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Libertarian Town Hall

A Commentary By John Stossel

Vote for Donald Trump? No! Hillary Clinton? No!    

They are not trustworthy. They push bad ideas.    

Fortunately, we have another choice: Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and his running mate, William Weld. But most Americans don't even know they exist.    

It would be good if the two ex-governors were allowed to join next month's presidential debates, but the Commission on Presidential Debates will allow that only if Johnson reaches 15 percent in a select handful of polls. He's at about 10 percent now. He tried to get the Commission to relax its rules, but they would not.    

You can still get a feel for what these candidates offer by watching my show Friday. I'll do a Libertarian "town hall." My studio audience will grill Johnson and Weld about ... well, whatever they want.   

I assume marijuana prohibition will come up. "It's prohibition," says Johnson, "that kills people. ... Legalizing marijuana will lead to less overall substance abuse because (marijuana is) safer than all the other substances out there."    

That appeals to liberals, but libertarians offer much to conservatives, too. Johnson recognizes that "government is too big. It spends too much money. It taxes too much."    

He proposes "a 20 percent reduction in federal spending. To do that, you've got to include Medicaid, Medicare, military spending." That's responsible budgeting.    

But some libertarians say Johnson and Weld are not libertarian enough. I'll confront the candidates with those criticisms.    

For example, Johnson sides with judges who say government must force Christian bakers to bake cakes for gay weddings.    

"If you discriminate on the basis of religion, that is a black hole," Johnson said. "You should be able to discriminate for stink or (if a customer is) not wearing shoes, (but) if we discriminate on the basis of religion, that's doing harm to a big class of people."   

It might. But this is not a clear-headed way to think about the role of government. Discrimination hurts, but discrimination is part of life. We discriminate when we pick our friends, jobs, where we live. In private life, discrimination is constant.    

Government discrimination is wrong. Jim Crow -- segregation -- was very wrong. It is good that the Civil Rights Act ended that. But Barry Goldwater was right 52 years ago and Rand Paul right in 2013, when each said that two of the nine parts of the Civil Rights Act were wrong: the two parts that reach into private life.

I suspect Johnson defends the rules because he fears the ignorant media won't  acknowledge the difference. Goldwater's comments helped end his presidential hopes, and the media bullied Rand Paul into silence.    

But Libertarian candidates should explain the difference, not cave in to the anti-discrimination mob.

No Christian photographer should be forced to photograph a gay wedding. No Black Student Association should be forced to accept whites. No Jewish baker should be forced to put swastikas on a cake.   

Every private business should be allowed to refuse service to whomever they want. Outlawing all discrimination perpetuates hatred by driving it underground. Hatred festers when people don't know who the bigots are.    

Yes, it was cruel when lunch counters turned blacks away. But today there are many places to eat lunch or buy wedding cakes. If a restaurant refuses blacks, others will profit by serving people the racists reject. Many of us will boycott the racists and give money to the inclusive businesses. That's a better solution than government trying to force people to act against their beliefs.    

Government should respect that difference between public and private life.

That issue notwithstanding, Johnson and Weld are much better than Clinton or Trump. They favor free trade, work visas for migrant workers and entrepreneurial innovation. The future, Johnson says, is "Uber everything -- get government out of the way."    

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, threatened a crackdown on Uber if it didn't behave more like a regulated, unionized employer.    

Donald Trump calls Johnson a "fringe candidate" and claims the route to prosperity is threatening trade partners with tariffs.   

I'll grill the "fringe candidates" this week. Gary Johnson and Bill Weld understand markets, government and freedom much better than their rivals do.    

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on Fox News and author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.



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