Whistleblowers, leakers, filibusters, photoshopping Obama, a government shutdown and more highlight a great year for the spread of liberty.
1. Edward Snowden blows the whistle on the NSA
This summer, Edward Snowden made himself perhaps the most famous person of the year by leaking information about U.S. surveillance programs. In several days of interviews with the Guardian, Snowden explained, "I'm willing to sacrifice all of [my life] because I can't in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building."
Not only did he expose to America and the rest of the world just how vast Big Brother is, but Snowden also put the U.S. government on its heels. Nearly every claim made by the U.S. defending the program, including those by President Barack Obama himself, was proven to be a lie. Thankfully, only 1% of the information that Snowden took has been released. He truly is a libertarian and an American hero, and he is already being vindicated.
2. Chelsea Manning bravely speaks out
For over three years, former Army Private Chelsea Manning was illegally detained, kept in solitary confinement, and humiliated for her decision to leak documents to Wikileaks showing that the U.S. government routinely engages in torture and war crimes.
She finally received a trial, and although she has been sentenced to prison for over a hundred years, she was thankfully acquitted of the bogus "aiding the enemy" charge. Thanks to a flimsy case, a good defense, and the support of millions around the world, what would have been a dangerous precedent for the future of journalism and transparency never took place.
In a letter to Obama requesting a pardon, Manning said, "I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have a country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal." Throughout the entire ordeal, Manning was nothing short of composed, and serves as a courageous example to the rest of us.
3. The U.S. didn't bomb Syria
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), as principled as he is entertaining, summed it up on his Twitter feed.
It is amazing how quickly war fever rises and fades in America. Remember Syria? Obama drew a "red line," and the media was bombarding us every day with propaganda about how the U.S. must bomb Syria to stop Bashar Al-Assad from using chemical weapons on his own people.
This scenario has worked before, but thanks to an amazing surge of grassroots American opposition, the likes of which the U.S. establishment has rarely seen before, the war drums suddenly stopped beating. Congressional offices were swarmed with calls against a war in Syria, and the U.S. backed off. It was an absolute pleasure to see the American public say no, especially when the great journalism of Seymour Hersh has proved the war skeptics right.
4. Bitcoin surged
The Federal Reserve's monopoly on creating money and artificially controlling interest rates allows the government to expand without end and creates a corporatist, boom-and-bust economy that is antithetical to a free society.
Rather than dismantling the Fed from the inside, using alternative currencies may be the best way to slay this dragon. Gold and silver are still popular, but it is astonishing how much Bitcoin has exploded in the past year. Bitcoin provides individuals with anonymity, convenience, and most importantly, a way of circumventing fiat money. Libertarians are divided on its merits, but it will be very exciting to see where the market for Bitcoin (and other alternatives) will go.
5. Americans reject interventionism
Last month, a Pew Research poll that measures Americans' perception of their country's place in the world found that for the first time in half a century, Americans want the U.S. to mind its own business overseas. At the same time, however, Americans want increased involvement with the rest of the world non-militarily through trade, cultural exchange, and diplomacy. This shatters the myth of "isolationism" and is a huge boost for the libertarian foreign policy position.
6. Rand Paul filibusters for more than 13 hours
Back in March, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) delivered a 13-hour filibuster excoriating the Obama administration's drone warfare policy, while defending civil liberties and constitutional law. This earned the wrath of the predictable detractors in both parties, but the grassroots left and right stood by Paul. Not only was Paul's filibuster a great show of political swagger, but it also helped to bring light to an issue that is still plagued in darkness and secrecy and is deadly as ever.
7. Ron Paul "retires"
Former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) may officially be retired from public office, but he is busier than ever. The man responsible for the biggest spread of libertarian ideas in recent American history now has his own TV channel, a homeschool curriculum, another best-selling book, and an institute dedicated to non-interventionist foreign policy. Even at 78 years young, the godfather of libertarianism is still not going anywhere.
8. The government shuts down
Remember the apocalyptic rhetoric behind October's "government shutdown?" While the U.S. had no intention of ever shutting down the parts that kill, spy, and loot, the decision to close down national parks and memorials severely backfired. Veterans in wheelchairs broke down gates and Americans grew angry at the condescension thrown their way. The shutdown was riddled with politics and opportunism, and millions saw it for the theater that it was. Demystifying the supposed sanctity and nobility of state power is essential for spreading freedom, and it was great to see so many see through the lies and hysteria.
9. Colorado and Washington legalize marijuana
The War on Drugs has been an absolute failure. It has resulted in the largest prison population on Earth and is perhaps the greatest factor behind the militarization of police and the erosion of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Colorado and Washington both decriminalized marijuana, which not only defies the authority of the federal government, but also will hopefully set an example for other states to follow suit.
10. Obama gets photoshopped
Early this year, the White House released a photo of Obama skeet shooting at Camp David, something the president claims he does "all the time." The photo came with a disclaimer that it was supposed to be for publication purposes only, "and may not be manipulated in any way." A few hours later, there were too many photoshops to count. Poking fun at political leaders is a healthy tradition in any free society, and it was so wonderful to see so many defy the president's wishes in even the smallest way.
Here are some of my favorites:
(Photo credit: World Net Daily)
(Photo credit: Silver Circle Movie)
(Photo credit: Silver Circle Movie)