Gary Johnson

October 11, 2011

IAMA entrepreneur, Ironman, scaler of Mt Everest, and Presidential candidate. I'm Gary Johnson - AMA

I've been referred to as the ‘most fiscally conservative Governor’ in the country, was the Republican Governor of New Mexico from 1994-2003. I bring a distinctly business-like mentality to governing, believing that decisions should be made based on cost-benefit analysis rather than strict ideology.

I'm a avid skier, adventurer, and bicyclist. I have currently reached four of the highest peaks on all seven continents, including Mt. Everest.


I was a successful businessman before running for office in 1994. I started a door-to-door handyman business to help pay my way through college. Twenty years later, I had grown the firm into one of the largest construction companies in New Mexico with over 1,000 employees. .

I'm best known for my veto record, which includes over 750 vetoes during my time in office, more than all other governors combined and my use of the veto pen has since earned me the nickname “Governor Veto.” I cut taxes 14 times while never raising them. When I left office, New Mexico was one of only four states in the country with a balanced budget.

I was term-limited, and retired from public office in 2003.

In 2009, after becoming increasingly concerned with the country’s out-of-control national debt and precarious financial situation, the I formed the OUR America Initiative, a 501c(4) non-profit that promotes fiscal responsibility, civil liberties, and rational public policy. I've traveled to more than 30 states and spoken with over 150 conservative and libertarian groups during my time as Honorary Chairman.

I have two grown children - a daughter Seah and a son Erik. I currently resides in a house I built myself in Taos, New Mexico.


I've scaled the highest peaks of 4 continents, including Everest.

I've competed in the Bataan Memorial Death March, a 25 mile desert run in combat boots wearing a 35 pound backpack.

I've participated in Hawaii’s invitation-only Ironman Triathlon Championship, several times.

I've mountain biked the eight day Adidas TransAlps Challenge in Europe.

Today, I finished a 458 mile bicycle "Ride for Freedom" all across New Hampshire.


For more information you can check out my website

Subreddit: r/GaryJohnson

EDIT: Great discussion so far, but I need to call it quits for the night. I'll answer some more questions tomorrow.

What's your take on the OWS protests? How would you address the demands of Occupy Wall Street?

I think OWS is a well founded disgust with the inequities that really have a root in government. As far as the demands go I'm weary of one voice coming out of OWS. I think it has a basis in the inequity that this country treats all of us, and I think the root of it is the government.

My candidacy is all about equal treatment from government.

Does this include reducing corporate input into government via lobbyists and the idea of "corporate personhood"?

I'm advocating the FairTax which in my opinion remedies all of the special interests.

There is something inherently wrong with corporate personhood. The issue is really transparency and who is giving what to whom.

How do you respond to the accusation that a fair/flat tax is inherently regressive?

The FairTax bill (see isn't regressive. Everyone would receive a monthly pre-bate that would completely offset the FairTax paid up to the poverty line. The FairTax also replaces the current payroll tax so under the FairTax people under the poverty line would pay nothing in taxes unlike today's tax system, and if they buy used goods they can stretch their monthly pre-bate even further since used goods aren't taxed.

You say you want to cut defense spending by 43%. What will you do besides getting out of the Middle East to achieve this goal?

It's the military in uniform. It's the bureaucratic civil support to those in uniform. It's nuclear warheads. It's intelligence. its' conflicts we're involved in. It's research and development, and it's military bases.

All of it with the notion that we can supply a strong national defense with the operative word being defense as opposed to offense and nation building.

How do you feel about the argument that cutting defense spending will eliminate jobs from companies like Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin?

I'm in the camp that believes the biggest threat to our national security is that we continue to spend more money than we take in. So at the risk of losing all jobs isn't it better to cut back and have something instead of nothing.

Why aren't you selling any official campaign merchandise? It's a fantastic way to raise money and promote your campaign.

Good question. I'm going to find that out tomorrow.

[Edit: The official store is now up:]

Governor Johnson, I think I'll ask something a few pragmatic libertarians have been wondering regarding your future goals--provided you don't secure the 2012 nomination do you have any plan to make some reentry into politics before then to gain traction for a later year--perhaps a run for U.S. Senate from New Mexico? Thanks.

No. This is it. This is an all out effort.

What would be your 1st action as president? Thank you for doing this!

First action as president is to submit a balanced budget to congress in 2013. So my first action is to start this process which is to create a blue print for a 43% reduction in government spending.

That is a lot to cut. I would assume this plan would include the dismantling of some government agencies?

The only two right now that advocating the department of education and the department of housing and urban development.

Do you honestly believe that cutting science funding like the NSF and NIH is in our nation's best interest, when developing new technology is the one thing we do better in the US than anyone else?

