Tom Woods: Is Johnson/Weld a Good Ticket for the Libertarian Party?

From ATPR: Tom Woods is a prominent libertarian historian and author who spoke at the Libertarian Party national convention this past weekend. Video length, 32 minutes (H/T to IPR’s Andy Jacobs for the link):

27 thoughts on “Tom Woods: Is Johnson/Weld a Good Ticket for the Libertarian Party?

  1. Ed Rankin

    Tom, I can’t disagree too strongly with your points here. But, don’t you think the LP’s real problem is the dearth of qualified candidates? Not just at the national level, but at all levels down ticket?

  2. Steven Berson

    Oh well – just hit an absurd remark that made me have to pause this podcast ->
    Tom Woods: “the relatively peaceful 19th Century” – that’s somewhat of a pathetic statement coming from a supposed historian. The 19th Century was in no way “peaceful” – especially relative to the 20th Century when it comes to events on the North American continent.

    I do agree with Mr. Woods that Gary Johnson is at this point definitely not an optimal candidate for the LP Presidential ticket – although have to say all the other four “front runners” that made the final National Convention debate all had equal or greater down points to their candidacies – but for myself anyone that Tom Woods (or others that embrace the neo-feudalistic Rothbardian ‘privatize everything’ paleo-con version of libertarianism) would have supported whole heartedly would have been likely someone I personally would have found extremely mediocre candidate as well.

    As they say – the only candidate one will agree with 100% of the time is oneself. Still – It’s too bad at this point there is not enough support to have two strong yet contrasting “libertarian” political parties – one which could have its members all happily back a candidate like Darryl Perry who advocates in a debate for no recourse for justice against someone that provided hard drugs to your child except via vigilantism – and another which could have its members all happily back a “libertarian-ish pragmatic” centrist (of which even for that role you’d hope that there would be ultimately more articulate candidates available than just GJ).
    Oh well – I still think there are a number of LP candidates running for local office which deserve as strong support as anyone with a little or big “L” in their own personal descriptors can possibly provide – Mark Miller for Texas Railroad Commissioner being at the top of my own list –
    but as far as my non-significant Presidential vote goes I’m still trying to decide whether to vote for GJ as a way of showing growing momentum for the LP in general – or whether I should write-in Chris Keniston of the Veterans’ Party (even though I disagree with some of their platform points such as spending greater resources on “securing the border” and making English the official language)

    Hold on – just figured out the optimal candidate for fellow UItra-Radical Centrists:
    Zombie Calvin Coolidge 2016!!!

  3. itdoesntmattermuch

    I guess I missed the principled libertarian anarchist celebrity billionaires who were running. No one with a brain can consider Johnson optimal, but the pickings are slim. I think it’s better than Barr/Root or the protectionist social conservatives the “paleo-libertarians” were in love with in the 90s.

  4. T Rex

    As much as I like Woods (and agree with a number of his points here)…let’s get real. Even if Johnson ran on a platform identical to what is being described here, I strongly doubt Woods would support his candidacy.

    Darryl Perry DID run on a purist platform, and there wasn’t a peep (to the best of my knowledge) from the Lew Rockwell crowd about his candidacy. Do they want libertarianism or what? It seems like they just oppose all candidacies (except Ron Paul and Donald Trump) on principle. Which is fine, but it makes any critique of candidates meaningless.

  5. steve m

    Tom…. your a dollar and a day late to the Libertarian Party POTUS candidate selection debate.

  6. Tony From Long Island

    So Tom Woods makes the profound statement that Gary Johnson isn’t the most articulate guy around? We all already knew that. I am all for deep intellectual discussions about libertarian principles. I have a masters degree in humanities and consider myself rather intelligent. That being said, our POTUS candidate should be someone who can reach the most ears.

