What is left for libertarians?

Democrat Matt Yglesias writes:

If you did have a progressive president, there’s no longer a particularly large amount of popular resistance to expanding the activist state. Even most Republicans don’t especially care about small government.

Republican David Brooks (see Sunday’s NYT, no free link anymore, but read this good summary, or try this) tells us that George Bush and activist government have saved the Republican Party from irrelevance.

Libertarian Albert Jay Nock titled his book Memoirs of a Superfluous Man.

But not so fast: I have a simple theory: in any period of time, government grows as large as it can, given available technology and a few cultural constraints.  For better or worse, voters support this growth.  The railroad and electricity were the most significant agents for big government in the twentieth century, toss in the radio for good measure.  Short of technological retrogression and negative economic growth, we should not expect government to ever get smaller.  Just look at the size of welfare states in oil-rich countries. 

But neither does this spell the end of libertarianism.  Some people realize that this process can go too far, as it has in the growth-stunted Western Europe.  In more extreme cases, government can grow so large as to endanger the foundations of civilization. 

The complainers are the libertarians.  They will always lose, and they will always be intellectually important. 


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