The fundamental issue of political economy in the Western world has been the same for at least the past 200 years: drawing the right lines between government authority and individual initiative. In the broadest terms, freedom has been winning. What the West has invented through Burkean trial and error has not been a libertarian utopia, however, but a workable hybrid that emphasizes freedom while creating a significant role for the government in domestic politics.
The United States, the European democracies, and the other free nations have not converged on a single solution; instead, they have created variations on a theme that change over time, often in response to new or localized challenges and opportunities. This complicated reality makes it hard to deduce answers to most practical political questions from theory alone. But it can be helpful to look at the big picture in order to establish the context for our more fine-grained debates.