    For me, there was no other credible choice on that stage. Petersen was eliminated in my mind the moment he opened his mouth. He was a right-wing blowhard, spouting bumper sticker slogans. McAfee’s past (as well as his speaking style) were disqualifying in my mind. Perry (other than coming across as incredibly creepy to me) was a purist and could NEVER get my vote. When asked if he could name one good use of government he emphatically said “NO.” Really? Not one? I have nothing negative to say about Dr. Feldman, but he’s not someone I see as President of the United States.

    At the very least Governor Johnson has something that qualifies him for the job he seeks – positive governmental executive experience. As I’ve said before, no party will ever have their agenda completely implemented. Every party platform is just an “in a perfect world” scenario. However, Johnson is the only candidate that will push for smaller government policies to move our country in a more libertarian direction.

    If you nominate a candidate who has absolutely no chance of gaining media coverage, what’s the point? You get nowhere and the LP is used to that. If Johnson makes someone want to learn more about libertarianism then mission accomplished. The other candidates would reach people via C-SPAN and people who watch C-SPAN generally already have an idea of what libertarianism is. Though I will admit, I discovered the LP via C-SPAN in 1992.

    Do I wish Gov. Johnson was a better communicator? Of course, but no other candidate would have even had an opportunity to communicate!

  7. George Whitfield

    T Rex, you have made a valid point. I have read the Lew Rockwell blog daily for years because it has some interesting articles and is libertarian. But he has never backed a Presidential or any candidate before except for Ron Paul. So Tom Woods not endorsing Johnson and Weld is not a big surprise. Walter Block, another Lew Rockwell writer who had the Libertarians for Trump group, has now recommended that people vote for Gary Johnson in states where either Trump or Clinton have large leads over the other but to vote for Trump in states where it is close.

  8. steve m


    This ” but to vote for Trump in states where it is close.” presumes that the voter would rather have Trump then Clinton…. but polling data suggests that Johnson/Weld pulls as much if not more from Clinton leaning voters. Asking these voters to not only to not vote Johnson but to then not vote the direction they lean is well improbable…

    If Tom Woods were picking Trump over Clinton then he would be better off playing the odds suggesting that All likely Johnson/Weld voters vote Johnson/Weld as doing so improves Trumps chances.

  9. langa

    I know how you Johnson/Weld guys love your straw men, but I have seen no evidence that Tom Woods is a Trump supporter. (On the other hand, I haven’t heard him deny it, so it’s possible, I guess.)

    But even if he were, while that might make him a hypocrite, it wouldn’t make his criticisms of Johnson/Weld any less valid. And speaking of hypocrisy, since when is the lesser of 3 evils any better than the lesser of 2?

    It’s a sad day for the LP when our rallying cry is, “Hey, at least we’re more libertarian than Donald Trump!”

  10. Be Rational


    Of course the lesser of 3 evils is better than the lesser of 2, since you have obviously made the choice as to which is the lesser of the 3.

    With only 2, you could only exclude the worst and you had to choose someone you really hate, but you are able to exclude this 2nd bad option when you have 3 to choose from. This means that the 3rd option was better than the first two, even if it was the lesser of 3 evils, from your viewpoint.

  11. Robert capozzi

    L, first you have to define “evil” and then why GJ is so. And you would have to offer how much deviation you are willing to accept.

  12. Andy

    Yes, and pretty much none of the hardcore Libertarian stalwarts did not support Johnson/Weld at the convention, and the anti-Weld sentiment was especially high.

  13. Andy

    Should read, “pretty much none of the hardcore Libertarian stalwarts supported Johnson/Weld… “

  14. Ed Rankin

    You dont consider Bruce Fein, Bill Redpath, John Shuey and Gary Johnson (the one from Texas) to be stalwarts of the Party?

  15. Andy

    They may be stalwarts of the party, but they certainly are not the only stalwarts of the party, and they do not represent all of the hardcore Libertarians out there. I know lots of Libertarian stalwarts who did not support Johnson/Weld.

