Kay Hymowitz offers us with what she believes are some (cultural) contradictions within the Libertarian philosophy.
I am personally tempted to repeat what Mike Munger posted in his own blog, Kids Prefer Cheese, about the same piece but I am going to attempt to make some additional remarks.
My first observation is related to the first statement delivered by Ms. Hymowitz:
More than perhaps any other American political group, libertarians have suffered from the blows of caricature. For many people, the term evokes an image of a scraggly misfit living in the woods with his gun collection, a few marijuana plants, and some dogeared Ayn Rand titles, and a battered pickup truck plastered with bumper stickers reading "Taxes = Theft" and "FDR Was a Pinko."
First of all, I consider myself a libertarian and none of this description applies to me or my libertarian friends (and given that there are supposedly only few libertarians in US or the rest of the world, my friends and I probably are pretty representative of what a libertarian looks like). We do not smoke marijuana, we clearly do not live in the woods (even though living in Denver, I sometimes believe I am living in the woods), we like fancy restaurants, we do not drive trucks (I drive an Audi, and my other friends drive BMW, Porsche, Jaguars, Ford Mustang, WV) and clearly our cars do not carry some loser bumper stickers protesting against the state, FDR, the war, etc. We leave that to liberals and hippies. More importantly, Ms. Hymowtiz should do a little research on those famous libertarians she mentions because none of them actually fit the description either. Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, or Milton Friedman clearly never lived in the woods (Murray Rothbard was famous for suffering from panic attacks as soon as he stepoed out of NYC), clearly never drove a pick up truck, and most likely never smoked marijuana. Hmmm, I think she clearly must confuse libertarians with hippies who clearly are not libertarians…OR maybe she smoked too much dope herself and clearly should consider quitting.
Now, more seriously, as an economist, I believe that people are (rationally) ignorant and, therefore, when it comes to politics, they like to summarize each political group”s "philosophy" by using some stereotypes based on what they believe the members of this group advocate. It does not matter if we talk about Libertarians, Republicans, Democrats, the Greens, etc. This being said, there is a difference between believing and knowing and, personally, I could care less what people believe. If people want to believe that libertarians are potheads, gun freaks, freedom lovers, and government haters, that’s fine by me. Like Mike Munger (and my partner in crime, NewBigPrinz), I do not like people anyway and given that they are most likely to be ignorant by choice, it’s most likely not worth wasting my time trying to explain to them what libertarianism is about because they have decided to stay ignorant. Why would they listen to me if in the first place they already decided to stay stupid…sorry, I mean rationally ignorant?
In her piece, Ms. Hymowitz mentions that the "Libertarian Party’s paltry membership has never reached much beyond the 250,000 market, and polling numbers for Ron Paul, the libertarian candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, remain pitable." A few lines later, she adds: "A recent New York Times survey found increasing support for government-run health care, and both parties are showing signs of a populist resurgence, with demands for new economic and trade regulation." All I can say is: I AM SHOCKED! What? People do not support the Libertarian party! Quite the opposite actually, they want more government! Shocked, shocked, shocked! I can find at least two explanations that go beyond to what the author is saying.
First, let’s come back for a second. What’s the stereotype about libertarians again? Oh yeah, they hate the government and believe taxes = theft. Given that my personal belief based on introspection is that people are naturally lazy, the question that must follow would be: Why would they vote for people that basically tell them: sorry but, if we get elected, you are going to have to work harder, be paid at the market price (translate that most likely way below what YOU think your productivity is worth), and if it happens that consumers prefer foreign products because they are cheaper than domestic products, you might have to close doors and people will lose theirs jobs or they will have to accept lower wages to be able to compete with those damn foreigners? In short, if we Libertarians get elected, you better quit whining because the time where the nanny government was here to keep your lazy ass on life support at the expense of taxpayers, meaning people who are actually competitive and producing is OVER!!!! Would you vote for people who tell you that you have to work more, be paid less, and there is no guarantee that this is a lifetime job?
Still do not get it? What do you think most people vote for? They vote for people who are going to offer policies that are going to benefit them the most at the lowest possible cost. Obviously defenders of the libertarian philosophy clearly do not support subsidizing laziness, irresponsibility, and parasites. Traditionally, in general, libertarians support entrepreneurship, hard work, responsibility, and morality (yes you might not like it but taxes = theft; when you are coerced to give away some of your property, the fruits of your labor, it’s called theft; it does not matter what are the justifications the government use to defend its activity, it’s still theft!). How can you think for a second that the Libertarian Party has a chance to get elected or even to attract many members? It does not matter if people actually agree with what libertarians are saying in principle, the problem is that the government is the one who deals the cards and, therefore, as a voter, it is not in your interest to take the high road and follow those libertarian principles because it’s most likely that nobody else will. In other words, when the government is the one dealing the cards, there is no incentives as a voter for being a libertarian, none!
Let me conclude on this nice quote by a famous French (nobody is perfect!) Classical Liberal thinker, Frederic Bastiat discussing the nature of the government in an essay entitled the State:
The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else.
Ms. Hymowitz should read Bastiat, she might be able to understand what libertarianism is truly about and maybe she would actually understand why libertarianism is not popular…oh nooooo, I forgot about rational ignorance…she won’t…bummer!