“Nowadays to be intelligible is to be found out.” — Oscar WildeIn the wacky world of American politics, if you as an employer have a religious objection to paying for your employees’ contraceptives, it is you who is contemptuous of religious freedom.As the New York Times editorial board lectured a judge who thinks otherwise, “the […]
Socialism is the big lie of the 20th century. While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny. Equality was achieved only in the sense that everyone was equal in his or her misery.In the same way that a Ponzi scheme or chain letter initially succeeds but eventually collapses, socialism may […]
Six months ago, I stepped out from the shadows of the United States Government’s National Security Agency to stand in front of a journalist’s camera. I shared with the world evidence proving some governments are building a worldwide surveillance system to secretly track how we live, who we talk to, and what we say. I […]
I opened a new bottle of probiotics this morning, and it had one of those circular seals on the top. You know, the one that reads, “Sealed for your protection.”And that seal got me thinking… how much protection do we need? How much security is enough?How much homogenization, pasteurization, disinfection, national security, etc…. do we […]
Last spring, Barack Obama told the graduating class of Ohio State University:“Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems… They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because […]
In the Huffington Post last week, Glenn Greenwald, Slate contributor Ryan Gallagher, and Ryan Grim had an investigative piece reporting that the NSA had been tracking the online porn-viewing habits of several Muslim leaders whom it viewed as radicals. A top-secret document shows that the agency was considering exposing these firebrands’ Internet dalliances as a […]
Americans are still trying to get a handle on the full extent of the government’s domestic spying activities, including the recent revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting and storing the email address books of ordinary Americans using online messaging services. Many users of such services are looking to tech executives for […]
A few months ago at a demonstration against the president of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, a Canadian citizen made the following claim: “We don’t have guns, we are not Americans, we are civilized.” A few days before, in early July, a train of the company had run away and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing […]
From the Tongue-In-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced that her committee will hold a “major review into all intelligence-collection programs.” This surprising declaration followed the revelation, through documents leaked by government whistle-blower Edward Snowden, that the NSA has been listening to the […]
From the Tongue-in-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. – The complex negotiations aimed at bringing a long-term solution to the federal government’s expenditure and debt problem have produced an unconventional proposal. “Although the solution only focuses on a tiny fraction of government expenditures,” declared President Barack Obama, “it is a step in the right […]
I’ve just spent a harrowing weekend reflecting on Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, the pamphlet that came out in January 1776 and turned the public toward seeking independence from Britain. I say harrowing because the distance between the ideals found in this pamphlet and those of today’s America is so vast as to be nearly unrecognizable.The […]
It was a wild ride last week in the world of the Deep Web, that section of the Internet that requires special tools to access. The feds took down the site called Silk Road and claim to have arrested its founder and administrator. The news streams were filled with lurid tales of derring-do in this […]
Want to know just how invasive the state is going to get in the United States?Well, take a look across the pond.In terms of the large, invasive state, we English are way ahead of you guys. We’re a good 50 or more years further down the road to serfdom.Nineteenth-century Britain was about as glorious a […]
A tense drama unfolded this week with the virtual shutdown of vital government agencies: the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as many other such federal agencies. Without them, the Founding Fathers could not have imagined the republic.Even if fewer […]
Three months after Edward Snowden’s leaks began to reveal the extent of the U.S.’ mass surveillance program, “serious people” are beginning to make the case that it’s time for the outrage and indignation to subside and give way to a “national conversation” about the future of surveillance. So has the moment come for us to […]
A sixth-grader has been suspended for drawing an inappropriate picture. The drawing did not include any gun, but showed a checkpoint backed up by a SWAT team carrying flower pots while an unarmed drone hovered above.The suspended girl, whose name is kept secret at the request of her family, said she “just wanted to draw […]
The second part of this two-part article reveals an untold part of the story about how they were stopped last time. And shows how, if not again stopped, how it could lead to a fundamental loss of civil rights and freedom on the Internet.The offending legislation was barreling down the track, seemingly — even in […]