  16. langa

    BR and RC —

    A rhetorical question is a question that you ask without expecting an answer. The question might be one that does not have an answer. It might also be one that has an obvious answer but you have asked the question to make a point, to persuade or for literary effect.

    My point was that many LP members are now being hypocrites by making the argument that, “Look, our guys may not be great, but at least they’re not as bad as the other guys” — when they have (rightly, IMO) frequently criticized the Democrats and Republicans for making the exact same argument in the past.

  17. robert capozzi

    L: “Look, our guys may not be great, but at least they’re not as bad as the other guys”

    Me: “May not be great” is different than “evil.” As a political engine, this ticket is the most effective one available in promoting lessarchism, and probably is ALREADY the best noise machine the LP has fielded. GJ/WW only indirectly promotes NAPsterism.

    This is the first ticket that I could imagine could actually do the jobs they are applying for, and that were this ticket to serve 4 years, would actually improve the direction of politics in America–toward lessarchy. The presumptive R and D candidates will both likely degrade the situation further–toward morearchy.

    Politics is the art of the possible. The L ticket represents the first real political — as opposed to political theory — plausible offering the LP has put forth. (GJ 12 was hastily put together.)

    Is Johnson/Weld 100% optimized? No. No product ever is. Deal with it.

  18. Victor Levis

    I listened with interest to Mr. Woods’ message, and found it quite interesting. He admits that on several of the “hard” questions that Gary Johnson was posed, the purist libertarian answer is (according to Mr. Woods himself) at odds with 99.9% of the electorate. Again I repeat, those are HIS words, not mine.

    Expecting your candidate to state not once, but on SEVERAL issues, a position that is in opposition to where 99.9% of the voters currently are, is not political suicide, it is the equivalent of intellectual masturbation.

    I really thought that the Macho Flash approach to libertarianism, and all attempts to “CONVERT” people were a thing of the past. But NO, Mr. Woods is proud of the HANDFUL of people that he came across in his life and that he has “converted”. And yet…. and yet…. despite the heroic efforts of Mr. Woods and many other smart libertarians over decades, and the THOUSANDS of people who have been converted…… 99.9% of the population today STILL disagree with the most extreme positions of the so-called pure libertarians.

    I won’t be popular in some circles saying this, but maybe the “pure” position is not the right one to take?? And let’s not blame “public education” for that conclusion, but give our fellow man a bit more credit than that, even the ones, the LARGE number of ones…. who have not had a religious conversion.

    Maybe there are some TRADE-OFFS with respect to liberty. David Friedman for one, recognizes that, and he is an anarchist! Most libertarians accept some trade-offs and not others, and frankly, it is WEIRD. Libertarians are pretty unanimous in saying that if a person could stop a bullet aimed at them, they would be right to do so, even if it interferes with the property rights of the shooter whose bullet it is. I would guess that most libertarians are even ok with physically disarming the shooter at the point when he is only a potential shooter, and the percentage probability that he will actually shoot a bullet is less than 100%. Disarming the shooter may involve physical harm to him, but this harm is literally “outweighed” in the minds of the so-called PURE libertarian by the reduction in harm to the potential victim.

    And yet, when it comes to, for example, extremely dangerous manufacturing practices, ones that have a significant risk of injuring the employees in the course of their duties, the same “purist” libertarians almost unanimously reject regulation in favour of reacting after the metaphorical “bullet” is shot, or more likely, after the victims are injured or dead.

    It is very, very hard not to conclude that the reason that our so-called libertarian leaders and stalwarts are ok with enjoining the gunman, but not the business owner, is because their prejudice in favour of business owners is what is extreme and out of touch with 99.9% of the population.

    Same thing with the Civil Rights Act issue. On this one, it is actually NOT TRUE that 99.9% of the population would vote for the Civil Rights Act today. Not only are there the 0.1% of the pure libertarians out there, but also the 10% who are bigoted haters of Blacks.

