Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch of Reason spoke to the Freedom Fest audience about how to move from a libertarian moment to libertarian era. The reference “libertarian moment” is to a New York Times article published last year called “Has the Libertarian Moment Arrived?”
We live in increasingly libertarian times and Gillespie started off by making the point that people have the option to customize their lives in numerous ways previously not available, naming such services as Netflix, customized financial planning and the ability to make our own videos, something that would have cost thousands and thousands of dollars in the past.
Some of the signs of the libertarian moment are the increasing legalization of marijuana, gay marriage (something Reason magazine advocated for in the 1970s), criminal justice reform, the growth of school choice and the sharing economy of businesses like Airbnb and Uber.
Welch pointed out other victories like the unpopularity of Obamacare and the unpopularity of raising the debt ceiling and he urged politicians to move away from what he calls “bipartisan idiocy.” Bipartisan idiocy refers to the working together of politicians on bad policy that becomes accepted, which creates an environment where legislators are afraid to be the first to jump off the bad policy boat.
One of the continuing threats to the spread of libertarianism is tribal politics, although Gillespie points out that we are moving away from that with people identifying more as an independent than with a “name brand.” According to recent polls, people view the government as less and less reliable. But we also have the rise against free speech. Gillespie pointed out Hillary Clinton wants to see a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United decision. Other examples are rise of censorship on campus and the social justice warriors that want “trigger labels” on speech and ideas.
Welch had praise for South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley who brought people together in South Carolina following the murder of nine people at a South Carolina church. He said Haley shut out the national attention and groups that brought riots like in Ferguson and other places following racially charged incidents.
In conclusion, Welch and Gillespie seemed cautiously optimistic about the establishment of long-term libertarianism. The movement faces threats for sure, but culturally we are moving toward more individualism that will surely trickle down into politics. I agree.