by Christina Sandefur

Upon accepting his presidential nomination in 1964, Barry Goldwater told an audience that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” At the Goldwater Institute, defending liberty and advancing freedom is at the center of what we do every day, and it is work we have carried on for 30 years.

To be sure, it’s been an uphill battle. Although polls show most Americans are eager to check government power, Americans are still plagued by Washington, D.C.’s culture of “government knows best.”

But we’re optimistic because the opportunity for reform is plentiful. At the Goldwater Institute, we believe that the solution to Washington’s problems isn’t in Washington. Instead, through the fog of despair clouding current partisan strife, there are 50 blazing beacons of hope.

Federal law provides basic, minimum protection for individual rights but leaves the states free to establish stronger shields for individual rights when those federal protections fall short. That’s why we’re developing cutting-edge policy research, walking the halls of state capitols, and speaking to communities nationwide, to harness the power of state governments to ensure the survival and success of liberty.

We have it in our power to restore the vision of our Founders – and to broaden that vision so that all people enjoy the blessings of liberty. At the Goldwater Institute, we are devoted to unleashing the power of freedom in states across the country to empower people to live freer, happier lives. Here’s a taste of the legislative work we’ve been up to so far this year:


Restoring Free Speech on College Campuses

by Christina Sandefur

Free speech on campus continued to make headlines in 2018. According to the College Fix, 11 shout downs have occurred since September 2017. We can add at least one more to the list: City University of New York law students heckled visiting lecturer Josh Blackman’s speech in March, intimidating students that wanted to hear the speech and forcing Blackman to delay the beginning of his event.

However, the Goldwater Institute’s efforts are measurably turning the tide. In 2017, policymakers in North Carolina and Wisconsin adopted free speech on campus policies based on our model crafted by Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and Goldwater senior fellows Jim Manley (Pacific Legal Foundation) and Jonathan Butcher (The Heritage Foundation).

In the first half of 2018, our ideas helped shape new laws protecting free expression on public college campuses in Arizona and Georgia. The victory for liberty in Arizona is the second time in three years that Goldwater has helped protect free speech in our home state.

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Improving Patient Care by Protecting Free Speech in Medicine

by Naomi Lopez-Bauman

Government is censoring the communications of valuable information that could help improve — and even save — people’s lives. These speech restrictions not only undermine patient care but also violate the free speech protections in the federal and state constitutions.

About one in five prescriptions in the United States is “off-label,” meaning the medicine has been approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration, but the doctor prescribes it for a different purpose, patient population, or dosage than the FDA approved. While doctors can legally prescribe off-label (and the practice is quite common), companies can face criminal prosecution and penalties from the FDA for communicating about off-label uses for a product outside of a narrow and often murky set of federal requirements. The threat of fines or even jail time for speaking the truth has had a chilling effect on pharmaceutical companies’ willingness to share information with doctors and payers – leaving patients in the lurch.

But that is changing, thanks in part to our Free Speech in Medicine Act. 

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Protecting Property Rights and the Right to Share our Homes

by Christina Sandefur

Across the country, local governments are taking steps to ban “home-sharing” or impose rules that unreasonably restrict homeowners’ freedom of choice. But home-sharing – allowing a guest to stay overnight in one’s house in exchange for money – is nothing new. The only thing that’s changed is that the internet has enabled homeowners and travelers to connect better than ever before, through online platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway. To crack down on this centuries-old practice simply because the market innovations have made it more efficient undermines property rights without actually keeping communities safe.

Arizona led the way in 2016, passing landmark legislation that protects home-sharing statewide. That law ensures that cities focus on their most vital jobs—protecting quiet, clean, and safe neighborhoods by preventing homeowners and their guests from committing nuisances, trespassing on others’ property, having raucous parties, or clogging up the streets with traffic—without needlessly and arbitrarily discriminating against homeowners who offer their homes as short-term rentals.

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Leading the Way in Regulatory Reform

by Jon Riches

Discussion around regulatory reform and reducing the size and scope of the regulatory state seems to be intensifying nationwide. This is an encouraging development.  But without comprehensive reform, regulatory burdens at all levels of government will continue to stifle innovation and prevent people from working.

That’s because many regulatory reforms target one-off regulations. That approach is a step in the right direction, but it’s politically challenging, laborious, and often does not target the heart of the problem.

The primary problem with the regulatory state is a problem of accountability. Regulatory bodies know that they can create expansive rules, they can investigate borderline violations, and they can adjudicate close cases in their favor. They know this because if their decisions are challenged in court, they will win. And they will win in many cases because of either low judicial standards of review for certain types of economic cases, or because deference is provided to decisions from regulatory agencies, or both.

All of this results in more arbitrary rulemaking, more investigations and more findings of regulatory violations. In other words, it results in bigger, more invasive government. The result is the modern regulatory state.

That is why the Goldwater Institute has developed and seen enacted into law in Arizona some of the most significant pieces of regulatory reform in generations. These laws address the problem of accountability and thus one of the primary problems of the regulatory state. They can also serve as a model for the rest of the country.

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Expanding the Right to Try Nationwide

by Mike Brownfield

Forty states—enough to amend the Constitution—have enacted the Right to Try, a Goldwater Institute-inspired law that protects the right of terminally ill patients to try promising new treatments that are being safely used in clinical trials but are not yet widely available.

Support for the law is broad-based and far-reaching. In April, Nebraska became the 40th state to adopt the law since 2014, passing with bipartisan support. A federal Right to Try law passed the U.S. Senate unanimously in August; a separate Right to Try law passed the U.S. House in March. And in May, President Donald Trump again highlighted the importance of the policy at a federal level. And dozens of newspapers have endorsed Right to Try, including USA Today and Wall Street Journal, along with dozens of patient advocacy groups.

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Thank you to all of our partners and supporters nationwide who have helped make these victories for freedom possible! You can follow our efforts to help all Americans live freer, happier lives at indefenseofliberty.blog, on Facebook, YouTube, and on Twitter. You can make a charitable contribution here.

Christina Sandefur is Executive Vice President of the Goldwater Institute.