I must be in a strange mood today, because I am even feeling inclined to defend libertarians against Prof. Bainbridge’s assault.  Bainbridge responded to McArdle:

To me, this is basically wrong headed. I can’t think of anything more contrary to the spirit of Burkean conservatism than a seach for the “next big thing.” Indeed, I would argue that a large part of the problem with modern conservatism is that Bush and the K Street Gang were more concerned with finding something big to do than with standing athwart history shouting stop.

Instead, it is the Libertarians and the progressives who are Big Idea people. Despite their obvious differences in philosophy, they share the absurd belief that if only their big idea(s) came to pass, society would inexorably progress towards some ideal.

Notably, except for Objectivism, there are no big ideas on his list that could be reasonably connected to libertarians of any stripe, and most libertarians tend to regard actual Objectivists as the scary cousins you never want to invite to family functions.  Goodness knows I love to give libertarians grief about all kinds of things, and there is some truth in the observation that libertarians, classical liberals, and modern liberals/progressives share certain fundamental assumptions about progress that conservatives properly do not share, which is why they tend to be optimists and we are not (or at least should not be).  However, it seems to me that libertarians typically eschew “big ideas” in the way that Bainbridge means them, which is not the same as saying that they eschew all ideology.  Libertarians are ideological, but it is because of the content of their ideology that they are among the least inclined to endorse “big ideas” if these entail massive collective efforts, especially when realised through the state’s coercive apparatus, and they are also probably temperamentally least inclined to accept comprehensive and totalising cultural or political projects designed, as they would critically view it, to infuse life with meaning.  What Ms. McArdle meant by the “next big thing” was not, I assume, the “next big federal entitlement program we could use to buy votes” or the “next big social engineering project,” but rather the next major policy debate.

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