Philip: That gets at an important distinction. Kirby and Boaz focus on the “libertarian vote,” but that’s really overstating the case; what the polls actually identify is people who have vague libertarian sympathies. (The Pew Survey is actually more exacting on this front than some of the other surveys Kirby and Boaz have relied on in their work, as the questions it relies on for its ideological map are more specific and focused on issues currently in play.) These libertarian-leaners may or may not be politically important, but they are different from the statistically tiny number of libertarians who actually think a lot about politics and consider the implications of every policy from a philosophically libertarian viewpoint.
That smaller class of libertarians, though, has proven disproportionately important to politics thanks to the power of libertarian ideas. Milton Friedman (serving on a presidential commission that also included the then-still-Randian Alan Greenspan and the FEE-affiliated W. Allen Wallis) helped end the draft, Charles Murray laid the groundwork for Welfare Reform, and the idea of private accounts carved out of Social Security was the focus of a Cato Institute paper decades before it was in serious play politically. Ideas matter, which is why last week I approached the “liberaltarians” concept primarily in terms of intellectual principles.
(By the way, if all goes well I’ll have a podcast on this topic — both the ideas and the politics — recorded with Reasonite Dave Weigel up at my home blog by the end of the week.)
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