Gary Johnson, perceived front-runner for the Libertarian Party, announced today that he would choose former Massachusetts’s Governor Bill Weld as his Vice Presidential candidate. On paper, the move seems to make a lot of sense. Weld, like Johnson, is a former Republican who has long had a reputation for being a “libertarian,” having been a long standing supporter of abortion, gay marriage, and the legalization of marijuana. Unfortunately, also like Johnson, his grasp of libertarian principles is questionable outside these few social issues.
In 1993 economist Murray Rothbard noted Weld’s disappointing fiscal record in an article titled “Phony Libertarians”:
As Bill Weld increasingly becomes the darling of the Republican Left, his fiscal leftism, too, has now come out of the closet. Weld’s newly proposed budget for next year is a whopping $900 million increase over the current fiscal year, bringing the total up to $15.2 billion. Weld’s proposed big spending budget includes a $9 million increase on environmentalism (bringing the total up to $149 million), and no less than a $175 million hike in “human services, ” including day care, welfare, AIDS funding, and Medicare.
A 1996 article in City Journal also noted Weld’s abandonment of fiscal conservatism while serving as governor:
By January 1992, Weld had abandoned his oft-repeated vow to carve $1 billion from the budget. In his State of the State address that month, he proposed adding $1 billion instead. He boasted of multi-million-dollar “increases in several key programs” in his forthcoming fiscal 1993 spending plan. “As these examples illustrate,” he said, “we’re not against government spending. We don’t wish to dismantle government.”
Of course Johnson’s own fiscal record isn’t much better. As governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson oversaw a state budget that grew from $4.4 billion in 1995 to $7.3 billion by the time he left office in 2003.
Weld, who once called Newt Gingrich his “ideological soulmate,” has also had a long track record of supporting America’s international economic interventionism. Not only was he a vocal defender of NAFTA, he was a prominent supporter of the IMF-led bailout of Mexican during the 1994 peso crisis.
Of course, both of these positions seem odd from a man who considers himself a “libertarian.” As Congressman Ron Paul wrote a few years after the Mexican bailout:
Transferring wealth from one country to another, diluting the value of a stronger currency for the benefit of a poorer currency, can never rectify the serious harm done by decades of monetary mischief. Even if it does work on a temporary basis, like is claimed in Mexico, there are still economic victims. The taxpayer of the United States did not benefit by the Mexico bailout, the Mexican citizens certainly suffered a lot, and it has encouraged the policies that have given us the East Asia crises.
What may also interest Libertarian Party members is that prior to showing up on Gary Johnson’s radar, Weld was perhaps the only “libertarian” who was a vocal supporter of Jeb Bush during his earlier failed presidential bid. He also assisted George W. Bush’s campaign in 2004 before supporting Mitt Romney over Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012.
While it is true that having two former governors on its ticket may get the Libertarian Party some positive coverage in NPR, ideological libertarians within the party may have reason to be concerned by Johnson’s choice for Veep.