Gary Johnson has received lots of flack for being unable to name the world leader that he most admires. Here's Matt Yglesias:
The closest thing you will find to a US-style libertarian abroad is what are called "liberal" parties in Europe. They are generally more moderate than US libertarians because they participate in practical governance, but they reflect a basic free market secularist worldview that Johnson should find congenial. There aren't a ton of liberal heads of government, but Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and Lars Løkke Rasmussen of Denmark [pictured above] both fit the bill. Their governments have focused on fiscal austerity, trying to keep taxes low by European standards, and reducing labor market regulation while retaining a more or less socially liberal outlook.
I would have found either answer to be acceptable, but I disagree with Yglesias's claim that Johnson's failure reflects poorly on him:
1. My views of a good society are similar to Johnson's, and I would have had difficulty answering the question too.
2. A person can be fairly intelligent, and yet horrible at remembering names. For instance, I had a very hard time remembering student names. There are many foreign leaders who I feel I know a fair bit about, and yet I cannot recall their names. I kind of like the new leader of Indonesia, for instance, but I don't recall his name.
Since there are no libertarian countries, if you name a real world leader then you'll get hammered for all his non-libertarian views. 3. I consider myself reasonably well informed about the world (I've read the Economist for 40 years) and yet I would not have been able to name the leaders of Denmark and the Netherlands. Many presidential candidates would have had trouble providing their names. I was not even aware of their policies, although I was vaguely aware that both countries had moved in a more neoliberal direction in recent decades. There are some countries that I think have pretty good economic policy (Switzerland, Singapore, etc.), where I don't even know the name of their leader.
4. It's a no-win situation for a candidate. Since there are no libertarian countries, if you name a real world leader then you'll get hammered for all his non-libertarian views. Even Gary Johnson (who seems pretty libertarian to me) gets criticized for his views on discrimination laws. Suppose he names Trudeau--for advocating pot legalization. He would then get criticized for picking a big government progressive. If he followed Matt's advice and picked the Danish leader, people would wonder why a libertarian's favorite leader presided over one of the biggest governments in the world (as a share of GDP.) I don't think those attacks would be fair, but just imagine how easily a Paul Krugman could mock the libertarians for admiring a country where the government spends nearly 57.6% of GDP.
5. As the world takes a turn toward the nasty nationalistic right, there are fewer Vaclav Havels to admire. Thatcher is dead---Theresa May? I don't think so.
6. The lady in charge of Burma might be my choice, but I can't recall her name either.
PS. Johnson did deserve criticism over the Aleppo flub.
This piece ran on EconLog