Two years ago, Hollywood, no kidding, masterminded a plot to, in effect, steal the Internet (by criminalizing certain conduct, booby trapping the Web in ways that few non-mega-corporations could cope with). There are signs, as perceptively flagged by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that the perps are back at it. We should care.This two-part article reveals […]
It has now been nearly two centuries since French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville visited America and compared American democracy to the French variety. The Martian asked his Earth correspondent to redo the comparison.The typical Frenchman thinks that Paris is the center of the universe, life without a baguette is not worth living, France is […]
I was at the Canadian border, headed toward the freedom that exists a few feet beyond the last security check. I was gently waved down a side corridor.Ninety minutes later, I was let go, but not before something truly alarming happened. I’m pretty sure that the Canadian government captured a mirrored version of my smartphone […]
Fort Meade, MD – The United States, the least unfree country on Earth, is fighting a major invasion of the Blueshirts.The most visible Blueshirts constitute a 50,000-plus army that occupies all the airports in America. Recognizable by their blue shirts and their inquisitive eyes and hands, they search and humiliate all Americans trying to leave […]
Sometimes, the news of the day causes me to say, “Huh?” The New York Times revelations last month about NSA programs and activities to enhance the agency’s ability to spy on ordinary citizens prompts today’s “Huh?” Who knew that our every phone call, Internet post and tweet is being recorded by the government?I have operated […]
U.S. and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ […]
Oh, how the media love a good strike. Look at these fast-food workers and peasants standing up to the owners of capital! They aren’t going to take the oppression anymore. The suits in the boardrooms had better shape up and stop hoarding all that money. They need to give it up to the men and […]
Like all great historical ideas, the project of licensing journalists so that they may benefit from the First Amendment was born in a very modest place. In fact, it began in the most modest of all places: the brain of Dianne Feinstein, U.S. senator from California.The new law, which was just adopted by Congress and […]
The position that there need be a state is too often taken for granted.The main body of Sartwell’s book Against the State is dedicated to destroying the arguments for a state from the likes of Hobbes, Rousseau and Hegel. In fact, one thing that becomes crystal clear in reading Sartwell’s book is how bad the […]
Crispin Sartwell is someone you should know. He is doing important work in recovering forgotten greats in America’s anti-authoritarian tradition. Among other works, he’s put forward a lean and powerful book titled Against the State.In what follows, you’ll see why he’s my favorite living philosopher. Sartwell will take you on an intellectual tour de force […]
If you’re looking for freedom, which state should you live in? Government oppression at the state level comes in various forms and levels. Since Galt’s Gulch doesn’t exist, people must prioritize the state intrusions they can live with. For those valuing freedom, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University is providing a new “Freedom in the 50 States” report providing a clue on where to live.
Alex Pareene writing for Salon.com scoffs at the report because “Mercatus doesn’t take reproductive rights into account at all.” Mr. Pareene is quick to point out that Mercatus is “Koch brothers-affiliated,” as if that were all one needed to know. Throughout his piece, he puts the word freedom in quotation marks, not so subtly telling the reader the Mercatus definition is bunk.
Pareene believes that low taxes, less government, and personal liberty are not the criteria to judge freedom for ordinary people. The Salon political writer concludes, “It is a very obvious observation but it is still the case that Americans — and people everywhere else — have generally decided that they don’t mind a bit of taxation in exchange for a more humane and fairer society.”
According to Pareene, lots of people live in New York and California because those governments provide mass transit to all and food and shelter to the poor. Taking from one group to give to another; that’s what he calls freedom. These two states came in last and next to last, respectively, in the Mercatus study. The fact that California has more people living there than any other state and that New York has the third highest population convinces him that his view represents the average guy’s. Meanwhile, in his view, the Mercatus report only represents the views of the wealthy and powerful.
Of course, if he were right, all wealthy and powerful people would be living in North and South Dakota, which finished at the top of the report’s rankings. Gee, I think most billionaires live in New York and California. The Golden State has more members (87) of the Forbes 400 living there than any other state. New York has 67 living there — including a Koch brother! The number of billionaires living in North and South Dakota? Zero. Tennessee, Oklahoma, and New Hampshire, which complete the top five for freedom, have a total of 11 residents on the Forbes list.
