Libertarians: The New In-Crowd
The Washington Times notes that a lot of people want to call themselves libertarians these days:
It’s altogether fitting that the new host of “The Price Is Right” — a game show on which contestants try to guess the going rate of various consumer products — is a free-market enthusiast.
More intriguing is said host’s part-time job: libertarian proselytizer.
Comedian Drew Carey can be seen on a series of funny-but-not-kidding Internet-TV episodes sponsored by the Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based think tank. So far, Mr. Carey has recommended the privatization of highways as a solution for metropolitan traffic congestion and criticized the federal crackdown on medical marijuana.
Mr. Carey joins the libertarian fold along with the illusionist-comedians Penn & Teller and HBO talk-show host Bill Maher, who has called himself a libertarian for several years.
As the Times’ notes, it’s unclear what that means but what is clear is that it’s merely the reflection of a trend that’s true for American politics as a whole:
It’s not likely libertarianism will become a true third-party alternative; it’s a temperament to which both major parties will need increasingly to appeal.
Mr. Gillespie compares the ideas that underlie libertarianism to a “marinade.”
“Our culture has been soaking in it for years,” he says.
Brink Lindsey, vice president for research at the libertarian Cato Institute and the author of “The Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America’s Politics and Culture,” says that since the end of World War II, the country has unconsciously arrived at a vaguely libertarian-ish consensus: It’s culturally tolerant and yet demands personal responsibility for socioeconomic success.
“Generally speaking, the hump of the bell curve of American public opinion is more libertarian than it is distinctly liberal or conservative,” Mr. Lindsey says.
Now, it’s important to note that Lindsey isn’t arguing that the American public is on the verge of embracing the gold standard or privately owned roads. Doctrinaire libertarianism — especially in its sometimes wild anarcho-capitalist varieties — is unlikely to ever be part of the mainstream of American political thought.
What Linsdey points to, though, is nonetheless encouraging; which is that we are approaching a point where the political consensus will be biased in favor of individual choice and against authoritarianism and state action. Therefore, while we’re not likely to see any time soon a day when the New Deal or the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is repealed, we’re also not likely to see the birth of a European “social democracy” and, if anything, the power of the state in American life will shrink rather than expand.
Many libertarians and classical liberals would tell you that’s not perfect; but it’s a start, and it’s better than nothing.