If you've taken a writing course, surely you've heard -- "write what you know" -- and if you're the type of rebel who thinks before digesting cliches, you might've asked how science fiction writers make a living -- however, all cliches usually contain some truth, and it does pay to know a subject before writing authoritatively in a major publication such as Forbes. So, I have to believe Bruce Bartlett is either an aspiring science fiction writer or he decided he'd just break the basic writing rule for the hell of it. Perhaps he wasted too much time at parties talking to libertarians who don't mind paying taxes and found himself under the deadline gun, so he just whipped something together in the blur of a hangover -- or he's never heard of Google where he could've found a plethora of libertarian thought to flesh out his apparently insufficient understanding of libertarianism, which he chose to write about in spite of knowing very little about the subject. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but, really, he should've at least skimmed through something more substantive, like any of the works of Tibor Machan, rather than rely on a paranoid-schizophrenic writing from a cabin in Montana or the wine-induced ramblings of a D. C. fashion-libertarian at a cocktail party. I don't actually know where he got his information, but it's obvious he wasn't fully informed -- either that or he deliberately reduced libertarianism to a cartoon version in order to make a point, albeit a dull point.
What's even more troubling is Will Wilkinson calling the article "excellent". After I read Barnett's article, recommended by Wilkinson, and after I stopped laughing, I thought of some adjectives to describe what he'd written, but "excellent" wasn't one of them -- "ridiculous", perhaps, but not "excellent". Even a cursory review of libertarian thought would be sufficient to disprove his claim that libertarians are not concerned about the functions of government and society outside economics, or aside from a disdain for taxes have nothing further to say, such as what could be done with the money saved from avoiding confiscation by a statist government adept at building feeding troughs. Just a little research would have revealed libertarian ideas regarding education, public goods, foreign policy, welfare, our justice system, healthcare, property rights, private charities and other concerns that have been written about extensively by Cato contributors, libertarian bloggers, Rothbard, Machan, Narveson, Friedman and many others. Bartlett did mention a few of these libertarian concerns, but only in how they relate to economics -- I guess everything can be related to the economy when you want to support a point.
In defense of Bartlett, and Wilkerson, libertarians do seem to have a closer affinity to liberals than conservatives, but only liberals closer to the classic definition of liberalism, not the new liberals who are actually statists. I imagine the libertarians, liberaltarians and liberals at this meeting Bartlett attended would roll their eyes at the mention of "statists" and claim it's right-wing code for "socialism". They might not like the word, but it's the only appropriate description for Obama and most of the Democrat Party -- and there is no compatibility between libertarians and statists. While Barlett admits that liberals could learn from the economics of libertarians, what he fails to admit is that statists could learn from the whole broad view of libertarianism which touches on more than economics. Without the limited government he dismisses as libertarian myopia, statists will continue to attempt to control the economy and everything it touches.
What Bartlett can't conceive, it appears, is the vast private sector and libertarianism as more than a reduced media version. Libertarianism is more than a disgruntled group of tax evaders, economists, pot heads, advocates for gay marriage and nerds in a cloud of ideas -- all these components fit under a broader view of liberty. It's this broader view of liberty which is at odds with the new liberals and the conservatives -- at odds with anyone supporting the present statist government which ignores the principles of liberty. To understand the broader view of liberty and how it's far from simplistic and limited to economics, I'd suggest Bartlett read the rich and diverse history of libertarian thought and spend more time in the public sphere studying the wonderful world outside government.