Populist Libertarianism vs Libertarian Populism
When I say that libertarianism has its uses but can not ever be a pragmatic political philosophy or platform, this is what I mean.
Example of populist, libertarian idea:
For the sake of this discussion, a “populist” economic policy idea is one that transfers economic resources from a privileged minority to the masses. There are many instances in which a libertarian or deregulatory impulse would have this effect. Upzoning of expensive urban and suburban land is my personal favorite agenda. Call it “deregulation” if you want to be libertarian or call it “land reform” if you want to sound like populist, but either way it’s a good idea.
So that’s a good idea and it’s populist. It could lead to a lot of wealth building for a lot of people, especially the poorest among us. It’s also a libertarian one.
But most of the things libertarians purport are populist really aren’t:
No one is going to buy the idea that lower taxes help the poor or middle class unless it’s actually cutting their taxes (and then, that would most likely mean less government works elsewhere which they don’t want).
The public doesn’t really want to shrink government when you rattle off the list of things the government does (with the exception of those things which cost almost nothing).
“Smaller government” is an abstract, populist libertarian idea but like most so-called “populist” libertarian ideas, they’re impractical and unpopular.