The Libertarian Vote

David Boaz, executive vice president at Cato, and my friend David Kirby have a new study out on "The Libertarian Vote" that, in direct contradiction to what I said yesterday, purports to demonstrate that there's a largish libertarian constituency -- 9 to 14 percent of the population -- and that it's a persuadable constituency both parties should be trying to compete for.

I find this pretty unconvincing. The trouble is that the poll question they're basing their work on are incredibly generic. Things like "Some people think the government is trying to do too many thingaygs that should be left to individuals and businesses. Others think that government should do more to solve our country's problems. Which comes closer to your view?" America is famous, however, for having voters who want "small government" but don't actually want to shrink any major government programs. Lots of people may think the government "does too much." Cutting Social Security benefits, however, is very unpopular. So is cutting defense spending. The number of people who want to cut both is actually quite small. For fairly obvious reasons, there isn't much public demad for "more government" as such. Instead, there's appetite for specific governmet initiatives and the government gets "big" because the initiatives add up.