Every now and then, the political blogosphere gets itself excited over the precise parameters of the relationship between contemporary Libertarianism and the worldview of the American founding fathers. David Frum has recently contributed a perspective on the question that I think is generally quite good in its analysis, through which he essentially concludes that the question is silly. It is.
It’s not that I agree entirely with Frum throughout his argument – I don’t – but the article is worth reading for the sake of considering a corrective to the claims of libertarians to possess a pure liberalism (which they prefer to call conservatism!). In terms of understanding the character of contemporary Libertarianism, I think Frum is on the right track particularly when he notes that it entails a worldview born on the playgrounds of the wealthy:
Libertarianism is very much a movement of post-1945 affluent society America, a society that has developed birth control and drug rehab, antibiotics and antidepressants. We are a society abounding in second chances. 18th century America was a society in which a personal misstep could easily lead to premature and unpleasant death. Self-actualization through self-expression was a concept not imaginable until GDP per capita rose many, many thousands of dollars higher than the level prevailing in 1776.