Martin Wolf writes,

[Libertarianism] is hopeless intellectually, because the values people hold are many and divergent and some of these values do not merely allow, but demand, government protection of weak, vulnerable or unfortunate people. Moreover, such values are not “wrong”. The reality is that people hold many, often incompatible, core values. Libertarians argue that the only relevant wrong is coercion by the state. Others disagree and are entitled to do so.

It is hopeless politically, because democracy necessitates debate among widely divergent opinions. Trying to rule out a vast range of values from the political sphere by constitutional means will fail. Under enough pressure, the constitution itself will be changed, via amendment or reinterpretation.

Thanks to Mark Thoma for the pointer.

Wolf writes as if these decisions are made communally, like we all get to sit around a campfire and decide what government should do. The reality is that people in office have much more influence than the rest of us. And they are inclined to think that the optimal scope of government is always larger than whatever it is now. They are never-enoughers.

Libertarians are people who see the game for what it is and want to change the rules.