October 31, 2009 3:26PM

Our Libertarian Future

Brink Lindsey described a “libertarian consensus that mixes the social freedom of the left with the economic freedom of the right” in his book The Age of Abundance. Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie said that right now is a “libertarian moment.” I saw a “civil liberties surge” in public opinion polls on marijuana laws and gay marriage. And now Jacob Weisberg foresees the imminent end to various kinds of prohibition in these United States:

Within 10 years, it seems a reasonable guess that Americans will travel freely to Cuba, that all states will recognize gay unions, and that few will retain criminal penalties for marijuana use by individuals. Whether or not Democrats retain control of Congress, whether or not Obama is re‐​elected, and whether they happen sooner or later than expected, these reforms are inevitable—not because politics has changed but because society has.

For good measure, he adds that we’re not going to prohibit either abortion or gun ownership. “Conservatives would be wise to give up on the one, liberals on the other. In each of these cases, popular demand for an individual right is simply too powerful to overcome.”

Sounds like libertarian heaven:

The chief reason these prohibitions are falling away is the evolving definition of the pursuit of happiness.…

Republicans face a risk in resisting these new realities. Freedom is part of their brand; if the GOP remains the party of prohibition, it will increasingly alienate libertarian‐​leaners and the young. But the party as presently constituted has very little capacity to accept social change. Democrats face a danger in embracing cultural transformations too eagerly. Nearly four decades after George McGovern became known as the candidate of amnesty, abortion, and acid, cultural issues are still treacherous territory for them. Why get in front of change when you can follow from a safe distance and end up with the same result?

Of course, if the Democrats raise taxes and the deficit high enough, and do what they’re threatening to do to health care, marijuana may be the only medicine you don’t have to get on a waiting list for, but you won’t be able to afford it. And the marriage penalty may make everyone decide they can’t afford to get married. And flights to Cuba may be too expensive on our dwindling after‐​tax incomes.