A friend who works with a lot of libertarians says “most of them are weird and socially awkward”. My explanation was that when nearly 50 percent of the economy is run by the government or is government-funded, advocating libertarian ideas at a social gathering would be extremely rude.
At first glance, you’d think that most people would be okay with the core libertarian idea that they could keep 90+ percent of their income and spend it however seemed best, rather than hand over what may soon be the majority of their income to a governing elite that will ladle it out to politically powerful interest groups. Suppose, however, that in a gathering of 20 adults, one is a medical doctor, one is a schoolteacher, one is a 50-year-old retired police officer, one is an engineer at a defense contractor, one is a prison guard, and four hold administrative positions at local, state, and federal agencies. Will the doctor want to hear that young people should not be taxed to pay for a 90-year-old’s $500,000 death in the ICU? Will the schoolteacher want to hear that schools should be privatized and her $200,000 in compensation (salary, health care, pension commitment, etc.) for 9 months of work subjected to market forces? Will the 50-year-old retiree want to hear the suggestion that politicians should not be allowed to promise public employee unions pensions in exchange for votes? Or hear that taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook to pay him an inflation-adjusted $130,000 per year until his death? Will the defense contractor want to hear that we should only have a large enough armed force to prevent Canada and Mexico from invading? Will the prison guard want to hear that drugs should be legal and that most of the people he is paid to incarcerate should be free? Will the administrators want to hear that their agencies shouldn’t exist at all?
Given the social awkwardness of this kind of encounter, which becomes ever more likely as government consumes an ever-larger percentage of GDP, I am predicting a decline in the popularity of libertarianism (not that it has ever been popular or advocated by more than a handful of elected politicians). People can live with the government taking 50 percent of their income and wasting it; that would simply set Americans back to the standard of living enjoyed in the 1950s. People cannot live with never being invited to another social gathering.