Without understanding the many faces of libertarianism – minarchists, anarchists, partyarchs, non-voters, consequentialists, moralists, realists, idealists, agorists, voluntaryists -- syndicated columnist Michael Gerson takes on libertarians and gets much of it right.
Gerson's entire article attacks "legalize and tax" libertarians who "seek to lift governmental restraints on consensual acts" even as this assists "governments that seek sources of revenue."
This, he says, results in an "ideological alliance" between libertarians and government, creating more freedom for individuals and more tax revenue for government.
He's right about "legalize and tax" libertarians but not about "decriminalization" libertarians whom he never mentions. Decriminalization simply removes laws against peaceful activities that never should have been illegal in the first place.
Both government and "Legalize and tax" libertarians "find common ground in encouraging and exploiting the weaknesses and addictions of its populace," Gerson says. But true Libertarians neither encourage nor discourage gambling or marijuana use or any other voluntary activity; they simply champion the Zero Aggression Principle that rejects initiation of force, intimidation and fraud, a principle almost never mentioned when mainstreamers write about libertarians, Gerson included.
Gerson and libertarians are right that government benefits when so-called "legalize and tax" libertarians work together. Government always spends more than it collects, which sets up an endless cycle of taxing, collecting, overspending and searching for yet new taxes.
New sources of taxation always means the creation of new bureaucracies resulting in more bureaucrats and civil servants demanding more taxpayer-funded salaries, benefits and retirements and more union bosses demanding more dues from their public employees which gets funneled into the pockets of politicians who benefit from more taxation which sets the whole cycle in motion again.
Making every victimless activity legal but taxable may be a goal of government but not of libertarians.
To the extent that "libertarians are now, paradoxically, providing ideological air cover for irresponsible government" Gerson is correct. No libertarian can both accept the Zero Aggression Principle while holding the "legalize and tax" position on any victimless activity.
Unfortunately, no two sources seem to agree on the definitions of legalize, re-legalize or decriminalize, so libertarians must simply demand the exclusion of government from all adult consensual interactions and the simultaneous withering away of The State. Otherwise they need to stop calling themselves libertarians.