2020 brings bail reform, bag bans, more marijuana, fewer tampon taxes, narwhal protection, higher minimum wages, and many other new laws. The 2019 holiday season has come to a close, and now here we all are looking into the start of a new year and a new decade. Will the 2020s really be as bad as everyone keeps predicting? Probably not, if you consider all the doom-and-gloom eulogizing that's been done over the 2010s, which actually turned out to be a pretty damn great decade, comparatively speaking.
Sure, if you listen to mainstream Republicans or Democrats, we're on a collision course with an imminent immigrant takeover, full socialism, mandatory drag queen story hours in public schools, unavoidable climate catastrophe, the Third Reich redux, or any number of other horrors. But these people thrive on creating a climate of partisan panic; it helps them consolidate their power. Conveniently, whatever bad things we face they are probably their opponents' fault.
In the real world, neither ruling party has a monopoly on bad ideas, silly bans, and detrimental public policies. Occasionally, one or the other passes a good policy too.
This becomes clear when you look at some of the new laws, both good and bad, taking effect in states around the country this week—red, blue, and in-between. For instance…
- Non-medical marijuana use is now legalized in Illinois (the 11th state to allow recreational marijuana use).
- In Oregon, standard plastic shopping bags are now banned.
- New York will end cash bail for misdemeanor and nonviolent felony offenses. The law is already getting hundreds of pre-trial defendants released from jail.
- Washington state will continue to micromanage car seat positioning, making it illegal to put a child under two years old in a forward-facing car seat and requiring them to use a rear-facing car seat instead. For those 2 to 4 years old, however, rear-facing car seats are illegal and forward-facing seats are required.
- New Hampshire will start letting residents choose to mark "X" as their sex on driver's licenses instead of choosing male or female.
- New Jersey has made it illegal for employers to ask job candidates about their salary history.
- Colorado's controversial "red flag law" takes effect, making it easier for family members or local authorities to confiscate guns from people deemed dangerous.
- Georgia will stop putting minors on its child-abuse perpetrator registry.
- Ohio will stop taxing tampons and other menstrual products.
- It's now illegal in Minnesota to sell "a tooth or tusk from any species of elephant, hippopotamus, mammoth, mastodon, walrus, whale, or narwhal."
- Nevada is banning vaping in many public spaces and indoor workplaces.
- Hawaii will force restaurants to offer water, low-fat milk, or no-sugar-added juice with children's meals, even if few families choose to order these options.
- California's new "consumer privacy" law is setting up a host of new rules for tech companies that could burden digital services and users far outside of California (and potentially ushering in a legal battle over its constitutionality).
- A lot of states are raising their minimum wage this year, including New York (where the rate will rise to $15 per hour), Maryland (where it will reach $11 per hour), and Missouri (where it will go up to $9.45 hourly).
- In California, it's now illegal to fire people based on their hairstyles. Also, all new houses must be built with solar panels.
- Minnesota's per-gallon tax on craft whiskey is going from $2.70 to $13.50.
Legislation isn't the only sort of rules we have to worry about, of course. The "triumph of the administrative state over the Constitution's vesting of all lawmaking power solely in the Congress is all but total, and it holds under President Trump," as Clyde Wayne Crews writes at Forbes.
In 2019, Congress passed 105 new laws and regulators put out 2,964 new federal rules. Alas, we can expect this to continue apace in 2020.
At the Supreme Court this year, we'll see justices determining whether one such branch of bureaucrats—the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—should even be allowed to exist. SCOTUS will also consider cases on fair use and copyright law, discrimination complaints against religious employers, school scholarships, Trump's financial records, and (of course) abortion access.
What can we expect for libertarianism and the "liberty movement" in the 2020s?
Economist Tyler Cowen offers some predictions. He embraces something he calls "state capacity libertarianism," which differs from both Niskanen Center–style "liberaltarianism" and the trendy Trumpian elements that have swept like a highly contagious disease through the ranks of former Tea Partiers and Ron Paul revolutionaries.
- On the pending federal ban on flavored vape-products: "It looks like [it] will exempt e-liquids used in refillable vaporizers and apply only to cartridges, the type of product that is most popular with teenagers," Jacob Sullum reports.
- A new paper argues that "YouTube's recommendation algorithm actively discourages viewers from visiting radicalizing or extremist content."
- "Joe Biden is the most gothic figure in American politics," asserts The New York Review of Books.