The rise of libertarianism has been steady, but it wasn’t very long ago that free markets and free minds were considered outside the norm. During the dark ages of statism, the time of FDR, and Mussolini, LBJ, and Brezhnev, the idea that people should run their own lives was considered radical. Though we were a country built on the ideas of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” we had long abandoned these principals for a planned state. We thought the state was “modern.” We thought it was “forward looking.” It took us 70 years to figure out that centralized planning is no way for humans to live. Well, not all of us have figured this out yet but times are definitely changing.
A couple of years ago I wrote about the American Political Reformation sparked by Ron Paul. Like Martin Luther who set off the wildfire which became the Protestant Reformation by exposing the hypocrisy of the Church, Ron Paul has done something similar by exposing the hypocrisy of our government. Where Luther held the Bible up to the leaders of the Church (who didn’t follow the teachings of the Bible), Paul has held up the Constitution to the leaders of our government (who have long ignored the Constitution).
Now the country is really coming to terms with the heavy hand of government. In the wake of 9-11-2001, and then the ongoing financial crisis people have come to see the simple wisdom of just letting people live their lives as they see fit so long as that person isn’t hurting anyone. What once seemed completely “out there” is no longer. Attitudes are changing and people are increasingly empowered.
Libertarian ideas often cross left-right boundaries. Lots of libertarians were involved in the tea party and the opposition to the bailouts, the car company takeovers, the 2009 stimulus bill and the quasi-nationalization of health care. But libertarians were also involved in the movement for gay marriage. Indeed, John Podesta, a top adviser to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and founder of the Center for American Progress, noted in 2011 that you probably had to have been a libertarian to have supported gay marriage 15 years earlier. Or take marijuana legalization, which is just now becoming a majority position: Libertarians have been leaders in the opposition to the drug war for many years.
Libertarians have played a key role in the defense of the right to keep and bear arms over the years, notably in the two recent Supreme Court cases that affirmed that the Second Amendment means what it says: Individuals have a right to own guns. Support for stricter gun control has been declining for years.