It is alleged—and not by libertarians—that the current American era is increasingly defined by a “libertarian moment.” Although some chatter did begin within the liberty movement, as libertarian lawyers found themselves gaining traction at last within the courts, the dominant sense is broader, more nervous, and even hostile. Libertarianism has long been negatively associated with personal recklessness and irresponsibility; now, thinkers Right and Left are shuffling toward a strange new consensus about the culture of irresponsibility that seems to characterize not just our fellow Americans, but our regime itself.

In a searching, pained essay at The New Republic, for instance, Mark Lilla warns that a libertarianism of radical self-entitlement now defines our age. “That is not because democracy is on the march,” he says, “(it is regressing in many places), or because the bounty of the free market has reached everyone (we have a new class of paupers), or because we are now all free to do as we wish (since wishes inevitably conflict).”

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