If free market forces are as powerful and beneficent as libertarians seem to think they are, how come they have not produced more societies that approach the libertarian ideal? I'm no fan of Karl Marx, but at least he seemed to have some theory of history that explained why the world was the way it was and how his Utopian ideal would come to pass. If libertarians were correct, wouldn't libertarian societies be at such a competitive advantage that market forces would have produced more of them?
When asked by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show whether any country had ever approximated his ideal of liberty, Ron Paul said he thought that America did pretty well at its founding, “They recognized property rights, sound money, and contracts, and you didn’t have a right to destroy your neighbor’s property." How could this relatively pure form of libertarian society become so corrupted if free markets and property rights are as powerful as the libertarians believe them to be? Why didn't other societies when throwing off their monarchies or colonial masters grant the same primacy to property rights that the United States had and thereby gain the same blessings of economic liberty? When the Russian people overthrew the Tsar in 1917, why wasn't laissez-faire capitalism even in the mix of ideologies competing for the hearts and minds of the people?
I think it is a fairly obvious why the Russian Revolution wasn't led by libertarians. The protection of private property isn't the kind of thing that is going to inspire propertyless peasants to overthrow a propertied aristocracy. The French Revolution drew much inspiration from the American Revolution but it was also a revolt against the propertied clergy and nobility so it had to offer something more than protection of property rights to inspire the storming of the Bastille. It seems to me that the American Revolution is unique in that the rebellion was largely carried out by property owners and is unique in the role that the protection of property rights played in its theoretical underpinnings.
I think the reason that the American Revolution was unique in its emphasis on property rights is that America was unique in its ability to offer the possibility of property ownership to all citizens without coercing it from the rulers who were being overthrown. In France and Russia, the only way the peasants could hope to be property owners was by taking property away from the nobility and clergy who controlled it. In America at the time of the Revolution, however, there was a virtually limitless supply of land and natural resources there for the taking from savages whose interests could be summarily ignored. The Founding Fathers did not have to concern themselves with equality of opportunity because the seemingly boundless frontier provided it.
Unfortunately, the supply of natural resources in the United States was not inexhaustible. Eventually, the frontier closed and the supply of free land ran out. Moreover, the marginal quality of the last land to be snatched up was eventually exposed by the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. People could no longer simply pull up stakes and move west because there was no more unclaimed land to be occupied. Like every other place in the world where resources are constrained, the only way to provide equality of opportunity is for those who have is to concede something to those who have not.