Gary Johnson: Balancer of Budgets, Scaler of Summits

HeadCount does not endorse, support or coordinate with any candidates or political campaigns. Our mission is to inform voters and encourage political participation. To that end, we will be publishing this and other profiles of third party candidates running for office this November. The purpose of this piece is to offer voters the broadest possible view of their choices, while giving members of our community a forum to express their viewpoints. The opinions reflected in this piece are that of the author, and do not represent the views of HeadCount, its staff or board of directors.

Now that Ron Paul has officially lost the Republican nomination to Mitt Romney, many of his supporters are turning their attention to another candidate who carries the torch of liberty. That candidate is Gary Johnson, the Republican-turned-Libertarian former Governor of New Mexico. While Paulites across the country are certainly sad to see their guy go, Johnson has one thing that Paul does not - a place on the ballot.
Johnson first entered the political arena back in 1994, when he was elected Governor of New Mexico. Despite having no prior experience with politics, Johnson left office in 2002 with a balanced budget after presiding over a period of substantial economic growth. He also earned the nickname “Governor Veto”, due to the fact that he used his veto power more than the state’s previous 49 governors combined.

In 2011 Johnson launched his campaign for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, but his candidacy was ignored by much of the media (he was excluded from many of the debates) and he failed to garner much support within that party. After ending his bid with the GOP in November, Johnson reappeared as the Libertarian Party’s nominee for President.

Johnson - like many Republicans these days - has found himself more ideologically at home with the Libertarians than the GOP. The Libertarian Party maintains a fiscally conservative platform that is unburdened by some of the more reactionary positions that the Republicans have been pushing. For Libertarians, social democracy and social conservatism are just two sides of the same big government coin. The same principles that lead them to believe the state has no business regulating the economy also lead them to believe that the state has no business regulating who people can and cannot marry. It’s a brand of politics that has won over voters on both sides of the “left-right” political spectrum.

On top of all this, there's the rather interesting fact that Gary Johnson is kind of a badass.   He competes in Iron Man Triathlons. He has climbed to the summits of Mt. Everest, Mt. McKinley and Mt. Kilimanjaro. He ran 100 miles through the Rocky Mountains in 30 hours. He became a user of medicinal marijuana - after breaking his back in a paragliding accident. When he isn't busy being the most adventurous presidential candidate since Teddy Roosevelt, Johnson still manages to fulfill his duties as a member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy's Advisory Council. These are the things he does with his spare time.

However it must be said that - while these feats are certainly a testament to Johnson's physical prowess and general awesomeness - they're probably not solid reasons for supporting him politically. So where does Gary Johnson stand on the issues? Let’s find out:

Government Spending

If elected, Johnson vows to submit a balanced budget his first year in office. He would do this by ending most business subsidies, cutting earmarks, ending stimulus programs, making drastic cuts to entitlement programs and slashing the military budget. Johnson would repeal Obama’s healthcare law, along with George W. Bush’s prescription drug expansion of Medicare. Johnson would set social security payments based on inflation instead of wage growth in order to lower their cost over time.

As is the case with many Libertarians, Johnson has called for greater transparency on the part of the Federal Reserve. As President, he would do his best to make sure that the Fed was held to the “same level of scrutiny as any other federal department”. This means that the Fed would be audited regularly and would be subject to Congressional oversight - something that currently does not happen.

Johnson would also put a stop to all types of federal government bailouts. This would mean no making loans to banks, no taking over auto companies and no “quantitative easing”.


Gary Johnson supports dismantling the Internal Revenue Service and replacing our tax code with a Fair Tax system. This would simplify the tax code by creating a high national sales tax that would be applied to everyone in the same way. According to Johnson, this would tax consumption without burdening businesses and families unnecessarily.

Foreign Policy and the Military

As President, Gary Johnson would push for an immediate withdrawal of the U.S. military from Afghanistan. He would also reevaluate the need for expansive military bases in Europe and other parts of the world, and he has proposed cutting the military’s budget by as much as 43%. Johnson would also make use of America’s allies whenever possible, so we wouldn't get involved in the affairs of other countries unless absolutely necessary. Johnson would also make sure that no one captured by the United States would ever be subjected to physical or psychological torture, and he would insist that judicial due process be given to all prisoners of war or “enemy combatants” in our custody.

Civil Liberties

Gary Johnson has called for the immediate repeal of the Patriot Act and other unconstitutional surveillance laws. Johnson believes that all women have the right to make choices about their own bodies, including whether or not to have an abortion. He also believes that the government should not be able to stop two people of the same sex from marrying. While Johnson believes that stem cell research should not be restricted in any way, he does not believe the federal government should be funding it.

Drug Policy

Johnson is very much opposed to the War on Drugs, which he sees as an unconstitutional affront to liberty as well as an abysmal failure of policy. Johnson supports the immediate legalization and taxation of marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. He also believes that drug abuse should be treated as a public health issue, not a criminal justice issue. He would follow the example set by Portugal in making “harm reduction” the focus of his drug policy.


Gary Johnson has proposed making the immigration process easier and more efficient. He believes that potential immigrants should be issued a work visa immediately after completing a background check. He would also give immigrants who are currently in the country illegally a two year grace period, during which they could acquire legal work visas and begin contributing to American society openly.


Gary Johnson would get rid of the Department of Education and allow states to control their education systems themselves. He has also supported voucher programs that would give parents a stipend with which to send their children to private school if they choose to opt out of the public school system.

Gary Johnson has reached the summit of Mount Everest, but it’s our entrenched two party system that will most likely prove insurmountable for him. Nevertheless, the man has a stellar record of public service and his campaign is discussing issues that aren’t even on the radar for most of our mainstream politicians. It’ll be interesting to see if he ends up playing spoiler for Romney in any of the swing states - though some would argue his mix of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism makes him equally capable of stealing votes from the Democrats.

Gary Johnson is one of many choices that voters who are fed up with choosing between the "lesser of two evils" will have this November. To learn more about your alternatives to the two major parties check out this list of independent and third party candidates.