Libertarianism once again appears to be on the rise, particularly among the young. But its alliance with the Republican establishment is fraying, as demonstrated by the increasingly personal war of words between two leading potential 2016 presidential contenders....
The "once again" is appreciated, though any honest appraisal of partisan politics would acknowledge that libertarianism has been the next big thing for going on 45 years, when the future editor of Wired magazine, Louis Rossetto and his college pal Stan Lehr published "The New Right Credo: Libertarianism" in the January 10, 1971 issue of The New York Times Magazine.
The Declaration of Independents, America has only gotten more and more libertarian in many ways over the course of our lifetimes. Due to ad hoc political coalitions (such as the one that deregulated airline ticket pricing and interstate trucking in the late 1970s), technological innovation (thank you, interwebz), and a general leveling of authority (welcome to "the end of power"), most of us are more free to live our lives however we see fit than ever before.Yet despite any unequivocal victories at the ballot box, as Matt Welch and I argued at length in our book
Which isn't to say that most of the hard work of freedom isn't still ahead of us, especially when it comes to politics. The 21st century has in many ways been a bust and not just economically (though that can't undercounted). We've got a state that can tell us we must buy health insurance, where we've phoned from and to whom, and whom we can marry. Our foreign policy - it doesn't really even rise to qualify as a policy, to be fair - is godawful and destructive and too many of us can't wrap our minds around a future in which we will go broke paying for entitlements that are neither cost-effective nor necessary for most people. Yes, lots ahead for us.
From that Wash Post story, which provides a nice summary of the past half-century of libertarian movement growth and evolution to a point where characters such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is being attacked by Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) for a "dangerous" libertarian streak:
Yet even Paul draws some skepticism from libertarian purists. They are leery, for instance, of his recent overtures to the Christian right, a constituency he cannot afford to alienate if he hopes to win his party’s presidential nomination.
For now, however, libertarian activists seem to believe that their best shot at advancing their ideas is in changing the Republican Party from the inside.
“Where else are you going to go?” asks Brian Doherty, senior editor at Reason. “Given the shape of the culture and the ideology of American politics, the Republican Party is at least willing to pay lip service to libertarian values. It is the existing space that a libertarian can move into and sort of fit in.”
And here's looking forward to future stories about libertarians flexing their muscles in the Democratic Party.