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Opening Arguments

Is little out for good?

Noted libertarian P.J. O'Rourke on "my problem with people who agree with me," i.e. other libertarians:

And therein lies my problem. Nobody really disagrees with us these days. Our own children, at their most rebellious age, believe in the first two things we toasted. (Although, until they acquire jobs and babies, they practice passive resistance to the third.)

At the core of libertarian belief is the free market. But now everybody believes in that too, including Communist dictators in China and the rajahs of India’s corrupt bureaucracy. Even villainous crony capitalists who reign over much of the rest of the world (and aren’t exactly absent in the U.S.A.) believe in the free market – if they can keep other people out of it.

[. . .]

That is, people love to hear what libertarians have to say until those people go into the voting both. Then limitations on the size, power, and expense of government start to get personal.

According to the Census Bureau, 49 percent of Americans receive some kind of government benefits. And political scientists Suzanne Mettler and John Sides of The Century Foundation (which is liberal-centrist) say that if you throw in everything that can be construed as a government benefit, e.g. mortgage interest deductions, 96% of Americans are on the take.

Although that echoes something I've been thinking for years -- that people talk a good libertarian game but don't vote that way -- it's still pretty depressing to see it in black and white, especially in light of where the political conversation seems headed these days. Bill Clinton once said "the debate over big government is over," meaning that the small-government types had won the debate. (Funny thing to say for him, no?) But lately I've heard some pretty prominent conservatives saying the debate is over but what they mean is that "the debate is over" because people keep voting for big government so whatter ya gonna do? So apparently conservatives and libertarians will get nowhere arguing for smaller government, so they're going to have to make the case that they can make big government work better.

Did I say depressing?