Misleading or one-sided characterizations notwithstanding, libertarianism is precisely the “third way” that many Americans desire.
Libertarianism is not the claim that individuals are always rational, or that markets are always efficient, or that the distribution of income under laissez-faire capitalism is always “fair.” Rather, it is the claim that, despite the imperfections of private arrangements, government interventions usually make things worse. Thus, non-intervention is the better policy.
A crucial feature of libertarianism is consistency: It applies a skeptical lens to all aspects of government, whether economic, social or foreign. In every case, libertarianism asks calmly but rigorously whether intervention actually yields better outcomes, regardless of whether that implies a “conservative” or “liberal” policy conclusion. Libertarianism sticks to its principles.
This consistency does not, by itself, make libertarianism “right,” but it shows libertarianism’s unique perspective on government. Libertarianism holds that government causes many current problems, so more government is unlikely to reduce these problems. The best approach is to remove the existing government that causes or exacerbates the problem in the first place.