Although I think that the Cato Institute does valuable policy analysis work, there is a reason that Libertarianism doesn't work as a political movement, and its not just because the cards are stacked against them. Its because they aren't what they claim to be.
Politically savvy people are usually familiar with the chart that I'm embedding in this post, which presents Libertarianism as being orthogonal to the normal left-right political divide. If this were true, the Libertarian movement would attract participation from anti-authoritarians on both the left and the right side of the political spectrum. Likewise, when Libertarians "cut a deal with the devil" and get behind mainstream political candidates, you'd expect there to be some semblance of balance between the candidates they chose to support - some being Republicans and some being Democrats.
However, this isn't what happens in practice. In practice, mainstream candidates that Libertarians get behind are consistently Republican candidates, and Libertarians are quick to rationalize that although these Republicans, like Rand Paul, may support some policy choices that Libertarians oppose, their success is important to the overall cause.
On the other hand, Libertarians don't seem to support Democrats under any circumstances, even ones who have proven track records of fighting for important individual liberties. In the most recent midterm election, Democratic Senator Mark Udall, an outspoken opponent of mass domestic surveillance by the NSA, lost his seat to a Republican challenger. What do Libertarian's think about this? Well, if the comments on Reason's blog offer any evidence, they are overjoyed! Here are a couple of examples of the responses that Reason received when they suggested that Udall's loss might be a bad thing, although you can follow the link for more.
While I have very low expectations for a GOP Congress, I have even lower ones if the Senate remains in the hands of the state-adoring Democrats. At least some Republicans want to stop the madness. And if they're willing to turn the heat up on this administration, then I'll be even happier.
So he raises some fuss in Committee - so what? He'll also vote for Harry Reid as Majority Leader, ensuring no meaningful legislation. He'll spend and tax and grab guns at every chance.
Are you f**king kidding me Reason????!!! Seriously WTF?!!
This is the guy that want's to scrap the first amendment in its entirety because, because Koch brothers!!!!
How in the hell can you post an article saying "this guys not so bad". I mean really he only want to give congress oversight over our every utterance around campaign time, unless you're "the press". Do you think for a minute that Udall really would count Reason as truly the press??!!
My mind totally boggles at how the hell this post could make it to the website.
It was the same story a few years ago when ardent civil libertarian Russ Feingold lost his seat. You can read the thread here. The vast majority of the opinions there are very negative toward Feingold.
If these people were concerned about individual liberties, and had individual liberty as their top political priority, they would be aware of Senators like Udall and Feingold who had fought for those liberties, and they would not want to see those Senators get voted out. The fact that these Libertarians can easily overlook statism on the part of Conservatives like Rand Paul but take a hard line when it comes to Liberals like Udall and Feingold, means that they aren't really libertarian as it is objectively defined, and they don't really have individual liberty as their top priority. Their priorities are more in line with those of the mainstream Republican party - seeking lower taxes and a lax regulatory environment for businesses moreso than social liberties such as the right to be secure against unreasonable searches. If Libertarians, as a movement, aren't genuinely interested in individual civil liberties and do not treat those issues as genuine political priorities, then they are simply Conservatives operating under a different brand name. There is no substantive difference between what they are advocating for and what the mainstream Republican party says that they want.
If the Libertarian movement is really just the Republican party's little brother, which is only open to Republicans and only interested in Republican priorities, then its not really libertarian, and that fact is self limiting in terms of the sort of impact that its going to have on the American political scene. It is not a place where people on both sides of the political spectrum can work together to create a country where people have greater freedom - its just a looney bin for people who are too disaffected or radical to vote for the mainstream candidate that the Republicans are running.
As I stated at the beginning, the Cato Institute does a great deal of valuable policy analysis work which is truely libertarian, but the movement they are spearheading does not live up to the intellectual standard that they set.