We libertarians like to gripe about all the things that are getting worse for freedom in this country, but along some dimensions, the libertarian agenda of personal liberty is winning: from the right to marry to the right to carry, America has become much more free over the last few decades.
In 1995, marijuana was illegal in every American state for any purpose. In 2003, same-sex couples could not marry in any state. In 2002, sodomy was still illegal in 13 states. In the 1980s, the vast majority of states either banned carrying firearms or had restrictive “may issue” permit laws.
But today, medical marijuana is legal in 23 states, while four others have decriminalized possession, and now (after last week’s election) 4 states and Washington, DC, have legalized recreational use. Same-sex couples can now marry in 32 states and DC, and today, 5 states have lifted all restrictions on bearing firearms and 37 have instituted “shall issue” rules for permits.
In the courts, libertarian arguments have succeeded in striking down sodomy laws (Lawrence, 2003), the Defense Of Marriage Act (Windsor, 2013), and unconstitutional bans on gun ownership (Heller, 2008). (We did, however, lose the medical marijuana case in Gonzalez in 2005.)
Someone once defined libertarianism as “defending the right of gay couples to protect their marijuana farm with an assault rifle.” Sure, there’s more to it than that — but it’s not a bad place to start.