I think libertarianism is best understood as a kind of esoteric
doctrine. There’s strong evidence to believe that people who
overestimate their own efficacy in life wind up doing better than those
with more accurate perceptions. It follows that it’s strongly desirable
for society to be organized so as to bolster myths of meritocracy. This
will lead to individual instances of injustice and to a lot of
apparently preventable suffering, but over the long-term the aggregate
impact of growth (which, of course, compounds) on human welfare will
swamp this as long as we can maintain the spirit of capitalism.
A separate issue is the welfare of the world’s poorest. Progressive
internationalists have this kind of dopey vision of trying to make
trade and immigration policy win-win-win for everyone by using
redistributive taxation to ensure that everyone shares in the benefits.
That sounds nice, but it means that in addition to trying to conquer
people’s racist and nationalistic instincts you’re also
engaged in a fight to pry wealth out of the hands of the wealthy and
powerful. As a political strategy, it doesn’t really make much sense.
Why not simply join forces with the wealthy and powerful so
as to create a political coalition that’s plausibly capable of
overwhelming xenophobia and creating borders that are relatively open
to the flow of goods and labor?
That is exactly the kind of response I was hoping for and both points make sense to me. Here is a related Matt post on progressivism and America.
I would add that Matt's description is consistent with my belief that the United States should be less progressive than the polities of north and western Europe. For better or worse, most Europeans are more skeptical of claims of capitalist meritocracy and thus it is harder for them to realize gains by internalizing such an ethic. Furthermore the non-progressive nature of many aspects of America — by encouraging economic dynamism — helps Europe to be as progressive as it is. That's an argument for American capitalism that both libertarians and progressives ought to feel slightly uncomfortable with, yet in my view it is compelling.