For the last week or so Michael Lind has been sticking his thumbs in his ears and trolling libertarians with the challenge, “show me your laissez-faire utopia, nerds!”

Lind is an arch-Hamiltonian at the aggressively centrist New America Foundation, so this isn’t really surprising. But it being something of a libertarian moment with the administration’s various scandals, his columns have provided fodder for other guardians of the Washington consensus, such as E.J. “Your Community, The State” Dionne.

I’m not sure it’s useful to delve into the divergent historical views of everybody involved—Lind is basically right that 19th-century America hardly qualifies as a libertarian nation. These historiographies are mostly just proxies for contemporary debates: To Lind, his inability to find a good example of a libertarian state is evidence the philosophy doesn’t work, and Dionne saying early-20th Century America was “largely handcuffed by this anti-government ideology until Franklin D. Roosevelt came along” is just a historically ignorant way of condemning Scourge Tea Party.

Lind is absolutely right that the premium libertarians put on ideological purity often leads them to shoot themselves in the foot—evidence their eagerness to dismiss Rand Paul, the most prominent champion of libertarian ideas today, over things that end up not being true. The problem is he seems completely uninterested in engaging any of the more substantive responses from his interlocutors, such as Will Wilkinson, Ron Bailey, Max Borders, and Walt Thiessen. He’s arguing against a “cartoon libertarian” straw man.

If anything, libertarianism is skeptical of utopias of the sort that Lind’s social-engineering fellow travelers often fantasize about. It’s an attempt to solve the problem of power, as opposed to architecting and channeling it. That libertarians think they can is perhaps evidence of naive assumptions about human nature, but it’s still a worthy project.

Update: In today’s Transom, Ben Domenech points out Liechtenstein as a pretty good contender as a libertarian monarchy, rebuts Lind’s smear about Coolidge’s racism, who was fairly progressive on racial issues, and digs up this hilarious poem Lind wrote about former Klan member Woodrow Wilson.