From a reader:
Spooky, your book had the very same effect on me: it moved my conservatism closer to libertarianism, for exactly the reasons you said.
I’d add to your point about cultural authority of government, that it’s also hard to be squarely libertarian if you reject the principle (as I do) that it is theft to take from the rich monies necessary to provide welfare net to catch orphaned toddlers (and other Americans who have run into terrible circumstances through no fault of their own.) This is not to say that there is a duty to make this net perfectly leak-proof no matter the tax burden but only to say that taxing for the purpose of providing a minimal net targeted at those who deserve the assistance is no violation of the rights of the one taxed. A conservative believes the orphaned toddler has a right to our assistance; a libertarian does not. They agree that a big welfare state is an awful thing.
A libertarian-esque conservative, then, would countenance some redistribution of wealth for the sake of such a minimal welfare net, as well as countenancing a cultural role of government. But he will be hyper-aware of the slippery-slope to serfdom, and the cultural and welfare programs recommended by such a conservative would be small, surgical, capped, etc., as opposed to liberal. That’s where a wedge is driven between such a conservative and big-government compassionate conservatism.
So, what we’ve done in writing/reading your book and as a result moving toward libertarianism is to recognize that the value of keeping the government small is of even greater weight than we believed beforehand. It’s a move toward giving small-state greater weight in the trade-offs with other values. What distinguishes us from libertarians is that those other values are different and of greater weight than the other values held by the libertarian. The move toward libertarianism you and I have made is not philosophically deep because what is at stake has not changed, but only our view of the proper ordering of the trade-offs has.