But “libertarian” often means little more than “a person with right-leaning sensibilities who is embarrassed to be associated with the Republican Party.” (Hardly, these days, an indefensible position.) Libertarian sensibilities are popular because they enable the posture of above-it-all nonpartisanship, but libertarian policies, as [Bryan] Caplan and others have noted at length, are not very popular at all. Americans broadly and strongly support a rising minimum wage and oppose entitlement reform with at least equal commitment, and they are far from reliable supporters of free speech and free association or enforcing limits on police powers.
Pointer from Tyler Cowen.
By the end of the essay, Williamson wonders whether the Democrats might make some overtures to libertarians. But I get the sense that he is stopping short of going full Niskanen Center. That is, he doesn’t seem to be bad-mouthing libertarians as a way of trying to curry status with the left.
OK, so I scheduled this post over a week ago, and subsequently Williamson was fired by the Atlantic. Nothing to do with the column I quoted; he apparently is anti-abortion and does not mince words in expressing his opinion on that, and the severity of the way he expressed his views was the reason given for the decision to let him go. I don’t know anything about the background to his hiring or firing, but my instinct is to assign a very low probability to the official explanation being the full story.