It's no big secret that I have little love for either Liberals or what passes for Conservatives these days. Fortunately, the lack of love is returned in spades from either group, because if there's one thing those two demographics can agree on, it's their intense dislike of Libertarians. Make yourself logins for a conservative gun board and a liberal discussion board, out yourself as a Libertarian, start a few threads on the right topics, and watch the spittle fly.
What's instructive is the nature of the criticism they level at Libertarians. Republicans/neocons/Constitution Party folks sound a bit like this:
"Libertarians are all a bunch of idealists who just want to smoke pot without being arrested!"
Translation: Libertarians oppose kicking down doors and shooting/incarcerating people over the possession of certain plant byproducts, and where is it going to end if we let that happen?
Liberals and social progressives sound a bit like this:
"Libertarians are heartless and selfish people who would just let people starve on street corners without lending a helping hand!"
Translation: Libertarians oppose extorting people's money at gunpoint to give to other people who need it more, and where is it going to end if we let that happen?
Now, to be sure, there are things about Libertarianism both like, and those are the bits where the Libertarians would just let them engage in their pet freedom. Conservatives like the idea of being able to keep your paycheck and have no restrictions on owning or carrying personal artillery. Liberals like the idea of being able to smoke or ingest whatever they please or boff whatever consenting adult they choose in the privacy of their own home. The sad thing, however, is that neither (R) or (D) would vote for being able to indulge in their own favorite freedoms if it also meant that they couldn't curb the other guy's exercise of his favorite freedom. In other words, they like the part where nobody can tell them what to do, but they hate the part about not being able to tell others what to do.
I have no illusions about the prominence or importance of Libertarianism in the near future of this country. Freedom is a tough sell, and Libertarianism doesn't promise a chicken in every pot, or handcuffs on your favorite kind of victimless criminal. That kind of message doesn't fly too well in a country that's for the most part evenly split between people who want their politicians to promise either the former or the latter in order to get elected.
Isn't it sad, though, that the country of Jefferson and Franklin has turned into a place where the concept of freedom is so unpopular that it draws scorn and ridicule from both sides of the political aisle? We have conditioned successive generations of Liberals and Conservatives to believe that the proper role of government is either to play mommy or daddy to the electorate, and they chuckle when someone suggests that government ought to threat you like a grownup.
(They'll be sure to tell you that they themselves can act like grownups just fine, thank you very much, but that their neighbors just can't be trusted to do the right thing without a little nudge from the government boot.)