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It is a mistake to conflate the fortunes of an ideology and its adherents. Neoliberals by that name may be dead; neoliberalism reigns. Conservatism (especially minus libertarianism) may be out of ideas, but still commands enormous armies of dedicated voters—more than any other self-identified ideology. As I’ve argued elsewhere, the “right wing” as a movement has succeeded pretty well without its core ideas or interesting contributions triumphing.
On the other hand, especially when viewed in the long term since World War II, distinctly libertarian ideas about free markets and social freedom have made enormous strides without, say, Reason magazine becoming the best-selling political journal in the land, or the American public widely embracing the label. As libertarian hero Milton Friedman recognized, libertarians have to provide the set of ideas, solutions, and worldviews that show a way out of the crises that government creates. When political pundits sing of the death of whatever ideology, they are often just stretching for a bold thesis. But they are also, however dimly, seeing that the ideologies that defined American politics for the past 60 years have created crises that their own premises cannot solve.
Senior Editor Brian Doherty is author of This is Burning Man and Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement.