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Opening Arguments


If he's drawing the right conclusion from all the trends he lumps together, as a libertarian I'd be ecstatic:

More Americans will celebrate the Fourth this year with their own sparklers and bottle rockets, thanks to newly relaxed fireworks regulations in red and blue states alike. . . .

At first glance, this development might seem simple: cash-strapped states are looking to balance their budgets in any way they can and lifting firework restrictions will bring in revenue. That’s certainly a factor, but on another level this story is of a piece with a less well-understood trend: the live-and-let-live cultural libertarianism that increasingly defines our age: You want a same-sex marriage? You can have one. You want pot? You can have it. You want guns? Be my guest. You want to play slots? Go ahead. You want fireworks? Here they are.

This libertarian political culture transcends left and right. The left cheers the decline of traditional moral values, but abhors the impact of individualism on economic regulation. The right, for its part, cheers the declining support for ‘group based’ policies like affirmative action and the growing suspicion of government regulation but is horrified by the impact of libertarianism on social issues related to church, sex, and family. Similarly, the liberalization of fireworks laws—in states from Georgia to New York—does not appear to be a traditional left-right issue.

The thing is, I'm not sure he is. If we truly are evolving into a more "live and live" nation, there is still a strong sense of "and let somebody else pay for it" underlying it all. Oh, and, "I'm not responsible for anything I do." More like, "I won't judge you and you don't judge me, and let's just piling up the debt and letting our great-great grandhcildren worry about the bill. Is that libertarianism? Maybe it's that funky liberaltarianism I keep hearing about. Something must explain why we keep talking about freedom but keep elcting so many statists.

Or maybe its more about inertia. We've get the ball rolling toward a bit more libertarianism, then the politicians start to catch on, and a few of them become less statists, and that enocurages us, and . . .

I've been thinking a lot about the power of inertia as a political force lately. It is in the ature of liberals to push for as much change as they can get, and in the nature of conservatives to resist as much as possible. So the way liberals win is that they push for just a little change. And the ball is rolling, so just a little bit more change doesn't seem so bad, then just a little bit more. And conservatives wake up one morning and discover every bit of change they had resisted is here.

But inertia used to take years and years. And the biggest change in everything today is the pace of change. Social media now push the idea of change through with lightening speed. So liberals don't have to be as patient, but the culture shock is much greater for conservatives who haven't had the time to get used to the changes. The result will be upheaval like we've never seen before, I think. Inertia isn't what it used to be.