The Copenhagen Consensus Center is devoted to trying to funnel government and private monies for development into their most cost-effective uses. They do this by bringing experts together to hash out priorities.
The idea is simple, yet often neglected; when financial resources are limited, it is necessary to prioritize the effort. Every day, policymakers and business leaders at all levels prioritize by investing in one project instead of another. However, instead of being based on facts, science, and calculations, many vital decisions are based on political motives or even the possibility of media coverage.
What if there were a similar idea for promoting libertarian ideas? Libertarians have not only limited financial resources but also limited political resources (and they often pursue agendas which further undermine their political effectiveness). How could those resources be most effectively used? Given constraints, what should be the priorities of the movement?
Libertarians spend a lot of energy arguing for policies that 1) are seen by non-libertarians as beyond the fringe and 2) are not that central to the daily lives of most people. For instance, does it make sense to talk about decriminalizing hard drugs, when the FDA on a daily basis requires people to obtain permission from doctors to use any number of health promoting drugs? If I want a drug to treat air sickness, or acid reflux, or sleep problems, for instance, I have to incur significant costs to do so well beyond the market cost of the drug–which is offensive not only from a libertarian standpoint, but also makes no sense for a society trying to control health care costs. If we spent less time defending the sale of crack, pornography or prostitution, and more time on things like the tyranny of the FDA, perhaps we would be more effective.
Libertarians are not inclined by nature to pursue consensus, compromise and efficient trade-offs. These are not the methods that appeal to people driven by an ideology of being left alone. That is what the Big Government People do. But suppose the brightest minds in the movement got together, formulated a list of Priorities for Increasing Freedom driven by the cost-effective use of economic and political resources, and then worked in concert on that agenda. Would it matter? Are libertarians so hopelessly irrelevant that they can’t accomplish anything other than making the case for an ideal world that will never be?