Friday, May 30, 2008

The State of Libertarianism

From Reason. Something that I found interesting while I read this article...

But let's look back before we look to the present—and to the future. The Randian libertarianism that emerged in the 1950s was a fierce critique of planning and centralization, manifested in its minor (New Deal), major (Swedish), and malignant (Soviet) forms. The school of anti-statist criticism, reinforced by émigré economists, was further strengthened by the obvious failures of American "Big Government" in the 1960s, from the war in Vietnam to the "War on Poverty." Interestingly, during that same decade of the '60s, libertarianism received a major boost from the so-called New Left. These leftists were ostensibly socialist, or even communist, but, in fact, they were more typically, in practice, anarchists and libertarians. Indeed, by the decade of the 1970s, it became clear that radicals and counter-culturalists were mostly interested in "doing their own thing," an attitude leading them toward an insistence on personal freedom-or, as they put it, not being hassled in their "personal space." Thus the New Left helped spawn the New Age, producing a generation of intensely capitalist music producers, natural food entrepreneurs, and then, most portentously, computer geeks and software developers. But of course, in their private moments, these folks retained their youthful predilections for drugs, sex, and rock and roll.

By the 1980s, these libertarian Boomers were in alliance, conscious and unconscious, with President Ronald Reagan. That is, even if yuppies looked down their nose at Reagan over matters of partisan style, they remained in tune with the pro-business substance of the Gipper's "supply side" ideology. The result was a robust consensus for lower taxes and freer trade, in both political parties. And of course, at the end of the '80s came the end of Communism, inspiring some to proclaim that a full-scale "end of history" was dawning—the permanent and decisive victory of liberal capitalist democracy.

Moreover, in the 1990s, the Internet seemed to bring with it the promise of libertarian nirvana, connecting everyone all across the cyber-flattened "borderless world" in a win-win capitalist nexus. Finally, in that same decade, the failed effort by right-wingers to impeach President Bill Clinton—a libertarian Boomer if there ever was one—was seen by many as the high-water mark of censorious "social" conservatism.

The whole piece is very interesting and a lot more broad. Go read the whole thing if you have the interest.

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