Currently, there are few products that can be made in the US that can't be produced for far less overseas. And white collar industries like the finance industry have dubious value and untoward political influence. However, U.S. research and development spending is still on par with China, though this is likely to be dramatically eclipsed when China's GDP eclipses that of the US later this decade. Saying that private industry should do the research rings hollow when most CEOs don't see the value of having an R&D timeline longer than 3-4 years, a timeline that doesn't make vacuum-tube to transistor transitions feasible.

Without the government funding responsible for almost all fundamental science research in this country, we may end up with a country in which timber and wheat are the chief exports in 2050. Why do you think such basic science spending is a waste?

I don't want to pander, but I also want to speak the truth. I have not heard the case made as to whether or not they should or should not be cut. They could be in the category of not being cut. I'm always open to the notion that there is spending taking place that is warranted so maybe these fit into that category, but I'm not versed in why or why not they should or shouldn't be cut.

As president would you veto as much stuff as you did in New Mexico?

I promise to veto to expenditures that excede revenue. I believe I'll be vetoing as much or more stuff as President as I did as Governor.

Hey Governor! I have a few questions for you!

Edit: Added a link to the Railrunner since most people outside New Mexico don't know what it is.

How to best help out - get online, get a bumper sticker, donate $25 or whatever might be appropriate, and get in contact with your state director.

For me the verdict is still out on NM.

I think the Railrunner needs to be shutdown.

I'll leave the answer about Ron Paul to you.

Thank you for doing this, Governor! My question is this. I know how you feel about women's rights to choose and LGBT rights and capital punishment and the like. But do you believe these issues are state's rights issues? Do you think each state has the right to decide what they want in regards to laws on these issues?

I do believe these are states issues. I'm also open to the argument that gay rights may be a civil rights issue that the federal government has a role in determining.

Thanks for doing this AMA! What do you see as the main differences between you and Ron Paul? You both obviously share very similar views, but I am curious if there is anything you disagree with him on.

Main differences are my business background and the executive experience I've had in my career.

We may have differing views on immigration, a woman's right to choose, gay issues, and Israel.

Israel? You would continue all foreign aid? just some foreign aid(to Israel for one I guess) or stop all foreign aid. My understanding is that Paul would end all foreign aid.

I advocate ending all foreign aid, but I draw a distinction with military alliances believing military alliances are the key to having other countries share in the world vigil against terrorism and not just us allowing us to cut military spending by 43%.

What do you consider to be the biggest obstacle that has prevented a fiscally conservative/socially liberal candidate from gaining traction on a nationwide scale? What can/should be done to change this?

On a related note, do you feel that the two party system is helping or hurting this country and would a viable 3rd party be a positive development for the American political landscape?

I am still laboring under the belief that this is going to be successful.

I've always have believed a viable 3rd party could be a positive development for the American political landscape.

Are you and only you answering these questions? Or are you getting and responding to them through an aide?

Be a bit informal with us - what's your favorite food to have for lunch when you're feeling lazy?

I have someone helping me type the answers up.


I made r/GaryJohnson almost a year ago, I never expected this much interest!

  1. What makes you more qualified to deal with foreign policy that the other Republican candidates? As a governor of a border state you probably dealt with Mexico on some occasion. But Jon Hunstman was a popular Governor and was ambassador to China. Romney has had 4+ years to brush up on foreign policy. Ron Paul and Bachmann (ugh, but still) deal with foreign policy every day in Congress.

  2. I know you're an athlete, but running for president is a fulltime job, are you sure you have enough time just to go door-to-door and canvass during your rides?

  1. Based on current foreign policy and all the experts that we have contributing to it, it seems to me that I'm not going to be at a disadvantage.

  2. I definitely enough time, but I may have logged more time doing it than anyone else.

I made r/GaryJohnson almost a year ago, I never expected this much interest!

  1. What makes you more qualified to deal with foreign policy that the other Republican candidates? As a governor of a border state you probably dealt with Mexico on some occasion. But Jon Hunstman was a popular Governor and was ambassador to China. Romney has had 4+ years to brush up on foreign policy. Ron Paul and Bachmann (ugh, but still) deal with foreign policy every day in Congress.

  2. I know you're an athlete, but running for president is a fulltime job, are you sure you have enough time just to go door-to-door and canvass during your rides?

PS: thanks for creating the r/GaryJohnson.

Hello Mr.Johnson! A question if it is not too much to ask, if this is too silly you can just pass it by, Are there any similarities or relations between climbing mount everest and running for president? Thanks for the AMA.

There are endless similarities. Goal setting, determination, the ability to weather the storm, in my case breaking my leg prior to going to Everest and be faced with the question do I give up or do I make the best of a really bad situation.

