Skousen has a simple analogy for all of this: "If you restrict a teenager, they rebel. I think that's what people are feeling."
"Libertarian" at its essence means an advocate of the doctrine of free will and individual liberty. Or, as the Libertarian Party states on the banner of its website: "Minimum Government, Maximum Freedom." Just how many Americans actually endorse the philosophy has never been easy to measure. The Libertarian Party claims some 250,000 registered voters among the more than 235 million voting-age Americans.
While there are few capital "L'' Libertarians, many others clearly have libertarian-like views that favor a fiscally conservative, socially tolerant way of governing.
The philosophy — religious freedom, self-governance, a representative democracy that responds to the will of the people instead of ruling over the people — has been a part of the fabric of America since the 13 colonies waged a war for political independence from Britain.
"The American political culture from the beginning, and certainly at the time of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, was what would be called libertarian," said John Samples, director of the Center for Representative Government at the libertarian think-tank Cato Institute. "That is: It was concerned about limiting government; it was concerned about individual liberty."
The American West, and Nevada especially, has long embodied those tenets — whether in the independent spirit that pervaded the frontier or, later, in the tenacious fights with the federal government over property rights and land that became known as the Sagebrush Rebellion.
The Libertarian Party itself was formed in Colorado in 1971 by a small group of citizens fed up with the two major political parties. They were compelled not only by their opposition to the Vietnam War but also President Richard Nixon's imposition of a wage and price freeze on America's free-market economy as a way to combat inflation.
In its annual governance survey conducted last fall, Gallup found that a record-high 81 percent of Americans were dissatisfied with the way the country was being governed. There were increases, too, in the responses to questions that gauge a more libertarian-view of governance: A record 49 percent said they believed government posed "an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens"; 57 percent believed the federal government had too much power; and 56 percent said they would be willing to pay less in taxes and accept fewer services (a position advocated during the campaign by Paul).
But do we really need numbers to confirm the strong libertarian-like streak running through the nation of late? Instead, just look to the rise of the tea party with its smaller-government, "back-off" mantra. Or take in some of the signs posted along U.S. roads these days, like this one outside of Wickenburg, Ariz.: "Choose Freedom. Stop Obamacare." Or consider the backlash after New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed banning large servings of sugary sodas.
The libertarian message is especially attractive to younger Americans who are war-weary, socially liberal and skeptical of government interference in their lives. They've grown up paying into Medicare and Social Security but hearing — endlessly — that they're unlikely to receive the benefits of those programs. They see many government initiatives as unnecessary evils, and believe social issues such as abortion and gay marriage are matters of personal choice not political debate.
Many pondered why Ron Paul, at 76 years old, attracted throngs of 20-somethings to his rallies and, according to exit polls, consistently won the 18-29 age bracket early in primary season in states such as New Hampshire and Iowa.
Twenty-six-year-old Alexander McCobin has a response for that: "This is the most libertarian generation that's ever existed, and it's because libertarianism is just correct."