however, which might not correlate with the ignorance of the voter. Bryan Caplan no doubt has some data on this.

          • LLC

            Clearly, we’re not going to agree about the value of a vote. But, we do, at least, appear to agree on the susceptibility of ideological voters to conformational and other sorts of biases, whatever their IQ otherwise.

  • Adam Bowers

    I’m not voting *for* anyone this Presidential cycle, but I am voting *against* Trump.