Some Republicans have been saying that libertarianism is the wave of the GOP future, since it appeals to the next generation of voters. Whatever the merits or weaknesses of libertarianism as a political outlook, its political future is not as bright as some think.

Jonathan Chait cites poll evidence that shows views of under-30s are hardly consistently libertarian: “voters under 30, who vote strongly Democratic, have strongly liberal views on most foreign-policy and social issues, as libertarians do. The crucial difference lies in economics, where libertarians veer sharply right and young voters veer sharply left. This can be seen in specific instances, like health care, where young voters are far more likelythan older ones to support an expanded government role. Like most Americans, they strongly support the maintenance of specific programs, such as Social Security. Unlike most Americans, they actually favor bigger government in the abstract.”

Chait highlights the last point: “Older Americans oppose ‘bigger government’ in the abstract by a margin of some 40 percentage points. That young voters actually favor ‘bigger government’ in the abstract is a sea change in generational opinion, not to mention conclusive evidence against their alleged libertarianism.”

And then there are the social issues. No GOP candidate can secure his own base if he waffles on pro-life and anti-gay-marriage positions. And that’s another place where the views of younger Americans diverge sharply.

Liberalism, not libertarianism, seems to be the wave of the future, as it is the settled pond of the present.

More on: Libertarianism

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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