I identify as a libertarian, but uncomfortably so because so many self-identified libertarians are simplistic kooks. I’ve co-opted the phrase “marginal libertarian” from a comment by my virtual friend James K at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, who said,
One of the things that bugs me about critiques of libertarianism is that it tends to focus at the minarchist end (privatising roads, abolishing welfare), rather than at the current policy margins (free trade, school vouchers, ending the war on drugs).
Regardless of the merits of minarchism, there’s no feasible way to jump to it from a modern Western state in one jump. So why argue over a non-option? Why not argue about libertarian-aligned policies that could be implemented feasibly under current governance structures?
I am wholly in agreement. I am no utopian libertarian, and one of my pet projects is exploring the limits of libertarianism, those points at which a “pure” libertarianism goes beyond what I find acceptable, or produces perverse results (harming human welfare instead of enhancing it). But I think much of our regulatory policy is both anti-libertarian and inconducive to human welfare, redistributing wealth rather than creating conditions for the production of wealth. Many regulations benefit specific groups, rather than being of general benefit, and don’t serve the legitimate function of remediating market failures, but of protecting discrete groups from market competition. It’s at those policy margins where I like to work. As it turns out, even that non-utopian libertarianism has a tremendous capacity to stir up wrath. Every regulatory ox belongs to someone who doesn’t want to see it go. And therein lies the problem, politically. Because the system(s) is(are) rigged to someone’s benefit, every restructuring to make a system that’s more fair, less redistributory, and less likely to create perverse incentives, results in someone losing their privileged position. And naturally they won’t go gentle into that good night.