The paradox of libertarianism is that it depends upon cultural capital it cannot replenish. This is why John Locke’s social contract theory begins with independent adults who reason like well-trained British barristers, even though the state of nature could not produce such individuals. Locke was not providing a historical account of how government arose in some distant past, but an image to shape the imaginations of his readers in their understanding of government in the present. The social contract was meant to be taken seriously, but not literally.

The libertarian challenge is not of establishing government via social contract. Rather, it is to cultivate people capable of sustaining self-government, a task that is complicated by libertarianism’s official indifference to family formation, moral instruction, drug use, and other social factors essential to the development of citizens capable of flourishing in a libertarian regime.

Furthermore, because it has no place for economic solidarity, libertarianism sabotages itself economically as well as socially. The doctrinal imperatives of open markets and (often) open borders deny the existence of any national “We the people” who ought to be considered in economic policymaking. Libertarians cheer the “creative destruction” of the global market’s economic devastation of communities and regions. They believe those who cannot compete in the global marketplace must evolve or die — find a new line of work or move elsewhere.