Hi Gary, I am a big supporter and am getting involved in your Colorado campaign. With that being said, I know you are against the new affordable care act. My question to you is, what legislation would you propose that would allow more Americans to have access to health care?

Genuine free market approaches to health care. Currently health care in this country is about as far removed from free markets as it possibly could be. For example there is no advertised pricing, no competition, totally over regulated.

What was climbing Mt. Everest like?

Everything that I thought it would be. It was wonderful to stand on top of the planet. It wonderful to be in Nepal.

I'd like to know if he passed any of those frozen corpses I've heard about.

Yes I did.

It is a real pleasure to have you here!

Ok --

  1. From what I've read, you're a down-to-earth and unpretentious man. How do you think you would fare in the back-stabbing and duplicitous waters of Washington?

  2. We've been handed a slew of tepid candidates, all of whom seem to parrot the same tired slogans and phrases but who get to Washington and do nothing different. What single thing would you do that you think would make the greatest difference?

  3. How could you possibly help repair the gulf between Democrats and Republicans?

Thanks for your time and I wish you the best of luck.

  1. Good government was easy.

  2. I promise to submit a balanced budget to congress in 2013. I promise to veto expenditures that exceed revenue. Under this scenario spending would be less than any other scenario that I can imagine.

  3. I'm not going to pretend to be able to do that. Don't underestimate the power of the executive when it comes to rules and regulations and the running of the federal government.

Governor Johnson, thank you for taking the time to do this, I know it means a lot to the community.

As a hopeful challenger to Obama, how would the DEA under a Johnson presidency differ than the DEA has operated under President Obama?

I hope to defang the DEA. It's my understanding I can deschedule marijuana as a class 1 narcotic by executive order and I will do that.

Does it bother you that it seems like the Republican party has shifted its focus from being economically conservative to socially conservative?

This is why I'm running to give voters a choice. Our country is in on the brink of financial disaster. We need to focus on the economy. The Republicans' focus on social issues will hurt the party.

(Edit: Fixed apostrophe!)

I'm having a hard time seeing how FairTax is fair. Yes, it sounds fair because it is a tax on consumption. But the major consumers are the lower and middle classes. The upper class has an extremely high income, most of which they will save. So the poor and average American will be paying a much larger percentage of their income in taxes, while in comparison the rich hardly pay anything. Poor and middle class people will have a much heavier burden. It seems like an upper class method of tax evasion to me.

That is my reasoning behind it. I really like you and most of your ideals, but how do you think the FairTax is indeed fair?

Thank you, and good luck in your campaign!

There is a pre-bate as part of the proposal that has been around for many years. The pre-bate means the poor won't pay any taxes up to the poverty line. If people buy used goods they aren't taxed and they can save even more. Check out for more information.

[No question]

I'm going to watch the debate and will be twittering my answers!/govgaryjohnson

How do you plan on fixing the inflationary monetary system?

The Federal Reserve should be transparent and its actions held to the same level of scrutiny as any other federal department.

The American people deserve to know the extent to which the Fed has purchased private assets at home and abroad.

Many Americans have become interested in the Federal Reserve in recent years. America's representatives in Washington, D.C. need to also become a lot more interested in how this government institution affects the American economy.

The role and the activities of the Federal Reserve are long overdue for examination, reassessment, and ultimately, thoughtful reform. Can the Federal Reserve pursue both stable prices and full employment, or does its currency manipulation cause malinvestment, inflation, and prolonged unemployment?

Conduct an audit to provide true transparency of the Federal Reserve's lending practices.

Establish clear Congressional oversight.

Get the Federal Reserve out of the business of printing money and buying debt through quantitative easing.

I'm gay? Is that fine? edit: I'm not even gay


I supported the repeal of DADT spoke on them dragging their feet on implementing the repeal.

You are pro-legalization of marijuana. How do you project getting this accomplished considering, what seems like, a majority of lawmakers unwilling to debate the merits of ending the prohibition?

It is my understanding that I can sign an executive order to reschedule marijuana from a schedule 1 narcotic.

I'm disappointed this hasn't been asked yet and it's probably too late but what are your views on the Second Amendment?

I think the Second Amendment means what it says that you have a right to keep an bear arms. I openly advocated for conceal carry when I was Governor.

Governor Johnson,

I am a resident of Belgium, a country with one of the highest tax rates in the world. I love our social security system, our healthcare system, our education system and so on. All of this is only possible because of our high taxes. I can go to university for as little as 600 EUR a year (that's about 820 USD) at one of the finest universities of Europe, I can lose my job and go on unemployment benefits until I find a new job (unless I don't do any effort, at which point my "welfare" will be cut off), I can get sick without going into debt for years to come. All of this makes living in Belgium a blessing.

