It’s too easy (for me, anyway) to sink into doom and gloom about the political situation. There are plenty of reasons to be depressed right now, but focusing only on bad news just kills motivation. So here’s a quick list of areas where libertarians have made gains in the 21st century. In most cases, other groups did a lot (often most) of the work; there aren’t enough of us to win many battles without alliances. Often, though, libertarians were there first.
I’m not claiming this is a complete list or even covers all the most important cases; please mention others in the comments if you like.
- Freedom of political speech. Citizens United was a huge win for free speech, and progressives have been howling in pain ever since. The battle against suppression of speech in the name of “campaign finance reform” goes on, with some other successes.
- Freedom to work. The Institute for Justice has successfully battled a number of occupational licensing laws with absurd requirements. These laws are generally designed as barriers to entry, so the people already in the field can command higher prices.
- Freedom to photograph. Following the 9/11 attacks, people in some places were arrested for openly taking pictures of public buildings. Cops have often arrested people for taking pictures of them committing crimes. The battle isn’t over, but legal decisions have consistently favored freedom to photograph.
- Freedom to marry. The culture shifted so quickly on this that most libertarians were caught by surprise. Most libertarians have long held that people should be able to form their own domestic contracts, but we hadn’t seriously considered same-sex marriage a short-term possibility.
- Freedom to live free of official violence. Libertarians spoke against police militarization and excessively brutal raids long before the Black Lives Matter movement got started. There hasn’t been a clear victory yet, but public awareness has resulted in enough improvements that we’ve been accused of waging a “war on cops.”
- Freedom to own weapons. There haven’t been any major breakthroughs in either direction, but the general trend has been toward upholding freedom.
- Freedom of travel. Libertarians were hardly alone in opposing Trump’s Muslim ban, but we had been there since he first proposed it while campaigning.