Historically, governments were indeed smaller. But that was largely on account of the fact that they could rely on institutions like the Church and the natural family, and on the tightly-interwoven mesh of unwritten privileges and mutual obligations that upheld these institutions, to serve the welfare of the people in society. And it was taken for granted that, as Solovyov would later put it, the purpose of the state in all things was ‘collectively-organised pity’ for the weak and vulnerable. Libertarians appear to think – as a matter of ideological wishful-thinking and in the absence of precedent – that one can have a functional society of the sort people would prefer to live in, without either the cultural safety net of traditional social roles and obligations, or the legal safety net of an economically-interventionist state. I can understand the appeal to such an ideology in a time when the legitimacy of the state itself is being called into question, but libertarianism is still very much a utopian fantasy, and a profoundly dangerous one.
A very thoughtful and insightful post from Matthew Franklin Cooper