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Libertarians Rising?

Nick GIllespie and Matt Welch have a big piece in the WaPo's Outlook section that has quickly risen to the top of the most emailed list. The article tries to make sense of the "Ron Paul revolution", and what the authors see as a rising tide of libertarian sentiment in the country. Here's their conclusion:

More than at any other time over the past two decades, Americans are hungering for the politics and freewheeling fun of libertarianism. And with the dreary prospect of a Giuliani vs. Clinton death match in 2008, that hunger is likely to grow even faster than the size of the federal government or the casualty toll in Iraq. Ron Paul may lose next year's battle -- though not without a memorable fight -- but the laissez-faire agitators he has helped energize will find themselves at the leading edge of American politics and culture for years to come.

This comes after 2000 words on the ways in which the two major parties infringe on our liberty and deny a voice to libertarians everywhere. I think Gillespie and Welch are very smart guys, but this seems pretty absurd. Were supposed to believe that the Paul "phenomenon" represents a lot of voters, huh? Well, does anyone think he'll get over 10% of GOP primary votes? Will he even reach 15% in the Live Free or Die state? Could he reach five percent as a third party candidate? Will either of the two-party candidates adopt his position on anything from the Federal Reserve to taxes to American foreign policy? Of course not.

The obvious conclusion here, I think, is not that the two party "duopoly" is pulling the wool over our eyes. No, it's that despite occasional bitching from the college kids mentioned by Gillespie and Welch, the vast majority of Americans think they live in a country which generally respects their liberty. I have no idea what most citizens think about smoking bans and online gambling restrictions. But I do believe they are smart enough to know that these issues neither matter much, nor are worth voting on.

--Isaac Chotiner