Governor Gary E. Johnson has been called the next Ron Paul. He has not yet announced his candidacy for president, but has been widely mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate who reflects the Tea Party’s and liberty Republicans’ perspectives.
I recently blogged about Governor Johnson’s background. He received good grades from the Cato Institute when he was governor and has a taste for honesty that is rare in politics and business today.
Besides serving as governor of New Mexico for two terms, he had built a significant corporation from scratch, which he sold in 1999. Readers who would like to contribute or help Governor Johnson can find contact information on http://ouramericainitiative.com/. He also has a Facebook group page with 2,000 members.
Langbert: Governor Johnson, it is a privilege to interview you. I teach business administration at Brooklyn College. What are three things that you learned from your business career that could be applied to the federal government or that you did apply as governor of New Mexico?
Johnson: I started my company in 1974 and I was the only employee. In 1994 we had 1,000 employees. Things that I learned and applied as governor include the importance of hiring good people; cutting mistakes short; and sticking to basic principles.
I’m good at hiring people and have a great track record. But mistakes are inevitable. When you make a mistake in hiring, you need to cut it short. As governor, I avoided political appointments as much as possible. There was one instance where I was forced to make one, and I closely monitored the individual’s performance.
The obvious things are most important. The basic principles: being on time, sticking to principles, telling people to tell the truth. As governor, I sat down in cabinet meetings and I told people to tell the truth.
L: One of the realities of large organizations is the use of information to manage conflict and improve social compatibility and coordination. Managers call these patterns interpersonal skills. Might not 100% truth telling interfere with interpersonal skills? Of course, if everyone in industry tells the truth, costs and performance will be improved.
J: On the contrary, being honest 100% of the time makes it easy. If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. What you’re talking about is managing conflict. Someone once said that honesty is where what you say and what you think are the same as what you do. But of course you can say things that minimize conflict.
L: To what degree is it possible to cut the federal budget? How would you go about cutting?
J: I faced the same situation in New Mexico as the president faces. I could have cut big government in New Mexico drastically and no one would have noticed. (That is, these government employees produce no value for the economy.) The spending train is out of control. But the Democratic legislature fought me and the courts handed down adverse rulings. The legislature was 2 to 1 Democratic. Common sense has gone out the window. First you have to stop the spending. The time is ripe for doing so in Washington, and it’s accomplishable.
We are a bankrupt nation. We’re not taking care of our own house. Unlike the generation before us, interest and principle payments are due now. The enormous budget deficits will lead to inflation and an ever weaker dollar.
L: What is your position on the bailout and TARP?
J: I would have opposed both. Government should not have been involved in this. The Paulson connection amounts to this being an inside job. Why should Goldman and AIG be saved but not Lehman?
L: What is your position on health reform? How would you recommend the system control health costs?
J: I would recommend a free market approach to health care reform. Increase supply through the free market. Gall Bladders R Us. We ended up with an insurance entitlement rather than health care. Extending the current approach will lead to shortages and rationing health care.
The same principle applies to education. We should blow the lid off publicly controlled education.
L: What is your position on the Fed and the gold standard?
J: The Federal Reserve deserves full responsibility for the housing bubble and as well deserves credit for mitigating the bust. Overriding that, the dollar is now worth a nickel. I understand the arguments for a free market in money and I support them. I shy away from the phrase “regulate the Fed” because I do not want Barney Frank deciding monetary policy. I wouldn’t say the Fed needs to be abolished. I understand the argument for a gold standard, though. The US government should be pursuing a strong dollar policy, which the Fed hasn’t done.
L: What is your position on the Middle East and Israel?
J: I’ve been to Israel and the Golan Heights and I understand the threats Israel faces from outside and within. I can’t summarize my position as the issues are too complex. I do believe in a strong national defense. But our security is not threatened by Iraq and Afghanistan.
L: Where do you stand on Iraq and Afghanistan?
J: I believe we should pull out of both and return our focus to fighting terrorism. The focus needs to be protecting America. I’m not sure if that is still the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan. I was surprised that Obama increased US presence in Afghanistan.
L: What about Social Security reform?
J: Social Security is flawed. When it was brought into existence the life expectancy was 55. Benefits started at 65. Now, life expectancy is 75, and benefits start at about the same age. It’s a Ponzi scheme. A combination of benefit reduction and/or privatization are necessary. At least part of Social Security should include private accounts that are counted in your estate.
L: What do you think of making Social Security voluntary and converting it into a defined contribution plan?
J: That would make it viable.
L: What is your position on states’ rights and state sovereignty?
J: The states are 50 laboratories of democracy. The burden that the federal government places on the states is outrageous. The same is true of health care. A return to federalism is needed.
L: Thank you, Governor. I am certain that liberty Republicans will be interested in learning more about your ideas.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official positions of the RLC.