I’m not a libertarian, but I like libertarians, and I listen to them. My best counterargument is often just a sheepish “people would never accept it”. I think big government fulfills a desire in people, like religion. If we got rid of it, it would just be reinvented, and who knows in what form? I’m just happy my government isn’t trying to kill me, and is run on well-meaning principles. That is rare enough.
Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism – A Freewheeling History of the American Libertarian Movement surveys the libertarian landscape, highlighting its fascinating thinkers and characters, from near-respectable economists to mystics and hippies. He paints the picture of a movement that is as infuriatingly impractical and stubbornly fractured as communism was, – except not evil, and never in power.
Radicals for Capitalism has only one dark chapter, the story of how Objectivism turned into a cult. Radicals for equality have killed people by the thousands and millions. The worst libertarianism has done is turn bright young people into assholes.
My favourite libertarian thinker remains Friedrich Hayek, whose pragmatic approach makes him relevant to all ideologies. (It also makes him repelling to purist libertarians). It’s bad enough that mainstream parties want the government to be involved in everything, but if they read Hayek (and Hazlitt) they might do it more efficiently.
(Correction: I have just been informed that libertarianism is Dead, because it’s to blame for all the banks and governments behaving like idiots. Never mind the above, then. Now how about a blogger bailout?)