    Now, think about that REALLY CAREFULLY. Why would a politician who favours liberty, and who grounds his position in the inherent worth of every individual, consciously and intentionally put himself into a group where he and like-minded individuals represent only 1% of the total number of people who support the “pure liberty” position.

    If one was not blinded by religious zeal and a strong psychological need to feel that one’s long-ago “conversion” to libertarianism was and still is the right move, one might wonder why 99% of the people who agree with you on opposing the Civil Rights Act are terrible, hateful people who come from a position diametrically opposed to the one that respects the inherent worth of every individual.

    Maybe the 90% of good-hearted people believe that the parts of the Civil RIghts Act that forbid discrimination in housing and employment are, in terms of harm and reduction of liberty, essentially the moral equivalent of disarming a gunman before he shoots: yes, it is a violation of liberty of some to do whatever they want, but the harm is outweighed by the value in eliminating the harm that comes to others by such behavior. And YES, it is harmful to have trouble finding a job, or a person willing to rent you a home, for no other reason than the colour of your skin, your sexual orientation, your religion, or your gender – things you cannot control but that should not prevent you from being seen as a full-fledged citizen, and not 3/5 of one.

    We could debate this and other positions at length, and I actually enjoy trying to show libertarian-leaning individuals how to improve our everyday lives by enacting libertarian reforms, but that’s enough for me, for now.

    My thoughts humbly submitted, in good faith.

    Victor Levis
    Former Leader, Libertarian Party of Canada (1983-1987)

  19. Be Rational

    “My point was that many LP members are now being hypocrites by making the argument that, “Look, our guys may not be great, but at least they’re not as bad as the other guys” — when they have (rightly, IMO) frequently criticized the Democrats and Republicans for making the exact same argument in the past.”


    Your strawman argument here is an example of hypocracy, but I haven’t heard anyone make that statement.


    I thnk Johnson and Weld are both real Libertarians.

    True, the are not radical, NAP, Libertarians like me, but they are genuine, small government Libertarians. They want to move the country toward freedom. Although the odds are against us finding out, I believe that the country would be much better off and that we would move in the direction of freedom for the next 4 years were they to win this election.

    Johnson/Weld is the most electable ticket the LP has ever nominated. Not the purest L team, but the most electable.

    America needs us this year. This time we have a duty to provide a team to actually take office. The candidates the 2 big parties are on the verge of nominating are truly evil (sorry RC but I think we know what evil is and that these two fit the bill). If the people wake up, we have a chance to lead and save our nation.

  20. Andy

    Weld is not a libertarian at all. No libertarian would sign a letter asking Congress to renew sections of the PATRIOT Act that were set to expire. No libertarian would claim that the 2nd amendment was about hunting, and support multiple restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms. No libertarian would endorse George W. Bush, Barrack Obama, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich for President.

  21. T Rex

    Victor Lewis makes a really good point on the Civil Rights Act. While the purist libertarian position *is* that people should be free to discriminate, it is extremely stupid and counterproductive to emphasize this issue on the campaign trail. Rand Paul got himself into hot water by doing that a few years ago. He pushed the issue for no good reason, then backpedaled when Rachel Maddow called him out on it.

    Do we as Libertarians really want our media exposure/interviews to turn into discussion of Jim Crow laws? I have plenty of criticisms of Johnson but he was smart not to wade into that sewer. His answer on driver’s licenses also made sense. Even if you are 100% anarcho-capitalist, private road owners would likely require privately issues certifications/licenses to protect their customers.

    The real problem with Johnson is that he is our own Jeb Bush…too low-energy and underwhelming.

  22. Be Rational

    Andy, I think it is possible to be a Libertarian without being a 100% pure Libertarian. Further, I doubt that you would fit my definition of a 100% pure Libertarian.

    If you want everyone to be 100% pure according to your tems, you will be in a party of 1.

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