A Koch brother lives in Kansas, which ranks 26th on the Mercatus scale. The Sunflower State is ranked a dismal 37th in fiscal matters, but comes in a respectable 13th in personal freedoms. How do California and New York stack up in the all-important personal area? The Left Coast state comes in 47th and the East Coast state comes in 48th.
Personal freedom is a third of the overall index and includes areas such as victimless crime, gun control, tobacco and alcohol, marriage, marijuana, asset forfeiture, civil liberties and gambling.
New York and California have significant location advantages to account for their big populations. The weather is not bitterly cold much of the year like in the Dakotas. In fact, the weather in most of California is downright perfect. Having seaports and established infrastructure is a plus for both states, as well.
Besides, as populations are shifting, people are not streaming into high-tax, low freedom states. The top five outbound states for 2012, according to United Van Lines, were New Jersey, Illinois, West Virginia, New York, and New Mexico. Almost all of these states are ranked at the bottom of the barrel by Mercatus, 48th, 45th, 42nd, 50th, and 21st, respectively.
Not coincidentally, none of these states is a right-to-work state. Right-to-work laws prohibit union agreements that govern to what extent a union can require employee membership, payment of union dues, or fees as a condition of employment, either before or after hiring.
National Institute for Labor Relations Research points out that none of the 14 states suffering the highest net out-migration last year were right-to-work states.
The 10 states shown here had the most severe net domestic out-migration from July 2011-July 2012 in percentage terms. Not one has a right-to-work law. Image credit: theatlantic.com
On the flip side, people are relocating to the District of Columbia, Oregon, Nevada, North Carolina, and South Carolina. D.C has not been rated by Mercatus. The other four came in 28th, 20th, 24th, and 15th, respectively. The capital has ranked first for the past five years of United inbound “States.” This is a testament to D.C’s job creation capabilities, not its freedom.
Pareene contends that right-to-work laws are not libertarian, but instead are pro-business. These laws, according to Tim Carney, “interfere with the right of contract and they bar certain consensual economic arrangements — specifically, they bar employers from agreeing to hire only union workers.”
He leaves out the part about the National Labor Relations Act, by the force of law, requiring closed shops, in which employees working at unionized workplaces must be members of the union as a condition of employment.
All right-to-work laws do is marginally level the playing field. Mr. Pareene contends, “So this is how the Mercatus Center defines freedom: the right of people with money to keep it all, and for everyone else to [****] off. Almost any Liberty issue that wouldn’t concern a straight, white, male capitalist is wholly ignored.”
Certainly Pareene would agree that the personal freedom issues we mentioned earlier concern everyone. So how do the top five states stack up? North Dakota ranks No. 20 for personal freedom, South Dakota No. 46, Tennessee No. 24, Oklahoma No. 28, and New Hampshire No. 5.
As mentioned, all of these states rank better in this category than Pareene’s beloved California and New York, which came in at Nos. 47 and 48. The rest of the bottom five, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Hawaii, were ranked 42nd, 33rd, and 45th for personal freedom.
“New York and California, though, are super-nice, even though we confiscate more money than North Dakota,” writes Pareene. Super-nice is New York except the tobacco laws are “extremely strict,” “cigarette taxes are the highest in the country,” “motorists are highly regulated,” and “home-school regulations are excessive.”
Meanwhile, California, according to Mercatus, “not only taxes and regulates its economy more than most other states, but also aggressively interferes in the personal lives of its citizens.” The state has “the strictest gun control laws in the country” and “a high incarceration rate” and “travel freedom is low.”
In Pareene’s perfect world, the wealthy are forced to set everyone else free from worry and need with offerings to the state. Meanwhile, the less privileged would have a safety net, courtesy of government force, but must live under the state’s oppressive thumb.
I hate to break it to Mr. Pareene, but that’s not freedom. It’s tyranny.