The libertarian view is that government has it's place, but personal rights and responsibilities are core. Usually the former (rights) is called out to call libertarians unrealistic, while disregarding the mantra of personal responsibility that is the cornerstone of the libertarian utopia. Most of L. Neil Smiths science fiction is based on the "what-if" of a libertarian US society based on the idea that it isn't the governments job to take care of us, it's our job.
Like most "ideal" based beliefs, it's difficult to translate the libertarian goals of minimal government at any level to specific action -- notably, it's one thing to be against all laws restricting drugs, guns, and money, and another entirely to apply that to an entitlement society based on tightly controlled markets* and a diminshed capacity for taking charge on one's own life.
The concept of "affirmative action" is troublesome to libertarians, because if we really believe the philosophy we shouldn't care what age, race, sex, or species you are: If you can do the job, you're worth having as a part of a team. ANY team. However, to note that, as a group, we're "against" affirmative action, and out comes the "racist" label. Never mind that most "isms" are no use to libertarians -- There's too much work that needs to be done.
I recently commented in mixed company (politically, that is) that, if I had to choose from all the republican't presidential dreamers, I would pick Ron Paul. I think Roni was shocked that I would even be looking at the republicans, much less think any were worth listening to. Of course, I voted for Ron when he was running under the Libertarian ticket in the 90's, so his name recognition is a bit better for me than for some. Now that he's running with the Elephants, I've been bemused by the early attempts to marginalize him to the fringe by the traditional media, only to see him out-raise the former darlings like Huckabee, Thompson, McCain -- he's even started to give Giuliani a run for his money. Once he broke a single day fund raising effort, his poll numbers suddenly popped -- though that's in large part to being INCLUDED in the polls in the first place.
Libertarian ideals are starting to spread a bit -- a big reason for a lot of democratic gains in 2006 were in large part libertarian driven, in turn due to the abandonment of those ideals by the republicans, who for decades were trying to be "Libertarian Lite" -- only they were using those ideals as an excuse to cut their own taxes and responsibilities at everyone else's expense. By taking on the "fiscal responsibility" mantel that the wingnuts abandoned to toss 1.5 trillion towards wars with little to no benefit to the people of this country (at best!), on top of civil liberty violations that started well in advance of 9/11/2001.
The reason this happened was simple -- as far back as the 70's the Libertarian aspects of the republican party ran into the immovable object that was the religious right's desire for a theocratic form of government. Theocracy, by it's very definition, is the anathema of libertarian philosophy of pro-choice thinking. Ironically, one of the critiques of Ron Paul is that he's "pro-life" -- in fact he disagrees that the government should be involved in ANY medical decisions, and that the regulation of things like drugs and medical procedures should be at the state level.**
While fellow progressives and the democratic party as a whole look at the '08 elections with barely contained glee, I've been getting nervous that it may be a TOO one sided a rout of the republicans, even if MoveOn and other organizations are recognizing the importance of challenging incumbent dems for being unresponsive to their constituents (Pelosi and Feinstein, amongst two), there's also the importance of a real opposition party to prevent the majority from running roughshod over the rights of the losing 49.9 per cent (or even the losing 10% -- do you really want to disenfranchise 30+ million people?***).
Which is why I'm supporting Ron Paul's bid. Even if he doesn't go all the way, he's the only one on either side of the aisle pointing out how badly the republican's have screwed up, be it a bullshit war costing our grandchildren their social security, to the monetary policies that are rendering every penny you've made work less than half what it was last year. At the very least his continued presence amongst the Red Primaries is forcing topics to the surface that most of the other morons would rather drown out with repeated tourette's like barks of "9/11! Iraq! Terraists! Homeland Security!".
What can I say -- I love the underdog.
* Think we live in a "free market" society? Try growing certain otherwise legal crops where price controls are in place, even if only for "personal use", or selling milk for less than a certain amount in California, or any one of a thousand things that have nothing to do with market forces.
** I am endlessly amused by the debate that we should have "unified" federal standards -- the idea that the feds are better suited to decide for us what's best at a state level rather than have "50 different standards" totally misses the point of having states in the first place. States are sovereign, not franchises.
*** Demoracy's fatal flaw: It does NOT scale well. Back in the days when dealing with populations in the hundred, even thousands, 50 per cent plus one seemed fair. When you start hitting hundreds of thousands and millions, suddenly whole cities and states are at the mercy of people far removed from your issues and environment. That's why stronger state rights are even MORE important in the modern era, not less!