Now, i hear you are opposed against taxation, or at least against '"high taxes", but I can't help but wonder why. In the United States, people that get health issues are screwed, simply put. Health care is not mandatory and is completely in the hands of private corporations, making the prices very high and the exploitation by those same companies a daily business. University in the USA is almost unaffordable unless you choose a mediocre (at best) community college.

I can not understand why one would oppose taxes when you can do wonderful things when everybody pitches in. It's called socialism in the USA but apparently that's a dirty word, while it's completely accepted in Western Europe.

Can you explain to me why Belgium or any other country, like maybe the USA, should lower its taxes instead of raising them?

Thank you for your time, I have been wanting to ask this very same question to an economical libertarian for quite some time now and I am genuinely interested in your point of view.

The irony of your question is that what you are touting as wonderful 'as something for nothing' is not sustainable and it is be playing out right now all across Europe. It's kind of the root of the crisis.

We just saw a commitment to recapitalize Belgium's largest bank being played out on the world stage. I can't help but think what you are describing will have negative consequences for Europe and is in part what is behind the European crisis right now. I don't want to see these consequences played out in America.

Offering up all of those services and not borrowing money is one thing, but in the United States we are borrowing money to do these things.

As to why I'm opposed to raising taxes, in my opinion raising taxes handicaps economic growth.

Another factor maybe that the United States is subsiding these programs in Belgium given that we are picking up the world wide tab for military defense.

Whether or not you agree with him, answering a loaded question like that takes balls.

And if you read what he's said about "50 laboratories of innovation", he's hardly the type who would stop Vermont or Massachusetts from setting up their own socialized medicine systems.

Thanks. And absolutely - 50 laboratories of innovation. Some states might go a single payer route and others move in a more free market direction. Successes will be emulated and failures avoided.

Governor Johnson: What do you envision as the role for NASA over the next 10 years? What would NASA's long-term (e.g., 30-40 years) goal be from your perspective - the moon, Mars, beyond?

Finally, do you believe that you fellow candidate, Jon Huntsman, was correct when he stated that "the minute that the Republican Party becomes the anti-science party, we have a huge problem?"

I'm supportive of our space program, but we are facing an economic crisis and that involves shared sacrifice so NASA's budget should be cut 43%. There are interesting private ventures into space going on right now and I'd look for the entrepreneurs to lead the way.

I believe Governor Huntsman is correct. Science is extremely important to our world and for meeting potential problems in the future.

I like the link.

My notion is to keep the Internet free and unhindered.

I attended the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas to show my support for the online poker players. Our government has made it illegal for millions of online poker players to spend their money how they choose. That's the government restricting these Internet users not ISPs.

I know this sounds random, but I was wondering if you were elected, would you be open to the possibility of having a way for the public to directly speak with you and know what you were doing in office (like having a subreddit for discussions and such on policies etc.)?

When I was governor in New Mexico, I had an open-door-at-four policy where once a month my door would be open to any citizen to come and discuss the issues of the day with me.

During my campaign I'm using the Google Plus hangouts (see my website for more info) to discuss issues with voters around the country.

While I probably won't do an open-door-by-four policy at the White House since most voters can't get to the White House, I would probably do something like Google Hangouts where voters can video chat once a month with me for a couple minutes at a time to give me their direct input on issues of the day.

Here's another one for you Gary: do you support the protestors on Occupy Wall Street? How do you feel about their message? Does it bother you at all that you are, technically, part of the 1%?

Last week I went down to the Occupy Wall Street protest to see it first hand.

I found one thing to be clear… these protests are one more symptom of the anger Americans, including me, feel about an outrageous jobless rate, a government that bails out people who don’t deserve to be bailed out, and policies that have us spending billions on wars we shouldn’t be fighting, especially when we have real needs right here at home.

I probably don’t agree with some of the solutions many of the protestors are advocating, but at some level we need to ask ourselves why thousands of people are taking to the streets as a way to express their frustrations. There is a lot of anger in America today, and there should be. I personally think that anger should be directed toward an administration that breeds distrust by picking winners and losers in the economy, while threatening the freedoms of individuals. I am mad about the Obama administration’s inability to deal with the unemployment rate. This administration as with the Bush administration is becoming a problem when it comes to jobs and the economy and not the solution.

While I was Governor of New Mexico I made it a point to listen to every citizen’s concern first hand. I held an open door to the Governor’s office every Thursday afternoon and invited anyone with an issue to bring their problem directly to my office. I, for one, believe everyone deserves to be heard, whether I agree with them or not. In that sense, it is a mistake to dismiss these protests, and I wanted to at least take the time to see what they are about.

This interview was transcribed from an "ask me anything" question and answer session with Gary Johnson conducted on Reddit on 2011-10-11. The Reddit AMA can be found here.