The Corner

Moment of Truth

In response to Help-Transferring Data

Thanks, Veronique, for reminding me of the article in which Welch and Gillespie defined the “libertarian moment” as “a time of increasingly hyper-individualized, hyper-expanded choice over every aspect of our lives, from 401(k)s to hot and cold running coffee drinks, from life-saving pharmaceuticals to online dating services.” They go on to say that this moment is based on a consensus around two “hard-won insights”: that markets are generally preferable and “at least vaguely representative democracy. . . is the least worst form of government.” If it’s defined in those terms, I agree that we are in a libertarian moment.

But I would add a few caveats. First, on these terms we have been in a libertarian moment for a very long time–long enough that maybe we should stop announcing a new libertarian “moment.” Second, maybe we shouldn’t use the word “libertarian” either, since rising choice and support for representative democracy are compatible with the growth of government and with public support for the growth of government. Third, I would caution partisans of a “libertarian moment” against applying the idea to politics in an unfalsifiable way. If it’s evidence for a libertarian moment when Rand Paul is on top of the presidential-primary polls, it’s evidence against a libertarian moment when he fails. If it’s evidence for a libertarian moment when Americans grow more hostile to foreign intervention, it’s evidence against it when they shift the other way.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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