Paypal-co-founder and Donald Trump backer Peter Thiel makes an interesting link between the rise of libertarianism and the increase in US government dysfunction.
I don’t agree with Thiel’s assessment that libertarianism emerged as the US government faltered. In fact, in my experience, he may have it backwards. Libertarianism didn’t necessarily grow because of US governmental decline, rather it got its start from business groups fearing too much government in the market during the Great Society, when such an expectation became normal.
I would argue libertarians, through their influence on the Republican Party in recent decades, have worsened government paralysis by creating a generation of essentially anti-state politicians spouting anti-state ideology. This makes it hard for productive politics to take place.
But it’s telling that Thiel sees this “deep link” connecting this changing view of the government’s role, power and reputation. Once upon a time, the US government was considered a Can Do organization. Moon shots, Manhattan projects, NORAD, vaccines. Not so much now, especially, for a generation raised on libertarian arguments.
Here is the key quote, he made at the end of his appearance at the National Press Club in October 2016:
There has been a decline. Libertarianism would not have sold as well in the 1940s or 50s or 60s in the US. It’s fringe today it was super fringe in the 50s or 60s because that was a society where the premise that the government couldn’t do anything didn’t make sense. The Libertarian Party got started in the 1970s in the US, that’s when it took off. And the 1970s is the decade where things really stopped working in this country, especially on the governmental side.
So I think there’s this deep link between libertarianism and the decline of our govermental institutions.
Full video here: