The funniest thing about this? I’m not sure Maher does know. He knows he’s more socialist than libertarian when it comes to health care, but as a general proposition about how he self-identifies, he seems hesitant when Breitbart puts it to him. That’s a testament, I think, to how intellectually attractive the libertarian brand is, ironically almost in inverse proportion to how successful it is at the polls. Democrats bristle at the “socialist” label but tell any Republican pol or pundit except Mike Huckabee that he’s a “libertarian” — especially in the year of the tea party — and he’s likely to agree, albeit with qualifiers. And why not? The brand means free markets, property rights, civil liberties, and most importantly for Maher, permissiveness towards drug use and sexual behavior. The Constitution + fun = crazy delicious. And because libertarianism tends to operate in popular debate as a critique of mainstream conservatism (even though, of course, economically it’s a much sharper critique of liberalism), it’s a useful way of endorsing certain elements of the GOP agenda without endorsing the entire rotten GOP brand, essentially shorthand for saying, “I like capitalism but I’m too thoughtful to be a Republican.” None of which is meant to impugn committed libertarians like the Reason crew, just guys like Maher who dig the label and the slight charge of dissident chic that it carries so much that they’re reluctant to part with it, even after they’ve (d)evolved into center-left Democrats.
Incidentally, the best part here isn’t the Breitbart/Maher exchange, it’s Maher insisting that the reason ObamaCare is polling so badly is because — no joke — the Democrats haven’t talked about it enough yet. That’s the cover story of next month’s Reason magazine, isn’t it? “More ObamaCare speeches, please”? Click the image to watch.