What wasn't so obvious at the time was that it was the end of an era.
In 1977 the Soviet Union seemed a permanent fixture. The Democrats controlled Washington, and the big three networks had 91 percent of television viewers. Philosopher-statesman Daniel Patrick Moynihan lamented that "liberal democracy on the North American model has simply no relevance to the future. It is where the world was, not where it is going."
Twenty-five years later, the world has changed so much that we may have forgotten what a different era 1977 was. Within a few years Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were moving public policy in the direction of lower taxes, less regulation, and privatization.
Today, the conventional wisdom is that Anglo-American democratic capitalism is the only viable model left in the world. After the tyrannies and central planning of the 20th century, true liberalism is making a comeback.
Everywhere that governments will allow it, people are choosing open markets, open societies, and responsibility for their own lives. Information, commerce, and investment increasingly flow in response to the choices of free people, not the dictates of politicians.
But the triumph of liberalism is by no means inevitable. There never was a golden age of liberty, and there never will be. Although we seem to have left behind some of the worst forms of government, we must remember that within the past century we have endured communism, fascism, and national socialism.
In this book are some of the people and ideas associated with the Cato Institute in its first 25 years. Karl Popper on the failure of communism, Peter Bauer on economic development, Helen Suzman on the end of apartheid, F. A. Hayek on money and information, Milton Friedman on markets in China, Mario Vargas Llosa on "neoliberalism," Carolyn Weaver and José Piñera on Social Security, Antonin Scalia and Richard Epstein on the role of judges, Alan Greenspan on globalization, Nadine Strossen on Clinton's constitutional conduct, P. J. O'Rourke on rights and responsibilities, and Walter Williams on affirmative action.
Twenty-five years after Moynihan's dirge, the anti-liberal scholars Stephen Holmes and Cass Sunstein complain that libertarian ideas are "astonishingly widespread in American culture." These essays show why they will continue to be.