P.J. O’Rourke‘s recent trip to a libertarian conference reminded him of the difficulty of convincing large numbers of people to rally around a libertarian cause. He explains in a Daily Beast column.

[P]eople love to hear what libertarians have to say until those people go into the voting both. Then limitations on the size, power, and expense of government start to get personal.

According to the Census Bureau, 49 percent of Americans receive some kind of government benefits. And political scientists Suzanne Mettler and John Sides of The Century Foundation (which is liberal-centrist) say that if you throw in everything that can be construed as a government benefit, e.g. mortgage interest deductions, 96% of Americans are on the take.

What would be a good yard sign for a libertarian politician?

Vote for _______
He Can Give You Less

It would take a demagogue with a powerful ideology to convince people to make the necessary sacrifices for libertarianism. But libertarians disapprove of demagoguery and consider ideology to be nobody’s business but your own. I guess Ayn Rand was a sort of a libertarian demagogue. But she attracted Alan Greenspan, not crowds.

How do we go about creating a mass movement when we don’t believe there’s such a thing as the masses?

We do have manifestos. But they tend to run a little long — On the Wealth of Nations, for example.

If we marched we’d go in all different directions.

We could host teach-ins. But what we’d teach is Econ. 101 and I doubt attendance would be large.

We could hold sit-ins — sitting home alone watching a DVD of Milton Friedman’s “Free to Chose.”

We could stage boycotts. But if you believe in “Free to Choose” what do you boycott, freedom or choice?

Libertarian civil disobedience is a possibility. But all Americans practice libertarian civil disobedience already, on their IRS forms.

I suppose we could infiltrate the government and do nothing. But federal employees, at the V.A. for instance, seem to have that base covered.